[quote=hodgepin]If I’m understanding it correctly, the Catholic Church didn’t really bear the name “Catholic” until some time after 110 A.D., when St. Ignatius coined the phrase in a letter to the Smyrnaeans. Wondered if anyone knows what the Church called itself prior to this. Why wasn’t it called the Christian Church, or Church of Christ instead, while retaining the idea of being “catholic” or “universal” in practice?
If we look at the NT we find that the Church in its early stages was designated simply as the Church of God, Churches of Christ, the Bride, and the Body of the Lord.
Luke explains that it was in Antioch that for the first time the followers of Christ were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). It is noteworthy that this happened years after the Church was founded. This designation also came from those outside the Church not from the members of the Church (the Scriptures report that they were “called” not that they “called themselves” Christians). However, the Church adopted this designation (see Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16 which are the only other places in Scripture where “Christian” is used). No doubt it was the Jews that gave the disciples this name to distinguish them from the Jewish religion.
The Scriptures also in principle designate the Church as “universal” even though it does not use the term explicitly(Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 3:1-6). The Church is not confined to one race or tribe but to all inhabitants of the earth.
During Apostolic times, errors and heresies began to enter the Church. In order to distinguish itself from the the heretical sects that were identifying themselves as “Christian,” the Church began to be recognized as the “Catholic Christian Church” or for short just the “Catholic Church.”