Friday, December 15, 2023

We Can Do Better Than "Church"!

In 30 years of ministry, Paul had founded churches in the Roman provinces of Asia, Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. Around the year A.D. 49 he wrote to a group of churches in Galatia. The letter is addressed to "the churches of Galatia." 

Scholars disagree as to what is meant by "Galatia," though I myself take the view that Paul is referring to the churches in the southern part of Galatia, in particular the churches in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (see Acts 13-14). In each city there was now a church. All New Testament theologians agree that what Paul calls "the church of God" in Gal. 1:13 is divided into local churches -- not, of course, denominations, but congregations. Thus the NEB translates Gal. 1:1 not as "to the churches of Galatia" but as "to the Christian congregations of Galatia." If I might suggest a slight improvement here, I would change this to "the Christian communities of Galatia." After all, a church (ekklēsia) is simply a community of believers in any given place. Hence a name like "Stonebriar Community Church" is redundant. It's like saying, "Stonebriar Community Community." In German, "Gemeinde" has a similar connotation. Let's say I drove into "Gemeinde Lörrach," and while there I attended "die Baptistengemeinde Lörrach." In English we would say, "I drove into the community of Lörrach, and while there I attended the Baptist community of Lörrach." 

"Community" or even "congregation" would, I think, be a major improvement over our word "church." In fact, in both the Coverdale Bible of 1525 and the Tyndale Bible of 1526, the Greek word is rendered, not "chuches," but "congregations." 

How do you view the church? As an institution or as a living community of people who follow Jesus? The point is probably more than a merely semantic one!