From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

CHRISTIAN . This name, from very early times the distinctive title of the followers of Jesus Christ, occurs only thrice in NT (  Acts 11:26;   Acts 26:28 ,   1 Peter 4:16 ).

1. Time and place of origin . Our only information on this point comes from   Acts 11:26 . It was in Antioch, and in connexion with the mission of Barnabas and Saul to that city, that the name arose. It has sometimes been suggested that the infrequent use of ‘Christian’ in the NT points to a considerably later origin, and that the author of Acts had no better reason for assigning it to so early a date than the fact that the founding of the first Gentile church appeared to him to be an appropriate occasion for its coming into use. But apart from St. Luke’s well-established claim, as the historian of Christ and early Christianity, to have ‘traced the course of all things accurately from the first,’ his own non-employment of the word as a general designation for the disciples of Christ suggests that he had no reason other than a genuine historical one for referring to the origin of the name at all.

2. Authors of the name . (1) It is exceedingly unlikely that it was originally adopted by the Christians themselves. As the NT shows, they were in the habit of using other designations ‘the disciples’ (  Acts 11:26 and passim ), ‘the brethren’   Acts 9:30 ,   Romans 16:14 and constantly), ‘the elect’ (  Romans 8:33 ,   Colossians 3:12 ), ‘the saints’ (  Acts 9:13 ,   Romans 12:13 ), ‘believers’ (  Acts 5:14 ,   1 Timothy 4:12 ), ‘the Way’ (  Acts 9:2;   Acts 19:9 ). But in NT times we never find them calling themselves Christians. In   Acts 26:28 it is king Agrippa who employs the name. And though in   1 Peter 4:16 it comes from the pen of an Apostle, the context shows that he is using it as a term of accusation on the lips of the Church’s enemies.

(2) It cannot have been applied to the followers of Jesus by the Jews . The Jews believed in ‘the Christ,’ i.e. ‘the Anointed One,’ the Messiah; and they ardently looked for Him to come. But it was their passionate contention that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ. To call His followers Christians was the last thing they would have thought of doing. They referred to them contemptuously as ‘this sect’ (  Acts 28:22; cf.   Acts 24:5; cf.   Acts 24:14 ), and when contempt passed into hatred they called them ‘Nazarenes’ (  Acts 24:5 , cf.   John 1:46 ). It is true that Agrippa, a Jewish king, makes use of the name; but this was nearly 20 years after, and when, in that Roman world with which he lived in close relations, it had become the recognized designation of the new faith.

(3) Almost certainly the name owed its origin to the non-Christian Gentiles of Antioch. As these Antiochenes saw Barnabas and Saul standing day by day in the market-place or at the corners of the streets, and proclaiming that the Christ had come and that Jesus was the Christ, they caught up the word without understanding it, and bestowed the name of ‘Christians’ on these preachers and their followers. Probably it was given, not as a mere nickname, but as a term of convenience. Yet doubtless it carried with it a suggestion of contempt, and so may be compared to such titles as ‘Puritan’ and ‘Methodist’ originally applied by those who stood outside of the spiritual movements which the names were meant to characterize.

3. The spread of the name . Originating in this casual way, the name took deep root in the soil of human speech, and the three passages of the NT in which it occurs show how widely it had spread within the course of a single generation. In   Acts 26:28 we find it on the lips of a Jewish ruler, speaking in Cæsarea before an audience of Roman officials and within 20 years after it was first used in Antioch. A few years later St. Peter writes to ‘the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia’ (  1 Peter 1:1 ); and, without suggesting that ‘Christian’ was a name which the Church had yet adopted as its own, he assumes that it was perfectly familiar to the ‘elect’ themselves over a vast region of the Dispersion; and further implies that by this time, the time probably of Nero’s persecution (a.d. 64), to be called a Christian was equivalent to being liable to suffer persecution for the sake of Christ (  1 Peter 4:16 ). It was later still that St. Luke wrote the Book of Acts; and when he says that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (  Acts 11:26 ), he evidently means that this was a name by which they were now commonly known, though his own usage does not suggest that they had even yet assumed it themselves.

Outside of the NT we find Tacitus and Suetonius testifying that the designation Christian (or ‘Chrestian’) was popularly used in Rome at the time of the Neronian persecution; while from Pliny, early in the 2nd cent., we learn that by his day it was employed in Roman courts of law. ‘Are you a Christian?’ was the question he was himself accustomed to put to persons brought before him on a charge of being followers of Christ. By the time of Polycarp’s martyrdom (soon after the middle of the 2nd cent.), the term of accusation and cross-examination has become one of joyful profession. ‘I am a Christian’ was Polycarp’s repeated answer to those who urged him to recant. It was natural that those who were called ‘to suffer as Christians’ should come to glory in the name that brought the call and the opportunity to confess Christ. And so a name given by the outside world in a casual fashion was adopted by the Church as a title of glory and pride.

