Occasionally also in the early Fathers, in Ignatius for instance (Ep. ad Polyc. 4; for other examples see Suicer, s. v.), we find συναγωγὴ still employed as an honorable designation of the Church, or of her places of assembly. Still there were causes at work, which led the faithful to have less and less pleasure in the appropriation of this name to themselves; and in the end to leave it altogether to those, whom in the latest book of the canon the Lord had characterized for their fierce opposition to the truth even as “the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. iii. 9; cf. John viii. 4).
Thus the greater fitness and dignity of the title ἐκκλησία has been already noted. Add to this that the Church was ever rooting itself more predominantly in the soil of the heathen world, breaking off more entirely from its Jewish stock and stem. This of itself would have led the faithful to the letting fall of συναγωγή, a word with no such honorable history to look back on, and permanently associated with Jewish worship, and to the ever more exclusive appropriation to themselves of ἐκκλησία, so familiar already, and of so honorable a significance, in Greek ears.
It is worthy of note that the Ebionites, in reality a Jewish sect, though they had found their way for a while into the Christian Church, should have acknowledged the rightfulness of this distribution of terms. Epiphanius (Haeres. xxx. 18) reports of these, συναγωγὴν δὲ οὗτοι καλοῦσιν τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐκκλησίαν.
It will be perceived from what has been said, that Augustine, by a piece of good fortune which he had no right to expect, was only half in the wrong, when transferring his Latin etymologies to the Greek and Hebrew, and not pausing to enquire whether they would hold good there, as was improbable enough, he finds the reason for attributing συναγωγὴ to the Jewish, and ἐκκλησία to the Christian Church, in the fact that ‘convocatio’ (=ἐκκλησία) is a nobler term than ‘congregatio’ (=συναγωγή), the first being properly the calling together of men, the second the gathering together (‘congregatio,’ from ‘congrego,’ and that from ‘grex’) of cattle. See Field, On the Church, i. 5.
The πανήγυρις differs from the ἐκκλησία in this, that in the ἐκκλησία, as has been noted already, there lay ever the sense of an assembly coming together for the transaction of business. The πανήγυρις, on the other hand, was a solemn assembly for purposes of festal rejoicing; and on this account it is found joined continually with ἑορτή, as by Philo, Vit. Mos. ii. 7; Ezek. xlvi. 11; cf. Hos. ii. 11; ix. 5; and Isai. lxvi. where πανηγυρίζειν = ἑορτάζειν: the word having given us ‘panegyric,’ which is properly a set discourse pronounced at one of these great festal gatherings. Business might grow out of the fact that such multitudes were assembled, since many, and for various reasons, would be glad to avail themselves of the gathering; but only in the same way as a ‘fair’ grew out of a ‘feria,’ ‘holiday’out of a ‘holy-day.’ Strabo (x. 5) notices the business-like aspect which the panhgu<reij commonly assumed (ἥ τε πανήγυρις ἐμπορικόν τι πρᾶγμα: cf. Pausanias, x. 32. 9); which was indeed to such an extent their prominent feature, that the Latins rendered πανήγυρις by ‘mercatus,’ and this even when the Olympic games were intended (Cicero, Tusc. v. 3; Justin, 5).