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).
These with the other solemn games were eminently, though not exclusively, the πανηγύρεις of the Greek nation (Thucydides, i. 25 ; Isocrates, Paneg. I). Keeping this festal character of the πανήγυρις in mind, we shall find a peculiar fitness in the word’s employment at Heb. xii. 23; where only in the N. T. it occurs. The Apostle is there setting forth the communion of the Church militant on earth with the Church triumphant in heaven,—of the Church toiling and suffering here with that Church from which all weariness and toil have for ever passed away (Rev. xxi. 4); and how could he better describe this last than as a πανήγυρις, than as the glad and festal assembly of heaven? Very beautifully Delitzsch (in loc.): [Πανήγυρις ist die vollzahlige zahlreiche und inbesondere festliche, festlich froliche und sic ergotzende Versammlung. Man denkt bei πανήγυρις an Festgesang, Festreigen und Festspiele, und das Leben vor Gottes Angesicht ist ja wirklich eine unaufhorliche Festfeier.’