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Saying Church in Hebrew

God's People Gathering Place



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Recently, I wrote an article about the word “notzri” (Christian) in Hebrew, showing how its meaning – Keeper – throws light at the basic perception of Christians in the eyes of the Jews as the keepers of the true faith. This is not the only case in which this very surprising attitude can be seen.

God’s Presence


Basilica of the Nativity | Bethlehem

Basilica of the Nativity | Bethlehem

Many Hebrew names make reference to God. Names ending in “el” (which means “God” in Hebrew) refer to Him. “Daniel” means “God judges me” or “God judged me;” many other examples exist. However, an additional method of making reference to Him exists and is based on the addition of some of the tetragram letters to a name. The tetragram refers to God’s name in Hebrew, which is composed from four letters. The letters can be added to the beginning or the end of a name; this is especially popular among the prophets’ names. One such suffix is “ia” (it adds a yod and a hei), sometimes even a third letter is added – a vav – leading to the “iaoo” end which seldom is transliterated into English. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah and other names are good examples of this.

Gathering Places

”Beit Knesset” means “synagogue” in Hebrew, but this just exchanged two words in Hebrew for a Greek-derived one. What does it mean exactly? “Beit” means “house,” while “knesset” (from the root K.N.S. meaning “enter”) can be translated as “gathering.” Thus, “beit knesset” is the “Gathering House.” Accordingly, the Israeli parliament is called “Knesset,” since it is a gathering place. Some readers may have noted that beit knesset makes no reference to God, despite being a worshipping place.

What about the Hebrew word for “church?” Interestingly all the Hebrew speakers’ mainstream – including rabbis and Zionists – uses the word “knesia” for church. Again, the root is K.N.S. since the word makes reference to a gathering place. To the root, an “ia” was added as a suffix. It may refer to a place – many Hebrew nouns are conjugated into places by this technique – but it can make directly reference to God. Here we have a beautiful example of Hebrew efficiency: in this case, this is a place dedicated to God and thus the suffix serves these two goals.

Again – as with the word notzri being used for Christian – the Hebrew society recognizes Christians as the true keepers of the Faith and those who truly gather for God and for no other – irrelevant – issues. The church is the “Gathering Place for God,” while the synagogue is just a “gathering place.”

There is no better text to end such an article than the words of Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:29 “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

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