Tuesday, March 5, 2013
How a Typical First-Century Jew Interpreted the Term "Ekklesia" (a.k.a. "Church")
So I don't have any notes and not much time to type but I wanted to talk a little about one of the most important terms in the New Testament and how its meaning has become corrupted from its first-century meaning. I want to talk about how a first-century Jew [FCJ] would've understood "Ekklesia."
A FCJ would understand that the Greek term Ekklesia had overlapping senses from the Greek and the Hebrew analogue "kahal." First, let's examine the Greek senses.
In the Greek version of the concept "Ekklesia", two meanings are specific and one is literal and generic. The specific meaning is that the term denotes a formal political gathering in an ancient Greek polis (city-state). The process was democratic; every citizen had a voice. The literal meaning of the term is "called out."
In the Hebrew version of the Ekklesia concept (what the LXX translates from the Hebrew term "kahal"), there are likewise several specific meanings and also the literal and generic meaning. First, the specific meaning. Kahal is actually a synonym for Israel. We see this usage for example in Acts 7:38 where Stephen refers to Israel at Sinai as the Ekklesia. Second, the LXX sometimes translates ekklesia as synagogue. So there's certainly a specific local assembly sense of the term in addition to the national sense of the term. Lastly, the Hebrew term kahal has a literal meaning of "called out" and has "voice" as a cognate. So it's remarkably similar to the Greek term Ekklesia both literally and politically.
Why is this important? Because Christians think that there is an entity known as "Church" when, in reality, the Assembly of Yeshua (and we'll talk more about the conceptual cognates of Ekklesia later in the week) is the newly covenanted subset of Israel (until all Israel submits to the New Covenant--the renewed Sinaitic Covenant through Yeshua). This misidentification has generated not only anti-Judaism but, most horrifically, anti-Semitism. It has also caused dyspraxia. But, like I said, we'll talk more about the conceptual cognates of Ekklesia later in the week. Believe it or not, the "Church" is not a "Christian thing" but it is a very Jewish concept and understanding this term helps you to understand all the other cognate concepts throughout the New Testament.
Posted by Peter at 9:27 AM