Where Did the Word Christian Come From?

a person studying the Book of Genesis
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The word “Christian” is said to describe people who are believers of Jesus Christ all over the globe. “Christian” is just one of those words in the English language that carries much more baggage. To be sure, it’s a heavy title, but it’s worth mentioning that Jesus hadn’t given His believers a title.

The early Christians did not refer to themselves as Christians. The word “saints” was most frequently seen in the Holy scriptures. The term “Christian” is being used both positively and negatively in today’s society. The first-century disciples of Jesus were frequently met with rejection. They were frequently tortured or murdered.

The Word “Christian” Origin

“Christianos” is the original Greek word for Christian, and it is derived from the words “Christ” and “tian.” “Christ” indicates “anointed,” and “tian” signifies “little.” As a result, the term “Christian” actually means “anointed ones.”

Throughout his life, Jesus was referred to as the “messiah,” which means “anointed one,” and we are his “little anointed ones,” chosen by the Holy Spirit to symbolize Him in this world. Intriguingly, the term Christian appears in the Bible only three times.

Who Used The Word Christian First?

God and Jesus Christ did not categorize anyone as Christians, as per the Bible. Non-believers came up with the term. They were using this term to refer to the community of individuals who heard the apostles preach about Christ, and afterward, they called them “Chrestians,” with the letter “e,” and after 300 years (350 CE or A.D.), they altered it to Christians (Christi-anos), with the letter “i.”

The pagan first used the term Christian to characterize the people who followed Jesus. During a period of growth for the church, followers of Christ were known as “Christians.” Many Christians were compelled to flee Jerusalem escaping persecution, and they dispersed across the country, carrying the gospel with them. It is referenced three times in the New Testament by a pagan and Jews at Antioch in the year 43 A.D. (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16).

So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.” Here the word “Christian” first used, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)

There was no unique term for individuals who followed Jesus Christ before this period in the book of Acts, other than followers, brethren, disciples, saints, and believers. Early Christians described themselves as disciples or saints rather than Christians. They didn’t see themselves as a distinct “religion,” but rather as Jewish believers in the Messiah.

Name Changes from ‘Chrestian’ to ‘Christian’

The term “Christ” had little meaning to the general public in the first decades after Jesus had left the earth. Some ancient texts refer to followers as “Chrestians” and say their main figure was “Chrestus,” implying a lack of understanding of the faith itself. This makes it even more plausible that the term Christian was coined by people who were not Christians. Because Christ signifies “Messiah” and relates to the Son of David, Jews of the time never would have called believers “Christians.”

Jesus was precisely what jews did not think Christ to be; They wouldn’t be using such a title unless it had become a well-established, self-sustaining phrase. Non-believer Jews referred to Christians as “of the Nazarene sect” (Acts 24:5), even though Nazareth was a place with a bad reputation among most Israelis (see John 1:46).

Both the Bible and history reveal that when the name “Christian” was initially invented, it was likely intended as a sarcastic insult. Peter explicitly advises his readers not to be embarrassed if they are referred to as such (1 Peter 4:16).

Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4:16)

Modern-Day Meaning of Word Christian

In some cases, current English dictionaries provide original meanings of biblical terminology, while in others, such dictionaries provide meanings of biblical terms that are polluted by man-made concepts or beliefs and differ from the existing context of such terms in the Bible.

The term “Christian” is defined as follows in one 21st-century dictionary: “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

A “Christian,” according to this definition, is someone who proclaims a faith and belief in the Biblical teaching. However, there is no call to action. That contradicts the biblical definition of “professes belief in teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Christianity’s Core And Identity

Christianity is a religious tradition centered on the person of Jesus Christ at its most fundamental level. Faith relates to either the followers’ action of belief or the nature of their devotion in this case.

Christianity is like a religious belief system as a culture. Because Jesus initially had become the focus of religion, it has also developed culture, a collection of beliefs and cultural practices, traditions, and relics that have been passed down by generations. As a result, Christianity is also a dynamic belief tradition. The church, or the group of people who form the community of followers, is the entity of Christianity.

What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?

At least in terms of culture, to be a Christian has evolved through time. Many individuals believe that merely attending church or having faith in Christ qualifies them as Christian. On the other hand, the Bible offers a unique viewpoint and description of what it means to be a Christian.

A true Christian is someone wherein actions and attitudes mirror Jesus Christ’s. According to Acts 11:26, Saul and Barnabas gathered with the church for a year and taught a large number of people. At Antioch, the disciples were first referred to as Christians. They were termed “Christians” due to their attitude and manner, which resembled Christ’s.

Our Final Thoughts

Being a Christian is more than merely following a set of doctrines, and belief systems, particularly in the western culture. To be a Christian is a lifestyle wherein we strive to be as like Jesus as possible.

Embracing Jesus as Glorious leader and Savior, determined to believe even when it appears difficult, opting to love people you would rather despise, and choosing to place God above all other connections are all examples of how to follow Christianity.

As Christians, you are Christ’s bearers and messengers. In the community, Christians have the divine mission to serve humanity. Antiochians may have referred to the word Christians as that name due to the initial extreme inclusion of early Christians, but it is now up to the believers to maintain the good name as the term “Christian” is constantly changing itself depending on the perceptions of it.

By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have a love for one another,” Christ says in John 13:35, the people choose on how others would know we are His.