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Chrestes as Oracle

by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

The definitions of various 'chrestos' words in Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon (1881:789)

In our analysis of the word chresto or chrestos, we discover that members of brotherhoods, priesthoods and religious schools such as priests and prophets were called chrestes in Greek antiquity, as were soothsayers and those who "give or expound oracles" or consult with gods (see image at right).

Interestingly, a form of this word, χρηματίζω or chrematizo, is used in the New Testament in reference to being "warned of God" (Mt 2:12, 2:22; Lk 3:26; Heb 8:5, 11:7), meaning (Strong's G5537):

...2) to give a response to those consulting an oracle, to give a divine command or admonition, to teach from heaven

a) to be divinely commanded, admonished, instructed

b) to be the mouthpiece of divine revelations, to promulgate the commands of God

Here we find the New Testament god associated with a term used to describe oracular divination and revelation, just as the author of the biblical book of Revelation claimed to be doing.

It is interesting to note that the word χρηματίζω chrēmatizō also means:

do business; transact state business; negotiate, debate, consult, answer; bear a name or title; mid negotiate; make money, transact business (Pocket Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2002:350)

In this regard, the use of chrematizo at Acts 11:26 is odd, in that it describes the naming of the "Christians" first at Antioch:

...χρηματίσαι τε πρώτως ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς...

The following are different English translations of this passage:

KJV: And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
RSV: in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
YLT: the disciples also were divinely called first in Antioch Christians.

Young's Literal Translation includes "divinely," to reflect the oracular meaning of chrematizo.

Here is the relevant definition in Strong's for this usage:

3) to assume or take to one's self a name from one's public business
    a) to receive a name or title, be called

One could suggest that the name "Christian" was a DBA or "doing business as," therefore. It should be kept in mind, however, that this passage at Acts 11:26 in the earliest manuscript tradition such as the Codex Sinaiticus refers not to "Christians" but to Chrestians. In this case, then the Chrestians were to be found first at Antioch, where they were called thus according to their divine vocation. But who were the Chrestians, and when were they first styled by that designation? The answer is that we have inscriptions labeling people Chrestian in the early first century, before "Jesus the Christ" had any noticeable impact.

As I state in my article "Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?", the same "Chrestian to Christian" chicanery has happened with the other two passages in the NT containing the word "Christian," i.e., Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. These are both quite obviously late books - 1 Peter likewise does not emerge clearly in the historical/literary record until after the middle of the second century, as a moniker for these followers of Chrestos, the "Good" or "Useful." It would appear that it was Tertullian (Apologeticus 3), among others, in large part who made the push to change the name to "Christians," accusing the nonbelievers of "mispronouncing" the title.

Here is the original Greek of this passage at Acts 11:26 in the Sinaiticus:

χρηματιϲαι τε πρωτωϲ εν αν τιοχια τουϲ μαθηταϲ χρηϲτιανουϲ

As we can see from the above, in which the word chrematisai is apparently deliberately juxtaposed with chrestianous, the copyist of the Sinaiticus more than likely was not making a mistake but was retaining the earliest canonical rendition of Acts, as Chrestians, not "Christians." We must ask, therefore, what business is it of Tertullian or any others to claim otherwise and to accuse people of "mispronunciation," when it is there in writing held holy?

The pre-Christian Chrestians were apparently involved in the business of divination, religious proselytizing and oracle readings, decades to centuries before Jesus supposedly walked the earth. It was not very difficult eventually to change the cult of "the Good" into that of "the Anointed," with the eventual introduction of a fictional composite presented as a "historical founder" who purportedly lived many decades earlier.

Further Reading

Is Suetonius's Chresto a Reference to Jesus? 
The Chi-Rho Symbol and Chrestos
Chrestos Magical Bowl? 
Chrestes as Oracle and Chrematizo in the New Testament
Isis the Chrest and the Egyptian Houses of Goodness
Apollo, Son of God and the Chrest?
Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius: No Proof of Jesus
Christos or Chrestos?
Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?
The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled
Franck Goddio Society Chrestos Bowl Report
Earliest Reference Describes Christ as 'Magician'
Catalogue of Chrest

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