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Accusatory Questions

Why does the word "church" appear BEFORE the coming of Christ? There were no churches then.

by Jeff Lindsay

Yes, we read of Alma establishing a church in the land nearly a century before the birth of Christ, and some critics feel this represents a major blunder in the Book of Mormon. But the concept of a church - a convocation of believers - was had among the House of Israel prior to the coming of Christ. I quote from the outstanding Bible scholar, Alfred Edersheim, who is not LDS, as he discusses the meaning of Christ's statement to Peter about building His church (Matt. 16:15-18):

"Nor would the term 'Church' sound strange in Jewish ears. The same Greek word [ecclesia], as the equivalent of the Hebrew Qahal, 'convocation,' 'the called,' occurs in the Septuagint rendering of the Old Testament, and in 'the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach' (Ecclus, 24.2) and was apparently in familiar use at the time. In Hebrew use it referred to Israel, not in their national but in their religious unity.

(Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson Publ., Peabody, Mass., 1993, pp. 531-532)

As one of many examples, Psalms 89 speaks of praising the Lord "in the congregation of the saints" (v. 5) and says that God is to be feared (respected, revered) "in the assembly of the saints." Why not call such a congregation or assembly of worshipful believers a church? In fact, the Septuagint does, using the Greek word "ecclesia" which is translated as "church" when it occurs in the King James Version of the New Testament. (By the way, notice how the Bible uses the word "saints" to describe the mortal members of God's Church?)

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