I find language to be quite fascinating.
The understanding of how people think comes to life when exploring words from certain languages and their meanings.
As people and cultures spread over the earth, their languages have evolved; adapting along with their travels and experiences.
And now, as the previous export of mankind has been slowly brought into unity, the manner how certain meanings and definitions having changed over time is quite extraordinary.
English is the current unifying language of the earth.
This particular language has absorbed terms and meanings from every corner of the globe, adding to an ever-growing vocabulary that is usually dictated by the common people, not always by the hierarchy.
Consider homonyms and how, according to the subject matter, a single word can have various meanings.
In the subject of art, the term “theater” means something very different than in the subject of war.
An art theater is the place a work of art is played out by “actors” for an audience to enjoy.
A theater of war is also a location, although the use of the word in the context of war contrasts the manner it is used in art.
The actors in a theater of war are also players, but sadly their actions are not for entertainment nor constructive in forwarding a meaningful message.
Although acting in a theater production is quite different from actors in a theater of war, the terms are both complimentary and contrasting in identifying both people and places.
Considering these things, let's look at the term “church”.
The modern and mainstream definition, perception and understanding of a church is believed to mean a building; a place where people gather to worship.
However, the original meaning that was messaged with what became the term “church” is something quite different.
Here are various secular definitions of church:
- a building used for public Christian worship
- a particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines
- the hierarchy of clergy of a Christian organization, especially the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England
- institutionalized religion as a political or social force
These can be acceptable definitions, but it seems the meaning has been altered or changed, either purposely or due to men not knowing the originally derived meaning... or perhaps because of another reason.
The “origins” of the modern English term also speaks to where the secular understanding and meaning of the term originated:
- Old English “cir(i)ce, cyr(i)ce”, related to Dutch “kerk” and German “Kirche”, based on medieval Greek “kurikon”, from Greek “kuriakon” (dōma) ‘Lord's (house),’ from “kurios ‘master or lord’”
Context defines meaning, as we will see.
When looking at words, it would be wise to find out their original meaning according to the context in which they were initially used... yet the search isn't always a clear effort, nor easily understood.
But what is quite amazing is how, despite terms varying along with translation, the original meaning is still realized by some.
Prior to exploring the term further, here's a question:
Does a certain word capture the meaning of what is being messaged when context explains and defines meaning?
The answers are: yes, no, sometimes, occasionally, usually, never, it depends.
Context is key... and so is bridging the context with the message; seeing how the term was mentioned.
The main languages spoken in Palestine / ancient Judea circa the 1st century A.D. were Aramaic ( a regional mutual / intermediary language ), Greek ( from the previous Greek imperial conquest ) and Latin ( that time's imperial language from Rome ).
Meaning was transferred among the languages using different terms while not losing meaning, despite the use of different words.
The term “ekklesia” was derived from a compound ( two into one ) meaning [please visit the link for an insightful explanation].
This term turned into the English word for “church” we hear today.
Here is the context and meaning derived from the primary sources... and notice how other words are used in describing what the church is:
And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy...
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church.
- Colossians 1: 18, 24
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
- 1 Corinthians 12: 27-28
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior.
- Ephesians 5: 23We have a glimpse into a spiritual / supernatural teaching transcending the typical and physical explanation / definition of what the church is believed to be by the secular world.
Going a step further, for those of us who believe and have been granted the gift of faith, the church is the manifestation of the kingdom of God; living in and through the faithful via God's Holy Spirit:
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Yeshua replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
- Luke 17: 20-21
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.
- John 14: 16-17
Yeshua replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Yeshua answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at My saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Yeshua, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, We speak of what We know, and We testify to what We have seen, but still you people do not accept Our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”
- John 3: 3-15