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Craig Blomberg on the Meaning of ekklesia

Posted by on Nov 11, 2010 in books, definition | 12 comments

Craig Blomberg on the Meaning of ekklesia

Following my previous post (“David Thomas on the Meaning of ekkklesia“), I thought I would post a quote from a more recent commentary.

This time, the quote is from Craig Blomberg in his commentary on Matthew (NAC 22; Nashville: Broadman, 1992). Blomberg is commenting on Matthew 16:16-18. He defines the Greek term ἐκκλησία (ekklesia – normally translated “church”) here because it is the first occurrence of the term in the Gospel of Matthew.

Here is the quote:

So what does Jesus promise Peter? He will be the foundation on which Christ will build his “church.” Here is the first use of ekklesia in the Gospels. It occurs only three times, all in Matthew, and the other two references are both in 18:17. Many hold that Jesus did not conceive of establishing a church and that these verses are later Matthean insertions. But the nature of Jesus’ instruction to his community of followers certainly implied their continued existence in some form, even if there is little of an “institution” yet in view. Moreover, the word ekklesia in Hellenistic Greek often simply meant an assembly… The popular view that the church is somehow to separate itself from society, based on the derivation of ekklesia from ekkaleo (to call out) affords a classic example of what linguists call the etymological fallacy. Words often develop meanings over time that differ from their roots. They only sense in which the word church in New Testament times means those who are called out is that believers routinely gather together by leaving their separate places of residence or work. (p 252-53) (italics in original)

Blomberg explains that the ekklesia (assembly) of God is different from all other ekklesiai because it is composed of those who submit themselves to the rule of God in their lives (i.e., the kingdom of God).


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  1. 11-11-2010

    This isn’t the first occurrence of ἐκκλησία in Matthew – it occurs first in Matthew 16.18 (to which Blomberg is referring here).

  2. 11-11-2010


    Oops… I typed in the wrong chapter number. I’ve corrected it. Thanks for the tip!


  3. 11-11-2010

    Well, “etymological fallacy” is a term that just knocks it right out of the park for me.

  4. 11-12-2010


    IMO – Craig Blomberg missed it – – – by a country mile. ;-)

    Craig writes…
    “So what does Jesus promise Peter?
    He (Peter?) will be the foundation on which Christ will build his “church.”

    I don’t think Jesus is pointing to Peter as **the foundation** of “His Church.”
    “Foundation” is not even in this verse. Craig adds that term. My…My… Tsk…Tsk… :-(
    “etymological?” Had to look that up. Is adding words “Bad” “Etymology?” ;-)

    Mat 16:15-18
    He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
    And Simon Peter answered and said, **Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.**
    And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
    **for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.**
    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.

    I see two (Who+How) much better then Peter (petros = stone) being the “Rock.” (Petra)

    1 – Jesus points to Himself “The Christ, the Son of the living God” as the “Rock”
    upon **Who** He (Jesus) will build “His Church.”

    1 Cor 10:4
    And did all drink the same spiritual drink:
    for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them:
    and **that Rock was Christ.**

    Psalm 89:26
    He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and **the rock of my salvation.**

    I don’t believe God ever points to a **mere fallible human** (Peter?) to be “My Rock.”
    Jesus is always “The Rock” of my salvation. Thank you Jesus. :-)

    2 – Jesus points to “revelation from the Father in heaven” as the “Rock”
    upon **How** He (Jesus) will build “His Church.”

    1Cor 14:26
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm,
    hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, **hath a revelation,** hath an interpretation.
    Let all things be done unto edifying.

    Everyone can, and is expected to, **receive** “revelation from the Father in heaven.”
    Everyone can, and is expected to, **participate** when **the ekklesia** is assembled.

    I doubt Peter is “The Rock.”

    I vote – “The Rock” is Jesus, “The Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    I vote – “The Rock” is “revelation from the Father in heaven.”

    Upon this “Rock” – “Jesus” and “Revelation from heaven” – I will build “MY Church.”
    “MY Church,” = “MY Ekklesia” = “MY Called out one’s.” = “MY assembly.”

    Jesus… He is the head of the body,(the ekklesia, the called out one’s) the Church.

  5. 11-14-2010


    Have we actually found something we disagree on? :)

    A. Amos Love,

    I don’t think Blomberg meant “foundation” the way that you’re using it here.


  6. 11-14-2010

    Naw, just a poor attempt at sarcasm. I was actually wondering if the substitute phrase for a home run, “knocks it right out of the park,” will be an “etymological fallacy” when people try to explain the phrase in 3030 AD.

  7. 11-14-2010

    A. Amos:

    Jesus renames Peter “Rock.” Surely you can’t think that every time a word is used to describe someone, it always refers to that one person. Both Solomon and Jesus are said to be a son of God. None of us here imagine Solomon and Jesus are the same person, nor would anyone say that when God calls Solomon His son, He really means only Jesus and we’re meant to figure it out. The plain reading of Matthew 16.18 has Jesus renaming Simon as “Rock” and then promising to build His Church upon a rock.

  8. 11-14-2010


    You write…
    “I don’t think Blomberg meant “foundation” the way that you’re using it here.”

    What are some other options for “foundation” here?
    What do you think Bloomberg meant by “foundation?’

    Why does Bloomberg use “foundation?” It’s NOT in the verse he quotes.

  9. 11-14-2010

    1 Cor 3:10-11
    10* According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

    11* For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

  10. 11-14-2010


    You write…
    “Jesus renames Peter “Rock.”
    “The plain reading of Matthew 16:18 has Jesus renaming Simon as “Rock””

    Hmmm? “Renaming?” That’s a new one for me.

    And I’m in agreement about “The Plain Reading” of Mat 16:18, Could? point to Peter.
    If that was the only verse I could get my hands on.

