Article: Are the words "CHURCH" and 'BISHOP' wrong? by Will Kinney

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CHURCH Is the word “church” wrong in the King James Bible?

Lately I have run into several articles on the internet and in print that tell us that the King James Bible and many other English translations are wrong or inaccurate when they use the word “church”. Is their any merit to their criticisms or are they just muddying the waters of revealed truth?

One such individual who criticizes the word “church” is Cooper P. Abrams the III, and his article can be seen here:

Bible correctors, like Mr. Abrams, are a funny bunch. Every single one of them, without exception, holds the belief that there is no such thing as a complete, inspired, inerrant and 100% true Bible in any language on the earth today. This includes their never defined and ever elusive “the” Hebrew and “the” Greek.

So when you run into any man like this who tries to tell us that the King James Bible is poorly translated, uses the wrong texts or is deficient in any way, we know that we have run into another Bible agnostic. He doesn’t know what the inerrant Bible is nor where you can get one either. Why? Because he does not believe that such a thing exists.

Let’s take a few moments to look at Mr. Abram’s complaints and then examine whether there is any merit to them.

Mr. Abram starts off by telling us: “The purpose of this paper is to show that the early translators of the English Bible mistranslated the word "ekklesia" using the English word "church" instead of "assembly" or "congregation." This mistranslation has helped promote the false doctrine of a universal church and a hierarchical authority over the local congregation. Showing how this mistranslation has adversely affected the proper understanding of the biblical doctrine of the church will demonstrate the absolute necessity of translating the text literally and rejecting the influence of any particular church's theology.”

A little later in his harangue against the word “church” as being the correct translation he informs us: “The English dictionary reveals that the English word "church" which is used in our English Bible is taken from the late Greek word "kyriDakon" not "ekklesia." The Greek word "kyriDakon" is not found in the New Testament and only came into being in the 16th Century long after New Testament times. Thus the English word "church" cannot be translated back into Greek because there is no word in the New Testament Greek that is the equivalent of the understanding of the English word. “

If we examine his words carefully, what we see from the get go is that Mr. Abram’s is a very confused individual with a particular theological axe to grind. He is against what he calls “the false doctrine” of a universal church, and he informs us about “the absolute necessity of translating the text literally.” Yet how does he himself recommend that we translate the word ekklesia? Well, it’s either “assembly or congregation.”!!!

Apparently Mr. Abham and others like him are unaware of the simple fact that neither “assembly” nor “congregation” are literal and neither one comes “from the Greek” either.

By the way, he misspelled the Greek word. It is not “kyriDaicon” as he twice spelled it. The word church comes from the Greek word “kyriakon”, with no “d”. No wonder he couldn’t find it in the Greek New Testament. The correct word is kyriakon and it IS found in the New Testament twice, and it means “of the LORD”. It is found in 1 Corinthians 11:20 “the LORD’S supper” and in Revelation 1:10 “the LORD’S day”.

God’s church is definitely “of the Lord”. However the words Mr. Abram uses to “literally” translate the word ekklesia both come from the Latin and not the Greek at all.

An “assembly” comes from the Latin ‘ad’ meaning “to, or toward” and ‘simil’ meaning “together”. In English we have the words "simulcast" - showing both a radio and TV show together at the same time - and "simultaneous" - occurring together at the same time. The word “congregation” is from the Latin ‘com’ meaning “together” and ‘gregare’ meaning “to gather, or collect”. In English we get the word gregarious, meaning to gather together in a social setting, sociable.

People sometimes complain about the word “church” and tell us it can refer to the religious building or the people who are the believers in Christ. Well, that’s true. In common language the church can mean either the building or the people. Scripturally speaking, the true church of the Lord’s redeemed people is a building, and Jesus Christ is a corner stone and a foundation. It is a spiritual building made up of God’s people. “Ye are God’s building...I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon...For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 3:9-11. “Ye also as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house...Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.” 1 Peter 2:5-6.

The words “assembly” and “congregation” lose the meaning and connection to a spiritual house or temple made up of living stones. Neither is either word limited to a spiritual community of believers in Christ. In high school we used to go to “assembly” and I used to work on an “assembly line”. Likewise a congregation can be a group of people gathered together for any purpose at all. We have the congregation of the Senate in the Congress and most of us do not relate this to any kind of spiritual experience at all.

Additionally, Mr. Abrams is also mistaken when he tells us that the English word “church” (coming from the Greek word kyriakon and meaning “of the Lord”) didn’t come into being until the 16th century. If Mr. Abram were a baseball player, he has already swung wildly three times and missed. He has struck out.

Let’s take a look at the history of the English word “church” as found in our English Bibles. In 1380 John Wycliffe began translating the Scriptures into the English language. This is a full 2 Centuries before the 16th century Mr. Abram told us about.

Matthew 16:18 King James Holy Bible - “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my CHURCH; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Wycliffe Bible 1385 - “And Y seie to thee, that thou art Petre, and on this stoon Y schal bilde my CHIRCHE, and the yatis of helle schulen not haue miyt ayens it.”

