'The Church' Is Not What You Think It Is:
this is not an anti-Christian statement
Adapted from: How anti-Semitic views inspired subtle word changes in the Bible and shifted the course of original intent.
by Heart of the Nations
The Koine (Judeo-Greek) word used in place of "church" in the LXX, is Εκκλησία. It's the Greek word in which we get our English word "ecclesia". However, our English translation of the Greek word Εκκλησία was/is significantly different from the original intent of the word - a political assembly of Greek citizens
"An ecclesia is a political body of Christians, under Christ. It is “...the house (i.e. domain) of God, which is the ECCLESIA of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Even with the most basic definitions, ecclesia is defined as - relating to or constituting a church or denomination, and our word "ecclesiastical", relates to the Christian church or its clergy. Even Google translates the original Greek word as church. Here's the thing though, the word 'church' did not exist until several hundred years after the New Testament was written. Our definition of church is a NEW definition. The Hebrew word that the Greek word Εκκλησία is translating is - a gathering, crowd or assembly.
Therefore, when later Christians read the word church in the scriptures, it's natural for their brains to 'assume' the scriptures are referring to whatever definition of 'church' the reader has been accustomed to, rather than referring to the context within which it was written. Therefore, in the English Bible, we can see that the word church is used out of context or out of its historical timeline (anachronistically). What most modern Christians associate the word church with is still yet to happen and most definitely, not exclusive to Christians. This way of thinking is buried behind the belief that there is no literal Kingdom on earth. The kingdom is here now, in Christian and only Christian hearts. This thinking was/is an unfortunate consequence of replacement theology and has cost Christians dearly. After figuring this out myself and taking some time to regurgitate the feeling of utter betrayal, I needed to reread the whole Bible again. The very 'thing' that Christian leaders throughout history have dominated and killed for, the stomping out of heresy, was the exact 'thing' that they were/are actively spreading - heresy - replacement theology. Now I understand why I grew up loving the words of the Bible but not liking the people of the church.
Christian translators of the verse further translated Εκκλησία as "the called out ones," which is translated by breaking down the Greek word into further roots. Here is an example. Most Christian churches associate themselves with this assembly, replacing Israel at the foot of Mt. Siani in Exodus 19:1-6 - a significant slippery slope that translators of the Scriptures chose to walk down. The proper usage of ecclesia can be found in Deuteronomy 9:10, where the exact word is used as an assembly. Yeshua teaches about a Kingdom, not a building or a specific denomination of churches/Christians, or Jews, or Muslims, or Gentiles/Nations. He is talking about what we are all to look forward to and what should motivate our daily decisions if we choose to call Him Messiah and live our lives according to His teachings.
So even though the "called out ones" became a Christian concept (as it is to ALL that are called) it was most certainly not being alluded to with much future Christian denominations in mind in the 1st century CE. If you read the link I provided above, it may not be the best basket to put all of your eggs in. Jews and Greeks used the word ecclesia to describe gatherings of all types, sacred, secular, communal, political, civic, violent mobs and even cultic assemblies. The Hellenistic literature of the times used Εκκλησία (ekklesia) for an assembly of the people, consisting of free men entitled to vote. This same word was used in Judeo-Greek Septuagint (LXX) to describe Israel standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The word in Biblical Hebrew is again, - a gathering, crowd or assembly, more or so, an assembly.
Additionally, most Christians subscribe to amillennialism, which compounds the problem by inserting the church/Christians in place of Israel thus elevating themselves to the top of the food chain through the enforcement of creeds. I strongly believe that this dominant, high and mighty mindset has contributed to the downfall of humanity as a whole and created hatred toward and between Christians.
