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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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?"

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Christian'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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