Most assume that the name and religion of Christians originated in New Testament times. That Christians are recorded as having thrived in the first century as recorded by certain historians, thus the references to "first-century Christians". However, there is no historical or scriptural trace of Christians or Christianity either in the New Testament or the first century, in name or religion. The evidence shows that Christians arose no earlier than the second century as an anti-Jewish movement that broke away from the Natzraya (Nazarenes).
Both the New Testament and secular histories had their texts altered to create the impression that Christians / Christianity had a legitimate beginning. In Christian bible translations, Christian appears in three places; Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. The oldest known Greek manuscript of the New Testament is the Sinaiticus, the second oldest is the Vaticanus. Neither of these texts contain the Greek term Christian. However, copies made after these replace the original Greek term XPHCTIAN (CHRESTIAN) with XPICTIAN (CHRISTIAN).
Without any exception the original word in every instance is not XPICTIAN (CHRISTIAN) but XPHCTIAN (CHRESTIAN) as can be seen in these photographs of the actual Sinaiticus manuscript.
The earliest extant Greek New Testament to explicitly contain the name "Christian" is the Codex Alexandrinus dated ca. 450 c.e. This is just far too late for "Christian" to begin appearing in manuscripts if it were the original term given to followers of the Nazarene Messiah. The appearance of "Christian" in the Greek text is clearly an anachronism which has been paraded as supporting evidence for the Christian name and faith, both of which are counterfeit. In fact, some lineages of Greek manuscripts (Minuscule 81) were still faithfully copying Chrestian up until 1044 c.e.
How does the Aramaic Peshitta compare? Whether Christian or Chrestian, they would only appear as transliterated loan words in an Aramaic text. There are no definite rules about transliterating Greek words into Aramaic letters. Quite often the Greek vowels are not represented. Because there is no corresponding letter or sound for the Greek letter H,e (eta) in Hebrew or Aramaic, the vowel is not represented by a character. However י (yud) can represent the Greek I,i (iota), but it is often dropped. In the Peshitta the I,i (iota) in CHRESTIAN is represented by the letter י (yud). So one has to wonder, since the word is supposed to be CHRISTIAN, why the first I,i (iota) is not represented. If the word was pronounced KRESTIANA, then because there is no consonant for H,e (eta) in Aramaic, we would not expect to see any letter between the ס and ר. This is how the word in question is written in the Aramaic Peshitta and it suggests that the Greek source word was Chrestian and not Christian.
|ARAMAIC||CONSONANTS||WITH VOWELS ADDED||ENGLISH TRANSLITERATION|
|כרסטינא||= KRSTINA||= KRËSTIÄNA||= CHRESTIAN|
Applying the same standard rules of transliteration to any other term, KRSTINA would be rendered with the appropriate vowels KRËSTIÄNA. Some unscrupulous people will attempt to say that the Aramaic presents something much more akin to CHRISTIAN. For this to be true, we would expect to find the following.
|ARAMAIC||CONSONANTS||WITH VOWELS ADDED||ENGLISH TRANSLITERATION|
|כריסטינא||= KRISTINA||= KRISTIÄNA||= CHRISTIAN|
The main problem with Christian is that there is no letter י where it would be expected and so the case for it being Christian is very uncertain. If it sounded like KRISTIANA and because there is a consonant for I,i (iota) we would expect to see a י between the ס and ר and yet it is absent in the Peshitta.
But another way to indicate the pronunciation is with vowel points. The Khabouris manuscript (pictured above) provides us with clearly marked vowel points that indicate the correct pronunciation that comes between the R and S. The resh (left) is accompanied by what is called a zlama qashya which are the two diagonal dots below the letter indicating the eh sound. If the intended sound was ih it the dots would be horizontal psheeka, or for the ee sound a single dot called a khawsa. This confirms that it is CHRESTIAN.
