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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

In the Acts and Epistles (Authorized Versionand Revised Version) the English word ‘assembly’ occurs as follows, but in each instance a different Greek noun is translated by it.

1. In  Acts 19:32;  Acts 19:39;  Acts 19:41 ‘assembly’ (ἐκκλησία) stands for the tumultuary mob gathered by Demetrius and his fellow-gildsmen in Ephesus to protest against the teaching of St. Paul, which was destroying the business of the shrine-makers. Though ἐκκλησία strictly denotes an assembly of the citizens summoned by the crier (κῆρυξ), this was a mere mob, with all a mob’s unreasonableness: ‘Some cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was confused, and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.’ So runs St. Luke’s ‘logical, complete, and photographic’ narrative, (For a similar description of a Roman gathering, cf. Virgil, aen . i. 149: ‘Saevitque animis ignobile vulgus.’) In Ephesus the man revered for his piety and worth was the Secretary of the City (γραμματεύς [see Town Clerk]), who calls the gathering a riot (στάσις), and a concourse (συστροφή). If Demetrius and his gildsmen had just ground of complaint, they should have earned their case before the proper court, over which the proconsul presided, for the present gathering was outside the law, and had ‘no power to transact business.’ He, therefore, referred them to the lawful (Authorized Version) or regular (Revised Version) assembly (ἡ ἔννομος ἐκκλησία), which is ‘the people duly assembled in the exercise of its powers’ (Ramsay). The Revisers’ change of ‘lawful’ into ‘regular’ is perhaps hypercritical; for in practice, under the Roman rule, the distinction is not appreciable.

2.  Acts 23:7 : ‘The assembly [Revised Version; Authorized Versionthe multitude] was divided’ (ἐσχίσθη τὸ πλῆθος). The reference is to the council (πὰν τὸ συνέδριον,  Acts 22:30) summoned by Lysias the tribune of the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia, consequent upon the tumult in the Temple, and St. Paul’s arrest. We are not to understand a regular sitting of the Sanhedrin, but an informal meeting for what is known in Scots Law as a precognition (‘a meeting of the councillors, aiding the Tribune to ascertain the facts’ [Ramsay]). As Lysias called the meeting, he probably presided and conducted the business. This would account for St. Paul’s ignorance of the fact that Ananias was the high priest, and explains his apology. As to the charge made against him, the Apostle conducted his defence in a way that won for himself the sympathy of the Pharisees. It is a needless refinement to find here difficulties of an ethical kind. ‘Luke saw nothing wrong or unworthy in this, and he was best able to judge. Paul was winning over the Pharisees not merely to himself but to the Christian cause. Paul states the same view more fully in  Acts 26:6-8 where there is no question of a clever trick, for there were no Pharisees among his judges’ (Ramsay, Pictures of the Apostolic Church , 1910, p. 283). The result of this defence was that τὸ συνέδριον became τὸ πλῆθος.

3.  James 2:2 : ‘If there come into your assembly’ (Authorized Versionand Revised Version margin; Revised Versionand AVm[Note: Vm Authorized Version margin.]‘synagogue’: εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν).-James, writing ‘to the twelve tribes scattered abroad,’ uses the old familiar word ‘synagogue,’ which had become hallowed in the ears of the Dispersion by associations of worship and fellowship. This usage is a delicate indication (unintentional on the writer’s part, of course) that the Christian meeting had its ties not with the Temple, but with the synagogues which for ages had nourished the faith of Israel.

4.  Hebrews 12:23 : ‘Ye are come … to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven’ (Revised Version; μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων, πανηγύρει καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς). In classical usage πανήγυρις is the festal assembly of the whole nation, gathered for some solemnity, such as the Olympic Games. But the word occurs only here in the NT, though it is found in Septuagint Ezekiel 46:11,  Hosea 2:11;  Hosea 9:5,  Amos 5:21. The passage has given rise to considerable variety of interpretation, indication of which may be seen in Revised Versiontext and margin. The difficulty is to determine how many classes are referred to.

( a ) A. B. Davidson (‘Hebrews,’ Bible Class Handbooks, in loco ) holds that the only subject is angels, and translates: ‘to myriads of angels,-even a festal assembly and convocation of first-borns enrolled in heaven.’ In this interpretation he is followed by A. S. Peake ( Century Bible , ‘Hebrews’).

( b ) On the other hand, Westcott ( Hebrews ) contends for two classes-angels and men; and renders the passage: ‘to countless hosts of angels in festal assembly, and to the Church of the first-born enrolled in heaven.’ So also Farrar ( Cambridge Bible for Schools ) and Edwards ( Expositor’s Bible ).

