What is the significance of changing a name?

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  • What is the significance of changing a name?

    Hi fellow Christians, when Saul encountered the Lord his name was changed to Paul.
    Which leads me to my question; what is the significance of a name.
    Is it still relevant?

  • #2
    Well it depends on how we look at it.

    From a stictly psychological standpoint, changing a name is like shedding your previous self, as often we tend to equate our identity with our name. But how significant the name is to each person varies according to the culture that that person comes from, and how good their relationship with the person that named them is. Often a non-religious reason that a person changes their first and/or last name is to cut ties with their family or declare independence.

    Respectively, from a religious standpoint, for the Hebrew names were very important. The cultural importance might have similar roots to the name obsession that the Egyptians had, as they interacted for a long time before the Passover. While the Hebrew differentiated themselves culturally from the Egyptians, the idea of a person's name was incredibly important and that becomes more prominent with the issue of God's secret real name, a word in the Old Testament spelled "YHVH" (Exodus, 3:13-15).

    So if we put those two together, basically the act of changing a name (such as in the instance of baptism) is about turning a new page in one's life.
    Edit:Or in the case of monks, they take a new name to declare that they have forsaken their old life.
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    • #3
      Saul's name was not changed to Paul. Jews in the diaspora often took Greek names. They chose names that were similar in meaning and\or sound to their Hebrew names.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Julianne View Post
        Well it depends on how we look at it.

        From a stictly psychological standpoint, changing a name is like shedding your previous self, as often we tend to equate our identity with our name. But how significant the name is to each person varies according to the culture that that person comes from, and how good their relationship with the person that named them is. Often a non-religious reason that a person changes their first and/or last name is to cut ties with their family or declare independence.

        Respectively, from a religious standpoint, for the Hebrew names were very important. The cultural importance might have similar roots to the name obsession that the Egyptians had, as they interacted for a long time before the Passover. While the Hebrew differentiated themselves culturally from the Egyptians, the idea of a person's name was incredibly important and that becomes more prominent with the issue of God's secret real name, a word in the Old Testament spelled "YHVH" (Exodus, 3:13-15).

        So if we put those two together, basically the act of changing a name (such as in the instance of baptism) is about turning a new page in one's life.
        Edit:Or in the case of monks, they take a new name to declare that they have forsaken their old life.
        Thanks for the knowledge, my question though remains; what is the effect of changing a person's name.
        For instance, some people believe that naming a child after a great person may impact greatness upon that child. I don't entirely agree with this school of thought but then when people quote the bible it's hard to argue with them.
        Can someone help me understand the relation between a name and character?
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Origen View Post
          Saul's name was not changed to Paul. Jews in the diaspora often took Greek names. They chose names that were similar in meaning and\or sound to their Hebrew names.
          Very interesting, would that be the equivalent of a person changing their name from e.g. Maria to Mary?

          Originally posted by adssolsn View Post
          For instance, some people believe that naming a child after a great person may impact greatness upon that child. I don't entirely agree with this school of thought but then when people quote the bible it's hard to argue with them.
          Can someone help me understand the relation between a name and character?
          That aspect of names goes a little further than just the Bible. It's actually a belief that was very prominent across the Mediterranean and all the way to Central Africa and the Middle East. Normally parents picked the name of the child with the hopes to bestow the value that the name represents to the newborn child. In Central Africa there were tribes were the mother would give the child a secret name, that they must never utter in their lives, by fear of forfeiting control of their soul to the person who hears the name. In Babylonian and Assyrian cultures, they believed that evil spirits preyed on healthy children but not on the sickly ones, thus named their children after something along the lines of "crippled" or "blind", to disway the spirits from harming their child.

          In terms of character, yes a name is important. If a person has a name that means "powerful" and they know that consciously, when introducing themselves they declare the property of their name as part of the identity. In the longterm it could take the extent of self persuasion in a way that eventually the carrier of the name plays the role of the name itself.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by adssolsn View Post

            Thanks for the knowledge, my question though remains; what is the effect of changing a person's name.
            For instance, some people believe that naming a child after a great person may impact greatness upon that child. I don't entirely agree with this school of thought but then when people quote the bible it's hard to argue with them.
            Can someone help me understand the relation between a name and character?
            Is the type of thing you are looking for examples, like when the Lord renamed Jacob to Israel? In cases like that, and like Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, their new names had meanings that were relevant to God's plan for them and signified them taking up those roles or the promise of those roles. Changing someone's name is a way of marking a change in their nature and sloughing off the old.

            You can see the impact of names today, not just in the way people behave but in the way other people treat them. More unusual names were less likely to get interviews (Independent), for example, leading some companies to adopt name-blind recruitment policies where candidate's CVs are assigned a number to make sure they are assessed on skills only. I can only think that if someone has been rejected repeatedly based on their name that would affect their attitude and personality.
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            • #7
              Thanks guys,Am getting a lot of insights here. However, something is still unclear; take this scenerio. If a child is named after a great doctor, will that kid become a doctor due the name?
              Or if a Person is named pride, will that Person be pround due to the name?
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              • #8
                Names generally reflect the parents' desires for a person. They don't have any effect on what that person becomes unless he decides to try to live up to the name.
                Clyde Herrin's Blog
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by theophilus View Post
                  Names generally reflect the parents' desires for a person. They don't have any effect on what that person becomes unless he decides to try to live up to the name.
                  That seems to be what it boils down to. Because if e.g. the parents name their son "Hippocrates", they'll raise that child to think that this is the standard he needs to live up to. Propably tell him stories about how amazing that doctor was and why they named him after that doctor, which builds up a role-model persona to look up to. Often parents pass on their enthusiasm about certain things to their children without realising it too, there's reactions and subtle behaviors that children pick up on, even on simple things like calling their child's name.

                  Though I suppose this is the case only with parent that are very conscious about their decision on a name for good reason. Otherwise if they named their child something that seemed "cool" or rings well, there's less of an influence on how their behaviour towards the name inprints on the child.
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