- a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
1a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
1b) the assembly of the Israelites
1c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously
1d) in a Christian sense
1d1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
1d2) a company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake
1d3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
1d4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
1d5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven
Part of Speech: noun feminine
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564
Citing in TDNT: 3:501, 394
Definition 1b is of special importance. The septuagint used this word to refer to the entire congregation of Israel, either in the sense of them having assembled together (like in a building), or in the simple sense of every Israelite everywhere. This helps us to establish the idea of ecclesia being used to refer to the invisible Church, which is no doubt what your friend is trying to assert. The word no doubt refers to all Christian believers everywhere. (at least I hope this is what he is trying to prove, if not then he is even wrong from a Protestant perspective).
Given that, however, is it possible that the word could refer to The Church, as we Catholics like to claim? This would seem to contradict your friend’s statements, especially number 2.
The fact is that the Greeks DID have the concept of a Church. Definition 1d2 clearly states this. Also, refer to this statement:
In the New Testament the term is used also in the narrower sense of a single church, or a church confined to a particular place. So of the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (Rom_16:5); the church at Corinth, the churches in Judea, the church at Jerusalem, etc.
It is easy to see this. Open up the book of Revelation, and read the various letters addressed to the seven churches. It’s all over the Bible, every time a church is mentioned as being at Corinth or Ephesus or whatnot.
Therefore we have the Bible itself as proof theat there DID exist the concept of a church. Somebody may want to expand upon this, but to me the idea of moving from ecclesia refering to a single building, which is an organization of worship, to the Catholic Church, which is an organization of worship, is simple.
Also note that the Catholic Church often refers to its invisible boundaries and it’s visible ones. The invisible boundary refers to that surrounding all the believers everywhere, the community of faith. The visible boundary refers to those belonging to the Catholic Church in a formal way, which is the second definition.