Christian (The Term)

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The term "Christian" appears but three times in the New Testament. According to Acts 11.26, "it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians."' In Acts 26.28 King Agrippa interrupts St. Paul's discourse with the ironic remark: "In a short while thou wouldst persuade me to become a Christian." And St. Peter, in 1 Pt 4.16, exhorts that if "one suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God under this name."

The Greek word Xριστιανός is a composite of the Greek title Xριστός and the Hellenized Latin suffix-ianus meaning "belonging to." Because of its mixed origin, the probability of its creation by Antiochean pagans, and St. Peter's allusion to the contempt surrounding it, many scholars conclude that the epithet was originally one of opprobrium. Such a conclusion, however, seems unwarranted because: (1) Latin suffixes were current in Greek and added to Greek words without opprobrius intent, e.g., 'Hρδιανός (herodian) and Kαισαριανός (Caesarean), and (2) St. Luke's emphasis in Acts 11.26 was on the growth of the disciples, who were naturally designated Christians, i.e., partisans of Christ. It was only later, under Greco-Roman persecution, that the name Christian became the object of pagan hatred, while loyal Christians gloried in the title, so descriptive of their total commitment to the service of Christ.

Bibliography: e. j. bickerman, "The Name of Christians," Harvard Theological Review 42 (Cambridge, MA 1949) 109124. c. spicq, "Ce que signifie le titre de chrétien," Studia Theologica 15 (1961) 6878. g. ricciotti, The Act of the Apostles, tr. l. e. byrne (Milwaukee 1958) 179180, 375. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 360361.

[w. f. dicharry]

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Christian (The Term)

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Christian (The Term)