To help the amillennial reader wrap their Western minds around this, let's engage in critical thinking using Matt 18:17 with the amillennial view - there is no literal Millenium on earth - the Kingdom is present now in the church age. So if we are not in the age of the church anymore then where did the Kingdom go? Where would be this great council we read about in Matt 18:17? "But if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly.." What church? Catholic? Baptist? Non-denominational? Methodist? Pentecostal? Lutheran? Presbyterian? Eastern Orthodox? Each of these is the "one true church," right? So all of the different branches who believe different things all believe that they are the only recipients of the New Covenant promises because they belong to this church, "the Church" that is always referred to in the New Testament.
Here are the next big questions that should follow: So then, do Christians who faithfully attend church really have a monopoly on eternal life? Christianity formed out of replacement theology (200 years after the last New Testament letter was written) at the first Council of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. So was it originally formed as a new religion to part from anything Jewish? If the whole New Testament message is about faith in Yeshua as a requirement for being a part of the future Kingdom of Heaven, where do the current church membership requirements come in?
The Christian councils had a huge role in how Christianity was formed. The definition of heresy is even tied to the decision of the church's interpretation of the scriptures rather than any concept that is contrary to the original Hebrew scriptures, the Vorlage, which was pulled together in the days of Ezra & Nehemiah. Again we see the arrogance of man putting himself above God or at least in His place, the holy representation of God on earth - reinstating the temple curtain that was torn in two when Yeshua gave up the ghost. Who would be so bold to take on such a role?
If the Jewish scribes who pulled together the Masoretic text are accused of creating a legalistic doctrine, then Christian translators are guilty of creating a new theology based on the corporate Institution being the body of Christ (the church is the Christian identity) and the un-Biblical replacement of this "church" concept within the pages of this Bible.
This Jewish text from Matthew meant something different than how most Christians have defined the word church for centuries, all because of anti-Semitic perspectives and another place to showcase a proud replacement theology. I was raised (from as young as I can remember), to think of "The Church" as the body of Christ, as in, you had to be a part of the body to be a true Christian, or to be 'saved'. This is straight out of the creeds of today and was only introduced with the 4th Lateran Council in 1215 which also made it law for Jews and Muslims to wear a distinctive badge for Christians to identify the "heretics". This religious power was used to spread hatred, not love and was one of the main drivers of anti-Semitism throughout Europe. Anti-Semitism was/is being preached from the pulpits - some may not even recognize it. A huge fallout of the 4th Lateran Council was, of course, the Spanish Inquisition. The 4th Lateran Council also established the Catholic church as the primary vehicle of salvation. Any type of Heavenly reward outside of the reach of the successor to Saint Peter's Keys of Heaven/the pope, could never be acknowledged. A Catholic membership was now the ONLY way to gain eternal life.
I leave you with Matthew 16:18-19, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art. Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church [Kingdom], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." A critical analysis of the Roman Catholic foundational theology must be conducted. A few doctrinal issues need to be resolved here besides there being no 'church' in the times that scripture was written, only groups of Yeshua followers who seemed to have been comprised of Jews, Gentiles and Essenes - no mention of Christians. Yeshua was impressed with Peter's devotion and faith and tells him to continue the Kingdom work he'd already begun. Peter's example of faith and devotion to Yeshua qualified him to lead/shepherd the people of God by example and it was in Peter's level of faith and his love/heart for Yeshua, that he received the promise - the Keys to Heaven - and great authority in the spiritual realm that came along with this faith. Faith = the Rock.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
Jewish Context of this text: Many ancient peoples believed that heaven and hell were closed by gates to which certain deities and angelic beings had keys. In Greek mythology, Pluto kept the key to Hades. Jewish writings near the time of Jesus give God the key to the abode of the dead. In the Book of Revelation John sees Christ holding the keys of Death and Hades (Rv 1:18; see 3:7).
Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 771.
No building campaign was discussed, no weekly services were mentioned, no denomination was chosen, just character and faith.
