THE CHURCH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Part V - (Continued)
cases (1 Corinthians 10:32; 11:22, and probably 12:28) to which this last metaphorical implication is attached, and it will be noticed that the direct reference is even here to the local body.
Second. The changes in interpretation, due to recent textual and grammatic recension, are almost without exception favorable to the distributive as against the universal sense of the word. Observe the bearing of the following changes introduced by the Revisers. In Ephesians 2:21 "all the building" has now become "each several building." In Ephesians 3:15 "the whole family" now reads "every family." In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 "a temple" has been substituted for "the temple." In some instances they have inconsistently retained the definite article where, according to Dr. Hort, the form of the Greek makes it inadmissible. For example, "the church of God" in 1 Timothy 3:5, as well as in verse 15, should be "a church of God." He thinks it more accurate, also, to render Colossians 3:15 "called in a body" than, as now, "in one body."
The significance of some of these changes, as affecting the question under consideration, will be at once apparent. A careful
study of the context will show others not less important.
As bearing upon the general antithesis of basileia and ecclesia, here contended for, it may be worthy of notice that while the tendency of textual emendation has been to confine ecclesia more rigorously to its original local and partitive sense, the two changes in the case of basileia have looked in the direction of singleness and universality. In Revelation 1:6 the Revisers have given "a kingdom" instead of "kings" while in the same book (11:15) the plural "kingdoms" has given way to the singular "kingdom."
Third. With this relinquishment of successive outworks has come a practical abandonment of what has hitherto been treated as the central position: it is no longer claimed that the universal is the primary or ordinary meaning of ecclesia. Whether tested by an etymological or historic standard, it limits itself inexorably to the partitive sense. Primarily it was an actual assembly of an individual group: it was, in time, extended also, subordinately, to a company accustomed to assemble: but it never referred to a world-body nor to an ideal assembly.
There are two words in Hebrew, according to Dr. Hort, referring to the "congregation" of Israel, which are of especial interest in this connection. The first (edhah) designates "the society itself, formed by the children of Israel or their representative heads, whether assembled or not assembled." The second (qahal) is "properly their actual meeting together." The two words sometimes occur together and are equivalent to "the assembly of the congregation "(italics not in original). Now it is the word qahal for which ecclesia was chosen by the Seventy as an equivalent; and for obvious reasons. The Hebrew and the Greek word each came from a root which signified to call or summon. In the case of the Greek "the original calling out is simply the calling of the citizens of a Greek town out of their houses by the herald's trumpet to summon them to the assembly: and Numbers 10 shows that the summons to the Jewish assembly was made in the same way."
Both the Hebrew words referred to are "mainly confined to the historical parts of the historical book. They have no place in the greater prophecies having what we call a Messianic import. From all parts of the
Book of Isaiah they are both entirely absent." Their use, therefore, "is almost wholly historical, not ideal or doctrinal." Schurer cites certain passages from the Talmud to show that qahal came to "have a high ideal character": but these, as Dr. Hort assures us, "do not at all bear him out."
In the later historical books, he finds indications that qahal (and its equivalent ecclesia) had come to include the idea represented by the other words mentioned, and ecclesia and sunagoge had thus become closely allied in sense. In the Apocrypha sunagoge already appears to be shrinking into a name of the local congregation. That the word ecclesia had shrunk correspondingly in Jewish conception is implied in the statement that "the actual precept (in Matthew 18:17) is hardly intelligible if what the ecclesia meant is not the Jewish community, apparently the Jewish local community, to which the injured person and the offender both belonged."
We may thus appeal to the authority of this eminent critic in confirmation of the suggestion herein already offered, that, to the mind of a Greek-speaking Jew in our Lord's time, the word ecclesia would naturally
suggest the synagogue, and therefore couple itself primarily with the notion of a local organization.
Under this changed aspect of the case, it is manifest that the burden of proof shifts to the shoulders of him who will impose upon a familiar word an unusual, and, in the first instance, improbable, sense.
