The sources of "Chrestian" [χρηστιανος]
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The sources of Chrestian [χρηστιανος]
- When one investigates the earliest explicit references to "Christian" in the earliest sources of the common era, one comes away empty handed. The earliest evidence is dominated by the occurrence of the term "Chrestian", as is tabulated below. In the Greek language the word Christian is χριστιανος, while the word Chrestian is χρηστιανος. In the Greek manuscript sources which are presented below, the eta (η) invariably occurs instead of the iota (ι).What does this mean? The evidence tabulated below strongly implies that the earliest form of the term "Christian" does not occur until Codex Alexandrinus, at least the 5th century, and may in fact not enter the chronological record [C14!?!] until substantially later. In place of the term "Christian" in the evidence is instead, and quite invariably, is found the term "Chrestian". Some background may be required here. In a separate article the sources of Chrestos and Christos in antiquity are outlined and examined. It must be noted at this point that the term "Christ" in all the Greek manuscript sources is invariably encrypted, or encoded, along with a series of important theological terms, according to a system of abbreviations known as the nomina sacra (Latin; "sacred names").
As a result of this system, the encoded terms "Christ(os)" and "Chrest(os)" cannot be distinguished within this system of encryption, and hence the interest (perhaps even expedience) of locating the expanded and explicit forms in the earliest evidence. One further preliminary article may serve as a necessary background at this point, and that is the investigation of the historical appearance of the "Chi-Rho" code, which is used to represent "Christ" in the manuscript sources, in the non-literary sources outside the Bible tradition. On this series of questions, see Constantine and the Chi-Rho.
The fact that these early papyri make reference to the term "Chrestian" and not "Christian" is essentially noted, but then passed over by many if not most modern academics and scholars. In his book Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus by Lincoln H. Blumell , the author writes, p.37-38:
- While the epithet "Christian" certainly appears to have derived from the word "Christ", to an outsider who might not have been necessarily familiar with the association with the adjective χρηστος (good) since the iota of χριστιανος is periodically replaced by an eta. Nevertheless, given the periodic evidence of itacistic changes it is not always clear is such a distinction is being made consciously or whether it is simply a mispronunciation.Turning to the documentary evidence for the use of the epithet it is spelled at least four different ways in papryi: xpιστιαvoc; xpηστιαvoc; xpσιαvoc; and xpητιαvoc. Though divergent spellings are attested in the material from Oxyrhynchus, in every instance the eta replaces the iota, and in the letters specifically the epithet is employed on three separate occasions: SB XII 10772; P.Laur. II 42 (IV/V); P.Oxy.XLIII 3149
Codex Alexandrinus at the British Library: 96 Euston Road in central London
The following tabulation should serve to document the evidence that, in fact ...
"The disciples were originally called Chrestians (not Christians) ... at Antioch"
Index of Early "Chrestian" Manuscripts and Inscriptions
|Reference||Century||ONLINE SOURCE||Description & Comments|
|SB XII 10772||3rd/4th?||Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus by Lincoln H. Blumell||χρηστιανος (Chrestian): Papyrus fist published as PSI XIV 1412 and SB VI 9451. Its republication as SB XII 10772 was necessitated ... discovery of an additional piece of this letter in the Florence collection and expanded the text from 16 to 23 lines. (1967) The reading here is "through Sotas the Chrestian". On this reading see see P.Oxy XXXVI 2785 n.2. In this letter a certain Sotas is employed by the author to transport some money from Antioch to Oxyrhynchus. See Luijendijk, "Greetings in the Lord", 136-144.|
|P.Laur. II 42||3rd/4th?||Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus by Lincoln H. Blumell||χρηστιανος (Chrestian): Letter.|
|P.Oxy.XLIII 3149||5th?||Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus by Lincoln H. Blumell||χρηστιανος (Chrestian): in the case of P.Oxy.XLIII 3149 the epithet deliberately used as a self-reference, establishing Chrestian authorship. The sender, a certain Horus, writes to a certain Apa Theon in order to recommend another individual. In the opening line of address Heras makes it clear to Apa Theon that he is a Chrestian as he specifically points this out. Translation of P.Oxy.XLIII 3149: "I write to you, Apa Theon, I, Heras, a ChrEstian, greetings in the Lord. I send your slave Heortasius. According to custom grant him anything that you have. This you will find from before the Lord. Also see footnote  Orthographic errors(except for lines 3-4 xpn(rho)tiavoc ==> xpi(rho)tiavoc in the original text have not been reproduced but have been corrected in this transcription.p.43 Crosses and Monograms: Besides the self referential use of the epithet "Christian", or more accurately, "Chrestian", P.Oxy.XLIII 3149 also contains another marker that came to be associated with Christian identity and establishes Christian authorship. Just before the first line of text in the left margin can be seen the distinct symbol of the cross (+). While the cross in P.Oxy.XLIII 3149 must be surely taken as a Christian symbol, not every cross or saltire pattern to appear in a letter should automatically be regarded as a visual reference to the crucifixion, thereby establishing Christian authorship. A number of different cross-like symbols appear in documents and letters but function in a variety of ways that carry no Christian implications. |
A search for these types of decorative crossed among letters from Oxyrhynchus reveals that they can be found in an additional ninety-six letters.  In each case the cross that is empoyed roughly resembles the Greek cross and it mostly appears in the left margin at either the begiing of the end of the letter.  Yet the cross symbol does not begin to appear in any letter until at least the mid to late fourth century,  after which it gradually gains in popularity and by the 6th and 7th century appears on almost every letter. 
