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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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A name was given to the male child at the time of its circumcision, but it is probable, previous to the introduction of that rite, that the name was given immediately after its birth. Among the orientals the appellations given as names are always significant. In the Old Testament, we find that the child was named in many instances from the circumstances of its birth, or from some peculiarities in the history of the family to which it belonged, Genesis 16:11; Genesis 19:37; Genesis 25:25-26; Exodus 2:10; Exodus 18:3-4 . Frequently the name was a compound one, one part being the name of the Deity, and among idolatrous nations the name of an idol. The following instances may be mentioned among others, and may stand as specimens of the whole, namely, שמואל , Samuel, "hear God;" אדניה , Adonijah, "God is lord;" יהוצדק , Josedech, "God is just;" אתבעל , Ethbaal, a Canaanitish name, the latter part of the compound being the name of the idol deity, Baal; בלשאצר , Belshazzar, "Bel," a Babylonish deity, "is ruler and king." Sometimes the name had a prophetic meaning, Genesis 17:15; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:3; Hosea 1:4; Hosea 1:6; Hosea 1:9; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:13; Luke 1:60; Luke 1:63 . In the later times names were selected from those of the progenitors of a family; hence in the New Testament hardly any other than ancient names occur, Matthew 1:12; Luke 1:61; Luke 3:23 , &c. The inhabitants of the east very frequently change their names, and sometimes do it for very slight reasons. This accounts for the fact of so many persons having two names in Scripture, Ruth 1:20-21; 1 Samuel 14:49; 1 Samuel 31:2; 1 Chronicles 10:2; Judges 6:32; Judges 7:1; 2 Samuel 23:8 . Kings and princes very often changed the names of those who held offices under them, particularly when they first attracted their notice, and were taken into their employ, and when subsequently they were elevated to some new station, and crowned with additional honours, Genesis 41:45; Genesis 17:5; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10; 2 Kings 23:34-35; 2 Kings 24:17; Daniel 1:6; John 1:42; Mark 3:17 . Hence a name, a new name, occurs tropically, as a token or proof of distinction and honour in the following among other passages, Php_2:9; Hebrews 1:4; Revelation 2:17 . Sometimes the names of the dead were changed; for instance that of Abel, הבל , a word which signifies breath, or something transitory as a breath, given to him after his death, in allusion to the shortness of his life, Genesis 2:8 . Sometimes proper names are translated into other languages, losing their original form, while they preserve their signification. This appears to have been the case with the proper names, which occur in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and which were translated into the Hebrew from a language still more ancient. The orientals in some instances, in order to distinguish themselves from others of the same name, added to their own name the name of their father, grandfather, and even great grandfather. The name of God often signifies God himself; sometimes his attributes collectively; sometimes his power and authority. Of the Messiah it is said, "And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords," Revelation 19:16 . In illustration of this it may be remarked, that it appears to have been an ancient custom among several nations, to adorn the images of their deities, princes, victors at their public games, and other eminent persons, with inscriptions expressive of their names, character, titles, or some circumstance which might contribute to their honour. There are several such images yet extant, with an inscription written either on the garment, or one of the thighs. Herodotus mentions two figures of Sesostris, king of Egypt, cut upon rocks in Ionia, after his conquest of that country, with the following inscription across the breast, extending from one shoulder to the other; "I conquered this country by the force of my arms." Gruter has published a naked statue made of marble, and supposed to represent the genius either of some Roman emperor, or of Antinous, who was deified by Hadrian, with an inscription on the inside of the right thigh, written perpendicularly in Roman letters, and containing the names of three persons. Near the statue, on the same side of it, stands an oval shield with the names of two other persons written round the rim in letters of the same form. In the appendix to Dempster's "Etruria Regalis," is a female image of brass, clothed in a loose tunic down to the feet, with a shorter garment over it, on the right side of which is a perpendicular inscription in Etrurian characters, extending partly on the lower garment. This figure, from the diadem on the head, and other circumstances which accompany it, Philip Bonarota, the editor of that work, supposes to have been designed for some Etrurian deity. Montfaucon has given us a male image of the same metal, dressed in a tunic, and over that another vestment something like a Roman toga, reaching to the middle of the legs, on the bottom of which is an Etrurian inscription written horizontally. There are likewise in both those writers two male figures crowned with laurel, which Montfaucon calls combatants, as the laurel was an emblem of victory. But Bonarota takes one of them for an image of Apollo, which has a chain round the neck, a garment wrapped over the right arm, and a bracelet on the left, with half boots on the legs; the rest of the body being naked has an Etrurian inscription written downward in two lines on the inside of the left thigh. The other figure has the lower part of the body clothed in a loose vestment, with an inscription upon it over the right thigh, perpendicularly written in Roman letters, which Bonarota has thus expressed in a more distinct manner than they appear in Montfaucon: POMPONIO VIRIO I.

To these may be added from Montfaucon, a marble statue of a naked combatant, with a fillet about his head in token of victory. It is drawn in two views, one exhibiting the back and the other the fore part of the body, the latter of which has in Greek letters, ΚΑΦΙΣΟΔΟΡΟΣ for ΚΑΦΙΣΟΔΩΡΟΣ , perpendicularly inscribed on the outside of the left thigh; and the former the name ΑΙΣΧΛΑΜΙΟΥ in the like characters and situation on the right thigh; these together make one inscription, signifying Caphisodorus filius Aeschamii. [Caphisodorus the son of Aeschlamius.]

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Name'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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