In fact, Wycliffe’s bible has the words “chirche, chirches, and chirchis” some 111 times in the New Testament. So much for not existing in the English language till the 16th century.

Tyndale’s New Testament 1525 - It is true that when Tyndale came out with his translation he did not translate the word ekklesia as “church” but as “congregation”. But neither is this word “literally from the Greek” either. It’s from the Latin. Tyndale did use the word “church” but translated from a different Greek word as seen in Acts 19:37 where we read: “For ye have brought hyther these me whiche are nether robbers of CHURCHES nor yet despisers of youre goddes.” However the selective hypocrisy of Bible correctors like Mr. Abram is that I’ll bet he would not approve of the way both Tyndale and the King James Bible translate this passage either.

See my study on Acts 19:37 for more information on this and why the King James Bible is right and many modern versions are not.

The Coverdale bible was produced in 1535 and he also translated the word ekklesia as “congregation” but he was also familiar with the English word “churches” and used it four times in his translation. It is found in his English translation in Leviticus 26:31 -”And youre cities wyll I make waist, and brynge youre CHURCHES to naught” (KJB - sanctuaries), ; Hosea 8:14 “they haue forgotten him that made them, they buylde CHURCHES” (temples -KJB); Amos 7:9 and in Acts 19:39 “robbers of churches”.

The Bishop’s Bible 1568 and onward to modern times. Ever since the Bishop’s Bible came out in 1568 almost every major Bible version translated into the English language has used the word “church” when translating the word ekklesia. This includes the following Bible translations: the Geneva Bible 1560 -1602, the Revised Version 1881, American Standard Version of 1901, the Douay 1950, the RSV, NRSV 1989, ESV 2001, NASB 1963 - 1995, NKJV 1982, Amplified 2000, and the NIV 1984.

There have been a couple of minor translations like Darby 1870 and Youngs, but does anybody seriously think that either one of these bibles has made a lasting impact or is in any way the complete and infallible words of God? Does Mr. Abram believe that either one of these dust bin bible versions is infallible. I trow not.

Let it be known far and wide, that without exception, every person who begins criticizing the King James Bible is one who himself does not believe that ANY bible in ANY language IS now the complete and inerrant words of God. They have set up their own minds and understanding as their final authority.

So why not change the word “church” to something else like ecclesia, or assembly or congregation? Well, like it or not, agree with it or not, God has put the word “church” in His Book and we Bible believers will not change it.

What we see with the word “church” in the New Testament is that it has a godly origin, a long and fruitful history in the English language, an accurate spiritual meaning, and it is found in the only Bible believed by thousands to be the providentially preserved, complete and 100% true Holy Bible - the King James Holy Bible.

Will Kinney

BISHOPS Is the word “bishop” a bad translation in the King James Bible?

Bible correctors come in every stripe and flavor. Not one of them believes there exists a Bible composed of 66 books including both the Old and New Testaments in ANY language (including their never identified, nebulous and ever changing “the Greek and Hebrew”) that IS the complete and inerrant words of God.

We live in the days of apostasy, much like in the time of the Judges, where it is recorded: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25. Every Bible corrector thinks he’s an expert and yet not one of them agrees with anybody else as to what should be in “The Bible” and what should be omitted.

Such is the case with the word “bishop” as found not only in the King James Bible, but in many others as well. Why do they object to the word “bishop”? Some think it implies a hierarchy of church authority and make reference to the fact that we are all priests before God and nobody is “above” anybody else.

This argument is much in keeping with the spirit of our apostate age which casts off all authority and screams for their “rights” to be an independent, self-directed, “rugged” individual who is not going to let anybody else tell him what to do. It also displays a self-willed ignorance of the whole council of God as found in His precious words.

Like it or not, there is an office of a bishop, elder, presbyter and pastor (all of which are Biblically the same thing), and they do have a role of authority in teaching correct doctrine, guarding against false teachers, feeding the flock and maintaining church discipline.

Look at every reference to the elders, bishops, presbyters and pastor, and you will see that every New Testament church had a plurality of leadership. The modern day idea and practice of a single “pastor” presiding over a local church body of believers is no where to be found in the Scriptures.

Each local church had a plurality of elders or overseers. The word “elder” implies that they were generally older and more experienced mature men. “Overseers” brings out the aspect of watching over the flock to keep them safe from false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing. The “bishop” is the more literal word coming directly from the Greek New Testament and it means “to watch over” another. The “pastors” (which by the way is found only one time in the entire New Testament, and it’s in the plural and not the singular - Ephesians 4:11-12) were given by Christ to “feed” His church and protect God’s people.

“Let the ELDERS that RULE well be counted of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” 1 Timothy 5:17

“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Hebrews 13:7

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17

“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you: And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder...Feed the church of God which is among you, taking the oversight, not by constraint, but willingly...” 1 Peter 5:1-2

Notice that the “elders”, “bishops” and “overseers” are all the same office and position in the local church, and there was always a plurality of elders or bishops, not a single individual.

