< Previous
Next >

2. Names of Reproach and Derision conferred on Christians by their enemies

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER II. Names and classes of christians

2. Names of Reproach and Derision conferred on Christians by their enemies

These are indeed without number. Such hatred and contempt was felt for Christianity and its professors, both by Jews and gentiles, that they seized every opportunity to expose the disciples of Christ, as dangerous and contemptible men. The reproachful epithets cast upon them, with few exceptions, relate only to the first centuries of the christian era, and are chiefly interesting to the historian and antiquarian. And yet they are of importance as illustrating the condition of the primitive church.

  1. Jews. By the Romans, Christians were at first regarded merely as a Jewish sect, like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. As such they were accordingly denominated Jews and despised as a superstitious and misanthropic sect. After they began to be distinguished from the Jews, they were described by Suetonius as a class of men of a new and mischievous superstition. Genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficae. 
  2. Nazarenes, Both Jews and gentiles unitedly denominated the Christians Nazarenes. The word is variously written Nazurenes, Nazarenes, Nazorenes, Nazerenes, and Nazirenes. The significations of the term seem to have been as various as its form, though it is uniformly applied in a bad sense. Acts 24:5.
  3. Galileans. The author of the name Galileans as a term of reproach was, according to Gregory Nazianzen, Julian the apostate. This he constantly employed, and made a law requiring that they should not be called by any other name. He died with these remarkable words on his lips: Ah! thou Galilean! thou hast conquered. 
  4. Greeks. In direct opposition to Julian, christian converts were by the ancient Romans, styled Greeks; which with them was a proverbial phrase, expressive both of suspicion and contempt, as an impostor. Whenever they saw a Christian in the high way, they were wont to exclaim: Ah! a Greek impostor. Christ himself was regarded as an impostor. Matt. 27:63.
  5. Magicians. By heathen nations, the author of the christian religion was styled Magician, and his followers Magicians. 

Of other names which the malice of their persecutors invented or applied to them, the following is a brief summary.

  • Sihyllists. From their being charged with corrupting the Sibylline books. A favorite insinuation of Celsus. 
  • Sarmentitii. Derived from the faggots with which the fires were kindled around them at the stake. 
  • Semaxii. From the stake to which they were bound.
  • Parabolani*. From their being exposed to ravenous beasts. 
  • Self-murderers*. Alluding to their fearlessness of death.
  • Atheists* 
  • Novelli*, new lights. 
  • Worshippers of the cross*, 2 Cor. 1:18. 
  • Plautinae prosapiae homines et Pistores, men of the race of Plautus, bakers. Plautus is said to have hired himself lo a baker, to grind in his mill.
  • Asinarii worshippers of an ass. Creduli, Simplices, Slulti, Lucifugae, Stupidi, Fatui, Imperiti, Abjecti, Hebetes, Idiotae, etc.

Suetonius, Vita Nero, C.16.

Epiphan. Haeres. 29. n. 1. 9; Hieron. Comment, in Is. xlix; Prudent. Peristeph. Carm. 5. v. 25–26. Hymn. 10 de Rom. Mart. 5.41.

Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. 3. p. 81. Socrat. h. e. 3. c. 12.

Theodoret. h. e. 3. c. 12.

Hieron. ep. 10. nd Fur.

Orig. c. Cel. lil). i. p. 30. Arnob. Disputat. 1. 2. 53. Kortholi's Abliandlung. p. 474 et seq.

Orig. contra Celsum, lib. v. p. 272 seq.; Tertull. ad nation, lib. ii. c. 12.

Tertull. Apologet. c. 50.

Lactantius, Instit. Div. v. 9.

Euseb. h. e. lib. iv. c. 15. Justin Mart. Apol. I. p. 47.

Arnob. Disp. adv. Gent. 1. 71. Prudent Hymn, 10. 14. 404 seq. Tertull. ad Nat. 1. 8.

Terttjil. Apol. c. 16. Ad Nat. 1. 7. 12. August. Ep. 44.

Minuc. Feb. Octav. c. 14.

Plutarcb, Sympos. lib. iv. quaest. 5. Joseph, c. Apion, 2. 10.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


search 🔍



privacy policy