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On Names in the Bible
Sources
Bible Commentary



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—Biblical Names —
Meaning and etymology of Biblical Names




Name Name





Whether you are looking for Hebrew and Greek baby names and their meaning, or you want to deepen your knowledge of the Bible, have a browse through Abarim Publications' Biblical Name Vault and learn about the often surprising meaning and portent of Hebrew and Greek Bible names.

Use the alphabet to the left to retrieve lists of Biblical names per letter. Click on a name to read the article.




Translating Biblical Names

- Methods -

Translating Biblical names is an art all by itself. Often Biblical names are like little poems tucked in the narrative, and contain meaning beyond their etymological origins. These origins often only point us in the right direction in our search for meaning, but the actual impact upon the observer (reader/ listener) should be sought in textual references, sound-likes and function of the character that bears the name.

Procedure
  1. Look for words that are identical to the name.
  2. Look for words that may be compounded into the name.
  3. Look for words that may be roots of the name, augmented with so-called soft letters (letters that create action or form but do not change the verbal charge of the name); he, waw, waw-nun, yod, or taw as pre- or postfix.
  4. Try to create a phrase that works.
  5. Compare results with textual references.

Mechanisms


Biblical names in the Bible are often accompanied by a reason of the name. And that reason is composed after a certain naming-mechanism or a combination of a few of those.
We identify the following naming-mechanisms:

Facsimilative

And his name was Talkie because he wouldn't stop talking.
Most commonly in the Bible, people are given a name that consists of a verb or noun that is used in the reasoning for this name. Most of the sons of Jacob are named facsimilative.


Paranomative

And his name was Pun because he was a lot of fun.
Biblical names are often quasi-facsimilative and the result of word-play; the name hints at the verb that is used in the description but is obviously altered to also contain hints at other words. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament page 210, "There are many places in the OT where it is now recognized that the parallel of a name and its meaning is not necessarily etymological."
The name Abraham, for instance, comes as a result of him being the father of many nations, and although the phrase Father Of Many (ab-hamon) vaguely looks like Abraham, the name, in a literal fashion, means something completely different.

Descriptive

And his name was AT&T because he had a head like a phone booth.
Very often a place is named by a name that is explained by the context but not used by it. For instance, when Deborah, the nurse of Rebekah dies, there is no show of ceremony or emotion. But Deborah is buried at an oak which is henceforth known as the Oak Of Weeping (Genesis 35:8).

Ironical

And his name was Curly because he was as smooth as a Q-ball.
Very common in our world but not so in the Bible are names that denote a trait that the character obviously does not possess. Possible ironic names may be the sons of Joseph; Manasseh and Ephraim.

Venerative

And his name was Jesus Maria Immanuel Gonzales; nicknamed The Fonz and Rain Rainbow.
In Scriptures names often occur more than once. The son of Moses, Eliezer, for instance, had the same name as the trusted servant of Abraham. Moses gives a facsimilative reason for this name: "The God of my father was my help," but since Moses was the actual author of the story of arch-father Abraham and his Eliezer, we can't help but render the name of his son a possible venerative charge. The name Jesus means Savior, but this name is the Greek transliteration of the name Joshua. Again the name fits the person, but a venerative reference to the successor of Moses is readily noticed.
On second thought, perhaps in Biblical times it wasn't all that customary to name children after cultural heroes. If it were, we should expect throngs of Adams, Davids and Isaiahs, but in fact these names occur only once.

Commemorative

And they called her Monterey because she was conceiving during Jimi Hendrix' famous concert.
There seems to be a class of Biblical names which can not possibly be descriptive of the bearers. It seems that in the olden days, people may have been named commemoratively, after great events or perhaps a promise by God. The name Jerusha(h) appears to be an example of a commemorative name. And many of the Ab-names seem commemorative, especially those of women. For example, the name Abi (mother of king Hezekiah) means My Father and can only be either venerative or commemorative.

Random

And his name was John Smith because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Finally we list a way of naming that is probably quite common in our day and age: the choosing of a name simply because it sounds nice, but with no regard for any special meaning.





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