We left off on my last post looking at Psalms 22:22, and the word congregation. And we found the Hebrew word qahal, which translated means, “assembly,” “company,” “congregation,” “multitude.” Now when we look in the Septuagint this is the word we find, εκκλησιας . This word was actually found in Psalms 21:23 of the Septuagint, the Kings James Version is laid out differently than the Septuagint, if you were trying to find it yourself. When you look up this word in my Greek to English dictionary, guess what you find. You find the word church, that’s right, “church” and now your asking yourself. How can this be? The Septuagint was translated in the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. before Christ the Messiah was even born. So how can the church be in the Old Testament? Well it wasn’t, I have read some articles where people have believed that this is proof that the Church existed in the Old Testament, from the very beginning, but this is just not so. What they have done, by defining this word and others like it in the modern dictionaries, is just plain wrong, and all it does is cause even more confusion. So let’s investigate this further.
So to recap we have found in the New Testament that the Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word “church”, comes from the original Greek word “εκκληιοα” which the Transliterated Word is ekklesia, which is defined as “a calling out” a meeting especially a “religious congregation.” And then we find in the Old Testament the Hebrew word “qahal” which is translated into the Greek word “εκκλησιας” which is defined in modern dictionaries as “church” but it’s Transliterated Word is “ekkliisias”, which is defined the same as “ekklesia”, these two words are basically the same. And the main definition of “ekklesia” is a called out people, or congregation. So now let’s look at some other early English Translations of the New Testament and found out how they translated this word ekklesia.
Transliteration is the practice of replacing the Greek letters of a word with English letters to form a new word, with a distinctive meaning. Translating, is the practice of replacing Greek words with English words of similar meaning or intent, this is the most common practice. Our interest is for the English word “church,” which replaces the Greek word ekklesia. In Acts 19:25-41, we have an example of the real meaning of ekklesia; the people of Ephesus gathered to deal with Paul’s alleged preaching against their god, Artemis of the Ephesians.
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. Acts 19:32.
But if ye enquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. Acts 19:39
And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly. Acts 19:41
In each of these cases, ekklesia is correctly translated “assembly” since it means “citizens called to be a governing assembly. In Hebrews 2:12 of the KJV it is a quote from Psalms 22:22, and as we read, and properly so the word in the OT is congregation. Now look what the translators did.
Saying “I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee”
Now we know that the writers of the New Testament used the Septuagint as they quoted from the OT, and the word they read was not supposed to be translated church but rather “congregation,” and that is exactly how they wrote it, because David did not write church, he wrote “qahal,” which is congregation. So the translators were so bold as to translate ekklesia from congregation to church knowing this was a quote from the Old Testament, and how easy it is for us readers of the Bible to overlook this while we read. There are over one hundred other times that ekklesia is replaced with the word “church” or “churches”- replaced, because the word “church” is neither a translation nor a transliteration of the original word. Someone chose to use “church” rather than the meaning of the Greek word or it’s letters.
Now let’s look at some Old English Renditions of Matthew 16:18. John Wycliffe, of Yorkshire, England,translated the first Bible into English in 1382, not from the original languages, but from the Latin. Therefore John translated the Latin word ecclesiam into chirche (in old English spelling):
And Y seize to thee, that thou art Peter, and on this stoon Y schal bilde My chirche, and the yatis of helle shulan not haue miyt ayens it. ( Wycliffe, c1382)
The Latin word is similar to the Greek, but because he did not know Greek, he may have used what was commonly called a religious gathering in his day. We are going to explore that later in another post, as this mystery continues. Here is a list of other translations that followed.
Tyndale’s Bible used “congregation”:
And I saye also vnto the that thou arte Peter: and apon this rocke I wyll bylde My congregacion, And the gates of hell shall not prevayle ageynst it.
- Coverdale Bible (1535) – used “congregation”
- Matthew Bible (1537) – used “congregation”
- The Great Bible (1539) – used “congregation”
- Geneva Bible ( 1560) – used “church”
And I say also vnto thee, that thou art Peter, and vpon this rocke I will builde my Church: and the gates of hell shall not ouercome it. (Geneva Bible, c1560)
- Bishop’s Bible (1568) – used “congregation”:
And I say also vnto thee, that thou art Peter, and vponn this rocke I wyll builder my congregation: and the gates of hell shall not preuayle against it. ( Bishop Bible, c 1568)
The word “congregation,” in place of ekklesia, is a good and proper translation, since not only was that the translation used in translating the Old Testament, “congregation” means “to gather a flock” and refers to people, not places or institutions. To be continued.