Hebrew Words Defined: The Church | by Brad Scott
One of the main purposes of these lessons is to discuss the redefining of scriptural words. Some redefining does not cause life-altering changes. However, some are very important, and need to be revealed and thought about. We are in a battle with haSatan for the lives of those he wishes to deceive and destroy. We have discussed recently how knowing the truth is a continuation of YHVH’s word (John 8:31-32). Hasatan knows that if Yah’s truth continues just like He designed it to do, then His lifesaving words will continue, as well. Hasatan hates that. The three most redefined words are faith, law, and grace. In my opinion, these three are closely followed by the redefining of the word church. Some paradigm shifts in this word are obvious to many. When preachers stand in the pulpit and proclaim that the church is not a building but YHVH’s people, everyone concurs heartily. Some shake their heads and smile, conspicuously revealing that they never really thought about that. I just described most of modern Christendom. Some always knew that but betray the concept theologically. Why do I say that? Because we have been slowly programmed to believe that these people are only those of the last 2,000 years or of this dispensation. The church loves dispensationalism. Whenever there is a period of time in which there is teaching and instruction (also redefined as rules, law, and harsh taskmasters) that we are inconvenienced by, we can simply stick it into a dispensation. Disobedience by royal decree. Many will concede that in the tribulation the rules are back, and that in the millennium it seems that Sabbath and some feasts are back again. But that is explained by laying it all on the reappearance of Israel. Israel always has rules, but not us. God begins with rules, then fulfills them for 2,000 years and then goes back to the rules. So, we of the church cry FREEDOM. Hallelujah! No rules. Jesus has carried them all on His shoulders for us. Meanwhile, our society, our culture, our government, our nation, and our children rot and decay all around us as we put up another revival tent.
There are modern quips that many of us use matter of factly. I mentioned one earlier. The idea of “going to church” is certainly one. “I’m sorry honey, but I don’t have time to mow the lawn right now, I’ve got some work to do at the church”, is another. Many of us are late getting home on Sundays because “church was so late”. These statements are truth simply because we have said them often enough to make them true. So, church to many of us is actually only a building. Sometimes in teaching and preaching we also make certain statements as if they are scriptural fact. The church began in Acts chapter 2. Do the Scriptures say that the church began in Acts chapter 2? No! We draw that conclusion for several different reasons. The number one reason is because we have always heard that. Just ask virtually anyone in your next Sunday school class where the Scriptures says that the church started in Acts. Most will have no clue. “That is what I was always taught” they will say. There will be some that will attempt to prove it by searching their concordance for the word church, which I shall show very soon is almost meaningless. There will be some that will ponder it for a few minutes and ask to get back with you on that one. There may be one person who knows the Scriptures well enough to quote Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” The church is future, they will state. To begin with, “I will build” is future. “My church” is referring to the body of believers that Yeshua‘ will add to. The actual physical building is not being referenced here. The background of this statement is crucial, as well. I will address this after we have traced the formation and beginnings of this term. It has everything to do with His question about who He was and His response that they not tell anyone that He was Yeshua‘ haMashiach (verse 20). So, in keeping with our pattern so far, let us research this very important word.
The thing I want to say about this word is very elementary, I admit. But sometimes I think that most of us really do not give much thought as to where words and ideas come from, especially words that we throw around a lot. YHVH chose to communicate to us in words, so how He defines them ought to be of upmost importance. When you read the New Testament in the Greek or the Hebrew it does not say church. Well duh! I know that. Do you really think about that? This word we are saying and defining and in many instances hanging our eternal hats on, may, and in most cases does, mean something different than our modern view may teach. Is that worth investigating? Where did this word church come from? This word has a long history. It immediately goes back to the English and Germanic word kirke. It is an old Babylonian term from the goddess Circe (pronounced “seer-say”). We get several English terms from this word, such as circle, circumference, circumstance, and circumvent, which is very revealing to me as to the real nature of this word. The goddess Circe was connected to the power of the sun, which is, of course, circular. This gives some insight to the anglo-saxon pagan practice of standing in circles. This also traces back to Constantine and his decree to blend the current pagan practices with his so-called new found faith, Christianity. The Greek word that church was translated from is ekklesia (έκκλησία). This word is a combination of two Greek words, ek normally translated as out of, and the word kaleo, as in to call. So, the word church comes from the Greek word meaning to call out. This gets us much closer to the original intent of the word. However, it is erroneous to assume that the word ekklesia is synonymous with the body of Yeshua’, the true believers. This word was well known in Greek culture long before Yeshua‘ arrived on the scene. It was the very word used to describe the assembly of worshipers of every conceivable god known to the Greeks. In other words, this word is simply an assembly of people. Any people, anywhere, anytime. It is the word that the early translators chose to best represent the Greek equivalent to its original Hebrew beginning. But it only best represents it. This word appears in the New Testament over 100 times. It also begins in the Tanakh and appears there over 100 times as well. We will trace its beginnings next time.