Some translators of the Peshitta, members of the Church of the East, translate KRSTINA as "Christian" but this can be attributed to their Christian bias since there is no other logical reason to translate the word as anything other than chrestian. Christians have a vested interest in maintaining the illusion that their name and faith are firmly rooted in the scriptures. In modern times the Church of the East has been completely assimilated into the Roman Catholic Church. Although many Assyrian Catholics still exhibit a fondness towards this scriptural vestige of their once Judeo-Nazarene faith, they translate it in conformity with Roman Catholic terminology and doctrine. This is what we call truly S.A.D. (Substituting Aramaic Diacritics).
Chrestian has no apparent relation to the word Christian although they coincidently appear and sound similar, so much so that during the second century there was some confusion between the terms. Chrestian comes from the Greek chrestos having the meaning; good manners or morals, pleasant, better, useful, beneficial, kind, gracious. Christos on the other hand means to be anointed. These are scans from 'The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible'. Although the Greek in the manuscripts appears in upper case, the concordance displays these terms in lower case, but the similarities in appearance can still be observed.
The literal translation of Christians is "anointed men" or "anointlings". This is far removed from the general meaning of Chrestians which is "good men". Christians are fond of saying that Christian means "follower of Christ", as perhaps it should. That is a platitudinal definition, and it may be the literal one as found in Strong's Concordance, but it isn't the one practiced by Christians. In practical terms, a Christian is one who practices Christianity, just as a Jew practices Judaism, and a Hindu, Hinduism, etc.
Clement I of Rome, whom the Church Romanized and claims to be one of their early popes, wrote his epistle to the Corinthians in the 1st century c.e. and it makes no reference to "Christians" whatsoever. Nor does he give any evidence for a faith different from that of the Nazarenes. However he does make reference to chrestians or chrestoi, which he calls his fellow brothers in the faith.
"The good ones (chrestoi) shall be dwellers in the land, and the innocent shall be
left on it but they that transgress shall be destroyed utterly from it." - Epistle to the Corinthians 14:4
The context in which the term Christian appears in later Greek manuscripts better fits with KRESTIANA, the good man, good servant, kind, beneficial, morally upright, etc. The following examples are taken from the King James Version. The word Christian has been replaced with a translation of chrestian.
Here we read about how Bar-Naba (Barnabas) went to Antioch, and because they considered him to be a "GOOD MAN", he was called a chrestian in the Greek language.
"For he [Barnabas] was a good [man], and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for 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 good [men] first in Antioch." - KJV
King Agrippa remarks that he was being persuaded by Paul to be gracious towards him, and in fact he did take a favourable attitude toward him.
"King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be gracious. ...And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds." - KJV
Here Këæpa (Peter) contrasts good and evil men, then goes on to say that if you suffer for being a good man for doing good works, there is no shame in being accused of such.
"But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if [any man suffer] as a good [man], let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." - KJV
The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about how "chrestians" were blamed for the burning of Rome in 64 c.e. Later editions of his Annals show that the term chrestians was edited1 to read as "Christians" instead. This reveals a systematic effort to legitimize a new religious movement that otherwise had no scriptural or historical backing. This fact completely removes the Christian name from the first century.
Tacitus (56-117 c.e.)
"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Chrestians by the populace. Christus2, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular." - Annals 15:44
Enrico Rostagno copy of folio 38 r of M.II (Leiden 1902), line 21
There is a conspicuous gap between the first i and s. The first i is much bolder and of a different style than the second. Upon closer inspection of the Latin Medicean II manuscript usingultraviolet light, it becomes apparent that the space was originally occupied by an e which was erased and replaced with an i by a later scribe. The original said "chrestians".
Ultraviolet photo of folio 38 r of M.II, by Donato Pineider. Biblioteca Nazionale
Consequently, the long standing tradition in the Church that Nero had persecuted Christians is a historical fallacy. This suggests that it was probably the Natzraya (Nazarenes) that suffered, the only group called Chrestians by the common people.
Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician' - MSNBC
In 2008 Franck Goddio and his team of marine archeologists uncovered a cup at Alexandria that bore an inscription DIA CHRESTOU O GOISTAIS. Even though experts gave an accurate and plausible translation and interpretation some reached beyond credibility and are promoting a false translation and impossible interpretation3. Even Goddio himself appears to be giving into wishful thinking in exchange for the publicity that it has generated. The media preferred that the translation refers to "CHRIST THE MAGICIAN" for eye catching headlines even though anyone who can read Greek letters can clearly see that the inscription does not bear the word CHRISTOU (Christ).
While comparing translations of Clement's Letter to the Corinthians, I noticed that some versions contained references to "Christians" while others did not. While this case is not a mistranslation of CHRESTIAN, sure enough we see the same kind of radical revisionism going on here too. The Greek source says CHRISTO which Roberts and Donaldson mistranslate as "Christian" but Hoole correctly translates as "Christ" in three places.
Chapter 3 Verse 4
"For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world." - Roberts-Donaldson
"Through this justice and peace are afar off, because each of you leaveth off the fear of God and is dimsighted in his faith, nor walketh in the laws of his commandments, nor behaveth as becometh a citizen of Christ; but each walketh according to his own evil lusts, having taken up unjust and unholy envy, by which also death entered into the world." - Charles H. Hoole
Chapter 21 Verse
"Let your children be partakers of true Christian training; let them learn of how great avail humility is with God -- how much the spirit of pure affection can prevail with Him -- how excellent and great His fear is, and how it saves all those who walk in it with a pure mind." - Roberts-Donaldson
"Let your children be partakers of the discipline of Christ; let them learn how much humility availeth before God; what power a pure love hath with God; how his fear is honourable and great, preserving all who, with a pure mind, walk in holiness before him." - Charles H. Hoole
Chapter 47 Verse 6
"It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters." - Roberts-Donaldson
"Disgraceful, brethren, yea, very disgraceful is it, and unworthy of the conduct which is in Christ, that it should be reported that the most firm and ancient Church of the Corinthians hath, on account of one or two persons, made sedition against its presbyters." - Charles H. Hoole
The French spelling for Christian (Chretien) and Christendom (Chretiente) presents an e rather than i. As can be seen below, in the 1631 c.e. Old French commentary on Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum, there is a curious discrepancy between Chriſt and Chreſtiens. [the letter s was written as ſ in former times as part of a ligature]
Interestingly many other languages still preserve the original CHRESTIAN form rather than CHRISTIAN even while most still maintain a separate tradition for spelling CHRIST rather then CHREST.
|Hatian Creole||kretyen||Kris la|
The earliest reference to Christians or "Christianity" is in the second century (ca. 110 c.e.) writings of Ignatius of Antioch. (Even this document is suspected by some scholars to have been revised by later Christians.) Magnesians offers us the earliest definition which explains that "Christian" was a designation to separate Natzari Jews from non-Jewish "believers". This treatise on Christianity reveals a deep distrust and hatred of Jews and Judaism, of the Almighty's law and commandments.
"Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, and things in which the Jews make their boast. Old things are passed away: behold, all things have become new. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, and the circumcision of the flesh, we deny that we have received grace." - Magnesians ch. 8b
"Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for he that does not work, let him not eat. For say the [holy] oracles, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread. But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lords Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]." - Magnesians ch. 9b
"...and [he] endured the cross at the hands of the Christ-killing Jews..." - Magnesians ch.11b
"Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, is not of God. ...It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity, .." - Magnesians ch. 10a
"Let us therefore prove ourselves worthy of that name which we have received. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, he is not of God; for he has not received the prophecy which speaks thus concerning us: The people shall be called by a new name, which the Lord shall name them, and shall be a holy people. This was first fulfilled in Syria; for the disciples were called Christians at Antioch, when Paul and Peter were laying the foundations of the Church. ...Abide in Christ, that the stranger may not have dominion over you. It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end." - Magnesians ch. 10b
Justin Martyr frequently exercises a play on words between Christian and Chrestian. It is hard to tell which of these he actually prefers.
