From: Robert McDole (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Apr 29 2001 - 16:37:31 EDT
From: James A. Gehman [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2001 11:11 AM
To: Biblical Greek
Subject: [b-greek] Oikos and House Churches
It is sometimes argued that the early churches were house churches, based on
the use of oikos in the New Testament (such as Acts 2.42-47: KAT' OIKON).
This seems to be so as best as I can tell, however, joined to this argument
is sometimes the idea that the church became corrupted with the result that
the house chuches were moved into 'church buildings.' However, as I look
through the various lexicons (Liddell & Scott, BADG, Louw & Nida, Kittel,
etc), it seems that this argument will not hold water, given the fact that
oikos can also refer to wider semantic ranges such as synagogues, rooms,
meeting-houses, etc. Does oikos refer to houses of nuclear families or
could it refer to other public meeting places?
Specifically related to Acts 2:42-47, OIKOS does not refer to the temple
since Luke has already mentioned that they were meeting in the temple.
Since they had everything in common, OIKOS could possibly mean more than
their homes, but there is not any contextual proof to support such a claim.
You could argue that they were meeting in buildings that were owned by some
of the believers in view of Acts 2:44, but generally it is assumed that they
were the houses of believers. There are other sections in Acts (10:2,22,30)
that deal with the family unit.
OIKOS, according to what you have found in the varying lexicons, can mean a
wide variety of things, but I do not believe that a meaning of other
buildings could be sustained. It is important, however, to understand that
most of Acts is not a didactic address, but rather a narrative. This
changes the face of your question. It would not be a sound hermeneutic to
pull a mandate out of a section that is telling a story unless there is
further proof to do so. I don't think it is important where the believers
in Jerusalem met because the point is that they were together. Your
question, IMHO, comes down to a question of form vs. function. The writer
of Hebrews tells us not to forsake the assebling of the believers (10:25),
but he does not tell us where this assembling is to take place. The point
is, however, that the believers are to be together. The function of meeting
is most important. Where, when, and how are more of the form of the
function of meeting.
Maybe the right question is not what OIKOS can mean, but what is the book of
Acts teaching. The general principle is not "where to meet for fellowship,"
but "Meet together and do it often." It is up to the believers where to
meet. As long as growth is happening within any given body of believers, it
does not matter where they choose to meet.
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