Appendix: Biblical Names

While hundreds of names are appear in the Bible, not all of them have been poplar among modern speakers of English. For some names, it is because of negative feelings about the biblical people who had those names, and for others, it is because they sound too old-fashioned or strange.

Below is a list of names that have, over the years, often been used in the U.S. Following each name is its designation for males or females, its meaning (if it is known), and some of the more well-known people (or in a few cases, places) in the Bible with that name.

Aaron (m), possibly “teacher, lofty, mountain of strength”—Moses’ brother, first high priest

Abigail (f), “father’s joy”—King David’s wife

Abraham (m), “father of a great multitude”—father of the Hebrew people

Adam (m), “earthy, red, human”—the first man

Alexander (m), “defender of man”—member of the Jewish ruling council; man expelled from the church

Amos (m), “carried, burden, weighty”—Old Testament prophet who wrote the Book of Amos

Andrew (m), “manly, strong man”—Jesus’ apostle

Anna (f), “grace”—New Testament prophetess

Bartholomew (m), “son of Tolmai”—Jesus’ apostle

Benjamin (m), “son of the right hand”—Jacob’s son

Bethany (f), “house of dates, house of misery”—village east of Jerusalem

Caleb (m), “dog”—one of the Israelite spies sent to bring back a report about Canaan

Candace (f) possibly “one who is contrite”—queen of Ethiopia

Claudia (f) possibly “lame”—follower of Jesus in Rome

Dan (m), “judge, judgment”—son of Jacob

Daniel (m), “judgment of God” —Old Testament prophet and writer of the Book of Daniel

David (m), “beloved”—king of Israel who wrote many of the Psalms

Deborah (f), “bee”—nurse of Rebekah, Isaac’s wife; prophetess and judge of Israel

Eli (m), “lifting up”—Old Testament high priest

Elisabeth (Elizabeth) (f), “God is her oath”—John the Baptist’s mother

Ethan (m), “enduring, strong”—descendant of Judah; descendant of Levi

Eve (f), possibly “life, giver of life”—first woman

Gabriel (m), “God is my strength, champion of God”—angel

Hannah (f), “grace”—mother of Samuel, the Old Testament prophet

Isaac (m), “laughter”—Abraham’s son

Jacob (m), “one who grabs the heel, supplanter, deceiver”—son of Isaac, father of the Israelites

James (m), “supplanter”—Jesus’ apostle, brother of John; Jesus’ apostle, son of Alphaeus; Jesus’ brother and writer of the Book of James

Jared (m), “descent”—ancestor of Noah

Jason (m), “one who heals”—Thessalonian Christian; Paul’s relative

Jeremiah (m) “raised up by God”—Old Testament prophet who wrote the Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations (and possibly 1 and 2 Kings); Old Testament priest

Jesse (f/m) possibly “gift, wealthy”—King David’s father

Joel (m), “the Lord is his God”—Old Testament prophet who wrote the Book of Joel

Joanna (f) “the Lord’s grace”—manager of King Herod’s household and follower of Jesus

John (m), “the Lord’s grace”—”John the Baptist,” prophet who announced the arrival of Jesus and baptized him; Jesus’ apostle and writer of the Gospel of John, Revelation,  and 1, 2, and 3 John; “John Mark,” companion of Paul and Barnabas, writer of the Gospel of Mark

Jonathan (m), “the Lord’s gift”—son of King Saul and friend of David

Jordan (m/f), “descender”—river in Israel

Joseph (m), “increase”—Jacob’s son who was sold as a slave by his brothers and who gained great authority in Egypt; husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother; Jesus’ brother; “Joseph of Arimathea” in whose grave Jesus was buried; one of two Christians presented as possible replacements for Judas as an apostle

Joshua (m), “the Lord saves”—leader of the Israelites after Moses died, writer of the Book of Joshua

Judith (f), “of Judea”—Esau’s wife

Julia (f), “downy, soft hair”—Christian in Rome

Leah (f), possibly “weary”—Jacob’s wife

Lois (f), possibly “better”—grandmother of Timothy, who was Paul’s companion

Luke (m), “light giving”—a physician and Paul’s companion who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts

Lydia (f), possibly “woman of the province of Lydia”—the first European to become a Christian

Mark (Marcus) (m), possibly “polite, shining”—“John Mark,” companion of Paul, Barnabas, and Peter and writer of the Gospel of Mark

Martha (f), “lady, bitterness”—sister of Mary and Lazarus

Mary (f), possibly “rebellion”—Jesus’ mother; Martha and Lazarus’ sister who anointed Jesus feet with perfume; “Mary Magdalene,” follower of Jesus who was first to see him after the resurrection

Matthew (m), “gift of God”—Jesus’ apostle who wrote the Gospel of Matthew

Micah (m), “who is like God?”—Old Testament prophet and writer of the Book of Micah

Michael (m), “who is like God?”—angel

Miriam (f), possibly “rebellion”—Moses’ sister

Moriah (f)—possibly “chosen by the Lord”—region where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac; “Mount Moriah” where Solomon built the temple

