Gary answers a listener question about the word “church” and how it is used by the Bible and interpreters over the years.

English translations have obscured the biblical and historical meaning of ekklēsia by translating it as “church” rather than “assembly” or “congregation.” It’s unfortunate that John Wycliffe (c. 1324–1384) and the translators of the Geneva Bible (1560) chose to translate ekklēsia as “church” rather than the more accurate “assembly” or “congregation.” And it’s a shame that the scholars who were chosen to develop what has come to us as the King James Version were forced to translate ekklēsia as “church.” The English word “church” is not related to the Greek word ekklēsia but is derived from the Greek kyriake (oikia) [1] “Lord’s (house),” from kyrios “ruler, lord.”

The English term church, along with the Scottish word Kirk and German Kirche, is derived from [Anglo-Saxon and Latin from] the Greek kuriakon, which is the neuter adjective of kurios, “Lord,” and means, “belonging to the Lord.” Kuriakon occurs only twice in the New Testament, neither time with reference to the church as commonly used today. [2]

The use of “church” instead of “congregation” or “assembly” has gone a long way to create the myth of an Israel-Church distinction because it was viewed as a new thing rather than an extension of what the Old Testament had made obvious, both in the Hebrew and its Greek translation, the Septuagint. In all of the many definitional uses of ekklēsia in the New Testament—Melvin Elliott lists six [3]—not one of them fits the definition given by dispensationalists as an newly created category of believers that had the result of creating an Israel-Church distinction.

The Tyndale New Testament, the first English translation to use the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, did not use the word “church.” William Tyndale (1494–1536) chose words “assembly” and “congregation” [4] to translate ekklēsia, and ecclesiastical authorities took notice of it, not because such a translation would nullify an Israel-Church distinction but because “certain aspects of Tyndale’s translation were instantly perceived as a threat by more conservative English Catholics.” [5] Thomas More and others in the church believed that these translation changes would give credence to arguments by Protestants that the Church could be questioned and reformation might be in order.

10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered

10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered

As a result of many failed predictions, many Christians are beginning to take a second look at a prophetic system that they were told is the only one that takes the literal interpretation of the Bible seriously. Gary DeMar has taken on the task of exposing some of the popular myths foisted upon the public by prophetic speculators.

Buy Now

Gary answers a listener question about the word “church” and how it is used by the Bible and interpreters over the years. Is God “doing something new” in the New Testament, or is He fulfilling exactly what He promised in the Old Testament? Was God’s plan for His people changed when they rejected Jesus as their Messiah?

Click here for today’s episode

Click here to browse all episodes of The Gary DeMar Podcast

[1] “The word oikia, house, being omitted and understood.” (Melvin E. Elliott, The Languages of the King James Bible: A Glossary Explaining its Words and Expressions [Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967], 35).

[2] Saucy, The Church in God’s Program, 11.

[3] Elliott, The Languages of the King James Bible, 35–36. Also see James Bannerman, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline and Government of the Christian Church, 2 vols. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1869] 1960), 1:5–17.

[4] William Tyndale, “Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue” in The Works of William Tyndale, 2 volume work (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1849–1850), 2:13–16.

[5] Alister McGrath, In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 75.