Ecclesia – The Church


B. H. Carroll


The object of this appendix is to enable the "average" preacher with few books, and who knows nothing of Greek, to form his own conclusions as to the meaning of ecclesia, based upon an inductive study of the usage of the word. A few instances only are cited from the classics, out of the great number read to my class in second lecture, but enough for the purpose. These citations will be particularly helpful in showing the distinction between the particular ecclesia, or business body of even the smallest Greek state, and panegyros (general, festive assembly) when the people of all the Greek states assembled. By this means even an uneducated preacher may understand the fitness of calling the great heavenly gathering in glory the "general assembly and church of the firstborn" (panegyros kai ecclesia) in contra-distinction to the particular business assembly on earth.

The New Testament usage is given entire because so few country preachers have the Englishmen’s Greek Concordance.

The Septuagint usage is also given entire so far as the Tromminus Concordance (A.D. 1718) cites instances. This usage is regarded as particularly valuable for three reasons:

(1) Only about one preacher in a thousand has access to a Septuagint concordance.

(2) Nearly all their ideas of the meaning of the word in the Greek Old testament have been derived from the loose generalizations of the great Pedobaptist scholars, Harnack, Hatch, Hort, Cremer, et. al., who seeing that ecclesia sometimes translates the Hebrew word "qahal," foist upon ecclesia all the meanings of qahal in other connections. You have nothing to do with qahal except where ecclesia translates it.

By an inductive study of all the ecclesia passages, you will see for yourselves that in the Septuagint it never means "all Israel whether assembled or unassembled, but that in every instance it means a gathering together, and assembly.

(3) This classic, and particularly this Septuagint usage, are specially valuable to you, because as the first lecture states, the New Testament writers neither coined this word nor employed it in an unusual sense. The apostles and early Christians were more familiar with the Septuagint than with the Hebrew Version. From it they generally quoted. They wrote in Greek to a Greek-speaking world, and used Greek words as a Greek-speaking people would understand them.

It is a fiction of Pedo-baptists that they used "baptizo" in a new and sacred sense. Equally is it a fiction that Ecclesia was used in any new, special sense. The object of Christ’s ecclesia, and terms of membership in it, were indeed different from those of the classic or Septuagint ecclesia. But the word itself retains its ordinary meaning. In determining this meaning we look to the common, literal usage. If occasionally we find it used in a general or figurative way, these few instances must be construed in harmony with the common, literal signification.

Classic Use

Ecclesia. Primary meaning. An organized assembly of citizens, regularly summoned, as opposed to other meetings.

Thucydides 2:22: —"Pericles, seeing them angry at the present state of things... did not call them to an assembly (ecclesia) or any other meeting."

Demosthenes 378, 24: —"When after this the assembly (ecclesia) adjourned, they came together and planned... For the future still being uncertain, meetings and speeches of all sorts took place in the marketplace. They were afraid that an assembly (ecclesia) would be summoned suddenly, etc." Compare the distinction here between a lawfully assembled business body and a mere gathering together of the people in unofficial capacity, with the town-clerk’s statement in Acts 19:35, 40.

Now some instances of the particular ecclesia of the several Greek states —

Thucydides 1,87: – "Having said such things, he himself, since he was ephor, put the question to vote in the assembly (ecclesia) of the Spartans."

Thucydides 1,139: – "And the Athenians having made a house (or called an assembly, ecclesia) freely exchanged their sentiments."

Aristophanes Act 169: – "But I forbid you calling an assembly (ecclesia) for the Thracians about pay."

Thucydides 6,8: – "And the Athenians having convened an assembly (ecclesia)... voted, etc."

Thucydides 6,2: – "And the Syracusans having buried their dead, summoned an assembly (ecclesia)."

This historical reading concerning the business assemblies of the several petty but independent, self-governing Greek states, with their lawful conference, their free speech, their decision by vote, whether of Spartans, Thracians, Syracusans or Athenians, sounds much like the proceedings of particular and independent Baptist churches today.

Panegyros – A general, festive assembly of the people of all the Greek states.

Decret. ap. Demos 526,16: – "Embassies to the festal assemblies (panegyros) in Greece."

Plato, Hipp. 363: – "Going up to Olympia, the festal assemblies (panegyros) of the Greeks."

Pindar: – "The general assembly (panegyros) in honor of Zeus (Jupiter)."

Isocrates 41 A: – "I often wondered at those who organized the general festivals (panegyros).

