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nicknames

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  • Achilles37@aol.com
    A topic that is somewhat related to the most recent discussions on this list is the subject of nicknames. In various places in the New Testament (and outside
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 14, 2008
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      A topic that is somewhat related to the most recent discussions on this list is the
      subject of nicknames. In various places in the New Testament (and outside it), disciples
      of Jesus are often called something other than their given names. A preliminary survey
      turns up the following examples:


      - Simon was called "Rock" (Peter) by Jesus [Mark 3:16]


      - James and John were called "Sons of Thunder" (Boanerges) by Jesus [Mark 3:17]


      - Joseph was called "Son of Encouragement" (Barnabas) by the apostles [Acts 4:36]


      - Judas was called "the Twin" (Thomas or Didymos) [John 11:16; see also the beginning
      of "The Book of Thomas the Contender" from the Nag Hammadi Library
      where Jesus addresses "Judas Thomas" in the following manner:
      "Now, since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion..."]


      - Simon was called "the Zealot" [Luke 6:15]


      - Mary was called "the Magdalene" [Luke 8:2]


      - James was known as "the Righteous" or "the Just" [Gos. Thom. #12]


      - Saul was called Paul [Acts 13:9]


      - Simeon was called Niger [Acts 13:1]


      - Judas was called Iscariot [Luke 22:3; note, however, John 6:71 -
      "Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot"]


      - a different Judas was called "Son of the Father" or Barsabbas [Acts 15:22]


      - a different Jesus was called Justus [Colossians 4:11]


      - it is also believed that Matthew's original name was Levi, although this is
      an inference drawn from statements in different passages and is not directly
      stated


      It is apparent that many of the disciples had nicknames which were sometimes
      bestowed by Jesus himself, sometimes by the apostles, and, in the vast majority
      of the cases, by persons unknown (or, at least, unrecorded).


      We should also note, in this regard, that Jesus himself had nicknames; the
      most famous one being, of course, Christ [Matt. 1:16; 16:16; 27:17; 27:22],
      but he had others, including Nazarene [Matt. 2:23] and the Living or Living One
      [Rev. 1:18; Gos. Thom. incipit]


      The question that arises from these simple observations is this:


      Are the nicknames nothing more than attempts to specify persons who had
      common names? If this is the case, then they are merely descriptive tags that
      have nothing to do with the fact that these people were disciples of Jesus. Or
      was there some process by which the disciple of Jesus was given a new name?
      There is evidence that could be produced to support both positions.


      On the one hand, it would be normal and almost necessary to add descriptive tags
      to differentiate people with common names. Which Mary was it? It was the Mary from
      Magdala or Mary "the Magdalene." Further evidence in this direction is the fact that
      not all disciples had nicknames (at least, not that we know of).


      On the other hand, we have at least two occasions where Jesus explicity bestows
      the new name (Rock, Sons of Thunder) and one where the apostles do (Son of
      Encouragement). Aside from this, there are two suggestive passages in the Book
      of Revelation:


      Rev. 2:17 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
      To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him
      a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."


      Rev 3:12 - "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never
      again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city
      of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God;
      and I will also write on him my new name."


      However, these two passages may, in turn, simply go back to the following
      passage in Isaiah:


      Isaiah 62:2 - "The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you
      will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow."


      So I suppose the evidence, such as it is, is inconclusive. In the case of Judas who
      was called Twin, it could have been meant literally (i.e., he was someone's physical
      twin, either Jesus' or someone else's) or it could have been meant symbolically (that
      he was the spiritual "twin and true companion" of Jesus).


      Before leaving this subject altogether, there are a couple of related points of interest.


      The first point is that there are some similar cases of new names being bestowed
      in the Old Testament:


      - Abram is given the new name Abraham by God [Gen. 17:5] and, likewise, God
      gives his wife Sarai the new name Sarah [Gen. 17:15]


      - Daniel was called Belteshazzar by the king [Daniel 5:12]


      The second point is a rather unusual example of someone who is called something
      else in the Book of Revelation. Specifically, in Rev. 19:11-16, the rider of the white
      horse, whose name is the Word of God and on whose robe and thigh are written the
      name "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" is called "Faithful and True." This particular
      passage has been the subject of considerable debate. Some have argued that the true
      identity of the rider of the white horse is Christ while others have argued that, instead,
      it is the antichrist. The arguments on each side make for interesting reading though,
      of course, they are unrelated to a discussion of the Gospel of Thomas.

      - Kevin Johnson


      ________________________________________________________________________
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      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Michael Grondin
      Hi Kevin- You mentioned ... ... I think you might have this name mixed up with Barabbas , which could, I suppose, be taken to mean son of the father , but
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 18, 2008
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        Hi Kevin-

        You mentioned ...

        > - a ... Judas was called "Son of the Father" or Barsabbas [Acts 15:22]

        I think you might have this name mixed up with 'Barabbas', which could,
        I suppose, be taken to mean 'son of the father', but 'Barsabbas' means
        'son of [the] Sabbath' according to NIV (bar-sabbas vs bar-abbas). There's
        also a Joseph Barsabbas mentioned in Acts (1:23) - the guy who lost
        out to Matthias as the replacement apostle (NIV thinks they might have
        been brothers).

        As to the controversial character named 'Barabbas', NIV interprets that
        to be a patronymic - 'son of Abbas'. Which brings up interesting (to me)
        questions about nicknames versus patronymics, as well as between two
        types of patronymics, which might be called 'one-time' and 'serial'.
        (What I would call 'serial patronymics' are those typified in English by
        generations upon generations using the same last name, e.g. "Jack's son".)

        As to nicknames, it seems safe to say that if the Greek has 'x called y',
        then 'y' must be a nickname. But that test is probably not sufficient.
        I suspect that bandits in those days may not have been too unlike
        bandits in other days, insofar as some of them may have adopted
        nicknames to use in place of (not in addition to) their natural names
        (perhaps to disguise family affiliation, and/or to impress others).
        Thus, 'Barabbas' may have been a nickname adopted by the bandit,
        contra NIV. In which case, it could mean 'son of the Father'. (If, on
        the other hand, Barabbas was only a fictional character, it's difficult
        for me to see why a writer would have chosen that name for that
        character - unless, that is, there was a real and well-known bandit
        who called himself "Barabbas", and whose name was borrowed
        by the writer for a fictional character.)

        As to clear patronymics, we seem to have at least two in
        'Bartholomew' and 'Bartimaeus' (the blind beggar, 'son of Timaeus').
        The evidence seems to indicate that biblical patronymics were of
        the one-time variety, i.e., that the father named was the immediate
        father - as opposed to our modern day "serial patronymics", where
        the father named is removed far beyond recollection.

        Such are my mullings, for what they're worth.

        Mike Grondin
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