Source of adjacent image: John Bartram
|SB XVI 12497||3rd||The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egyptedited by Christina Riggs||χρηστιανος (Chrestian): List of people nominationed to serve various liturgies in the Fayum. Among the nominess for the position of "supervision of the water-tower and fountains of the metropolis", is the person labelled "Chrestian": "Antonios Dioscoros son of Origen, Alexandrian. A second hand, which provides brief notations of the occupations, abodes, or distinguishing characteristics of those liisted, notes "he is the Dioscoros (who is a) Chrestian."|
|P.Oxy XLII 3035||3rd||WIKI; University of Oxford||χρησιανοι ("Chresian"): An order from the head of the council of Oxyrhynchus to the police officers in a country village to arrest a man described as a "Chresian" (lines 4-5). No reason for the arrest is given(dated 28 February 256 CE). This text does not say christian or χρηστιανοι, but χρησιανοι ("Chresian")|
|P.Oxy.XLIII 3119||3rd?||A DOCUMENT OF VALERIAN'S PERSECUTION?||χρηστιανοι (Chrestian): Official Correspondence. While this text is very fragmentary the term "Chrestian" (χρηστιανοι) can be clearly seen at the beginning of lines 14 and 18. The main interest of the papyrus lies in its mention of Chrestians in the seventh year of an unknown emperor. To sum up, lines 12ff. of P.Oxy. XLIII 3119 contain a copy of a letter from an official of the Saite to an official in another nome (presumably the Oxyrhynchite since the document was found there) relaying orders apparently issued on the authority of the prefect by another Roman official; the latter may have been a procurator since the matter appears to involve the treasury. Whether the original of this letter was for action or just for noting, the circulation of these orders in which Chrestians and their property received a special mention seems to presuppose the existence of legislation dealing specifically with this topic, and also the possibility of its enforcement throughout the country.|
|Chester Beatty 45||3rd?||New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Acts - (1996) by Reuben Swanson (Editor)||[χρ_]στιανοι (Unknown): Listed separately by Swanson. The text has a lacunae at this place, but there is evidence of an overbar (i.e. "Nomina sacra"). This is unusual, and cannot contribute one way or the other towards "Chrestian" or "Christian".|
|NHC:7 (Cartonage):Letter From Harpocration to Sansnos||4th||p.nag.hamm.68 = HGV P.Nag Hamm. 68 = Trismegistos 32410||χρηστῷ: The Letter From Harpocration to Sansnos is found in the cartonage of the 7th Nag Hammadi Codex. At line number 12 ("τῇ ἐν Χρηστῷ σου ἀγάπῃ") in context ... "But be diligent beloved, and come to the assistance of your brother; for thus it behooves your charity in "Chrest". Footnotes often refer to this as a "misspelling of Christ". See Nag Hammadi Codices. Greek and Coptic Papyri from the Cartonnage of the Covers, ed. Barns, Browne, and Shelton (Brill, 1981), pp. 62-63.|
|PGM IV. 3007-86||4th?||"Magical" Papyri||χρηστοu: "JS the Good": According to H. D. Betz (ed), The Greek Magical Papyri in translation, Chicago, 1986, p.62. , the text of PGM IV. 1227-64 commences as follows ....|
Place olive branches before him,and stand behind him and say:
Jesus Chrestos, the Holy Spirit, the Son of the Father,
who is above the Seven, who is within the Seven........."