4. The meaning attached to the name . The original meaning was simply ‘a follower of Christ.’ The Antiochenes did not know who this Christ was of whom the preachers spoke; so little did they know that they mistook for a proper name what was really a designation of Jesus. But, taking it to be His personal name, they called Christ’s disciples ‘Christians,’ just as Pompey’s followers had been called ‘Pompeians,’ or the adherents of Herod’s dynasty ‘Herodians.’ No doubt they used the word with a touch of good-humoured contempt the Christians were the followers of somebody or other called Christ. It is contempt again, but of an intenser kind, that seems to be conveyed by Agrippa’s words to St. Paul, ‘With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian!’ (  Acts 26:28 ). In 1Peter a darker shadow has fallen upon the name. Nero has made it criminal to be a Christian, and the word is now one not of scorn merely, but of hatred and fear. The State ranks a Christian with murderers and thieves and other malefactors (cf.   1 Peter 4:14 with   1 Peter 4:15 ). On its adoption by the Church, deeper meanings began to be read into it. It testified to the dignity of the Church’s Lord ‘the Anointed One,’ the rightful King of that Kingdom which hath no end. It proclaimed the privileges that belonged to Christians themselves; for they too were anointed with the oil of God to be a holy generation, a royal priesthood. Moreover, in Greek the word christos (‘anointed’) suggested the more familiar word chrestos (‘gracious’). The Christians were often misnamed ‘Chrestians’ from an idea that the founder of their religion was ‘one Chrestos.’ And this heathen blunder conveyed a happy and beautiful suggestion. It is possible that St. Peter himself is playing on the word ‘Christ’ when he writes (  1 Peter 2:3 ), ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious ( chrestos ).’ And by and by we find Tertullian reminding the enemies of the Church that the very name ‘Chrestians,’ which they gave to Christ’s people in error, is one that speaks of sweetness and benignity.

5. The historical significance of the name . (1) It marked the distinct emergence of Christianity from Judaism , and the recognition of its right to a separate place among the religions of the world. Hitherto, to outsiders, Christianity had been only a Jewish sect (cf. the words of Gallio,   Acts 18:14-15 ), nor had the first Apostles themselves dreamt of breaking away from synagogue and Temple. But the Antiochenes saw that Christ’s disciples must be distinguished from the Jews and put into a category of their own. They understood, however dimly, that a new religion had sprung up on the earth, and by giving its followers this new name, they helped to quicken in the mind of the Church itself the consciousness of a separate existence. (2) It marked the fact, not heretofore realized, that Christianity was a religion for the Gentiles . Probably it was because the missionaries to Antioch not only preached Christ, but preached Him ‘unto the Greeks also’ (  Acts 11:20 ), that the inhabitants discerned in these men the heralds of a new faith. It was not the way of Jewish Rabbis to proffer Judaism to Greeks in the market-place. Christianity appeared in Antioch as a universal religion, making no distinction between Jew and Gentile. (3) It is not without significance that it was ‘first in Antioch’ that the Christians received this name. It shows how the Church’s centre of gravity was shifting . Up to this time Christians as well as Jews looked to Jerusalem in everything as the mother of them all. But Jerusalem was not fitted to be the chief city of a universal faith. Paul saw this clearly helped to it without doubt by his experiences at this very time. And so Antioch became the headquarters of his missionary labours, and through him the headquarters of aggressive Christianity in the early Apostolic age (  Acts 13:1 ff.,   Acts 14:26 f.,   Acts 15:1 ff.,   Acts 15:22 f.,   Acts 15:35 ff.,   Acts 18:22 ff.). It served as a stepping-stone for that movement, inevitable from the day when Christianity was first preached unto the Gentiles, which by and by made Rome, the metropolis of the world, the mother-city also of the universal Church. (4) The name marked the fact that Christianity was not the religion of a book or a dogma, an idea or an institution, but a faith that centred in a Person . The men of Antioch were mistaken when they supposed that Christ was a personal name, but they made no mistake in thinking that He whose name they took to be Christos was the foundation-stone of this new faith. By calling the disciples Christians they became unconscious prophets of the truth that Christianity, whether regarded from the side of historical revelation or of personal experience, is all summed up in the Person of Jesus Christ.

J. C. Lambert.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]


We might expect that, in the case of so renowned a name as ‘Christian,’ the occasion and circumstances of its origin would have been recorded with all possible detail, but such is not the case. Its first appearance is noticed in the most simple, matter-of-fact way without further explanation. ‘The disciples were called Christiana first in Antioch’ ( Acts 11:26). Then, as far as the NT is concerned, the name almost disappears; it is mentioned only twice again ( Acts 26:28,  1 Peter 4:16). In the former passage Agrippa says: ‘Thou wouldest fain make me a Christian’; in the latter, Peter’s words, ‘If a man suffer as a Christian,’ are spoken from a persecutor’s standpoint. Even in Agrippa’s day the designation was understood (circa, abouta.d. 44), and, when 1 Peter was written (a.d. 64-67), it must have been in common use. In the other Epistles the name does not occur. There the terms used are such as ‘disciples,’ ‘believers,’ ‘the faithful,’ ‘brethren,’ ‘saints.’ The only two points definitely indicated in  Acts 11:28 are the time and place, and both these are in every way appropriate.

The missionary work of the Church was about to begin from Antioch as its starting-point. There a considerable church had been formed by the united labours of Barnabas and Saul. Driven from Jerusalem by persecution, disciples had gone to Cyprus and preached to the Jews there. Thence some came over to Antioch and preached to ‘Greeks also’ (Ἔλληνας; another reading has Ἐλληνιστάς, ‘Grecian Jews’), with the result that ‘a great number believed.’ Barnabas came from Jerusalem on an errand of inquiry, and under his ministry ‘much people was added to the Lord.’ Barnabas then fetched Saul from Tarsus; both laboured in Antioch ‘a whole year’ and taught ‘much people’ (ὄχλον ἱκανόν). Here was the first considerable church on Gentile soil; a common name was necessary and was forthcoming-providentially, we cannot doubt, but how is not so clear.

The city of Antioch ( q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ), the capital of Syria, a splendid centre of Greek life and culture, became after the Fall of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) a second home of the Church and the mother-church of Gentile Christianity. Although it does not figure prominently in the NT, in subsequent history it plays a great part as a rival of Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. Chrysostom, the prince of early Christian preachers, won his first fame there. This Antioch school of theology represented a type of interpretation more akin to modern thought than any other in those days. Ignatius, martyr and writer of the famous letters, was bishop of Antioch. Chrysostom writes: ‘As Peter was the first among the apostles to preach the Christ, so was this city the first to be crowned with the name of Christian as a diadem of wondrous beauty.’

