The following information looks at the use of the descriptor "Christian" and "Jehovah's Witness". Reference is made to information published by the WTBTS, as is information in Wikipedia. A discussion ensues at the end.
Insight Vol I - ChristianPublished in 1988
The Latinized Greek term Khri·sti·a·nos′, found only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, designates followers of Christ Jesus, the exponents of Christianity.—Ac 11:26; 26:28; 1Pe 4:16.
“It was first in Antioch [Syria] that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.” (Ac 11:26) It is possible, then, that this name was used as early as the year 44 C.E. when the events surrounding this text occurred, although the grammatical structure of this phrase does not necessarily make it so; some think it was a little later. At any rate, by about 58 C.E., in the city of Caesarea, the term was well known and used even by public officials, for at that time King Herod Agrippa II said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”—Ac 26:28.
Bible writers in addressing fellow believers or describing followers of Christ used expressions such as “believers in the Lord,” “brothers” and “disciples” (Ac 5:14; 6:3; 15:10), “chosen ones” and “faithful ones” (Col 3:12; 1Ti 4:12), “slaves to God” and “slaves of Christ Jesus” (Ro 6:22; Php 1:1), “holy ones,” “congregation of God,” and “those who call upon the Lord.” (Ac 9:13; 20:28; 1Co 1:2; 2Ti 2:22) These terms with doctrinal meaning were used primarily as internal congregational designations. To outsiders Christianity was referred to as “The Way” (Ac 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4), and opponents called it “the sect of the Nazarenes” or just “this sect.”—Ac 24:5; 28:22.
It was first in Syrian Antioch that Christ’s followers became known as Christians. It is most unlikely that the Jews first styled Jesus’ followers “Christians” (Greek) or “Messianists” (Hebrew), for they would not reject Jesus as being the Messiah, or Christ, and then tacitly recognize him as the Anointed One, or Christ, by stamping his followers “Christians.” Some think the heathen population may have nicknamed them Christians out of jest or scorn, but the Bible shows that it was a God-given name; they “were by divine providence called Christians.”—Acts 11:26.
The Greek verb khre·ma·ti′zo (χρηματίσαι - "style divinely" in Kingdom Interlinear) in this text is generally rendered simply “were called,” and that is what is done at Acts 11:26 in most translations. However, there are translations that indicate that God had something to do with selecting the name ‘Christian.’ Noteworthy in this regard are the New World Translation, Young’s Literal Translation, and The Simple English Bible. Young’s reads: “The disciples also were divinely called first in Antioch Christians.”
The Greek word khre·ma·ti′zo as used in the Christian Greek Scriptures is always associated with something supernatural, oracular, or divine.
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, in its Greek dictionary (1890, p. 78), defines it as “to utter an oracle . . . i.e. divinely intimate.”
- Edward Robinson’s Greek and English Lexicon (1885, p. 786) gives the meaning: “Spoken in respect to a divine response, oracle, declaration, to give response, to speak as an oracle, to warn from God.”
- Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1889, p. 671): “to give a divine command or admonition, to teach from heaven . . . to be divinely commanded, admonished, instructed . . . to be the mouthpiece of divine revelations, to promulge the commands of God.”
- Thomas Scott in his Explanatory Notes on this text (1832, Vol. III, p. 419) says: “The word implies that this was done by divine revelation: for it has generally this signification in the New Testament, and is rendered ‘warned from God’ or ‘warned of God,’ even when there is no word for GOD in the Greek.”
- Concerning Acts 11:26, Clarke’s Commentary says: “The word [khre·ma·ti′sai] in our common text, which we translate were called, signifies in the New Testament, to appoint, warn, or nominate, by Divine direction. In this sense, the word is used, Matt. ii. 12 . . . If, therefore, the name was given by Divine appointment, it is most likely that Saul and Barnabas were directed to give it; and that, therefore, the name Christian is from God.”—See Mt 2:12, 22; Lu 2:26; Ac 10:22; Ro 7:3, Int; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25, where this Greek verb occurs.
Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's KingdomPublished in 1993
(Referring to the 1931 Convention in Columbus, Ohio)Chapter 7 - pages 79/82
"'You are my witnesses,' is the utterance of Jehovah, 'and I am God.'" (Isa. 43:12). Starting in the 1920's, te Bible Students became increasingly aware of the deep significance of these words of the prophet Isaiah. Through the pages of The Watch Tower, attention was repeatedly drawn to our responsibility to bear witness to Jehovah's name and his Kingdom A milestone, though, was reached at a convention held in Columbus, Ohio, in 1931.
From one o'clock when the public discourse was finished, until four o'clock, when Brother Rutherford reentered the auditorium, the atmosphere was charged with excitement. Brother Rutherford had specially requested that everyone who was really interested in the noonday warning to Christendom be in his seat at four o'clock.
Promptly at four, Brother Rutherford began by stating that he regarded what he was about to say as of vital importance to everyone who could hear his voice. His listeners were keenly interested. During his discourse he presented another resolution,, this one entitled "A New Name," which was climaxed by the declaration: "We desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, Jehovah's witnesses." The thrilled conventioners again jumped to their feet with the ringing shout "Aye!" They would henceforth be known as Jehovah's Witnesses!
Bearing Thorough Witness - Chapter 9Published in 2009
Sending “a Relief Ministration” (Acts 11:26b-30)
22 It was first in Antioch that “the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.” (Acts 11:26b) That God-approved name aptly describes those whose way of life is modeled on that of Christ.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Franklin_RutherfordHis early presidency was marked by a dispute with the Society's board of directors, in which four of its seven members accused him of autocratic behavior and sought to reduce his powers. The resulting leadership crisis divided the Bible Student community and contributed to the loss of one seventh of adherents by 1919 and thousands more by 1931. P.S.L. Johnson, The Present Truth and Herald of Christ's Epiphany, April 1927, p. 66: "Since the Fall of 1923 ... from 20,000 to 30,000 Truth people the world over have left the Society."
