6 occurrences in 6 dictionaries

Reference: Christian


the name given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach, to the followers of Jesus. It was first used at Antioch. The names by which the disciples were known among themselves were "brethren," "the faithful," "elect," "saints," "believers." But as distinguishing them from the multitude without, the name "Christian" came into use, and was universally accepted. This name occurs but three times in the New Testament (Ac 11:26; 26:28; 1Pe 4:16).

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The name first given at Antioch to Christ's followers. In the New Testament it only occurs in 1Pe 4:16; Ac 11:26; 26:27-28. Their name among themselves was "brethren," "disciples," "those of the way" (Ac 6:1,3; 9:2), "saints" (Ro 1:7). The Jews, since they denied that Jesus is the Christ, would never originate the name "Christians," but called them "Nazarenes" (Ac 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, Ac 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?"

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

1. Time and place of origin.

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

It was not long, alas! before the outward profession of Christ became 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.

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The disciples, we are told,

Ac 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,

Ac 15:1,23; 1Co 7:12


Ac 9:26; 11:29


Ac 5:14


Ro 8:27; 15:25

The name "Christian," which, in the only other cases where it appears in the New Testament,

Ac 26:28; 1Pe 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.

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CHRISTIAN, 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, Ac 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, Ac 26:28, where a Jew is the speaker, and in 1Pe 4:16, where reference appears to be made to the name as imposed upon them by their enemies. The word used, Ac 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.

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