Fourth. In accordance with what has just been said, Dr. Hort admits the necessity of finding some other than etymological, grammatical or historical grounds on which to rest his continued faith in Paul's intent to refer to a Church universal. This is not the "proper original force" of ecclesia: it is not traceable to "current usage": it has been always limited by Paul himself to a local organization which has "a corresponding unity of its own: each is a body of Christ and a sanctuary of God." But, upon reaching Ephesians, he discovers the idea of "the one universal ecclesia" for the first time, "and it comes more from the theological than from the historical side; i.e., less from the circumstances of the actual Christian community than from a development of thought respecting the place and office of the Son of God. His Headship was felt to involve
the unity of all those who were united in Him." This language is somewhat confusing. Does he mean that Paul is still speaking of the local body as a symbol or type of the heavenly church? If the church referred to be not historical, it can hardly be actual at all; yet he seems to imply in what follows that the language directly refers to a present reality; for he speaks of it just after as an earthly "community." Here is again proposed a novel and highly precarious form of exegetical procedure. Instead of resorting to etymology, historic precedent, the usage of contemporaries or of the writer himself, or to adjacent circumstance, to settle the meaning of a word, resort is had to an inverted process, and an unprecedented meaning is thus reflected upon it by theological inference. It is not remarkable that the learned exegete should, by his roundabout process, reach at the end of his discussion only the halting conclusion that "it may be regarded as morally certain that the Ecclesia here intended is not a local community, but the community of Christians as a whole." Moral certainty falls a good way short of demonstrative certainty. The qualifying word implies hesitation and invites
suspense of judgment. There is no such qualifying word used, or thought of, when the question of the local sense of the word has been under notice.
It comes to this, then, that the notion of a universal Church, as derived from the New Testament, has thus far rested largely on mistaken citation of inapplicable texts, that advancing study of the text has robbed it of some supports which in the older translation seemed to buttress it, and that its latest advocate feels compelled to rest his defense of it solely on the probable force of theoretic inference.
It can not be unreasonable to see in this backward trend an occasion for distrust, and for suspecting that the process of revision of judgment ought to go still further.
The admission that the primary sense of ecclesiais local, coupled with the recognition of an increasingly preponderant number of instances of its use in that sense in the New Testament, tend strongly toward the repudiation of the universal meaning still attached to it in a few remaining passages. For the extraordinary is prima facie the improbable, and requires extraordinary evidence. The natural presumption is in favor of any interpretation
which does not require the sudden and incongruous introduction of an unfamiliar meaning. Bearing this in mind, let us ask if there be not
6. Difficulties in this interpretation of "ecclesia" in Ephesians and Colossians. Dr. Hort does not conceal from himself the difficulties that attend the effort to fix upon Paul's use of the word in these Epistles a meaning discordant with his own hitherto absolutely uniform, as well as with "current," usage. This is arbitrary and indefensible, unless compelled by extraneous considerations.
These considerations he finds in three circumstances. 1. That in the course of his teaching Paul has come to dwell upon "the relation of the Son of God to the constitution of the universe, and to the course of human history, and in connection with such themes it was but natural that the Ecclesiaof God should find place." 2. That "to St. Paul, when writing this Epistle (Ephesians) 'the Ecclesia' was a kind of symbol or visible expression of that wondrous 'mystery,' to use his own word, which had been hidden throughout the ages, but was not made manifest; that the Gentiles were fellow-heirs and
of the same body": for "He is our peace and hath made them both one." 3. That he was writing from Rome and by the "impressiveness of the Empire" he "must have been vividly reminded of the already existing unity which comprehended both Jew and Gentile under bond of subjection to the emperor at Rome, and similarity and contrast would alike suggest that a truer unity bound together in one society all believers in the crucified Lord." Thus "in Ephesians and Colossians the change [i.e., in meaning] comes not so much by an expansion or extension of the thought of each local ecclesia as a body over a wider sphere as by way of corollary or application, so to speak, of larger and deeper thoughts on the place of Christ in the universal economy of things, antecedent not only to the Incarnation, but to the whole course of the world."
The circumstances named, and especially the admission that the new conception of ecclesia is not an "expansion or extension" of the old, suggest the illegitimacy of the proposed interpretation, when considered from two distinct points of view.