"By the mere application of a name, nothing is decided, either good or evil, apart from the actions implied in the name; and indeed, so far at least as one may judge from the name we are accused of, we are Chrestians. But as we do not think it just to beg to be acquitted on account of the name, if we be convicted as evil-doers, so, on the other hand, if we be found to have committed no offense, either in the matter of thus naming ourselves, or of our conduct as citizens, it is your part very earnestly to guard against incurring just punishment, by unjustly punishing those who are not convicted." -Apology 1, ch. 4
Clement appears to accept both terms during the transitional period before the term chrestian is retired.
"Now those who have believed in Christ both are and are called Chrestians, as those who are cared for by the true king are kingly. For as the wise are wise by their wisdom, and those observant of law are so by the law; so also those who belong to Christ the King are kings, and those that are Christ’s Christians." - Stromata IV
The populace seems to recall the original designation for believers as Chrestian, and are still not fully acquainted with the transition to Christian as Tertullian points out.
"Now then, if this hatred is directed against the name, what is the guilt attaching to names? What accusation can be brought against words, except that a certain pronunciation of a name sounds barbarous, or is unlucky or abusive or obscene? But 'Christian,' as far as its etymology goes, is derived from 'anointing.' And even when it is incorrectly pronounced by you 'Chrestian' (for not even is your acquaintance with the name accurate), it is formed from 'sweetness' or 'kindness.' In innocent men, therefore, even an innocent name is hated." - Apology Ch.III
Due to the popularity of the name of Chrestians many incorrectly assumed that Yeshua's title must have been Chrestus. Lactantius sets out to correct this misconception, but in the process reveals a few interesting things that heretical groups bare the name Christian. These may have been Marcionites who practiced this switching of terms.
"...for Christ is not a proper name, but a title of power and dominion; for by this the Jews were accustomed to call their kings. But the meaning of this name must be set forth, on account of the error of the ignorant, who by the change of a letter are accustomed to call Him Chrestus. The Jews had before been directed to compose a sacred oil, with which those who were called to the priesthood or to the kingdom might be anointed. And as now the robe of purple is a sign of the assumption of royal dignity among the Romans, so with them the anointing with the holy oil conferred the title and power of king. But since the ancient Greeks used the word χρίεσθαι to express the art of anointing, which they now express by ἀλείφεσθαι, as the verse of Homer shows,
“But the attendants washed, and anointed them with oil;”
on this account we call Him Christ, that is, the Anointed, who in Hebrew is called the Messias. Hence in some Greek writings, which are badly translated from the Hebrew, the word eleimmenos is found written, from the word aleiphesthai, anointing. But, however, by either name a king is signified:" - Divine Institutes, Book IV Ch. VII
"...all the separate assemblies of heretics call themselves Christians in preference to others," - Divine Institutes, Book IV, ch. XXX
By the end of the fourth century references to Chrestians have disappeared, and the transition to Christian is complete. Church bishop and historian Epiphanius reveals with no uncertainty that Christians were not originally known as Christians. He confirms that the Natzraya (Nazarenes) refused to adopt the name of "Christians". He states that the first believers in the New Testament were known as Natzraya (Nazarenes). He also reveals that Christians broke away from this group because they were at variance against the Law.
1:2 For this group did not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus’ own name, but "Natzraya." 1:3 However, at that time all Christians [Chrestians] were called Natzraya in the same way. They also came to be called "Jessaeans'' for a short while, before the disciples began to be called "Christians" [Chrestians] at Antioch. 6:5 And no wonder the apostle admitted to being a Natzar! In those days everyone called Christians this because of the city of Natzrat there was no other usage of the name then. People thus gave the name of Natzraya to believers in Christ, of whom it is written, "He shall be called a Natzar." 7:1 But these sectarians whom I am now sketching disregarded the name of Jesus, and did not call themselves Jessaeans, keep the name of Jews, or term themselves Christians but [rather] Natzraya from the place-name, Natzrat, if you please! However they are simply completed Jews.
