I am about to finish reading Eusebius’ Church history (the Loeb edition, in two volumes; see vol. 1 HERE, vol. 2 HERE). There is, of course, a Romanian version of this work, but after repeatedly comparing it to the original Greek I realized I had better stick to a bilingual edition. Romanian translators, as I discover more and more, are prone to twisting the text and making it more congenial to their theological background.

Among the numerous things which I found striking (though with hindsight one can argue that I should not have been surprised at all) is that on various occasions Eusebius refers to the buildings where Christians used to meet as „houses of prayer”.

Now „houses of prayer” is what many Romanian Evangelicals still call their „churches” (i.e. buildings). They are, if I am not mistaken, sometimes criticized by the Orthodox majority for not having „proper churches”. Apparently, Christians in Eusebius’ time did not have „proper churches” either.

But make no mistake: at the beginning of the 4th century ekklesia was already used for the building itself. Not surprisingly, we find this kind of semantic transfer affecting the Romanian word for church (i.e. biserică) as used by the Romanian Evangelicals. It is a process which some of my more Puritan friends decry. I for one cannot decry what seems to me a normal linguistic process.

Meanwhile, let’s see some of the texts which refer to the „houses of prayer”.

EH 7.32:32 Having written out in these books the account of the successions from the birth of our Saviour to the destruction of the places of worship (προσευκτηρίων),— a period of three hundred and five years,— permit me to pass on to the contests of those who, in our day, have heroically fought for religion, and to leave in writing, for the information of posterity, the extent and the magnitude of those conflicts.

EH 8.1:5 And one could see the rulers in every church accorded the greatest favor by all officers and governors. But how can any one describe those vast assemblies, and the multitude that crowded together in every city, and the famous gatherings in the houses of prayer (ἐν τοῖς προσευκτηρίοις); on whose account not being satisfied with the ancient buildings they erected from the foundation large churches in all the cities?

EH 8.2:1 All these things were fulfilled in us, when we saw with our own eyes the houses of prayer (τῶν προσευκτηρίων τοὺς οἴκους) thrown down to the very foundations, and the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places, and the shepherds of the churches basely hidden here and there, and some of them captured ignominiously, and mocked by their enemies. When also, according to another prophetic word, „Contempt was poured out upon rulers, and he caused them to wander in an untrodden and pathless way.”

EH X.3:1 After this was seen the sight which had been desired and prayed for by us all; feasts of dedication in the cities and consecrations of the newly built houses of prayer (νεοπαγῶν προσευκτηρίων) took place, bishops assembled, foreigners came together from abroad, mutual love was exhibited between people and people, the members of Christ’s body were united in complete harmony.