[B-Greek] Etymological fallacy?

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 20 06:36:47 EST 2008

When I posted the quotation from M & M regarding EKKLHSIA and there actually having been a "calling out" by a herald, I thought it possible that some might say, "See, I told you so", which is why I appended the comment that for the NT writers the context was simply that of an assembly without reference to having been called out from anything (and I'm a Calvinist who would be the beneficiary of such an understanding).  In the same way we today would not think of the word "lady" as signifying a dispenser of bread, but if you look at the etymology it's there.

… search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.

- Jan Hus

From: J.M. Pauw <jmpauw at hotmail.com>
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 6:22:49 AM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Etymological fallacy?

Indeed there is a need to warn against etymological fallacies. A lot of etymologies do not derive from sound exegesis, but from wishful thinking or sometimes are inspired by the wish of impressing other people with your knowledge of Greek. So I welcome any critical comment on using etymologies. So thanks, Carl, for sharpening our minds in thinking through the meaning of the word EKKLHSIA.

However, there still seems to be any historical sense to accept the etymological assumption of EKKLHSIA being understood as a group of people called out of a wider group. Indeed the word is actually the standard Greek political word for assembly of citizens, but there is a reason for this fact. Indeed the ancient EKKLHSIA is the assembly of citizens, but I would like to stress ONLY citizens. This means that the EKKLHSIA was in fact a small group of only citizens, 'called out' (for a long time by the Fate of being born as a citizen or not) of the whole population of citizens, metics and slaves.
I don't know whether there is an ancient explanation for the word EKKLHSIA, but there is a logic to suppose that just the etymology of this word is the reason why the ancient Greeks used just this word to designate the political assembly of citizens.
So if this is true, then it's not so stupid - nor dogmatic wishful thinking - to suppose that it was just this fact to carry over not only the word EKKLHSIA into early Christian usage for the congregation of believers, but also it's etymology. Of course by changing the context of the ancient polis population into the world population, just as the context of the word has been changed from assemby of citizens to assembly of believers.

Looking forward to your comments.

Michel Pauw

> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 19:28:16 -0500
> From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
> Subject: [B-Greek] Etymological fallacy?
> To: B-Greek B-Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <759A03F7-4FD8-463B-9448-6372E7B10C37 at artsci.wustl.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=WINDOWS-1252; format=flowed;
> delsp=yes
> The etymological fallacy appears to be alive and well at the Koinonia
> blog in yesterday's "Word study on ekklesia ("church") ? Monday with
> Mounce 15 " entry:
> http://zondervan.typepad.com/koinonia/2008/11/monday-with-mounce.html
> = http://tinyurl.com/5n9t54
> It's the old chestnut about EKKLHSIA being derived from EKKALEW and
> the word meaning that believers have been "called out of the world" to
> belong to King Jesus. It's worth consulting BDAG on this; the word is
> actually the standard ancient Greek political word for assembly of
> citizens. In the LXX EKKLHSIA was used to convey the Hebrew Qahal,
> "congregation" -- and it is pretty evident the word was carried over
> into early Christian usage for the congregation of believers.
> Warnings against the etymological fallacy don't seem to do much good.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)


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