The Origin of the name “Christians”
Acts 11:19-30 – Believers First Called “Christians” in Antioch
After the death of Stephen many Greek-speaking believers flee Jerusalem for Antioch, where they build up a community with many new believers. Barnabas and Saul (Paul) visit this new community in which believers are first called “Christians.”
After the death of Stephen, many of the Greek-speaking believers in Jerusalem flee to other Mediterranean cities. Those who go to Antioch, called by one ancient writer the “third among the cities of the Roman world,” have God-given success in drawing many people to belief in Yeshua. Antioch had a large and well-established Jewish population as well as a predominantly Gentile population. Outside of Jerusalem, in this great and diverse cosmopolitan city, believers are first identified as Christians.
The Church in Antioch
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. 20 But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Yeshua. 21The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; 24 for he was a good man, full of the Sacred Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’ (Kristyane in Aramaic).
We call ourselves Meshikhi (“of the Messiah” or “Followers of The Messiah”) to more closely identify us with Yeshua Meshikha (Yeshua the Messiah), as identified by Peter at Matthew 16:16 in The Aramaic Scriptures. We may also call ourselves Christians (Kristyane in Aramaic). Christ is from Greek, Messiah is from Hebrew and Aramaic. It’s that easy. The ending of the word Christian: Technically, the ending “-ian” means “belonging to the party of,” so “Christians” meant belonging to the party of Christ.
After Acts 11:26 the word “Christians” is used only two other times in the New Testament: in Acts 26:28 (by Agrippa, an unbelieving King that applied the name he knew as an outsider) and 1 Peter 4:16 (in the context of being oppressed in wider society under that given name). In each reference, the emphasis, inherent in the original Greek, is on the fact that people from outside the faith recognized Christians as a distinct group.
In Galatians 2:11-17 we can see just how central the diversity of the Antioch situation was to the definition of what it meant to be a Christ follower.
The Khaburis Codex in Aramaic is 65 years older than the oldest Greek text.