J. B. Jackson
Some years since, the present writer, in pursuing his studies in the Bible, reached a portion which consisted largely of Proper Names, and at once he was confronted with the fact, that a considerable and, to him, important portion of the Bible was untranslated.
Fully persuaded that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” and that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine” (Rom. 15:4, 2 Tim. 3:16); and hence that there could be no idle word in God’s Book; he set about preparing an accurate, alphabetical list of all the Proper Names of the Old and New Testaments with a view to securing the best possible renderings of the same.
Fortunately, there was ready access to the works of Cruden, Long, Oliver, Young, Wilkinson, Charnock, McClintock & Strong, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Abbott’s Dictionary, Imperial Bible Dictionary, Encyclopaedia Biblica, and, before the list was complete, Strong’s Concordance, Tregelles, F. W. Grant, and others.
At the end of about three years, the writer had obtained a meaning for nearly every proper name in the Bible, and, on the recommendation of friends, began preparations for publishing the results of his labours for the benefit of others similarly interested.
His plan was to arrange the names alphabetically, as spelled in our common English Bibles, attaching the meanings he had found in the order in which he considered them to have weight, i.e., in the order in which he considered their sources to be authoritative.
At the end of this part of his work, ere he went to press with his new Onomasticon, it occurred to him to experiment a little with some of the meanings he had secured in order to see how they would work in the elucidation of some of those passages which had first suggested the need of his researches.
The result was as perplexing as it was curious; in some cases no less than twelve different, not to say opposite, meanings were given to the same name by the same writer. But which, if any one of them, was the English equivalent of the Hebrew or Greek name under consideration?
That was the important question, to determine which. A few of these names were subjected to rigid, etymological analysis during which two discoveries were made, viz.:
- That not one of these onomasticographers could be depended upon throughout his whole list of names.
- That “every Scripture was God-inspired … that the man of God may be perfect, fully fitted to every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 – literal rendering)
A new start was made; all meanings were discarded and each name was traced to its own roots in the original tongue and the meaning derived according to the etymological rules and usage of the language in which it was written.
In the present work all current authorities have been used or consulted, such as Robinson’s Gesenius, Fuerst’s Hebrew Lexicon, Davidson’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Davies’ Hebrew Lexicon and, now that it is completed, the learned and laborious Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon by Brown, Driver & Briggs as well as Tregelles and some others for portions.
For the New Testament names, the Greek Lexicons of Liddell & Scott and Parkhurst have been mainly relied upon.
The one controlling idea in the preparation of this work has been to provide the English-speaking reader with an exact, literal equivalent of the original Hebrew, Chaldee (Aramaic), or Greek name, and this the reader may expect to find.
In each and every case the author has compared his rendering with the rendering given by the onomasticographers above mentioned and, where he differs from them, he is quite prepared to give a satisfactory reason for the difference to anyone competent to form a judgment.
Where such different rendering is possible or plausible he has not failed to give it a place with his own.
In addition to this he has carefully noted each meaning as related to its context since the passage in which a name occurs will often throw light upon the particular shade of meaning to be given to it.
As an illustration of how the present writer finds it necessary to differ from men of unquestioned scholarship, the name “Abijam” may be instanced:
One of the ablest of modern Hebraists, in his Manual of Hebrew, gives the meaning “great sailor,” from abi, meaning “father of” (being ab in the construct state, and ab means “father”), and yam, meaning “sea,” i.e., “father of the sea.”
Now the scholarship of the author of the manual is above question. As a Hebraist he had few equals and he knew perfectly well that the literal force of those two words was “father of the sea,” and that they would, etymologically, admit of no other meaning whatever (if we allow the single exception of “my father is the sea.” There is nothing in the words themselves to exclude such a meaning), but at once the learned professor allows himself to be swayed by the apparent strangeness of the name and tapers it down to “great sailor,” losing sight of the original words entirely.
Of what use is the most eminent scholarship, if, with all its ability to give us bread, it give us but a stone?
By far the best work on Proper Names known to the writer is that by Mr. Alfred Jones published by Bagster & Sons. It treats only the names in the Old Testament, and not a few of those are omitted for some reason, but the plan, as well as the typographical execution of the work, is excellent although the result is frequently disappointing and in more ways than one, particularly in the author’s arriving at the proper literal meaning by his analysis, and then, for reasons other than etymological, leaves a meaning for the name which loses sight of the origin entirely, as for example:-
“‘Omar’ = ‘uppermost,’ from the Hithpael of the root amar; it is generally understood, ‘he that speaks,’ hence Gesenius says, ‘eloquent,’, ‘talkative.’”.
Now the verb amar is a very common one and is invariably rendered “to say, to utter”; in the Hithpael it is twice used in the sense of ‘boasting self,’ as in Psalm 94:4, but to call Omar a Hithpael is a mere blunder; it is an orthographic variation of Kal participle active and means “saying,” or “sayer,” but not a trace of this meaning in “uppermost.” Another example from this otherwise excellent work may suffice:
“‘Bealoth’ = ‘city corporations,’ i.e., ‘rulers,’ ‘civitates,’ or perhaps ‘daughters of the city,’ plural of baalah = ‘mistress’ fem of Baal – ‘lord,’ ‘possessor,’” i.e., the plural of ‘mistress’ is ‘city corporations’ (!).
