'Christianity'- The Name & Its Meaning
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We shall proceed now to see 'Christianity' in the Bible. This may sound somewhat strange, because one may ask: since the Bible is the Holy Book of Christians, what else except Christianity will we see in it? Our discussion on Christianity will be a little different. Christians know very well about Christianity, and have an emotional attachment to it. So, we shall not go into details. But we would make an attempt to analyse objectively certain puzzling and enigmatic points regarding Christianity. These points need our attention, as generally they are not clearly understood.
Muslims feel that the love for God and love for Jesus is as much their right as those of Christians. One must remember that no Muslim is a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus. Both Muslims and Christians have a common heritage, and both should benefit from it. This is the reason why these points need special attention.
(a) The name 'Christianity'- Is it really a valid name? If so, where is it recorded? In other words, where is its identity certificate?
(b) Who has given the name? Or, who is the certifying authority?
The name 'Christian' was used for the first time in Antioch, as we read in the Bible: Acts (11:25-26):
“Then departed Barnabas to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And It came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
Who had given this name? Neither God nor Jesus.
We can mention the following points concerning the name 'Christianity':
1. The name does not bear the authority from God or from Jesus.
2. It was given by Jews and Pagans in Antioch (a city in the then Roman Empire), i.e., by foes rather than by friends.
3. The name was given after Jesus had left this world.
4. The name was used derogatorily, as determined by historians.
One may contend, What is there in a name? The name does not matter. This may not be a valid argument, but still for the sake of argument, let us then proceed to look for its meaning.
The word 'Christianity' does not carry any meaning in it. It is a word for identification, derived after 'Christ' (like 'Buddhism' took its name from Buddha). Then the next question would be, 'What is the definition of Christianity?'
Now we have a problem.
- One may say that a Christian is one who believes in Jesus Christ. We Muslims also believe in him (it is an article of faith to believe in him). So, we can also be called Christians.
- One may say that a Christian is one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. We Muslims claim that we follow him more than those who call themselves Christians. Then we are rather better Christians.
- One may say that a Christian is one who worships Jesus Christ. But we do not agree to this definition. Why? Simply because Jesus never claimed: 'I am God and you worship me', or 'I am co-equal and co-eternal with God', or 'you will enter the Kingdom of heaven if you believe in my blood sacrifice'. Not once did he utter any such statement. Jesus certainly would not use vague language to explain this vital and highly important matter, or leave it to the people's own imagination and interpretation.
Then what was he teaching? What was the essence of his mission?