Acts 11:26 MEANING

Acts 11:26
(26) The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.--The term for "were called" is not the word usually so rendered. Better, perhaps, got the name of Christians. The Emperor Julian (Misopog., p. 344) notes the tendency to invent nicknames, as a form of satire, as characteristic of the population of Antioch in his time, and the same tone of persiflage seems to have prevailed on the first appearance of the new faith. The origin of a name which was afterwards to be so mighty in the history of the world is a subject full of interest. In its form it was essentially Latin, after the pattern of the Pompeiani, Sullani, and other party-names; and so far it would seem to have grown out of the contact of the new society with the Romans stationed at Antioch, who, learning that its members acknowledged the Christos as their head, gave them the name of Christiani. In the Gospels, it is true, however (Matthew 22:16, et al.), we find the analogous term of Herodiani, but there, also, we may legitimately trace the influence of Roman associations. As used in the New Testament, we note (1) that the disciples never use it of themselves. They keep to such terms as the "brethren" (Acts 15:1), and the "saints" (Acts 9:13), and "those of the way" (Acts 9:2). (2) That the hostile Jews use the more scornful term of "Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5). (3) That the term Christianus is used as a neutral and sufficiently respectful word by Agrippa in Acts 26:23, and at a somewhat later date, when it had obviously gained a wider currency, as that which brought with it the danger of suffering and persecution (1 Peter 4:16). It was natural that a name first given by outsiders should soon be accepted by believers as a title in which to glory. Tradition ascribes its origin to Euodius, the first Bishop of Antioch (Bingham, Ant. II. i. ? 4), and Ignatius, his successor, uses it frequently, and forms from it the hardly less important word of Christianismos, as opposed to Judaismos (Philadelph. c. 6), and as expressing the whole system of faith and life which we know as "Christianity." It may be worth while to note that another ecclesiastical term, hardly less important in the history of Christendom, seems also to have originated at Antioch, and that we may trace to it the name of Catholic as well as Christian (Ignatius, Smyrn. c. 8). We learn from Tertullian (Apol. c. 3) that the name was often wrongly pronounced as Chrestiani, and its meaning not understood. Even the name of Christos was pronounced and explained as Chrestos (= good). The Christians, on their side, accepted the mistake as a nomen et omen, an unconscious witness on the part of the heathen that they were good and worthy in their lives, that their Lord was "good and gracious (1 Peter 2:3).

Verse 26. - Even for a whole year for a whole year, A.V. and T.R.; they were gathered together for they assembled themselves, A.V.; and that the disciples for and the disciples, A.V. The phrase ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ occurs again in 1 Corinthians 11:18 (T.R.), where it has, as here, very nearly the sense of "in the church," as a place of meeting. It should be "in," not "with." The "Church" is the assembly of disciples gathered together in their house of meeting. Were called; χρηματίσαι, bore the name cf. It is a peculiar use of the word occurring in the New Testament only in Romans 7:3 besides, but found also in Polybius, Strabo, Josephus, and some other writers. Its common meaning is, in the passive voice, "to be warned of God," as in Acts 10:22, where see note. Christians. It was a memorable event in the history of the Church when the name of Christians, which has distinguished them for nearly eighteen centuries and a half, was given to the disciples of Christ. Hitherto they had been called among themselves disciples, and brethren, and saints, and, by the Jews, men "of the Way" (Acts 9:2), or "Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5), but now they received the name of Christians, as followers of Christ, from the outside world, and accepted it themselves (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). From the Latin form of the word Christians, i.e. followers of Christ (like Herodians, followers of Herod; Marians, Pompeians, partisans of Marius and Pompey; Caesariani, Ciceroniani, Vitelliani, Flaviani, etc.; Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1:130; Lewin, vol. 1:97), the designation most have been invented by the Gentiles, either by the Roman court or camp at Antioch, or by the Greek population, influenced as they were by Roman forms of speech current amongst them (compare the Greece-Oriental Nestorians, Arians, etc.). We may be sure that Christians, i.e. followers of Messiah, is not a name likely to have been given by Jews. There is no evidence either of its having been given in derision. The well-known account of Tacitus is "Vulgus Christianos appella-bat. Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat" ('Annal.,' 15:44). Suidas says that those who had been previously called Nazarenes and Galileans, in the reign of Claudius Caesar, when Euodius had been made Bishop of Antioch by Peter, had their name changed into that of Christians. He seems to refer to the statement of Malalas (quoted by Conybeare and Howson, 1:131), that they who had been before called Nazarenes and Galileans received the name of Christians in the time of Euodius, who succeeded St. Peter as Bishop of Antioch, and who himself gave them this name." Malalas is thought to have lived somewhere between the sixth and ninth centuries, at Byzantium. A beautiful passage in the Clementine Liturgy is also quoted at p. 130: "We give thee thanks that we are called by the Name of thy Christ, and are thus reckoned as thine own," where the allusion is to James 2:7. The name Christian is frequent in the epistles of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch; Polycarp's dying words were, "I am a Christian" (Bishop Wordsworth).

