My firstborn buddy turns 3 years today, and I’m reposting this series from his birth on the meaning of his name. Enjoy! -JB
What’s in a name, anyways? In a culture where most parents choose names that sound nice or are currently trendy, we find ourselves far from the world of the Bible. Names were incredibly important to our ancestors in the faith.
In ancient Hebrew thought one’s name is “the essence of personality, the expression of innermost being…a name is regarded as possessing an inherent power which exercises a constraint upon its bearer: he must conform to his essential nature as expressed in his name (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 501).
As Youngblood says,
In choosing a name, the parents could reflect the circumstances of the child’s birth, their own feelings, their gratitude to God, their hopes and prayers for the child, and their commitment of the child to God. The name Isaac reflected the “laughter” of his mother at his birth (Gen. 21:6). Esau was named “hairy” because of his appearance. Jacob was named “supplanter” because he grasped his brother Esau’s heel (Gen. 25:25-26). Moses received his name because he was drawn out of the water: “So she called his name Moses, saying, ‘Because I drew him out of the water'” (Ex. 2:10).
Likewise, in both the New and Old Testament, a change in character or status is accompanied by a change of name.
“Abram’s name was changed to Abraham in connection with his new calling to be “a father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). God gave Jacob the new name Israel (“Go strives”) because he “struggled with God and with men, and prevailed” (Gen. 32:28;35:10). In the giving or taking of new names, often a crucial turning point in the person’s life has been reached Simon was given the name Peter because, as the first confessing apostle, he was the “rock” upon which the new community of the church would be built (Matt. 16:18). Saul was renamed Paul, a Greek name that was appropriate for one who was destined to become the great apostle to the Gentiles” (Youngblood, 880).
On July 18, 2011, we gave birth to our firstborn, a son. His name is Peter. Much thought went into naming our boy. We chose Peter not because it’s trendy, nice sounding, or easy to spell. Happily, it is still somewhat common, cute sounding, and easy to spell. But we named our son Peter after Simon Peter “the rock” and daddy’s best friend, Peter.
In the days ahead, in between diaper changes and late night bouncing, I hope to find time to share some of the ways we hope and pray our son grows up to reflect the character and life of these two Peters — Simon Peter and Peter Herzog.
Read rest of the series HERE.