We are all familiar with several contemporary meanings of the word “church” – a building, a Sunday event, a group of people or a denomination. But what did it mean in the New Testament?
The Greek word “ekklesia” is often translated “church”, but what did it mean?
You probably know this ….
New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington, has been reviewing a book by Paul Trebilco, and his latest post discusses the original meaning of ekklesia.
It is well known that “ekklesia” means “assembly” or “meeting”, but what sort of meeting?
According to Witherington, an ekklesia can be a local meeting, probably in a home, or the coming together of several home churches in one larger assembly. It may even be used of the whole set of house churches in one city, even if they don’t meet together in one group.
So it doesn’t mean a building, and probably not a denomination, but it does mean a group of believers.
But maybe not this ….
The word Greek “ekklesia” had been in use for several centuries in Greece to designate democratic assemblies, where dialogue took place. Witherington says that Paul and his readers would have recognised this.
So this appears to be yet another reminder that church “services” where most of the communication is one way are not the norm in the New Testament, and, if we want to follow the New Testament, should not be the norm today.
An ekklesia will generally involve discussion, sharing, open to everyone present, according to gifts. How we make that work is another thing.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons