The Greek Geek

Χριστιανός: Christian

By Chris Conner

The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The Greek word for Christians is Χριστιανός (transliteration: Christianos; phonetic pronunciation: khris-tee-an-os') and combines Christos (anointed) with the suffix meaning "follower"; i.e. follower of Christ (Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). It only occurs 3 times in the N.T. (Acts 11:26; 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16*).

The identification of the Messiah with Jesus of Nazareth brought the disciples the name Christianoi (plural form of Chrisianos). Compared with other names for followers of Jesus (e.g. disciple or believer), the word is rare in the N.T. It is a word that defines the one to whom it is applied as belonging to the party of a certain Christos, much as Herodianos (Herodians) is a technical form for the followers of Herod (Matthew 3:6; 12:13). It suggests that it was applied to Christians by outsiders and contained an element of ridicule, similar to the word Nazarenos (Nazarite). But it soon became a name that those called by it felt honored (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology; p. 610).

The young church at Antioch was a curious mixture of Jews (who spoke Greek or Aramaic) and Gentiles. It is significant that this is the first place where the believers were called Christians (or Christ-ones), because all they had in common was Christ — not race, culture, or even language. Christ can cross all boundaries and unify all people (Life Application Study Bible; p. 1974).

We can be proud of the name we wear. When a policeman wears a badge, he wears it with honor. When a soldier wears a patch or insignia on his arm, he wears it with honor. And when we see these policemen, soldiers, etc. we hold respect or esteem for them because of what they do for us. Our "badge" of honor should be a sign to others of who we are, and who we represent: we represent God in who He is, what He is, and all that He stands for.

Are you proud to wear the name? It means you are a follower of Christ. Are you ashamed of the name? Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16; HCSB). If you are not ashamed of the gospel itself (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) then you should NOT be ashamed to wear his name!

* The NLT enters the word in many places where it may be understood, but the actual word Christianos is not used in the original manuscripts.

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Published 12-21-15