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The citizens of Antioch in Syria were the first people to give the name ‘Christian’ to believers in Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). The language spoken in Antioch was Greek, and therefore the believers in that town spoke of Jesus not by the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’, but by the equivalent Greek word ‘Christ’. (Both words meant ‘the anointed one’; see MESSIAH.)

To people who were neither Jews nor believers, ‘the anointed one’ (‘Christ’) had no significance. To them the word seemed to be merely the name of a person, and the followers of that person they called ‘Christ’s people’, or ‘Christians’. Originally non-believers used the name ‘Christian’ as a nickname, possibly in mockery (Acts 26:28). But it proved to be a suitable name, for it showed that the Christian religion was centred on Christ. Under some of the later Roman Emperors, believers in Jesus were persecuted merely for being Christians (1 Peter 4:16).

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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Christian'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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