THE NAME ‘CHRISTIANITY
ITS ORIGIN AND MEANING
Al – Ahsa Islamic Center
We will see that ‘Christianity’ as is now known, is not the teaching of Jesus (pbuh). In fact, Muslims are closer to the teaching of Jesus (pbuh) in their beliefs and practices than are ‘Christians’. Muslims, feel that their love for God and love for Jesus (pbuh) is as much their right as it is for Christians. One must remember that no person can be a Muslim, unless he believes in Jesus (pbuh). Both Muslims and Christians have a common heritage, and both should benefit from it. This is the reason why the teaching of Jesus (pbuh), need special attention.
We shall proceed now to see ‘Christianity’ in the Bible.
We will put forth the same two questions which were put forth regarding ISLAM.
a) The name Christianity’ – is it rally 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:
Then Barnabas went to tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians’. (Acts 11:25-26)
Who gave this name? Neither God nor Jesus (pbuh).
We can mention the following points concerning the name ‘Christianity’:
1. The name dose not bears the authority from God or from Jesus (pbuh).
2. It was given by Jews and pagans in Antioch (a city in the Roman Empire), i.e., by foes rather than by friends.
3. The name was given after Jesus (pbuh) had left this world.
4. The name was first used derogatorily, as determined by the historians.
One may contend, ‘But what’s in a name? Dose the name really matter?’. This may or may not be a valid objection, but for the sake of argument, let us proceed to explicate its meaning.
The word ‘CHRISTIANITY’ dose not carry a functional meaning, unlike the word ‘ISLAM’. It is a word for identification, derived from ‘Christ’ (as ‘Buddhism’ took its name from Buddha). Then the next question would be: what is the definition of ‘Christianity’?
Now we run into a problem.
- One my say that a Christian is one who believes in Jesus ‘Christ’ (pbuh) We Muslims also believe in him ( it is an article of faith for Muslims to believe in him). So, we can also be called ‘Christians’ by this standard.
- One may say that a Christian is one who follows the teaching of Jesus Christ (pbuh). We Muslims claim that we follow him more than those who call themselves Christians. If so, then we are rather better “Christians”.
- One may say that a Christian is one who worships Jesus Christ (pbuh). But we can not accept this definition. Why? Simply because Jesus (pbuh) never claimed: I am God and you must 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’.
- We have no evidence that even once did he utter any such statement. Jesus (pbuh) certainly would not have used vague language to explain such vital and highly important a matter, or leave it to the people’s own imagination and interpretation. In fact, this matter of the nature of Jesus (pbuh) and his ‘divinity’ is the product of speculation on the part of later “Church fathers” and theologians.
Then what was Jesus’ (pbuh) teaching? What was the essence of his mission? We shall be discussing this point in more detail.
THE PRACTICE AND MEANING OF ‘CHRISTIANITY IN THE BIBLE
The word “Christianity’ is not found anywhere in the Gospels. In the other books of the New Testament ‘Christian’ is mentioned only a few times (Acts 11: 26, Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16). This is understandable, because the term was coined much later, when Jesus (pbuh) had left this world.
THE TWO PROFILES OF CHRIST:
1. is of a historical Jesus (pbuh)
2. that existed during the life time of Jesus
3. that was original
4. which Jesus himself preached and practiced
5. that invites to pure monotheism
6. that is in line with the teachings of ALL the
prophets of God
7. that is simple, clear, and logical
8. that is authentic
9. that originated in the revelation from God to
the messenger of God (Jesus)
10. that has the authority of Jesus, the master
THE OTHER PROFILE
1. is of a mythical, interpreted Jesus
2. that was formulated after his departure
from this world
3. that gradually evolved
4. which is contrary to his teachings and
5. that is influenced by Greco-Roman
mythology and philosophy
6. that is in line with NONE of the prophets
7. that is mysterious, tenuous, and illogical
8. that is contrived
9. that originated in the vision of an enemy-
turned-apostle of Jesus
10. that has the authority of St. Paul, the self -
Such differences between the teaching of Jesus (pbuh) and the teaching of the church have created problems for the common man to understand the true God-revealed religion, and have resulted in confusion and conflict. No wonder there are so many disagreeing points of view within the Christian world itself, each denomination claiming to be on the correct path.
Lets us look into the teachings, found in each of the two versions of Christianity.
(A) THE PERSON OF CHRIST AND HIS TEACHINGS:
For a proper understanding of the teaching of Jesus (pbuh), it is important to examine who he was, in what capacity he taught, and what his mission was. The answers are given by Jesus (pbuh) himself as recorded in the ‘Gospel’ writing of the New Testament:
• SON OF MAN:
Jesus (pbuh) referred to himself as “son of man’:
So Jesus said, when you have lifted up the son of man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, … (John 8:28)
For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
• A MAN:
But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from god. (John 8:40)
• A PROPHET OF GOD:
He presented himself as a prophet and a messenger of God, and a representative of the Kingdom of heaven. He always invited people to follow him in that capacity only:
Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33)
But Jesus said to them, a prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown, and among his own kin, and his own house’. (Mark 6:4)
People did recognize him as a Prophet of God.
The crowds answered, this is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. (Mathew 21:11).
• A MESSENGER OF GOD: (i.e., one who is
sent by God’):
Jesus answered them, my teaching is not mine, but the one who sent me’. (John 7:16)
…and whoever welcome me, welcomes not me, but the one who sent me. (Mark 9:37)
… for I have not spoken on my own, but the father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49)
• AIM OF HIS MISSION:
He believed in the worship of God alone, and made it the ultimate aim of all his activities:
Worship the lord your God, and serve him only, (Matthew 4:10)
My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to complete his work. (John 4:34)
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
• THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS (pbuh):
Coming to the teachings in Christianity as derived from Jesus (pbuh), we may confine our discussion to the two basic and most significant issues:
Obeying the Law, and Salvation.
1) Concerning the Divine Law:
Jesus (pbuh) laid emphasis on obeying the Divine law and submitting to God’s commands – the same thing that had been taught by Moses and other prophets earlier. Jesus (pbuh) himself obeyed the law and thought others to uphold it. Consider his statement contained in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law, or the prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17)
He wanted the people to obey the Divine law rather than substituting man-made law, and to leave the hypocrisy common to the Jewish leadership of this day:
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teaching are but rules taught by men. (Matthew 15:7-9)
2) Concerning salvation:
Jesus’ (pbuh) teaching regarding salvation was also not something different from that of earlier Prophets and messengers of God. He made it very clear that Salvation is through keeping God’s commandments, following the teachings of Jesus (pbuh), doing righteous deeds, and repentance from sin.
Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments. (Matthew 19:17)
And this is life eternal, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes on him who sent me has eternal life, and dose not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. (Luke 13:3)
(To be continued)