Exposing The Church is Mystery Babylon Movement Part 2: It’s All Greek To Me!!

As we continue this series it’s important that we become familiar with the work of Mr. Charles Newbold. This man has written a book entitled The Harlot Church System that I will be interacting with throughout this lengthy series. This book is widely quoted by adherents of this movement whenever they are attempting to discredit a church or ministry. In fact the quotes I cited in part 1 of this series are lifted directly from this free online book

Today I’m going to demonstrate for you why this book should be ignored and widely condemned.  I’ll be interacting with statements from Chapters 2 and 3 which I feel is enough to demonstrate why this movement needs to be exposed.

The following statement from Newbold is interesting and as we will see erroneous.

The word “church” as it is used in English translations of the New Testament refers to the people of God, but we no longer limit its meaning to people. If we really meant that people are the “church” when we use that term, these same statements would have to be made this way: Where do you go to you? What is the name of you? How was you today? Are you building an annex onto you? Wow, did we ever have us at prayer meeting last night. We know better and insist in theory that we, the redeemed people of God, are the church. Yet, in practice, we make no distinction between the people and this Thing we call church. That the word church is used interchangeably this way is not the problem though. Much more is going on here than meets the eye. (source)

There is much more here than meets the eye. On that Mr. Newbold and I agree. The paragraph listed above is underneath the heading The Lie. Mr. Newbold wants you to think the word ἐκκλησίᾳ means “you”. He’s even gone to a lot of trouble feeding his readers this belief of his. If this is true than how do you explain the following Scripture?

1 Corinthians 6:4

So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?

According to Mr. Newbold the above verse should read

1 Corinthians 6:4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the you?

How much sense does that make? I’ll bet he never even considered that. More than likely he’s assuming people don’t check things out for themselves and probably the majority of the people that read his work probably don’t. Newbold goes one step further in this next statement.

THE ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD “CHURCH”

With the inclination toward the construction of buildings for the worship of God, it is little wonder that the translators of the King James Version of the Bible chose to translate the Greek word ekklesia by using the English word “church.” A deeper look at the etymology of the word “church” is quite revealing.

Moving backwards into time, the word “church” was derived from the Old English word cirice which is related to the Norwegian/Scandinavian word kirkja. These were derived from the Germanic word kirka; which was derived from the late Greek word Kyrite; which was derived from the Greek word kurios which means “ruler,” “lord,” “master.” In the Greek, Kuriake oika means “lord’s house.” Thus, the word church came to mean “a building set apart or consecrated for public worship.” fn {1}

Though the word “church” does not have its root in the Greek term ekklesia; it is used to translate ekklesia. Ekklesia is the formation of two Greek words: ek which means “out of” and kaleo which means “to call.” Combined, the word literally means “to call out of.” Ekklesia was commonly used among the Greeks in reference to a body of citizens who “gathered” to discuss the affairs of state. fn {2} A correct and quite appropriate translation of ekklesia is “called-out-ones” although there are times when the context demands that “assembly” or “gathering-of-called-out-ones” be used. The word has to do with a people who are called-out to be gathered together.

Perhaps the translators of the King James version of the Bible had in mind that the body of Christ could be thought of as a spiritual kuriake oika (Lord’s house) since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 3:16. Perhaps. But, from that time to this, the word church is used to refer to more than people. Its use has been so adulterated that we ought never to use it when we are referring to the body of Christ. It is appropriate to use the word “church” when we are actually talking about a building but not when we are talking about the body of Christ. What we call church is a Thing. The ekklesia is a people. (source)

Newbold even cites two references to validate his assertions. Websters New World Dictionary “church” and Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, N.T., s.v. “assembly.”

Below are references from three additional sources for the word “church”.

From Fribergs Greek Lexicon

8531 ἐκκλησίᾳ (1) in a general sense, as a gathering of citizens assembly, meeting (AC 19.32); (2) as the assembled people of Israel congregation (HE 2.12); (3) as the assembled Christian community church, congregation, meeting (RO 16.5); (4) as the totality of Christians living in one place church ( AC 8.1); (5) as the universal body of believers church (EP 1.22)

From Louw and Nida Lexicon

1.32   ἐκκλησίᾳs: a congregation of Christians, implying interacting membership – ‘congregation, church.’ th|/  ἐκκλησίᾳs| tou/ qeou/ th|/ ou;sh| evn Kori,nqw| ‘to the church of God which is in Corinth’ 1 Cor 1.2; avspa,zontai u`ma/j ai`  ἐκκλησίᾳs/sai tou/ Cristou/ ‘all the churches of Christ greet you’ Ro 16.16.

Though some persons have tried to see in the term  ἐκκλησίᾳs a more or less literal meaning of ‘called-out ones,’ this type of etymologizing is not warranted either by the meaning of  ἐκκλησίᾳs in NT times or even by its earlier usage. The term ἐκκλησίᾳs was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well- defined membership. In general Greek usage it was normally a socio-political entity based upon citizenship in a city-state (see  ἐκκλησίᾳs, 11.78) and in this sense is parallel to dh/moj (11.78).

