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A LOOK AT THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH

Part 1

Heb 4:12

12 For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.      AMP

So if the emphasis of God is on His Word then it would stand to reason that words are extremely important. Thus a study of specific words and their origins is essential to understanding the importance of not only their meaning but the implications that they have on our lives and how we respond to what we believe to be true. Truth is a word that escapes meaning and is thrown around at times rather flippantly. The Greek word for truth is as follows:

NT:225

<END GREEK> aletheia (al-ay'-thi-a); from NT:227; truth:

KJV - true, truly, truth, verity.

NT:227

<END GREEK> alethes (al-ay-thace'); from NT:1 (as a negative particle) and NT:2990; true (as not concealing):

KJV - true, truly, truth.

(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

Jn 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth . Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth ? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.      KJV

The word truth therefore, simply means "nothing concealed". Pilate asked Jesus "What is truth?", then proceeded to tell the crowd gathered to accuse Jesus that he found no fault in Him. Clearly Pilate had no reason to doubt the words that Jesus spoke to him and was so convinced that when eventually Jesus was crucified, he wrote a sign that reflected his conviction about the man in that he called Jesus as being the "King of the Jews" and would not change it no matter how much the religious leaders complained.

Jn 19:19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. 21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written".                KJV

Words were so important that the Religious leaders knew that saying Jesus is King of the Jews did not carry the message they wanted to propagate and so they asked Pilate to change the wording to "He said I am King of the Jews". Look at the words they wanted Pilate to write. How ironic that they wanted to discredit Jesus by using His own words to convict Him, but the words that they chose would have elevated Jesus from a king to God Himself. Jesus used the phrase "I Am" in many of His discussions with the Pharisees and Sadducees and that infuriated them to the point of wanting to stone Him and at times immediately. In their blind rage, they did not even realize this fact.

The importance of words are crucial to our understanding of the Bible and what it has to say in every aspect of life. So with the importance of words in mind, let's look at another word that is used almost without question in modern Christendom.

 

CHURCH

There is no word in the Greek translated that means church, yet it is used over 100 times in the New Testament and not at all in the Old Testament. Since the New Testament was translated from the Hebrew to the Greek from the original languages, it would stand to reason and logic that the word "church" would be used throughout the Old Testament. To illustrate this, I took a screen shot of the concordance list compiled by Biblesoft. Notice that every occurrence of the word "church" has the same reference number. This is suspicious in that each occurrence of the word "ecclesia" in its various forms is translated church. This is inconsistent with the variations and usages in context of each occurrence. It would be like taking the English word wind and translating it to mean the air around us moving and being evidenced by the response of the foliage around us as proof of its existence. For example, how would you translate, "He had to wind his watch because it stopped running." if the word meant the same throughout the document you are reading? That would be apparently wrong and would indicate that the translator was inept, lazy or purposely trying to inject their own agenda.

 

NT:1577

<END GREEK> ekklesia (ek-klay-see'-ah); from a compound of NT:1537 and a derivative of NT:2564; a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both):

KJV - assembly, church.

(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

 

This is the New Testament. In order to understand the original meaning of the word translated into the Greek from the original Hebrew word, it is important to know what the original word meant. The original Hebrew word that was translated to "Eklasisa" is Kehal which means :

OT:6950 qahal ('kaw-hal'); a primitive root; to convoke:

KJV - assemble (selves) (together), gather (selves) (together).

OT:6951 lh*q* qahal (kaw-hawl'); from OT:6950; assemblage (usually concretely):

KJV - assembly, company, congregation, multitude.

OT:6952 hL*h!q= qehillah (keh-hil-law'); from OT:6950; an assemblage:

KJV - assembly, congregation.

(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

The original word translated by the King James translators should have been translated the same from the Hebrew to the Greek to the English. But this is inconsistent and here is why. Notice that the Hebrew occurrences of the word and its variations consistently refer to "people" and has different variations and forms, but all point to one fact and that is an assembly of people and each occurrence refers to the people and the activities they are engaged in.  

