Historical Development of EKKLESIA?
Steven Lo Vullo
doulos at merr.com
Mon Nov 26 21:51:41 EST 2001
On Monday, November 26, 2001, at 07:40 PM, Glen L Naftaniel wrote:
> Thank you for your responses on my questions about EKKLESIA. If I
> could ask for a little more clarification on the ORIGIN of the word it
> would be helpful. Did the word come from Hebrew? Or did it originate
> in Greek? If it did come from Hebrew, I'm a bit confused as to how a
> Greek word got used in the Old Testament (or is EKKLESIA a Hebraism?)
No, EKKLHSIA is a Greek word with no connection to Hebrew. NIDNTT says
this on its origin:
"1 (a) EKKLHSIA, derived via EK-KALEW, which was used for the summons to
the army to assemble, from KALEW, to call (Call). It is attested from
Eur. and Hdt. onwards (5th cent. B.C.), and denotes in the usage of
antiquity the popular assembly of the competent full citizens of the
polis, city. It reached its greatest importance in the 5th cent. and met
at regular intervals (in Athens about 30-40 times a year, elsewhere less
frequently) and also in cases of urgency as an extra-ordinary EKKLHSIA.
Its sphere of competence included decisions on suggested changes in the
law (which could only be effected by the council of the 400), on
appointments to official positions and—at least in its heyday—on every
important question of internal and external policy (contracts, treaties,
war and peace, finance). To these was added in special cases (e.g.
treason) the task of sitting in judgment, which as a rule fell to
regular courts. The EKKLHSIA opened with prayers and sacrifices to the
gods of the city. It was bound by the existing laws. Every citizen had
the right to speak and to propose matters for discussion, but a
proposition could only be dealt with if there was an expert opinion on
the matter (Aristot., Ath. Pol. 45). A decision was only valid if it won
a certain number of votes. Authorization to participate, and the methods
of summoning the assembly and of voting—by show of hands in Athens
(Aristot., Ath. Pol., 45), by acclaim (Thuc., 1, 87), by ballot sheets
or stones (Xen. Hell., 1, 7, 9)—were strictly regulated, as was the
control of the assembly, which originally lay with the president of the
Prytaneis and from the 4th cent. B.C. with a college of nine."
There's much more on the historical development and usage in the LXX and
NT; see NIDNTT on CHURCH, SYNAGOGUE.
I think your confusion concerning the OT arises from the fact that the
Hebrew text was translated into Greek and along with other documents is
known as the Septuagint or LXX (seventy reflecting the tradition that
the translation was done by seventy Jewish scholars). So EKKLHSIA is not
Hebrew, but is found in the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew
word qahal ("congregation").
Steven Lo Vullo
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