What is the definition of Christian?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
What is the definition of Christian?
Thu, 03-27-2003 - 12:02pm
So many people have meanings to this word. Is it possible to come up with a defintion that everyone can agree with?

How do you define what a Christian is?

Is it one who follow Christ?

does one have to have certain beliefs?

Let's here it.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 2:29am
How about this then?

John 4:25-26 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."

I have just had a look through nine different translations, and it is pretty clear in all of them. One (New Living Translation) even has "I am The Messiah".

Two points to make here: don't forget that we are reading in translation. Jesus didn't speak English - sounds obvious, but I have seen people get really tied up in the exact wording and placement of commas, and it just doesn't work like that. We have to look at the thrust of the meaning and be led by the understanding of the people of the time. Their responses usually show us that, to them, Jesus' meaning was pretty unequivocal.

Second point. Note that this bold statement is made to a Samaritan. Apparently to be so "out there" was considered rude in the Jewish culture of the time, and so you will not see Jesus being so direct to other Jews. The polite way of agreeing with someone is to say "It is as you say". (The "yes" is understood) Like if someone offers you tea and you say "Please" and the yes is understood. In some translations it doesn't come across well, but some modern translations have put the "yes" in explicitly for modern readers, while it was understood by the hearers of the time. This is evident in their response.

>>For Jesus to be called "Christ" by Peter, certainly isn't surprising. Even the use of the phrase "son of God" had been used before and not in a surprising way. Son of the living God might be something. I don't think that that includes any idea of the trinity or of forgiving sins or being the literal son of god.

For this reason (translation) I think it is splitting hairs to draw a distinction between "Son of God" and "Son of the living God" - God was understood to be living. Also, look at the response of the Jewish council as previously quoted. They clearly understood Jesus' statements as a claim of equality with God, and therefore blasphemy. I think if Jesus could have avoided crucifixion by saying explicitly "No, this is all a misunderstanding" he would have? Or his disciples would have? He never denies his divinity at all, by either implication or action. I would view "God has revealed this to you" as a pretty direct confirmation, since God was seen as source of all truth.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Christ" and "son of God" being used before in a not surprising way. These figures of speech are almost always used to mean the prophetic figure with the authority of God, who was the literal son of God, who would come to bring the Kingdom of God. The Hosea verse is (I think) unusual in that it refers to all the children of God.

The trinity is not explicitly in the Bible, but is extrapolated from ideas there. Haven't got time to go into it all right now. Forgiving sins and being the literal son of God is certainly in there:

Luke 5:23 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? (Jesus had just said the first, done the second. Usually understood to be the same thing. Follows the point made by the Pharisees, that no-one can forgive sins but God alone.)

John 2:16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade." (He was speaking about the Temple, claiming it as his father's house and claiming authority to contradict the priests who allowed the sale of pigeons for sacrifice.)

John 5:17-18 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working." This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God. (This is one of the clearest verses I can find right now, which points out not only Jesus' claim to be the Son of God, but that this was understood by his audience to mean that he was claiming equality with God, in effect to BE God, hence the blasphemy.)

I have to go to work now, but this is the thrust of it, in a nutshell. There are more verses, and I think reading the Gospel/s as a whole, the idea that Jesus is the Messiah is a generally unescapable and obvious theme. The disciples, who heard his exact words and saw his actions for themselves were certainly convinced. The claim is certainly there, which is the basis for the "Liar, Lunatic, Lord" trilemma. Jesus claimed to be God, either he was wrong and he knew it (Liar) or he was wrong and didn't know it (Lunatic) or he was right... I don't see any other alternatives.

Sorry I took so long getting back to you - I think my computer is doing something weird with the new boards, and I was locked out for a couple of days. I am posting from work now, in rather a hurry, so please forgive typos and telegraphic speech at times!



iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 11:30am
Let me say that I come down firmly on the "Lord" side of the question, but I think that there is another alternative to the "Liar, Lord, Lunatic" dilemma, and that is to believe that the Gospels, in the form we have them, are so corrupt in terms of truth value as to make it impossible to "know" anything about the historical Jesus from reading them. This is an interpretation I do not accept personally, but I think it is logically valid.