As to the mode in which the name ‘Christian’ originated, there is great difference of opinion. We seem compelled to accept one of three explanations. (1) All agree that the name did not originate with the Jews. On their lips it would have been a tacit acknowledgment of the Messiahship of Jesus. While the first disciples were Jews, the Jewish element soon became a diminishing quantity in the Church. Their name for believers in Christ was Nazarenes. Their attitude, as we see in the Acts, was increasingly one of estrangement and hostility,

(2) The suggestion has been made that the designation originated with Christians themselves. Eusebius (4th cent.), usually well-informed and trustworthy, supports this view. An argument in its favour is its eminent appropriateness. Nothing could better signalize the central position of Jesus in Christianity. St. Paul’s attitude on this question represents the Church of all ages. Systems like Muhammadanism and Buddhism, once established, are independent of their founders. Not so Christianity: ‘Christianity is Christ.’ His person, life, and work are the key-stone of the arch, the alpha and omega of the gospel. Yet, if this opinion were correct, we should expect some intimation to this effect in  Acts 11:26. Still more, the name is not found in the NT outside the three passages mentioned, and, as far as records go, for some time afterwards. In writers of the 2nd cent. it is of common occurrence-in pagan writers, the Apologists, the author of the Didache , and so on. Speaking of the Neronian persecution, Tacitus (a.d. 116) says: ‘They whom the populace ( vulgus ) called Christians ( Christianos ).’ Suetonius (a.d. 120) and Pliny (a.d. 112) use the same designation. P. W. Schmiedel ( Encyclopaedia Biblica , s.v .) says that Christian writers did not use it because they did not need it. ‘Saints,’ ‘brethren,’ etc., served their purpose. ‘It follows that, notwithstanding its absence from their writings, the name of Christian may very well have originated at a comparatively early time.’ As we have seen,  Acts 26:28 and  1 Peter 4:16 imply that the term was in use. As to scanty references, many early Christian writings have perished.

(3) The opinion most in favour is that the term originated in Gentile circles outside the Church. The people of Antioch with their quick wit had a reputation for the invention of party names. A title so apt, almost obvious, once suggested, would persist with a vitality of its own. Coming from outside, it was not at once accepted by believers, but slowly grew in favour. This explanation on the whole presents the fewest difficulties and fits the circumstances of the case. We need not accept the view that the title was used at first derisively. There is nothing of this character in the title itself, although Conybeare-Howson and others think that it was so meant. A. Carr in an essay in his Horœ Biblicae takes tills view. He thinks that St. Paul’s preaching of the Kingdom, carrying with it the idea of Christians as an army, would suggest comparison with the followers of great military leaders (Pompeians, Herodians), greatly to the discredit of Christ and Christians. This meaning is not expressed in the term itself, but, if it were a fact, would arise out of the memory of the Crucifixion. Antiochene ingenuity could certainly have discovered a better expression for such an idea. At a much later date the Emperor Julian saw nothing discreditable in the name, for he forbade its use and replaced it with Galilaean. (The incidental character of the origin of a great name is not without analogy. In  Acts 11:30 of the same chapter we have the first mention incidentally of ‘presbyters’-the office out of which the countless forms of church polity have grown. So again with regard to deacons in  Acts 6:3.)

It has been argued that the term Χριστιανός implies a Western and Latin origin. But the termination -ανός was in wide use among Greeks everywhere ( Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 384).

The use of this name was the first step in the differentiation of Christians from Jews in the public eye. Previously the two classes had been confounded; and the confusion was advantageous to Christians in many respects, as the Jews were a privileged nation before the Roman law. As the Church grew in numbers the confusion ceased, and the new name emphasized the distinction.

As the name Χριστός was often confused with χρηστός (‘good,’ ‘useful’), so Χριστιανός was often misspelt Χρηστιανός. This was intelligible enough in pagan writers. Suetonius says that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they were always raising tumult under the instigation of Chrestus. Christian writers are not disinclined to turn the mistake to account. Tertullian ( Apol . 3) does this intentionally, saying to pagans: ‘When you wrongly say Chrestians [Chrestianos] (for your knowledge of the name is limping), it is composed of suavity and benignity’ [de suavitate et benignitate]. Clem. Alex. ( Strom . ii. 4) also writes: ‘They who believe in Christ both are and are called good (χρηστοί)’; Justin ( Apol . i. 4); ‘You ought rather to punish those who accuse (us) because of our name. For we are accused of being Christians; but it is unjust for that which is good (τὸ χρηστὸν) to be hated ‘; Lactantius ( Div. Inst . iv. 7): ‘Ignorant of our affairs, they call Christ Chrest (Christum Chrestum ) and Christians Chrestians (Christianos Chrestianos ).’

We can imagine nothing more fitting than that Christians should bear their Master’s name (Christ) in their own (Christian). There was more than accident in such an origin. The name betokens the vital union between Christ and believers, of which the Epistles make so much (‘they that are Christ’s’). An early Liturgy says: ‘We thank thee that the name of thy Christ is named upon us, and so we are made one with thee.’ What a Christian is called he is. He has the mind of Christ. He thinks and feels, loves and acts, as Christ does. His name is an index to his heart. ‘We are called children of God, and such we are.’ ‘A Christian is one who has Christ in his heart, mouth and work’ (à Lapide). Passages like  Matthew 19:29;  Matthew 24:9 found a literal fulfilment in the Church; see  Mark 9:41, ‘Because ye are Christ’s,’ and margin, the name standing for the person;  Acts 4:12, ‘Neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.’ To believe on the name is to believe on Christ ( John 1:12).