 

Rabbi Johathan Cahn explains the Hebrew word Kehila  this way with the root word Kahal combined with a genetive sense by changing the suffix and adding "elah" to the root "Kahal' to convert the word to an action word or verb. This is a congregation of called out ones that are a community of believers working together for a common cause in a manner not consistant with the "normal" routines of life.

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn defines “Kehilah” as an assembly of called out ones.

        (Saphires, September (5) Edition, 2012 Romans 1:1)

ke·hil·lah   /Seph. Heb. kəhiˈlɑ;Ashk. Heb. kəˈhɪləShow Spelled[Seph. Heb. kuh-hee-lah; Ashk. Heb. kuh-hil-uh]

noun, plural ke·hil·loth, ke·hil·lot, ke·hil·los Seph. Heb. -hiˈlɔt;Ashk. Heb. -ˈhɪloʊt,-oʊsShow Spelled[Seph. Heb. -hee-lawt; Ashk. Heb. -hil-oht, -ohs] the organization of the Jewish population of a community that deals with charities and other communal affairs.

 

And so it is that we are the “Called Out Ones”, Greek Ek-klay-sia (Ecclasia) or as it is commonly translated “Church

 

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 (Hebrew Bible or Masoretic Text or Miqra)? 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.4

References: Translated "Congregation" having the same meaning as "Ekklasia" in the Greek

            Joshua 8:35

            Judges 20:1-2

            1 Samuel 17:47

            Nehemiah 8:1-3

            Psalms 22:22, 40:7-10

            Joel 2:16

The key to this whole thing is Kingdom. A kingdom is people, without people there is no kingdom. Buildings, streets, vehicles and vegetation, etc., do not make a kingdom but rather a kingdom is composed of people that are governed by a king and the people use the "things" in the kingdom to conduct their lives, individually as well as a community. The word "church" refers to a building and always has. Church buildings did not exist prior to Constantine's reign as Christian places of worship. The first century believers in Jesus met from "...house to house..." Lk 10:3-7

3 Go your way; behold, I send you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no provisions bag, no [change of] sandals; refrain from [retarding your journey by] saluting and wishing anyone well along the way. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this household! [Freedom from all the distresses that result from sin be with this family]. 6 And if anyone [worthy] of peace and blessedness is there, the peace and blessedness you wish shall come upon him; but if not, it shall come back to you. 7 And stay on in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. [Dt 24:15.]            AMP

Ac 2:46 And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord's Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts, 47 Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death].  AMP

Ac 20:20 How I did not shrink from telling you anything that was for your benefit and teaching you in public meetings and from house to house, 21 But constantly and earnestly I bore testimony both to Jews and Greeks, urging them to turn in repentance [that is due] to God and to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [that is due Him].            AMP

 

2

The importance of the word "church" comes directly from its root meaning in the ancient texts. Church refers to a building or structure and briefly this is the meaning of church. It is a pagan word used long before being adopted by "Christianity" and its ancient spelling is the base word for circular because the pagans met and formed circles around their idols.

There were pagans using the word “church” long before Christians ever began using it. The word church goes back to the Greek kuriakê oikia, which means “the house belong to the lord” or “the Lord’s house”. kuriakon (koo-ree-ak-on') means “belonging to the Lord” and oikos (oy’- kos) meaning “house.” So if the pagans used kuriakê oikia refering to a building belonging to the Lord, what lord were they referring to? The “Lord’s house (kuriakê oikia) was used in the 4th century and clearly was not referring to the Lord Jesus, but rather to the Lord Mithra the “sun-god”; the son god was a famous god among the pagans but with many different names. It was Constantine, who worshipped Mithra as his god and he converted the Mithra god into the Christian house or church. He was the one that transformed the called out assembly into a church recognized by a building and he then set his clergy in charge of the house…as we still see today with our pastors etc.. It all worked out quite nicely for him because he now had both the church and the state under his control. (Zoppelt)2

The implications of using buildings rather than individual homes are part of the reason it worked better in his eyes. His perception was based on the pagan beliefs he held prior to his conversion and how he governed the empire. That is a whole study in itself.

