More on the earliest use of the word “Christianity”

I can’t believe that I forgot to hit the “Publish” button last night on yesterday’s post

Yesterday I was asking when the word “Christianity” appears in our sources.  In Greek it is Χριστιανισμός, and it appears in Ignatius of Antioch; then in Origen; and then in post-Nicene sources.  It’s not a widely-used word in surviving ante-Nicene literature, plainly. 

But today I wondered what the Latin word might be.  I thought perhaps “Christianitas”, with Romanitas in mind.  But a little searching around gave me:

Christĭānismus , i, m., = Χριστιανισμός,
I.ChristianityTert. adv. Marc. 4, 33; Aug. Civ. Dei, 19, 23, 1; Hier. in Gal. 6, 4.

Christĭānĭtas , ātis, f. Christus.
I. Christianity, = Christianismus, Cod. Th. 16, 7, 7; 12, 1, 112.—
II. Meton.the Christian clergy, Cod. Th. 12, 1, 123.

These are both from Lewis and Short, via PerseusGaffiot gave me much the same.

So the rather Germanic-sounding Christianismus is our word, originating with Tertullian – who else? – in Adversus Marcionem book 4, chapter 33, verse 8:

[8] Quasi non et nos limite in quendam agnoscamus Ioannem constitutum inter vetera et nova, ad quem desineret Iudaismus et a quo inciperet Christianismus, non tamen ut ab alia virtute facta sit sedatio legis et prophetarum, et initiatio evangelii in quo est dei regnum, Christus ipse.

As though we too did not know that John has been set as a sort of dividing-line between old things and new, a line at which Judaism should cease and Christianity should begin—not however that by the action of any alien power there came about this cessation of the law and the prophets, and the inception of that gospel in which is the kingdom of God, Christ himself.

I don’t have access as far as I know to any search tool for Latin texts like the TLG, but it does indeed make sense that Tertullian would originate the term, as the first of the Latin fathers.  Equally it makes sense that the Latin term should be the Greek term, transliterated.

But the mention of “Judaismus” is interesting.  Ignatius also uses “Christianity” as a foil for “Judaism” (Ἰουδαϊσμὸς).  Possibly the term “Christianity” exists solely because of the existence of “Judaism”, and the fact that Christians were not included in it?

I wondered how frequently Ἰουδαϊσμὸς or Ἰουδαϊσμὸν, etc was used, so I did a search.  Here again it was Ignatius, Origen, then post-Nicene writers!  Although in this case it also appears in the fragments of Porphyry’s Against the Christians.  This is surprising really.

A google search reveals that it also appears in 2 Maccabees, so perhaps my lack of results is a reflection of the search tool available to me.


What is the earliest use of the word “Christianity”?

When did the word “Christianity” actually come into use?  The Greek is Χριστιανισμός.

A certain amount of searching online brought me to an Italian article,[1] from which I learned that the first person to use the word is none other than Ignatius of Antioch.  There are 4 references, in Ignatius’ letters to the Magnesians 10,1 and 3;  Romans 3,3;  and Philadelphians 6,1.

Let’s see what he says!  The Greek is from the TLG, the translation is Lake’s Loeb, the links are to the ANF.  Note that the ANF translation online for each chapter gives first the original (“short”) text, and then the “long” text as interpolated in the 4th century by the Apollinarist heretics.  We’re quoting here the original.

Magnesians c. 10:

Ἄτοπόν ἐστιν, Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν λαλεῖν καὶ ἰουδαΐζειν. Ὁ γὰρ Χριστιανισμὸς οὐκ εἰς Ἰουδαϊσμὸν ἐπίστευσεν, ἀλλ’ Ἰουδαϊσμὸς εἰς Χριστιανισμόν, εἰς ὃν πᾶσα γλῶσσα πιστεύσασα εἰς θεὸν συνήχθη.

3. It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism. For Christianity did not base its faith on Judaism, but Judaism on Christianity, and every tongue believing on God was brought together in it.

Romans c.3:

Ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριςτὸς ἐν πατρὶ ὢν μᾶλλον φαίνεται. Οὐ πεισμονῆς τὸ ἔργον, ἀλλὰ μεγέθους ἐστὶν ὁ Χριστιανισμός, ὅταν μισῆται ὑπὸ κόσμου.