11:25-30 Hitherto the followers of Christ were called disciples, that is, learners, scholars; but from that time they were called Christians. The proper meaning of this name is, a follower of Christ; it denotes one who, from serious thought, embraces the religion of Christ, believes his promises, and makes it his chief care to shape his life by Christ's precepts and example. Hence it is plain that multitudes take the name of Christian to whom it does not rightly belong. But the name without the reality will only add to our guilt. While the bare profession will bestow neither profit nor delight, the possession of it will give both the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Grant, Lord, that Christians may forget other names and distinctions, and love one another as the followers of Christ ought to do. True Christians will feel for their brethren under afflictions. Thus will fruit be brought forth to the praise and glory of God. If all mankind were true Christians, how cheerfully would they help one another! The whole earth would be like one large family, every member of which would strive to be dutiful and kind.And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch,.... That he might be useful in directing, and assisting in settling this new and numerous church; in the establishing the members of it, and in putting them into Gospel order, and in a method to secure and maintain peace, especially as they might consist both of Jews and Gentiles; and none so proper to be concerned in such a work as the apostle of the Gentiles.

And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church; preaching the Gospel, and administering the ordinances to them, during that time, at proper seasons. For here being a number of converts, they were embodied together in a church state, very probably by the direction and assistance of Barnabas, who was sent to them from the church at Jerusalem, and in which he might be assisted by Saul: the first bishop, or pastor of this church, was Evodius, as Ignatius observes unto them (k); Remember Evodius, your worthy and blessed pastor, who was first ordained over you by the apostles; and Ignatius himself was the next, of whom Origen speaking, says (l), that he was the second bishop of Antioch after Peter, who in persecution fought with beasts at Rome; next to him was Heron, after him Cornelius, then, Eros; to whom succeeded Theophilus, who wrote three books to Autolycus, in vindication of the Christian religion, which are now extant, in the times of the emperor Aurelius Verus, about the year of Christ 171. He was succeeded by Maximinus (m) about the year 179, under Marcus Antoninus; and after him was Serapion, about the tenth year of the emperor Commodus, and of Christ 192; and about the year 214, Asclepiades succeeded in his room; next to him was Philetus, in the year 220, and then Zebennus in the year 231; next succeeded Babylas, the famous martyr, who suffered under Decius, and then followed Demetrianus, or Demetrius, about the year 255; and after him was the famous heretic Samosatenus, who was excommunicated from this church for his blasphemy against the Son of God; and Domnus, the son of Demetriauus, was put into his room, about the year 270; after him was Timaeus, in the year 274; and then Cyrillus, about the year 283: and these were the bishops or pastors of this church in the three first centuries (n).

And taught much people; besides the church, and with success, as to enlighten, convince, convert, comfort, and establish:

and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch; before they were called among themselves, the disciples, brethren, believers, the church, &c. and by others the Nazarenes, and Galilaeans: whether this name of Christians, which comes from Christ, and signifies anointed ones, was given by their enemies, or their friends, by others, or themselves, is not certain, though it is most likely the latter; and it may be they hit upon this general appellation, upon the union of the Jews and Gentiles in one Gospel church state, and so happily buried the distinction of Jews and Gentiles, or those of the circumcision that believed, and those of the uncircumcision. Luke is particular in relating the affairs of this church, he being himself a native of this place. John of Antioch (o) gives an account of this matter in these words;

"at the beginning of the reign of Claudius Caesar, ten years after Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, was ascended up into heaven, Evodus, the first after the Apostle Peter, being chosen bishop of Antioch, the great city of Syria, became a patriarch, and under him they were called Christians: for this same bishop, Evodus, conferring with them, put this name upon them, whereas before the Christians were called Nazarenes and Galilaeans.''

Epiphanius says (p), the disciples were called Jessaeans before they took the name of Christians first at Antioch: they were called Jessaeans, says he, I think, because of Jesse, seeing David was of Jesse, and Mary of David: and so the Scripture was fulfilled, in which the Lord says to David, of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne, &c.--Or else, they were called Jessaeans from the name of Jesus our Lord; and refers the reader to a book of Philo's, written by him, concerning the Jessaeans, whom Epiphanitius takes to be Christians; but those that Philo (q) treats of were not Jessaeans, but Essaeans, and seem to be the same with the Essenes, who were not Christians, but a sect of the Jews. Nor do we ever find that the Christians were called by this name.

(k) Epist ad Antiochenos, p. 86. (l) Homil. 6. in Luc. fol. 96. 1.((m) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 4. c. 20, 24. (n) Ib. l. 5. c 22. & 1. 6. c. 39, 44, 46. & l. 7. c. 14, 27, 32. (o) Apud Gregory's Notes, &c. p. 155. (p) Contra Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 29. (q) Quod omnis probus liber, p. 876. De vita contemplativa, p. 889.

Courtesy of Open Bible