Protestant names: New Testament influences on men’s names (part 2)

We’re in the home stretch with the Biblical names! In this our final post on this sub-topic of our monthly topic, we look at the New Testament men’s names of Greek and Roman origin.

Names of Greek origin

The first batch we can set aside as being unable to tell us anything unique about Protestant naming practices for the same reason we set aside the names of the four evangelists in the previous post: The names of the apostles. Among the apostle names of Greek origin we have we have Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Simon, all of which were popular throughout the Middle Ages across Europe; for similar reasons, the name of the first martyr, Stephen, was also a continual favorite.

So, what New Testament names of Greek origin seem to have gained a new popularity in the 16th C?

Cleopas: The name of the disciple who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, this name was rarely used in England in the 16th C.

Epaphras (entry still being written): The name of a disciple from Colossae, we have one example of this name from the Protestant Church at Caen in the 16th C.

Theophilus: The name of the person to whom the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were addressed, we also have a single example of the name from Caen in the 16th C.

Timothy: The name of the recipient of two epistles by Paul, Withycombe and Bardsley differ on the use of this name in England; Withycombe notes that the name didn’t come into use until after the Reformation, while Bardsley includes Timothy in the list of Biblical names in use before the Reformation (p. 36). Further research will allow us to arbitrate this question, but in the meantime, we certainly have clear evidence for the use of the name in 16th C England and 16th C French.

Curiously, we don’t (yet) have examples of any of these four names in Dutch Protestant contexts.

Names of Roman origin

In this class of names we have Paul, which like the names of the disciples and Stephen, was used throughout medieval Europe. It was never as popular, though, in England, until the 16th C, though it doesn’t show us quite the same spike in usage that some of the other names we’ve discussed have had.

Which leaves us with Crescent, the name of a minor character, of which we one example from 16th C England.

From this we can see that, yes, amongst the Biblical names that first came into use among Protestants in the second half of the 16th C, there was a special predilection for names of Hebrew origin, but the fad for Biblical names was not exclusive to the Hebraic ones, especially amongst the women’s names. Any minor character was fair game — and we have no doubt that as we continue to collect data, we’ll find both more examples of the names we’ve covered in this series, and new examples of obscure Biblical names.

Though we’ve come to the end of the Biblical names, we are not quite done with this series. There is one final class of names which have a right to be called distinctly Protestant names, which we will devote our final postin this series to: Virtue names!

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