Literature.-Comm. of Meyer, Rackham, Alford, Wordsworth on  Acts 11:26; articles in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Encyclopaedia Biblica , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , and Kitto’s Cyclopaedia, s.v .; Conybeare-Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul 2, 1877, i. 146f.; A. Carr, Horœ Biblicae , 1904; F. H. Chase, The Credibility of the Book of Acts , 1902.

J. S. Banks.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

By Dr. Johnson, is defined, "a professor of the religion of Christ;" but in reality a Christian is more than a professor of Christianity. He is one who imbibes the spirit, participates the grace, and is obedient to the will of Christ. The disciples and followers of Christ were first denominated Christians at Antioch, A.D. 42. The first Christians distinguished themselves in the most remarkable manner by their conduct and their virtues. The faithful, whom the preaching of St. Peter had converted, hearkened attentively to the exhortations of the apostles, who failed not carefully to instruct them as persons who were entering upon an entire new life. They attended the temple daily, doing nothing different from the other Jews, because it was yet not time to separate from them. But they made a still greater progress in virtue; for they said all that they possessed, and distributed their goods to the wants of their brethren. The primitive Christians were not only remarkable for the consistency of their conduct, but were also very eminently distinguished by the many miraculous gifts and graces bestowed by God upon them.

The Jews were the first and the most inveterate enemies the Christians had. They put them to death as often as they had it in their power; and when they revolted against the Romans, in the time of the emperor Adrian, Barchochebas, who was at the head of that revolt, employed against the Christians the most rigorous punishments to compel them to blaspheme and renounce Jesus Christ. And we find that even in the third century they endeavoured to get into their hands Christian women, in order to scourge and stone them in their synagogues. They cursed the Christians three times a day in their synagogues; and their rabbins would not suffer them to converse with Christians upon any occasion; nor were they contented to hate and detest them, but they dispatched emissaries all over the world to defame the Christians and spread all sorts of calumnies against them. They accused them among other things, of worshipping the sun, and the head of an ass; they reproached them with idleness and being a useless set of people. They charged them with treason, and endeavoring to erect a new monarchy against that of the Romans.

They affirmed that in celebrating their mysteries, they used to kill a child, and eat his flesh. They accused them of the most shocking incests, and of intemperance in their feasts of charity. But the lives and behaviour of the first Christians were sufficient to refute all that was said against them, and evidently demonstrated that these accusations were mere calumny, and the effect of inveterate malice. Pliny the Younger, who was governor of Pontus and Bithynia between the years 103 and 105, gives a very particular account of the Christians in that province, in a letter which he wrote to the emperor Trajan, of which the following is an extract: "I count of every difficulty which arises to me: I had never been present at the examinations of the Christians; for which reason I know not what questions have been put to them, nor in what manner they have been punished. My behaviour towards those who have been accused to me has been this; I have interrogated them, in order to know whether they were really Christians. When they have confessed it, I have repeated the same question two or three times, threatening them with death if they did not renounce this religion. Those who have persisted in their confession have been by my order led to punishment.

I have even met with some Roman citizens guilty of this phrenzy, whom, in regard to their quality, I have set apart from the rest, in order to send them to Rome. These persons declare that their whole crime, if they are guilty, consists in this: That on certain days they assemble before sun-rise, to sing alternately the praises of Christ, as of God; and to oblige themselves, by the performance of their religious rites, not to be guilty of theft or adultery, to observe inviolably their word, and to be true to their trust. This disposition has obliged me to endeavour to inform myself still farther of this matter, by putting to the torture two of their women servants, whom they called deaconesses; but I could learn nothing more from them than that the superstition of these people is as ridiculous as their attachment to it is astonishing." It is easy to discover the cause of the many persecutions to which the Christians were exposed during the first three centuries. The purity of the Christian morality, directly opposite to the corruption of the pagans, was doubtless one of the most powerful motives of the public aversion.

To this may be added the many calumnies unjustly spread about concerning them by their enemies, particularly the Jews; and this occasioned so strong a prejudice against them, that the pagans condemned them without enquiring into their doctrine, or permitting them to defend themselves. Besides, their worshipping Jesus Christ as God, was contrary to one of the most ancient laws of the Roman empire, which expressly forbade the acknowledging of any God which had not been approved of by the senate. But, notwithstanding the violent opposition made to the establishment of the Christian religion, it gained ground daily and very soon made surprising progress in the Roman empire. In the third century there were Christians in the senate, in the camp, in the palace; in short every where but in the temple and the theatres; they filled the towns, the country, the island. Men and women of all ages and conditions, and even those of the first dignities, embraced the faith; insomuch that the pagans complained that the revenues of their temples were ruined. They were in such great numbers in the empire, that (as Tertullian expresses it) were they to have retired into another country, they would have left the Romans only afrightful solitude. For persecutions of the Christians, see article Persecution Christians may be considered as nominal and real.

