Theological Significance in the Text Variance in Acts 9:31
Jebidiah Porter, M.A.
Student at Heritage Baptist University
In Acts 9:31 there is a textual variance between the TR and WH text. In the TR ekklhsiai occurs but in the WH it is ekklhsia. In the King James the verse reads, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria..." This verse has the potential of definitely affecting the doctrine of ecclesiology. The local versus universal question is an aspect of church doctrine that is much debated. If the TR reading is the one accepted then the verse does not decide the question because it is generally accepted that the church does exist in local assemblies. However, if the WH reading is accepted then there is a definite change required in how some view the doctrine of the church.
There is the position that the church is to be organized only in local assemblies. The WH reading makes this position untenable. The WH reading would not necessarily exclude the idea of local assemblies but it definitely allows for the application of the singular ekklhsia to a group of churches. The reading could even lend itself to the idea of a diocese. One could then legitimately refer to the American church, the French church, the English church, etc. Therefore, those arguing for a local church only organization could not do so in the light of the WH reading. They would have to acknowledge that sometimes it is acceptable to refer to the churches within a given region as a singular church. Charles Ryrie in his Basic Theology takes such a position. On page 395 in the section dealing with the concept of the church, he writes, "Yet the singular church is used to designate several churches in a region (Acts 9:31)." Based on this verse, he goes on to outline his
concept of the church as being the universal church-all believers, the visible church-local churches within a given area, and the local church-a particular assembly. Regardless of which position is correct concerning the local versus universal question, the WH reading in Acts 9:31 would have to be acknowledged as affecting theology. It is not the purpose of this article to argue for one position or another regarding the local versus universal question but only to point out that in this instance the textual variance can affect theology.
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