Time to stop using language of "church"?

A brief conversation at SBL made me think about the use of the word "church" to translate ekklesia. The problem is that our word "church" is so overlaid with centuries of associations and connotations that when used in the New Testament it is very hard not to anachronistically read such things into the text.

Of course, I believe that the "church" of C21 is organically related to and descended from the ekklesia of C1 but it is so easy to misread the NT that I think perhaps we need to make the text strange again by resisting the word "church" in translation. A little distancing of horizons may open up enough space for us to hear the word afresh ... not least on the issue of the relation of Jews and Gentiles after the coming of Messiah.


Cheers for the post Robin, very thought provoking.

I really like the idea of making the text 'strange' again (not least because of the Barthian overtones of that notion), and the rethinking of the language of church that you propose. I wonder what this means for the way emerging 'church' and established 'church' engage one another? The question is perhaps more appropriate for fresh expressions of 'church'. Perhaps rethinking the language in the way you propose will make the dialogue on these issues easier?
J.N. Darby's Bible always translates ekklesia as 'assembly.' He felt this was a better word to use than Tyndale's 'congregation.'

Do you own a Darby New Translation?
Martin Shields said…
The problem isn't confined to one word in the NT, so there's a place for a foreignising translation to encourage readers to think more carefully about the text.
Robin Parry said…

I agree and I like what you are doing with Genesis 1. A foreignising translation there is a very helpful thing.

Anonymous said…
just read that the King James translators were instructed to use the word "Church" to boost the power of the institutional organization ...

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