The name “Christians” originated in Antioch as found in the Acts of the Apostles;
“So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.” (Acts 11:25-26)
But who invented this name?
It is believed that Saint Evodius was responsible for naming the followers of Jesus “Christians” (in Greek Χριστιανός, or Christianos, meaning “follower of Christ”). Little is known about Saint Evodius, however one tradition states that he was one of the 70 disciples commissioned by Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 10:1). Saint Evodius was the second Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter.
Saint Ignatius, who was the third bishop of Antioch, makes reference to him in one of his letters, saying, “Remember your blessed father Evodius, who was made your first pastor by the Apostles.”
Most biblical scholars see the designation of “Christian” as an early way to distinguish their growing community from other Jews in the city because at that time Antioch was home to many Jewish Christians who fled Jerusalem after Saint Stephen was stoned to death. While there, they began to preach to the Gentiles. The new mission became very successful and resulted in a strong community of believers.
Tradition holds that Evodius served the Christian community in Antioch for 27 years, and the Orthodox Church teaches that he died a martyr’s death in the year 66 under the Roman emperor Nero. The feast day of Saint Evodius is May 6.
Summarized by Theresa Frances