Tag Archives: Hebrew language

The Spring, the Stream, the Pool & the Puddle

The famous Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther once said “The Hebrew language is the best language of all … If I were younger I would want to learn this language, because no one can really understand the Scriptures without it. For although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of Hebraisms and Hebrew expressions. It has therefore been aptly said that the Hebrews drink from the spring, the Greeks from the stream that flows from it, and the Latins from a downstream pool.”
-Martin Luther, Table Talk, quoted in Pinchas E. Lapide, Hebrew in the Church, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984).

In my studies of getting closer to the Hebrew Language, Hebraisms & Hebrew Expressions – in pursuit of understanding God Almighty and His Word, I have come across many people with varying opinions. Some see it as of no use. Some see it as attempting to become Jewish. And some even see it as a start of a new doctrine/teaching, when in fact learning Hebrew helps you understand the Scriptures better (Even understanding the Greek New Testament, as one third of it is quoted from the Hebrew Old Testament – 2606 Old Testament verses quoted in 7967 New Testament verses as per Barnes’ Bible Charts. 32.7% of the New Testament is directly from the Old Testament).

Today, I would like to leave a thought with you using Martin Luther’s words. If Hebrew is the Spring, Greek is the Stream and Latin a downstream Pool, what is English? Is it not a small Puddle?

Don’t get me wrong. The translators of the hundreds of English Translations available today, have done their own best. But we have to come to the same conclusion about all these translations. A translation is just that. A translation. It will never be as good as the Original. Anyone who has read books from a foreign author in their native language and then read the same book in English or any other language will understand what I am trying to say. Translations will always loose it’s purity down the way. The Spring to the puddle. If a person is happy with the water in the puddle, so be it. I, on the other hand, prefer the Spring. And am swimming towards it, in the pursuit of truth.

Defining the word “Church”

The word “Church” today is commonly used for the place Christians meet. Generally a person would say things like “We are going to Church” or “The Church is empty”.

Before going into Biblical Definitions, we must know some basic information and history about the Bible.

  1. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew also known as the Tanakh.
  2. There was a Greek translation done of the Hebrew Scriptures in the 2nd Century BCE, (Before Yeshua‘s Birth) called the Septuagint.
  3. Most of the remaining New Testament manuscripts are in Greek.

Even though we use an English translation of the Bible, we know that sometimes meaning can be lost in translation. Because of this, going to the root languages of the Manuscripts can lend much more insight into the real meaning of the word “Church”. What we now need to research is, which word in the Greek was translated to the word “Church”

The Word “Church” is a translation for a Greek word called “ekklēsia”, which means “Called out”, “Assembly” or “Congregation”. (Strong’s Hebrew/Greek Dictionary – G1577)

While throughout the bible, “ekklēsia” has been translated as “Church”, there are a few places it is translated as “assembly” as well – Acts 19:31,39,41

An interesting point to note is, that in very much the same way, the word “Synagogue” is a translation for a Greek word called “sunagōgē”, which means “Assembly”/”Congregation” as well. (Strong’s Greek Dictionary – G4864)

“sunagōgē” is translated as “assembly” in James 2:2
“sunagoge” is translated as “congregation” in Acts 13:43

Both words, “Church” and “Synagogue” meant bodies of people. Not a building or a place.

Now that we know that “Church” doesn’t mean an institution, a place or a building, let’s tackle one of the other common misconceptions, which is that Yeshua(Hebrew name of Jesus) came to build a “Church”, and that there was no “Church” before Yeshua.

Language, I believe, has become one of the biggest barriers of our time. Since we have a big barrier which is a New Testament(NT) in Greek, and an Old Testament(OT) in Hebrew, comparing the two languages are next to impossible, as they are worlds apart. Because of this, we will turn to the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the OT. Comparing the NT Greek and the OT in Greek using the Septuagint, we can land on some solid answers.

Armed with this knowledge, let’s check whether we can find the Greek word “ekklēsia” in the OT. And true to the fact, there are more than 70 locations where “ekklēsia” is used, in place of “Assembly” or “Congregation”. These places are listed below.

Deu_4:10, Deu_9:10, Deu_18:16, Deu_23:1, Deu_23:2, Deu_23:3, Deu_23:8, Deu_31:30, Jos_8:35,
Jdg_20:2, Jdg_21:5, Jdg_21:8, 1Sa_17:47, 1Sa_19:20, 1Ki_8:14, 1Ki_8:22, 1Ki_8:55, 1Ki_8:65, 1Ch_13:, 1Ch_13:4, 1Ch_28:2, 1Ch_28:8, 1Ch_29:1, 1Ch_29:10, 1Ch_29:20, 2Ch_1:3, 2Ch_1:5, 2Ch_6:3, 2Ch_6:12, 2Ch_6:13, 2Ch_7:8, 2Ch_10:3, 2Ch_20:5, 2Ch_20:14, 2Ch_23:3, 2Ch_28:14,
2Ch_29:23, 2Ch_29:28, 2Ch_29:31, 2Ch_29:32, 2Ch_30:2, 2Ch_30:4, 2Ch_30:13, 2Ch_30:17, 2Ch_30:23, 2Ch_30:24, 2Ch_30:25, Ezr_2:64, Ezr_10:1, Ezr_10:8, Ezr_10:12, Ezr_10:14, Neh_5:7
Neh_5:13, Neh_7:66, Neh_8:2, Neh_8:17, Neh_13:1, Job_30:28, Psa_22:22, Psa_22:25, Psa_26:5, Psa_26:12, Psa_35:18, Psa_40:9, Psa_68:26, Psa_89:5, Psa_107:32, Psa_149:1, Pro_5:14, Lam_1:10,
Joe_2:16, Mic_2:5

A Sample is shown below in Bold:
Greek Septuagint – Deu_31:30  και ελαλησεν μωυσης εις τα ωτα πασης εκκλησιας (G1577) ισραηλ τα ρηματα της  ωδης ταυτης εως εις τελος

English KJV – Deu 31:30  And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.

This leads to quite an amazing conclusion. In about 70 instances in the OT where the English says “Assembly” or “Congregation”, the Septuagint translates those words to “ekklēsia”.

Let me put the comparison of the words in a simpler way to digest:
ekklēsia (Greek NT) = church (English NT)
ekklēsia (Septuagint Greek OT) = assembly / congregation (English OT)
which means: church (English NT) = assembly / congregation (English OT)

So effectively, if the words are the same, (ekklēsia = church = assembly = congregation)
we would be able to read more than 70 other scriptures in the OT alongside Deut 31:30 as,
“And Moses spake in the ears of all the church of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended”.

To everyone who believes that the “Church” came after Yeshua, I ask you to look at the evidence. Do not get stuck with a particular language or a word. Look at the meaning of the word, rather than the word itself.

Now, I know that some people would still say that I am putting too much effort and forcing my ideas through. To all those people, my answer would be to compare and check the evidence. Don’t believe me. But if there is sufficient evidence, don’t shrug it off. Be open to learning something new, even if it goes against some of your beliefs.

In closing, I would like to say that, as people living in a technologically advanced age, why can’t we put all the resources we have to good use and audit our translations, check for the real meanings and compare historical documents. I hope, I have made a good enough case to prove,
A) That “Church” means the people and not any institution, building or place
B) That the “Church” existed even when Moses led Israel, as the people/congregation was the “Church”.

When Yeshua said “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my CHURCH; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Yeshua did not mean He was creating a new institution, a new system, a new building or a new place. What He meant was that, He is going to build His people, His assembly and His Congregation – the “Called Out” ones.