Doesn’t everyone know that some things are Jewish and other things are Christian and these are mutually exclusive categories? Indeed, it may be so for many people today. But Χριστός – “Christ” is a purely Jewish concept. And even the origin of the term Χριστιᾱνός – “Christian” or Christ-follower came to be because of some diaspora Jews.

Some Jews from Cyrene and Cyprus were proclaiming the good news of Christ in the city of Antioch among the non-Jews there (Acts 11:20). To their amazement, their message was received. The apostles sent Barnabas to help with these new believers. He, in turn, found Paul of Tarsus, who taught for a whole year in the assembly of these new Jesus-followers in Antioch (Acts 11:22-26). The book of Acts says, “…and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

First-century Jews did not see the term “Christian” in any sort of negative or oppositional sense. It was a politically-charged term which proclaimed loyalty to the Jewish Christ and not to Rome. Jews who followed Jesus were already known as “The Way” but their non-Jewish disciples became known as “Christians”. The apostle Peter wrote, “…If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed…if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:14–16).

Being Christian in the book of Acts meant being associated with the Messiah of Israel and that even for a non-Jew, is a very Jewish thing to do.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. So Christ is a Hebrew word...wonderful unknown information now revealed till now (I am Catholic) Please, what does it stand for, what does the word mean??? You say Barnabas was sent to Paul with this information to transmit it...to the Jews...or to the Gentiles....or all??? What is the meaning/the acceptance of the word that made the Gentiles keep it as their personal designation but that, apparently, did not impress the Hebrews/Jews in the same intimate way, from what History seems to show...??? Thank you so much for an answer to a very impressed Catholic.
    • Yes, May, the word Christ is of Hebrew origin. Mashiach (Messiah) in Hebrew means "anointed one" and that is what is typically translated as Christ. It refers to the ritual of anointing people with oil for a special mission, a consecration if you will as it is shown in the books of Moses. I am not sure I understand your question about Barnabas... Apostles sent Barnabas to non-Jewish Christ-followers in Antioch. And Barnabas sent for Paul to help him teach them. There are many reasons why the gospel went to the nations. It is not that the Jews did not care, so God went to plane B - the nations. Paul in Romans 10-11 says God supernaturally orchestrated so that not all Jews would believe. And his purpose was mercy extended to the nations. It was always planned A for the good news to go beyond Israel.
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Stories of Jewish Christ: Among the Rabbis or . You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
  2. Dear Prof Pinchas,

    Thanks for this piece, but it has left me sort of confused. Your argument is that christianity and the Jewish religion are mutually exclusive entities. Could we see the Way and Christianos as mitually exclusive as well allowing the gentiles liberty to some extent to operate in a mutually inclusive culture? In Africa where I come from our history has it that the western missionaries who spread christianity to Africa in the 19th century condemened its culture as evil. They subsequently embarked on the mission to redeem Africans together with their culture and urged them to follow the new culture if they should be saved. Ofcourse this approach has worked for sometime, but we are back on the drawing board to define our faith to include the same things that were rejected.
    • Let me clarify a little... Official historical Christianity in its current popular form and Judaism are at odds. If you study the history of the movement though original church writings you will see that in 3rd and 4th centuries a decision was made for Christianity to be an alternative to Judaism, with an alternative, ethics, laws, holidays and etc. That is why the current form of Christianity does not work with Judaism. It was purposefully designed and shaped not to work. And that it a distant history now. As far as Africa is concerned I agree with you completely. It is a tragedy that westerners did not have enough foresight to just proclaim the gospel God's principles, but instead tried to proclaim their own culture and force it upon Africans. That mistake was made in India and Latin America as well.

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  3. I agree with what you wrote here. It makes me sad when I hear some Christians despise the title because of the current negativity it holds (mostly due to those who live a life of hypocrisy).
    As Christ followers however, it was never meant to be a term embraced by the world, but by the believing community.
    So nobody should ever be ashamed to be called Christian. I am not ashamed.
    • Willie Delport : What you have said is mos important, relevant and true, one must be careful to follow those that proclaim one thing and do another. By that I mean people. It does not however dilute the Good News message that we have been saved by the Grace of God, through our savior Jesus Christ. If I preach the Gospel yet do the opposite, it is not the Gospel that is at fault but me, who with my imperfection has failed that which is true and for ever standing.
  4. Paul did not receive the gospel from a human source, but by revelation (Gal 1:12). In my Bible this is titled “Paul Defends His Apostleship”. Is Paul defending his Apostleship, or defining what a Christ follower is? I am confused whether the non-Jews in Acts accepted Paul’s message or if Christ revealed Himself. I call myself a Christian in the U.S., but Justice (Christ) was something I recognized in the New Testament prior to hearing a message at church. Christianity replaced the revelation of Christ in my case (probably because of my lack of a Biblical language). Why wasn’t the revelation of Christ replaced in the case of the non-Jewish disciples?
    • Yes, you are right. In 1 Cor 11:23 Paul says he received this from Yeshua himself. But not only from him. From others as well - 1 Cor 15:3-11.
  5. Salvation is from the Jews....Romans chapters 9, 10 & 11 says it all. So the answer to your question is "no". The "term" Christianity is a Roman Greco term to describe "believers", which is a more fitting word since the original title for Yahshua ha Mashiak is Messiah, annointed one, the original Hebrew, as you mentioned. If the scriptures were accurately translated the word "Christ" would not be there, instead "Messiah" would. My question for you Professor is.....are you a believer? Do you believe Yahshua is the Messiah? If so, why are you posting hogwash articles instead of ministering to the Jews in Israel (State) winning souls for El Shaddai, testifying to the truth? Your article sir is nothing but nonsense. There is a division between Jews and Christians so do not try to prey on innocent minds with topics that do not build up a common faith and belief system because what you said in your first paragraph some things are Jewish, some things are Christian and each are mutually exclusive told me a lot. The Jews still follow the Law and Christians live by faith. Scripture tells us that those who observe the Law are under a curse Romans 1,2&3.
    • I am a believer and a follower of Messiah, Sabrina. I take no offense for you calling my articles "hogwash". That is only your opinion. You are in minority and thousands of people on this very website will tell you that you are mistaken. Since you asked me such a personal question, I am going to ask you a question... Who made you God or Holy Spirit to speak into my life and tell me how I should be living out my calling? You do not know me! I have dedicated my entire life serving both communities. As far as Law being a curse... God, our loving heavenly Father, gave my people Torah (law) and though it contains curses (like Dt 29) it is good and holy (Rom 7:12, 1 Tim 1:8). Paul whom you quote says that God's Law (only Scripture Paul knew) is inspired and that is what one should use for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness! (1 Tim 3:16). Sabrina, I think you misunderstand what it means to live by faith. Do you think that acknowledging Jesus means you do not need teaching, correction, and training in righteousness? Consider what Jesus taught. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven... depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Mat 7:21-23). Lawlessness = without law. Is that what living by faith means to you?

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    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with Stories of the Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 or Biblical Hebrew I: First Steps. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
    • Sabrina Hunter, please your response to prof Pinchas article is really a disgrace on your part. Please if you don't understand something, why not ask or even if you want to disagree on a particular point, why not do it in a healthy manner? Please let's respect our teachers.
  6. The original Christianity had Jewish origins. "Christianity" as it is today, has a different God, teachings and beliefs and is far removed from its Jewish origins. It is more pagan than Jewish now.
  7. Prof. Shir, Thank you for answering in detail a question I have had for quite a few years. The schism between Judaism and Christianity has bothered me. especially when one considers that Jesus never instructed us to "quit being Jews". This explained it simply and perfectly. I appreciate your teaching.
  8. It was man's ideas as being politically correct in the 3rd and 4th century to separate the Jewish and Christian faiths. I do not believe God smiled on this but knew it was coming. Nothing catches God by surprise and He has it in the plans. Together again in God.
  9. Dear Professor Shir, Just two points. In English, people speak of "Plan A" and "Plan B" - not "Planned A" and "Plane B". (2) Correct that some missionaries - not all! - tried to get indigenous Africans, Americans, Australians and some Europeans (e.g Gaels) to accept foreign culture.
    • Of course some, not all. Today many missionaries understand the value of culture. We live in a world that rarely works in absolutes and thus we speak in generalities. Sorry did not mean to be unfair.
  10. ... this clarity is most wonderful ... I love the mention of the Jews of Cyprus ... a tiny gem of a community, but, a missionary vision ... I do love the testimony of Lazarus being raised from the dead, which made the Sadducees have a hissy' fit ... in fact, Lazarus was so persecuted that he went to Cyprus to live out his last days (of his 'second life'; i.e. can you imagine being raised from the dead, & to re-engage with mortal physical life?, no wonder the 'generation of viper's' hissed & bit about that glorious Miracle that was the last Miracle that Jesus performed) ...
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