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What’s In A Name?


There are many trivial issues in our world and most of them have very little significance to our lives but one issue that I seem to observe often and one that we see within the scriptures is that of name changing. There are many different reasons for changing one’s name and is something that God did Himself but when He did it, it was to improve a person by giving them a name with a bigger meaning.

This is an issue that I have noticed happens frequently. Marriage and divorce are common reasons why people change their names but outside of these circumstances, why would a person change their name? There are other legitimate reasons to do so but there are many people who change it for insignificant reasons. We see athletes change their names for what seems like publicity and musicians and other artists tend to use stage names to either hide their real identity or because their stage name sounds better than their real name.

Major League Baseball great, Roger Maris, changed his name from Maras to Maris to avoid having opposing fans or in his case, his very own fans, taunting his name. In this case, Maris was trying to protect himself from being ridiculed by the public and in Genesis 17:5 we see God changing Abram’s name to Abraham. The name Abram has the meaning “high father” whereas Abraham means “father of many” and his wife, Sarai had the same fate as her name was changed from Sarai meaning “my princess” to Sarah meaning “mother of nations”: “And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.”

There are other examples within the scriptures but maybe the most interesting one is who became Paul. The interesting part about this is that Christ did not change Saul’s name even after his conversion on the road to Damascus. When we research this, we find that Saul also had the name of Paul and double names were not unusual at this period of time. Paul describes himself as a man of all people in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but sunder the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”

The purpose of this article was not to throw any trivial information your way but rather, to show how often name changes happen. A poll conducted in 2016 revealed that a record number of 85,000 people changes their names in 2015 so this is done not for just marriage and divorce but for many other reasons. Sadly, a lot of people do not like their name so they change it to something else. The sons of mass murderer, Charles Manson, both changed their names and his oldest son, Charles Manson, Jr., whose name was Jay White killed himself in 1993 because he could not let of what his father had done.

Another point of this article is to point out how significant names are. My brother was named after the great military general, Robert E. Lee. As Andy Taylor said in an episode of the Andy Griffith show, “who else would a Southerner pose with?” My name is a combination of my two grandfathers, Billy and Ray, and I am personally proud of the name especially name because both men have gone on before me.

The names we are given here below mean something or at least they should and it was this way within the scriptures. This is just one reason why the high volume of name changes concerns me which goes along with what we see within our society: seeing people trying to whitewash history. Although not everything in history is something we should be proud of, it’s something that we can learn from.

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Written by Billy Ray Parrish


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