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The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia


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In the 11th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the 26th verse, we read, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." As the result of the persecutions which arose about St. Stephen, some of the disciples who had to flee for their lives came to Antioch. In time there grew up a church there, a mixed society of Jews and Gentiles, and the citizens of Antioch naturally asked, "What are they?" "What name do they bear?" "What is their object?" While they were acquainted with the Jews and their peculiarities, they saw that this was not a Jewish organization, for it embraced Gentiles as well. When they learned that the one bond which held this society together was their belief in a Messiah, a Christ, the people of Antioch, who were celebrated for their fertility in nicknames, called the members of this society, Christians. Without doubt the name was given in ridicule. It did not spread widely at first; it is only twice used in the Bible and each time as a word of reproach. But as often happens with names thus conferred, this was a name to remain forever; a name that was to be powerful and far-reaching; a name that was to stand for all that is lovely, noble and beautiful in human life. Such is the origin of the name we bear. We are Christians because we know no other name but that of Christ and no other bond but that of union with Christ. We are made Christians in our Baptism, for we are then brought into union with Christ and made members of His Body. The old word Christen, meaning to baptize, really means to Christian, that is, to make Christian by incorporating us into Christ.

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Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Christian'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. 1901.

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