The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause. —Henri Bergson
Maybe surprising to most, the noun Christian (gr. Χριστιανός) only appears three times in the entire NT corpus: Acts 11.26, 26.28 & 1 Pet. 4.16. The term is therefore not at all a very fitting or essential description of the activity of the early Jesus movement, but rather something like a periphery label, at best.
It is interesting to note that all three instances are found in contexts where the noun probably find its meaning from a Roman administration of some kind, using it in order to label a section of the Jesus movement as a semi-legal grouping, within the ancient world. The word it self, Χριστιανός, is a Latinization (seen by the ending-ιανός/from -ianus), which is evidence enough that the word probably did not originate as an insider or positive term (i.e. from a Greek or even Aramaic source).
Christian simply meant trouble-maker, more or less. And not even a very interesting group of criminals, but a quite general kind. The Christian names a group “always already” in relation to its surrounding and thereby directs our attention to a group interesting because of its difference. The name itself comes from somewhere and is going somewhere, in this case from outside and is being incorporated and altered towards a developing inside.
“In the beginning the word” meant little more than that a certain group “belonged to Christ”, in contrast to other groups dedicated to some other military, social or political leader. That is, the Christian name did not signify anything other than a name for a group. Christian did not even mean much to anybody in the time of the NT. Paul, for instances, seems completely ignorant of it or perhaps refuses to use it, which is quite odd in light of Acts 26, where Agrippa claims that Paul is trying to make him a “Christian.”
Why then do we insist on Freestyling Christian-ity? Let’s pick up the pace.
Christianity does not signify the institutionalization of true humanity, as revealed in Christ, as if there is an essentially true Christianity. If Christ is repeated in the Christian and the Christian is repeated in Christianity, it names a catacombic archive; an assemblage of people, historical reports, theological discourses, music, doctrines, paintings, creeds, architecture, ecclesial hierarchies, and so on—which provides the name with with sense, with an event.
Christianity has neither an origin nor an object, since there is no difference between the archive it names and how the archive came to be. The history of the noun Christianity, as seen by the short lineage of Χριστιανός, is therefore a series of copies without an original. The Christian is a simulacrum. By our continuous and creative interaction with the tradition we keep adding to it by making new copies, which then not only transform the sense of Christianity in the future, but also in the past.
The sense of Christianity derives not from a lack in relation to an immutable idea of Christianity, but from the excess of the archive it names. We thus turn our heads from all claims about a heavenly Origin in order to speak of Christianity as a material and open ended tradition with a genealogy that puts us in relation with the early Jesus movement; the matrix out of which something called Christianity became recognizable.