ekklesia/Kalvesmaki, Sangrey

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at alumni.utexas.net
Thu Jul 29 02:23:06 EDT 1999

Both these individuals make good points on the need to consider our
*methodology* in the question of the meaning and translation of EKKLHSIA:

> From: J. Kalvesmaki
> Sent: Wednesday, July 28, 1999 5:07 PM
> I am surprised that no one has mentioned that the choice of the English
> word depends upon the projected audience and their respective
> theology/ecclesiology.
> Furthermore, no one has mentioned how much the tranlator's purpose plays
> in the choice of word.
> The
> concept of translation is at *least* a four place relation: Person W
> writes English "meaning" X of text Y for audience Z. So far, most have
> paid attention only to elements X & Y.

> From: Mike Sangrey [mailto:mike at sojurn.lns.pa.us]
> Sent: Wednesday, July 28, 1999 4:22 PM
> 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.  ....

Tho I cannot claim authority in the area of semantics, I will offer the
following observations:

The meaning of a word in context contains very distinct components of
*denotation* and *connotation*.  Denotation is specifically the referential
aspect of meaning, what the word points to.  Connotation comprises the
nuances of meaning that are associated with the denoted subject under
discussion, and can be further subdivided into *intrinsic*--aspects of
meaning that a word carries with it, and *attributed*--meanings applied to
the word by the context of the discourse.

1. The denotation of the word EKKLHSIA may be either local or universal, a
group of people (esp. Christians), who are identified as a group whether
assembled or (sometimes) not.

2. The intrinsic connotations of EKKLHSIA are debatable.
-does it include 'separation' according to its etymology (EK)?  Probably
not.  Probably this connotation has been lost thru long usage (just as
'highway' has lost the connotation of 'high' road in Engl.).
-is 'called' included?  Not likely (same weakness of etym.)
-are there political aspects?  I could argue that this would be appropriate
(cf. Phil 3.20, Kingdom of God, etc.), but it certainly does not seem to be
brought out in any passage I can think of.
-is it a religious congregation/assembly of believers?  This seems likely,
seeing the uniformity of its reference; in fact it seems even more specific:
Christian or OT Jewish.
-is it simply an assembly?  This seems to be the most plain vanilla core of
the word, yet lacks the religious connotation above.  Perhaps this was the
original connotation, but the religious aspect was added on either by the
LXX or earliest Christians.  Further, 'assembly' implies *presence*, which
is not always found (at least in the denotation).
-is it primarily universal or local concept?  All evidence points to the
local origin; I do not see any evidence that 'universal' became an intrinsic
connotation until much later.  (If 'universal' is present, it is only
optional.)  Nevertheless, it is clear that physical presence was *not*
required, for EKKLHSIA regularly refers to the scattered body, whether local
or otherwise.

These are difficult to sort out.  Even if there were any of the more
specific aspects attached to the word when first adopted in the 4th (?)
decade, by the first 6th-decade GNT writings containing the word, these
connotations may have been (probably were?) lost due to frequent usage.
Connotations change, and often change rapidly, esp. when a technical or
specialized usage is involved, as here.  Furthermore, what is initially an
attributed connotation may become intrinsic by frequency of use, esp. for
technical words.

One final note on the occurence of the intrinsic attributes: these are best
viewed as a gestalt, such that they can be modified in any one context, w/o
destroying the entire concept as an entity.  For example, a 3-legged dog is
still a dog, altho '4-legs' would properly be an intrinsic attribute of the
dog-gestalt.  Thus, for example, in Acts 19.32, the religious connotation
may be lacking, or at least the *Christian* (or OT Jewish) aspect of it is

3. The attributed connotations of EKKLHSIA I propose are:
-the aspect of unity (note it must be *taught* in many passages)
-the universal connotation found in certain passages.
-the 'body of Christ'
-other descriptions/metaphors

Now, in translation, a word/phrase must accurately *denote* the appropriate
referent according to the context of the passage.  (In some passages, this
is all that is really important to the translation.)  The translation
should, as best as possible, approximate the appropriate intrinsic
connoations.  Finally, it should *avoid* making merely attributed
connotations intrinsic.

Satisfying all three of these aspects may be difficult or impossible.  If
impossible, we end up having to use a descriptive phrase, or using the
closest word available and making it into a technical term which is then
filled with meaning by contexts and teaching; but that is a poor substitute
for actual translation!

So far, it seems 'assembly' or 'congregation' best meet this criteria; at
this point, I lean towards 'congregation' based on the religious
connotations of that word in my dialect/subculture.  However, as Kalvesmaki
has pointed out, the actual choice may vary according to target audience!

Joe Friberg
M.A. Linguistics
M.A. Theology student
Arlington, TX
JoeFriberg at alumni.utexas.net

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