First CALLED Christians

By David Embury

"First CALLED Christians". There is some variation of thought as to how the base or root word "called" chrēmatizo [χρηματιζω] is used in its derivatives. The root word itself in fact does not appear in the NT but rather its cognates; and context seems to govern their use.

In the OT Greek [the Septuagint – LXX] this word is primarily used in describing God's "dealings" with His people – hence the thought of "business" etc. It is however the "divine" origin or nature of these dealings that seems to have credence, as is reflected in its various uses as found in the NT. Such NT usage seems to focus more on this "Godly" aspect rather than a common designation. Thus chrēmatizo [χρηματιζω] can be interpreted or understood accordingly:

Root word = chrēmatizo – χρηματιζω:

1] …to transact business, esp. to manage public affairs. 1a] …to advise or consult with one about public affairs. 1b] …to make answer to those who ask for advice, present enquiries or requests, etc. 1c] …of judges, magistrates, rulers, kings, God. 2] …to give a response to those consulting an oracle, to give a divine command or admonition, to teach from heaven. 2a] …to be divinely commanded, admonished, instructed. 2b] …to be the mouthpiece of divine revelations, to promulgate the commands of God. 3] …to assume or take to one's self a name from one's public business. 3a] …to receive a name or title, be called. []

Specific cognates:

Mt 2:12 χρηματισθεντες = divine warning.

Mt 2:22 χρηματισθεις = divine warning.

Lk 2:26 κεχρηματισμενον = revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Act 10:22 εχρηματισθη = divine warning.

Act 11:26 χρηματισαι = "called" or "known as" – divinely so??

Rom 7:3 χρηματισει = "called" or "known as" – divinely so??

Rom 11:4 χρηματισμος = divine revelation.

Heb 8:5 κεχρηματισται = divine instruction.

Heb 11:7 χρηματισθεις = divine warning.

Heb 12:25 κεχρηματιζοντα = divine instruction.

Of the above 10 references only 2 are questionable as to whether there is any "divine-ness" in relation to these verses, yet even Rom 7:3 can be attributable to being a divine sanction in that Paul could quite easily be stating the case as per God's revealed will – in other words, Paul is speaking on God's behalf.

As for Act 11:26 chrēmatizo [χρηματισαι] = "called" or "known as" – and can possibly be viewed as a divine designation. I think a case can be made for this being an instance where God has spoken a specific "prophetic word" – rhēma [ρημα] specifically announcing that the disciples were God's "anointed ones" or "Christ-ones" thus "Christians", as the word christos [χριστοV] means "anointed". How so? In the Greek, text punctuation is minimal to non existent, and in context a case can be made for God having spoken a divine "word" through His prophets there present, as was their calling, or as the Amplified Version says:

Act 11:27 AMP And during these days prophets (inspired teachers and interpreters of the divine will and purpose) came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.

Now, quoting the wider passage then re-quoting a portion of it with an explanation we will see how it could be read:

Act 11:26-28 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

Now with the phase "in these days" the word [δε] translated and or now preceding it in the Greek can also be rendered with such variants as for, indeed, yes, in fact. This little Greek word [δε] is a conjunctive particle and is used for connecting one clause with another, that being – the giving of the name "Christian" and the presence of prophets from Jerusalem. If then the now or and is substituted with for to link the preceding clause with the following, and given that punctuation in the Greek text is minimal to non existent, so at times a little arbitrary, then what we have is a possible "prophetic ministration" that one could surmise may have brought such a prophetic word, and so could be paraphrased:

"And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, for in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then, one of them named Agabus…"

Understanding the passage in this fashion may help explain verses such as these:

Isa 62:2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name.

Isa 65:15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name.

Rev 3:12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

1Pet 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.

Now as to why Paul himself nowhere specifically uses this term in any of his writings is also speculative – one could imagine that since the early church was initially and predominately "Jewish" and thus viewed by outsiders as essentially a Jewish sect, that Paul, whose main audience came to be the Gentiles, may not have thought to use such a term as he might have linked it more with the group within whom Peter, John and co were working; Peter of course does use the term "Christian" as a title, as does Agrippa in his dealings with Paul, who does however acknowledge his ownership of it [Act 26:28-29]. Speculation yes, but food for thought.