    For me, the challenge becomes, reading from Mat 16:15 to 18, and other verses,
    The “Foundation,” “The Rock” for me, is Jesus Christ, the indwelling Christ, in me.

    Christ in me the hope of Glory. Jesus is my “Rock.”

    It might be “plain” to you that Peter is “renamed?” the “Rock.”
    And God is going to build “His Church” on Peter.

    But… Jesus said “If I be lifted up” (Exalted, Honored)…
    “ I “ (Jesus) will draw all men unto me. John 12:32 KJV

    So I would like to point everyone to Jesus, and “exalt and honor” Jesus as “The Rock.”
    Not a “mere fallible human.”

    And, since “The Church of God” is people, God’s people,
    NOT an institution, a Corporation, or a denomination,
    and “llittle ole me,“ A. Amos Love, is part of “The Body of Christ, the Church, “
    “The Church of God”“The Ekklesia of God” “The Called out one’s of God”
    I “plainly” see Jesus as “The Rock” of “His Ekklesia” A. Amos Love,
    And Jesus will add to and build “His Ekklesia.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear My voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    Be blessed and be a blessing.

  11. 11-15-2010

    A. Amos:

    Yes, Jesus renames Peter. He is “Simon Bar Jonah” and Jesus gives him this new name which indicates his place in salvation history, just like Abra(ha)m.

    It’s also not an either/or – it’s not as if Peter cannot be the rock about whom Jesus is speaking to the exclusivity of Jesus ultimately being the rock upon whom we all must rely. That sort of either/or reading makes for bad theology. Ephesians 2.20 tells us that the Apostles are part of the foundation (θεμελίος), with Christ as the cornerstone. If you want to read this overly literally, then Paul contradicts himself in 1 Cor. 3.11 where he says the only foundation is Jesus. In a strict either/or reading, you have Paul contradicting himself. Or, you can do what you’ve done here and just reassign meanings to words – even though Jesus says that Peter is a rock, you say otherwise. Or, you could read this as participation in the life and mission of Christ, to which all Christians are called. Hence Peter being called the ‘rock’ is, of course, only in light of God’s grace.

    Jesus also chose fallible men to spread His message. Christ came as a man for a reason as well. He appointed these men (who continued to appoint men) to preach His message. Denying the ones whom Jesus sent is tantamount to denying Him (Luke 10:16). Jesus Himself denies a “me and Jesus only” faith – we’re to accept those whom He has placed over us. He gave the keys (cf. Isaiah 22.22)to Peter alone. There’s significance here and trying to play it down is just a reactionary reading.

    The Church is God’s people – as a Catholic, I totally believe this. Likewise, she’s not a denomination. I agree here too. She was instituted by Christ, however, and that makes her an institution. She is organized, hierarchical, visible, etc. The unity expressed in John 10 (as well as the rest of the NT) is something that drew me to Catholicism. I wasn’t hearing one voice and now I do.

  12. 11-15-2010


    I’m glad for you. Sounds like you have found purpose, peace, and Jesus in Catholicism.
    Appreciate your use of scripture, and NOT tradition, to reveal what you believe.
    Today – I’m not really interested in learning from, or following, “mere fallible humans.”
    Tried that before. Didn’t work out so well. Big Ouch!!! ;-)

    Left “The Religious System” through much pain, tears, and “Spiritual Abuse.”
    Lot’s of *control and minipulation* through “Titles” and “Positions” NOT in the Bible.
    “Mere fallible humans” coming between me and my God. Can’t serve two masters.
    Jesus said, “come unto me all that labor.” NOT a man, a pastor, a priest. Come to Jesus.

    Seems most “Clergy” learn from other “mere fallible humans” and they continue
    “To Perpatrate the Myth” that some are “a special class of Christian.”
    A “Clergy Class” with “Titles” and “Positions” NOT found in scripture.
    Senior Pastor, Reverend, Most Holy Reverend, Cardinal, Doctor, Pope. On, and on, and on…

    A “Clergy Class” with Power, Profit, Prestige, Reputation, they lead and they teach.

    And the rest become “pew potatoes” just waiting for their *weakly* meal. ;-)

    I might miss a few things along the way, But…
    when you get it straight from Jesus…Well… that’s the best.

    Jesus is the best teacher. Yes? ;-)

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be **ALL taught of God.**

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to **hear His voice,**
    that **he might instruct thee**…

    Psalms 32:8
    I will *instruct* thee and *teach* thee in the way which thou shalt go:
    I will *guide* thee with mine eye.

    Lot’s more satisfaction letting folks know they can *Hear His Voice.*
    Having the liberty to learn from Jesus for themselves. To become a “Disciple of Christ.”
    Become a “Learner and pupil of Christ.” Directly, No middle man. ;-)

    Lot’s more satisfaction then “Practicing Religious Rituals,” NOT in the Bible,
    to gain God’s favor. Tried that before. Found out – God has a better way to know Him.

    The “religious leaders” didn’t think to highly of “His Disciples.”

    Acts 4:13*
    … and perceived that they were **unlearned and ignorant men,**
    they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them,
    **that they had been with Jesus.**

    I’d rather spend time with Jesus. Then with “mere fallible religious leaders” who
    are trying to keep control of their – Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Reputation. etc.
    ALL those things Jesus spoke against. ALL those things that become “Idols” of the heart.

    I’d rather spend time with you, and the Jesus in you…
    I’d probably enjoy a cup of coffe and breaking bread with you.
    Hearing about what Jesus has taught you through life’s trials.
    How you became an overcomer and learned to rely totally on Jesus.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jesus in me, really liked the Jesus in you. ;-)

    Christ **in us** the hope of glory…