|Codex Sinaiticus||4th||Codex Sinaiticus Online||χρηστιανος: The disciples were first called Chrestians in Antioch: the scribe of the Codex Sinaiticus wrote the word chrestianos in the three New Testament passages where that word occurs (Acts 11:26, 26:28 and 1 Pet 4:16).|
|Codex Vaticanus||4th||Codex Vaticanus ONLINE||The disciples were first called Chreistians in Antioch: Koine Greek often diphthongized the iota into an epsilon-iota and this is the way we find the spelling of "Chreistian" in Codex Vaticanus. .|
|The Manichaean Manuscripts from Kellis||4th century||Emerging from darkness: studies in the recovery of Manichaean sources By Paul Allan Mirecki, Jason BeDuhn||"Jesus the Good": At p.162 the authors write: "The village appears to have been deserted c.400 CE and was then gradually covered with sand." "Coins span the period 301 to 390 CE". A number of Manichaean and associated literary texts found including Canonical Works by Mani: "about 100 fragments from a Coptic papyrus codex containing epistles by Mani. The well attested opening of epistle as follows ...|
|Codex Bezae||6th||What is a Christian? Blaine Robison, M.A||The disciples were first called Chreistians in Antioch: Same as Codex Vaticanus. Metzger says that Codex Bezae (6th cent.), supported by other Western witnesses, reads "Chreistianoi" in Acts 11:26 (344). Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.|
|Codex Alexandrinus||450 CE ?||"Christians" Not Found in the Earliest New Testaments||First Christians!!: The earliest extant Greek New Testament to explicitly contain the name "Christian" is the Codex Alexandrinus dated ca. 450 CE. This is just far too late for "Christian" to begin appearing in manuscripts if it were the original term given to followers of the Nazarene Messiah. The appearance of "Christian" in the Greek text is clearly an anachronism which has been paraded as supporting evidence for the Christian name and faith, both of which are counterfeit. In fact, some lineages of Greek manuscripts (Minuscule 81) were still faithfully copying Chrestian up until 1044 CE. (source)The image here shows Codex Alexandrinus, Acts 11:26, folio 66b|
Fragments of Codex Alexandrinus should be C14 dated!!! It would be appropriate to have fragments of this codex C14 dated in order to determine with greater accuracy when the "Christians" appeared in the manuscript tradition. Evidence already exists that scribes altered the original name of the "Chrestians" to the new name of the "Christians". See Tacitus Annals below.
|Later Codex showing "Chrestian"||11th||New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Acts - (1996) by Reuben Swanson (Editor)||Miniscule 1243: Saint Catherine's Monastery, Gr. 262|
|Later Codices showing "Christian"||6th-15th||New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Acts - (1996) by Reuben Swanson (Editor)||MORE but LATE Christian References: The following later later codices witness "Christian" in Acts - Codex Laudianus (6th), Codex H (7th), L (9th), P (9th), Athous Lavrensis (9th), 049 (9th), 056 (10th). Miniscules:: 1 (12th), 88, 104 (dated 1087 CE), 226 (12th), 323 (12th), 330 (12th), 440 (14th), 547 (11th), 614 (13th), 618 (12th), 927 (dated 1133 CE), 945 (11th), 1175 (14th), 1241 (12th), 1245 (12th), 1270 (11th), 1505 (12th), 1611 (10th), 1646 (12th), 1739 (10th), 1828, 1837, 1854, 1891, 2147, 2344, 2412, 2492, 2495.|
|Tacitus||11th-14th||WIKI: Tacitus on Chrestians||χρηστιανοι (Chrestian): In 1902 Georg Andresen commented on the appearance of the first 'i' and subsequent gap in the earliest extant, 11th century, copy of the Annals in Florence, suggesting that the text had been altered, and an 'e' had originally been in the text, rather than this 'i'|
|Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum||1st BCE||VI24944 (Boman)||Latin Chrestianus: In his commentary, Boman refers to an epitaph inscription (CIL VI:24944) dating to possibly before 37 AD/CE that mentions a man named "Iucundus Chrestianus."|
|Deir Ali Inscription||318 CE||WIKI||χρηστοu: "JS the Good": The archaeological remains of a Marcionite synagogue/church include an inscription dated to 318 CE:|
|Phrygian Epitaph Inscriptions||3rd/4th||The Christians for Christians Inscriptions of Phrygia by Elsa Gibson||χρηστιανοι (Chrestian): See the Summary of Citations provided on the "Christians for Christians" Inscriptions of Phrygia" in this review of the data presented by Elsa Gibson. A total of four inscriptions provided the term "Chrestian". In Phrygia a number of funerary stone inscriptions use the term Chrestians, with (at least) one stone inscription using both terms together, reading: "Chrestians for Christians". [Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, pages 33-35]Source of adjacent image: John Bartram|
|Paithios & Family Epitaph, Phrygia||3rd/4th||John Bartram||χρηστιανοι (Chrestian): Paithios & Family Epitaph, Upper Tembris Valley, North Phrygia|
|"Chrestos Bowl"||2nd BCE to 1st CE||NBC News Article  and this E-Zine||χρηστοu (Chrestos): A bowl discovered in Alexandria, Egypt, and dated to the period from the late second century BCE to the early first century CE bears an engraving that reads: "δια χρηστοu", translated as "through Chrestos," (not "Christ"). Chrestos is a personal name, as well as an adjective meaning "decent" or "useful." The inscription "dia chrestou goistais" probably means "'[Given] through kindness for the magicians.'" The Greek word inscribed is not christos, but chrestos, meaning "kind, loving, good, merciful."|
|Further Refs||Various||John Bartram||(1) Chrest in a record of baptism in a sepulchral inscription(2) Inscription: by God and the law of the Chrestians|
(3) Graffito discovered 1897 naming subject of crucifixion as Crestus.
