We see in Acts 11:24-26 (NRSVCE):

"For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

I wish to know how the name Christians used for followers of Jesus stuck . Antioch was a part of ancient Greece, and the word Christian had its origin in Greek word Christos meaning the Saviour, known as Messiah in Hebrew. That St. Luke wrote the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles in Greek, may also have contributed to the firming up of the name Christian. But then, we see Jesus being addressed as The Nazarene all through the Gospels and the Acts. It is therefore, strange that His disciples were not called Nazarenes by the Jews who were more comfortable with Hebrew language than with Greek.

My question therefore is: Were the early Christians called by some other name in languages other than Greek? If they were, why did those names become defunct?

PS: In southern India, Christians in the good old days called themselves as Nasrani, a name derived from the Syrian word for Nazarene.

  • This doesn't answer the title question; it's here to comment on possibly mistaken facts in the body of the question. "Nazarene" simply means someone from the town of Nazareth. "Jesus" was a common name, so to distinguish Jesus from other people of the same name, people referred to him as "Jesus of Nazareth", or "the Nazarene". It wouldn't make sense to use that qualifying name for his followers. If I were there, they might call me "Ray al-Kanadi" (the Canadian), but for other people associated with me that designation would be inappropriate. Jun 10, 2019 at 12:48

4 Answers 4


Were early Christians known by other names than Christians?

Take your pick, those who followed Jesus were called Christians, Sect of the Nazarenes, Followers of the Way and Sheep.

The early Christians were called by different names.

Christians--"and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch," (Acts 11:26).

Sect of the Nazarenes--“For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes," (Acts 24:5).

Followers of the Way--"and [Saul who became Paul] asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem," (Acts 9:2).

Sheep--“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand," (John 10:27-28).

They were also called saints:

Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. - Acts 26:10


Originally, Christians were identified as "belonging to the Way." (cf. Acts 9:2) I'd surmise the reason that "Christian" stuck had to do with the fact that it was much clearer than the original title and it was in the lingua franca of the region.

  • Yes. A practice of referring to newly converted Christians as ' those who adopted the way' was prevalent till the end of the 20th century in Southern India . Jun 11, 2019 at 4:44

In addition to other answers, several scriptures refer to early christians as "saints":

Acts 26:10

2 Kor 13:13

Romans 12:13

Phil. 4:22

When searching for this term I have found it in OT scriptures as well, so there is probably some kind of reference to those:

Ps 34:9

Ps 50:5

Ps 132:9

Ps 149:5

Without looking too much into it, I would interpret this as meaning "HIS covenant people", or alternatively HIS priests.


Other than the names already mentioned, the Early Church called itself Catholic. The first written evidence of it is in a letter from St Ignatius of Antioch at around 100 AD.

It is assumed the name was popular from the beginning though. It was used to differentiate itself from the "ethnic" religion of Israel (Judaism), because catholic means universal in Greek.

Here's one source but there are many: St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop, and an Apostolic Father of the Church, wrote a letter to the Smyrneans... (Rev 1:11).

  • This was rather later than the term "Christian".
    – Conrado
    Apr 8, 2023 at 21:42

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