Against this latter interpretation, it may be pointed out that men are mentioned separately-‘and to the spirits of just men made perfect’-and it is improbable that the groups occur twice. ‘Tens of thousands’ is an almost technical term for angels; and, though ‘firstborn’ is not elsewhere applied to them, it is a quite natural name for the sons of God. Besides, if living Christians are referred to, as this interpretation seems to imply, it is awkward ‘to speak of their coming to a company which includes themselves’ (A. S. Peake). On the whole it appears better to abide by the first interpretation. It is the picture of noble souls returning home to God, and welcomed with the ‘joy that is in the presence of the angels of God.’ Students of Dante will compare the corresponding passage in the Convivio  : ‘And, as his fellow-citizens come forth to meet him who returns from a long journey, even before he enters the gate of his city; so to the noble soul come forth the citizens of the eternal life.’ Bernard’s great hymn (Neale’s translation) ‘Jerusalem the Golden’ may also be cited as instinct with the spirit of  Hebrews 12:23.

W. M. Grant.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Ἐκκλησία (Strong'S #1577 — Noun Feminine — ekklesia — ek-klay-see'-ah )

from ek, "out of," and klesis, "a calling" (kaleo, "to call"), was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens "gathered" to discuss the affairs of state,  Acts 19:39 . In the Sept. it is used to designate the "gathering" of Israel, summoned for any definite purpose, or a "gathering" regarded as representative of the whole nation. In  Acts 7:38 it is used of Israel; in 19:32,41, of a riotous mob. It has two applications to companies of Christians, (a) to the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era, the company of which Christ said, "I will build My Church,"   Matthew 16:18 , and which is further described as "the Church which is His Body,"  Ephesians 1:22;  5:23 , (b) in the singular number (e.g.,  Matthew 18:17 , RV marg., "congregation"), to a company consisting of professed believers, e.g.,  Acts 20:28;  1—Corinthians 1:2;  Galatians 1:13;  1—Thessalonians 1:1;  2—Thessalonians 1:1;  1—Timothy 3:5 , and in the plural, with reference to churches in a district.

 Acts 9:31 Acts 8:1 Romans 16:23Church.

2: Πανήγυρις (Strong'S #3831 — Noun Feminine — paneguris — pan-ay'-goo-ris )

from pan, "all," and agora, "any kind of assembly," denoted, among the Greeks, an assembly of the people in contrast to the council of national leaders, or a "gathering" of the people in honor of a god, or for some public festival, such as the Olympic games. The word is used in  Hebrews 12:23 , coupled with the word "church," as applied to all believers who form the body of Christ.

3: Πλῆθος (Strong'S #4128 — Noun Neuter — plethos — play'-thos )

"a multitude, the whole number," is translated "assembly" in  Acts 23:7 , RV. See Bundle , Company , Multitude.


Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [3]

A. Noun.

Qâhâl ( קָהָל , Strong'S #6951), “assembly; company.” Cognates derived from this Hebrew noun appear in late Aramaic and Syriac. Qâhâl occurs 123 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.In many contexts, the word means an assembly gathered to plan or execute war. One of the first of these is Gen. 49:6. In 1 Kings 12:3 (RSV), “all the assembly of Israel” asked Rehoboam to ease the tax burden imposed by Solomon. When Rehoboam refused, they withdrew from him and rejected their feudal (military) allegiance to him. For the application of qâhâl to an army, see Ezek. 17:17: “Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war.…”

Quite often, qâhâl is used to denote a gathering to judge or deliberate. This emphasis first appears in Ezek. 23:45-47, where the “company” judges and executes judgment. In many passages, the word signifies an assembly representing a larger group: “David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel …” (1 Chron. 13:1-2, RSV). Here, “the whole assembly” of Israel refers to the assembled leaders (cf. 2 Chron. 1:2). Thus, in Lev. 4:13 we find that the sin of the whole congregation of Israel can escape the notice of the “assembly” (the judges or elders who represent the congregation).

Sometimes qâhâl represents all the males of Israel who were eligible to bring sacrifices to the Lord: “He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:1, RSV). The only eligible members of the assembly were men who were religiously bound together under the covenant, who were neither strangers (living in Israel temporarily) nor sojourners (permanent non- Hebrew residents) (Num. 15:15). In Num. 16:3 and 33, it is clear that the “assembly” was the worshiping, voting community (cf. 18:4).

Elsewhere, the word qâhâl is used to signify all the people of Israel. The whole congregation of the sons of Israel complained that Moses had brought them forth into the wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger (Exod. 16:31). The first occurrence of the word also bears the connotation of a large group: “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude [ qâhâl ] of people …” (Gen. 28:3).

B. Verb.

Qâhal ( קָהַל , Strong'S #6950), “to gather.” The verb qâhal which occurs 39 times, is derived from the noun qâhâl . Like the noun, this verb appears in all periods of biblical Hebrew. It means “to gather” as a qâhal for conflict or war, for religious purposes, and for judgment: “Then Solomon assembled the elders [ qâhal ] of Israel …” (1 Kings 8:1).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

Besides the use of this word for any 'collecting together,' as the 'assembly of the wicked,' it has a special reference in the O.T. to the children of Israel as 'the assembly,' whether they were collected together or not. Several Hebrew words are used, some implying 'an appointed meeting,' others a 'calling together,' etc. 'The whole assembly of the congregation' were to eat the passover,  Exodus 12:6 , though each family ate it in its own house. They accused Moses of having brought them into the wilderness to kill the 'whole assembly with hunger,'  Exodus 16:3; so in many places. When they were especially called together to the feasts it is often called a Solemn Assembly as in  Leviticus 23:36;  Numbers 29:35;  Deuteronomy 16:8;  2 Kings 10:20;  2 Chronicles 7:9;  Nehemiah 8:18 , etc.

