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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Names, Christian

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The modern practice of giving names at baptism is most probably in accordance with primitive usage, and might have been adopted from the custom of the Jews naming their children when they circumcised them. No mention of the practice is made by the writers of the New Testament, or by the Church fathers, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, or by any other of the early ecclesiastical writers. In fact, we find that many of these writers, and others, such as Constantine, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory, retained their original names after they had received adult baptism. There are, however, numerous instances of persons receiving new names at their baptism; and it appears that it was customary to register the names of all candidates, when they were received as catechumens, in the registers of the Church, and those of their sponsors also. The Church, grounding its practice on James 2:7, compared with 1 Peter 4:15, required that the name of the person to be baptized should have some reference to the Christian religion, as some Christian virtue; and in accordance with such a purpose seems to have been the practice of the early Christians of Rome, whose names, as recorded on the marble slabs of the Catacombs, appear beautifully and designedly expressive of Christian sentiment or character (see Withrow, Catacombs of Rome, pages 454, 457). St. Chrysostom advised the Christians of his day that the names ought to refer to some holy persons; and the Council of Trent, in its various provisions for baptism, advised that the name given to the baptized should be taken from some saint (Barnum's Romanism, page 450). The Council of Nice forbade the use of names of heathen gods (comp. Bates's Christ. A ntiquities); and the Church of England, in the 16th century, forbade all names of heathen origin (Soames, Elizabethan Religious History, page 39). "Of old," says Hart (Eccl. Records), "the bishop used to pronounce the person's name at the time of confirmation; and if it was desirable that the name given at baptism should be altered, it might be done by the bishop pronouncing a new name when he administered the rite. This custom was continued in our reformed liturgy till the last revision in the time of king Charles II."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Names, Christian'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/names-christian.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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