THE GENERIC OR INSTITUTIONAL USAGE OF ECCLESIA
A.We have before shown that 97 of the 115 times which “ecclesia” is used in the New Testament refer to the local, visible church.
B.The remaining 18 will be taken up individually in this lesson to show that the same meaning is retained, and to suppose that a new meaning is to be attached to ecclesia is wrong.
C.Overbey says, “Generally all scholars accept these ninety-two uses as meaning assembly. It should be stated here that the word ekklesia refers to a group of people organized to carry out some purpose that assemble from time to time. To be an ekklesia it need not be a continual assembly. Carroll well stated this when he was asked: ‘But if church means assembly does not that require it to be always in session?’ No ecclesia, classic, Jewish, or Christian, known to history, held perpetual session. They all adjourned and came together again according to the requirements of the case. The organization, the institution, was not dissolved by temporary adjournment’” (The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N.T., Overbey, p. 20).
D.Overbey again, “The common meaning of a word must stand in every place it occurs as long as it makes sense. When it fails to make sense then a new meaning or a rare meaning must be found in the context for the word. If a new or rare meaning will make sense in a given context we cannot accept it as long as the common meaning will also make sense” (Ibid, p. 22).
E.Warfield says, “The question is, after all, not what can the word be made to mean, but what does it mean . . . only if the sense thus commended to us were unsuitable to the context would we be justified in seeking further for a new interpretation” (Ibid, p. 23).
F.The principle is this: A NEW OR RARE MEANING IS NOT TO BE GIVEN TO A WORD JUST BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE SENSE IN CERTAIN PLACES. THE OLD MEANING MUST BE RETAINED.
II.THE GENERIC OR INSTITUTIONAL USE EXPLAINED
1.Generic – Relating to or characteristic of a whole group or class; general.
2.Institutional – an organization as differentiated from other kinds of organizations.
3.Abstract – disassociated from any specific instance.
B.These terms illustrated:
1.Overbey says, “A word may be used generically. In such cases the word may be singular and yet not refer to any particular object of the class but to every object of that class. It is as if some object of the class were taken as a representative of each object of the class and whatever is said of this representative would apply generally to each object . . . In such cases the definite article with the word does not mean there is only one particular automobile singled out from the rest or that there is only one automobile in the world, but the article is called the generic article and distinguishes one class from another class rather than one object in a class from another object in the same class. We use words generically all the time and never think of it” (Ibid, pp. 24, 25).
2.He continues, “ ‘The’ with a singular noun sometimes indicates a class or kind of object. The scholar is not necessarily as dry as dust. The elephant is the largest of quadrupeds. The aeroplane is a very recent invention. Resin is obtained from the pine . . . The singular number with the generic ‘the’ is practically equivalent to the plural without an article” (Ibid p. 25).
3.BuellKadzee declares, “In this sense (generic or institutional) the word indicates a type of institution as differentiated from other kinds of institutions. Thus we speak of ‘the church’ as we do ‘the home’ or ‘the school’ . . . a good example of the Biblical use of a word this way is the word ‘man’ in Genesis 1:26. Here God says, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Although Adam was the first specific example of this being, we understand the term ‘man’ to mean man in general, including all his race, rather than just the one individual man . . . Thus, by the word ekklesia Jesus could have been speaking of the type of institution He would build” (The Church and the Ordinances, Kazee, pp. 1, 2).
4.Roy Mason concurs, “The word (ekklesia) is used fourteen times to denote an institution. When it is used in this way it is, according to Dr. Carroll, used in either an abstract or generic sense. ‘This follows,’ he says, ‘from the laws of language governing the use of words. For example, if an English statesman, referring to the right of each individual citizen to be tried by his peers, should say: ‘On this rock England will build her jury, and all the power of tyranny shall not prevail against her,’ he uses the term jury in an abstract sense, i.e., in the sense of an institution. But when this institution finds concrete expression or becomes operative, it is always a particular jury of twelve men and never an aggregation of all juries into one big jury’ “ (The Church That Jesus Built, Mason, p. 29).
5.A.C. Dayton declares, “Christ did not refer to any particular individual local organization when he said ‘my Church.’ He did not mean the Church at Jerusalem or the Church at Corinth. Much less did her refer to all the churches combined in one great Church. But he simply used the word as the name of his institution.” (Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II, p. 100).
6.He continues, “. . . let me illustrate. You are a lawyer. A client comes to you for legal information. You tell him that the law is thus or so; and so ‘the court’ will instruct ‘the jury.’ What do you mean by the court? And what do you mean by the jury? Not any particular individual judge whom you may have in mind, much less all the judges in the world comprised in one gigantic ‘universal’ judge; but you mean any one of all the judges before whom the suit might be tried; and not any particular set of jurymen, much less all the jurymen in the world united in one vast conglomerate ‘universal’ jury; but simply that jury, whichever or wherever it may be, who may chance to be empaneled on the case. ‘The court’ is the name or title given to a certain official personage when engaged in the performance of certain official duties. ‘The jury’ is the name or title given to a certain official body or assembly, when employed in a certain official capacity. Now, as the courts and juries in the British empire transact business and administer justice by the authority of Queen Victoria, and in her name, they may very properly be called her court, and her jury, meaning thereby simply her institutions, organized by her authority for the transaction of this specific business in her name. The first courts and juries which were organized may have been dissolved; others may have followed, and, like them, have disappeared; but still the institution continues: the jury is still an essential part of the apparatus for the administration of justice . . . . And if I should say that the jury is ‘built’ upon the ‘rock’ of the constitution and that the councils of tyrants can never ‘prevail against’ or overthrow it, I should speak of it just as Christ did about his Church” (Ibid, pp. 100, 101).
7.Dayton further explains, “The principle . . . is the same as that on which the name of an individual is every day applied to the species, genus, or family, to which it belongs. As when we say of the oak that it is the most majestic of forest trees, we do not mean any one oak, nor do we mean all the oaks in the world comprised in one ‘universal’ oak. Each oak is still a separate and individual tree; but we apply the name of the individual to all the species – not considered collectively, as one great oak, but separately, as hundreds and thousands of trees, each having the same name.” (Ibid, p. 105).
1.The “horse” is rushed into battle.
2.The “lion” is the king of beasts.
3.The “husband” is the head of the wife.
4.The “home” is the basis of society.
5.The “dog” is the most lovable of all pets.
6.The “oak” is the most majestic of all trees.
7.The “jury” is used in all Western courts of justice.
A.Ecclesia – the Church – B.H. Carroll
B.The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N.T. – Overbey
C.Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II, – Dayton
D.The Church That Jesus Built – Roy Mason
E.The Church and the Ordinances – Buell Kazee
F.Ekklesia – the Church – Bob Ross