Updated: Feb 20
SO much is being said of the ekklesia these days. It was a thing I thought I was quite settled upon in my spirit. But then something happened that radically challenged me to look closer, it is so much like Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to do this with me. I LOVE THAT HE KNOWS JUST HOW TO STIR MY CURIOSITY! I was trained in the typical classical Pentecostal belief that ekklesia is the "Church". Not a church or group of churches, but all churches which teach salvation by repentance of sin. That those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD of their life are members of the ekklesia. As He led me into other streams to learn some very important things I discovered another concept. One that taught the ekklesia is a people set to rule and reign in this life, as a governing body of representatives who speak under a prophetic unction to bring His will on earth even as it is in heaven.
When it all began to change, it went like this...
I was seeking God about the First Century "Church" and the stark contrast I saw between how they structured everything from a missionary trip for a single Apostle to each local assembly/congregation to the then known function of the global "church". Since early in the ministry to which I have now been called for over 30 years, I have rarely felt comfortable referring to local congregations (even the ones I attended) as a "church". Not just because Scripture seems to indicate that a local assembly is only one small part of the "Universal Church" (intended to mean universal in the strictest sense - NOT to equivocate Universal meaning Catholic). Also because it just didn't settle well in my spirit.
Recently I was reading from my favorite Chronological Gospel and there was a note that indicated the English word "church" has a very interesting etymology. So I began digging. Little did I know it was going to send everything I'd ever learned on the topic into a tailspin. Nor did I realize at the onset of this investigation that it would potentially undermine so much of what I had come to "know" as fact! Had I known the level of internal controversy this would cause for me, perhaps I would not have had the courage to move forward. But for God's Grace - His eternal, unwavering, unlimited empowerment (grace), I would not have been able to endure the findings of this research I am about to begin unfolding for you in the series on the "Church" and the "Ekklesia". This will indeed be an exciting ride, so buckle up! Prepare your heart for some crazy plot twists and cliff hanger moments of pure Biblical mystery as we together travel this path of exposition. It is going to challenge you to go deeper in His presence to find some rare nuggets of pure golden revelation. As you read, I can already tell you that you are going to have things explode from deep within your spirit as Abba YHVH unfolds the true nature and intention of the "Church" from the man-made traditions that you have probably accepted as Biblical fact, just as I had.
Here we go...
Let's start with a simple synopsis in my own words, then let's examine the evidence and see if my perspective is accurate, shall we? From the evidence I have examined, it would appear the word "church" has precarious origins to say the least. It would seem it is derived from the Greek (which made sense when I first found this - more on that though shortly) but has been run through the Latin (which also made sense to me since Constantine and the Councils at Nicaea made Latin the language of "The Church"). Then as the English language and vernacular changed with societal changes, the origins and their meanings were all but lost to antiquity. As you'll find, I am not the first nor even one of a few, who have studied this and came to the conclusion that perhaps the word "church" was likely never in God's heart for His people. Or wasn't it?
Let's take it backwards. The modern English word "church" goes back to the Scottish "Kirk" or "Kirke". The website screenshots below will help to show the connective etymology and clues as I followed them.
After reading this and following up with searching "Circe", which I will add in a moment, my heart began to sink a little. Before I do, I want to point out that on a hunch, from some implications I found in several online articles, I then looked up "Kirk":
Now, you'll notice the use of Kirk is circa 1200-CE (1200-AD). Not exactly an ancient use of any word which eventually became the modern word "church" which we use as commonly now as breathing, eating food, and drinking water. Yet, I doubt many understand its origin in the Greek.
Notice that I decided to use "Kirke" in the search bar. This was based on the notation from the Chronological Gospel I was reading from which started this whole adventure. By the way, this may be a good time for you to go back up and look at the pic defining "Church" - which is where I started. (Circe)
Author's Note: I found a number of sources on both sides of the for and against argument of translating ekklesia as church. Some are more questionable than others. So, using my typical method of looking for the areas in which they agree and assuming this middle ground to be truth, I began to work my way outward in both directions and quickly found the extremes. Essentially, it seems the two groups agree on very little except that whomever the ekklesia is, they are to rule and reign as representatives of God on Earth. More on that as I unfold the investigative discoveries. For now, let's continue with a line of thought that deeply offended me when I tripped over it while digging into this and following the slightest of clues.
