Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sun Jul 25 08:40:17 EDT 1999

At 6:32 AM -0400 7/25/99, Solomon Landers wrote:
>Any variety of terms are possible, but if understanding is the desired
>effect, some
>are more conducive to this than others.  "Church," unfortunately, means in
>parlance a building where Christians meet, rather than the Christians who meet
>there.  EKKLESIA, of course, means "those called out;" however, called out
>for a
>specific purpose or activity, as did the Hebrew term QAHAL.  It would
>appear that
>terms such as "gathered ones"/"gathering" or "congregated
>ones"/"congregation" or
>"assembled ones"/"assembly" give a better sense of the first-century
>construct than
>does the word "church."

I would agree in essence with the above, but I think it is useful to go
even beyond the first-century construct and note that:

(a) in classical Greek, EKKLHSIA is the regular term for the (political)
assembly of citizens, corresponding to an older Homeric AGORA. Of course,
the etymology of EKKLHSIA points to the "summoning" (EKKALEW) of the
citizens to come to the meeting place, whether that be the AGORA, which was
the Homeric word for assembly of citizens, or the Pnyx as in Athens.

(b) The LXX used this word to convey QAHAL, the "congregation" or
"assembly" of the people of Israel, and although the New Testament EKKLHSIA
seems in most of the earlier instances chronologically (i.e. in the Pauline
letters, which I assume do antedate the gospels) to mean "house church" or
gathering of believers in a household of some patron offering that house as
a meeting place, the term is probably simply carried over from LXX usage.

(c) I do think that too much is sometimes made of the etymology from
EKKALEW, although the gospels do use KALEW of Jesus' "call" or "invitation"
to persons whom he accosts to join or follow him. I think that the NT usage
most probably derives from LXX usage for "congregation." And, as has been
noted by prior respondents, there are meanings of the modern word "church"
that are very misleading if we try to translate EKKLHSIA with English
"church." I think "congregation" really does better represent the sense--at
least in the Pauline letters: a gathering of believers.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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