CONGREGATION- Assembled people of God. “Congregation” translates the Hebrew words ‘edah and qahal primarily. These terms may apply to any individual or class collectively such as “the wicked” or “or hypocrites.” While ‘edah is once used to refer to a herd of bulls (Ps 68:30) and once to a swarm of bees (Judg 14:8), both words primarily describe the Israelite people as a holy people bound together by religious devotion to Yahweh rather than by political bonds. There is no apparent distinction in meaning between the two. Every circumcised Israelite was a member for the congregation, as were the women, though the congregation is offten called “the sons of Israel” (Exod 16:1-9 NASB). The congregation was subdivided into the tribe and then the most basic unit, the family. The congregation of Israel functioned in military, legal, and punishment matters.

In the Greek OT (the Septuagint) ‘edah was usually translated by sunagoge, qahal by ekklesia. In late Judaism sunagoge depicted the actual Israelite people and ekklesia the ideal elect of God called to salvation; hence, ekklesia became the term for the Christian congregation, the church. Sunagoge in the NT is almost entirely restricted to the Jewish place of worship. (An exception is James 2:2, which may refer to a Christian assembly.) The English word “synagogue” is merely a transliteration of sunagoge. Ekklesia means “called out,” and in classical Greek referred to the body of free citizens called out by a herald. In the NT the “called out ones” are the church, the assembly of God’s people (Rom 16:1; 1 Cor 1:2). And though it is a contested point, ekklesia may on rear occasions be used of the whole people of God, and not merely an individual congregation (Col 1:18; Heb 12:23). There is a direct spiritual continuity between the congregation of the OT and the NT church. Significantly, the Christian community chose the OT term for the ideal people of God called to salvation (ekklesia), rather than the term that described all Israelites collectively (sunagoge).


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