The Lost Word Of The Bible — “Ekklesia”

A foundational word of the Greek New Testament was lost when the Bible was translated into the English language. That word is ekklesia. How was it lost? And what does it mean?

There are two ways to move a word from one language to another: 1) Translation — to take a word in one language and express its meaning in another language; and 2) Transliteration — to spell a word written in one language’s alphabet in the alphabet of another language.

However, instead of either translating or transliterating the word ekklesia into the English language Bible, most translators completely left it out and replaced it with another word that has a different meaning — the word church.   Here’s how that happened.  (However, Spanish language Bibles did transliterate the word ekklesia into Spanish as iglesia. And English language theologians have transliterated it for non-biblical use as ecckesiology and ecclesiastical.)

In 1525, one of the first people to translate the Bible into English, William Tyndale, translated the word ekklesia as congregation. However, in 1611 the translators of the King James Version of the Bible chose to completely drop the Greek meaning of ekklesia and to replace it with the English word church which has a different meaning.  Since then, most English translations have followed the King James example and used church to replace the meaning of the word ekklesia.

Let’s look at the meanings. The English word church comes from the Middle English chirche from the Old English cirice, both of which mean a religious building or religious place or “the Lord’s house.” 

However, the Greek word ekklesia, now lost to most English Bibles, has a completely different meaning than the word church. Ekklesia literally means “the called out ones.” It also was the proper name of the governing bodies of independent Greek city-states. These bodies (Ekklesias) were open, participatory, interactive assemblies that gathered to conduct city business.

Taking both meanings into consideration, the New Testament definition of ekklesia would be “an open, participatory, interactive assembly of people called out of self-focus and into the pursuit of God’s business”.  Since there is no single English word that conveys the Greek concept of ekklesia (assembly or gathering or congregation come come closest but they leave out the participatory and interactive nature of ekklesia), perhaps we should do what the Spanish Bible translators did and restore the lost word by incorporating it into English in its transliterated form — ekklesia.

“I will build My ekklesia.” –Jesus in Matthew 16:18

Check out my new book, Beyond Church — An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible — Ekklesia; available at Amazon.

beyond church book

Read more at:  Democracy, Ecclesia, & Church (It’s Greek To Most Of Us)

Meeting God’s Gathering (Ekklesia) Instead Of Religion’s Church

9 Questions About Church (Ecclesiology)

Let’s Get Ecclesiastical And Set The World On Fire For God


About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I long to see the power and passion of the first Christ-followers come to life in our time. I have written a book about our experiences in non-traditional church, called, "Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible--Ekklesia." If you need encouragement, search for: Elephants Encouraging The Room and/or check out my Amazon author page. Thank you!
This entry was posted in assembly of God, ecclesiastical, ecclesiology, Greek city-states, Greek words, I will build my church, King James Bible, Matthew 16:18, Middle English, mistranlations, New Testament, Old English, organic church, the Lord's house, William Tyndale and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Lost Word Of The Bible — “Ekklesia”

  1. Pingback: Ekklesia is not church | Called Out: Now What?

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  6. Tim Spencer says:

    You are going to have to change your “About Steve” now! Where it said – “My wife and I lead a non-traditional church in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing.” You can just change it to “My wife and I are awesome and we have Ekklesia at Berry St!”

  7. Since leaving the mormon church I don’t believe in religion anymore, it’s all man-made. I became spiritual and still with doubts.

    • Steve Simms says:

      I understand. Religion can be very hurtful. However, when people gather in God’s love without a lot of human organization and control, the Spirit of God moves among them in freedom and spontaneity releasing His love, joy, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit.

    • Tim Spencer says:

      Hey Miguel – the Lord loves it when we are honest about who and where we are – but we can’t stay there! Read the New Testament without the Mormon lenses on and you will be drawn into a new world of truth. Bless you my friend!


