Sunday Morning Greek Blog

October 6, 2011

HUB Week 6: Upon This Rock…

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Ecclesiology,Matthew Gospel of,New Testament — Scott Stocking @ 7:05 am

Choose the best answer to complete the phrase: “Upon this rock…”

  • I will build my church
  • I will edify my congregation

The word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia ek-clay-SEE-ah) is the word commonly translated “church” in the New Testament. In the Greek Old Testament, this word translated the Hebrew word for “congregation.” The word comes from two roots, which literally mean “called out;” (close to meaning of “saint”)

The verb translated “build” in Matt 16:18 (and the related noun) is used three different ways in the New Testament.

Construction of physical structures

  • Matt 7:24, 26; 21:33, 42; 23:29; 26:61; 27:40;
  • Mark 12:1, 10; 14:58; 15:29;
  • Luke 4:29; 6:48-49; 7:5; 11:47-48; 12:18; 14:28-30; 17:28; 20:17;
  • John 2:20;
  • Acts 4:11 (par. Mark 12:10); 7:47, 49;
  • 1 Peter 2:7 (par. Mark 12:10)

Generic references to persons and ideas

  • Romans 15:20 (v)    Paul’s desire to “build” where no one has built
  • 1 Cor 3:9 (n)        You are God’s “building”
  • 1 Cor 8:1 (v)        Love “builds up”
  • 1 Cor 8:10 (v)        Weak “emboldened” to eat meat offered to idols
  • 1 Cor 14:3 (n)        self-edification
  • 2 Cor 5:1 (n)        A “building” from God, “eternal house in heaven”
  • Gal 2:18 (v)        Paul’s hypothetical “rebuilding” of justification by law, not faith
  • Eph 4:29 (n)        “what is helpful for ‘building’ others up” to benefit the hearers

Direct or implied reference to the ekklēsia

  • Matt 16:18 (v)        “I will build my church”
  • Acts 9:31 (v)        The ekklēsiai were “strengthened”
  • Acts 20:32 (v)        God’s word “builds us up”
  • 1 Cor 14:4, 5 (v, n)    prophecy “edifies” ekklēsia, ekklēsia receives “edification”
  • 1 Cor 14:12 (n)    gifts that “edify” the ekklēsia
  • 1 Cor 14:26 (n)    when you come together, all things must “strengthen” the ekklēsia
  • Eph 2:19-22 (2v, 3n)    five different words related to “build” used in this passage
  • Eph 4:12, 16 (2n)    body of Christ “built up,” “whole body. . . ‘builds’ itself up in love”

Other references:

1 Cor 14:17; 1 Thess 5:11; 1 Peter 2:5; Romans 14:19 (mutual edification); 2 Cor 10:8 & 13:10 (Paul’s authority to “edify” believers); 12:19, 1 Cor 3:10-14, Col 2:7, Jude 20


Almost all occurrences of the word for “build” in the Gospels refer to a physical construction or the person constructing the object. However, when the word is used with people as the object, a better translation might be “edify,” or “strengthen.” The question must be asked then of Matthew 16:18: is Christ’s ekklēsia a physical structure, or people? How you answer this question, then, may determine how you answer the question at the top of the reverse side of this page.

Here it is again:

Upon this rock…

  • I will build my church
  • I will edify my congregation

What do you think?

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