In Acts 20 we read: “And from Miletus he (Paul) sent to Ephesus, and called for THE ELDERS of the church. And when they were come to him he said...Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock of God, OVER THE WHICH the Holy Ghost hath made you OVERSEERS (Greek -episkopos = bishops), to FEED the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

“Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with THE BISHOPS and deacons: Grace unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:1-2.

Notice again that a “bishop” and an “elder” are the same office. The apostle Paul writes to his fellow helper Titus, and instructs him in the following way:

“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain ELDERS in every city, as I had appointed thee...For a BISHOP must be blameless, as the steward of God...” Titus 1:5-7.

The Greek word from which we directly get our English word “bishop” is episkopos and is found only five times in the entire New Testament. Four times the King James Bible translates it as “bishop” (three of which refer to men) and one time as “overseers” (Acts 20:28). One time the word Bishop refers to Christ Himself as “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” - 1 Peter 2:25

We also have the almost exact same Greek word episkope and it is translated as “the office of a bishop” and “bishoprick” (Acts 1:20). The word bishoprick is not at all archaic. By the way, the office of a bishop is called an “office” in the Bible. “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” I Timothy 3:1. There is also the office of a deacon - See 1 Timothy 3:10, 13.

I mention this fact because I ran into an anti-King James Bible poster who was ranting against the KJB’s use of the word “bishop” and how they translated Acts 1:20 as “bishoprick.

You can clearly see his rabid, unreasoning disdain for the King James Bible as he almost foams at the mouth saying: “Please follow closely: Acts 1:20... and His BISHOPRIC let another take. Okay, now read this one: Psalm 109:8 ... and let another take his OFFICE. Now, as far as I can tell, OFFICE is not the same thing as BISHOPRIC, unless you are an Anglican. It is supposed to be a direct quote. Also, I don't like the way the KJV translators altered what the text said in Psalm 109:8. Under what authority (besides the queer king's) did the translators have to CHANGE God's word? What is different is not the same, we are all told by the KJVO crowd. Now, are there any KJVO Baptists who agree with this translation?.” -Originally posted by Daniel David.

Well, Daniel. Yes, the bishopric IS an office. If you knew your Bible a little better and how to use the English language, you would know that a “bishopric” (or bishoprick) is defined as the position, authority, office or rank of a bishop. Just look it up in any good English dictionary.

Those like Daniel and others out there who think it is their sacred duty to criticize and “correct” the King James Bible apparently are unaware of how many other Bible translations also use the words “bishop” and “bishopric”. The following is a list of Bible translations, both before and after the King James Bible, that use the word “bishop”.

Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1560 - 1602, Mace N.T. 1729, Wesley’s N.T. 1755, the Revised Version 1881, Webster’s 1833, the American Standard Version 1901, the Revised Standard Version 1952, 1973, the Bible in Basic English 1960, the Berkeley Version Modern Language Bible 1969, the New King James Version 1982, the New Revised Standard Version 1989, the Revised English Version 1989, the Amplified version 1987, the 21st Century KJV 1994 and the Third Millenium Bible 1998.

Among foreign language versions that also read “bishop” in the various N.T. passages are Martin Luther’s German bible 1545 “Bischof”, the French Martin 1744, the French Ostervald 1996, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960 and 1995 “los obispos”, the Portuguese Almeida “obispo”, and the Italian Diodati 1649 and the New Diodati 1991.

Many modern English versions have omitted the English word bishop. These include the ESV, NASB, NIV and Holman Standad. Daniel Wallace’s NET version translates the Greek word episkopos as “overseer” in 1 Timothy 3:2 but still he has the honesty to footnote: “or bishop”

Other Bible translations that have Acts 1:20 reading: “...and his bishoprick (bishopric) let another take.” are Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops’ Bible, Webster’s, the Douay-Rheims, the 21st Century KJV, the Third Millenium Bible 1998 and the Spanish Reina Valera 1909 - “Tome otro su obispado.”

Actually, the Hebrew word translated as "office" in Psalm 109:8 is also translated as "oversight" - Numbers 3:32; 4:16 (which is the literal meaning of the Greek and English word used in the King James Bible), as well as "visitation" (again matching the King James Bible translation in the N.T.) Officers, office, custody, and charge - "them that have charge over the city".

The word “bishop” is a perfectly accurate translation of the very Greek word this English word comes from. The King James Bible is God’s providential Book and you will never overthrow it. The problem with the Bible correctors is that they do not believe that ANY Bible in ANY language IS today the complete, inspired and inerrant words of God. So they see themselves as being free to tinker with, alter, change, re-do, criticize and correct any bible or any texts (and ESPECIALLY those of the King James Holy Bible) anytime it seems “right in their own eyes”. - Judges 21:25

By the grace and mercy of God, still believing the Book,

Will Kinney

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