Someone very wise once said, “we are most blinded not by things we don’t know, but by things we think we know.” Take for example, words we freely use today such as “church” or “synagogue.” We assume that “church” is a Christian institution, while “synagogue” is a Jewish institution, right? Well… not really. Those distinctions may be true today, but this was not the case during New Testament times.

The word translated as “church” is the Greek word “ecclesia” which basically means a body of people who are unified by something. In other words, there was nothing particularly Christian about this term in the first century. Therefore, it is simply inaccurate to translate this word today as “church,” instead of using a more appropriate word like, “assembly,” or “gathering.” (Rev. 2:1).

On the other hand, the word commonly translated as “synagogue” did not refer to something exclusively Jewish. Synagogues were places where people gathered for meetings in the Greco-Roman world; places where anyone could come and engage in community activities. Jews took a great interest in this phenomenal institution to be sure, but they were not there alone. (Acts 15:21) Translating the Greek word (sunagoge) as a “meeting/assembly” when it is used in a positive context (James 2:2) but translating it in a negative sense as “synagogue” of Satan (Rev. 3:9) should cause to stop and think.

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68 COMMENTS

    • It is very interesting and my mind is racing and thinking how many others are there. How much diversion as the bible is translated into other languages from English

        • Oh come on! You should’ve pointed out the problems arising from translating from the original Hebrew or Aramaic, then in Greek Koinè, then in modern languages. But instead you felt you had to exclaim “Exactly!” to the commentator’s “translating from English”. Really?

          • Actually, yes. Many translations into languages for the first time now are done from the English — a “short-cut” for those who aren’t as familiar with the Greek or Hebrew/Aramaic originals.

      • Not exactly translating from ‘English’ but from the original Hebrew and Aramaic which then filtered down through other languages in process of time.
        I am sure there’s lots of errors in the English translations as well

  1. It is important to note that THE Church is the Bride of Christ and is comprised of ALL true believers everywhere (including ethnically Jewish believers) who have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. (see Romans 8:9). Yes, any local assembly could be called a “church” or “synagogue” and would contain some believers and some unbelievers (see the letters to the Seven Churches of the Revelation). But there is only ONE universal Church. And the Lord Jesus Himself has built it by the power of His Spirit. 🙂

    • Amen. I focus on definitions given in the Bible for accuracies in my knowledge like you put it.

      The doctor I saw after a good while has widen his scope to provide corrections to common inaccuracies in editions, translation & understanding.

      The Lord’d told me to learn Hebrew & I thought learning Bible Hebrew would be great! I can’t now so maybe I can call others’ attention to it.

      • Israel Bible Center has Biblical Hebrew courses that you can take at your own pace, whenever and where ever it is convenient. Take the plunge, and learn Hebrew as the Lord told you.

    • No ,The Church is not the Bride of MaShiach ! The Church has not replaced Yisrael or the Jews .The Gentiles has been grafted into the Natural Olive Tree .Read Romans 11 .Y’Shua Himself is a Jew and all of His Talmidim and Emissaries were also Jews .Jews were Called to preach the Word of G-d to both Jews and Gentiles /Goyim .When Y’Shua returns at the last or seventh shofar He will gather His people both Jews and Gentiles .

      • Jo Ann
        The Church is not the bride of Christ? Read the NT! And please remember that the Church at that time was comprised of both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.

        • Would that be the same NT translation that so egregiously lied about church and synagogue in the first place? There was no universal Christian “church” until after the Council of Nicea mid 4th cen CE. And even then they were not “universal!” Many of the church fathers and priests after being strong-armed by Constantine, who had no business even being at that council, let alone chairing it, just went back and taught as they always had. And their doctrines and teachings were diverse, different, completely at odds with each other. The Bride of THE Christ (it’s a title, not a name) is specifically said to be the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:9-11. New Jerusalem is a metaphor for all saved people who dwell there, NOT the “church” which is primarily Gentile. It is God’s congregation, His assembly of believers.

          • Daniel, please read the seven Letters of St Ignatius of Antioch, ca 107AD. He was taught by first generation leaders of Yeshu’a’s followers. He writes Smyrna, known to St John, using adjective ‘katho-li-ke’ for the first time in *written* Christian use, –but requiring no definition. They knew it already.

  2. I would really like to see more people realizing that we are not a church, we are the body of Yeshua and when we come together we are an assembly, or a group of people gathered together to worship our God. I did not know that a synagogue was not just what was considered a place where Jewish people congregate, but was a place where Romans and Greeks would gather together. When i looked up the deffinition in Strongs dictionary, the meanings I found were a meeting place, congregation, or assemblage. Thanks for teachi g us the truth.

  3. Dale You say that church should be more appropriately translated as assembly yet the church is not an assembly but it is what you say it is translated as. A church buildind however may rightly be translated as synagogue or meeting place etc. Maybe meeting place of the particular church that comes together there. This may help people overcome what they think church is.

  4. Thank you for this most important understanding. It is so vital for proper interpretation of the Scripture and to our Christian faith, yet so tragically misunderstood for far too long. You have helped me greatly.

  5. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”-Matthew 16:18. This is probably the greatest prophecy in the Bible. Greek word that is translated as “church” in the Bible is ekklesia. This word is made up of a prefix and a root. The prefix is ek , which means “out of ” or “from.” The root word is a form of the verb kaleo, which means “to call.” Thus, ekklesia means “the called out ones”. Church is indeed a mystery.

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      • Definitely a mystery! Would you say that Deuteronomy 7:6-9 is the ‘church, synagogue, Christian?’ Or would you say that it is related to just the Jews and Israel? I believe that the ‘entire world’ revolves around Israel and its people because they are a Holy people, special unto HIM, even though they are fewest of all in number. HE keeps HIS covenant and mercy with them that love HIM and keep HIS commandments for a thousand generations. So someone born-again is included in this, thus part of HIS Church/Bride which HE is coming for. Are Church and Bride the same?