There are vast numbers who are called Christians, not because they possess any love for Christ, but because they happen to be born in a Christian country, educated by Christian parents, and sometimes attend Christian worship. There are also many whose minds are well informed respecting the Christian system, who prefer it to every other, and who make an open profession of it; and yet, after all, feel but little of the real power of Christianity. A real Christian is one whose understanding is enlightened by the influences of divine grace, who is convinced of the depravity of his nature, who sees his own inability to help himself, who is taught to behold God as the chief good, the Lord Jesus as the only way to obtain felicity, and that the Holy Spirit is the grand agent in applying the blessings of the Gospel to his soul. His heart is renovated, and inclined to revere, honour, worship, trust in, and live to God. His affections are elevated above the world, and centre in God alone. He embraces him as his portion, loves him supremely, and is zealous in the defense and support of his cause. His temper is regulated, his powers roused to vigorous action, his thoughts spiritual, and his general deportment amiable and uniform. In fine, the true Christian character exceeds all others as much as the blaze of the meridian sun outshines the feeble light of the glow-worm.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

The name first given at Antioch to Christ's followers. In the New Testament it only occurs in  1 Peter 4:16;  Acts 11:26;  Acts 26:27-28. Their name among themselves was "brethren," "disciples," "those of the way" ( Acts 6:1;  Acts 6:3;  Acts 9:2), "saints" ( Romans 1:7). The Jews, since they denied that Jesus is the Christ, would never originate the name "Christians," but called them "Nazarenes" ( Acts 24:5). The Gentiles confounded them with the Jews, and thought them to be a Jewish sect. But a new epoch arose in the church's development when, at Antioch, idolatrous Gentiles (not merely Jewish proselytes from the Gentiles, as the eunuch, a circumcised proselyte, and Cornelius, an uncircumcised proselyte of the gate) were converted.

Then the Gentiles needed a new name to designate people who were Jews, neither by birth nor religion. And the people of Antioch were famous for their readiness in giving names: Partisans of Christ, Christiani, as Caesariani, partisans of Caesar; a Latin name, as Antioch had become a Latin city. But the name was divinely ordered (as Chreematizoo always expresses,  Acts 11:26), as the new name to mark the new era, namely, that of the church's gospel missions to the Gentiles. The rarity of its use in the New Testament marks its early date, when as yet it was a name of reproach and hardly much recognized among the disciples. So in our age "Methodist," a term originally given in reproach, has gradually come to be adopted by Wesley's disciples themselves. Blunt well says: "if the Acts were a fiction, is it possible that this unobtrusive evidence of the progress of a name would have been found in it?"

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

a follower of the religion of Christ. It is probable that the name Christian, like that of Nazarenes and Galileans, was given to the disciples of our Lord in reproach or contempt. What confirms this opinion is, that the people of Antioch in Syria,  Acts 11:26 , where they were first called Christians, are observed by Zosimus, Procopius, and Zonaras, to have been remarkable for their scurrilous jesting. Some have indeed thought that this name was given by the disciples to themselves; others, that it was imposed on them by divine authority; in either of which cases surely we should have met with it in the subsequent history of the Acts, and in the Apostolic Epistles, all of which were written some years after; whereas it is found in but two more places in the New Testament,  Acts 26:28 , where a Jew is the speaker, and in  1 Peter 4:16 , where reference appears to be made to the name as imposed upon them by their enemies. The word used,  Acts 11:26 , signifies simply to be called or named, and when Doddridge and a few others take it to imply a divine appointment, they disregard the usus loquendi [established acceptation of the term] which gives no support to that opinion. The words of Tacitus, when speaking of the Christians persecuted by Nero, are remarkable, "vulgus Christianos appellabat," "the vulgar called them Christians." Epiphanius says, that they were called Jesseans, either from Jesse, the father of David, or, which is much more probable, from the name of Jesus, whose disciples they were. They were denominated Christians, A.D. 42 or 43; and though the name was first given reproachfully, they gloried in it, as expressing their adherence to Christ, and they soon generally assumed it.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Christian. The disciples, we are told,  Acts 11:26, were first called Christians at Antioch, on the Orontes, somewhere about A.D. 43. They were known to each other as, and were among themselves called, Brethren ,  Acts 15:1; 15:23;  1 Corinthians 7:12, Disciples ,  Acts 9:26;  Acts 11:29, Believers ,  Acts 5:14, Saints ,  Romans 8:27;  Romans 15:25.

The name "Christian," which, in the only other cases where it appears in the New Testament,  Acts 26:28;  1 Peter 4:16, is used contemptuously, could not have been applied by the early disciples to themselves, but was imposed upon them by the Gentile world. There is no reason to suppose that the name "Christian" of itself was intended as a term of scurrility or abuse, though it would naturally be used with contempt.

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): (n.) One born in a Christian country or of Christian parents, and who has not definitely becomes an adherent of an opposing system.

(2): (n.) One of a Christian denomination which rejects human creeds as bases of fellowship, and sectarian names. They are congregational in church government, and baptize by immersion. They are also called Disciples of Christ, and Campbellites.

(3): (n.) One who believes, or professes or is assumed to believe, in Jesus Christ, and the truth as taught by Him; especially, one whose inward and outward life is conformed to the doctrines of Christ.

(4): (n.) One of a sect (called Christian Connection) of open-communion immersionists. The Bible is their only authoritative rule of faith and practice.

(5): (a.) Pertaining to Christ or his religion; as, Christian people.

(6): (a.) Pertaining to the church; ecclesiastical; as, a Christian court.

(7): (a.) Characteristic of Christian people; civilized; kind; kindly; gentle; beneficent.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [8]

1: Χριστιανός (Strong'S #5546 — Noun Masculine — christianos — khris-tee-an-os' )

"Christian," a word formed after the Roman style, signifying an adherent of Jesus, was first applied to such by the Gentiles and is found in  Acts 11:26;  26:28;  1—Peter 4:16 .

 Acts 11:26  1—Peter 4:16 Acts 26:28

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [9]

The citizens of Antioch in Syria were the first people to give the name ‘Christian’ to believers in Jesus Christ ( Acts 11:26). The language spoken in Antioch was Greek, and therefore the believers in that town spoke of Jesus not by the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, but by the equivalent Greek word ‘Christ’. (Both words meant ‘the anointed one’; see Messiah .)

