phibìc Americans and Europeans often give your sons name such together Paul, Matthew, and John. These Western surname are easy to pronounce and spell, however they don’t fit v the Bible’s middle Eastern context. Us wouldn’t it is in surprised to satisfy an apostle named Abraham...but Philip? ~ all, Jesus and His disciples were Jews.

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Naming the Apostles

The twelve apostles were Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew (Nathanael), Thomas, Matthew (Levi), James, Thaddaeus (Judas), Simon, and also Judas Iscariot. (Matthew 10:2-4)

It shows up that Thaddaeus’ name needed to be adjusted to protect against confusion. The same is probably true that Simon who came to be Peter, likewise known together “Cephas” i m sorry is Syrian because that “rock.” Petros is the Greek for Cephas.

Ioudas (Judas in Greek) means “he shall it is in praised” and also is regarded the Hebrew name Judah. Bartholomew’s name means “son that suspends the waters” but was switched by Christ to Nathanael or “gift that God.” “Saul” ended up being “Paul,” an interpretation “little.”

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Familiar Boys’ Names

Most that the Apostles’ names are fairly common today. I have actually friends and also relatives called Matthew, Peter, Andrew, and James. I had classmates through these names, too. Why weren’t the Apostles called after Jewish ancestors; holy bible heroes choose Mishac, Shadrac, and also Abednego, or also Abraham and Moses?

Jesus did not contact these males according to the symbolism behind your names; He decided ordinary males guilty of common sins, who regularly failed come live as much as their names.

Empire surname Games

The Roman realm spread across the center East and swallowed increase the regions where Jesus preached. Galilee, Samaria, and Jerusalem were all under roman authority, and Greek was widely spoken. The new Testament was composed down in a type of Greek, probably a blend of Greek and also Aramaic.


Jesus’ Apostles sometimes bore Greek names, or Greek execution of Hebrew names were offered in the Gospels. If John, i beg your pardon is Ioannesin Greek, was well-known as Yowchanan (the Hebrew version) to several of his family, together information has not been supplied...so we can only speculate. It’s quite possible that a certain generation favored a new selection of options as is true today. We hardly ever Christen a son “Bartholomew” i beg your pardon is old-fashioned. If we use the surname at all, it’s most likely shortened come “Bart.”

Old names come earlier in layout with the popular of certain actors (think Benedict). New names emerge from popular culture (Bear, Dixon, Gray) or parents appreciate the lyrical sound the a international word such together “Kai” (Hawaiian because that “Sea”) or “Midori” (Japanese for “Green.”)


Names, like language, are subject to cultural influences.

From Greek come English

In plenty of cases, Westerners reading from the Gospels aren’t seeing the provided names that the disciples: us are reading Anglicized versions. The disciples were not known as “Peter” and also “Matthew;” their parents and friends can have called out “Petros,” “Matthias,” or nicknames and short forms similar to “Pete” and also “Matt.”

It’s not unusual for us to use nicknames to co-workers, relatives, and also friends. Usually, they choose to have actually the critical word and might even disapprove their brand-new identifiers. Some guys named “Thomas” quite choose “Tom,” but it’s not respectful come assume. I shot to imagine exactly how the hands-on worker would have responded to having their surname changed—did they understand the definitions of their new names and rejoice in ~ their new identities? there’s no cite of any kind of grumbling; the they desired their old name. There"s no document of these males saying “how dare Jesus take together liberties!” The Apostles show up to have adjusted without argument.

The power of a Name

We occasionally hear a name and also associate it through the an interpretation (if we know it) or that reminds us of others with the very same name, for much better or worse. As illogical together it could sound, I’ve constantly cringed in ~ the surname “Jason” because of a bully at institution by the name, but Jason means “he that will certainly cure.” there are many kind, loving men referred to as Jason, however such is the strength of tip that (to me) “Jason” stood for “bully” because that a lengthy time.

“Namescan tie united state to ours origins,” they have the right to “allude come our circumstances,” or they could “stand because that something that mattered to our parents.” Yet, the disciples’ modern-day names more than likely weren’t as symbolic and meaningful come a Jew as they are to united state 2,000 year later. Lock weren’t however attached come tradition, whether biblical or personal. Probably that to be the point, due to the fact that Jesus was doing miscellaneous new.


