Every Sunday, millions of the faithful darken the doors of their nearest house of worship, yet most, if not all of them, have no idea where the word church comes from. If they spent any real amount of time doing any real research into the etymology of the words used in religion, particularly Christianity, I would dare say that the faithful would lose their faith, nearly overnight. The bad news is, people don't want their faith shaken. The good news is, people are slowly starting to wake up as a result of their faith being shaken. They're angry. And that makes me happy.
So what about church? What does it mean? Where does the word come from? Is it even important? To better understand the concept of church, we should break the word down into two categories; the first being a building where people go to worship, the second a gathering of people. Let's take a look at the physical structure first.
The word kuriakon, or kyriakon, is Greek, and literally means, "The house of Kurios (Lord)." No big deal here. Now let's take a look at the variation of church that relates to a gathering of people, starting with a brief glance at the Tyndale Bible.
The Tyndale Bible is the first English bible, and was translated in the mid 1520's. It is named after William Tyndale, a Protestant reformer, who was burned at the stake in 1535 for heresy. Tyndale's translation, however, never used church to refer to any kind of Christian gathering or a building, but rather assembly or congregation. It does, however, refer to church as a place where pagans gathered in honor of their gods and goddesses, and can be read in Acts 19:37. Although most other biblical translation means temple, the original Tyndale translation is church. In this passage, the deity being referred to is Artemis, Greek goddess of fertility (of course), hunting, and the forests. Her Roman counterpart is Diana.
At any rate, the word church was used to describe pagan houses of worship, and it slipped through the radar of modern christendom. In the New Testament, the term used for a gathering of people is the Greek word, ekklesia, and is interpreted as, "calling out," or "a gathering," while the Jewish equivalent for ekklesia is qahal. Although the term generally applies to Christians, it also held true for gatherings of pagans in antiquity.
Ahh! The plot thickens!
Today, the word we use to describe either a gathering of the faithful, or a physical structure where they meet, is church. The Anglo-Saxon word for church is kirk. The root word for kirk, is kirke, or circe. The origin of the word circe is the Greek goddess/temptress/sorceress, Circe, mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, written around 800 B.C.
Circe was the daughter of the Greek solar god Helios, and Perse, an oceanic nymph. Circe had the power to allure men into her home, where she would offer them potions that would turn them into animals, often forcing them into a life of servitude. This description resembles the church as it is today; a place where people are turned into mind-numbed servant pets of society.
Circe's name derives from the Greek word, kirkoo, meaning "to secure in rings." I'm still scratching my head over that one. Circe also had the power to tame the roaming beasts around her island home. Interestingly, Circe's name is responsible for many of the words that we use today, including circle, circa, and circus.
Anyway, I'm done ranting. If you're a church-goer, please start to question what your priest/pastor is telling you, and stop believing everything you hear on Sundays. It annoys me.