Some claim that kirk/kirke, being of Scottish origin, was also spelled Circe and simply pronounced with a hard "K" sound and not the assumed classical "S" we would likely use now when seeing the C's in Circe. This holds merit and does explain the almost circular pattern I am beginning to find in the use of the words above. I even came across a number of sources that claimed a lineage with the word "kirkos" as well. After you read what I am about to write, you will be challenged and I hope you do the research yourself to see if I am being fair and impartial. I did not set out to discover anything but truth. I had no expectation of finding what I found.
Concerning this, Smith's Bible Dictionary from 1884, page 452 says:
"the derivation of the word 'church' is uncertain. It is found in the Teutonic and Slavonic languages and answers to the derivatives of ekklesia, which are naturally found in the romance languages and by foreign importation elsewhere. The word is generally said to be derived from the Greek kyriakos, meaning the lord's house. But the derivation has been too hastily assumed. It is probably associated with the Scottish kirk, the Latin circus/circulous, the Greek klukos, because the congregations were gathered in circles."
Specifically, Smith's is referring to a derivation from the translation or transliteration of the Greek (in this case specifically the word ekklesia) into the English word church. Because, you see, a translation uses a method of choosing a word of similar meaning to be chosen when "translating". Transliteration is a letter for letter translation for example; Yeshua when spelled in Greek and represented by English alphabetic characters is Iesous (pronounced Yay-soos at the time of the writing of the New Testament), transliterated into Latin it became Jesus (pronounced Yay-soos and later Hay-soos), into modern English vernacular it is pronounced Gee-zuhs. Neither translation nor transliteration was used to create church from ekklesia however, it is instead a replacement and this is of monumental importance. Ekklesia is a compound word meaning "called out ones" and NOT church. It is used in the Septuagint to represent the entire assembly of Israel. We'll look more at this in future chapters. For now, suffice it to say church does not mean "called out ones" and so may not even be an accurate replacement.
Back to Smith's notation concerning "Circe/chirche/kirk/kirke". Notice something odd about the last few examples of related words/translations? Yes, in Latin it is "CIRCUS"! I nearly lost my breath for a moment when I saw this. Especially considering that for centuries the only Bible read and taught from was the Latin Vulgate! The only authorized English translation prior to the Great Bible commissioned by Henry VIII and its closely subsequent Authorized King James cousin was translated from the Latin Vulgate not from Hebrew and Greek scrolls. Most of these two were the work of one William Tyndale, whom we will see become a central figure in this research as we go.
In many Messianic and Hebrew Roots circles, it has become popular to use the idea that "church" comes from "kyriakos" and is in this way a derivation of Ekklesia, as previously examined using Brown's Bible Dictionary of 1884. It is my assessment they do so to avoid some of the backlash which inherently comes from being in the spheres of theological understanding they have chosen. The number of hoops one must jump through to accept this logic is cumbersome at the least. Frankly, I am a bit bewildered by the need to cling to something clearly not Biblical in order to keep the status quo, especially from those in circles which repeatedly prove so much of Christian Theology to be lacking proper Hermeneutic Context.
One other concern which needs to be addressed is found in 1Timothy 3:15.
"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the [house of God], which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
brackets added for clarity
The phrase "church of the living God" is taken from "oikos theos" in the Greek. The concern here is that of mistaking "house" for church. A reasonable assumption if "Ekklesia" to "church" were an actual translation. It, however, is not. Even Strong's and Thayer's do not offer "church" as the first/primary/best translation in 1 Timothy 3:15.
There is one hitch, in this research that I must include as an honest researcher. That hitch is named Marcion. I've written about Marcion since the initial publishing of this work in 2018 and found information that is mostly just peripheral to the topic, but may have a small bit of relevance which is important. You can read my two articles about Marcion HERE and HERE.
