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mid-14c., "a gathering, assembly," from Old French congregacion (12c., Modern French congrégation), from Latin congregationem (nominative congregatio), noun of action from congregare (see congregate).
Used by Tyndale to translate Greek ekklesia in New Testament and by some Old Testament translators in place of synagoge. (Vulgate uses a variety of words in these cases, including congregatio but also ecclesia, vulgus, synagoga, populus.) Protestant reformers in 16c. used it in place of church; hence the word's main modern sense of "local society of believers" (1520s).
(Heb. kahal), the Hebrew people collectively as a holy community (Num. 15:15). Every circumcised Hebrew from twenty years old and upward was a member of the congregation. Strangers resident in the land, if circumcised, were, with certain exceptions (Ex. 12:19; Num. 9:14; Deut. 23:1-3), admitted to the privileges of citizenship, and spoken of as members of the congregation (Ex. 12:19; Num. 9:14; 15:15). The congregation were summonded together by the sound of two silver trumpets, and they met at the door of the tabernacle (Num. 10:3). These assemblies were convened for the purpose of engaging in solemn religious services (Ex. 12:27; Num. 25:6; Joel 2:15), or of receiving new commandments (Ex. 19:7, 8). The elders, who were summonded by the sound of one trumpet (Num. 10:4), represented on various occasions the whole congregation (Ex. 3:16; 12:21; 17:5; 24:1). After the conquest of Canaan, the people were assembled only on occasions of the highest national importance (Judg. 20; 2 Chr. 30:5; 34:29; 1 Sam. 10:17; 2 Sam. 5:1-5; 1 Kings 12:20; 2 Kings 11:19; 21:24; 23:30). In subsequent times the congregation was represented by the Sanhedrim; and the name synagogue, applied in the Septuagint version exclusively to the congregation, came to be used to denote the places of worship established by the Jews. (See CHURCH.) In Acts 13:43, where alone it occurs in the New Testament, it is the same word as that rendered "synagogue" (q.v.) in ver. 42, and is so rendered in ver. 43 in R.V.
an assembly of persons, especially a body assembled for religious worship or habitually attending a particular church. The word occurs more than 350 times in the King James Version of the English Bible, but only one of these references is in the New Testament (Acts 13:43). As it is used in the Old Testament, congregation sometimes refers to the entire Israelite community, and at other times it means a gathering or assembly of people