Most people in the English speaking world are familiar with the word 'Church'. But few realise what this word really means. Here is a history of that word.
The word church as found in our English Bibles is somewhat unique. It is based on the Greek work Kurios (lord) which gives us Kuriakon (a lord's house or a god's temple) - Kirk (gods house) - Circe - Circh - Church. Here I am referring to the English or more precise Germanic (Angle-Saxon) word as used in our English Bibles. It is unique because it is based on a Greek word, but not the underlying Biblical Greek word - Ekklesia.
Therefore I am not referring to the underlying Greek word Ekklesia (The called out - congregation) which is used in the Greek text for our Bible. This I will deal with later..
When the Catholic church evangelised Europe with it's false doctrine certain short cuts were taken. One favourite with the Catholics was to take over existing cults, converting them to 'Christianity'. Many pagan temples were thus converted into 'cirches', retaining the original word! Not only was the original word retained, so were the doctrines and priesthood.
Thus was born the idea that the church is the building, the only place for worship being on 'dedicated, holy ground' and hence the organisation/hierarchy of the priesthood (Catholic and later Anglican).
Listen to the words of 'saint' Bernard, a Cistercian monk and abbot of Clareval, who wrote a letter to the Earl of St. Giles in the year 1147, complaining that he was harbouring Henry of Toulouse, a heretick who practised believers baptism (by immersion for the remission of sins) and denying Catholic teachings. He was also opposed to the clergy. Bernard said in his letter "The churches are without people, the people with out priests, the priests without honour, and Christians without Christ. The churches are no longer conceived holy, nor the sacraments sacred, nor are the festivals any more celebrated. Men die in their sins, souls are hurried away to the terrible tribunal, without penitence or communion, baptism is refused to infants, who thus are precluded from salvation".
This was part of Bernard's ongoing attack on the British and European churches of Christ at that time.
As the Bible found it's way into English the word cirche also found it's way into the translations of the time (Wickliffe 1380).
Tynedale in his translations (1526 - onwards) realising that the word church referred to the people of God, used the word congregation instead. The 1611 KJ translators retained 'church' although by this time it was realised the word church referred to the congregation rather than the building/organisation.
Churches of Christ during this period (1600s) were known as 'church (or congregation) of Christ' or Church of Christ or Congregation of Christ. All three being used interchangeably.
In the Isle of Wight which lies south to Portsmouth, England, is the town of Godshill. So named because here is a hill where pagan gods were worshiped. This was a pagan 'high place' where not only pagan worship took place, but also folk were sacrificed to pacify various gods including Bel (Baal).
The Isle of Wight was the last part of what is now called England, to fall into the clutches of the Catholic Church, around the year 900.
As Catholic missionaries advanced across Europe pagan temples were taken over, their priesthood (Druid) being retained along with their customs. Godshill with it's 'high Place', temple (cherch) and priesthood were retained.
Inside this church building is an interesting notice, which I repeat here in full:
"Welcome to this Church, Here the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and the Sacraments of his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church are celebrated according to the custom of the church of England.
The Church of England teaches and practices the faith brought to this land in 597AD by St Augustine and his predecessors.
The Church of England did not become protestant (a word nowhere found in the 39 Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer or its alternatives) but retained the Catholic Creeds and Orders of Ministry of the Church.
The Eucharist, the service our Lord himself gave us, it regularly celebrated here and the Holy communion of Christ's body and Blood is received. A light burns to mark the place where the Sacrament is reserved, so that Holy Communion may be given at other times. The light reminds us that Christ is here; we may kneel in reverence and prayer.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated regularly so that those who repent may make their confession and receive God's forgiveness.
The people of God who worship in this place invite you to join them.
If we can help you further, please ask."
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