Naomi (f), ”lovable, my delight”—mother-in-law of Ruth

Nathan (m), “gift, given”—Old Testament prophet

Nathaniel (Nathanael) (m), “gift of God”—Jesus’ apostle

Nicolas (m), “conqueror of the people, victory of the people”—one of the seven chosen to serve the church in Jerusalem

Noah (m), possibly “rest” —man who built the ark and whose family was saved from the flood

Paul (m), “little”—Jesus’ apostle who wrote 13 books of the New Testament

Peter (m), “rock, stone”—Jesus’ apostle who wrote 1 and 2 Peter

Philip (m), “lover of horses”—Jesus’ apostle; one of the seven chosen to serve the church in Jerusalem

Rachel (f), “sheep, ewe”—Jacob’s wife and mother of Joseph and Benjamin

Rebekah (f), possibly “ensnarer”—Isaac’s wife and mother of Jacob and Esau

Ruth (f), possibly “friend”—non-Jewish woman who married Boaz and became an ancestor of Jesus, subject of Old Testament book named after her

Samuel (m), “heard of God, asked of God”—Old Testament judge and prophet, and possible writer of Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel

Sarah (f), “princess”—wife of Abraham, mother of Isaac

Seth (m), “compensation, a substitute”—son of Adam and Eve

Sharon (f), “a plain”—coastal plain in Israel

Simon (m), “he hears, hearing”—original name of Jesus’ apostle Peter; “Simon the Zealot,” Jesus’ apostle; Jesus’ brother; man who carried Jesus’ cross

Stephen (m), “crown”—one of the seven chosen to serve the church in Jerusalem, first Christian martyr

Tabitha (f), “gazelle”—Christian woman with a reputation for helping others, she died and Peter brought her back to life

Thomas (m), “twin”—Jesus’ apostle

Timothy (m), “honored by God, honoring God”—companion of Paul, who wrote 1 and 2 Timothy to him

Zachariah (Zechariah) (m), “God remembered”—king of Israel; Old Testament prophet; father of John the Baptist

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amen

it is true; so be it
—To all those who claim that dogs are better than cats, I say, Amen!

The Hebrew word amen comes at the end of prayers in the Bible, and also at the end of some books, such as Revelation. Therefore, in the King James Version and in many other translations, it is the last word of the last verse of the Bible:

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.] (Revelation 22:21)

Paul also uses it to close his letter to the Romans:

  Now may the Godof peace be with all of youAmen. (Romans 15:33)

If we shorten now the God of peace be with you all, we get the farewell blessing God be with you, which, in it’s older form, is God be with ye. While most English speakers don’t know it, this is the origin of our goodbye (and good-bye, good-by, bye, and bye-bye). Other previous versions include God be wy you, God b’w’y, Godbwye, God buy’ ye, and good-b’wy. The replacement of God with good was influenced by the similar phrases good day and good night. In meaning, goodbye is related to the French adieu and the Spanish adios, which mean “to God,” as in “I commit you to God.”


 

Epilogue

In one of his letters, the Apostle John refers to another expression that can be used as a farewell as he gives a warning about those who spread false teachings about Jesus:

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting [biddeth him God speed], because the person who gives him a greeting shares in his evil deeds. (2 John 1:10,11)

Godspeed comes from the blessing “God speed you.” In the past, speed (or spede) meant “to prosper, or to give success to,” but while the meaning is still understood, Godspeed is not often used today in general conversation. It is, though, used in the US space exploration program, NASA. Shortly before a manned launch by NASA, the launch director routinely wishes the crew “good luck and Godspeed.” The first time Godspeed was used in this way was by Scott Carpenter, a backup pilot for the Mercury 6 mission. He radioed it to John Glenn on February 20, 1962, before Glenn took off to become the first American to orbit the earth. Six years later, on Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The crew sent back live images of the moon’s surface and addressed television viewers by reading the creation story from Genesis 1. Genesis later became the name of an unmanned spacecraft sent by NASA in 2001 to collect matter from the sun’s solar wind.

So now our journey following the path of words, idioms, and phrases that originated in the English Bible has led us from the creation of “the heaven and the earth” to the exploration of our solar system and back to the creation story. But now that we’re back to the beginning, we’ve come to the end of Putting Words in Our Mouths, which means it’s time to say, “Amen . . . Godspeed . . . and goodbye.”

heaven; hell

heaven

an extremely wonderful place, thing, or situation

hell

an extremely terrible place, thing, or situation

—For me, chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream, covered with chocolate syrup, is heaven in a bowl. On the other hand, living in a place without chocolate would be hell on earth.

In the Book of Revelation, John gives a vivid description of heaven:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

This, writes John, is the place of eternal reward for those who follow Jesus. But there is also a place of eternal punishment. Jesus spoke of this place when he warned the Pharisees,

You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell [the damnation of hell]? (Matthew 23:33)

John describes hell as a lake of fire, writing that

the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur [brimstone]. That is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

“Fire and brimstone preaching” is when a preacher forcefully speaks about the torments of hell in order to convince someone to follow God. Therefore, fire and brimstone can also be any “way of speaking that uses fear of punishment or dire consequences to motivate listeners,” as in “He’ll try to use fire and brimstone to scare us away from skipping school.”

