Trivium Pursuit

Εκκλησια in the New Testament

Part One: The Classification of Each Use of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament

Part Two: Cross-Index and Concordance for the Classification of Each Use of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament

Part Three: Quotations from Sources on the Meaning and Use of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament

Part Four: The Concept of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament (available at a later date)

Part Five: The Meaning of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament (available at a later date)

A Brief Synopsis of Part One: The Classification of Each Use of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament

Εκκλησια is the Greek word which is commonly translated “church” in English Bibles, but εκκλησια is more properly translated gathering, meeting, congregation, or assembly. This study covers 118 uses of the word εκκλησια in the Greek text of the New Testament.

Though the word εκκλησια had several specialized uses for specific gatherings in first century Greek speaking culture (such as certain informal spontaneous impromptu gatherings, certain formal planned regular gatherings, or certain official required institutional gatherings), nevertheless these specialized uses never strayed from the sense of (a.) an actual gathering, a meeting, a congregation, an assembly of persons together at one time in one location, or (b.) that group of persons who at some time made up such an actual gathering at some location, or who commonly made up an actual gathering at various times and (possibly) various places.

In other words, the meaning of εκκλησια is rather narrow: if there is no actual gathering of certain persons at a certain time and place, then there is no εκκλησια, and the word εκκλησια does not refer to any more than (1) this gathering of persons at a certain time and place, or (2) those persons who make up this gathering.

Christians commonly assign special senses to the English word church which cannot be reconciled to the normal usage of the Greek word εκκλησια. Though the Scriptures do indeed use the term εκκλησια in specialized senses, the Scriptures do not use the term εκκλησια in a sense which is contrary to the normal usage of the term εκκλησια in first century Greek speaking culture.

If we find a usage of εκκλησια in the New Testament which, in its context, will not fit within the normal range of usage for εκκλησια, (i.e. it cannot refer to an actual gathering, or to the persons who make up the actual gathering), then we may have warrant to discern from the context some special sense. Otherwise, we have no warrant, and any attempt to substitute a special sense into the passage amounts to adding to and taking away from the Word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Jeremiah 8:8; Matthew 15:3-6; Luke 11:52; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Revelation 22:18,19).

We will discuss briefly in this article some of these special senses which Christians commonly assign to the English word church (and indirectly impose upon the Greek word εκκλησια), but we will discuss these special senses more extensively in a following article [The Meaning of Εκκλησια in the Greek New Testament]. Our point in this article is simply to display and demonstrate that the common usage of εκκλησια in the New Testament falls within the normal range of usage for the word in Greek speaking culture.

It has not been an easy task to classify each and every use of εκκλησια in the New Testament. Though I have carefully examined each use of εκκλησια in its context, and I have carefully translated into English each text from the Greek text, this does not guarantee that I have it quite right. Discerning the various classifications of meaning is difficult. Discerning which sense is meant for certain texts is even more difficult. Several notes indicate alternative classifications. Some texts belong under more than one classification, so several notes indicate dual classification. A few texts are tricky – without careful attention, a portion of the context might distract someone from discerning just how the word εκκλησια is actually being used. I have worked on this project over a span of twenty-five years, regularly reviewing, revising, and reclassifying. I have carefully reconsidered each text dozens of times. This is a condensation of all of my studies on the usage of εκκλησια in the New Testament. My studies on the meaning and on the concept of εκκλησια will be published separately.

1.0 — Singular Εκκλησια for a Specific Local Gathering (50 Uses)
1.1 — Singular Εκκλησια for a Local Gathering in an Identified Private House (5 Uses)
1.2 — Singular Εκκλησια for an Unidentified Local Gathering (3 Uses)
1.3 — Singular Εκκλησια for a Local Gathering in an Identified City (24 Uses)
1.4 — Singular Εκκλησια in Directives for a Local Gathering When It Actually Meets (7 Uses)
1.5 — Singular Εκκλησια for a Local Gathering Considered as a Group (5 Uses)
1.6 — Singular Εκκλησια for a Generic and Hypothetical Local Gathering (6 Uses)

2.0 — Plural Εκκλησιαι for Specific and Generic Local Gatherings (38 Uses)
2.1 — Plural Εκκλησιαι for Identifiable Regional Groupings of Local Gatherings (28 Uses)
2.2 — Plural Εκκλησιαι for Many or All Local Gatherings Generally (7 Uses)
2.3 — Singular Εκκλησια Generically Implying Plural Local Gatherings (2 Uses)
2.4 — Plural Εκκλησιαι for Regularly Repeated Meetings of the Local Gathering (1 Use)

3.0 — Singular Εκκλησια for the Jerusalem Gathering (9 Uses)
3.1 — Singular Εκκλησια for the Jerusalem Gathering (7 Uses)
3.2 — Singular Εκκλησια for an Actual Meeting in Jerusalem (2 Uses)

4.0 —Singular Εκκλησια for the Generic Local Gathering (4 Uses)
4.1 — Singular Εκκλησια for the (Then) Future Generic Local Gathering (1 Use)
4.2 — Singular Εκκλησια for Saul’s Persecution of the Generic Local Gathering (3 Uses)

5.0 — Singular Εκκλησια for the Mystical-Body Gathering (12 Uses)

6.0 — Ordinary Uses of the Singular Εκκλησια (5 Uses)
6.1 — Singular Εκκλησια for an Old Testament Gathering (2 Uses)
6.2 — Singular Εκκλησια for a Gentile Gathering at Ephesus (3 Uses)

7.0 — Texts Which Confuse or Do Not Actually Use Εκκλησια (4 Texts)

8.0 — Special Phrases Using Εκκλησια (Repeated from among the above, 17 Uses)
8.1 — The Εκκλησια [Gathering] of God (7 Uses)
8.2 — An Εκκλησια [A Gathering] of God (2 Uses)
8.3 — The Εκκλησιαι [Gatherings] of God (3 Uses)
8.4 — The Εκκλησια [Gathering] in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Uses)
8.5 — The Εκκλησιαι [Gatherings] of Christ (1 Use)
8.6 — The Εκκλησιαι [Gatherings] in Christ (2 Uses)

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