To people who were neither Jews nor believers, ‘the anointed one’ (‘Christ’) had no significance. To them the word seemed to be merely the name of a person, and the followers of that person they called ‘Christ’s people’, or ‘Christians’. Originally non-believers used the name ‘Christian’ as a nickname, possibly in mockery ( Acts 26:28). But it proved to be a suitable name, for it showed that the Christian religion was centred on Christ. Under some of the later Roman Emperors, believers in Jesus were persecuted merely for being Christians ( 1 Peter 4:16).

King James Dictionary [10]


1. A believer in the religion of Christ. 2. A professor of his belief in the religion of Christ. 3. A real disciple of Christ one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety. 4. In a general sense, the word Christians includes all who are born in a Christian country or of Christian parents.

CHRISTIAN, a. See the Noun.

1. Pertaining to Christ, taught by him, or received from him as the Christian religion Christian doctrines. 2. Professing the religion of Christ as a Christian friend. 3. Belonging to the religion of Christ relating to Christ, or to his doctrines, precepts and example as christian profession and practice. 4. Pertaining to the church ecclesiastical as courts Christian.

CHRISTIAN, To baptize.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [11]

A title first applied to professed believers at Antioch.  Acts 11:26 . Agrippa used it when addressing Paul.  Acts 26:28 . Peter accepts it, saying that to suffer as a 'Christian ' is a cause of thanksgiving.  1 Peter 4:16 .

It was not long, alas! before the outward profession of Christbecame separated from true faith in Him in the great mass who were recognised as Christians in the world, and in practice they became anything but followers of Christ, as both scripture and history show. To learn what Christianity is according to God, we must turn, not to the great professing body, but to the scriptures, which testify clearly of the declension which was even then begun.

Holman Bible Dictionary [12]

 Acts 11:26 2 Acts 26:28 1 Peter 4:16

Darrell W. Robinson

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

 Acts 11:26 26:28 1 Peter 4:16

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

kris´chan , kris´ti - an ( Χριστιανός , Christianós ):

1. Historicity of Acts 11:26

2. Of Pagan Origin

3. The Christian Attitude to the Name

4. Was "Christian" the Original Form?

5. The Christians and the Empire

6. Social Standing of the Early Christians

7. Christian Self-Designations


1. Historicity of  Acts 11:26

The word Christian occurs only three times in the New Testament ( Acts 11:26;  Acts 26:28; and  1 Peter 4:16 ). The first passage,  Acts 11:26 , gives the origin of the term, "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." The older generation of critical scholars disputed the historicity of this statement. It was argued that, had the term originated so early, it must have been found far more frequently in the records of early Christianity; sometimes also that the termination - ianus points to a Latin origin. But there is general agreement now that these objections are groundless. The historicity of the Lukan account is upheld not only by Harnack, but by the more radical Knopf in Die Schriften des New Testament , edited by Johannes Weiss. In early imperial times, the adjectival termination - ianos was widely diffused throughout the whole empire. Originally applied to the slaves belonging to the great households, it had passed into regular use to denote the adherents of an individual or a party. A C hristian is Thus simply an adherent of Christ. The name belongs, as Ramsay says, to the popular slang, as indeed sect and party names generally do. It is only after a considerable interval, and very often under protest, that such names are accepted as self-designations.

2. Of Pagan Origin

The name, then, did not originate with the Christians themselves. Nor would the Jews have applied it to the followers of Jesus, whose claim to be the Christ they opposed so passionately. They spoke of the Christians as "the sect of the Nazarenes" ( Acts 24:5 ); perhaps also as "Galileans," a term which the emperor Julian attempted later vainly to revive. The word must have been coined by the heathen population of Antioch, as the church emerged from the synagogue, and a Christianity predominantly Gentile took its place among the religions of the world.

3. The Christian Attitude to the Name

Perhaps the earliest occurrence of Christian as a self-designation is in Didache   Acts 12:4 . In the Apologists and Ignatius on the other hand the word is in regular use. 1 Pet simply takes it over from the anti-Christian judicial procedure of the law courts, without in any way implying that the Christians used it among themselves. There is every probability, however, that it was the danger which Thus began at an early date to attach to the name which commended it to the Christians themselves as a title of honor . Deissmann ( Licht vom Osten , 286) suggests that Christian means slave of Christ , as Caesarian means slave of Caesar . But the word can scarcely have had that fullness of meaning till the Christians themselves had come to be proud of it.

According to tradition, Luke himself belonged to Antioch. In  Acts 11:27 ,  Acts 11:28 Codex Bezae (D) reads "There was much rejoicing, and when we had assembled, there stood up," etc. In view of the greater authority now so frequently accorded to the so-called Western text, we cannot summarily dispose of such a reading as an interpolation. If the historian was not only an Antiochene, but a member of the original Gentile Christian church, we have the explanation alike of his interest in the origin of the name Chris tian, and of the detailed precision of his information.

4. Was "Christian" the Original Form?

In all three New Testament passages the uncorrected Codex Sinaiticus reads "Chrestian." We know from many sources that this variant was widely current in the 2nd century. Blass in his edition of Acts not only consistently reads "Chrestian," but conjectures that "Chrestian" is the correct reading in Tacitus ( Annals , xv.44), the earliest extra-Biblical testimony to the word. The Tacitus manuscript has since been published in facsimile. This has shown, according to Harnack ( Mission and Expansion , English translation), I, 413, 414), that "Chrestian" actually was the original reading, though the name "Christ" is correctly given. Harnack accordingly thinks that the Latin historian intended to correct the popular appellation of circa 64 ad, in the light of his own more accurate knowledge. "The common people used to call them 'Chrestians,' but the real name of their founder was Christ." Be this as it may, a confusion between "Christos" (Χριστος , Christos ) and the familiar Greek slave name "Chrestos" (χρεστος , chrestos is more intelligible at an early date than later, when Christianity was better known. There must have been a strong tendency to conform the earlier witnesses to the later, familiar, and etymologically correct, usage. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that the original scribe of Codex Sinaiticus retains "Chrestian." On the whole it seems probable that this designation, though bestowed in error, was the original one.