The wrong interpretation of scripture has put a wedge between all denominations, blinded purpose and quenched many spirits...who is the "true church"? This is easy...there is/was no 'Church'. There IS a special assembly however and I intend to be a part of it someday. How about you? Maybe it's time to reassess the mainstream amillennial view or ditch all pre-conceived or taught views and find the answers closer to the source. The scriptures that we have are currently our only source but do your homework. The Dead Sea Scrolls solidify the Bible's validity but quote more from the LXX than the Masoretic Bible. However, the scroll of Isaiah is almost identical to the Masoretic Isaiah. It is important to know the whole Bible and to know that an enormous number of new Hebrew manuscripts dating between 150 BCE to 75 CE were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls - an extensive library safeguarded in the Judean desert by devoted Zadok priests who dedicated their lives to maintaining the library, their purity, faith and customs - setting aside the corrupted temple priests at that time. A group that John the Baptist was associated with from Qumran. If you can remember that John's father, Zechariah was a high priest and that Yeshua (Jesus), a Pharisee, knew well. These were not condemned manuscripts by any means nor core scripts or "accepted letters/books" like we have today.
So what of Catholics/Christians? I'm sure the good ones will continue on as networks, doing God's will. Yes, it is good to gather for the edification and building up of a people who believe in Yeshua but more importantly, they should be demonstrating servanthood for the collective good of others. The collective good refers to what the assemblies within these gatherings are doing to address the inequities in their societies. These people can be found among the Jews/Judeans, the Samaritans, the Israelites/Israelis, the Muslims/Islam, and all the oppressed Nations (which include Christians and Gentiles). It will be among these people groups that Abraham's promise will be fulfilled. We will all be part of a future Kingdom here on earth.
Why does this matter so much? Because your understanding of Israel still being central to God's plan will affect your views on prophecy, promises, and expectations. I'm still trying to re-piece this together myself. To find any type of peace in this area, we must be willing to face the truth rather than walk blindly thinking we know it all. The smarter one gets, the more one realizes that they know nothing. The only way we are going to know the truth is through scripture reconciliation; your end game depends on it. This critical thinking piece is meant to shake free 'stuck' thinking.
So remember that there were no churches in 30 CE and no Christianity. Yeshua nor His disciples called themselves Christians..ever. They were Jews and Gentiles who found their Messiah - end of story.
So the question remains, how can one say that you must identify as a Christian or belong to a particular denomination or church to receive the promises of the New Covenant? Believe it or not, this education piece is not meant to tare down anyone; it's hard to swallow but must be said for the sake of humanity. Take your time, process everything you read, experience the emotions and spend time in prayer/meditation to find balance again. Then shake it off and move on; we need to find a more accurate path forward for everyone. One that is judged on how we treat each other.
So what does a good 'gathering' or assembly look like? My Professor for my course on the Jewish Background of The New Testament put it so elegantly:
Should not be labelled or given a title other than a building to use for gathering - a gathering place for the building up of God's people and for the betterment of the surrounding community.
Revd. Prof. Andre Mira
Betterment means tending to someone's physical, mental, emotional, social/community, economic, justice and family needs. They will let you know if they have spiritual needs and if you are welcome to help out in that area.
We need to get over the hurdle of the anti-Semitic seeds that have been planted in our minds and in all Canadian Institutions to bridge the gap between 400 - 33 CE.
Remember, your main goal should be to move closer to the truth. You'll have to leave your comfort zone and reject the feeling to have to defend your faith or attack someone elses. We are here to seek and to find - be re-assured with the words from Jeremiah 29:13 and Matthew 7:7-11.
If you would like more information or wish to discuss any of the above content, please feel free to connect.
Remember, anything in opposition to the original scriptures should be the definition of heresy and it should apply to all human beings on earth - we are all equal in God's eyes. No human is above another and only the leaders that are here to serve should be in any position of power and authority.
Please take the time to read about how the Bible as we know it today was formed and what version we currently have general access to.
It is important to live your life according to the whole Bible and know who is who concerning what is being spoken along with the original setting from which it was spoken.