For the NT, however, it is important to understand the meaning of ἐκκλησίᾳs ‘an assembly of God’s people.’

In the rendering of ἐκκλησίᾳ, a translator must beware of using a term which refers primarily to a building rather than to a congregation of believers. In many contexts ἐκκλησίᾳ may be readily rendered as ‘gathering of believers’ or ‘group of those who trust in Christ.’ Sometimes, as in 1 Cor 1.2, it is possible to translate ‘Paul writes to the believers in Christ who live in Corinth.’ Such a translation does, however, omit a significant element in the term ἐκκλησίᾳ, in that the sense of corporate unity is not specified.

The Exegetical Dictionary to the New Testament reads;

1. The 114 occurrences of ἐκκλησία in the NT are unevenly distributed. There are only 3 occurrences in the Gospels, all in Matthew (16:18; 18:17 bis). The word appears most frequently in Paul’s letters (46 occurrences, 22 of which are in 1 Corinthians), in the deutero-Pauline letters (16 occurrences), and in Acts (23 occurrences). It appears twice in Hebrews. Among the Catholic Epistles, it is found only in 3 John (3 occurrences) and James (once). Of the 20 occurrences in Revelation, 19 are in formalized phrases in the letters to the seven churches (chs. 1–3).

2. The noun ἐκκλησία is derived etymologically from ἐκ and καλέω; accordingly it was used to designate “(the totality of) those who are called out.” However, this original meaning nowhere plays a recognizable role in our material. It is always displaced by terminological shifts which the concept has undergone during a long history. In classical Greek as well as in Hellenistic literature, it became a technical expression for the assembly of the people, consisting of free men entitled to vote (CIG I, 739, no. 1567). This political usage is present also in Acts 19:39, which refers to “the regular assembly” of the inhabitants of Ephesus. In a wider sense the word can be used for any public assembly; thus in Acts 19:32 it is used of an “assembly” “in confusion,” which had come together in the theater at the urging of the silversmiths of Ephesus (cf. also v. 40).

In the overwhelming majority of the NT passages, ἐκκλησία is used as a fixed Christian term and is to be translated with congregation or congregational assembly or c(C)hurch. Distinguishing among passages that use ἐκκλησία with these different meanings is possible only within limits. The distinction between congregation/ church (the body of Christians at a specific place; Germ. Gemeinde) and Church (the supra-congregational association of God’s people or the totality of all Christians; Germ. Kirche) is foreign to the NT. Closely related is the fact that early Christianity did not conceive of ἐκκλησία primarily as an organizational, but rather as a theological entity. The ecclesia universalis is neither a secondary union made up of individual autonomous churches, nor is the local congregation only an organizational sub-unit of the total Church. Rather, both the local assembly of Christians and the trans-local community of believers are equally legitimate forms of the ἐκκλησία created by God.

Because there is no German word which expresses at the same time the universal and the local-particular aspect (indeed, Versammlung, proposed by Schmidt, TWNT III, 505, is unsuitable because it is too imprecise), one does best to be content with Gemeinde for all occurrences which refer to the concrete local ἐκκλησία or speak generically of the local ἐκκλησία. Kirche is best suited for all occurrences which speak abstractly from the concrete local situation of the ἐκκλησία in an all-embracing sense or make theological statements referring to its general nature. (Eng. “church” does embrace both the universal and the local-particular, but capitalization or lack thereof usually, as in the present work, eliminates this useful ambiguity. RSV’s consistent use of lower-case “church” will be modified as necessary in quotations that follow.)

chs. chapters

CIG Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum I-IV (ed. A. Boeckh, et al.; 1828-77)

v. verse

Germ. German

TWNT Theologisches Wörterbuch zum NT I-X (ed. G. Kittel and G. Friedrich; 1933-79)

Eng. English

RSV Revised Standard Version

Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-c1993). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Wr̲terbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1:411). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans

The simple fact is this; the early believers never referred to themselves personally as  ἐκκλησία or called out ones. They understood ἐκκλησία in a local and also a universal sense as an assembly of believers. They didn’t see a distinction between the place where they met and what they were. ἐκκλησία meant to them both the place where they met as well as the assembly. Furthermore the word ἐκκλησία was never understood to read as “me” or “you” as Newbold mistakenly suggests.

Newbold doesn’t like the term “church” to be ascribed to a building but who cares what he thinks. The early Christians saw ἐκκλησία as a theological term without a distinction between a building and the group, and so should we. That’s the way it was written and that’s the term we should employ. This is why the translators transliterated the word ἐκκλησία with Church. It’s one and the same.

The sad fact is this; Newbold has built the premise for his thesis around an incomplete understanding of ἐκκλησία which is now being used by folks with anything but a Godly agenda to undermine faithful Christians and faithful ministries. If the premise is faulty then the conclusion is faulty and in the coming weeks I plan on demonstrating how faulty that conclusion is.

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