Aeschylus Theb. 220: – "May this goodly, general company (panegyros) of gods never fail the city in my life time."

Thucydides 5, 50: – "And fear was produced in the general assembly (panegyros) that the Lacedaemonians would come in arms." Upon this usage note how bright and discriminating the Greek mind.

This general assembly was not for war but peace. Let not the Spartans come to it with arms in their hands. It was not for business but pleasure – a time of peace, and joy and glory.

In the happy Greek conceit all the heavenly beings were supposed to be present. How felicitously does an inspired apostle adapt himself to the Greek use of the word, and glorify it by application to the final heavenly state. God the judge, not Zeus, is there. Myriads of angels, not Greek demi-gods and inferior deities, are there.

There is a general assembly in magnitude, multitude and constituency, transcendantly above the poor limitations of a small Greek nation – this is made up of every tribe and tongue and kindred, Jew, Roman, Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free. Here warfare is over and rest has come. Here crowns are awarded, not of fading wreaths of time, but crowns of life, righteousness, joy and glory.

Ecclesia – Usage in Septuagint

Cited in the concordance of Abraham Trommius (1718). Chapters and verses here given according to Revised Version for Canonical books; and according to Haydock’s Douay Bible for Aprochryphal books.

Greek text used for verification Henry Barclay Sweet – Cambridge, 1891.

The English word in magenta is the translation of Ecclesia.


Lev. 8:3

"Assemble thou all the congregations." Here the verb (ecclesiazo) is used. Though Trommius cites a reading which has the noun.

Deut 18:16

"In the day of the assembly" (referring to the convocation at Sinai).

Deut. 23:1, 2, 3, 8

"Shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord." Here four times used to proscribe certain specified classes from admission into the Lord’s assembly."

Deut. 31:30

"And Moses spake in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song."

Josh. 8:35

"Joshua read before all the assembly of Israel."

Judges 20:2

"And the chiefs of all the people presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God." The place of this assembly was Mizpah.

Judges 21:5

"And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up in the assembly unto the Lord."

Judges 21:8

"There came none to the camp from Jabesh-Gilead to the assembly."

1 Sam. 17:47

David said, "That all this assembly may know there is a God in Israel."

1 Sam. 19:20

And when Saul’s messenger "saw the company of the prophets prophesying."

1 Kings 8:14, 22, 55, 65

"Blessed all the congregation" – "in the presence of all the congregation" – "blessed all the congregation" – "and all Israel with him, a great congregation."

1 Chron. 13:2, 4

"David said unto all the assembly of Israel" – "And all the assembly said."

1 Chron. 28:2

"David stood up upon his feet – (in the midst of the assembly)." Nothing in Hebrew text for the words in parenthesis, and hence nothing in English version.

1 Chron. 28:8

"In the sight of all Israel, the congregation of the Lord."

1 Chron. 29:1

"The King said unto all the congregation."

1 Chron. 29:10

"David blessed the Lord before all the congregation."

1 Chron. 29:20

"David said to all the congregation."

2 Chron. 1:3,5

"Solomon, and all the congregation with him." "Solomon and the congregation sought unto it" (the altar).

2 Chron. 6:3,12, 13

"The King turned his face and blessed all the congregation." "He stood... in the presence of all the congregation." "He kneeled down...before all the congregation."

2 Chron. 7:8

"Solomon held the feast... and all Israel with him, a very great congregation."

2 Chron 29:5,14

"Jehosaphat stood in the congregation." "Then upon Jahaziel... came the spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation."

2 Chron 23:3

"And all the congregation made a covenant with the King."

2 Chron. 28:14

"So all the armed men left all the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation."

2 Chron. 29:23,


"And they brought...the sin offering before the King and the congregation" – "And the number of the burnt offerings which the congregation brought."

2 Chron. 30:2,4,


"The King, his princes and all the congregation." "In the eyes of the king and all the congregation." "A very great congregation." "Many in the congregation who had not sanctified themselves." "And the congregation took counsel." "Hezekiah did give to the congregation." "And all the congregation."

Ezra 2:64

"The whole congregation together was 42,360."

Ezra 10:1

"There is gathered together a very great congregation."

Ezra 10:9

"That whosoever came not within three days... should be himself separated from the congregation of the captivity."

Ezra 10:12

"Then all the congregation answered."

Ezra 10:14

"Let... rulers of the congregation stand" (Sinaiatic)

Neh. 5:7

"And I held a great assembly against them."

