Murals (2008) by PHANTAST - Graffiti - Cultural Music & Art Association inc. - 98 Milne St. Benleigh


"The way" towards a religious/Christian Ekklesia (Church).


1. "Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. 'Sir', they said, 'we would like to see Jesus'" (John 12:20).

2. In the Greek world, the term ekklesia/ church/ assembly meant a group of citizens 'called out' to assemble for political purposes = political church.

In Ephesus, Paul was preaching "the Way" and a silver-smith named Demetrius started a riot. The assembly (political ekklesia) was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another; most of the people did not even know why they were there. "The city clerk finally tells people to suspend their debate until the next regular ekklesia".( Acts 19: 39-41).

3. ANCIENT GREEK HISTORY.  The Assyrian empire collapsed with the fall of Nineveh in 606 before Christ.About the 9th century before Christ, the Ancient Greek spoke mutually comprehensible dialects and worshipped the same gods, but politically the area we now call Greece was devided into city- or citizen-states, ruled by kings and later by aristocratic families, who served as both magistrates and priests. Corint was one, by Athens soon emerged at the top of the heap. Athenians invented democracy.

THE BIRTH OF DEMOCRACY. As the time went on, the dominance of the aristocrtic clans lessened and they were replaced by individual monarch-style rulers called tyrants. Power continued to be inherited by sons who weren't always up to the job. At the same time increased trading produced a handful of wealthy merchants whose lack of posh relations disqualified them from public office.

The first figure to emerge from this was Draco (draconic measures ) who amended the law of Athens so that crimes were no longer punished by private vengence. But Draco did make liberal use of death penalty, a contradiction in terms. 

Solon came along and repealed almost all of Draco's law.  Up until his time  (594 BC), one Athenian citizen could enslave another who owed him money - Solon made this illegal. Both Draco and Solon were aristocrats, but they were cleaning up the system from the inside.

Cleisthenes went one step further and in 508 BC said : "I know. Let's give power to the people"!  He introduced a system based not on family groups but on what we might now call pariches; he called them demes, a word derived from demos, meaning 'the populace'. Every male citizen over the age of 30 could register with his local deme. To supplement the existing Senate, Solon had created a 'lower house' or council, which sometimes opened discussion to a larger public assembly, the Ecclesia - every male citizen over 30 was given a say in every major public decision. Each man, regardless of his wealth or who his father was, had one vote and one vote only. Cleisthenes invented a way to stop people screwing up the system, called ostracism (ostrakon, a piece of broken pottery on which voters would write tne names of anyone they felt the state could do without for a while). Every year the Ecclesia would take a vote on whether they felt the need for an ostracism ; if so, and providing at least 6,000 votes were cast, the man whose name came up most often was exilled for 10 years.


4. We do not know what Jesus talked to the Greeks (John 12:20) but some can see the  political idea of "LET'S GIVE POWER TO THE PEOPLE" as a fondation of His religious ekklesia: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6;20). In The New Testament,  Jesus used the term ekklesia/ church twice:

- one occurrence refers to a local community's role in disputes between believers; even the ostracism of Greek political ekklesia is present: "...tell it to the church...treat him as you would a pagan" (Matthew 18:17);

-  while in the other, Jesus uses the term church in a much more expansive sense (Matthew 16:18) "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it".

ST. APOSTOL PAUL  regularly uses the term church /ekklesia in his letters to address individual communities of believers, and  the plural, such as 'the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea' (1 Thes 2:14) and 'all the churches of the saints' (1 Cor 14:33).  St. Paul  sees local assemblies of believers functioning independently in separate locations. A larger sense is developed in Ephesians and Colossians letters, referring to the Church as the body of Christ and to Christ as the head of that body.

St. Ignatius of Antioch (100 years after Christ) is the earliest known author to use the phrase "universal/catholic church" when referring to the universality of the body of Christ (Smyrneans 8). The Nicene Creed concludes with the formula "one holy universal/catholic and apostolic church".

5. About the EARLY CHRISTIAN EKKLESIA in Jerusalem we read in Acts 4:32: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his posessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need". Daily distribution of food to the widows, serving at tables, prayer and ministry to the world were regarded as responsibilities for ekklesia (Acts 6).

The early church began well, placing a high premium on moral purity. Baptismal candidates had to undergo long period of instruction, and church discipline was rigorously enforced. Sporadic persecution by Roman emperors helped to purge the church of "lukewarm" Christians. Yet even pegan observers were attracted to the way Christians reached out to others by caring for the oppressed and devoting themselves to the sick and poor..




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