Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why use the word "Assembly" instead of "Church"

Words are important. The Holy Spirit chose the exact words for the writers of scripture to use. God did not leave anything to chance.
"Every word of God is purified; he is like a shield for those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he reprove you, and prove you to be a liar." (Proverbs 30:5-6)
When God's word is translated it should be kept pure, using accurate words to represent the meanings of the original words. We wouldn't want the word meaning life to be translated as house. We wouldn't want a word meaning eye to be translated as head. We shall focus on one such word which is translated so inaccurately.

The Meaning of Ekklesia
English translations of the bible continue to translate the Greek word ekklesia as the English word church. Church is a word that means "a building designed for public forms of worship; the practices or doctrines of the Church of England and similar denominations." Ekklesia is in fact a word which means assembly. An assembly is a group of people gathered together. (The word congregation can also be used to translate ekklesia but I do not prefer it because it currently refers to a group of attendees in a church building).
The word ekklesia is not a word with exclusive spiritual or religious meaning on its own (unlike the word church). Ekklesia was used of secular assemblies in scripture (see Acts 19:32,39,41, where it is properly translated as assembly). It was also used outside of scripture pertaining to a political assembly in ancient Athens.
The first time ekklesia is used in scripture is by Jesus in Matthew 16:18 where He says "I will build my assembly (ekklesia)." After this ekklesia in scripture usually refers to the assembly of God, the assembly of Christ, His assembly that He has built. We can read the appropriate context to discern this meaning.

God's Assembly in the Old and New Covenant
In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, the word ekklesia is used to translate the Hebrew word qahal. Qahal, in English translations, is usually translated as assembly. 1 Chronicles 28:8 says "all Israel" is "the assembly (qahal) of the LORD." So just as the assembly (ekklesia) of God refers to people in the New Testament so does the assembly (qahal) of God refer to people in the Old Testament.
To further drive this point here are two scriptures making it clear that assembly refers to a people rather than a place (unlike the word church).
Romans 16:5 says, "Greet the assembly that is in their house."
2 Chronicles 1:3 says, "Then Solomon and all the assembly with him went to the high place which was at Gibeon, for God’s tent of meeting was there, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness."
These two scriptures talk about the assembly being in or going to a place not the assembly being a place as the word church would make us think.
The connection between the Old Testament assembly and the New Testament assembly is completely lost when the word church is used.
Just as the high priest on the day of atonement "made atonement for all the people of the assembly" (Leviticus 16:33), "Jesus became a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17)
So when Jesus, the king of kings, said, "I will build my assembly" He was not introducing a completely new word or concept. Jews of His time would have surely realized a connection and even a continuation of His assembly, His people, now under a new covenant with Christ in which the unbelieving Jews are broken off and the believing gentiles are grafted in (see Romans 11).

The Origins of the Word Church
There is some uncertainty on the exact development of the word "church." The Compact Oxford English Dictionary says its origin is "from Greek kuriakon doma ‘Lord’s house’." According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, it is from the Old English cirice, from West Germanic kirika, and from Greek kyriake, meaning Lord’s, and the Greek adjective kyriakon, of the Lord. The inspired writings do not use the Greek word kyriakon. In every passage where the word “church” appears, the manuscripts from which we get our English translations read ekklesia. There is no etymological connection whatsoever between kyriakon / kyriaka (church) and ekklesia (assembly). E
kklesia and church  should have the same or similar meanings if we are going to use the word church to translate ekklesia but they do not.

The Mistranslation of Ekklesia into English
Why do translators choose to use the word church and not translate ekklesia properly as assembly?
King James of England “authorized” and funded a translation of the Scriptures which he and Archbishop Richard Bancroft gave certain rules for the translators to follow. The third rule states, "The Old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c." This third rule deliberately says to use the word church instead of congregation (which was a proper translation of ekklesia). This rule also meant the translators had to use commonly accepted religious terms in contexts that pertain to God's people, hence the use of words like [note proper translation is in parenthesis] church (assembly), pastor (shepherd), bishop (overseer), minister (servant), ministry (service), ordain (appoint), deacon (servant), baptize (this is a transliteration of baptizo, meaning immerse or submerge), & presbytery (elders). Modern translations have corrected the use of bishop and presbytery because of their catholic connotations but still retain the words that have protestant connotations such as church, pastor, minister, ministry, ordain, & deacon.

Here is an example that you can open you King James bible to that proves the bias of the translation for the word church. The New Testament, at Hebrews 2:12, quotes the Old Testament, at Psalms 22:22, word for word. Remember King James forbade translating ekklesia as "congregation."
Psalms 22:22, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee."
Hebrews 2:12, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."

When this King James version was done, it was very important for it to retain the word "church" because the King had jurisdiction over the church. That was his specific edict. He has no religious jurisdiction over the congregation (people), but he does over the church (the organization and its physical buildings). He knew the correct translation, obviously, but he didn't want it in there, that way they retain control over "the church."

