36 Responses to "No More Christian Baby Names?"
  1. Mark Atia Mark Atia says:

    Couldn’t agree more! We named our children Elizabeth and Anna so they have great saints to learn from and to intercede on their behalf.

  2. Bavly Kost says:

    But can’t modern names become a way in which we can see beauty and holiness? I don’t think picking a “modern” name should be an issue. Habib is a “modern” name and now we have a St. Habib the church remembers. I’m sure the future saints will be the Max’s and Jennifer’s that we come to call our children.

  3. What about a name like Jabez? A name like Mark, derived from the god “Mars?” Luke meaning a place from Italy. Yes some names were given by Christ, but some names are just that. You seem to be very intent on constantly divorcing Christianity from reality. To think in the mind of XC is not merely to copy exactly what he did (like calling Luke by his given name, “Luke”) but to think in Hid mind, and to understand that a rose by any other name, is still a rose. N just like He had no problem calling Luke by his “meaningless” name, what possible thought should I have to not calling my son “Zane.” I am very critical of the Christianity you preach, for surely if I followed your method, I would end up naming my child “Gamaliel.”

    Christ isn’t at all interested in what syntax I use to call my child. What is more important to Him, is that, whatever he is named, his name becomes that of a saint. That my son transforms this syntax into a memory of Christ’s grace.

  4. Raymond Melika says:

    What about a name like Jabez? A name like Mark, derived from the god “Mars?” Luke meaning a place from Italy. Yes some names were given by Christ, but some names are just that. You seem to be very intent on constantly divorcing Christianity from reality. To think in the mind of XC is not merely to copy exactly what he did (like calling Luke by his given name, “Luke”) but to think in Hid mind, and to understand that a rose by any other name, is still a rose. N just like He had no problem calling Luke by his “meaningless” name, what possible thought should I have to not calling my son “Zane.” I am very critical of the Christianity you preach, for surely if I followed your method, I would end up naming my child “Gamaliel.”

    Christ isn’t at all interested in what syntax I use to call my child. What is more important to Him, is that, whatever he is named, his name becomes that of a saint. That my son transforms this syntax into a memory of Christ’s grace.

    • Fr. Moses Samaan says:

      Dear Raymond, Christ is in our midst! I pray you and your family are well.

      First, the names you mentioned were transformed by the holy lives of the men who bore them. I doubt Christian parents name their child “Mark” today because they wish to commemorate the Roman god of war. Most likely, they are commemorating the Holy Apostle.

      Second, I think you’re on the right track in terms of striving to raise a child to be a saint, but you’re needlessly separating yourself from the wisdom of the Church as handed down in the writings of the Fathers and Tradition. I have not come across a single Church Father who counsels Christians to do as you said, but I have found several who teach us what is written in the post above, i.e., that we should name our children after the righteous men and women in the Holy Scripture and history of the Church.

      Perhaps the most notable is St. John Chrysostomos who makes this point in several of his homilies and letters. I encourage you to read his work, “On Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children.” He teaches us there that we are to “stamp” the life of a saint onto our children when we name them after the saint. We are not to name them after relatives, “but rather after the righteous – martyrs, bishops, apostles,” because these names “begin the care and training of our children.” Not only do children benefit from these names, but also parents, as he says, “So let the name of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James…”

      May God be with you.

  5. I prefer to name my children from science fiction characters in books. Different fairy tales for different times,

  6. Androu says:

    Abouna even the name Adam derives from the Hebrew word meaning the color red, because the earth in Mesopotamia was red due to the oxidation of the iron therein. In effect, he was named after his skin color. His human label was reduced to a visual aspect of his being, the most superficial one I might add. Regardless, this meaningless label was elevated to mean something far more, because names do not contain meaning in and of themselves, but are rather given value by the society of their days.

    Just a thought.

  7. As I mentioned at the blog, I think we’re on the right track in terms of striving to raise a child to be a saint, but we’re focusing on a point that doesn’t need focus. Of course our Savior is able to transform any person with any name, as He has done in the past. This is obvious. St. Habib is a good example. However, the guidance of the Holy Church has never been to name children as we please so that we can enter their names in the Synaxarion. The guidance of the Holy Church has consistently taught us to name our children after the righteous men and women in the Holy Scripture and history of the Church as help and guidance for them. This is clear in the Orthodox traditions of naming a child after the saint who is commemorated on his birthday, eight days after birth, or baptism. It is clear in the ancient tradition of celebrating namedays (the feast of the saints after whom one is named) rather than birthdays. We can’t ignore these things.

