Disclaimer: Please note that this article is written to give you a background of the word, “Church,” and how the word has come into being. This article is written not to bring division or misrepresentation of the body of Christ.
‘Ekklesia’ or ‘Kuriakon’
What’s in a word?
In the New Testament, the standard translation for the Greek word “ekklesia” in English is “church.” Most people are unaware that the English word, “church” did not originate from the word “ekklesia” nor did it originate from the idea of the “ekklesia” as put across in the New Testament.
The modern English word “church” is derived from the Greek word “kuriakos” which means “belonging to the Lord”. This word is used twice in the New Testament:
1 Corinthians 11:20 – Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s [kuriakos] Supper,
Revelation 1:10 – I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s [kuriakos] Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”
To begin with, the Greek word “kurios” means “Lord,” and “kuriokos” means, “something that belongs to the Lord.” Thus, the adjective “kuriakos” is used to point to the owner of the “supper” and “day,” showing plainly that the supper and the day belonged to the Lord. This word belongs to a completely different semantic–range of meanings in language, other than the Greek word “ekklesia”
Secondly, the word, ekklesia occurs 115 times in the New Testament. The word ekklesia means “out” or “calling out”
So, this implies to a people that are called out of darkness into His marvelous Light. This also means people called out of God to manifest His glory in the earth. They have the sole purpose to enforce God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. The Church is not only called out of darkness but also called out of God.
What is our Message?
Our message is not a message of waiting to go to heaven but living from heaven in the earth. The Bible commands us to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. The message of the gospel of the kingdom is that we are called out of God—and have descended from heaven.
Revelation 21:2 – And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The Book of Revelation is not only future tense, but past, present and future tense, with everything written in metaphorical and symbolic form. We are called out of God to subdue and have dominion on the earth, and by the earth I meant beginning with our self / adamic nature. We cannot say, “My church” or “your church,” as the understanding of “ekklesia” means, “the body of Christ.” It is not “my body of Christ” or “your body of Christ,” we all are part and individual members of the body of Christ, who is our HEAD.
Finally, the location or place where believers met together came to be called “the Lord’s house,” using the word “kuriakon,” which in the neuter translation, literally means, “The Lord’s thing.” So, we are the House of the Lord. We are living stones being built up into a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Different Usage in Languages
The word “Church” is translated in German as “Kirche”, Anglo Saxon as “circe”, and Middle English “chirche”. It is interesting to note that when Luther translated the New Testament into local German, he did not use the word “Kirche” to translate “ekklesia”, but he used the German word “gemeinde,” which implies something similar to the English word “community”. However, many Germans still refer to the “church” as the “Kirche”.
When William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English in 1536, he also did not use the word “church” to translate the Greek word “ekklesia”. Instead, he used the word “congregation”. However, within the next 100 years, all English translations replaced “congregation” with the word “church”. Instead of translating it “assembly” or “congregation” the English word is most often used today is the “church”.
The Septuagint was translated in 280 B.C. by seventy translators. The word “ekklesia” is the original Greek word that was used here.
The ‘Translators to the Reader’ states:
“This is the translation of the Seventy interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Saviour among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews by vocal. The Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the colonies, which thither they had sent. For the same causes also it was well understood in many places of Europe, yea, and of Africa too. Therefore the word of God being set forth in Greek, becometh hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which giveth light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded forth in the market-place, which most men presently take knowledge of; and therefore that language was fittest to contain the Scriptures, both for the first preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and for the learners also of those times to make search and trial by…” [Translators to the Reader, p. 13.]
So, the seventy translators that translated the Septuagint were very much aware of the word “ekklesia” and used it in the Septuagint as a replacement of the Hebrew word “congregation of Israel.”
The Greek word “ekklesia” is translated as “assembly” in the George Ricker Berry Interlinear Greek-English New Testament which is a literal translation of the Greek into English, which was written in the late 1800’s.
The word “church” is not mentioned anywhere in this translation; in fact, the word “ekklesia” is not used in the gospels of Mark, Luke and John. It is used only in the Gospel of Matthew in Matthew 16:18—once, and Matthew 18:17—twice.
Where did “Church” come from?
Vincent’s Word Studies:
“For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.” Concerning the phrase “in the church,” he says, “not the Church edifice, a meaning which the word never has in the New Testament and which appears first in patristic writings.” [Vincent’s New Testament Word Studies, comment on 1 Corinthians 11:18]
The Church fathers, after Christ and the apostles, are the “patristic writings”. Thus, this is where the word “church” was introduced, and it’s not in the Word of God, so evidently it’s a creation of man.
In 325 A.D., “The Church” was formed and placed under the control of the state by Roman Emperor Constantine—a pagan sun-worshipper till the day he died. The church was carried through the Reformation. All the Reformers were involved in civil government, such as John Calvin who set up the civil government in Geneva. The pope was the head of the Roman Catholic Church but was later kicked out of England, and King Henry VIII took jurisdiction over the Church.
When the King James version was completed, it was vital for them to retain the word “church” because they had jurisdiction over it, so King James made fifteen specific edicts, as far as the translation goes, and one of those edicts (edict number three) stated that this bible was to retain the word “church” in the translation and it was not to be replaced with the word “congregation” That was his specific edict. He had no jurisdiction over the congregation—people, but he did over the church—physical buildings.
I hope that you have now understood that the word “congregation” in the greek is “ekklesia.” The writer of Hebrews quotes the Old Testament from the Psalms, word for word.
Psalm 22:22 – I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Hebrews 2:12 – Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
King James refused to allow the translators to replace this Greek word with “congregation” in the New Testament, which is an accurate interpretation and was replaced with a word, “church”—which has a different meaning.
This is how the word “church” got into the languages of the world to be used as a replacement for Christ’s “ekklesia” which is an assembly or congregation and the body of Christ.
The word ekklesia in reality, refers to “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1Peter 2:9-10]
What difference does it make?
Some people might say, “What difference does it make if we say church, assembly, congregation or whatever?” It does make a difference. We must use the right interpretation in thinking, in reference to the “church” of the New Testament because there are many churches out there, even the church of satan, the church of Wicca, the church of humanity, the church of Scientology, Church of the latter-day saints, etc.
**I have absolutely no problems if one uses the word, “church” but only in reference to the assembly, however, we must be watchful NOT to use the word to refer to buildings or places or organizations or denominations or clergy.** If we do so, then we are not referring to the same thing that the New Testament authors were referring to, when they used the Greek word “ekklesia” which in reality is “kuriakon”—”the house of the Lord.”