  8. Pingback: Why is there no “Church” in Tyndale’s Bible? | Think Theology

  9. Steve,
    Wondering if you believe the trinity doctrine?

    • Steve Simms says:

      Yes. I experience God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I relate to all three and yet they are one God!

      • If you believe that Jesus is “fully God and fully man,” is this something you were taught by men, or is this something revealed to you by “the anointing which you received from Him [which] abides in you?” (1 John 2:26-27)

        I ask this because obviously somewhere along the line you began to question the concept of what most Christians believe is “church.”

      • Steve Simms says:

        I do believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man; but not because I was taught that. I have been inwardly convinced as I read the Bible and grown in my relationship with Jesus.

      • That’s interesting because that idea really didn’t come about for at least a century or more after Jesus and the Apostles time on earth. And even then, there is not much history showing it was a significant idea among the Ekklesia. Not until about the end of the third century was there much thought about the concept of Jesus’ divinity.

        I’m sure you know that the overwhelming percentage of Jews don’t believe the Messiah will be “God.” They believe, as their scriptures indicate, that God will raise up “from among them” a man who will sit on the throne of David and reign forever. And since Jesus was a Jew, and the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) don’t mention anything remotely close to the trinity doctrine, do you believe that Jesus actually thought that he was “fully God?” And do you believe that the Apostles were trinitarians?

        With so much riding on the trinity doctrine, why do you suppose there is no mention of it in either the Hebrew scriptures or the New Testament?

        With all respect brother, I really can’t believe you, on your own, and without any preconceived notions or ideas about the trinity doctrine, actually came up with the idea that Jesus is fully God and fully man by reading the scriptures.

        I can almost guarantee, that if you were brought up in a “church,” of almost any denomination, that you were taught that Jesus was an equal part of the Godhead and that he, along with the holy spirit, are co-equal parts of a 3 person God.

        I’m almost 60 now, and I spent the majority of my “church” life, from a fairly young age, in just a couple of denominations (None were Catholic). You know, I really can’t recall actually ever being taught the trinity in all those years. But for some reason, I did believe in the trinity. I believed that Jesus was fully God and fully man, and that the holy spirit was also a person of the Godhead. How do you suppose that could be if I don’t remember being specifically taught that?

        It was only after I left corporate church a couple of years ago that God’s anointing began to reveal some truths to me that I never gave a second thought to before.

        I was actually shocked at what I had come to believe about God, His son, the holy spirit and the gospel without ever investigating it for myself – outside of having someone else interpret the scripture for me.

        I was blind, and now I see.

      • Steve Simms says:

        My focus is on following and obeying the living, resurrected Jesus Christ not on claiming that I understand doctrine better than others. Sounds like you have your mind made up, so no need for me to debate you. However, in my understanding of Scripture and in my experience with Jesus, I believe that He is God and I strive to surrender to and obey Him.

  10. I shared part of this post with my Church, The Salvation Army of Saint Augustine Corps, and we do this kind of gathering on Sunday Nights. It is a lot like the old traditional Salvation Army Salvation meetings held on Sunday nights.

    • Steve Simms says:

      Have you read the book “Come Join Our Army”? It is actual accounts of early Salvation Army meetings. They were quite passionate and quite Spirit-led. I believe God is calling us back to the future — back to Spirit-led meetings.

      • Yes, amen! lol, “back to the future” -absolutely and when I read our history it sets me on fire and inspires me to do similar works. Glory to God brother, thanks for doing your part!

  11. Will Wade says:

    The first Roman Christians named self the Latin Ecclesiam (Ekklesia). The Catholic church Stopped allowing the Court of the Ekklesia in the early fourth century. Catholics are the first to call self a Church. In the true Bible there is no such organization called “church.” In the entire Bible there is nothing written about any Church. God did not start a “Church.” See Ekklesia Bible . Mat 16:18 Christ declares His Ekklesia is in a hot combat or warfare with the gates of hell and the gates of hell can not dived or overcome his Ekklesia. All churches are divided into thousands with thousands of different doctrines (instructions all making the claim to be from God).

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