Whatever Happened to Ecclesiastical Government?
I know you might think this is crazy. But bear with me, and see if the logic fits.
While driving through Canada in 2009 I listened to a lecture Dr. Rushdoony gave somewhere. It was an introduction to lectures on Corinthians, and he had one vitally interesting point that I cannot get over.
Rushdoony pointed out that the word ekklesia in the Greek — usually translated ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ in the New Testament — has its origins in Greek culture. The ekklesia were the ‘called out ones’. This would be a group in a city or town who were ‘called out’ to deal with issues of the township.
Is the KJV a reliable translation?
I have written previously on the meaning of the ekklesia. You can find the article here.
What I did not touch on at the time is the obvious mistranslation of the word ekklesia found in English Bibles, starting with the King James Version. There is, I think, a possible reason for the mistranslation.
The word ekklesia in the Greek—usually translated ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ in the New Testament—has its origins in Greek culture. The ekklesia were the ‘called out ones’. This would be a group in a city or town who were ‘called out’ to deal with governance issues of the township.
The ekklesia was the governing body of the township. In antiquity, they met 30-40 times in a year, and usually discussed issues that involved a change to the law, appointments to official positions, contracts, peace, war, and finance, etc.
The political climate in Great Britain at the time of King James was in great turmoil. The king’s mother, Mary Queen of Scotland, had been unceremoniously removed as the monarch. However, Queen Elizabeth I in England, unmarried, provided no heir to the throne. Mary, however, made sure her son had every chance of succession. In due course he not only gained the throne of Scotland as James VI, but also the throne of England as James I.
- You can read more on this in Colin Brown’s, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols.↵back
The Corruption of Modern Politics
There are people today who tell us that we should vote the lesser of two evils if that’s our only choice. But the lesser of two evils is no more than being willing to give up something as a “bribe” to get something else. In politics the Christian politician votes against God’s law in one place to get some acceptance of God’s law in another place. For the Christian voter, it usually means voting for a political candidate who, although he is not a Christian, appears to have a “better” approach to God’s Law (which he does not recognize) than his opponents.
Whichever way you look at it, the Law of God becomes a list of commodities to be traded rather than a standard to be maintained.
In 1979 I published my first article with the title, For Whom Do We Vote? It was an attempt to address the issue of political voting from a biblical perspective. In that article I connected Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law, Moses, recorded in Exodus 18, with St. Paul’s comments on leadership to his young friend Timothy in the New Testament.
Ex. 18:19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God,
20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.
21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
A small, but powerful, list of what identifies a suitable leader:
- Must know the statutes and laws of God
- Men who fear God
- Hate bribes
- Hierarchical authority over tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands, effectively providing a system of appeals through the hierarchy.