Saturday, January 24, 2015

The First Church of Moses in the Wilderness

 This title is meant to be funny and serious at the same time.  It is meant to be funny because in the time of Moses there was no such thing as a “church.”  It is meant to be serious because the Greek text of Acts 7:38 uses the Greek word evkklhsia (ekklēsia) that is often translated “church” in the New Testament.

KJV Acts 7:35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. 36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: 39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.

The American Standard Version also uses “church” to translate the word.  The New International Version, however, does translate the word “assembly”—and the Revised and New Revised Standard Version translate the word “congregation.”  The Vulgate uses the Latin transliteration of the Greek work: ecclesia.

By way of introducing this study, I want to tell you the story of a little Latin word.  Prior to the time of Cicero, the great Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, Roman consul and constitutionalist, who lived from January 3, 106 BC to December 18, 43 BC.  He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.  He introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher.

When Cicero encountered the Greek word kosmoj;vjjJß (kosmos), he knew there was no corresponding word in Latin for the meaning of this Greek work in its philosophical use—“the world” or “the universe” [the Russians call their astronauts “cosmonauts”].  So he studied the Greek word’s first and continuing meanings of “ornament, decoration, dress.”  We still have an English word that comes from this older meaning of kosmojς—“cosmetic, cosmetics.”  So Cicero found a Latin word that meant “ornament, decoration, dress”—and that word was mundus.  To this word he added the new meaning of “world” or “universe.”  That is why most of the Romance languages have words for “world” taken from this Latin word:

English
Latin
Portuguese
Spanish
Italian
French
world
mundus
mundo
mundo
mondo
monde

The Romanians use the word lume, which was taken from the Latin noun lumen, luminis, “light.”

But the Greek word evkklhsia did not originally mean “church.”  I will write another blog to comment on the origin and meaning of the word “church.”

So the Greek word evkklhsia originally meant “assembly.”

Thanks for visiting our blog.
Dr. Ike Tennison

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