5. The Christians and the Empire

The fuller discussion of this subject more appropriately falls under the articles dealing with the relation of the church and empire. Suffice it here to say that Paul apparently hoped that by his acquittal the legal position of Christianity as a religio licita would be established throughout the empire, and that 1 Peter belongs to a time when the mere profession of Christianity was a crime in the eyes of the state, but that in all probability this was a new position of affairs.

6. Social Standing of the Early Christians

That early Christianity was essentially a movement among the lower non-literary classes has been rightly emphasized - above all by Deissmann. This is a circumstance of the utmost importance for the correct understanding of the early history of our faith, though probably Deissmann in some degree exaggerates and misplaces the significance. Is it correct to say, for example, that "primitive Christianity was relatively indifferent to politics, not as Christianity, but as a movement of the humbler folks, whose lot on the whole had certainly been lightened by the Empire" ( Licht vom Osten , 254)? Very probably however the difficulties of the Pauline Gentile mission were appreciably increased by the fact that he touched a lower social stratum than that of the original Jewish Christianity of Palestine. No class more resents being associated in any way with the "submerged masses" than the self-respecting peasant or artisan, who seems to have formed the backbone of the Palestine church. The apostle had consequently to fight against social, no less than racial and religious, prejudices.

7. Christian Self-Designations

The Christians originally called themselves "Disciples," a term afterward restricted to personal hearers of the Lord, and regarded as a title of high distinction. The ordinary self-designations of the apostolic age are "believers" ( Acts 5:14;  1 Timothy 4:12 ), "saints" ( Acts 9:13 ,  Acts 9:12 ,  Acts 9:41;  Romans 1:7 ), "brethren" ( Acts 6:3;  Acts 10:23 , etc.), "the elect" ( Colossians 3:12;  2 Timothy 2:10 ), "the church of God" ( Acts 20:28 margin), "servants (slaves) to God" (  Romans 6:22;  1 Peter 2:16 ). The apostolic authors refer to themselves as "servants (slaves) of Christ Jesus" ( Philippians 1:1 ). Other expressions are occasionally met with, of which perhaps the most significant is: Those "that call upon the name of the Lord" ( Acts 9:14;  Romans 10:12 ,  Romans 10:13;  1 Corinthians 1:2 ). Compare Pliny's report to Trajan ( Epistles , X, 97): "They affirmed that ... they had been wont to assemble and address a hymn to Christ as to a god."


The most recent discussion of the names of Christian believers, including "Christian," is in Harnack's Mission and Expansion of Christianity , English translation (2nd edition, 1908), I, 399ff. See also EB , HDB , DCG , with the lit. there cited. On the social status of the early Christians, compare Orr's Neglected Factors in the Study of the Early Progress of Christianity  ; on the religious significance of the name, see Christianity .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

( Χριστιανός ), the name given to those who believe Jesus to be the Messiah ( Acts 11:26). Commentators and critics are not agreed whether the followers of Christ gave this appellation to Themselves, or whether it was bestowed on them by Others. Neither view appears to be wholly true or wholly false. Such titles do not usually originate in any arbitrary way, nor do they spring from a single party, but rather arise from a conventional assent to their appropriateness. It was, indeed, the interest of the Christians to have some name which might not, like the Jewish ones (Nazarenes or Galilaeans), imply reproach. And though the terms brethren, the faithful, elect, saints, believers, disciples, or the Church, might suffice among themselves, yet none of them were sufficiently definite for an appellation, and might perhaps be thought to savor of vanity. They would therefore be not disinclined to adopt one, especially for exoteric use. Yet the necessity was not so great as to stimulate them to do this very soon; whereas the people at large, in having to speak of this new sect, would soon need some distinctive appellation; and what so distinctive as one formed from the name of its founder? It is therefore most likely to have been suggested by the Gentile inhabitants of Antioch, and to have early come into general use by a sort of common consent. (See Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 1 119.)

There is no reason to think with some that the name "Christians" was given in absolute derision. When used by Agrippa ( Acts 26:28), there is no proof that it was a term of reproach; had the intended derision, he might have employed the term Nazarene, which was in frequent use among the Jews, and has continued current in the East, wherever the Arabic language is spoken, to the present day. The early adoption of it by the Christians themselves, and the manner in which they employ it, are sufficient to dispel all idea of this nature ( 1 Peter 4:16). The only reproach connected with the name would be the inevitable one arising from the profession of faith implied in it. Neither is the view of others more probable, that it was a name imposed by divine appointment. The term Χρηματίζω (translated "called" in the passage first quoted), usually relied upon to sustain this view, has other significations than that of an oracular response, and is fairly capable of the meaning assigned to it in our version.

"This world-famous name (William of Tyre, 4:9) occurs but three times in the New Testament ( Acts 11:26;  Acts 26:28;  1 Peter 4:16). In the first of these passages we are informed that it arose in the city of Antioch, during the year spent there in preaching by Paul and Barnabas, A.D. 34. Both Suidas (2:3930, a, ed. Gaisford) and Malalas (Chronograph. 10) say that the name was first used in the episcopate of Evodius at Antioch, who is said to have been appointed by the apostle Peter as his successor (Jerome, Chronic. p. 429). That Evodius actually invented the name (Malalas, 1. c.) is an assertion which may be disregarded as safely as the mediaeval fiction that it was adopted at a council held for the purpose.