First. It would be a palpable violation of the laws of speech, quite unfairly attributed
to Paul, to suppose that he has substituted an entirely different meaning, rather than one normally developed, metaphorically or otherwise, from the old.
Second. It would impose upon the word not simply an alien meaning, but one diametrically opposite to its natural sense. The precise point of contrast between basileia and ecclesia is, that the former does, as the latter does not, derive unity from a central personality. But the world-fellowship just alluded to, which involves a "mystery," which springs out of the headship of Christ, and which is suggested by the rival imperial unity of Rome, manifestly brings before us that very basileia of which Christ so often spoke. The identity of the basileia with the ecclesia. Dr. Hort has already emphatically declared to be unjustifiable. Paul, in Colossians, speaks of the great company of the redeemed as translated into the "kingdom" (1:13), and afterwards, in the same chapter (and apparently as discriminating the two), speaks of the "church" (1:18). For ecclesia incontinently to take on the sense of basileia would be as unnatural as for "democracy" to ask to be understood as equivalent to "monarchy."
Third. But this is not the only incongruity entailed by the proposed rendering. The attempt to define the constituency of the universal ecclesia brings new trouble. "There is no indication that St. Paul regarded the conditions of membership in the universal Ecclesia as differing from the conditions of membership in the local ecclesia." On this basis it becomes impossible to suppose it made up of local bodies as such, or that it is invisible, or limited to the elect, or wholly in the heavens. All this is distinctly affirmed, and buttressed by confirmatory words from Paul. "The members which make up the one Ecclesia are not communities, but individual men. The one Ecclesia includes all members of all partial ecclesia; but its relations to them all are direct, not mediate." The learned author here recedes apparently from his affirmation that the larger is not a mere expansion of the smaller body: for in determining the features and gauging the membership of the former, he makes the latter an inexorable pattern. The universal ecclesia must be earthly, visible, and made up of individuals, since the local ecclesia is so. But in carrying out the parallel there is an unfortunate hiatus. For he
has again and again declared it to be essential to the very being of an ecclesia that it should be an organized body. The Jewish ecclesiawas "no mere agglomeration of men." Speaking of the church at Ephesus, he remarks that "it would seem as though he (Paul) dreaded the very semblance of representing an Ecclesia of God as intended to be a shapeless crowd of like and equal units." When the seven deacons were chosen, it was a "sign that the Ecclesia was to be an Ecclesia indeed, not a mere horde of men ruled absolutely by the Apostles, but a true body politic." But in what sense can "all the members of all the churches" be said to form a "body politic"? Scattered and unrelated individuals, however personally visible, do not constitute a visible ecclesia. The Church of Rome alone can pretend to be the universal ecclesia here contended for, and that comes short of the standard, in that it does not take in "all the members of all the churches." There is no actual ecclesia such as the definition, consistently completed, demands.
Fourth. But, again, it is found impossible to interpret all the figures employed by Paul in these Epistles in the universal sense.
The representation of the ecclesia as the "body" and the "wife" of Christ are supposed to refer to the Church universal, but "if we are not to disregard both grammar and natural sense," we must interpret the "temple" of the local body. "The thought of a universal spiritual temple is, to say the least, not definitely expressed anywhere by Paul." In this particular Dr. Hort abandons the position of Meyer and other earlier exegetes, who held that Paul, as a Jew, could not have tolerated the notion of more than one temple. The new reading "each several building" seems to compel reference to the single church, which "groweth into an holy temple" of itself, rather than to a conglomeration of many buildings growing into one - an incoherent figure. The same principle applies in the case of the "household" (Ephesians 2:19), which seems to be equally limited to the partitive sense by the expression in 3:15, "every family in heaven and on earth." The local body is specifically referred to in Colossians 4:15, 16, where he speaks of the ecclesia in the "house" of Nymphas and that "of the Laodiceans." In the body of both Epistles, it can not be denied that his remarks are generally localized
by the constant use of "we," "you" and the like, as well as by the discussion of relations and exhortation to duties peculiar to personal fellowship in a single body. So that the universal sense of the word is not constant, even in this narrow range. The apostle "glides" from local to universal, to borrow Dr. Hort's own term, and recedes again to the local. That this hypothesis attributes to Paul a most unnatural vacillation in the use of terms, and that it gives too much play to the caprice of a slippery fancy in translation, is plain. For if there is any part of the Epistle to the Ephesians in which the stress of theological argument should compel the introduction of the new sense of universality, it must be in the second and third chapters, where the "mystery" of the fellowship of Jew and Gentile, through the unifying grace of Christ, is most emphasized. But it is precisely here that the intractable figure of "household" and "temple" occur: and, notably enough, they are used of the local church as if coordinately with "the body" (3:6), which is claimed to have been used in 1:23, in a sense unquestionably universal.
