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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Lat. discipulus, a scholar, from discere, to learn: Matthew 10:24), one who professes to have learned Certain principles from another, and maintains them on that other's authority. In the New Testament it is applied principally to the followers of Christ; sometimes to those of John the Baptist, Matthew 9:14; and of the Pharisees, Matthew 22:16. It is used in a special manner to point out the twelve, Matthew 10:1; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 20:17. A disciple of Christ may now be defined as one who believes his doctrine, rests upon his sacrifice, imbibes his spirit, and imitates his example (Farrar, Bibl. and Theol. Dict. s.v.). "There are three senses in which men are sometimes called disciples of any other person:
(1.) Incorrectly, from their simply maintaining something that he maintains, without any profession or proof of its being derived from him. Thus Augustine was a predestinarian, and so was Mohammed, yet no one supposes that the one derived his belief from the other. It is very common, however, to say of another that he is an Arian, Athanasian, Socinian, etc. which tends to mislead, unless it is admitted, or can be proved, that he learned his opinions from this or that master.
(2.) When certain persons avow that they have adopted the views of another, not, however, on his authority, but from holding them to be agreeable to reason or to Scriplture, as the Platonic, and most other philosophical sects — the Lutherans, Zuinglians, etc.
(3.) When, like the disciples of Jesus, and, as it is said, of the Pythagoreans, and the adherents of certain churches, they profess to receive their system on the authority of their master or Church, to acquiesce in an 'ipse-dixit,' or to receive all that the Church receives. These three senses should be carefully kept distinct."
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Disciple'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/d/disciple.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.