Now, anytime a believer hears the name “Matthew” she could think the Christ’s disciple that was dubbed out of a loathsome profession (tax collector) to preach the gospel. I hear “John” and snapshot the lover disciple into whose care Jesus committed His mother. How children with modern names behave and also what they thrive up to become will potentially create expectations for every “Jaspin” and “Dixon” because that generations.

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Titles by Jesus

“Listen, O isles, depend me; and also hearken, ye people, native far; The mr hath dubbed me indigenous the womb; from the bowels the my mommy hath he made mention of mine name.” (Isaiah 49:1 KJV) Christ well-known the thematic meaning of being called by God. He saw fit come represent new life in the heart by renaming a few of his disciples. As soon as Jesus selected a brand-new name for one of them, His selection was meaningful and also prophetic.

“Simon” (or Simeon) method “hearing,” i m sorry is a great name, though not as joyous together “gift.” Yet, over there can’t be an excellent communication between people without an excellent listening. One of the Apostles continued to be “Simon” and the other became “Peter” since Jesus said to the “you are Peter and also on this rock ns will construct my church, and the entrances of Hades will not get rid of it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Christ wasn’t just looking for a way to phone call the 2 Simons apart; He to be making a prophetic statement. Jesus called each of these males to a purpose in the church which would emerge and He drastically adjusted the course of each man’s life. Our Savior reportedly wanted a rockand a great listener to share the gospel through the world.

Thaddaeus means “that praises or confesses,” a profitable switch native “Judas” which quiet carries negative weight today. Matthew’s “originalname, Levi, argues that he was a guy of the priestly tribe.” Levi means “adhesion.” yet Matthew was re-Christened “gift” or “given,” a profound switch for a taxes collector accustomed to taking quite than giving. Bartholomew ended up being Nathanael, or “gift of God.” your names emphasize that salvation is a gift, not something one earns or is born into. After ~ all, in spite of their calling, each male was a sinner once he to be called and continued come sin transparent his life. The only sinless, perfect male was Christ.

A surname is no a talisman or a magic charm: a symbol, no an enchantment. Remember: Judah did not live approximately his surname (“He shall be praised”), back his treason of Jesus helped with Christ’s death and also was instrumental in bringing glory and also praise to God.


East Meets West

Paul (little) might not sound an extremely manly, yet this apostle was lugged low native a lofty position which was signified by the name “Saul,” Israel’s an initial king. When Saul is certainly atypical top top a institution roster in plenty of parts of phibìc America, it’s common in global Jewish communities. Sometimes, a surname that appears American or europe is obtained from middle Eastern tradition, however has been used in America because that so long that that sounds favor a typical Western name. Like ancient inventions originally from the east (paper, the print press), us Westerners prefer to think we thought of lock first.

Not every one of the disciples boring monikers through we would take into consideration having a “Western ring.” “Judas” is a form of “Judah,” a Hebrew surname which persists in Christian culture. On the various other hand, if you imagined “Thaddaeus” was Hebrew, think again—it’s Greek. Just since a surname is unfamiliar doesn’t make it “Eastern.”

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The good Name of Jesus

Even Christ’s surname was revolutionized over time. Us never meet a “Jesus” in the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesizes around “Immanuel.” Yet, the name “Jesus” is “the Greek form of the Hebrew surname ‘Joshua’ i beg your pardon was originally ‘Hoshea’ <...> but readjusted by Moses into Jehoshua <...> or Joshua” and also eventually “Jeshua, whence the Greek type Jesus.” Christ got this name “to denote the object of his mission, come save.” Joshua converts to “Jehovah is his help, or Jehovah the Saviour.”

The really name the Jesus unites Jew and Gentile, Hebrew and also Greek, East and West, as a single savior. He is King that the Jews, but He was likewise ultimate King over every empire, consisting of the roman Empire, and also He is lord of “every nation, tribe, people and also language.” (Revelation 7:9) His an excellent name no Western or Eastern but unites every human under one family tree and beckons each person to expropriate his or her perfect identification as a boy of God.

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Candice Luceyis a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, whereby she stays with she family. Uncover out much more about herhere.