The Origins of “Church”

Christianity repeats the ridiculous notion that the English term “church” is a translation of the Greek “ecclesia” but is it? And are either words accurate to describe what our Savior actually established?

Here’s a little something quite amazing, and sadly all too common a problem…

Whoever originally made this graphic clearly took longer to put it together than it would have taken to check into its content and discover how dastardly inaccurate it is.

Most Christians say “‘Jesus’ established the church in the first century.”

This is simply and easily proven to be a entirely untrue.

Not the least reason being that the Savior’s Name isn’t ‘Jesus’ but the fact He never founded anything called a ‘church’ and nothing would be called ‘church for over 1000 years yet.

They live for this lie and would gladly die on that hill, but it’s infact a very easily demolished deception…if anyone is willing to ask a few questions about it.

Viz…Where does the word “church” come from? When did ‘church’ first appear in Bible versions? Why do we insist on calling ourselves a term that doesn’t seem to have a concrete meaning?

For so many centuries now we have been taught to call ourselves and think of ourselves as a ‘church’, and even those trying to get back to the old ways often call themselves a “first century ‘church’”, but this would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. And what exactly is a ‘church’ supposed to be anyway?

Well if we are speaking of the 1st century, it is a drastic anachronism for one thing, since the term would not come into existence for another 10 centuries.

But is it a building? A people? A people gathered anywhere? A people gathered only in that building? The local group of people? A denomination of people? A larger Christian rite? All of these? Just some of them? All and some in differing ways paradoxically?

‘Church’ is a term we are taught not to think too much about. To say all the time but not to ponder or to question and here is why…

As this graphic claims, so most folks think, that ‘church’ is an English word translated from the Greek ‘ecclesia’ which means “a called out asssmbly”. But again, just a quick peak into this presumption puts it six feet under.

It would have been a miracle in and of itself for ‘church’ to have been a translation of ‘ecclesia’ seeing as the two terms are unrelated in anyway and the process of invention was one of transliteration and not translation at all.

“Church” is an Old English term invented in the 12th century derived from a Scottish word “Kirk”.

“Kirk” in turn was itself derived from “kirke” or “circe”. (Not to be mistaken as many have done, in their haste to make things pagan, with ‘Circe’ the witch in the Odyssey story, whose name is etymologically unrelated.)

In the case of the word ‘church’, circe or kirke is a shortening of ‘kuriake’ from the Greek word “kuriakos” not from the Greek word “ecclesia”.

(Traditionally those Christians who do know this much declare that “kuriakos” means “belonging to ‘the Lord’”…but this is yet another anachronism, as “Lord” is a Middle English term exclusive to Medieval English feudalism. “Lord” is infact a contraction of “loverd”, itself a development of Old English “hlaford”, a derivation of the even older “hlafweard” (loaf ward) meaning “keeper (guard) of the bread”. None of this meaning is contained within the Greek term “Kurios”, typically but erroneously rendered as “lord” and labeled “translation”.
“Kurios” should be properly rendered as “person in charge”. And “Kuriakos” as “belonging to the one in charge”.)

The use of “kuriakos” as a designation for the Christian people or their sects and buildings etc, is a 4th century colloquialism.

That is to say, it’s a term that grew out of common use and misuse rather than as a philological development from on word to another. Ecclesia became replaced as a common term for the people and buildings of Christians not by translation or transliteration but by cultural association and continued tradition.

Until the 4th century however the common connotation for Christian people and possessions was ecclesia which actually does mean “called out”. This term began to be used in the 2nd century as the dominant Greek converts reshaped the Hebraic Nazarene sect of the 1st century into a more Hellenistic image.

“Ecclesia” was however a very poor rendering, because even though technically it carried the same meaning as the original Hebrew term, it’s use is completely different. Until the Greek Christians adopted the term “ecclesia”, its use had been till then exclusively secular.

An ecclesia was a “called out assembly” not in the sense of those called to come out of the world to live set apart lives according to the Instructions of the Most High, but rather those called out of their homes into the public square by the authorities of the state to hear the laws and ordinances of the empire declared to the people.

What was originally founded by the Messiah, was the “kehillah”, the “assembly” or “congregation” or “fellowship” called to come out of the Greek heathen world and into The Way of Life as was Instructed on the Writings of Moses and all who followed in his office down to Yahshua, the Messiah, Himself.

Sure most of us don’t speak Hebrew so there’s no need necessarily to be calling ourselves a kehillah today (though it still remains most proper of all), but neither do we speak ancient Greek.

So why are we insisting on using the term from one language we do not speak to describe a thing/people of another language we do not speak?…especially when the term we are adverse to speaking is the native one!

And why are we claiming erroneously that our term from medieval British Christianity is the original one or that it is developed from the original one when it is easily found to be rendered from another word altogether?!

If you take issue with speaking words from another language at all, why accept a term developed into your language from another language unrelated, evolved from another culture disconnected from your own or the original, that says nothing of what you are trying to express?!

We are the congregation, the assembly, the fellowship. We are the Kehillah HaDereck (Fellowship of The Way.) That is what our Saviour made us. That is what He founded for us to follow. That is what we are meant to be.

Not a church. Not a kirk. Not a kirke. Not a kuriakos. Not and ecclesia.

Question Everything

Caleb Lussier

16 Article Posts