Fifth. But there is still another difficulty
in the interpretation by theological indirection instead of exegetical principle. The argument for universality on this basis proves too much. It is urged that the immense range of the Apostle's thought in Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23 and Colossians 1:18-20, coupled as it is with "the body, the church," compels the enlargement of our view of the latter commensurately with "the place of Christ in the universal economy of things." In that case ecclesia can no longer be limited to earth or to the membership of visible churches, but as "the fulness of him that filleth all in all," but must become identical with the universe: since, in the universe, Christ "is before all things, and in him all things consist."
Before accepting as "morally certain" an interpretation of Paul's language which would make him, in these Epistles, suddenly defy "current usage" to which he had hitherto rigidly conformed, ignore every precedent which he had himself established, and introduce a new and arbitrary sense into the word (for it is "not an expansion or extension" of its familiar sense that is proposed) - this new sense to be subtly alternated with the old, throughout the discussion
- we may reasonably pause to ask whether the structure and phraseology of the text compel this extraordinary interpretation.
7. A more rational view. In the first place, then, is there anything in the scope of the Apostle's thought, or in the form of its expression, absolutely inconsistent with the retention of the familiar local sense of ecclesia; by such retention harmonizing its meaning throughout the New Testament? It is plausibly urged that the reference to "the church" as "his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all," and the declaration that Christ is "head over all things to the church," taken in connection with the broad sweep of the terms in which Christ is alluded to as having reconciled "all things unto himself" (including the making of the Jew and Gentile "twain, one new man"), forbid the notion that he can be referring to the insignificant local church. But the conclusion indicated is not irresistible. It does not follow that because a truth or fact is universal in character, it must express itself through a vehicle universal in extent. The law of the heavenly worlds is revealed in the raindrop. The Son of God was "revealed" in Paul. God is "glorified" in his individual
saints. If it be thought strange that a local body should be described as manifesting the "fulness" of God, let it be noticed that in Colossians 2:9, 10 the "fulness of God" is said to have dwelt "bodily" in Christ, it being added that "in him ye are made full": and that in Ephesians 3:19 the prayer is offered that "ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God." It has been sometimes insisted that the resort to such figures as "body," "temple" and "wife" cuts off the possibility of local, which must be multiple, reference; since there was but one temple, and consistency of metaphor required but a single body or wife. Dr. Hort does not delude himself with this sophistical argument, for he recognizes the conclusiveness of the answer, that the Apostle has elsewhere uniformly spoken of the individual church as "a body of Christ," "a temple," "a virgin": and that in Ephesians "a holy temple" (2:21) refers to the Ephesian church, while the Colossians are, in like manner, said to have been "called in a body" (3:15) — at least, he so translates the latter clause. As to the breaking down of the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and between alien classes of all sorts, it would seem that the
local church was the chief, if not the only, agency through which that great change was intended to become manifest. It does not appear that racial, social or civic distinctions at large were directly interfered with by Christianity, except as these hindered equality in the single "household of faith." Paul urged Titus to require "subjection to rulers" in civic affairs, sent back Onesimus to Philemon, consented to the circumcision of the Jewish-born Timothy, although he resented the suggestion in the case of the Gentile Titus, and himself shaved his head and took a vow, which he would have denounced in a Gentile. He rebuked Peter, not because he would not eat with Greeks in general, but because he refused to fraternize with Gentile members of the Antiochean church. All that is said in Ephesians of the Gentiles as "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God," "fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body," as "members one of another," and reconciled "both in one body unto God," finds illustration and confirmation in the local church at Ephesus, as it could not find in the leveling or obliteration of established distinctions of birth or rank in the outside world, even
among "members of Christian churches."
