Ancient Antioch was famous for its humor, especially the coining of jesting nicknames. When an organized brigade of chanting devotees of Nero led crowds in adulation, this band of imperial cheerleaders with their ludicrous homage was quickly dubbed Augustiani. And earlier, when the devotees of the one called Christ came to public attention, they were named Christianoi, partisans of Christ (11:26). What may have been first coined by outsiders as a term of derision (see Acts 26:28 and 1 Pet 4:16, the only two other New Testament occurrences of the term—both on the lips of hostile unbelievers), the followers of the Way embraced it as a fitting label.
Theophilus and his peers had heard the name, though not always distinctly. It was confused by many with Chrestianos, possibly deriving from Chrestos, "useful," a common name for a slave (compare Suetonius Claudius 25.4). What does it mean to be a Christianos, a Christian (Tacitus Annals 15.44; Suetonius Nero 16.2)? Luke clears this up for Theophilus and us by pointing to Antioch.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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