Christian was the name first given to Christ’s followers at Syrian Antioch Acts 11:26; cf. 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16: it designates anyone who professes the doctrine proclaimed by Jesus Christ. As an adjective it describes whatever has any bearing on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the rites, symbols and institutions deriving therefrom. Though the reason for the name assumed at Antioch remains unclear and its meaning uncertain, two facts seem evident: the followers of Jesus of Nazareth appeared to pagan eyes as a group distinct from the Jews, and the name Christ was raised in popular consideration to a common name, blotting out its original sense as a title. Yet on the lips of the Antiochenes it probably did not have a very positive sound. At Rome its sense was certainly pejorative Tacitus, Annales XV, 44; Suetonius, Claudius 25. While in the canonical and some subapostolic writings the Christians are called saints, elect, faithful, in the Acts of the Martyrs to declare oneself a Christian was a profession of faith and the name had become current. Since from the name Christian the apologists drew positive expositions of the connection between the philological meaning of the word good, beneficent and their style of life, Marcionite gnosis was not slow to propose a tendentious interpretation: Christians were the adherents of the good God i.e., the Marcionites, in contrast with the orthodox, who in Syria were called Nazarenes, adherents of the Jewish messianism connected with the one from Nazareth.
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