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A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic, religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians believe was the Messiah (the Christ in Greek-derived terminology) prophesied in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, and the Son of God.<ref name=BBC>"BBC — Religion & Ethics — Christianity at a glance", BBC</ref>


What is a Christian?

A wide range of beliefs and practices is found across the world among those who call themselves Christian. The Nicene Creed was established in the 4th century as an expression of Christian faith in the face of heresy.<ref>First Council of Nicaea, Catholic Encyclopedia</ref><ref name = "Creed">Citation | last= Johnson | first= Timothy | title= The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters | publisher= Doubleday Religion | year= 2003</ref>

A 2007 survey in the United States identified the following five typical American categories:<ref name=5kinds>"5 Kinds of Christians — Understanding the disparity of those who call themselves Christian in America. Leadership Journal, Fall 2007. </ref>

  • Active Christians: Committed to attending church, Bible reading, and sharing their faith that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. They also accept leadership positions in their church.<ref name=5kinds/>
  • Professing Christians: Are also committed to "accepting Christ as Savior and Lord" as the key to being a Christian, but focus on personal relationships with God and Jesus more than on church, Bible reading or sharing faith.<ref name=5kinds/>
  • Liturgical Christians: High level of spiritual activity, mainly expressed by attending and recognizing the authority of the church, and by serving in it or in the community.<ref name=5kinds/>
  • Private Christians: Believe in God and in doing good things, but not within a church context. In the American survey, this was the largest and youngest segment.<ref name=5kinds/>
  • Cultural Christians: Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation. They are the least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings or to attend church. They favor a universality theology that sees many ways to God.<ref name=5kinds/>

Other countries may not show the same variety, especially where there is active persecution of Christians.

People who have a distinct heritage and come to believe in Jesus may also identify themselves differently. Messianic Jews believe that they are a sect of Judaism and that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the Divine Savior. They seek to live in obedience to the remaining aspects of the Mosaic Law found in the Torah, see also Biblical law in Christianity.

As the identification of the Messiah with Jesus is not accepted within Judaism, in Hebrew Christians are called Notzrim ("Nazarenes"), originally derived from the fact that Jesus came from the city of Nazareth in Israel.<ref>Nazarene at Etymology Online </ref> However, Messianic Jews are referred to in modern Hebrew as יהודים משיחיים (Yehudim Meshihi'im).

Among Arabs (whether Christians, Muslims or belonging to other faiths), as well as in other languages influenced by the Arabic language (mainly in Muslim cultures influenced by Arabic as the liturgical language of Islam), two words are commonly used for Christians: Nasrani (نصراني), and Masihi (مسيحي) meaning followers of the Messiah.<ref name="KhaledAhmed">Khaled Ahmed, Pakistan Daily Times.</ref><ref name="SOFIR">Society for Internet Research, The Hamas Charter, note 62 (erroneously, "salidi").</ref> Where there is a distinction, Nasrani refers to people from a Christian culture and Masihi means those with a religious faith in Jesus.<ref name="Tayler">Jeffrey Tayler, Trekking through the Moroccan Sahara.</ref> In some countries Nasrani tends to be used generically for non-Muslim white people.<ref name="Tayler">Jeffrey Tayler, Trekking through the Moroccan Sahara.</ref> Another Arabic word sometimes used for Christians, particularly in a political context, is Salibi; this refers to Crusaders and has negative connotations.<ref name="SOFIR">Society for Internet Research, The Hamas Charter, note 62 (erroneously, "salidi").</ref><ref>Akbar S. Ahmed, Islam, Globalization, and Postmodernity, p 110.</ref>

The word Nasrani is generally understood to be derived from Nazareth<ref name="KhaledAhmed" /> through the Syriac (Aramaic). In some areas of the Arab world, tradition holds that it derives from nasr ("victory"), and means "people of victory" in reference either to early successes of the Christian religion or to the initial Christian Ethiopian support for Muhammad during his early conflicts in Arabia.Template:Fact Nasrani is also sometimes said to derive from ansar,Template:Fact which means "disciple". The Syrian Malabar Nasrani or Nasranee people are a Christian ethno-religious group from Kerala, India, possibly Jewish in ethnic origin.


The word comes from Greek (christianos), from (christos) meaning "the anointed one."<ref>Christ at Etymology Online </ref> In the (Greek) Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, christos was used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), meaning "[one who is] anointed."<ref>Messiah at Etymology Online </ref> Template:Wiktionary The first known usage of the term Χριστιανός (christianos) can be found in the New Testament: "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch."Template:Bibleref2c They were disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. The other two New Testament uses of the word also referred to the public identity of the Jews who followed Jesus prior to the adoption of Christianity by non-Jews. The Jewish king said the Apostle Paul had almost persuaded the king "to become a Christian,"Template:Bibleref2c at the time meaning the Jewish Messianic sect following Jesus. The Apostle Peter encouraged believers who are abused "because you're a Christian, don't give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!"<ref>Template:Bibleref2</ref>

The earliest recorded use of the term outside the Bible was when Tacitus recorded that Nero blamed the "Christians" for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.<ref>Tacitus (c. 55 -117 CE): Nero's persecution of the Christians, online at Washington State University</ref>

"Christian" also means a member or adherent of a church or other organized group within Christianity. As an adjective, the term may describe anything associated with or thought to be consistent with Christianity, as in "the Christian thing to do."

See also


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