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What does the word “church” actually mean, and where does it come from? That should be a question of interest, for all believers. This article studies the origin and meaning of that word. It will be shown that the word “church” is not a translation of the NT Greek noun ekklêsia, and that it is not connected to the saints’ fellowships but refers to something altogether different, something that arose later.
(In this article, the word “saints” refers to those who received the Holy Spirit in the first century.)
The word “church” comes from an old Greek phrase which meant “the Lord’s house”, but then, it is important to know who used that Greek term, and especially, which “lord” it referred to. Later in this article, there is more on that matter.
Some bible-translations do not use the word “church”. For instance in the Tyndale version (1525), it is found only in Acts 14:13 and 19:37, both of which refer to idol temples.
When it comes to the Greek word ekklêsia, the Tyndale version renders it as “congregacion”. In the same way, a number of later translations do not contain the word “church” but render ekklêsia as “assembly” or “congregation”.
In bible-versions which use the word “church”, Matthew 16:18 is often the first passage where they have it. The Catholic Church has formed around that verse a dogma regarding “the true church”. Many other churches have then copied and modified that dogma and applied it to themselves. But, the assembly which Jesus said he would form, Matthew 16:18, is not a “church”. Later in this article, there is more on that passage and its translation and meaning.
A side-note: The article naa040.htm has some notes on the matter of “worship”, including the concept of “going to church”.
The word “church” began to come into use in the English language in the Middle Ages, some time before the 12th century. The roots of that word are as follows:
It comes via the Middle English chirche, from the Old English cirice. It is said that cirice in its turn came from the first word in the old Greek phrase kuriakê oikia which meant “the Lord’s house”. Thus, it appears that the origin and evolution of the word “church” is as follows:
Old Greek kuriakê [oikia] (“lord’s [house]”) → Old English cirice → Middle English chirche → “church”.
Some writers have said that the Greek phrase kuriakê oikia “has been in consistent use since the 300s”. That might be, but then one must ask this question: The religious organisation which the Roman emperor Constantine de facto founded in the 300s, and of which the phrase kuriakê oikia then was used – really which kurios (“lord”) did it serve? Here, it can be good to know that all the way to his death, Constantine remained a servant of the lord Mithras the sun-god, and that he forced people to worship Mithras. One of his last acts was to uphold the rights of the priests of Mithras. – And yes, in those days Mithras-worship was given a new “make-up”, so that people were caused to think that it was connected to Jesus and the Bible.
The point here is that the phrase kuriakê oikia, “lord’s house”, which “has been in consistent use since the 300s”, actually refers to the house of the lord Mithras – Sol Mithras Deus Invictus. In other words: Mithras the sun-god is the lord or kurios (whence the phrase kuriakê oikia) whom emperor Constantine and his religious organisation caused people to serve, under the pretence that it all was “Christianity”. And then, Mithras is just another name for the “sun-god” who was also known as Baal. (Even the word baal meant “lord”, just as kurios did.)
Those who know a bit more about the true meaning of certain religious symbols, would find and recognise many Mithras-related symbols in an average “house of the lord” that has been built during the past few centuries.
(There are some notes on the emperor Constantine, under the heading “Constantine” on the page key11.htm.)
The Catholics have built a dogma around Matthew 16:18. They claim that that verse refers to the Catholic Church. Later, non-Catholics have copied that “true church” dogma and applied it to their own churches. But, that dogma is not true, neither in its Catholic version nor in its non-Catholic copies.
The word “church” is not a translation of the word ekklêsia which we find in the Greek text of Matthew 16:18 and other parts of the New Testament. As was noted earlier, the word “church” comes from the phrase kuriakê oikia which meant “the lord’s house” and referred to the house of the lord Mithras whom emperor Constantine served and forced people to bow down to.
In the Greek text of the book of Acts, the Epistles and the book of Revelation, the noun ekklêsia is often used of the saints’ fellowships, but it is obvious that when it comes to Matthew 16:18, it refers to something different. The ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form – the one against which the gates of hadês would not prevail – does not consist of mortals, but of Jesus and the saints who have been made into immortals. (Well, it could be that that assembly includes even other immortals.)
The story begins in Matthew 16:13. The subject is neither a “church” nor the apostle Simon Peter as the Catholics claim. The subject is Jesus himself, the question being, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and also, “But who do you say that I am?”
Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 I also tell you that you are Peter, x and on this rock y I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades z will not prevail against it.
x 16:18 Peter’s name, Petros in Greek, is the word for a specific rock or stone.
y 16:18 Greek, petra, a rock mass or bedrock.
z 16:18 or, Hell
(WEB, original footnotes)
Again, the subject of that discussion was Jesus, and not Simon Peter as the Catholics claim. Verse 13 records how Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” They answered, and then he asked them, verse 15, “But who do you say that I am?” It happened to be Simon who answered that question, verse 16, and so, Jesus directed his words at him. It is obvious that in verse 18, Greek text, the word petra, “rock”, refers to Jesus while petros, “stone”, refers to Simon. In that analogy, Simon and the other apostles were stones that were added to the main foundation which consisted of Jesus the Petra, Rock.
Here, the point is that the ekklêsia of the above-quoted Matthew 16:18 (“I will build my assembly”) is an assembly which consists of immortals. That is why hades (death) cannot prevail against it. That passage has nothing to do with “churches”. The article naa010.htm has more on this and related matters.
The article nba070.htm contains a study on Matthew 16:19, and notes that the “binding and loosing” (judging) which Matthew 16:19 and 19:28 and certain other NT passages refer to, is something the apostles were to do when they became immortals.
The article nga040.htm has some notes on what really happened to the saints, why they vanished from the scene some time after the middle of the first century. That article gives even a short synopsis of what later has come to be called “the Early Church” (the first stages of the Catholic Church, or later written stories regarding that).
The English word “church” comes via the older forms chirche and cirice, from the old Greek phrase kuriakê oikia, “lord’s house”. But, one must also consider who used that phrase, and what they used it as a reference to.
It was the early Catholic Church that used the Greek-language phrase kuriakê oikia, whence “church”. It can be said that the Catholic Church was de facto founded by the Roman emperor Constantine who was to his death a servant of the lord Mithras the sun-god.
The religious organisation which Constantine founded, practised Mithras-worship masqueraded into “Christianity”. In various ways, through symbols and by other means, it caused (and even forced) people to bow down to Mithras. In short: The phrase kuriakê oikia points to the house of the lord Mithras the sun-god.
So, the lord (kurios) who is connected to the Catholic phrase kuriakê oikia which is the origin of the word “church”, is the lord Mithras, and not the Lord Jesus.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where was the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Was it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → naa010.htm
Matthew 16:19, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and “bind” and “loose”. What kind of “keys” and “binding and loosing” was Jesus talking about? → nba070.htm
Does Galatians 4:26 refer to a church as some say, or to the heavenly Jerusalem as the Bible says? → naa020.htm
What happened to the saints? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → nga040.htm
Pride and humility in connection with religion. → nga100.htm
Worshipping God. What does the Bible say about worship, in connection with the New Covenant? → naa040.htm
“Church eras” – do they exist? Are there seven “eras of the church”, as some say – “Sardis era”, “Philadelphian era”, “Laodicean era” and so on? → naa030.htm
The meaning of the words Christ and Messiah and the name Jesus. Also, some notes on the word “Christian” in the New Testament. → nga070.htm
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