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2. Christianity


Subject Religion » Christianity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631182757.1996.00004.x


The term ‘Christian’ was first used in Antioch in Syria c. 35–40 ce to designate a new religious community there which included both Jewish and non-Jewish adherents and was marked out by its attachment to ‘Christos’ ( Acts 2: 26), a Greek translation of the Hebrew title ‘Messiah’, used by Jews to designate their expected national saviour. In this case it was applied to the prophet–teacher Jesus of Nazareth, executed in Judea, where the movement had originated, a few years earlier. The sobriquet stuck as the movement developed and spread. It is entirely appropriate: Christianity has appeared in a profusion of different forms and expressions, but allegiance to ‘Christ’ is crucial to all. It is also appropriate that the word used to identify Christians is a Jewish technical term, since the roots of the movement lie deep in the life and writings of ancient Israel, and significant that it is a Jewish term translated into Greek. The multitudinous forms in which Christianity appears are conditioned by cultural and linguistic factors, so that translatability and transmission across cultural frontiers are leading characteristics of Christianity as a faith. The earliest Christians were Jews, well read in the scriptures of Israel which traditionally subsisted in three categories: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Although Christianity soon developed as an overwhelmingly Gentile ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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