It is interesting to note that not once did Polus (Paul) once use the term Christian in any of his writings. The Greek translation of his teachings does however use many related forms of Chrestian such as chrestotes, chrestos, chrestologia, chresteuomai, chresis, chresimos, chrematismos, chrematizo, chrezo, chreia, and chraomai. With his dozens of references to the topic of a Chrestian lifestyle, it no wonder that the Greeks of Antioch nicknamed Polus a Chrestian.
Marcion the Gnostic, and contrarian, certainly played a role in popularizing the name Christian. He also switched the Greek title of the Messiah from Christos to Chrestus. All this begs the question, why did these heretics choose the name Christian? One is that they found it to be an easy transition both verbally and scripturally since it only required a minor change in pronunciation and spelling. However some researchers have suggested that the practical benefit of adopting the moniker derived from the illustrious name "Christos" loaned instant credibility to the new cult.
"It is quite more likely that the Christians chose the name Christian (rather than Chrestian) for the luster that the high name would shed on them than that their virtues shed luster upon the name. The name needed no extraneous illumination; the Christians (as has been seen) doubtless did." - Alvin Boyd Kuhn, 'Who is this King of Glory? - A Critical Study of the Christos-Messiah Tradition'
In modern Hebrew, the word for Christians is Notzrim, which is the same as Natzraya in Aramaic, or Nazarenes in colloquial English. This is clearly a misnomer. The historical distinction between the Jewish sect of Notzrim and Christians is unknown to even most rabbis and scholars. The only way to break the tradition of ignorance is to correct it at every given opportunity. Christians should never be referred to as Notzrim in Hebrew, and Notzrim should never be referred to as Christians.
Kartir, the Zoroastrian high priest and advisor to Hormizd I in the late 3rd century c.e., campaigned against other religions among which he clearly distinguished Christians from Nazarenes.
"And in kingdom after kingdom and place after place throughout the whole empire the services of Ahura Mazda and the Yazads became preeminent, and great dignity came to the Mazdayasnian religion and the magi in the empire, and the Yazads and water and fire and small cattle in the empire attained great satisfaction, while Ahriman and the devs were punished and rebuked, and the teachings of Ahriman and the devs departed from the empire and were abandoned. And Yahud (Jews), Shaman (Buddhists), Brahman (Hindus), Nasara (Nazarenes), Kristiyan (Christians), Maktak (Baptisers), and Zandiks (Manichaeans) in the empire were smitten, and destruction of idols and scattering of the stores of the devs and god-seats and nests was abandoned. And in kingdom after kingdom and place after place many divine services in magnificence and many Warharan fires were established, and many magi became happy and prosperous, and many fires and magi were imperially installed. And in documents and imperial rescripts and records, under Varahran, King of Kings, son of Varahran, (11) which were made, in was recorded, "Kartir, Varahran's Soul-Savior, Ahura Mazda's Magus-master." - inscription on the Kabah of Zartusht at Naqshe Rostam, Fars Province, Iran4
Some see this article as a vain exercise, an unnecessary argument over words. However if the term "Christian" presents a stumbling block to those who would believe, then it becomes a serious matter. If we have the knowledge and opportunity to end the confusion, the hesitation, the division and sweep away the stumbling blocks once and for all, why wouldn't we? The term Christian is a very real stumbling block to Jews, and it is totally unnecessary. The good news of assured total redemption is to the Jew first, and then to the non-Jew. What this means is that we have to first consider the needs of Jews who have patiently awaited the Mashiach for thousands of years, before the common person, who was never waiting for any such thing. Besides, if a Christian is offended by the truth, are they really interested in the truth after all?
We identify ourselves with names. Names represent ideas, belief, concepts, and even religions. If we say we identify with Rabbi Yeshua the Anointed one of Israel, a Jew, a Nazarene, and who is not a Christian - then we should identify ourselves in the same way. If that is what you are, then that is what you are called.
There is much negative historical baggage that comes with the name Christian; the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Rwandan genocide, false doctrines, sexual abuse, political scandals, televangelists, greed, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, and all manner of sin. Who would want to identify with that? Saying that those who committed such acts were a few false Christians just doesn't cut it. Ask any Christian today, they will tell you that they are sinners. Sinners are potentially capable of anything, especially the ones who say that they just can't help it.