|Epitaphs from Larissa||???||the Travels of Dr. Clarke||χρηστοu (Chrestos): In the Travels of Dr. Clarke, an inscription is cited as [CHRESTOS PROTOS THESSALOS LARISSAIOS PELASGIOTES ETON IH]; or, "Chrestos, the first, a Thessalonian from Larissa, Pelasgiot 18 years old Hero." Dr. Clarke shows, the word Chrestos is found on the epitaphs of almost all the ancient Larissians; but it is preceded always by a proper name.|
|Church Fathers (4)|
|Justin Martyr||100-165 CE||Apology 1, ch. 4||"By the mere application of a name, nothing is decided, either good or evil, apart from the actions implied in the name; and indeed, so far at least as one may judge from the name we are accused of, we are Chrestians. But as we do not think it just to beg to be acquitted on account of the name, if we be convicted as evil-doers, so, on the other hand, if we be found to have committed no offense, either in the matter of thus naming ourselves, or of our conduct as citizens, it is your part very earnestly to guard against incurring just punishment, by unjustly punishing those who are not convicted."|
|Clement||150-211 CE||Stromata IV||"Now those who have believed in Christ both are and are called Chrestians, as those who are cared for by the true king are kingly. For as the wise are wise by their wisdom, and those observant of law are so by the law; so also those who belong to Christ the King are kings, and those that are Christ’s Christians."|
|Tertullian||160-224 CE||Apology Ch.III||"Now then, if this hatred is directed against the name, what is the guilt attaching to names? What accusation can be brought against words, except that a certain pronunciation of a name sounds barbarous, or is unlucky or abusive or obscene? But 'Christian,' as far as its etymology goes, is derived from 'anointing.' And even when it is incorrectly pronounced by you 'Chrestian' (for not even is your acquaintance with the name accurate), it is formed from 'sweetness' or 'kindness.' In innocent men, therefore, even an innocent name is hated."|
|Lactantius||240-320 CE||Divine Institutes, Book IV Ch. VII||"...for Christ is not a proper name, but a title of power and dominion; for by this the Jews were accustomed to call their kings. But the meaning of this name must be set forth, on account of the error of the ignorant, who by the change of a letter are accustomed to call Him Chrestus. The Jews had before been directed to compose a sacred oil, with which those who were called to the priesthood or to the kingdom might be anointed. And as now the robe of purple is a sign of the assumption of royal dignity among the Romans, so with them the anointing with the holy oil conferred the title and power of king. But since the ancient Greeks used the word χρίεσθαι to express the art of anointing, which they now express by ἀλείφεσθαι, as the verse of Homer shows, “But the attendants washed, and anointed them with oil;” on this account we call Him Christ, that is, the Anointed, who in Hebrew is called the Messias. Hence in some Greek writings, which are badly translated from the Hebrew, the word eleimmenos is found written, from the word aleiphesthai, anointing. But, however, by either name a king is signified:"|
Explanatory HypothesisAs a result of this situation - that the term "Chrestian" (and not "Christian") invariably appears with the earliest evidence - the question must naturally arise as to why. How is the chronology of the use of the terms "Chrestian" and then "Christian" to be explained?
The sequence of events appears to be something like this, where the date of 316 CE is taken from the earliest of Emperor Constantine's "Chi-Rho" coins:
- 1. Before c.316 CE: There appears to have been a class of people in antiquity who were referred to as "Chrestians".2. After c.316 CE: Constantine uses this name as the name of the "Chrestian State Religion", associated with the sacred code "Chi-Rho".
3. Until Alexandrinus: the "Chrestian State Religion" continues for a number of centuries ...(How many? 1, 2,3,4,5 or more? C14 would help!!)