In the second place, does the inherent force of the symbols chosen encourage the notion of universality, invisible or otherwise? The coincident symbolic use of "body" and "temple" has already occurred, in our Lord's allusion to his own incarnate form (John 2:19-21). But the very essence of incarnation, as a "manifestation of God in the flesh," involved local and visible tangibility. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1.) Closely allied to the idea of the temple is that of "building," which is applied to the coming "church" (Matthews 16:18). All these allusions point irresistibly to a concrete organism. In that sense they are taken up in the Epistles and applied in detail to the local church. "Edification" (or building) is the constantly recurring term descriptive of the processes by which the individual members of the single community are to adjust themselves to each other for the development of the symmetrical unity of the body to which they belong. Of the more than twenty instances in which this word occurs, only four are found in the Ephesians. All except two of these instances are admitted without question to apply to the local
body. The local organization is confessedly spoken of (Ephesians 2:21) as a "several building." But afterward we read of the "jointing together [katartismon] of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ": and of "the body fitly framed and knit together." And this is alleged to refer to the universal "body." But, aside from the fact that this figurative language is coupled directly with "we" and "ye," the phraseology implies a continuity of the subject of thought, the "body" having taken the place of the "temple" of chapter 2; and referring, therefore, still to the Ephesian church. The fact that it is here "the body," instead of "a body," is not significant, in view of what has already been said as to the use of the definite article, which often points to the specific body as representative of a class.
In the third place, regard ought to be had, in translation, to the essential, as discriminated from the incidental, features of the thing referred to. We must not forget the sage remark of Aristotle that undue expansion of the limits of a thing, whereby it becomes incapable of performing its characteristic functions, may destroy the identity
of the thing itself. Every definition must be rejected, therefore, that lies open to this criticism. A perverted gospel, Paul said, is "no gospel." The functions of an ecclesia, as clearly and uniformly set forth in the New Testament, are preeminently two: "edification" of its individual constituents, and "manifestation" of the educating and unifying power of the gospel to those without. But neither of these is possible, except in case of a company among whom intimacy of relation and organized activity makes mutual influence possible; and whose "unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" can become the subject of external recognition.
A Church universal, composed of a disintegrated, unorganized throng of "members of all the churches," is from the functional point of view inconceivable. And how could an indistinguishable, unrecognizable company of God's elect, the invisible Church, serve either the one purpose of a church or the other. A perverted ecclesia is, to borrow Paul's phraseology, no ecclesia.
Finally, some attention must be paid, in determining the force of terms, to the peculiar genius of Christianity, as compared
with Judaism. Judaism was aggregative and centripetal in organization: Christianity is individualizing and centrifugal. The Old Testament is mainly a national history: the New Testament begins with a fourfold personal biography, and passes on to personal Epistles addressed to local communities. Men were tethered into corporate unity, in the old order, by involuntary entanglement in the mesh of consanguinity, and promise and privilege were tribal covenants "running with the blood," rather than individual gifts. Under the new, every man must believe and obey for himself, and "work out his own salvation" as a "member of a body of Christ." If the Jews had but one temple, it must be remembered that Christ foretold its destruction and the rightful worship of God every where; and that Christianity did not come to its best until it was destroyed. Christianity did not take its departure from the one temple, but from the many synagogues. It was not simply an outgrowth from, but rather a reaction against, Judaism. It might, accordingly, be expected that the new ecclesia would emphasize the distributive, as the old had expressed the comprehensive, idea. The actual partition of
the unorganized Pentecostal community, erelong, into distinct churches widely scattered, the localization of the Epistles in title and contents, and the steady drift of apostolic usage, all confirm the impression that our Lord meant, from the beginning, to work out his purpose on earth especially through the agency of the local church, upon which he thereby put peculiar honor and abiding emphasis.
