The Septuagint’s Use of, “Ekklesia” Does Not Indicate That Israel and the Church are One in the Same

Septuagint

Those who hold to various forms of Covenant theology believe that the Church (specifically, the Body of Christ) is the same entity as the believing Israelites in the Old Testament.  Thus, the Covenant theology adherent sees just one, “church.”  One of the most popular (and best) arguments for this belief is based on the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) using, “ekklesia” to describe both Israel and the Body of Christ.  On the surface this appears to be a solid point.

Once the claim is investigated even a little bit it unravels rather quickly.  “Ekklesia” is not a proper noun but is a generic term for a congregation, assembly or group of called out individuals.  Referring to both Israel and the Body of Christ as being congregations hardly means that they are to be understood as one in the same.

Moreover, the New Testament uses, “ekklesia” to describe congregations that are not made of up those who know God.

Acts 19:30; 32; 41 uses, “ekklesia” to describe an assembly of Artemis worshippers (Acts 19:24-41).  Those who worshipped the pagan goddess of the hunt could hardly be understood as being members of the Church.

Acts 19:32 uses, “ekklesia” to identify a court or legislative assembly that was brought together to consider charges against Paul.  Are we to understand that this court was one in the same as Israel and the Body of Christ?  Such a conclusion would be ridiculous.

These examples alone demonstrate that, “ekklesia” is not exclusively used to describe a group of individuals following the one true God.  Even more damaging to the covenant adherent’s argument on this matter is that, “ekklesia” is used in the Septuagint itself to identify various gatherings.

1 Samuel 19:20 uses, “ekklesia” to describe a gathering of prophets.

Psalm 26:5 uses, “ekklesia” to describe a group of evil doers that God even says He hates.

Ezekiel 32:3 uses, “ekklesia” to describe a company of many peoples that were in addition to Israel.

Israel was and is an assembly of people.  The Church or Body of Christ is another type of assembly.

Comments

  1. Doug Van Dorn says:

    I saw this link over on Facebook and you said you wanted some interaction over here. I’m not quite sure the perspective you are coming at this from, so it is difficult to interact on that level. I’ll just give my own two cents from an amill/covenant perspective, trying to deal with what you have written.

    First, I’m not aware of anyone who says that church is absolutely identical between the Testaments. You may or may not be saying that, I can’t tell. The idea is more often that of type/antitype. There is an organic connection (like a baby to an adult or an acorn to an oak tree), but I guess this would mean defining what you mean by “the same entity.” Is the acorn “the same entity” as the oak tree? Yes and no.

    Second, I’m also not aware of anyone who argues that ekklesia always means God’s church. The texts you point out show that this is obvious, but I believe everyone who makes this ekklesia OT connection realizes this. If they don’t, they are idiots. Context must dictate what it is referring to. That leads to the final point.

    When you say “Israel was and is an assembly of people. The Church or Body of Christ is another type of assembly” (last paragraph), I would say yes and no. Clearly, the national people of Israel are a different entity (“assembly” in the way the word is being used in the verses you quote), but again, I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that. No one in CT is arguing that national Israel and Jesus’ church are identical. I hope you can see that I believe your arguing for the most part in this blog against people who don’t actually exist.

    Rather, the idea is that when God calls Israel to assemble around the holy mountain, it is the same God (specifically Jesus) who calls the church (same word as we all know-ekklesia) around the anti-typical mountain (Hebrews 12:18-24). In other words, it is “the assembly of the Lord” that is the parallel/typological idea, not just the bare word ekklesia all by itself. These texts would have been better examples for you to deal with in connection to a passage like Hebrews 12 (above):

    • “Day of the ekklesia” (Deut 4:10; 9:10; 18:16).
    • “Ekklesia of the Lord” (Deut 23:2, 3, 4, 9; Jdgs 21:5).
    • “Ekklesia of the people of God” (Jdgs 20:2).

    Our idea is that Jesus had a people in the OT; Jesus has a people in the NT. Same Jesus. Jesus is the Vine from which both people draw their nourishment (Romans 11). Both are “his” assemblies. Thus, CT uses ekklesia in the OT to draw out such parallels. I realize that this last paragraph here is full of theological presuppositions with which you may differ (I’m drawing both from amillennial/covenant ideas as well as divine council ideas with the Jesus connection). At any rate, that’s how I think CTs would respond to what you have written here.

    Peace to you,
    Doug

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond brother.

      I’m not claiming that the Covenant position holds that the two groups are completely identical in every respect. Rather, I am responding to a common claim that I often see out there. And that is that merely because, “ekklesia” is used to describe both groups that they are therefore the same. So the purpose of this article was to deal with whether that argument itself had merit.

      I am not arguing against people that do not exist. I am essentially pushing the reasoning behind the, “ekklesia” claim to its extremes and see if it then holds up in every case. I have no doubt that many covenant adherents would readily admit that Israel even today is a congregation of people. But they would not be so quick to admit that the promises given to the Jews in the unconditional covenants would still apply to them. Rather, they would see these promises as somehow fulfilled in the Body of Christ at present (though I will happily affirm they will be).

      I’m pleased that you made a point to say that the bare use of, “ekklesia” in itself does not have have the meaning of an assembly of God. I honestly am confronted with that as an argument in favor of covenant theology quite frequently. I just do not believe as many in your camp are as erudite as you. I agree that in the Old Testament there was a group of called out people that knew the true God. Amen!

      In regards to your final paragraph I’ll just provide the standard disagreement for future readers. Yes, believing people in the OT and the NT received their salvation via Jesus. But only in the Body of Christ do we see the baptism of the Holy Spirit and enter in to a far more intimate relationship. So the promises of the Jews can be enjoyed by the Church. And in doing so we can make Israel jealous and cause them to return to the LORD (Rom. 11:11). This nation (the Church, 1 Pet. 2:9) that was to make the Jews jealous was even somewhat foreseen in the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:21). Indeed, Romans 11 clearly makes a differentiation between Israel and the Church that was soon to be made up of mostly Gentiles. I would expect sameness to be emphasized when comparing Israel to the Body over differentiation if the later was an enhanced version of the former.

      Blessings to you brother. I will be praying for you ministry.

      In Christ,
      Ervin

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