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Was Jesus a Christian?

The short answer is, no, Jesus was not a Christian. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ. Jesus is, of course, the foundation of the Christian faith. But Jesus Himself was a Jew who followed and fulfilled the Mosaic law. He is the Jewish Messiah. Persons who have put their trust in Jesus and follow Him today are referred to as Christians.

Acts 11:26 is the first recorded instance of the term "Christians." In part, it says, "And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians." The term Χριστιανός (christianos) is a Greek word meaning a follower of Christ. The term "Christ," Χριστός (christos), is a Greek word meaning anointed, or anointed one. This is the Greek equivalent to מָשִׁיחַ (mashiach) or more commonly, Messiah, which is the Hebrew word for anointed or anointed one. This is why Jesus is often referred to as Jesus The Christ or Jesus The Messiah. Christ is not His last name; it is His title. Jesus Christ is the Anointed One of Israel (Daniel 9:26).

Since Christians are followers of Jesus Christ, then Jesus Himself would not have been a Christian. Scripture clearly indicates that the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians at Antioch. Acts 11:26 refers to Paul teaching the disciples in Antioch for about a year, probably sometime around AD 46. This means that the term "Christian" was first used ten to fifteen years after Jesus' death and resurrection. So, the term Christian would not be applied to Him chronologically either.

While Acts 11:26 tells us the first time the term "Christian" was applied to the followers of Jesus, it is not the only use in Scripture, and there are several instances of its use outside of Scripture in the first century. In Acts 26:28 Agrippa accuses Paul of trying to make him a Christian, and in 1 Peter 4:16, Peter tells Christians not to be ashamed for suffering "as a Christian." Peter probably wrote his first letter between AD 62 and 64. Outside of the Bible, Josephus referred to the followers of Christ as "the tribe of Christians" around AD 94. Pliny the Younger, in his correspondence with Tacitus and with Trajan, referred to them as "Christians" around the end of the first century. The Annals by historian Tacitus, refers to the followers of Jesus as being "commonly called Christians." And of course, Nero blamed "the Christians" for the fire that ravaged Rome in AD 64. So, the term was rather widely used by the middle of the first century, but first applied in Antioch.

Jesus Himself was not a Christian. Rather, Christians—those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ, believing He is fully God and fully human, lived a perfect life, died as a payment for our sins, rose back to life proving victorious over sin and death, and offers us salvation by His grace received through faith—are followers of Jesus Christ.

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