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Meet the saint who invented the name “Christian”

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St Evodius was the second bishop of Antioch after St Peter.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke mentions the city of Antioch and the great contribution it made to Christianity:

“So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.” (Acts 11:25-26)

However, Saint Luke does not go into the details about how this designation as “Christians” came about. For that, tradition gives us Saint Evodius, whose feast day is May 6.

Saint Peter the Apostle, the first pope, is said to have been the first bishop of Antioch and is believed to have founded the early Christian community there. While he did not remain in Antioch very long, Peter appointed a successor before he left. That successor was Saint Evodius, who became the second bishop of Antioch.

Saint Ignatius, who was the third bishop of Antioch, makes reference to him in one of his letters, saying, “Remember your blessed father Evodius, who was made your first pastor by the Apostles.”

Little is known about Saint Evodius, however one tradition states that he was one of the 70 disciples commissioned by Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 10:1). And it is also believed that Saint Evodius was principally responsible for naming the followers of Jesus “Christians” (in Greek Χριστιανός, or Christianos, meaning “follower of Christ”).

At the time Antioch was home to many Jewish Christians who fled Jerusalem after Saint Stephen was stoned to death. While there, they began to preach to the Gentiles. The new mission became very successful and resulted in a strong community of believers. Most biblical scholars see the designation of “Christian” as an early way to distinguish their growing community from other Jews in the city.

Tradition holds that Evodius served the Christian community in Antioch for 27 years, and the Orthodox Church teaches that he died a martyr’s death in the year 66 under the Roman emperor Nero.

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