So, how might Marcion fit into this picture? It appears from sources such as Irenaeus and Tertullian that Marcion called his band of heresy spreading followers "The Church of the New Testament". This could throw a monkey wrench into things, for my research, IF he were not already a known heretic in his own time. Even his father had him excommunicated for the spreading of heresy. Being that Marcion's apex of influence was around 150CE/AD this puts him ahead of the founding of the Constantinian religion by a fair margin. So while the Holy See may not have been the first to use the word "Church" when referring to a local assembly/congregation, it does indicate the first usage was likely within the 'circles' of heresy and not within the movement birthed by the Followers of The Way or any source an honest believer in Yeshua HaMashiach would willingly accept - whether Christian, Messianic or Hebrew Roots.
So, more digging...
The above reference along with Smith's historical note of congregations meeting in a round configuration is likely due to the latter use of circe associated with "circle". Probably being due to the round shape of the coliseums used to house the events known as Roman Circuses. Since they were round, the word likely eventually came to be associated with the "circus", which also led to the use of "rings" in modern circuses - i.e. "three ring circus". Are these perhaps some reasons why we see the use of the word church? My biggest concern with this evidential connection is the fact that Roman Circuses are where many early believers became martyrs in a form of entertainment; the most heinous of events and crimes against another human being.
After months of meditating on this topic, I remembered an interesting tidbit. Many believe Yeshua/Jesus spoke Greek. Let's assume He did. Would He, the Jewish Messiah, have referred to His Body of Believers (which would soon turn the world upside down) as "the Church" ergo "Circe" - the Greek goddess who seduced men and turned them into pigs?
Can you see, the parallel which has been drawn between "church" and "ekklesia" is faulty at best and frankly totally false?
Clearly, IF Yeshua/Jesus wanted to call His future Body of Believers "the church" He would have also known the word from which "church" would evolve. So assuming He spoke Greek He would not have said "ekklesia" He would have said "Circe". On the flip side of that coin, if He was speaking in Hebrew (which is FAR MORE LIKELY) but wanted His followers called "the church" He would have made certain His followers knew to transcribe it as "Circe" when translating into Greek.
The fact is, in reality, He would most likely have used the Hebrew word "qahal" meaning "congregation" or "assembly". For which the correct Greek word is indeed "ekklesia" but has no connection to "circe" whatsoever and therefore no connection to "church". In one place the Septuagint (Greek translation of the "Old Testament") qahal (קָהָל - עֵדָה) [meaning community] is translated as "synagogen" (συναγωγή συναγωγή, συναγωγῆς, ἡ - συνάγω) which literally means "gathering" and is indicative of harvest like "gathering in the fruit". So even those who argue that "church" comes from this relationship to a word from which we get "synagogue" in English, are using faulty logic and stretching any actual possibility of a connection of ekklesia to church.
A poison root will always produce poison fruit.
Is this perhaps partly why "the church" is becoming more and more fragmented while at the same time experiencing less and less effectiveness against the counter cultures we face today?
Is it possible that this root has poisoned the fruit "the church" is producing, thus explaining its increasing irrelevance?
Is it possible that the reason many in "the church" cannot live a Mark 16:17 & 18 life is at least partly because of this dilemma of believing they are of the Body of Yeshua, but they are really part of the Body of Circe?
Could it be, the only way to return to the power and authority of First Century Believers is to become the fulfillment of "the last shall be [like the] first and the first shall be [like the] last" (insert added to make a point)? Was this a prophecy? After all, Yeshua was talking about the End Times when He made that statement.
Do we need to return to the basics and rewrite what we believe in our own hearts in order to fully grasp truth and live by what He really said?
All this and more will be discussed as we move forward in this investigation.
Where then did the early believers assemble?
In the next chapter, we will begin to examine more potential reasons why the early translators chose to use the word "church" as a replacement for "ekklesia". Get ready, this ride will get bumpier before it smooths out. Keep your heart posture focused on honoring God by avoiding offense while investigating the truth folks. All is not lost, even though at this point in the story-line it looks like the hero is surrounded with no visible means of escape. Abba always makes a way where there seems to be no way!
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