Neh. 5:13

"And all the congregation said Amen.

Neh. 7:66

"The whole congregation together was 42,360."

Neh. 8:2

"Ezra brought the law before the congregation."

Neh. 8:17

"And all the congregation of them... made booths."

Neh. 13:1

"An Ammonite and Moabite shall not enter the congregation."


"I stand up in the assembly and cry for help."

Psa. 22:22

"In the midst of the congregation will I praise."

Psa. 22:25

"Of thee cometh my praise in the great congregation."

Psa. 26:5

"I have hated the congregation of evildoers."

Psa. 26:12

"In the congregations will I bless the Lord."

Psa. 35:18

"I will give thee thanks in the great congregation."

Psa. 49:9

"I have published thy righteousness in the great congregation."

Psa. 68:26

"Bless ye God in the congregations."

Psa. 89:5

"Thy faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones."

Psa. 107:32

"Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people."

Psa. 149:1

"Sing his praise in the assembly of the saints."

Prov. 5:14

"In the midst of the congregation and assembly."

Jer. 31:8

"A great assembly" – instead of "company" is a variant reading.

Lam. 1:10

"They should not enter into the congregation."

Ezek. 32:3

"Here Codex A. has assembly (ecclesia) instead of "company."

Joel 2:16

"Sanctify the congregation."

Micah 2:5

"Cast the line by lot in the congregation of the Lord."




"Ozias took him from the assembly to his house."


"Great weeping in the assembly."


"In the assembly of the people."


"Saw the head of Holofernes in the hand of one of the assembly." (A reading.)



"In the midst of the assembly she shall open his mouth."


"The mouth of the prudent is sought after in the assembly."


"This woman shall be brought into the assembly."


"Wisdom shall open her mouth in the assemblies of the Most High."


"My heart hath been afraid of the assembly of the people."


"And the assembly shall declare his alms."


"Hear me, ye rulers of the assembly."


"They shall not go up to the assembly."


"The assembly shall show forth his praise."


"Let the assembly declare his praise."


"Before all the assembly of Israel."


"Lifted up his hands over all the assembly of the children of Israel."

I Maccabees


"Caleb for bearing witness before the congregation."


"Judas has assembled a company of the faithful."


"Judas, his brethren and all the assembly."


"A great assembly met."


"A great assembly met."

Remark on Septuagint Usage

The testimony here is univocal. It is as solid as the Macedonian phalanx. Some have tried to make it appear that four of these ninety-two instances refer to an unassembled ecclesia. Look at them, read the context and judge for yourselves. The four passages are: 1 Kings 8:65; 1 Chron. 28:8; Ezra 10:8; Ezek. 32:3. The first two settle themselves.

In Ezra "the assembly of the Captivity" simply means the 42,360 that returned from the captivity and are repeatedly gathered together.

In Ezek. 32:3 an unreliable reading has ecclesia in the place of company. But whether company or ecclesia the idea is the same. The "many peoples" signify nothing, they do not constitute an ecclesia until formed into one company. Xerxes, Timour, Napoleon and many others formed one great company out of the contingents of many nations.

Observe prescribed conditions of membership in Deuteronomy 23 and Nehemiah 13.

The new and mammoth Septuagint Concordance of Hatch and Redpath, five folio volumes, Oxford, 1893, gives the following additional instances (not cited by Trommius) from one text or another:

Canonical Books

Deut. 4:10; 9:10; 1 Kings 12:3 (from Codex A.); 2 Chron. 10:3; 29:28, 31; 30:25; all rendered assembly in our Revised Version, Ezek. 32:23 (from Codex A.) rendered company.

Apocryphal Books

Judith 6: 19, 21 assembly.

I Maccabees 14:9 (assemblies instead of streets).

From Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament

Lev. 4:14, 21; 16:17; Psa. 40:9, 10; Prov. 26:26; Jer. 26:17; 44:14. All rendered assembly in our Revised Version. And Ezek. 23:47, 26:7; 27:27; 32:22, all rendered company.

This makes the Old Testament usage amount to about 114 cases, nearly equal in number to New Testament usage. In no one of the 114 instances does it mean an unassembled ecclesia.

New Testament Usage of Ecclesia

(Common Version)

Matt. 16:18

"I will build my church."

Matt. 18:17

"Tell (it) unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church."

Acts 2:47

"the lord added to the church daily."

Acts 5:11

"fear came upon all the church."