3. Nothing visible is good, for our God, Jesus Christ, being now in the Father, is the more plainly visible. Christianity is not the work of persuasiveness, but of greatness, when it is hated by the world.

Philadelphians 6:  (Strangely the ANF renders “Christianity” as “Christian doctrine”)

[Unable to locate the Greek!]

1. But if anyone interpret Judaism to you do not listen to him; for it is better to hear Christianity from the circumcised than Judaism from the uncircumcised. But both of them, unless they speak of Jesus Christ, are to me tombstones and sepulchres of the dead, on whom only the names of men are written.

The word Χριστιανισμ** appears in Ignatius, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen before the council of Nicaea, and then entirely in post-Nicene writers.

  1. [1]Enrico Norelli, “Χριστιανισμός e Χριστιανός in Ignazio di Antiochia e la cronologia delle sue lettere”, in M. B. Durante Mangoni ; D. Garribba ; M. Vitelli (ed.), Gesù e la storia. Percorsi sulle origini del cristianesimo, Trapani, Il Pozzo di Giacobbe , 2015, 171-189.  Online here.  Note that the Greek is given in a non-unicode font in the article.

Ehrman on the long recension of Ignatius

Some busy days have prevented me getting to grips with Ehrman’s Forgery and counterforgery.  My query about the Apollinarians earlier today led me back to it, as a Google link brought me to the Google Books version, where I found material on the long recension of the letters of Ignatius of Antioch.  I thought that I would review this section, therefore.

Pages 460-480 are headed “the pseudo-Ignatian letters”.   Let’s have a quick refresher on the background.

In the Greek manuscript tradition we find numerous manuscripts of a collection of 13 letters attributed to Ignatius of Antioch, the apostolic father.  This is known as the long recension; for 7 of these letters have reached us, but only just, in a handful of manuscripts in a shorter version, which we will refer to as the short version.  The differences between the two seem to relate to late 4th century theological arguments, with an Apollinarian or Arian tinge.  Finally there is a Syriac epitome of 3 of the letters, and I have seen a reference in Aphram Barsoum to Syriac texts of other letters.

E. begins by stating more or less what I have told you, and then discusses the discovery in the 17th c. by Archbishop Ussher that the long version had been tampered with, and the recovery of the short version.  He then moves on to discuss the author, summarising the scholarship of Lightfoot and others, and including the recent (1975) work of D. Hagedorn suggesting that the interpolator is the same as the author of a commentary on Job attributed to Origen.[1]

E. usefully describes the argument that the commentary author may be an otherwise unknown Julian of Antioch, so named in 1 manuscript of a catena which sometimes ascribes the work to “Julian” — the abbreviated designations in catenae are a nuisance! — and whose name is, we are told, present in the prologue.  E. tells us that Hagedorn thought that the two works are by the same author, as well as the Apostolic Constitutions, a church order of the same period, introducing itself as from the apostles.  Usefully he tells us why the commentary and the AC should be associated: “…35 points of contact … precisely the same topics, using precisely the same somewhat unusual expressions” and then that verbatim similarities of wording show that the author of the long recension and the commentary must be the same.  The argument is, on the face of it, a reasonable one; although arguments based on similarities are notoriously subjective, and can easily give false positives.  The Arian nature of the Commentary is also explained — the author rejects both homoousios and homoiousios, which marks him plainly as an Arian.

However E. then goes on to address objections to the identification without actually making clear what those objections are.  The main objection is that the long recension is not markedly Arian, while the Commentary makes its loyalties quite clear.  This E. evades by appealing to the idea that the author might have developed his views.  So he might; but the reader deserves to have the objection stated plainly.  To his credit E. makes clear that there is anti-Arian seeming material in the long recension.

The next section is entitled “Purpose of the forgeries”.  It is hard to say why somebody composed the long recension, for the obvious reason that we know nothing for certain about the author (aside from the proposals of Hagedorn), and certainly not what his motivations were. E. proceeds to discuss this by suggesting that much of the material is written as if from a 2nd century outlook, and attack various heresies of the period, as listed in the stock anti-heretical treatises of the 4th century.  All this material is useful, and E.’s acknowledgement of Lightfoot is generous.