At a 1931 Bible Student assembly in Columbus, Ohio Rutherford proposed a new name for the organization, Jehovah's witnesses, to differentiate them from the proliferation of other groups that followed Russell's teachings. Bible Students who opposed or abandoned Rutherford to form new groups were increasingly described as the "evil servant class" by The Watchtower, which said it was wrong to pray for those who were "unfaithful".
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehovah%27s_WitnessesThe name Jehovah's witnesses, based on Isaiah 43:10–12, was adopted in 1931 to distinguish themselves from other Bible Student groups and symbolize a break with the legacy of Russell's traditions.
The translation of the Greek verb khre·ma·ti′zo as "by divine providence called" is unique to the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. It has been translated as such from the beginning (1953) up to and including the recent 2013 revision. An examination of translations via Biblegateway shows that they all translate khre·ma·ti′zo simply as "called" (except Young's).
The Insight Vol 1 does seem to ably augment the rationale for the NWT's rendition by having several evidentiary references (rare practice for the WTBTS). The Insight Volume was published in 1988 - over 25 years after the "divine providence" phrase was first used. The phrase "by divine providence called Christians" has been in print in the NWT for over 60 years now.More recently, the Bearing Thorough Witness text (published in 2009) briefly but eloquently states regarding Acts 11:26 - "That God-approved name aptly describes those whose way of life is modeled on that of Christ." This text thus affirms the use of the descriptor - Christian - as being divinely approved. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the fact that God's thoughts are higher than the thoughts of men (Isa. 55:8,9), including the thinking of a man which gave rise to the decision in 1931 in the first place.
When one examines the history behind the use of the descriptor "Jehovah's Witnesses" in the Proclaimers' book, there is a contrasting paucity of information in general, and evidentiary references in particular, concerning the reasons leading to the convention decision to adopt the aforementioned. This text states that "Through the pages of The Watch Tower, attention was repeatedly drawn to our responsibility to bear witness to Jehovah's name". No particular Watchtower magazines are either quoted or cited in order to underpin such a claim. Rather, Wikipedia alleges that the reason for the adoption of the descriptor was to "differentiate them from the proliferation of other groups that followed Russell's teachings ... and symbolize a break with the legacy of Russell's traditions". It also alludes to the need of Rutherford to stem the exodus of people from the organisation following the leadership schisms.
Institutional politicing rather than spiritual yearning\growth\light may have been the rationale for the adoption of the JW descriptor. The authority for this adoption is weak in that the Proclaimer's book focuses solely on the Columbus Ohio convention of 1931 and does not mention any other conventions at other venues where there was such enthusiastic "Aye(s)" for this decision. Thus, a far reaching decision was made by one gathering in 1931 and which has had very significant impact upon 7 to 8 million folks today. There is no recorded discussion of the choice in 1931 needing to be reviewed when the NWT was published with it's rendering of Acts 11:26 in the early 60's.
IMPACT OF THIS SHORT STUDY.....
The apostle Paul was the beneficiary of a direct post resurrection communication from Jesus. Jesus explained to Ananias that Paul was chosen to "...make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15 - TEV). This is clear evidence that Jesus' name was to be known to his followers. Subsequently, Paul was inspired to write that "... in honour of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php. 2:10,11 TEV). Thus, it can be reasoned that by being known by the descriptor "Christian", first, foremost, and only, we are demonstrating our convergence with scripture on the one hand, and on the other hand, placing the decisions of man and his institutions much lower down the ladder of priorities.
"There is one God and one Mediator between God and us - the man Jesus, God's Anointed, who gave His life as a ransom for all so that we might have freedom." (1 Tim. 2:5,6 - The Voice Translation). Therefore, an individual may discern a need to identify with Jesus the Mediator and seek every opportunity to avoid being a follower of men by acquiescing with the tendency of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses to glorify THEMSELVES rather than be be discreet and slave like. This self glorification is escalating gradually in that they are increasingly exploiting technology to reach into congregations directly and show themselves on marketing objects for "Regional" conventions. They are determined that we know who they are and the authority they have. (In reality, a genuine slave only has authority to serve, not to subordinate).
"Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection..." (Heb. 12:2 - The Jerusalem Bible). This is put beautifully in this translation. Thus, why would an individual defer to the strong personality of a leader in the 1930's regarding the adoption of a descriptor / title or similarly obdurate collective human leadership today when Jesus is taking the lead?
In reviewing this history, I have resolved to refer to myself as a Christian only. In so doing, I would reason that I am honouring the Father via honouring his Son (John 5:23). There is the authority of scripture behind such a decision. I do not have to describe myself as a Jehovah's Witness in order to continue to keep the Father's name sanctified. There's more to it than that. I will use Acts 11:26 and the information in the Bearing Thorough Witness text and the Insight volume to augment my decision. If individuals in positions of authority react adversely to this and seek to expel me, then that may be a millstone that they will have to wear round their necks. For me, I am free! "So if the Son sets you free, you will be truly free." (John 8:36 - NWT 2013 ed).
The decision reached in 1931 by attenders at the Columbus Ohio convention, was not repeated at other conventions that I can discern. Therefore, I cannot work out how the vote of such a minority so long ago, should qualify for continued legitimacy of adoption in 2015. I cannot find evidence that the decision then was from God (in reality from the strong personality of J. F. Rutherford) or democratic.