One of the main martyrs of the modern "church" is William Tyndale

William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, so fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue. He is frequently referred to as the “Architect of the English Language”, (even more so than William Shakespeare) as so many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our language today.

Tyndale created problems early on in his translation of the scriptures into English. Tyndale, a man who was martyred for his bible,  used the word "church" (churche) only twice, in Acts 14:13 and 19:37; and in both cases he understandingly understood church as a building connected to idol-worship:

Here are the places he used the word church, it is in old English:
Acts 14:13,Then Iupiters Preste which dwelt before their cite brought oxe and garlondes vnto the churche porche and wolde have done sacrifise with the people.

Now here is an updating version of his translation to present:
Acts 14:13, “Then Jupiter’s Priest which dwelt before their city brought oxen and garlands into the church [pagan house of worship] porch and would have done sacrifice with the people.”

Here is the other verse in which he used the word church
Acts 19:37 “For ye have brought hyther these me whiche are nether robbers of churches [pagan houses of worship] nor yet despisers of youre goddes.”

Updating Acts 19:37-38, “For you have brought these men to me which are nether robbers of churches nor yet despisers of your goddess.” The reference is to the temple and goddess of Diana of the Ephesians.


Clearly Tyndale understood that the word church represented a pagan house of worship and translated it as thus. He lived much closer to the understanding of the word church than we. His translation was not something that the clergy-driven churches wanted to be known to the many ignorant people of that day who didn’t have bibles in English. That excuse of the availability of the scriptures need not go on today; we have bible programs that go directly to the Greek. Biblesoft has an excellent program that we can switch from the English to the Greek, there may be others but I don’t know of them, but my point is made. 

Greek kuriakê oikia ("house of the lord") relates to many different languages: Icelandic kirkja; Swedish kyrka; Norwegian and Danish kirke; German Kirche; Dutch kerk, Estonian kirik, Finnish kirkko and Old English cirice → Middle English chirche → Russian today is "cyrkov", today’s English "church".5

I really encourage you to study this for yourself. There are lots of good reasons to take a different look at what we now call church and realize that men and women who are leaders in churches today may very well be doing it out of sincerity and an honest desire to follow the call of God on their lives. I am in no way judging or criticizing their efforts or what they are doing. I am encouraging you all to "come together more often and not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is." and I am not referring to church in the same way the author of Hebrews is not referring to church as we know it, but rather to assemble, from "... House to House..." as the first century "ecclasia" met. These first century believers met on the Sabbath to hear the scriptures being read. They would then meet during the week and discuss what they learned, pray and minister to one another. They also kept the "moeds" or appointed times of God regularly and were very Jewish in nature. Clue, the New Testament as we know it was not assembled until 4 centuries later, so what model for church was available prior to that?

THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES!

Do not say "Bob Berning said we shouldn't go to church!" because that is not what I am saying.

 

The purpose of this study is to set you free in a time when the power of God needs to be demonstrated through His Body and that would be those who believe the Bible as the Word of God. It is time to give serious thought to what Jeniffer LeClaire stated recently on Sid Roth's "It's Supernatural" and I quote:

 

"As Christians, we read what we believe, rather than believing what we read?" 6

 

Sources:

            1. Hebrew4Christians

            2. The Real Church

            3. BBM, Inc.    (Kehila-Jonathan Cahn)

            4. The Messianic Church Arising (Book by Robert D. Heidler)

            5. William Tyndale

            6.Sid Roth/Jennifer LeClaire

            7. Bible Truth

 

There are more, but we will use these for now as foundation for exploring the first century church.