The verb damn means “to condemn,” as in condemning someone to eternal punishment in hell. Today, many people use damn and hell as exclamations to show frustration, surprise, or a wide range of other emotions. Some use darn and dang as replacements for damn, and heck as a replacement for hell.

bottomless pit

a problem that consumes an endless amount of resources; a very hungry person who can’t be satisfied; an endless supply of something, often of something not wanted
—We bought an old house so that we could save money, but instead it has become a bottomless pit of expensive repairs.

John writes about the following vision in Revelation:

Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan – and tied him up for a thousand years. The angel then threw him into the abyss [bottomless pit] and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.) (Revelation 20:1-3)

In the New Testament, “the bottomless pit” is the place where Satan and the other demons live. In this passage, it is sealed up as a prison.

hallelujah

used as an expression of joy or agreement
—Hallelujah! It’s Friday! And I have big plans for the weekend.

Hallelujah comes from a Hebrew word meaning “praise the Lord.” John describes the following scene in his vision of heaven:

Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting:

“Hallelujah [Alleluia]!

For the Lord our God, the All-Powerful, reigns! (Revelation 19:6)

Armageddon; apocalypse

Armageddon

a war; a great battle that will destroy the world; a time of destruction

apocalypse

disaster; devastation; complete destruction

—Some economists are predicting a real-estate apocalypse in the near future, and that scares me. But my husband says if the bank tries to take our house, he’ll declare his own personal Armageddon and fight them in the courts.

Revelation includes a description of a final battle between the armies of evil and God’s people. The conflict takes place when demons bring together the kings of the world:

Now the spirits gathered the kings and their armies to the place that is called Armageddon in Hebrew. (Revelation 16:16)

Armageddon probably comes from Har Megiddon, the Hebrew name for the “mountain of Megiddo,” a place outside Jerusalem where many violent battles have occurred. In the prophecy recorded by John, this final battle of Armageddon will take place in connection with the return of Jesus.

Apocalypse comes from a Greek word meaning “something revealed, revelation.” It is the first word in the Book of Revelation:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John, who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near! (Revelation 1:1-3)

Apocalypse got its newer meaning because of Revelation’s many prophecies of devastation. At one point, seven angels blow trumpets announcing great acts of destruction. Here is what John writes about the first two:

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there was hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was thrown at the earth so that a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain of burning fire was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were completely destroyed.

The New Testament, especially Revelation, tells of many events that will happen before Jesus’ return and the final judgment. Such an event is sometimes called a “sign of the apocalypse” or a “sign of the end times.” These phrases are now often used in a humorous way, to describe something that seems very strange or that seems to go against the natural order of things—something that would only happen if the world were coming to an end.

alpha and omega

the most important part; the basic substance
—Good customer service is the alpha and omega of our restaurant’s plan for success.

The prophetic Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John. In the first chapter, John records God’s description of himself:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega [I am Alpha and Omega],” says the Lord God—the one who is, and who was, and who is still to come—the All-Powerful! (Revelation 1:8)

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last. Therefore, alpha and omega is like A and Z.

busybody

someone who interferes in other’s lives; a meddler
—Pat is a busybody who always wants to know the latest gossip.

In one of his letters, the Apostle Peter writes that Christians should not be surprised when they suffer because they follow Jesus. Instead, they should see that they are sharing in the difficulties of Christ’s life. But Peter says that not all suffering is because of a godly life:

If you are insulted for the name of Christyou are blessedbecause the Spirit of glorywho is the Spirit of God, rests on youBut let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker [busybody]. But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamedbut glorify God that you bear such a name. (1 Peter 4:14-16)

An older meaning of busy is “prying or meddlesome.”

double minded

undecided, undetermined
—Ray is double minded about whether or not to buy a new house, and I don’t think he’ll be able to come to a decision without help.

During Jesus’ lifetime, his four brothers had difficulty believing he was the Son of God, possibly because they were part of the same family. But the Gospels say that while the brothers shared the same mother, Mary, Jesus’ father was God, not Joseph. At least two of the brothers, James and Jude, later became Christians, and they wrote two books in the New Testament. In his book, James writes that God will give wisdom to the person who asks for it. But that person must not waver between belief and doubt, as if he has two minds:

But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a double-minded individual, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8)

filthy lucre; lucre

money, especially when gained dishonestly ora as the result of greed
—If you’re addicted to filthy lucre, you’ll stop at nothing to get more.

The Latin word lucrum, from which lucre comes, simply means “material gain or profits.” But because of the problems it can create, money is often seen negatively, and lucre has come to signify money gotten in the wrong way or for selfish reasons. This is in large part due to the translation of dishonest gain as filthy lucre in the Book of Titus, in which Paul writes about “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers”

who must be silenced because they mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain [filthy lucre’s sake] what ought not to be taught. (Titus 1:11)

This usage of filthy has also carried over into describing someone who is extremely wealthy as filthy rich.

  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

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