But at this point E.’s over-emphasis on “forgery! forgery!” causes the reader confusion.  E. tells us that the author must have wanted to put forward his own theological position.  This is probable enough, to be sure; but it tells us little, for the same is true of most authors, and we have already seen that we don’t know for sure what the author’s theology was, unless we accept Hagedorn’s theory.  Worse, it is speculation.  We don’t know what the author wanted: we can only infer.

Next he tells us that the author is:

… clearly engaged, consciously, in the act of forgery…

But surely we do not know this?  It is likely enough, again; but we actually know nothing about the origins of the long recension, nothing about its author, and treating theory as fact is for politicians, not scholars.

E. however believes that we know the author intended forgery because of the author’s “attempts at verisimilitude” and because some of his alterations to the genuine text are “highly significant”.  The logic is not easy to follow here.

The first point will make little sense to us unless we realise that E. is trying throughout his book to argue that small personal details in letters, far from being indications of authenticity, are in fact indications of forgery — he is, inevitably, thinking primarily of reasons to debunk the N.T. here.  Such broadbrush arguments are not impressive: if I write a letter, or a blog post, what I put in it depends on who I write to and what I have to say, and how I feel.  It would be unwise for E. to assign posts on this blog as “authentic” or “interpolated”, based on such a criterion.

The second point is left unclear; but E. then devotes a couple of pages to “important features” of the long recension, which is probably intended as explanation.  Unfortunately it is not easy to follow the argument, nor the connection to what precedes and follows it.  Lack of focus is a failing of this book throughout.  It makes it very hard to read a work critically, when the subject drifts off into points whose connection with the topic is tenuous.  Here E. has been poorly served by his publisher, who should most certainly have edited it more tightly.

He then moves onto some work of his own, looking for theological battle-cries in the text of the long recension (including changes to Ignatius’ own wording) and finding many phrases which sound a bit heretical, in one way or another, notably with a subordinationist flavour.  These ought to be tabulated, not left in the body of the text.  But this leads the reader nowhere; the text again loses focus and drifts off into a very vague discussion of whether the author might or might not be an Arian, and might be addressing somebody unknown rather like Marcellus of Ancyra.  This takes up most of the remainder of the section, and might perhaps be useful to someone interested in the long recension.  As E. rightly remarks, a thorough study would be nice to have.

One defect in this last section of the text is that E., on p.476, having already presented his data on fingerprint phrases on p.470-4, then starts to list further pieces of data.  This is very naughty.  Any critical reader will demand all of the data first; and then the theory later.  For to mingle the two makes it hard for the reader to evaluate the argument.  Indeed doing so is a trick of polemicists to shut down disagreement; and again the publisher should have caught this.

The discussion of the long recension is a bit waffly.  The bits that are good are mainly by others, and the bits that are original are not that well structured.  But on the whole it’s a useful summary.

  1. [1]E. does not give the full bibliographic reference: it is Dieter Hagedorn, Der Hiobkommentar des Arianers Julian, Patristische Texte und Studien, 14, Berlin: deGruyter, 1975.

Are these really the words of Ignatius?

A splendid blog post at TrevinWax contains the following item:

Please pray for me,
that I may have both spiritual and physical strength to perform my duties;
that I may not only speak the truth but become the truth;
that I may not only be called a Christian, but also live like a Christian.
Yet I do not want people to look to me as an example,
for at best I can only be a pale reflection of Christ Jesus;
let people look away from the reflection and turn to the reality.
Christianity is not a matter of persuading people of particular ideas,
but of inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ.
So pray that I may never fall into the trap of impressing people with clever speech,
but instead I may learn to speak with humility,
desiring only to impress people with Christ himself.

– Ignatius of Antioch, 35-108 A. D. 

These are interesting sentiments, although I have a feeling that “Christianity is not a matter of persuading people of particular ideas” is not what Ignatius would say.  But the lack of a source is troubling.  Where precisely does Ignatius say this?

So, where does this come from?  Well, the direct source is probably Janice Grana, 2000 Years since Bethlehem: Images of Christ through the centuries, Upper Room Books, 1999.  This contains these very words, but since I cannot access more than a snippet in Google books, I am none the wiser.

Does anyone recognise the words?