8. Recapitulation. It may be well, at this point, to pause and summarize briefly the chief results of our inquiry.
(1) We have found a recent increasing tendency among scholars to repudiate the notion, uniformly assented to "since the days of Augustine," that "church" and "kingdom" are identical. Dr. Candlish cites a long list of authorities to this effect. We may add also the influential names of Dr. Hort (previously referred to), James Orr and A. M. Fairbairn. Dr. Fairbairn (in his "Studies in the Life of Christ") has discussed the question in detail, pointing out the irreconcilable features of the two, and concluding that "the church and the kingdom may thus be more properly contrasted than compared." "The church was to promote
the ends, realize the ideals of the kingdom. If basileia was steeped in Hebrew, ecclesia was penetrated with Greek associations." (Note the bearing of this last statement, in connection with what has been here urged.)
(2) The theory of identity, thus boldly abandoned after centuries of unhesitating acceptance, proves upon examination to have been uniformly and logically interlocked with the notion of a "church universal"; which still prevails, although confusedly interpreted. Both notions build upon the same Judaeo-Christian hypothesis, and justify themselves by the same exegetic methods; both lend themselves to the support of the same type of ecclesiastical organization; and both seem to have had a common historic origin. For the ''days of Augustine," to which we are referred for the beginning of the now exploded theory of identity, followed soon after the first "ecumenical" council and the established conception of an imperial church — the incipient stage of the later "Holy Roman Empire." From that time the imperial, the national, or the hereditary, theory of the church has been in the ascendant, and the exegetical pressure of
each has been in the same direction. Advancing scholarship has now overthrown one of these twin-born and indissolubly associated ideas. It can not be presumptuous to suspect that, under a like test, the other is doomed to the same fate. Truth is not ultimately settled by the voice of the majority, nor even by that of still unanimous tradition.
(3) Applying the ordinary principles of criticism to the text of the New Testament, we find a strong presumption in favor of popular usage, rather than the Septuagint, as the primary source of authority in determining the meaning of the words in question. Both words are Greek; both had a definite and familiar sense; both were taken originally from the political sphere, and had a radically antithetic signification. Basileia had come to designate the world-wide Roman Empire exclusively: while ecclesia had come to refer to various forms of local assembly, the Jews applying it familiarly to the indi vidual synagogue.
(4) Our Lord's use of the words in the Gospels confirms the expectation thus aroused. He uses the word ecclesia but twice. In one of these instances he points
unequivocally to a local assembly taken as a "representative" of a class (to borrow Dr. Hort's characterization). In the other, where the two words are brought into juxtaposition, interpretation in the same sense makes the whole passage not only more intelligible, but harmonizes better with the figurative and historic implications of the context. The word basileia, as elsewhere occurring in his utterances, is coupled with allusions quite unintelligible as applied to a synonymous ecclesia, but consistent enough if the two are treated as in their nature to be "contrasted rather than compared."
(5) Turning to the Acts and Epistles where writer and reader are predominantly Hellenes or Hellenized, the presumption of conformity to popular Gentile conception naturally increases in force. Jowett says of the Greeks that "the intensity of their inner life rendered it impossible for them to amalgamate great masses of men. Besides, the idea itself was repugnant to the Greek mind." It could hardly be presumed that an intelligent writer, addressing a Greek constituency, would inject into a familiar word a sense not only unfamiliar, but "repugnant," to his reader's methods of thought; expecting
him to fish out intuitively the idea meant to be conveyed.
We discover, on referring to the text, that our expectation is again justified by cumulative circumstances.
a. While basileia is uniformly treated as single and universal, never concrete, and usually future, in reference, ecclesiais, with relatively few exceptions, limited by its plural form or its specific application, to an individual, visible, existing body.
b. The figures commonly employed as descriptive of the ecclesia ("body," "temple," "household") are such as wholly lose significance when evaporated into generality of interpretation. Some of the Lutheran divines illustrate the absurdity into which one may be betrayed by attempting thus illegitimately to expand the figure to fit it to a theory. For they soberly maintained the ubiquity of Christ's fleshly body.
c. The functions uniformly allotted to the ecclesia become impracticable when at tributed to the unknown elect, to a heterogeneous collection of unaffiliated local or provincial bodies, or to an unorganized multitude of individual disciples. The assumptions and exhortations of the bulk of the
Epistles would be meaningless and profitless if considered as addressed to such a motley company.
