Hebrew Words Defined

The Church Part 2

The last time we met, we defined the word church from the Greek. I still wish to stay very elementary for just a little while longer. When we read our Scriptures and see the word church we are reading an English translation of the Greek word ekklesia. This word appears in the New Testament over 100 times and is understood by virtually all Christian readers that this word is from the Greek word ekklesia (έκκλησία), and refers to believers in Yeshua‘. When the modern reader opens his New Testament he sees an abundant mention of this word. When he opens up his Tanakh he sees no mention of the word, so he concludes, as do many so-called scholars, that there is no church in the Tanakh. This is just one of hundreds of silly conclusions that modern Christians have been led to believe.

In the LXX translation of the Tanakh we have this same word ekklesia used over 100 times, as well. When we see the word ekklesia in the New Testament we translate it as church. So, when we see the same word in the Tanakh why do we not translate it as church? Well, let's see how it is used first. The Hebrew equivalent of ekklesia is the word qahal (קהל). It is translated in most occurrences as an assembly. The first mention of qahal - ekklesia - church is in Devariym (Deuteronomy). Here, Moshe says,

Devariym 4:10Specially the day that thou stoodest before YHVH thy ’Elohiym in Horeb, when YHVH said unto me, assemble [qahal] the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

This is one of the occurrences that Stephen was referring to in Acts when he said,

Acts 7:37-39This is that Moses whom said unto the children of Israel, A Prophet shall YHVH your ’Elohiym, raise up unto you of your brethren, like me; him shall ye hear. This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him in Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received the living oracles to give unto us; Whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt ...

Now there is a lot to be noticed here.

  1. Moshe states that a Prophet will be raised up, who will be of your brethren (Hebrews). According to Devariym 18:15, this Prophet was also like Moshe. Moshe is renown for primarily one thing: the Law.
  2. This Prophet ye shall hear.
  3. This Prophet was in the church, (ekklesia, qahal) in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai. The Hebrew text does not tell you that the ekklesia was at Mt. Sinai, but Stephen does. So, not only was this Prophet (Yeshua‘) there but the church was there as well.
  4. Stephen tells us that their fathers would not obey Moshe. What was Moshe telling them? He was giving them YHVH's instructions, His commands, His teaching, His laws. But they were not obeying. So, YHVH says He will raise up a Prophet like unto Moshe and Him we will hear. Oh yeah? Is the New Testament assembly listening any better than the assembly in the Tanakh?

So, every time we see ekklesia in the New Testament we translate it as church. If this word means church in the New Testament then why does it not mean church in the Tanakh? Could it be that this would mean that YHVH looked upon the believers in the Tanakh the same way he looks upon the believers in the New Testament? Let's go on to some more occurrences of this word.

Devariym 9:10And YHVH delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words which YHVH spoke with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly

In Devariym 7:6 YHVH calls this assembly a HOLY people.

Devariym 18:15-19 (read this one carefully)YHVH thy ’Elohiym will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken. According to all that thou desiredst of YHVH thy ’Elohiym in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the YHVH my ’Elohiym, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And YHVH said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put MY WORDS in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them ALL that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will REQUIRE it of him.

Yehoshua‘ (Joshua) 8:35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers among them. [So far, Yehoshua‘ is being faithful by passing on the words of YHVH to his generation, by reading them to the church.]

Shofetiym (Judges) 20:1-2Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, with the land of Gilead, unto YHVH in Mizpah. And the chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God ...

The term "people of God" is in the construct state or the possessive. YHVH is the life and source of His people. They are HIS. It is the same term used of believers in the New Testament.

Shemu’el Alef (1 Samuel) 17:47And all this assembly shall know that YHVH saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is YHVH's, and he will give you into our hands.

Samuel is being faithful by passing on the words of YHVH to the faithful church.

Nechemeyah (Nehemiah) 8:1-3And all the people gathered themselves together as one man unto the street that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra, the scribe, to bring the book of the law of Moses, which YHVH had commanded to Israel. And Ezra, the priest, brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

Mizemor (Psalm) 22:22I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Mizemor 40:7-10Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, [I sometimes doubt that the church really believes that.] I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not restrained my lips, O YHVH, thou knowest. I have not hidden thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation. I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

Yo’el (Joel) 2:16Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that nurse at the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth from his chamber, and the bride out of her room.

These are just a few examples of the use of the same word translated church in the New Testament. It must be understood, as I stated at the beginning, that the word ekklesia is not necessarily synonymous with true believers. It simply means a specific assembly or gathering of people. It has to be the context that ultimately reveals what kind of an assembly. This holds true for both Testaments. The Scriptures testify from very early on that there has been a church of YHVH's people. His assembly did not begin in Acts chapter 2. This is a very important concept to grasp, for the New Testament church did not replace Israel.

Next time, we will continue to talk about the use of the word church.

Shalom Alecheim!