4. After Alexandrinus: the "Chrestian State Religion" decided to make themselves the "Christian State Religion". (See Tacitus' Annals)
TEXT VERSION OF EVIDENCE DATA
The sources of "Chrestian" [χρηστιανος] and "Christian" [χριστιανος] in Antiquity The following list has been extracted from the tabulation here: http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/chrestians%20christians.htm 1.00) Manuscript Evidence: "Chrestian" exclusively dominates earliest evidence from 3rd/4th centuries 1.01) SB XII 10772 ................. "Chrestian" [3rd/4th century?] 1.02) P.Laur. II 42 ................ "Chrestian" [3rd/4th century?] 1.03) P.Oxy.XLIII 3149 ............. "Chrestian" [5th century?] 1.04) SB XVI 12497 ................. "Chrestian" [3rd/4th century?] 1.05) P.Oxy XLII 3035 .............. "Chresian" [28 February 256 CE] 1.06) P.Oxy.XLIII 3119 ............. "Chrestian" [3rd/4th century?] 1.07) PGM IV. 3007-86 .............. "The Good" ("Chrestos") [4th century] 1.08) Manichaean Mss: Kellis ....... "The Good" ("Chrestos") [4th century?] 1.09) Cartonage NHC7 ............... "The Good" ("Chrestos") [4th century] 1.10) [#01] Codex Sinaiticus........ "Chrestian" [4th century?] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Sinaiticus . 1.11) Miniscule 1243 ............... "Chrestian" [11th century] 2.00) Manuscript Evidence: "not known" 2.01) Chester Beatty 45 ............ lacunae, nomina sacra form? [3rd century] 3.00) Manuscript Evidence: "Chreistian" (Transitional spelling? epsilon-iota diphthong) 3.01) [#03] Codex Vaticanus ....... "Chreistians" [4th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Vaticanus 3.02) [#05] Codex Bezae ........... "Chreistians" [6th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Bezae 4.00) Manuscript Evidence: Uncials/Majuscules - "Christian" (later evidence from 5th/6th centuries????) 4.01) [#02] Codex Alexandrinus .... "Christian" [5th century?] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Alexandrinus 4.02) [#08] Codex Laudianus ....... "Christian" [6th century?] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Laudianus 4.03) [#14] Codex Mutinensis ...... "Christian" [7th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Mutinensis 4.04) [#20] Codex Angelicus ....... "Christian" [9th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Angelicus 4.05) [#25] Codex Porphyrianus .... "Christian" [9th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Porphyrianus 4.06) [#44] Codex Athous Lavrensis. "Christian" [9th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Athous_Lavrensis 4.07) [#049] Codex at Mt. Athos ... "Christian" [9th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncial_049 4.08) [#056] Codex at Paris ....... "Christian" [10th century] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncial_056 Manuscript Evidence: Miniscules: 4.09) 1 (12th), 4.10) 88 (12th), 4.11) 104 (dated 1087 CE), 4.12) 226 (12th), 4.13) 323 (12th), 4.14) 330 (12th), 4.15) 440 (14th), 4.16) 547 (11th), 4.17) 614 (13th), 4.18) 618 (12th), 4.19) 927 (dated 1133 CE), 4.20) 945 (11th), 4.21) 1175 (14th), 4.22) 1241 (12th), 4.23) 1245 (12th), 4.24) 1270 (11th), 4.25) 1505 (12th), 4.26) 1611 (10th), 4.27) 1646 (12th), 4.28) 1739 (10th), 4.29) 1828 (14th) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minuscule_182 4.30) 1837, 4.31) 1854, 4.32) 1891, 4.33) 2147, 4.34) 2344, 4.35) 2412, 4.36) 2492, 4.37) 2495. etc Source: New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Acts - (1996) by Reuben Swanson (Editor)Carolingian minuscule: Carolingian or Caroline minuscule is a script developed as a calligraphic standard in Europe so that the Latin alphabet could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was used in the Holy Roman Empire between approximately 800 and 1200. Codices, pagan and Christian texts, and educational material were written in Carolingian minuscule throughout the Carolingian Renaissance. The script developed into blackletter and became obsolete, though its revival in the Italian renaissance forms the basis of more recent scripts.
Also see the massive 9th century forgery mill operating in Carolingian France:
Reading Pseudo-Isidore Blog: Eric Knibbs
Petition to the British Museum: C14 dating of Codex Alexandrinus
Sources of Chrestos & Christos | The Chi-Rho | Nomina Sacra | Thesis | Mountain Man