    In his work, “On Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children,” St. John Chrysostomos teaches us there that we are to “stamp” the life of a saint onto our children when we name them after the saint. We are not to name them after relatives, “but rather after the righteous – martyrs, bishops, apostles,” because these names “begin the care and training of our children.” Not only do children benefit from these names, but also parents, as he says, “So let the name of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James…”

    • Hanaa says:

      I agree with Abouna. I named my son after a prophet in the bible and I have found that the things he learns from him are the ones that I have to least struggle with him over. Now if only he would brush his teeth! 😄

  8. GOD KEEP YOUR PRISTHOOD FOREVER

  9. Abram says:

    A rose by any other name is just as sweet. Why should the name of a child make any difference?

    We should be focusing on the values we instill in children not the names we give them.

    There is no need to link the name of a child with Christianity. I was raised in a cohort of Minas/Bishoys/Pauls. There was no creativity and to differentiate those men are rarely called by their first names in the community or amongst friends. What use is restrictions on the pool of names available if they won’t be ultisied anyway.

    Name your kids whatever you want. There is no spiritual advantage to a biblical name so don’t fuss over it.

    • Fr. Moses Samaan says:

      Thank you, Abram, for your opinion. It’s important to be clear that this your own opinion only. In the quote I posted above, it is clear that Fathers of the Church like St. John Chrysostomos have the opposite opinion. As Christians, we strive to let go of our own mind and assimilate the Mind of Christ and His Church.

  10. Ann Jayle says:

    according to this blog parents’ choice is between “strange and meaningless names” or names of “the righteous men and women whose lives were transfigured by Christ.”

    i disagree. there are plenty of names with beautiful meanings that were never born by any of the documented church saints (I’m sure there is an endless list of saints in our church that we will never hear about in this life time)… what about names like Hope or Grace? could you argue that those don’t have anything to do with Christianity?
    yet there are saint names like “Isidore” that mean “Gift of Isis” (Isis is an ancient Egyptian goddess). any name can be made holy.

    with regards to saint names.. there are saint names that I would never use bc I can’t honestly think of much that I would want my child to take from the life of that saint. the Orthodox Church has a way of totally sanitizing the stories of our saints to the point that their humanity is essentially lost. and we ensure that no real human being who is actually struggling to attain holiness while living in the world could ever relate to them.

  11. Ann Jayle says:

    i completely agree that names are sacred and your name is so precious to God. He writes it in the palm of His hand. there’s so much in a name.. you want to touch another human being who might be neglected or forgotten by society, greet them by their name. you want to dehumanize a person, strip them of their name and give them a number (the Holocaust). i could go on forever about names.
    for that reason i don’t appreciate being pressured and guilted by the church to chose a name for my child from a limited list of names born by men and women who’s lives and stories may or may not resonate with my husband and I.. or mean anything to us that we could communicate to our child.

    • Dear Ann, thank you for your comment.

      I encourage you to read the other comments, and particularly, my last response. It seems you and the others are making the same point over and over again. Can Christ sanctify a child irrespective of a name? Yes. Can a once-pagan name become the name of saints? Yes. No one ever argued otherwise. Christ CAN do anything, as He is God. Just because He CAN do something doesn’t mean He necessarily WILL. He CAN, for example, rain down His Body and Blood from the sky, but He doesn’t do that. He established the Divine Liturgy and a specific process for us to receive His Body and Blood. In the same way, while Christ CAN bless all kinds of pagan names, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the path He established for us. As the post and comments demonstrated, the Church, in Her Wisdom has consistently encouraged parents to choose meaningful, Christian names for their children as a help and blessing for them. Why else do we have patron saints? Why else do we celebrate name days? Why else do we have prayers for the naming of a child? This is what Christ’s Church has taught.