There is one thought that I would like to leave with you to ponder. I hope to continue to show that the redefining of all scriptural terms has one common source and one common purpose, TO SEPARATE MAN FROM THE COMMANDMENTS OF YHVH, to leave man continually disobedient, lost, confused, and disconnected from the life-giving words of YHVH. I believe that the enemy knows that if he can disassociate us from so-called “Jewish” things, and reinvent a whole new religion spouting all new terms, then this plan will plant the seeds of deception. This deception would eventually lead to a scattered church.
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 Tanakhhe 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. One of the earliest instances of qahal – ekklesia – church in the Tanakh is found in Deuteronomy. Here, Moshe says,
Specially 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,
This 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.
- Moshe states that a Prophet will be raised up, who will be of your brethren (Hebrews). According to Deuteronomy 18:15, this Prophet was also like Moshe. Moshe is renown for primarily one thing: the Law.
- This Prophet ye shall hear.
- 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.
- 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.
And 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 Deuteronomy 7:6 YHVH calls this assembly a HOLY people.
Deuteronomy 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.
There 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.]
Then 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.
1 Samuel 17:47
And 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.
And 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.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Then 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.
Gather 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.
I hope and pray that I have given some fundamental background to the word church. The conclusion to this matter is very simple. The church, as it is commonly used in Scripture, is an assembly of people who believe and follow YHVH. In the New Testament it is called the body of the Messiah – Ephesians 1:23; the children of God – John 1:12; the faithful in Yeshua‘ the Messiah – Ephesians 1:1; believers – 1 Timothy 4:12; saints – Romans 1:7; Avraham’s seed – Galatians 3:29; a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people – 1 Kefa (Peter) 2:9; and a host of other titles. In the Tanakh, the assembly (church) is called believers of YHVH – Genesis 15:6, 2 Chronicles 20:20; Avraham’s seed – Psalm 105:6; the faithful – Habakkuk 2:4; a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people – Exodus 19:5-6; and a host of other titles. The most frequent title is Israel.
This is not the time to do a detailed study of Israel. We will do that another time. I will deal later with the fact that Israel is the name of the nation of people who YHVH foreknew would accept his words and preserve them. They are the name, as a nation, of people who would be YHVH’s assembly. They are YHVH’s assembly (church) as a nation of people. That “nation” of people now is called the body of the Messiah (Christ). YHVH foreknew that the assembly called Israel would fall into unrighteousness and unbelief, and they would reject Him for a foreknown period of time. But they would reject Him as a nation. He also knew that they would return to Him as a nation. In the meantime, individuals, whether Hebrew or of the nations, would come to know this same Messiah, by the preaching of the gospel, and be individually planted into the one and same Messiah. Israel as a nation is still in unbelief. Virtually all the prophecies in the Tanakh concerning Israel speaks of them coming back to the land as dry bones and then at some point will be restored by faith in the Messiah (Ezekiel 37). This assembly is referred to again as the nation Israel. Meanwhile, there is still only one assembly. There has always been one assembly. There are not two assemblies with different means by which to enter. Entrance into the one assembly has always been by faith only. This is very clearly taught in Ephesians chapter two, verse 21. The building that YHVH is constructing is in two sections. The foundation and the structure are built together, “in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into an holy temple in YHVH.” More on this at a later time.
As I have said in the past, the first mention of a term in the Scriptures is very important. The first mention sets the foundation for what a word is going to mean, especially symbolically, for the rest of Scripture. The very first mention of qahal is in Genesis 28:3. Verse 3 reads in the Hebrew, “veel shadday yevarek ‘oteka veyapherka veyarebeka vehayiyta loqehal ‘ammim”. This reads in the English as “And may El Shaddai bless you and make you fruitful, and add to you and may you become an assembly of nations.” Here, YHVH is foretelling that the seed of Avraham is to come through Yitzchaq (Isaac) and Ya‘aqov (Jacob) and eventually to produce the Messiah. YHVH’s church is always HIS assembly. It has many names throughout the Scriptures, but it is always His assembly. It did not begin in Acts chapter 2. The believers in Acts 2 were gathered to OBSERVE a feast to YHVH, Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, not to BEGIN the assembly. This leads us to ask the obvious question. What is the promise they were waiting for? It has been traditionally taught that the promise was the inaugural appearance of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). But this is a huge oversimplification, not to mention leading to the erroneous belief that the Ruach haQodesh was not working in the salvation of believers in the Tanakh. There are several more words that need to be properly defined before we tackle this subject.
Next time, we will research the word repentance. This word, more than any other, must be defined from its origin. This word has been so twisted and mangled, that it bears little or no resemblance to its original meaning, and has misled literally millions of so-called Christians. We are going to get a little controversial, but I believe with all that is in me that YHVH is crying out to His church today to turn from their wrong ways and turn back to His ways. See you next time.