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Catholic Dictionary




A biblical distinction between Christianity and Judaism. Scriptural equivalents for the faithful in the Old Testament are qahal, the entire religious community of the people of Israel, and edah, a congregation of believers. Greek synonyms for these in the Septuagint translation are ekklesia and synagoga, respectively. In the New Testament the difference between the two became technical, the first, meaning the assembly of people called together by God, and the second an existing religious gathering of people. This is illustrated in the text of St. Matthew's Gospel, where Christ promised Peter that "on this rock I will build my Church [ekklesia]," and Christian tradition has since canonized the terminology by reserving ekklesia for the society of Christ's followers and synagoga for the gathering of the Jews.