Acts 7:38

"he, that was in the church."

Acts 8:1

"the church which was at Jerusalem."

Acts 8:3

"He made havoc of the church."

Acts 9:31

"Then had the churches rest."

Acts 11:22

"the church which was in Jerusalem."

Acts 11:26

"assembled themselves with the church."

Acts 12:1

"to vex certain in the church."

Acts 12:5

"without ceasing of the church of God."

Acts 13:1

"Now there were in the church"

Acts 14:23

"elders of every church, and had."

Acts 14:27

"had gathered the church together."

Acts 15:2

"on their way by the church."

Acts 15:4

"they were received of the church."

Acts 15:22

"elders, with the whole church."

Acts 15:41

"confirming the churches."

Acts 16:5

"so were the churches established."

Acts 18:22

"gone up, and saluted the church."

Acts 19:32

"for the assembly was confused."

Acts 19:39

"determined in a lawful assembly."

Acts 19:41

"thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."

Acts 20:17

"called the elders of the church."

Acts 20:28

"to feed the church of God."

Rom. 16:1

"is a servant of the church."

Rom. 16:4

"all the churches of the Gentiles."

Rom. 16:5

"the church that is in their house."

Rom. 16:16

"The churches of Christ salute you."

Rom. 16:23

"mine host, and of the whole church."

1 Cor. 1:2

"Unto the church of God which."

1 Cor. 4:17

"I teach everywhere in every church."

1 Cor. 6:4

"least esteemed in the church."

1 Cor. 7:17

"so ordain I in all churches."

1 Cor. 10:32

"nor to the church of God."

1 Cor. 11:16

"neither the churches of God."

1 Cor. 11:18

"come together in the church."

1 Cor. 11:22

"or despise ye the church of God."

1 Cor. 12:28

"God hath set some in the church."

1 Cor. 14:4

"that prophesieth edifieth the church."

1 Cor. 14:5

"the church may receive edifying."

1 Cor. 14:12

"to the edifying of the church."

1 Cor. 14:19

"in the church I had rather speak."

1 Cor. 14:23

"The whole church be come together."

1 Cor. 14:28

"keep silence in the church."

1 Cor. 14:33

"as in all churches of the saints."

1 Cor. 14:34

"keep silence in the churches."

1 Cor. 14:35

"for women to speak in the church."

1 Cor. 15:9

"I persecuted the church of God."

1 Cor. 16:1

"to the churches of Galatia."

1 Cor. 16:19

"The churches of Asia salute you." – "with the church that is in their house."

2 Cor. 1:1

"unto the church of God which."

2 Cor. 8:1

"on the churches of Macedonia"

2 Cor. 8:18

"gospel throughout all the churches."

2 Cor. 8:19

"was also chosen of the churches."

2 Cor. 8:23

"the messengers of the churches."

2 Cor. 8:24

"to them, and before the churches."

2 Cor. 11:8

"I robbed other churches taking."

2 Cor. 11:28

"the care of the churches."

2 Cor. 12:13

"were inferior to the churches."

Gal 1:2

"unto the churches of Galatia."

Gal. 1:13

"I persecuted the church of God."

Gal. 1:22

"unto the churches of Judea."

Eph. 1:22

"gave him (to be) the head over all (things) to the church."

Eph. 3:10

"might be known by the church."

Eph. 3:21

"glory in the church by Christ Jesus."

Eph. 5:23

"Christ is the head of the church."

Eph. 5:24

"the church is subject unto Christ."

Eph. 5:25

"as Christ also loved the church."

Eph. 5:27

"to himself a glorious church."

Eph. 5:29

"even as the Lord the church."

Eph. 5:32

"concerning Christ and the church."

Phil. 3:6

"Concerning zeal, persecuting the church."

Phil. 4:15

"no church communicated with me."

Col. 1:18

"the head of the body, the church."

Col. 1:24

"body’s sake, which is the church."

Col. 4:15

"the church which is in the house."

Col. 4:16

"in the church of the Laodiceans."

1 Thess. 1:1

"unto the church of the Thessalonians."

1 Thess. 2:14

"followers of the churches of God."

2 Thess 1:1

"unto the churches of the Thessalonians."

2 Thess 1:4

"in you in the churches of God."

1 Tim. 3:5

"take care of the church of God."

1 Tim. 3:15

"the church of the living God."

1 Tim. 5:16

"let not the church be charged."

Philemon 2

"to the church in thy house."