by Glen Penton

When Yeshua and His early followers began to refer to the Body of believers, they needed some word to refer to it. The word the Holy Spirit chose is translated "church" in most translations of the New Covenant portion of the Scriptures into English, but when Yeshua and His apostles were teaching, neither the New Testament, nor the Christian religion, nor the English language, nor the word "church" existed yet. The New Covenant was written in Greek, the language of most of the Jewish People in that part of the world at that time. At least three Greek words were available: eccleeseea, synagogy, and keenoneea. (The latter is a common word in the Greek language of that time, often translated into English as "fellowship".) The Holy Spirit chose the word eccleeseea.

I suggest the following five reasons:
  1. He could have coined a new word, but He didn't. He used a word already full of meaning to the Jews of that time. The non-technical Hebrew word qahal (meaning "a gathering") is used in the Hebrew Scriptures with technical religious meanings, such as, "a congregation," "the People of Israel," and "the gathering of all Israel in Jerusalem for holiday worship." When Jews spoke Greek and translated the Hebrew word qahal, they always used the Greek word eccleeseea. Christian translators of the New Testament should preserve the Holy Spirit's message by avoiding altogether the use of the Christian technical religious term "church" in their translations, and use whatever word they use to translate qahal from the Hebrew Scriptures ("assembly," "community," "congregation" or the like in English). This co-operation with the Spirit would short-circuit a lot of un-Biblical theology that tries to find conflicts between the Old and New Testaments. Some places where the choice to translate eccleeseea as "church" in the New Covenant logically demands the same translation of qahal in the Hebrew Scriptures, are Deuteronomy 9:10, 10:4, 18:16, Psalms 22:22 and 25, 35:18, 40:9-10, 89:5, 107:32, and 149:1.
  2. Eccleeseea seems to have had more dignified connotations than its synonym, synagogy. For example, in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX), synagogy usually refers to the motley, disorganized band of ex-slaves that was Israel in Moses' time, whereas qahal>eccleeseea is more often the religious-national gatherings of later Israel.
  3. Among Jews of that time, the word synagogy was well on its way to evolving the same meanings as the modern English word "synagogue." If the early church had used that word, it could have implied that they were in competition with already-existing Jewish religious organizations. They were not. Those early Christians were loyal Jews who worshipped God in the Jerusalem Temple and in synagogues on Saturday along with the other Jews.
  4. Among Jews of that time, the Greek words synagogy, keenoneea, and ayresees (from which we get our English word "heresy.") were sometimes used to refer to the various denominations within Judaism. Use of any of those terms by the early Christians might have suggested a self-understanding as "just another Jewish denomination." While Christianity in those days certainly was a new Jewish denomination, and that fact was obvious to everybody, it was far more than that. For exactly the same reason, the same Holy Spirit Who lead the early church AWAY from such terminology now leads modern Messianic Jews TO USE terms like "synagogue" precisely because so many Jews today don't recognize Messianic Judaism as Jewish.
  5. Among non-Jews of the time, synagogy and keenoneea probably would have had some religious connotations, while eccleeseea probably would not. Using a non-religious term probably avoided both unnecessary persecution and a too-easy confusion of Christianity and paganism. Such confusion is exactly what happened after the apostles died.

an article about interpreting Scripture
another word study from the Renewed Covenant Scriptures
the Renewed Covenant
Torah application and the Church
Interpersonal relations and the Church
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Deuteronomy 9:10, "And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written by God's finger. On them were inscribed all the words just as the LORD had said them to you on the mountain, from out of the fire, on the Day of the Assembly."

Deuteronomy 10:4, "And He inscribed on the tablets the same as what He wrote on the first ones, the Ten Commandments which He had said to you on the mountain, from out of the fire, on the Day of the Assembly."

Deuteronomy 18:16, "As you requested the LORD your God at Mount Horeb on the Day of the Assembly , 'I must not hear the Voice of the LORD my God again, or see this great fire any more, or I'll die.'"

Psalm 22:22,
"Who You are to my brothers and sisters I'll tell,
Within the Assembly praise You as well."

Psalm 22:25,
"My praise in the great Assembly's from You.
My vows I'll fulfill before those who reverence You."

Psalm 35:18,
"In the great Assembly I will thank You.
Among a mighty People I will praise You."

Psalm 40:9-10,
"I'll tell good news of right actions in the greatAssembly.
Look! My lips aren't sealed. LORD, You know they aren't.
Your right ways I won't hide inside My heart.
I'll tell what a trustworthy Savior You are,
And not conceal Your truth and sacrificial love from the great Assembly."

Psalm 107:32,
"And exalt Him in the Assembly of His People,
And in the leaders' meeting praise Him."

Psalm 149:1,
"Praise the LORD!
Sing a new, happy song to the LORD,
His rightful praise in the Assembly
Of those who do His humble love."

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