"The name itself was only contemptuous in the mouths of those who regarded with contempt him from whom it was derived; and as it was a universal practice to name political, religious, or philosophical societies from the name of their founders (as Pythagoreans, Epicureans, Apollonii, Caesariani, Vitelliani, etc.), it was advantageous rather than otherwise for the Christians to adopt a title which was not necessarily offensive, and which bore witness to their love and worship of their master; a name intrinsically degrading such as the witty Antiochenes, notorious in the ancient world for their propensity to bestow nicknames, might easily have discovered (Philost. Vit. Apol. 3:16; Zosim. 3:11; Ammon. Marcell. 22; Procop. Bell. Pers. 2:8) would certainly have retarded the progress of the new religion; and as we see, even in modern times, that it is the tendency of rival sects to brand each other with derisive epithets, it is natural to suppose that the name 'Christians' resulted rather from philosophical indifference than from theological hatred. The Latinized form of the word Greek in form, Latin in termination is not indeed a conclusive proof that it emanated from the Romans, because such terminations had already been familiarized throughout the East by the Roman dominion; but it is precisely the kind of name which would have been bestowed by the haughty and disdainful spirit of victorious Rome, which is so often marked in early Christian history ( John 18:31;  Acts 22:24;  Acts 25:19;  Acts 18:14). That the disciples should have been called from 'Christus,' a word implying the office, and not from 'Jesus,' the name of our blessed Lord, leads us to infer that the former word was most frequently on their lips, 'which harmonizes with the most important fact, that in the epistles he is usually called, not 'Jesus,' but 'Christ' (Lactant. Div. Instit. 4:7). In later times, when the features of the 'exitiabilis superstitio' were better known, because of its ever-widening progress (Tacit. Ann. 15:44), this indifferentism was superseded by a hatred against the name as intense as the Christian love for it, and for this reason the emperor Julian 'countenanced, and perhaps enjoined, the use of the less honorable appellation of Galilaeans' (Gibbon, 5:312, ed. Milman; Greg. Nazarene, Orat. 3:81). Yet, as Tertullian, in an interesting passage, points out, the name so detested was harmless in every sense, for it merely called them by the office of their master, and that office merely implied one set apart by solemn unction (Apolog. 3).

"It appears that, by a widely prevalent error, the Christians were generally called Chrestiani ( Χρηστιανοί , Sueton. Nero, 16; Claud. 25) and their founder Chrestus (q. d. Χρηστός , Excellent), a mistake which is very easily accounted for (Lactant. Instit. Div. 4:7), and one which the Christians were the less inclined to regret, because it implied their true and ideal character (Clem. Alex. Stron. II, 4:18; Tert. Apol. 100:3). (See Chrestians). The explanation of the name Christian, as referring to the 'unction from the Holy One,' although supported by the authority of Theophilus Antiochenus (A.D. 170), 'who lived not long after the death of John' (ad Autolyc. 1:12), can only be regarded as an adaptation or an after-thought (see Jeremiah Taylor, Disc. of Confirm. § 3).

"The adoption of the name marks a very important epoch in the history of the Church; the period when it had emerged, even in the Gentile observation, from its Jewish environment, and had enrolled followers who continued Gentiles in every respect, and who differed widely from the Jewish proselytes. 'It expressed the memorable fact that a community consisting primarily of Jews, and directed exclusively by them, could not be denoted by that name, or by any name among them. To the disciples it signified that they were witnesses for a king, and a king whom all nations would be brought in due time to acknowledge' (Maurice. Eccl. Hist. p. 79). See Buddeus, De origine, dignitate et usu nominis Christians (Jen. 1711; also his Miscell. Sacr. 1:280 sq.); Wetstenii Nov. Test. in Acts 11; Zeller, Bibl. W Ö rterb. s.v. Christen, etc." (Kitto, s. v). To be denominated Christian was, in the estimation of the confessors and martyrs, their highest honor. This is illustrated in the narrative which Eusebius has copied from an ancient record, of one Sanctus of Vienna, who endured all the inhuman tortures which art could inflict. His tormentors hoped, by the continuance and severity of his pains, to extort from him some acknowledgment which might implicate him; but he withstood them with unflinching fortitude, neither disclosing to them his name, nor his native land, nor his condition in life, whether freeman or slave. To all their interrogatories he only replied, Christianus sum; affirming that his name, his country, and his kindred all were included in this. Of the same import was the deportment of the martyr Lucian, as related by Chrysostom. To every question he replied, "I am a Christian." "'Of What country are you?" "I am a Christian." "What is your occupation?" "I am a Christian." "Who are your parents?" "I am a Christian." Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes bk. 1, ch. 1.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [16]

The name of nine kings of Denmark, of whom the first began to reign in 1448 and the last in 1863, and the following deserve notice:

onquered Sweden, but proving a tyrant, was driven from the throne by Gustavus Vasa in 1522, upon which his own subjects deposed him, an act which he resented by force of arms, in which he was defeated in 1531, his person seized, and imprisoned for life; characterised by Carlyle as a "rash, unwise, explosive man" (1481-1559).

ing from 1588 to 1648; took part on the Protestant side in the Thirty Years' War, and was defeated by Tilly; he was a good ruler, and was much beloved by his subjects; was rather unsteady in his habits, it is said (1577-1648).

ing from 1863; son of Duke William of Sleswick-Holstein, father of the Princess of Wales, George I., king of Greece, and the dowager Empress of Russia; b . 1818.