    • Abouna Moses Samaan No, it seems that you’re the one not reading what were all saying “over and over again” which is likely why were saying it over and over again. Because you still have not answered the question we are all pressing you to answer. Christ who called “Luke” “Luke.” Why did He not change his name? The answer is because its not necessary! Why don’t you try to answer that. In fact since christ CAN do anything and since He did, in fact, change many names, why don’t you answer the question of why he didn’t change “Luke.”

      Further, if what you are proposing is at all the teachings of the Fathers (which, by the way, you are deifying and not being Orthodox is your assessment of) then why did the Abba who consecrated Abba Isidore as a monk and then the Patriarch who ordained him as priest of Scetis, why did these people not then change Abba Isidores name. Since in the monastic tradition, one Abba becomes the Father of the novice, why did Abba Isidores FATHER not change his name? Not only was his name “not Christian” but it was down right pagan in origin! The answer I am giving you is that, unlike what your blog attempts to claim, the church fathers never found it a real issue. At most, a meditation! And further, Christ did not have a problem! For if Christ did, he surely would have had a problem with John Mark being named after a false God! He surely would have take exception to the fact that Phillip was named after “Lover of Horses.”

      We are not merely claiming that God CAN sanctify anything. This is an undisputed fact and so, I find it slightly disrespectful to our intelligence for you to imply that this is all we have to say. We are saying that the Church, in practice, didn’t make it a point to wonder about names. Christ didn’t make it a point to change names, and that it is by no means an issue. Further, it is nothing upon which one must antagonize the world. Of all the things in the world, you go after names?

      Besides Christ was a human, with much the same emotional feelings of familial love as we have. I often call my friends by names other than their given name, to commemorate something I admire in them. Is it at all possible that as the God-MAN, he took part in this practice of calling people by names to show them what he saw in them? As a form of endearment. Whether that was the case or not, what I would like for you to answer, your reverence, is why the church didn’t change the names of so many of it’s saints (like Cyril) and why Christ also didn’t change the names of many of his followers?

    • Beloved Raymond,

      Christ is in our midst! I pray you and your family are well.

      I didn’t see your comment buried in this discussion until now and apologize for the delay in answering your questions.

      You first asked why our Savior didn’t change the name of the Holy Apostle Luke into something else. Why would He need to? The etymology of Luke according to many NT scholars refers to light or something white. His name was significant as it was. By leaving his name alone, our Lord sanctified that name for future generations.

      Second, you inquired about Abba Isidore of Pelusium and why he was allowed to retain a pagan name, which means “gift of Isis.” I honestly don’t know, but it’s clear that this name has been “baptized” so to speak by the transfigured lives of the saints who bore it so that it does not remind us of the goddess Isis any longer, but rather, of a Christian saint.

      I have no argument with your point that there were disciples whose names our Lord preserved and saintly men and women whose names were originally pagan.

      But that isn’t what my blog post is about. Rather, my blog post was focused on the clearly established tradition of the Church for parents to name their children after the holy ones as a means of giving them a lifelong intercessor and transferring the virtues of that saint to the child. St. John Chrysostomos particularly wrote a great deal about this, which cannot be denied. You, as well, haven’t answered my questions:

      1. Why do many Orthodox traditions have elaborate nameday celebrations?

      2. Why does the rite of Holy Baptism have a special prayer in which the child’s name is revealed as before God?

      3. If names were not important, why all the fuss about the name of Holy Forerunner? His father was rendered dumb until he uttered the name John, which was the will of God, even though it broke with well-established tradition.

      4. If names were not important, why did the Holy Archangel Gabriel reveal the name of Jesus before His birth?

      5. How do you explain the deeply significant names of Abraham, Sarah, Melchizedek, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, Samuel, Abimelech, Shear-jashub, and countless others throughout the Holy Scripture? How do you explain the fact that all of the Holy Archangels have the Name of God, El, in their names?

      Clearly, names are significant in the eyes of God. This is an indisputable point.

      In the end, I think we’re getting back to the same junction again: You are saying that Christ can leave names as they are and sanctify them. Yes, I agree with you. But I am also looking at this well-established history and tradition of names throughout the Holy Scripture, and especially in the Early Church, and I am exhorting parents to give their children the blessing of such beautiful, holy, and meaningful names as a help to their children in this difficult world. That’s what my post is about; it’s pastoral advice, not something I am “antagonizing” the world about. I wrote this out of love, because I fully believe that such names will help our children fulfill their calling in this world.

