Church Or Synagogue

Q. Do you recall the time I posed the query around the use of the word ‘church’? My wrestle was over the fact that I see the word in the New Testament and not in the Old.

Before I make my ‘final statement’ about this, let us review some meanings. The word church is the English word for ecclesia (Greek). Ecclesia can be translated back to Hebrew to the word ‘adar’.

Adar means, congregation and the letters of this Hebrew word is associated with ‘eye witness of the called out ones of the salvation of God’.

Now having said these things we can now understand that both the Old Testament and the New contain the words adar and ecclesia respectively….to mean the same thing. In other words the congregation of God’s called out ones is a consistent theme in the Bible.

This leads to the next question. If the same thing is being referred to in the Old as well as the New, then why only use Church in the New and congregation in the Old when translating to English?

One possible answer: The English translators (under the influence of gentile ‘church’ fathers) deliberately used the word in the New but used a different word in the Old to make a separation between Israel and the new covenant brethren that was never there.

A. There’s no question that there was an effort to distance the Church from Israel in the 3rd and 4th Centuries. But I think in this case it’s a little simpler than that. In what’s most likely the earliest written communication to believers. Paul, a Jew, wrote to the Church (ekklesia) of the Thessalonians rather than the congregation (sunagogue) of the Thessalonians.

In fact the only appearance of the word congregation in the New Testament is in Acts 13:43, where the Greek word for congregation there is the same as the one for synagogue in verse 42 (sunagogue). Since most of the places Paul went to start a church already had a synagogue, he may have used the word ekklesia in addressing the Christians simply to distinguish between them and the Jews, even though there’s really only one church, made up of numerous congregations.

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