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What is the difference in meaning between “fellowship” in 1 Corinthians 1:9 & “communion” in 2 Corinthians 13:14?

1 Corinthians 1:9

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. KJV, ©1769

Θʹ πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι᾽ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν TR, 1550

2 Corinthians 13:14

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. KJV, ©1769

ΙΔʹ Ἡ χάρις τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἀμήν. TR, 1550

The interlinear bible shows that the 1 Corinthians 1:9 & 2 Corinthians 13:14 has the same Greek word koinónia

So why are two different words used in King James Version (ed. 1769)? Is there any real difference?

Also, what is the meaning of these words? What happens in and during fellowship or communion? What are the benefits of fellowship or communion?

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3 Answers 3

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Firstly, I notice that Robert Young has translated both occasions of the Greek word as 'fellowship'.

It was the chosen decision of the translators of the KJV to vary the words they used in translation to avoid repetition.

They also attempted to express the same Greek words differently in English where they felt the context (in English) would require a different English word. To some extent this can be justified as words have a spectrum of meaning and the English spectrum of one word may not exactly match the Greek spectrum of a Greek word.

But ideally a single word should be found (if possible) to translate a single word.

'Communion' implies a union. 'Fellowship implies a 'fellow'.

I think I can see why the translators, in 1611, have used two different words.

In speaking of Jesus Christ, they have used the word 'fellowship' of him who is regarded in some scriptures as a 'brother' or a 'fellow-heir' and who came 'in the likeness of sinful flesh' and who is seen as a 'surety' (the original means 'one who draws near').

In speaking of the Holy Spirit, they have used the word 'communion' of him who is united in a spiritual union, in regeneration. The Holy Spirit, that Divine Person, is given by the Father and unites with the spirit of the believing soul in a unity. Hence the translators have chosen to express this as 'communion'.

It seems to me, therefore, that the use of the two words reflects the reverence of the KJV translators towards the Person of Jesus Christ and they are emphasizing his humanity in union with his Deity when they say 'fellowship'.

And I think that they are emphasizing the spirituality of the Person of the Holy Spirit in using the word 'communion'.

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    Thank you so much brother @NigelJ :-) Oct 23, 2019 at 0:43
  • You are most welcome, brother @Siju.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23, 2019 at 1:21
  • That's a really good explanation. Where Greek only had one word, but context would have held different meanings for that audience, we translate it into different words in English since we have them at out disposal. May 31 at 7:35
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    Thank you @Jesseיִשַׁי. On re-visiting this question I am unable to forget that the OP who posed the question passed away from Covid last year, in his home country of India, at the age of 42. How short is our time in this passing phase of our existence !
    – Nigel J
    May 31 at 11:30
  • 1
    Wow. Stuff is starting to get real. May 31 at 13:28
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According to my research, the Greek word for fellowship should be υποτροφία.

κοινωνίαν is communion (Strong's 2842)

They do not have the same definition, which is vital for the content of Scripture. So this could be a mistake by translators that they decide to translate the same word differently when they don't need to. They may have been the same concept to the Greek audience.

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  • Hi, David. Glad to have you on Hermeneutics! Make sure you closely watch the tour. Your answer doesn't really address the issue of the same word translated two ways. It's the Greek that is the same word, English uses two different words. It wasn't translated into Greek, but to English from Greek. Your answer makes it seem that it was translated into Greek. So, I edited your answer, to clear that up; I hope this agrees with your point. Could you cite your research with a link? Or, could you state which Bible passage uses υποτροφία? May 31 at 7:20
  • Though I edited this to help out a new user, I can't agree with this answer because υποτροφία doesn't show up in the Bible. It may be used outside the Bible, but currently it seems that within the Bible, κοινωνίαν is the only word available for both communion and fellowship for that Greek audience. Jun 3 at 8:10
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I suppose the difference comes from religious or traditional connotation of those words particularly for the communion of the Holy Spirit (what exactly is the connotation, should be asked in the Christianity.SE). The English translations mainly follow the Latin Vulgate: fellowship comes from societatem in 1Cor1:9, and communion comes from communication (Douay-Rheims, translation from Latin), communicatio: Latin, in 1Cor 13:14. You can search the etymology of these words for more details. There must be a ritualistic reason behind the development of this synonym. The words mean the same thing, concerning sharing commonly. Thayer lexicon states: κοινωνία, κοινωνίας, ἡ (κοινωνός), fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, contact; in the N. T. as in classical Greek.

1858 Sawyer, 1Cor 1:9

God is faithful by whom you are called into the society of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

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