Christianity is referred to several times in the book of Acts as "the Way" (hē hodos), initially at 9:2:

[Saul] asked [the high priest] for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way (hē hodos), men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (ESV)

See also Acts 19:9, 23; 22:4; and 24:14, 22. To my knowledge this usage is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.* I have learned from commentaries that there is an equivalent phrase (Heb. hadderek) used as self identification by the Essene Community in the Qumran literature (i.e. the non-Biblical documents from among the "Dead Sea Scrolls") that may be the origin of hē hodos. For the purposes of this question, though, I'm interested in the other side (temporally):

  • Was this term used to describe the Christian movement in early (post-Biblical) church writings?
  • Did any of the Fathers opine about the origin of the label or its meaning within the community? (I'd be especially interested if they were aware of the [postulated] connection with Qumran, but that seems unlikely.)

* John 14:6 may be related, but that has some deeper Christological significance rather than the more concrete reference to a sect as it is used in Acts.

† The Greek fathers would be most relevant, although the absolute use of "the Way" is distinctive enough that it would probably be recognizable in Latin as well. ("Absolute", i.e., without further specification such as "the way of the LORD" [Is 40:3, cf. Acts 18:25].)

  • was this a term Luke used to desribce followers of Christ, or a term he recorded as being used?
    – warren
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:17
  • Hi @warren, I'm most comfortable thinking of the words we have in Acts as Luke's descriptions (especially given that at least some of the direct speech there, e.g., the conversation between Saul and the high priest, was unlikely to have been in Greek), but I think it's unlikely that Luke pulled the term out of nowhere.
    – Susan
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


I looked into Lampe (ed.)"A Patristic Greek Lexicon", Oxford University Press, 1961.

It makes four mentions for the use of hodos in this sense:

  1. Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 1,48. (Migne 20.428A)
  2. Chrysostom, Homily 19 on the Acts of the Apostoles (Migne 60.152)
  3. Ammonius of Alexandria, On the Acts of the Apostoles 14:14 (Migne 85.1592C)
  4. Theodoret of Cyrus, On Romans 9:33 (Migne 82.163)

According to what we see in Chrysostom, it would seem that this title hasn't been used since. He explains that those of the way was what "the believers were called, probably because of their taking the direct way that leads to heaven" (Migne 60.152).

[I know that there are very good patristic concordances that would help you out, but I don't have access to them at this time. Haven't had time to look very well into the references but I did make sure they correspond. Hope this helps out a little.]

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