Since Christianity is not what "Christ" practiced, then those who do practice Christianity can not literally be "followers of Christ". Clearly Rabbi Yeshua was Jewish, and practiced Judaism. A careful examination of the New Testament reveals that he did not observe a single Christian holiday, did not teach the trinity, did not claim to be equal to his heavenly Father or have any power of his own. He never went to church, or even met a single Christian in all his life. He didn't pray before statues with candles, he didn't say the rosary or hail Mary, and he didn't cross his heart, or believe in popes, or that once saved always saved. There is nothing identifiably Christian about him.
Rabbi Yeshua's theology and religion was a very orthodox Judaism. He observed all the Torah's holidays, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath, he read from the Torah and the prophets, his only scriptures. He never used the word "church" and certainly never established any. He only selected Jewish males for his official emissaries. He even claimed that the knowledge of the Almighty and salvation is only from the Jews, to the gentiles. Therefore the concept of a "true Christian" must not be based upon anything found in the altered New Testament, but in the writings of those who first invented, defined, and promoted the term.
In the minds of Christians, Christian means "follower of Christ" but in practical terms it means "follower of the tenets of Christianity" just like Ignatius defined. These two are not necessarily the same thing. We know this because the Christ was neither a follower or espouser of all the common tenets of Christianity. We are not merely concerning ourselves here with a pronunciation or a variant spelling, but with what a Christian essentially is, and if it is a name worth adopting or defending. Since the name never originated from the New Testament, or among the first believers, but rather from unbelievers who despised true believers, to designate themselves apart from the original belief, then there is no justification for bearing such a name.
Under the name Christian, many Natzraya and Jews have been unjustly hated, persecuted, tortured, and put to death. A careful look at the life of the "Christ" reveals that he was not a Christian, and did nothing to indicate that he was a Christian. What we do see is a life and teaching consistent with the tenets of orthodox Judaism. We all should know that one can not observe Christianity and Judaism at the same time - and it really has nothing to do with the Messiah. We couldn't agree more that Christianity and Judaism do not mix, nor can someone hold to both beliefs at the same time. Certainly the grossly malformed "Judeo-Christian" or "Jewish-Christian" terms are incompatible.
Most readers have come away reasonably convinced that a program of changes have been made to the original texts but a few are in utter denial out of fear of what the ramifications of such a fact. One of the rationalizations the fearful offer is that it is common to find variant spellings of the same word throughout a manuscript. The problem with that is there are no variations within the Sinaiticus or any other codex. While spelling between different codices may vary, (and is the point of this article) the spelling within each is remarkably consistent. In the Sinaiticus all references to Christ are spelled with an iota and all references to his followers as Chrestians with an eta. The scribes made no attempt to connect the two terms etymologically until the 5th century. This reconciliation did not occur until centuries later.
If Chrestians is a variant spelling of Christians then why do the early Christian authorities, such as Tertuallian, take issue with the two being used interchangeably? He clarifies that Chrestian is a proper term in it's own right. It is a different word with a different meaning - not a variant.
Additional non-Christianized Greek and Latin codices have come to light such as the 5th century Codex Bezae5. Inscriptions such as Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI24944 epitaph which attest to the existence of Chrestians rather than Christians in the 1st century ce. The Christian historian Orosius also changed the spelling of Suetonius' Chrestus to Christus which may or may not have been justified - the point being the pens of the scribes are capable of revision.
It would be a further error to attempt to resolve the controversy by framing Christians as merely being the gentile division of the Nazarenes. The idea of segregation within the Natzari community is repulsive and counter to the teachings of the shliachim. There certainly are not two religions to which one's membership depends upon their race. We know that the Christian movement was in opposition to any form of Judaism and rejected the original Natzari way. Once the movement away from the faith had gained sufficient momentum, sometime by the second century, they created a new designation for themselves to further separate themselves from the previous identity with Chrestians or Natzraya. The question, especially for the Christian reader is, do you want to follow the original way under the original designation, or do you want to walk in the way of the children of Belial and wear the name of rebels?
