Was the term “Christian” originally a derogatory reference?


By your teaching the disciples were first called "Christians" at Antioch of Syria, which is true; however, who at Antioch was calling them this term and why? It was a derogatory term toward them, my friend. Then again by King Agrippa, another pagan. Then one other time this name is mentioned by Peter only as a reference.  All throughout the New Testament the word disciples (250+), brethren (270+), and saints (90+) are used. They never called each other by the term "Christian" and the word "Christianity" is not once written. They were disciples who followed Yeshua of the Way. When Shaul writes the epistles, it's to the saints, brethren, and disciples of the assemblies (eklessia) not the church or buildings we have today made by man's hands.


"And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26).

There is no mention of the term "Christian" being a derogatory term, nor is there historical evidence of such. Instead, we take note that "assembled," "taught," and "called" are all in the same Greek tense (infinitive aorist -- passive for assembled and active for taught and called). Infinitive refers to actions that are continuous in nature. Aorist means the time element is undefined -- no one is defining how long this has been or will be going on. Passive refers to things being done to a person, while active refers to things a person is doing. Thus, by the grammar of the statement, it does not lend itself to a derogatory term being applied to the disciples; rather, "Christian" appears to be the name by which the disciples called themselves.

The word "Christian" itself carries no bad connotations. In the Roman army at this time soldiers under a particular general would add iani (Latin) or ianos (Greek) to the end of the general's names to indicate that they were followers of that general. For example, Caesar's soldiers were called Caesariani. Thus, the term "Christian" simply means a soldier or follower of Christ. "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (II Timothy 2:3).

What is really interesting is that the word "called" is not what you might expect in Greek. It is the word chrematisai, which means to be given a revelation or warning, usually from the divine.

"Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way" (Matthew 2:12).

"But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee" (Matthew 2:22).

"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Luke 2:26).

"And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you"" (Acts 10:22).

"And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26).

"So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man" (Romans 7:3).

"who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain"" (Hebrews 8:5).

"By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7).

"See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven" (Hebrews 12:25).

Acts 11:26 and Romans 7:3 are generally called exceptions to the rule that the speaker is of divine origins, but there are some who point out that understanding that it is from God does no injustice to the passages. A woman is called an adulteress because God said so, it is not a rule that originated from man. And the reason the disciples became known as Christians is that God bestowed that name on them. "The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name" (Isaiah 62:2). "Christian" was a new name that arose after the Gentiles joined the disciples. Luke used a Greek word that indicates it was of divine origin, just as Isaiah prophesied.

Since Peter does use the word "Christian" to denote the disciples of Christ, your assertion is contradicted when you say they never used it to refer to themselves. "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (I Peter 4:16). The number of times used does not eliminate the fact that it was used.

We also find the name "Christian" in use in historical records.

"Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome...." [Tacitus, Annals 15.44].

"About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he ... wrought surprising feats.... He was the Christ. When Pilate ...condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared ... restored to life.... And the tribe of Christians ... has ... not disappeared." [Josephus, Antiquities 18.63-64].

"The Christians ... worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.... [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws." [Lucian, "The Death of Peregrine", 11-13, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4].

Early disciples also made use of the word "Christian."

"The Christians, O King, went about and searched, and they found the truth." [Aristides, c. 125), 9.276].

"Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe." [Letter to Diognetus, c. 125-200, 1.26].

"Well, in your long lists of those accused of many and various atrocities, has any assassin, any purse-snatcher, any man guilty of sacrilege, seduction, or stealing bathers' clothes, ever has his name entered as also being a Christian? Or when Christians were brought before you on the mere bases of their name, is there ever found among them an evildoer of this sort? It is always your people that the prison is steaming. ... You find no Christian there, unless he is there for being a Christian. Or, if someone is there as something else, he is a Christian no longer." [Tertullian, c. 197, 3.49-50].

Despite your assertion, it does not match historical records inside and outside the church. It is written many times. I only gave some brief examples to prove my point.

The word "church" in English has two definitions. It can refer to a building, which would not be the proper translation of ekklesia, but it can also refer to the assembly of Christians, which is in perfect keeping with the meaning of ekklesia. See: Is the church the building or its members?


[The following was left unedited.]

I contradict nothing, those are ur point of views, ur denomination has decived u...Peter is telling even if u suffer as a christian...talking to disciples,brethren and the saints. YES when we are called christians by outsiders, we wear it as a badge...u make other quotes from Josephus and others outside of scripture which typical of all hirelings (pastors) John 10:12-13 leading people astray...like the book of enoch,jubilees and other non biblical material and mans interpretations to twist scripture to conform to their 33,000 "denominations" which are divisions Romans 16:17-18 who participate in 501 c3 Romans 13:6-7 , Matthew 17:24-27 , Matthew 22:15-22, u understand exactly what I wrote if u were born from "above" disciple of the WAY, but like most protestants these days have bought into this "church" building system worshipping on Sun-worship-day called yourselves "christians" of false "churchianity" take heed that no one deceives u, many will come in my name, saying I am Christ=christos=anointed one G5547 who these days are the many (denominations) who say they are anointed with a special calling (pastors) aka hirelings...I've tested many of them by 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 and none have been found to have come in like scripture teaches...example; does ur "church" have a youth pastor, music pastor, associate pastor, did ur pastor come from within the "church" was he married and had more than 2 children and well behaved believers, did he serve as a deacon ? Do an honest exegesis on those chapters and see if he passes the 17 qualifications put forth in 1 Tim 3....


I decided not to clean up the response this time, so readers can see what is actually going on. Notice that his only response to the answer to his original question is to say that using quotes from non-Christian sources to prove a historical point is somehow a bad thing. Having lost his point, he then uses a shotgun approach of blasting numerous unrelated points. If we didn't know before, it becomes clear that the writer is a Messianic Jew.

To answer one point, this congregation is not a part of any denomination. See: We Are Simply Christians Without Being Members of Any Denomination, You Can be Too!

I found it particularly amusing his attempt at personal attacks. It shows that he did not bother to research who he was writing to. We have preachers here, one financially supported and several semi-retired as members. We don't divide the duties of a preacher by limiting who or what he focuses on. He mixes up the terms for elders (or overseers or pastors) with the terms for a preacher (or evangelist or minister). But ignoring his confusion, we do have elders here. I'm one of them; and, yes, both of the elders were rigorously examined against the qualifications in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Thus, he loses out on his railing accusations as well.

He illustrates the scoffer who refuses to believe anything that doesn't match his views. "A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise" (Proverbs 15:12). Since a reasoned discussion is not possible, the best response is to walk away.

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