Article: Old Testament a Big Draw in Name Game
Gwyneth Paltrow went back to the Old Testament when naming her newborn child Moses. Both big screen stars and B.C. parents are bequeathing the same legacy on their new babies, and it doesn't cost a cent: names that originated in the Old Testament.
While Mackenzie and Connor are all very well for some parents, the Hollywood A-list likes to go way back.
Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and Moses Paltrow-Martin are among the latest additions to the rolls of Scripture-based baby monikers that date back thousands of years.
In B.C., six of the top 10 names for boys in 2005 had Hebraic roots. It's a fact that Victoria Rabbi Meir Kaplan finds "fascinating,'' even if he's not convinced the parents had much awareness of their historic significance.
The Top 10 boys names in B.C. include Ethan at No. 1 (292) Joshua at No. 2 (265 plus 13 Joshes), Matthew No. 3 (241), Jacob at No. 4 (222 plus 56 Jakes and 33 Jakobs), Nathan at No. 5 (206 plus 15 Nates) and Noah at No. 10 (179).
Other popular boys' names of Hebrew origin are Daniel (174) Benjamin (172), Samuel (142), Zachary (116) and Adam (101). Calebs, Isaacs and Elijahs also abounded. Even Soloman got the nod in 13 families.
For B.C. girls, Old Testament names accounted for two in the Top 10 list collected by B.C. Vital Stats. Hannah placed fourth (189 plus 19 Hannas) and Sarah landed at No. 7 (160 plus 64 Saras).
Kaplan finds it "a very positive thing'' that parents popularize the names of heroes of Hebrew history dedicated to the welfare of their people, especially when compared to some of the heroes of today.
When a major movie star calls her child Moses, it could motivate others to look up to the original. "There are some people that everyone should look up to,'' Kaplan notes.
Judith Tropea, author of Classic Biblical Baby Names, says she thinks the trend toward Old Testament names shows that parents want names that are "meaningful, spiritual and have lasted through the course of time."
The New Jersey resident is expecting her third son and considering Noah as his name. Her first two sons are called Matthew and Daniel.
While modern parents can and do call their kids just about any name, it's not so simple for Jewish parents. They must consider more than just the sound of the name before bestowing it. "When they give the name to the child, it's like a spark of prophecy,'' Kaplan explains. "The Hebrew name of a child expresses the essence of the person.''
That's why if someone becomes very ill, parents might add a name or change the birth name. "All the life forces for a person go through his name, which is why a name in Jewish history and Jewish tradition is an extremely important thing.''
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Judith Tropea, author of Classical Biblical Baby Names, offers some suggestions that go way beyond the obvious in scriptural appellations.
- Damaris: a woman who listened to Paul as he preached about Jesus in Athens.
- Elisheba: wife of Moses' brother Aaron.
- Kezia: Job's second daughter.
- Tirzah: the youngest of five sisters who protested Moses' division of Canaan based on sons. God agreed with the girls.
- Zipporah: given to Moses as a wife.
- Aeneas: a paralyzed man healed by Peter in the name of Jesus.
- Gaius: a popular name among Christians in Rome.
- Nicanor: an early disciple of the church in Jerusalem.
- Othniel: the first judge of Israel after Joshua's death.
- Zuriel: a Levite ruler during the exodus from Egypt.