    • Y’Shua is a Jew .Constantine started the first church in 313 AD/CE .In Matt 16:18 .I also tell you this : you are Kefa /Peter ,” { which means ‘Rock ,’ } and on this rock I will build my Community .and the gates of Sh’ol will not overcome it .Community means ” called out ones ,” and is used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew kahal .” assembly ,congregation ,community .” The JNT sometimes uses ” Messianic Community ” or ” congregation .”

      • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Apostle Paul I: His World or The Revelation in a Jewish Context II : Discovery. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

      • But Constantine did NOT start the Ecclesia/church. It was around for almost 300 years by the time he got there. He didn’t even start the Roman church. The Roman Catholic Church didn’t come about for several hundred years after Constantine. Christ started His own group of “Called Out” ones.

      • After reading all these comments, I go back to what Paul said, “I know nothing, save Christ Jesus and Him crucified”. Thank you, brothers and sisters.

      • Jo Ann I was taught years ago that that sentence about Peter ment a little Rock and the Rock that Jesus was building on was in vs :15 You are The Christ The Son of the Living God. Which would mean built on Christ. No church built on Peter.

  6. “In my Father’s house ” is not a description of a worldly place, but of a Heavenly home. A church or synagogue is a meeting place in the world, “My Father’s house ” absolutely is not of this world, we cannot get there except by The cross of Jesus & Him crucified & resurrected, directions to get to the church or synagogue might be found on a map & getting there would be thru traveling not by believing!

    • We cannot get there as there is no scripture that says that. says Jesus is the only one who has gone to heaven. As He stated to the Disciples He will come again, They will meet Him As He comes to rule. rising together with the dead and alive

  7. Subject: matt 5:39 Message: would you be good enough to comment on the ideological concept and context of slapping one”s face.with regard to backhand, forehand and right or left cheek according hebrew law and tradition that you In His strength Thomas

  8. ‘synagogue’ = ‘bet knesset’ = ‘meeting house’. ‘šul’ of yiddish is different, meaning ‘school’.

  9. I once heard, that ecclesia means: called out, implied: to meet
    Why ecclesia in the Scriptures means: called out, implied: to meet God

    • By the word’s components, you are correct since “ek” means “out,” and “kaleo” means “to call.” But the word itself has a specific meaning taht is more than the sum of its roots. It didn’t imply “meeting God” since it was used even in secular contexts, rather it meant “calling out people for a meeting together.” The best English words to translate this idea would be congregation or assembly, not “church.”

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with Leviticus and The New Testament or The Jewish Gospel of John I: The Arrival of the King. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  10. What then would be the difference between the word “synagogue of satan” mentioned in Revelations with ecclesia. Why John did not use “ecclesia of satan” instead?

    • The NT principally uses ekklesia to speak of people gathering together, and synagogue is principally the location or edifice used for meeting. “Ekklesia of Satan” would mean the people who are called together because of Satan, whereas “Synagogue of Satan” is the location belonging to Satan. John was referring to the location of the works of Satan, not accusing a group of people of being bent toward Satan.

  11. Knew that church did not mean the same. Know that the church is not a building but people. Synagogue I knew was Jewish. I assumed it was a Jewish word and in some way connected with the temple.
    As best I have come to understand Christianity is not a new religion because. Jesus never said that was what he was going to do. However,he was Jewish and he fulfilled the law. I would think then that Christianity would be an extension or completion of Judaism

  12. Yeshua told Peter: Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, (that He was the Messiah), but my Father in heaven, and on this rock: (the revelation from Yaweh), I will build my ekklesia ( called out ones), church.

  13. He comes with a winnowing fork in his hand. The one who calls and the one who seeks with all their heart, in truth, have promises to meet and be kept. We simply believe Yeshua was the complete provision, and the Spirit of Truth given as witness and guarantor

  14. Both terms -Synagogue and Church- signify basically a reunion or gathering or assembly. Too bad for the Jews that the synagogue was replaced by the Church in the field of Truth and Salvation.

  15. You might want to point out the word “Ecclesia” is used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew Qohelet, so the congregation was the Ecclesia and the “Preacher” was the Ecclesiastic. Thus the book of Ecclesiastes. This was not just a New Testament term.

    • The Greek word for Qohelet is related to Ekklesia, but it is not identical. Ekklesia in the LXX was translating Qahal, mostly.

  16. The wise know that in a living language words change definitions and often have multiple definitions. Much misunderstanding (and hurt feelings) could be avoided if we all used the same dictionary. To truly understand scripture we must understand ancient culture and language.

    • Amen! Words are defined by their context. Jesus changed the definition of “church” when he used the word to describe those he was calling out, both Jew and gentile, to himself. Much bad theology and history comes about by holding onto only one definition when others are appropriate.

  17. Dr Eli, I have a simple question regarding the wrapping of Jesus Body, they did put ointments on his body but when they wrapped it was it wrapped around His body or was it just put down on top of Him.
    thank you
    deb dumler

    • Hi Deb, the first-century burial custom was to wash the body and then anoint it with oil. Next, the hands and feet were wrapped with linen bands, the face was covered with a handkerchief, the body was clothed in a favorite garment, and then it was wrapped with a sheet. Spices would be put in the folds of the garment as a perfume. So to answer your question, hands and feet were bound with linen strips, and the body was wrapped with a sheet.

  18. ” Translating the Greek word (sunagoge) as a “meeting/assembly” when it is used in a positive context (James 2:2) but translating it in a negative sense as “synagogue” of Satan (Rev. 3:9) should cause to stop and think.

    Yes, indeed. Stop and think about the Synagogue of Satan.

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