Here again the plain, literal meaning (and a meaning which the learned author himself sees plainly enough) is discarded and we are left with “city corporations,” although there is not a trace of either ‘city’ or ‘corporations’ in the word discussed. And this so often: and yet it is not his scholarship which is at fault, scholarship is rarely, if ever, at fault in the rendering of Proper Names in the Bible, but rather what this excellent author says himself very fittingly, quoting from Mr. Bryant, under the article “Chaldeans”:
“So far does whim get the better of judgment (in deriving the meanings of proper names), that even the written word is not safe.”
In the present work, the meanings are, in general, given in the language of the Authorized Version, but occasionally, where the Authorized Version fails to convey the leading thought of the root, another more suitable word has been chosen.
Smoothness of expression has not been sought, nor a learned treatise, but simply and solely to put the English reader in possession of the exact sense of the original: for this reason many of the meanings may sound harsh from their very bald literality.
It may be remarked that some Hebrew roots are susceptible of two or even more entirely different meanings, as e.g., anah, a word very frequently used, in many places translated “answer,” “respond,” but as commonly rendered “afflict”; in such cases the alternative rendering has been given.
Again, some names are capable of being derived, with equal accuracy, from two or even three different roots as e.g., when the root is one with a feeble radical, or doubles the second radical, the inflection of such verbs being to some extent similar, but where an alternative rendering has been thought possible it has been given.
Furthermore, as a large proportion of both Hebrew and Greek Proper Names are compounds, it may be necessary to remark that these compounds are capable of being put together differently, as e.g., Caleb, which may be an orthographic variation of celeb = “dog,” or it may, with equal propriety, be derived from col = “all,” and leb = “heart,” whence “all-heart” (whole-hearted), but such cases are all noted.
In a much larger work, now in preparation, the analysis of each word is given in full and the etymological processes by which each meaning is arrived at, with every occurrence of each name (when not exceeding twelve), and historical, geographical and other references, where such are found, or appear useful, in addition to some illustrations of how Proper Names are helpful, and indeed essential, in the elucidation of the sacred text: to this the interested Bible student is referred, particularly such as are more or less acquainted with the original languages and desire to satisfy themselves as to the correctness of the renderings.
Spiritual judgment, as well as scholarship, is absolutely essential in translating the Word of God from one tongue into another, and the writer claims no monopoly of either, but will welcome friendly criticism from any who are sufficiently interested and competent to form a judgment.
To such as are likely to use this little work little need be said as to the importance of an exact, literal translation of the Proper Names of the Bible without such translation many chapters in our Bibles remain but a morass of unintelligible jargon, difficult to pronounce, as e.g., Joshua 19 and 1 Chronicles 1 and 2, etc., whereas, if we are to believe 2 Timothy 3:16 there is teaching in all this, and besides, we are again and again shown the importance attached to the meaning of a name, as e.g.:
- On its imposition, as in the case of Isaac (Gen. 17:19, cf. v. 17), and of Jesus (Matt. 1:21);
- On its being changed, as in Abram. (Gen. 17:5), see also the change of Jacob’s name (Gen. 32:28);
- On the play upon a name, as in Jeremiah 1:11-12, where the play is rather upon a word, obscured in our English Bible, but it is really, “I see a rod of a shaqedtree,” “I am shaqed my word to perform it,” i.e., “I see a rod of a waking tree, – I am waking my word to perform it.”
Ezekiel 23:4 affords an example of play upon names. Had we been left to the Old Testament history alone, we might have thought Melchizedek too obscure and isolated to require any further study than the immediate context of Genesis 14:18-19: the meaning of his name, and that of his kingdom being of no importance whatever; but the Spirit of God has seen fit to enlarge upon both the meaning of his name and that of his kingdom, as well as the order in which the names occur.
The fact that Elijah (my God is Jah) is followed by Elisha (my God is salvation), the connection between the two prophets, and the different dealing of the Lord under each, would be but very imperfectly understood apart from the significance of their names.
Trusting that the reader of this work may, by its means, gather some of the precious fruits it has been the writer’s privilege to enjoy in its preparation, it is now sent forth commended to the care of Him whose grace has ever been found sufficient through the eleven years spent upon it.
If it shall, through grace, be the means of removing, in any little measure, the veil which our confused speech has put upon His precious Word, the labour will not have been in vain, and to Him be all the praise.
– a as a in “father”
– e as a in “fate”
– i as ee in “feet”
– (short) o as o in “lot”
– (long) o as o in “bone”
– u as oo in “cool”
– ch as k (save in the words “cherub,” “cherubim” and “Rachel,” which from long usage have become Anglicised: here ch is sounded like ch in cheer; but “Cherub,” a city, is pronounced “Ke’rub.”)
Baruch, pronounced “Bah’ rook”
Ches’ a lon, as “Kes’ a lon”
2. In Hebrew proper names, G is hard before e, i and y, as “Gideon,” “Gibeah”; except “Bethpage,” which, having passed through the Greek tongue of the New Testament is subject to the rule applying to words from the Greek, whence “Beth phage” (as in “cage”).
3. The diphthong ei is pronounced like ee “Keilah” (Kee’lah). When ei is followed by a vowel, the i is usually sounded like the y consonant: as Iphideiah (If e de’ yah); the termination iah, in Old Testament names, nearly always taking that sound from the coalescing of the two Bounds “ee” and “ah” = “yah.”
4. The consonants c, s, and t, before ia and iu, preceded by the accent, in most Scripture names, take the sound of “sh” (zh): as Cappadocia, (sha), Galatia (sha), Asia (zha), Tertius (shus).