— 60 —
How did followers of Jesus come
to be called Christians?

Apparently, Antioch, the capital of the Roman province of Syria (now within the region of Antakya, Turkey), was the location where "Christian" was first associated with early believers. "And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26).

Obviously, the term is identified with the idea of being a follower of Jesus Christ. In classical times the followers of a leader would identify themselves by a descriptive extension to their leader's name (ianus). Pompey's troops were called Pompeiani, and Caesar's were referred to as, Caesariani. The Christianus (of Latin origin, and hellenized), was similarly viewed as the descriptive term of the followers of Christ.¹

However, Theophilus of Antioch, writing about 170 A.D. claimed that the term "Christian" was used, not as much because of association with Jesus, but because it was derived from the Greek word for oil, CHRISM, which means anointed — and "the followers of Jesus appeared to be anointed with the Spirit."² Chrism is also the Greek word used for Christ, and means anointed one.

¹ The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible
² Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians, James Gilchrist Lawson

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.