Have you ever questioned a long held belief? Well, I do so today when I dig deeper into the biblical meaning of the word church.
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The historical significance of a misinterpreted word
Is the Church synonymous with the Ekklesia, or is there a difference in meaning and translation?
The famous words Jesus said to Peter Matthew 16:18: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church[ekklēsia], and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
This word Ekklēsia that is commonly translated Church has over centuries lost its true meaning. Let us take a closer look at the two translation of Church and ekklēsia and see if they hold the same meaning.
For most people the word Church to them is the English translation of Ekklesia but what they do not realise until the study of the word is undertaken that Church is transliterated from the Greek word Kuriakon. Kuriakon generally means “belonging/pertaining to the Lord” and over the generations, the different iterations shortened to kuriak. The Old English form as "cirice" (Kee-ree-ke) and depending on the dialect differences became kurk and eventually kirk (Scottish origin). Then once in English, kirk became Church, the current translation.
In modern times, when people hear the word Ekklesia, they believe that it means solely “called out”. That is the beginning and end of their interpretation. However, in ancient times, Ekklesia was recognised as a gathering of citizens assembling to discuss matters pertaining to their state affairs. It was the governmental assembly of Athens. Citizens of a nation are “called out” to govern and manage their affairs. It is important to note that Jesus in Matthew 16 told Peter that it is upon this revelation of the ekklēsia (governing civil body assembling regular to discuss state affairs) that the gates of Hades will not prevail.
In summary, it is evident that the English word Church that has been used to translate the Greek word Ekklesia for nearly 2000 years is in effect mistranslated. Therefore, the true essence and meaning of the Ekklesia have been concealed.
This discovery was a shock to me when eight years ago, I decided for myself to study the meaning of the word Ekklesia. What I found has transformed my thinking and stretched my understanding of the body of people that Jesus established at his ascension. The Ekklesia is not a building used for public Christian worship, nor is it a religious organisation.
The Ekklesia is a called-out people with an intention to assemble as God’s government to discuss His affairs on the Earth. The Ekklesia is God’s theocratic government that He has delegated to His citizens and expects for them to participate in its governance and decision making.
Now, I bet you are thinking that this is not what you currently see as Church today. The Ekklesia and Church do not have the same meaning, to understand the Ekklesia you have to discard what you think you know about the Church and begin anew.
Brothers and sisters, we have been called to a greater revelation, do not perish for lack of knowledge because now you know.
Esther serves as a deacon in the Islington fellowship. A social work professional, Esther oversees the ministries behavioural change strategy and leads pastoral development. Esther is passionate about seeing believers Activate Citizenship.