At this point we may appeal to modern criticism for confirmation of the impression thus far independently created by examination of the test. From them we learn that
d. The list of exceptional cases in which the universal sense has hitherto been confidently assumed to attach to the word ecclesia must be still further pruned down. There remain only Ephesians and Colossians to draw upon — Epistles which are avowedly addressed to a constituency peculiarly strong in Gentile association. Even there the figure of the "temple" can not be made to yield a universal reference; and the other figures are rendered equivocal as witnesses, by the circumstance that they have all been used elsewhere by the same writer, and, with out exception, have been locally applied by him.
e. Progressive recension of the text has steadily favored the contrasted meaning of the two words: unity of the basileia and plurality of ecclesia more and more appear ing in the new text.
f. Finally, the effort to derive the universal
sense, even in the few passages that remain, from the text itself, by ordinary exegetical treatment of the language, has been abandoned. Dr. Hort's admission that it must be artificially attached to the word by argumentative inference amounts to the denial that any such meaning inheres in the word itself. How much is meant by the statement that the notion of universality thus introduced is to be taken in the "theological," as contrasted with the "historical," sense is not quite clear. The words naturally suggested an intended antithesis of the ideal with the actual. And this is the only logical issue of his argument. This may be made plain from his use of the figure of the "wife" (Ephesians 5:22, 23) ; to which our attention has not yet been especially given. While admitting that the Apostle has elsewhere invariably given it a local or individual sense, he finds in it here a prospective reference to the "bride" of Revelation 21:2: which latter passage refers retrospectively to the relation of husband and wife between Jehovah and Israel as described by the prophets. As the Apocalyptic "bride" represents the whole number of the redeemed, it is inferred that the like figure must here have a like breadth
of reach. To interpret a practical letter to living men by the mystic symbolism of the Apocalypse is, at the best, a precarious kind of exegesis. It will be observed that the vision referred to by John looks on to a time when the "first heaven and the first earth are passed away." The "bride" is not described as "the church," but the "holy city": a "throne" being in its midst; an idea wholly incongruous with all representations of the earthly ecclesia. The whole symbolism, therefore, belongs to that heavenly region to which modern scholarship, as already shown, refers the "general assembly and church of the firstborn" of Hebrews 12:23 (who are expressly there associated with the "heavenly Jerusalem"); and it accordingly lies outside of the subject under discussion. The utmost claim of affinity between the figure as used by Paul and by John, respectively, is that the bridal "church" of the one is a type of the bridal "city" of the other. But the "city" is an organized municipality whose citizens are actually gathered together. The local ecclesia normally typifies this, as a universal ecclesia, made up of "all the members of all the churches," scattered and unaffiliated, can not.
The critics having thus lent so large sanction and reinforcement to the tendencies suggested by independent inquiry, we need not hesitate to venture a little further in the direction whither they point, but refuse as yet to go. They have repudiated, in turn, every one of the definitions of the Church universal hitherto given: assuring us that it can not, according to any fair interpretation of New Testament language, be composed of local churches, of national churches, of a hereditary line, or of the elect. They have torn away a large part of the textual foundation on which the universal theory has hitherto rested in apparent security, and rudely shaken all the remainder. They have confirmed the impression that the antithesis, familiar to the Greek popular mind, between basileia and ecclesia, is recognized and reflected in the New Testament. The inference is irresistible, that if basileia there be universal, ecclesia can not be. That is to say, there is not only no such universal Church as has ordinarily been believed; there is no warrant in the New Testament for faith in any such Church at all, as a present "historic" reality.
The Scripture knows but one "kingdom,"
for the time being "within" and invisible: to become visible in God's good time; and, in that sense, yet future. Over against this it sets, steadily and consistently, the "church" as a present, local, individual, visible organization, capable of indefinite multiplication.
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