NAME. The first and most important experience which a newborn Heb. underwent was the receiving of a name. Just as God completed His creation by naming “heaven,” “earth,” “day,” “night,” “sea,” the creatures (
The word “name” occurs in the OT as a tr. for שֵׁם, H9005, from 770 times in the sing. and 84 times in the pl. The LXX has ὄνομα, G3950, appear in over 1000 vv., of which approximately 100 are in the Apoc., while the NT has almost 200 examples of this Gr. word for name. There are a few related words which will be discussed below, but the statistical data for this concept is indeed impressive and thereby indicates the importance of the “name” in the Bible.
In Biblical Heb.
The second term is by far the more infrequently used of the two terms. The etymology of the Heb. root zkr still remains unsolved even though a great deal of effort has been expended on solving the problem. Gesenius’ first edition of his Thesaurus, represented the major consensus up to that time when he connected zkr, “to remember” with the noun zāḵār, “male,” since the male was thought to be the sex by which the memory of parents and ancestors was preserved. Gesenius changed that opinion in later editions of his lexicon and argued that the root idea was one of pricking or piercing and from that came the noun as the membrum virile. Memory was, on this theory, a penetrating or fixing in the mind. This theory and others have all failed due to a lack of positive evidence, e.g., there is no evidence to suggest that the Sem. noun ever carried the idea of piercing.
The verb zāḵar, “to remember,” appears in the hiphil stem as a set formula with the noun šēm as a direct object six times (
The other root, šēm is the common word in Heb. for “name.” In 1872 Redslob (ZDMG, 751-756) argued that it was derived from the root šmw, “to be high,” and therefore its basic meaning was one of height and then (1) a monument (
The prepositional combinations with šēm are instructive. The idiom “to call the name (of some one) over” (preposition ’al) is found eighteen times.
In LXX Gr.
In NT Gr.
Name in the OT
Essential to the being, existence, and character of God and man are their names. A person is concentrated in a name (
The giving of a name
To a person.
Usually the first experience a newborn child underwent was the naming custom. It was only in later times that this event was withheld until the eighth day after birth when the child was circumcised. That takes place in NT times (
Hebrew has a set expression or formula for “to give a name” or “to call one’s name.” It is the verb qara’: “to call, name” with the accusative šēm (“name”) sometimes preceded by the direct object sign and the inseparable preposition lě before the person, place or thing. This expression for giving a name is to be distinguished sharply from the formula “to appoint a name” (sĩm šēm lě, in
Ideally, the name was either descriptive of the parents’ wishes or prophetic of the personality to be manifested by one so named. These types of names are particularly in evidence when individuals are renamed, e.g. Jacob being renamed Israel (
Frequently, the OT supplies names and then comments on the name in such a way as to pun on the name. This usually takes the form of assonance or similar sounding words or ideas that make a particular point. Many classify these names as folk or popular etymologies, but there is no need to resort to this explanation. The custom of punning and using word play on names is seen also in ancient Egypt; e.g., the Westcar Papyrus gives the names of each of the triplets born to the wife of a priest. These three children are marked for the kingship of Egypt and each does take the throne, according to the story, as the Fifth Dynasty begins, but the interesting feature which is repeated elsewhere, is that each receives his name as he is born and a punning statement which plays upon the sound or idea of that name. The Heb. prophets are examples of this love for punning and word play:
To a place.
Many of the place names in Canaan are older than the Israelite contacts or occupation of that land. The chief evidence for this statement comes from the Execration Texts, the Tell-el-Amarna letters written by the city-state kings of Canaan to Egypt, the Karnak inscr. of Thutmose III, Amenhotep II’s two military expeditions and the lists of Seti I, Ramses II, and Merneptah. In the Thutmose III list alone, which is the most detailed information extant on the land of Canaan, there is evidence for some fifty place names found in the OT in a list extending to 119 names in two copies and 350 in a third.
The OT traces the names of some of these places back to the eponymous hero who settled in that region or who captured the site (
The change of a name.
This reminds one also of “the new name” to be given to Jerusalem at its future restoration (
The signifiance of the name.
As it already has been indicated in some of the above discussion, the name is more than the distinguishing title of God or man. The people of Israel were aware of the significance that could be attached to a name and therefore their usage of the concept demonstrates this broad range of meanings.
The name and personality.
