Month 12:19, Week 3:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year:Day 5936:334 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 11 March 2012
Family or Congregation
II. A Qahal of Families United
Continued from Part 1
Reconstructing the past is hampered by the fact that words evolve in meaning along with religious institutions, governments and even thinking processes. For the past 35 years I have been trying to reconstruct all of these in a bid to understand where the modern believer has departed from the original tavnith (pattern) and to get back to authentic religion.
Most of us were brought up in either a 'church' or 'synagogue' environment and when we read these words in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) we are tempted to superimpose, to one degree of another, what we have experienced from the Christian or Jewish worlds. But a lot changes in two millennia.
There are six different Hebrew words which we sometimes rather casually translate as being the equivalent of a 'church', 'synagogue', 'congregation' or 'assembly'. Until we have understood them we will never know what our modern words are supposed to mean.
Most Messianics are familiar with the word mo'ed and the related 'edâ which come from the root word ya'ad meaning 'to 'appoint', 'assign', or 'designate'. Mo'ed means an appointed time or place, or meeting, and occurs 223 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament) (e.g. Gen.18:14; Hos.9:5). In its most frequent use, 'ohel mo'ed means the 'tent of meeting' which in the old King James Version (KJV) is rendered "tabernacle of the congregation", a bad translation which gives the false impression of some giant evangelist's tent such as have been used by traveling American Protestant missionaries. But 'ohel mo'ed first and foremost conveys the sense of 'due appointment' (e.g. Ex.27:2) and is used in Isaiah 14:13 for "mount of the congregation". 'edâ occurs 149 times (though never in Deutronomy) and means a company of people assembled together by appointment (e.g. Ex.16:1-2 where the congregation of Israel are assembled by Yahweh for the purpose of journeying from Egypt to Canaan).
The mo'ed, then, is an assembly of Yahweh's people at a specific time ordained by Yahweh. The recurrent assemblies are those which take place one a month at each New Moon and four times a month at each Sabbath to hear the prophets speak, and to commemorate specific historical events seven times a year according to the creation calendar that point to Messiah and chart Yahweh's meticulous Plan of Salvation. Of the latter seven. a male representative at minimum (but the whole family if at all possible) were required to attend at Jerusalem under the Old Covenant.
The Hebrew word qahal appears 123 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and comes from a root meaning 'assemble together', whether for war (e.g. 2 Sam.20:14), rebellion (Num.16:3) or a religious purpose (e.g. Num.10:7). It is used in Deuteronomy 5:22 where all Israel is assembled to hear the words of Yahweh, and in Deuteronomy 23:3 where solemn statements of excommuniction are being made. 'Eda is the older of these two words, is in frequent use in Exodus and Numbers, and bears an almost technical sense of 'those gathered together for a specific purpose', but qahal has the sense of 'all Israel gathered together by Yahweh as a theocratic state'.
The rarely used word 'aseret, from a root meaning 'restrain' or 'confine', is usually translated "solemn assembly" (e.g. Is.1:13; Neh.8:18; Amos 5:21) in connection with high festivals such as Chag haMatzah and Sukkot (Dt.16:8; Lev.23:36). This word is rendered panégyris in Greek and lies behind the "general assembly" in Hebrews:
This, incidentally, confirms that the Seven Annual Festivals, new moons and sabbaths are in some way a part of the heavenly realm as well as being a part of the Messianic era.
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living Elohim (God), the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of malakim (angels), to the general assembly and ekklesia (church) of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to Elohim (God) the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Yah'shua (Jesus) the Mediator of the B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant)" (Heb.12:22-24, NKJV).
In the Septuagint (LXX), the official Greek translation of the Tanakh (Old Testament) which I spoke of recently in connection with the fraudelent anti-messianic Hebrew Masoretic text that has been doctored by Judaism and forms the basis of all our English Old Testaments, the word ekklesia (from which we get the English word 'ecclesiastic' or 'of the church') was used to translate qahal so that whenever you see the word 'church' you can know that originally the qahal was being referenced. Ekklesia was also occasionally used to translate 'eda for which the Greek word synagogé or 'synagogue' was also used. (This is why we, in this ministry, don't use the Latin word 'church' or Greek word 'synagogue' because they obscure the original Hebrew meaning). Additionally, Luke (who was Greek) also uses ekklesia in its classical sense in Acts 19:39 of a summonsed political assembly, and as a gathering in Acts 19:31,41. In Acts 13:43 synagogé is rendered 'congregation' by the KJV but as 'synagogue' in other translations and its use in James 2:2 specifically indicates a Messianic Judahite meeting. Only later did synagogé, like 'church', come to mean both a gathering and the building and even later (principally after the Reformation) a denomination too (e.g. the Church of England, Methodist Church, Eastern Orthodox Church).
Finally, we come to another word in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament), namely, koinonia which is rendered "fellowship" and literally means 'communicate', 'partake', 'share' and is linked to the concept of 'generosity' - literally, 'a willingness to give a share', and is probably equivalent to the Hebrew word chabar (e.g. Ps.94:20). This is a much more subjective word that the others already described and is concerned with the echad union between Yahweh and talmidim (disciples), and between the believers as a whole, in Messiah, mediated by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Koinonia is therefore a condition of being that leads to action rather than a meeting time and place.
Isaac told Jacob in his patriarchal blessing to his son:
All who trust in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) are now the seed of Abraham and like Jacob of old they are commanded to be "a qahal of peoples" by trusting in King Messiah and by walking in the mitzvot (commandments). We are commanded to assemble for worship and to hear Yahweh's Davar (Word) through the prophets on new moons, sabbaths and festivals...as the people - family - of Abraham: a family of families consisting (eventually) of clans, 12 tribes and finally the whole nation of Israel restroed and regathered.
"May Elohim (God) Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be a qahal (assembly, congregation, company, multitude) of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which Elohim (God) gave to Abraham" (Gen.28:3-4, NKJV).
For now we remain scattered and the family is everything. This places great demands on the fathers and husbands who must lead and receive Yahweh's Davar (Word) as our forefathers did for their families. Like Abram called out of Ur, we too must lave the world system and multiply as a Messianic seed, assembling together regularly and then make the Final Gathering before returning home.