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Sunday, 6 April 2014


The term ”Christian” meaning follower of Jesus Christ came into use around 43 AD and was at first a derogatory word applied to outsiders. A few years later St Luke recorded in the Book of Acts 11 v26  that Barnabas and Paul taught great numbers of people at Antioch, who were the first believers to be called Christians. It only occurs twice more in the New Testament, in Acts 26 v 28 and 1 Peter 4 v 16.

The first known instance outside of the Bible of the use of the term "Christian" was by the Roman historian Tacitus. He noted that the emperor Nero blamed the "Christians" for the starting of the fire on the night of July 18, 64 AD that destroyed half of Rome, before being brought under control after six days.

The Torches of Nero, by Henryk Siemiradzki.

When the books of the New Testament came to be written the word used to describe believers was “Ecclesia” meaning an assembly of people.

A Greek Christian author, Aristides wrote to the Roman emperor Hadrian of the early Christians in AD120: "They love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If they have something, they give freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger they take him home and are happy as though he was a real brother. They don't consider themselves brothers in the usual sense but brothers instead through the Spirit of God."

In AD 100 there were around 25,000 Christians. In AD 310 up to 20 million Christians.

Through the apostolic work of Gregory the Illuminator, Tiridates III, the King of Armenia became the first state leader to convert to Christianity in 301 AD. Members of his court became Christians as well. Armenia thus became the first country to recognize Christianity as it’s official religion.

As Christianity took hold in the Roman empire, a law was passed in AD 346 banning worship in pagan temples.

The Edict of Thessalonica was issued on February 27, 380. It ordered all subjects of the Roman Empire to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, making Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. (That is one who held that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one Godhead and equal in majesty.)

The first American conversion to Christianity was a native Indian guide in 1540.

The numerical growth during the 20th century in many non western countries where previously there had been little interest in Christianity was immense. In South Korea, for instance, where from the beginning of the First World War there were under 200,000 Christians in the whole of Korea, the numbers increased dramatically. Helped by the efforts of American missionaries they rose to around 15 million by the end of the century. This was in spite of the partitioning of Korea after the war in 1953 whereby the communist North Korea became possibly the most atheistic country in the world. However in South Korea Christianity has now been flourishing for decades.

The word 'Christian' only appears three times in the Bible.

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