It would appear that the Heb. term which comes closest to our modern occidental concept of “personality,” i.e. the total picture of man’s organized behavior, is šēm, “name.” Thus the sum total of a person’s internal and external pattern of behavior was gathered up into his name. In this way, one could give honor to the person of God (
To change the name was to imply a change in the character and mission, thus the dozen or more examples referred to above. Not only does the changing of the name indicate the close ties that the name has with the person and his personality but the person was so intimately connected with his name that “to cut off the name” was tantamount to cutting off the man or the place (
The name, since it was the person, also could act and speak. Often Israel, as representatives of the name of God, fought and acted magnificently with His strength. God’s name was more than mere approbation of the mission; it was the power, strength, courage and presence of God Himself. Thus Israel was successful because the name acted and won (
Even the names of cities had a personality inherent in their names, e.g. Jerusalem is called “the city of righteousness” (
Name and authority.
When one gives a name to another, he thereby establishes a relation of dominion or possession to him. Already in Eden, Adam demonstrated that part of the imago Dei which promised to him the subjugation and rulership over all things upon the earth by naming the animals (
Whatever a man owns, he names, whether it be a conquered city (
Name and reputation.
The name of Yahweh.
A great theological theme is to be found in the name of Yahweh. It appears most frequently with the Heb. inseparable prepositions “to” and “in.” One may “call upon,” “speak in,” “prophesy in,” “bless,” “serve,” and “crush their enemies” and “walk in” the name of the Lord.
1. The revelation of the name. Few passages in the Bible have been made so pivotal for our modern understanding of the OT as
The correctness of this interpretation can be checked by noting the question asked earlier by Moses when God promised that He would be with him. He queried: Suppose the people ask of this God who has sent me to lead them out, “What is his name? What shall I say to them?” (
Parallel to this is the fact that Yahweh places his name at designated spots and tabernacles, or tents there (šākan; rather than the permanent type of dwelling [yāšab] in heaven, as Frank Cross has pointed out already). See
3. The doctrine of God. At times the name of God is used to indicate the whole system of divine truth and doctrine revealed in the Scriptures. The psalmist seems to have intended this when he wrote, “I will tell of thy name to my brethren” (
4. The theological development. Von Rad (Studies in Deuteronomy, 37-44) views the appearance of a “name-theology” as the distinctive contribution of the deuteronomic movement which replaces the older “Glory-of-the-Lord Theology” associated with the Ark and the phenomena of the cloud and fire. Yet he too is aware of passages like
Name in the Apoc., the Pseudep.
The Apoc. has some 100 verses illustrating the uses of ὄνομα, G3950, which are almost identical to those seen in Heb šēm. Neither does the Pseudep. illustrate any new features when compared to the OT. Its most frequent reference is to the name of God, otherwise it does not exhibit any noteworthy features for the purposes of this article (see TDNT, V, 261-264, 266, 267).
Name in the NT
Often when the NT gives instances of the “name,” it actually is quoting the OT and therefore the above discussion would hold true for this section of the Scriptures as well (
Name and personality.
Name and authority.
Name and reputation.
This usage is rare in the NT. The only references are these:
The name of Christ
Belief in the name.
Baptism in the name.
Prayer in the name.
Miracles in the name.
Persecution in the name.
Proclamation in the name.
J. Pedersen, “Name,” Israel I-II (1926), 245-259; G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy (1953), 37-44; J. A. Motyer, The Revelation of the Divine Name (1956), 3-31; G. T. Manley, Book of the Law (1957), 33, 34, 131ff.; Th. C. Vriezen, An Outline of OT Theology (1958), 246-249; B. S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel (1962), 9-30; A. F. Key, “The Giving of ὄνομα, G3950,” TDNT (1967), 242, 283.in OT,” JBL (1964), 55-59; H. Bietenhard, “
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(shem; onoma; Latin nomen (2 Esdras 4:1); verbs onomazo; Latin nomino (2 Esdras 5:26)): A "name" is that by which a person, place or thing is marked and known. In Scripture, names were generally descriptive of the person, of his position, of some circumstance affecting him, hope entertained concerning him, etc., so that "the name" often came to stand for the person. In
I.Word and Use.
"To name" is sometimes ’amar, "to say" (
2. The Divine Name:
II.Word and Use.
1. Character and Work of the Person:
2. In Relation to Prayer: