ekklesia/Mitchell Gray

Mike Sangrey mike at sojurn.lns.pa.us
Wed Jul 28 17:22:11 EDT 1999

There's been a lot of good discussion regarding EKKLESIA and
entymology.  The two discussions richly overlap.

When thinking of doing word study linguistically (I'm no linguist,
just know what I read) one might form an attribute tree of the
word's meaning as this meaning exists in the original language.
Would EKKLESIA have a 'local' or 'global' attribute?  The answer I
believe is neither (I'll try to somewhat back this up in a moment.)
So, I think, the discussion regarding 'local' versus 'global' is
outside the meaning; however, that is not to say the discussion
has not been helpful.  In this, the discussion hovers around the
'usage' of the word and not the 'meaning' and that is beneficial.
But, as we know, this requires great care; it is very, very easy
to slide from 'usage' into 'meaning' and back again without knowing
we've subtlely changed focus.

I think we too sloppily read the usage back into the meaning as well
as doing the same with the entymology, even though we know better.
That is not to say these layers do not influence each other, they
most certainly do--a word derives its meaning from its context,
whether that context is within the composition, the common usage at
the time, or the baggage brought with the word from its history.
Or, even semanticly related words--EPISUNAGWGH, for example, must
be considered when studying EKKLESIA.

My thoughts related in the next paragraph are somewhat motivated by
Ephesians, where, I believe EKKLESIA is always used (note: usage)
with a global flavor.  The Ephesian discourse can be caught in
the sentence, "Christ's effective work secures the unity of all
believers, so live like it."  So, what I'm about to do, without
the detail, is apply the context of Ephesians to the meaning
of the word EKKLESIA; that is, the meaning of EKKLESIA as it is
used in the NT, must be consistent with the meaning of Ephesians.
Thus the imperative of knowing the context, knowing the discourse,
and having some feel for the relationship between the semantic
layers before we can really know the meaning of the word itself.
Given the multi-level, networked nature of semantics, we will always
be striving toward this and never fully achieve it.

I'm of the opinion that the early believers made no distinction
in their relationships with other believers when they used the
term EKKLESIA.  The idea we have today of a local gathering being
distinct from the global gathering of believers and relationally
distinct from other local gatherings was completely foreign to them.
The distinction we are trying to apply to EKKLESIA of 'local' versus
'global' was derived, not from the word, but from the fact that they
couldn't all meet together.  That is why the writers could use the
word in a local and global sense.  They considered themselves one
body.  They were geographically distinct, not relationally distinct.
The oneness they experienced with all believers could be expressed by
EKKLESIA as well as by SWMA.  In this way, 'oneness' is an attribute
of EKKLESIA and SWMA.  Also, there's a hint of this 'oneness' in the
prepostional prefix EK.  Think of the group that somehow has an 'out'
meaning to it.  The fact that EKKLESIA was used in the koine in both
local and global ways emphasizes both the universal and practical
oneness all believers are to have.  So, 'oneness' is an attribute.

Another attribute of EKKLESIA, I think, must be 'separation'.
The appropriate preposition certainly is used in composition here.
No denying it.  Whether it is 'called out ones' or some other
'something out', should be discussed.  I understand that some
believe KALEW has no semantic relationship to EKKLESIA.  Has anyone
offered alternatives?  If so, I missed them.  (EKKLEIW perhaps!!?
That would change the meaning of 'church'. ;-) )

I think when doing a word study, of first importance is to uncover
the attributes of the word as it exists in the original language.
These attributes dare not contradict, indeed should support with the
proper relation, all contexts, no matter what type.  Then, find a
word (or words) in the target language which reflects the same
pattern of attributes.  Easily said!!  Has anyone written a
description of how to formally go about this?  Perhaps what might
be called 'applied linguistics'?  Anyone know?

Using the English term 'congregation' has its shortcoming, for
'con' (Latin CUM) does not give any meaning of 'out'; though I
suppose one could argue for 'con' the way I argued for 'EK' above.
'Assembly' is better.  One can easily think of the large, global,
assembly of God.  And, just as easily, think of parts of that
assembly being referred to as 'assemblies'.  The emphasis, though,
with EKKLESIA is with separation, and not on the coming together.
'Assembly' and 'gathering' both fall down here.

Mike Sangrey
mike at sojurn.lns.pa.us

P.S.  'Out-gathering' might work but Noah Webster seems to have
forgotten to include it in his book.  I know!, we could use...drum
roll please...ecclesia. Yeah!!  That will work!!!  Of course we would
have the same mess as BAPTISMA and DIAKONOS and those discussions
are always fun.  Right?  Sorry.  Bad joke.

Never talk about BAPTISMA on B-Greek.
Never talk about BAPTISMA on B-Greek.
Never talk about BAPTISMA on B-Greek.
Never talk about BAPTISMA on B-Greek.

Mike Sangrey
mike at sojurn.lns.pa.us

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