In the N.T. the word is also used for any gathering of people, as at the tumult in Ephesus.  Acts 19:32,39,41 . In  James 2:2 the word 'assembly' is really the synagogue, or place of meeting. In   Hebrews 12:23 the words 'GENERAL ASSEMBLY'should be joined to ver. 22, reading "and to the innumerable company of angels, the general assembly:" the word 'and' dividing the subjects. The Greek word used in   Acts 19:32 , etc. is ἐκκλησία,and this often occurs in the N.T. where it is translated 'church.' It signifies 'called out,' and the church is a people called out by God to Himself from the mass of mankind. The church may more accurately be designated by the word 'assembly.' See Church

King James Dictionary [5]


1. A company or collection of individuals, in the same place usually for the same purpose. 2. A congregation or religious society convened. 3. In some of the United States, the legislature, consisting of different houses or branches, whether in session or not. In some states, the popular branch or House of Representatives is denominated an assembly. See the constitutions of the several states. 4. a collection of persons for amusement as a dancing assembly. 5. A convocation, convention or council of ministers and ruling elders delegated from each presbytery as the General Assembly of Scotland or of the United States. 6. In armies, the second beating of the drum before a march, when the soldiers strike their tents. 7. An assemblage. Not in use.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): (n.) A beat of the drum or sound of the bugle as a signal to troops to assemble.

(2): (n.) A collection of inanimate objects.

(3): (n.) A company of persons collected together in one place, and usually for some common purpose, esp. for deliberation and legislation, for worship, or for social entertainment.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [7]

See The Church; Israel

Holman Bible Dictionary [8]


Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [9]

ASSEMBLY . See Congregation.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

(in Heb. מוֹעֵד , Moed', etc.; in Gr. Ἐκκλησία ) , a term used in the New Testament to denote a convocation or congregation of persons legally called out or summoned. (See Congregation).

(1.) In the usual or secular sense ( Acts 19:39). Asia Minor, in the time of the apostles, was divided into several districts, each of which had its own legal assembly. (See Asiarch). Some of these are referred to by Cicero, and others by Pliny, particularly the one at Ephesus. The regular periods of such assemblies, it appears, were three or four times a month; although they were convoked extraordinarily for the dispatch of any urgent business. (See Asia (Minor).)

(2.) In the Jewish sense, the word implies a religious meeting, as in a synagogue ( Matthew 18:17); and in the Christian sense, a congregation of believers ( 1 Corinthians 11:18); hence a church, the Christian Church, and is used of any particular church, as that at Jerusalem ( Acts 8:1) and Antioch ( Acts 11:26). (See Synagogue); (See Church).

Masters Of Assemblies ( בִּעֲלֵי אֲסֻפוֹת , Baaley' Asuphoth', Lords Of The Gdtherings; Sept. Οἱ Παρὰ Τῶν Συναγμάτων , Vulg. Per Magistrorum Consilum), is a phrase occurring in  Ecclesiastes 12:11, and supposed to refer to the master-spirits or associates of the meetings of the wise and curious ( חֲכָמִים , of the parallel clause), held in Eastern countries, and where sages and philosophers uttered their weighty sayings. (See Master). The preacher endeavored to clothe the infinitely wise and perfect doctrines which he taught in proper language. They were the words of truth, and were designed to prove quickening to the sluggish soul as goads are to the dull ox ( Acts 2:37). They were received from the one great shepherd or teacher, and came with great power as the sayings of the most wise and eloquent of their learned assemblies; and they would take hold of the hearts and consciences of men, holding them to the obedience of the truth, as nails driven through a- sound board firmly bind and fasten it where we will (see Stuart, Comment. in loc.). Hengstenberg, however (Comment. in loc.), fancifully understands the participators in the sacred collection (or apothegms of Scripture) to be meant. (See Ecclesiastes).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

a - sem´blı̄ ( קהל , ḳāhāl  ; ἐκκλησία , ekklēsı́a ): The common term for a meeting of the people called together by a crier. It has reference therefore to any gathering of the people called for any purpose whatsoever ( Exodus 12:6;  Psalm 22:16 the King James Version;   Psalm 89:7 the King James Version;   Acts 19:32 ,  Acts 19:41 ). The solemn assemblies of the Jews were their feasts or religious gatherings of any kind ( Isaiah 1:13 ). The word panḗguris , "a general festal assembly" ( Hebrews 12:23 ), is transferred from the congregation of the people of Israel to the Christian church of which the congregation of Israel was a figure. In the same passage, ekklēsı́a has the sense of calling, summoning. In classical Greek ekklēsı́a was the name for the body of free citizens summoned by a herald. In this sense the church calls all the world to become identified with it. It denotes the whole body of believers, all who are called. Or it may refer to a particular congregation or local church ( sunagṓgē , "synagogue"  James 2:2 the Revised Version, margin). See Called; Church; Congregation .