  12. A great many Western names are those of saints of the Church. There is a great variety. They need not be obscure. My own children are all named after saints… Hannah, Eleanor, Katherine and Callum.

  13. My grandson has the name Noah.

  14. Androu A Androu A says:

    Wonderfully put, Ann.

    Names are words, and words are dynamic. The Hebrew root word for Adam, for instance, derives from a word meaning ‘red’, from the color of the soil i.e. dust in Mesopotamia. His most superficial quality became what defined him, yet over time Adam meant so much more than a color. Even one of God’s names in Genesis, Elohim, is an inherently plural word. We now see it as referring to the Trinity through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, yet this Christian concept was totally foreign to the ancient Hebrews. The word was borrowed from Canaanite religion, but was nonetheless embraced it because it has since taken on very different meaning.

    And that is the ultimate power of our Faith, that rather than shying away from ‘worldly’ things, we deify them. That is our purpose as Christians, not to shun but to raise up. Was this not the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation, taking our humanity to save and deify it?

  15. We find ourselves within a history as Orthodox Christians. We cannot and should not act as if we were independent of the continuity to which we belong. So we choose the names of those who inspire us and whose intercessions we seek for our children and we choose the names of the heroes of our Christian family. There is no need to choose from a short list of Egyptian names. But there is equally no need to choose names that have no connection to our Faith. There are hundreds of saints whose names are used in Western culture.

  16. Ann Jayle Ann Jayle says:

    i don’t yet know my child. God is forming him/her with unique gifts that i will have the blessing of discovering as i raise him/her. how could i begin to guess which saint will be his/her patron saint?
    i don’t see how choosing a saints name over a meaningful name will help them… they can chose their own patron saint as they grow up.
    there are actually beautiful names like Irene that I would love to use if I have a daughter (bc of the meaning of the word) but I’m put off by the story of the saint who bore it. as a woman growing up and living in the world there’s little I could have take from St Irene’s story… other than feeling inadequate. and thinking that maybe holiness is unattainable.
    my parents named me Angel which I much prefer to the name of a saint.
    if we document our saint stories more adequately… flaws, shortcomings and all I might be more inclined to name my child after a saint.

  17. I think that there are deeper issues in your hesitation Ann. To be Orthodox is not to place our preferences first but to exist in continuity and integrity. We could say that we will not baptise our children because we want them to choose faith for themselves. But we do both. Likewise we choose a name in the guidance of God who already knows our child but this does not limit the child. It is both and not either or.

  18. David Hanna David Hanna says:

    What is the main argument behind a christian name exactly? Why does it need to be meaningful from a christian perspective?

  19. David Hanna David Hanna says:

    I would also like to point out the name Dex is short for Dexter not dextroamphetamine. The same argument can be made for Mary. Mary can be slang for marijuana. That’s just one example.

  20. Eric Kestin Eric Kestin says:

    Thank you Abouna Moses Samaan for your thought provoking article. I would like to add my experience with the names of our children. I was Jewish prior to converting to Coptic Orthodox Christianity. A few years later when we were having our first child, we decided to respect both family traditions when we chose a name. This resulted in both of our kids having a name from a Saint in the church for their first name and a name from the Old Testament for their middle name. While we were not consciously thinking about St. John Chrysostomos words and “stamping” our children. Now that our oldest is almost a teenager it is clear that their names actually give them a stronger connection to the church and the Holy Scriptures. While this was not in our minds when we chose their names, as we have raised our kids it has become clearer how difficult it is to raise children who follow Our Lord and Savior in this broken world and any and all connections we are able to make to our faith our anchor points for us to help them build that relationship. Their names have become one of those anchor points for them.

  21. What about the distinction between baptismal names and given ones?
    Couldn’t a person have a name in the church and another given?

    (I have a friend who has both. I have both.)

  22. Mike Terzi says:

    A name is what others call you, not who you are. A name is give to you, not chosen by you. So…So many rules; some say, if it teaches love it is from God if it teaches anything else it is from man.

  23. If it is from the church isn’t it from God in man?

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