On God Directed Deviations Miguel posts You’ve Been Duped! Ekklesia Does Not Mean “Called Out Ones.” He quite justifiably identifies the etymological fallacy.
But in the comments, some folks are not so sure and don’t really see the issue. I can see why they don’t see it. As I’ve pointed out before, there’s a reason the etymological fallacy is so common. It often works. That is, words that relate in form often do relate in meaning. Compound words often do reflect their individual components in the meaning of the compound form.
So it’s not a fallacy to define a word in a way that reflects its etymology. It’s a fallacy to define a word in that way because of that etymology alone. Having worked with reading Ugaritic, as well as several other Semitic languages from the ancient near east, I often used etymology. But that was just a starting point on a word that was obscure. The context rules in terms of the definition of the word.
So how might the issue of translating ekklesia as “called out ones” be important?
First let me note that there is a sense of “called out” in the definition of ekklesia. An assembly generally consists of people called out from amongst others who were not so called. I can feel that possibility in the various definitions. I suspect that might be how the word came to mean “assembly,” though I haven’t done enough research to be certain.
So if the word developed historically from a sense of being called out (classified as a guess right now), why not use “called out ones” as the definition today? Simply because that gives an incorrect emphasis. That is not the main sense of ekklesia as it is used in our literature. In general, I believe the sense of “called out” is only present in a limited sense. The key is in the gathering together, not in being called.
So even if we can see a sense of the assembly being called out (and I can), we need to focus on the gathering, and build the actual definition from the usage of the word.
The etymological fallacy is very attractive precisely because it is sometimes right and often partially right. The partially right cases cause the most problems.