While the King James version was not the first English translation to use the word church it was clearly bias for the use and the word church clearly does not translate ekklesia. Because of its influence as a translation and the institutionalized church system still persisting to this day the word church has been used in virtually every English translation since. Because
of the word church being incorrectly put into our bibles we have read the modern idea of the modern church (it being a place, a building, or a denomination) back into the New Testament causing ekklesia not only to lose its meaning but to have its meaning almost utterly replaced.

The Church is not The Assembly
Because the translators used the word “church,” meaning a building, instead of a more accurate word reflecting a functioning body, it has affected our whole approach to the meaning of body of Christ. The original intent of ekklesia was relational and not institutional. Christ never created an institution, commanded an institution, or condoned an institution. He told His people to make disciples which is what He Himself did. He did not tell anyone to build buildings, attend buildings, or fund buildings. Jesus wants us to build exploding individuals not imploding institutions.
Because of thousands of years of man made tradition churches today bare little to no resemblance to the assembly as they were described in the New Testament. Autonomy is replaced by authority. Open relationships are replaced by leadership, preaching, and rigidly defined meetings. Yes true Christians can attend churches but looking at the church system and equating it as a whole to the people of God is an error. The collective attendees of church institutions world wide do not equate to the bride of Christ. The spirits, hearts, and fruits will tell you who God's children are not a list of "members," a church directory, or even the many titles we give ourselves.


  1. After writing this I found another excellent writing that focuses on the connection between the Old Testament assembly and the New Testament assembly. Here is the link, following it are my highlights from it.

    “I will build my assembly.” The Greek word translated build is oikodomew (Strong’s #3618, oikodomeo), which means either to “erect a house or building from the foundation” or “to restore a building by rebuilding and repair­ing.” Either way, the meaning is clear. The foundation is the prophets and the apostles (Ephe­sians 2:20), not just the apostles. Interest­ingly, it took the Jerusalem disciples a bit of time, but once they realized it, they understood that Ya­hushua came to “rebuild”, as James indicated. “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after Yahweh, and all the Gentiles [nations], upon whom my name is called, saith Yahweh, who doeth all these things” (Acts 15:16-17).

    The word of Yahweh calls the group of disciples who meet with Yahushua an assembly (ekkle­sia in Greek or qahal in Hebrew), not a church. Who is the head of that assem­bly? Yahushua is the head of the assem­bly (Ephesians 5:23). That is why he referred to it as “his assembly.” After all, his assembly is merely the assembly that meets with him.

  2. i like that true messiah name on this paper, but false messiah on the next. are you working for the decievers. hard time believing u investigate the word assembly without investigate the word jesus or christ

    1. I think God is smart enough to know who in our hearts we are talking to regardless of the name we use of Him. God's name is in His nature more than it is in the spelling or pronounciation of a name. You may misspell or mispronounce my name. I would be fine with that as long as you don't misunderstand who I am. God is like that too. I don't think He gets offended if we call Him God instead of El, Lord instead of YHWH, Christ instead of Messiah, Jesus instead of Yahshua. Most people know who we refer to when we use the former names. God would want to bring us to the truth if we were to think that He is unloving, untrustworthy, or merciless.

      Do you think God is so small and exacting that He needs every person in the world to use His original names? I'm sure He can overcome that obstacle (if it even is one) and that He is smart enough and merciful enough to love us without us using His original names.

  3. Has anyone ever thought about the word ekklessia having nothing to do with religion. I think we should start looking at Jesus from a different view. Why would God send His Son to set up another religion there were plenty of them already not working. That ekk twice called out out of the world and out of religion. Wasn't the gospel all about a King of Kings and a Lord of Lords a governor coming out of Bethleham, Wasn't it about the government being upon his shoulders. Wasn't the gospel about justice, righeousness, the Holy Spirit as our advocate. God as judge. These are policital and judicial terms not religious. John the Baptist said repent for the Kingdon of God is at hand not being religious and going to church but to assymble as members of the body of Christ. This was and is not about a three point sermon the pronoucement God is here and oh yes how about those tithes and offerings. Pastors give a mini sermon every Sunday on tithing and giving so you feel guilty about giving. God never intented the members of His body to bound by such religiousity, it's the pharasees and saducees all over again. Stop looking at your bible with church eyes, with what your pastor told you like you have no Spirit of God living in you. Most of it is a fulfilling of the lust of the flesh with God on the outside saying let me in. God does not live in a building made with the hands of man but in the temple he created your body through the spirit that is recreated at the new birth. Maybe it's time to dump what you learned in Sunday School and what the devil taught you in siminary from the mind of man not of the heart of God.

  4. Useful information Michael, thanks. I quoted (and cited) the second to last paragraph of your article for a study I recently finished on church government.

    Interesting note about Hebrews 2:12 and the KJV. Almost all the other versions, even the NKJV had since opted for "congregation" or "assembly".

  5. Why is there not one single English translation of the Bible, from William Tyndale's Bible in the 1500's to the recent ESV Bible, that translates Acts 2:38 and other "baptism passages" in the manner that Baptists say that they should correctly be translated?

    Answer: the Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans secretly conspired together to purposefully mistranslate God's Word. Therefore, no accurate translation of the Bible exists today in English or in German.

    Is there any evidence of this grand conspiracy?

  6. Read anotehr article on the same topic:-