"They have gone out from us, but they are not of us, for if they had been of us they would have remained with us, but they have gone out from us, so that it would be evident that they are not of us." - 1 Yuhanan (John) 2:19
1. Tacitus, Annals of Rome. In the earliest extant manuscript, the second Medicean, the e in "Chrestianos", Chrestians, has been changed into an i; cf. Gerd Theißen, Annette Merz, Der historische Jesus: ein Lehrbuch, 2001, p. 89. The reading Christianos, Christians, is therefore doubtful.
a) First noted in 1902 by Georg Andresen in Wochenschrift fur klassische Philologie 19, 1902, p. 780f
b) Confirmed in 1950 by Harald Fuchs, Tacitus on the Christians, published in Christian Vigil (1950) volume 4, number 2, p. 70, note 6
c) Proven by spectral analysis in 2008 by Dr. Ida Giovanna Rao
2. It is inconceivable how Tacitus could erroneously attribute the name Chrestians as being derived from Christus for obvious etymological reasons. We reasonably assume that his knowledge of Latin and Greek was superior to his knowledge concerning an obscure Jewish sect. Since the followers were commonly known as Chrestians it would be quite easy and natural to assume that their founder was someone named Chrestus. This is exactly the etymological assumption made by fellow historian Suetoniusa and corrected by Lactantiusb. Overhearing the name Christus, one might also be hearing Chrestus in their own ear. This too was a common audible error noted by Tertullianc in whose time Christians and Chrestians appear to have been recently contemporaneous.We do not have the original text written by Tacitus' hand, but only copies. It seems likely that the original statement referred to Chrestians and Chrestus. The first copies of Annals may have been corrected by a more knowledgeable scribe. They could have corrected the obvious misspelling of Chrestus to Christus without a major rewriting of the statement. The statement, with the now correct appellations, becomes etymologically impossible. The latest copies were further corrected by changing Chrestians to Christians so that the statement becomes etymologically correct, but at the expense of making the first appellation (Christians) incorrect.
a) Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25.4 "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome."
b) Lactantius, Divine Institutions book IV. chapter VII. "But the meaning of this name [Christ] must be set forth, on account of the error of the ignorant, who by the change of a letter are accustomed to call Him Chrestus." - http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07014.htm
c) Tertullian, Ad nat. 1.3.9 "Even when by a faulty pronunciation you call us 'Chrestians' (for you are not certain about even the sound of this noted name), you in fact lisp out the sense of pleasantness and goodness." and Apol. 3.5.
3. For Pr. Bert Smith of Oxford University, it might be a dedication or a present made by a certain Chrestos belonging to an association (maybe religious) called Ogoistais. In this sense, Pr. Klaus Hallof, director of the Institute of Greek inscriptions in the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of inscriptions believes that it is necessary to connect “ogostai” to known Greek denominations of religious associations such as Hermaistai, Athenaistai, Isiastai which gathered worshippers of the god Hermes or the goddess Athena and Isis. “Ogo”, according to this hypothesis, would be a divine form of expressing the god Osogo or Ogoa of whom Strabon and Pausanias talk with regard to a divinity worshipped in Milas, in Caria.
According to the interpretation of Pr. André Bernand, Professor emeritus of French Universities, Goistais might be a mistaken graphic of goes, the “goet”, that is, the “magician, the sorcerer, the charmer, the magus”. This hypothesis becomes even more seducing as the expression introduced by “dia” is typical of these casters of chance and soothsayers well-known by the classical texts. According to this supposition, the writing could then be translated either as “by Chrestos/Christos the magician”, or “the magician by Chrestos/Christos”. - http://www.underwaterdiscovery.org/Sitemap/Project/ProjectArticel.aspx?ProjectName=Alexandria&Layout=B&XmlDocument=0014.xml