The Disciples were called Christians

“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”   (Acts 11:26)

 Some scholars today think the name “Christians” applied to the followers of Jesus was originally derogatory name calling.   But by the 3rd Century the Christians were a widely known group which had gained respect in some quarters.  The early 3rd Century Christian document, “The Letter to Diognetus” (author unknown), offers the following now famous description what it means to live according to the teachings of the “Christian”:    

peopleliturgyFor Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.  This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do.   Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their peopleagapefatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land. They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring.  They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed.  It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.” They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life.  To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. 

(Note: in the photos of Christians of Dayton, Ohio’s St. Paul Churchat Pascha – though it may be true that we have no eccentric customs in terms of what we eat, we do have an unusual custom about when we eat especially at Pascha! )