“Church” is a Mistranslation.

People frequently discuss which are the better Bible translations. There is a significant group that holds to the Authorised Version as the best. It may well be, but even the Authorised Version, also known as King James Version or KJV, has a dire mistranslation that almost all other versions have followed.

The issue here is the word “Church”, which is used to translate the Greek word ecclesia. The meanings are not the same. Ecclesia only has the sense of a group of people with a common purpose. It can even refer to a rioting mob. There is no sense of hierarchy, buildings, rituals, connection with state power and the like which are associated strongly with the word “Church”. Significantly, William Tyndale, who burned at the stake for his groundbreaking Bible translation, translated ecclesia as “congregation”, emphasising, particularly in the language of the day, a group of people. But when King Jame’s authorised a translation for use in English Churches the translators were not given a choice about the word “Church”. The King insisted, indeed commanded. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the KJV is that it was a deeply political publication, and can only be called “Authorised” because it was authorised by the King, the Head of State, not by any group of Christians. The saving grace for the KJV is that it was heavily based upon Tyndale’s translation, and Tyndale was not in the game for personal advantage or power. He always knew his life was on the line, and had no interest other than accuracy.

Sometimes in the Greek New Testament ecclesia is clarified as ecclesia theon, meaning “People of God”. The sense here of people who come together in fellowship, because of a common commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, is almost entirely lost in the word “Church” today. But the Churches find it very convenient, to say the least, in maintaining the idea that Christianity and Church are one and the same.