We get a glimpse of Jesus'intention to establish a new religion in Mtt 16:18 (NRSVCVE):

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

We also see in Acts 11:26:

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.”

We read elsewhere that missionary activity spread "the Way" and slowly created early centers of Christianity with Gentile adherents in the predominantly Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire, and then throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire. (Courtesy :Christianity in the 1st Century ; Wikipedia).

Interestingly, in India , new-comers to Christianity used to be referred to as "Ones who have joined The Way " at least till the 1990s.

My question therefore is: Was the term ”The Way” officially used as a synonym for Christianity during the ages? Inputs from any denomination are welcome.

2 Answers 2


The term, "followers of the Way" appears in the New Testament first in Acts 9:2. This was Luke writing about the murderous activities of Saul of Tarsus against the early Church. He wrote:

"[Saul] went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogue in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem."

In Acts 19:9, 23 & 22:4 the first century Christians were further spoken of as "followers of the Way". In all three of those instances, the term was used to identify Christians who were viewed as a threat to those speaking of them as "followers of the Way".

Later came the apostle Paul defending himself before Governor Felix. Accusers had brought charges of trouble-making (social disorder leading to riots) so Paul spoke to explain the matter after his accusers had given Felix their account of the affray. You can read the formal charges leveled against Paul in Acts 23:23-30.

Here is what Paul said about himself as a follower of the Way, after he was accused of being "a ringleader of the Nazarene sect":

"My accusers cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect." (Acts 24:13-14)

This shows that being spoken of as belonging to the Nazarene sect was synonymous with belonging to the Way. There are five instances in the book of Acts alone where this title is applied to first century Christians. One good reasom why Christians did not object to the title, and why Paul even used it voluntarily of himself, is that Jesus had said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" in John 14:6.

The term was officially used in the New Testament book of Acts. If you could cite your source for saying the term was used in India, about converts to Christianity, up until the 1990s at least, that would be helpful. It appears that the Church soon spoke as being Christian, though their opposers might have continued using "the Way" as a term of derision, indicating a sect. It is not offensive to Christians, however, given that Jesus himself described himself as "the Way".

  • Thanks, Anne for the scripture-based anwer. I wonder whether the term used for newly converts of India was ever translated and did find a place in English writings .in fact it was a term used with sarcasm on most occasions .However, there is a dance form played by Syrian Catholics of Kerala, which is called Play of the Way, and the terms is used in a noble sense. Mar 21, 2022 at 14:41
  • @Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan I shall ask a couple who were missionaries in India until Covid struck. They knew the church which the apostle Thomas was said to have founded in southern India. If they inform me, I shall add to my answer.
    – Anne
    Mar 21, 2022 at 15:02
  • That would be nice. And in case you are interested in the dance form , please log on to Margamkali , Wikipedia. Thanks. Mar 21, 2022 at 15:07
  • My understanding is the name Christain was given to the Church by those outside shortly after AD 30 and it is recorded in Acts. Nevertheless...
    – Joshua
    Mar 21, 2022 at 16:25

Was the term “The Way” officially used as a synonym for Christianity during the ages?

It seems that the term the way was not employed officially as a synonym for Christianity during the ages, although it has been used periodically in the history of the Church, either within the Catholic Church or churches of other Christian denominations.

As Anne points out, the phrase was used by the Apostle St. Paul in the Book of Acts:

And asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. - Acts 9:2

Within the Catholic Church, the phrase The Way is traditionally employed to refer to the Camino de Santiago or as we say in English the Way of the Apostle St.James.

The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the later Middle Ages, and a pilgrimage route on which a plenary indulgence could be earned;[5] other major pilgrimage routes include the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Legend holds that St James's remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried in what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgrims on the Way can take one of dozens of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James begins at one's home and ends at the pilgrimage site. However, a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few hundred pilgrims per year registered in the pilgrim's office in Santiago.

Whenever St. James's Day (25 July) falls on a Sunday, the cathedral declares a Holy or Jubilee Year. Depending on leap years, Holy Years occur in 5-, 6-, and 11-year intervals. The most recent were 1993, 1999, 2004, 2010 and 2021. The next will be 2027, and 2032.

There also exists a non-denominational ministry known as The Way International which was founded 8n 1942 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Way International is a global, non-denominational Christian ministry based in New Knoxville, Ohio. The followers congregate primarily in home fellowships located throughout the United States, two US territories and in over 30 countries. It was founded by Victor Paul Wierwille in 1942 as a radio program, subsequently becoming The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan in 1947, and The Way, Inc., in 1955.

The ministry distributes publications such as The Way Magazine through its company, American Christian Press, and has developed and promotes classes and other programs, some of which are in several languages. It formed The Way Corps, a leadership training program, in 1970.

The Way offers classes in biblical studies to its followers, prominently The Way of Abundance and Power class series. The Way International has given focused attention on first-century Christianity and extensive research into the Church Epistles. It has been described as combining biblical literalism, evangelicalism, Calvinism, ultradispensationalism, and Pentecostalism. The teaching of The Way is based on 2 Peter 1:20 that "no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation" (KJV translation) and they believe the Bible interprets itself in a variety of ways, which is taught in its studies, classes, and publications. TWI teaches that every follower can have an accurate understanding of God's original intent in His Word.

On October 3, 1982, L. Craig Martindale became the second president of The Way. He was followed by Rosalie F. Rivenbark in April 2000. In March 2017, Jean-Yves DeLisle was installed as the fourth president. On March 10, 2020, Vernon W. Edwards was installed as the fifth president of The Way.

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