What’s In a Name?

Icon of the Creation of Adam / Naming the Animals – F130
Icon of the Creation of Adam /
Naming the Animals – F130

The Lord said to His 70 Disciples “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice, because your names are written in Heaven.”  (Luke 10:20)

Today names are often just made up, or taken from many different places and cultures that may be unrelated to those giving them or taking them. In the Bible we see that this was not the case, both in Old Testament times and also later in New Testament times. Names meant something important as they often showed forth the inner nature of whosoever was named.

When God brought Adam to name the animals, this pure Adam before the Fall could see the inner nature of each animal and named them accordingly. This is their true name, and in Hebrew this was known – that the name of each person or thing meant something important about them. What then is a true name, and so what then is our own true name?

God changed the name of Abram to Abraham. His wife Sarai’s name was changed by God to Sarah. God showed Abraham by his wife’s laughter at her just predicted pregnancy when she was over 90 years old to name his son Isaac, which means laughter. Jacob’s name was changed by God to Israel. The names of all of the Archangels also mean something specific in Hebrew in relationship to God, for one of God’s Names is “El”. All these names mean something, and are more than just pleasant sounds. They are important, yes, truly important.

God, when appearing to Moses in the Burning Bush, was also asked His Name: “And Moses said unto God, behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, ‘The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you,’ and they shall say to me, ‘What is His Name?’ what shall I say unto them? And God spoke to Moses, ‘I am that I am.’”  (Exodus 3:13-14)  This Name, God’s Name given to men by God Himself, means Existence Itself, for God is the ground and root of all things and Reality Itself both before and during and after Creation and in and above and beyond all time.

When Jesus in mercy reached out to the Jews to try to help them see His own Divine Nature hidden before them from their hard hearts in His human flesh, He said, “Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad.’ Then said the Jews unto Him, ‘Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?’ Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily I say unto you. Before Abraham was, I am.’”  (Luke 10:20)  Here Jesus reaffirms that the same God that talked to Moses was talking to them right now, and now in visible form.

For us, it is important to know that when we were baptized, we were given the name of a Saint or an Angel, so we would always be linked to them as our spiritual sponsors and true friends. Their names meant something too. Because each person is, however, so unique and of the greatest value to God, He has given us an inner nature that is expressed in our inmost being, and that personal deep dwelling name, if it is nurtured by Grace, expanded by our active and humble watering, and grown to maturity in a heartfelt and repentant life with Him, that name is waiting to be written in Heaven. May the Lord Who knows us from the beginning tame our wild sinful nature, until like a beautiful flower coming forth from plain leaves, blossoms forth for all Eternity to be with Him, and in Him, and for Him forever. O Lord Jesus (the Saviour) Christ (the Anointed One), have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


The Monastics at St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and at the Convent of St. Silouan
and the Faithful at St. Nicholas Church
and the Staff at Orthodox Byzantine Icons and St. Isaac’s Bookstore