Adapted from the chapter “Al-Masih in the Qur’an” in the book The Mystery of the Messiah: The Messiahship of Jesus in the Qur’an, New Testament, Old Testament, and Other Sources
But when Jesus perceived disbelief on their part, he said: “Who are my ansar (supporters) in the cause of Allah?” The companions said: “We are Allah’s ansar. We believe in Allah, and do you bear witness that we are Muslims.” (3.52)O you who believe! Be Allah’s ansar (supporters), as Jesus son of Mary said to the companions: “Who are my ansar (supporters) in the cause of Allah?” The companions said: “We are Allah’s ansar (supporters).” Then a party of the Children of Israel believed and a party disbelieved, therefore we aided those who believed against their enemy, so they became the ones that prevailed (61.14).
The term is then used twice to refer to any follower of the Christ, which is what it ultimately came to mean. In its second occurrence in Acts (26:28), King Agrippa II argues with Paul for trying to convert him to a “Christian.” In the third and last appearance of the term in the New Testament, the follower of the Christ is reminded not to be ashamed of suffering as a “Christian” and to glorify God for bearing such a name (1 Peter 4:16).
It may be suggested that it was Paul and Barnabas who introduced this term in Antioch. One argument against this view is that Paul never uses the term in his letters, preferring to call fellow Christians adelphos (brothers) and adelphen (sisters). This may indicate that the term was introduced by non-Christians, which could explain Acts’ anonymous attribution of the coining of the term. If that is the case, it is doubtful that the term was first applied to Christ’s disciples and then to all his followers, as non-Christians would not have differentiated between the two.
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