Señor Luiz introduced himself to our Brazilian Portuguese class at the beginning of my sophomore year at the University of Illinois. He stated that he was from São Paulo, Brazil, and looked forward to teaching us. He then went around the room, asking each student his or her name. When the student mentioned his name, Señor Luiz asked, “Would you mind if I called you by the Brazilian Portuguese translation of your name?”
Thus, William became Guilherme, Mary became Maria, Edward became Eduardo, and so forth.
After I had told him my name, he said, “Do you mind if I call you Señor Lourenço?”
“I never liked the name Lawrence. So, if it’s okay with you, just call me Señor Larry,” I said.
He nodded his head and said, “Sim.”
Now, most of us want to be called by the names given to us by our parents. It’s the names which our parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, teachers, and everyone have called us all through our lives. Our names reflect our family heritage and often contain the dreams and hopes pinned on our lives at our births by our parents.
For instance, my wife was named Carol, not Carole. She was born just after the holidays and her mom thought of her as a Christmas carol. Interesting enough, Carol went off to college, studied music, and became a singer.
Okay, what about New Testament names?
This may come as a shock to you, but almost every character in the New Testament has had their names changed. This is due to the fact that our New Testament has been translated from the Greek into the English language. All of the Hebrew and Jewish names have been changed into a Greek form of the same name.
The Greek name – Jesus Christ – was really Yeshua HaMashiach. Mary was Miryam. Joseph was Yosef. Matthew was Mattityahu. Simon Peter was Shim’on Kefa. James was Ya’akov Ben-Zavdai. John was Yochanan. T’oma was Thomas. Judas Iscariot was Y’hudah from K’riot. Saul or Paul was Sha’ul. Barnabas was Yosef or Bar-Nabba.
It was almost as if Señor Luiz went around to each New Testament character and asked, “Do you mind if I call you by a Greek name instead of your Hebrew one?” They, of course, said nothing because they were dead.
Sadly, the name changes removed the Hebrew-ness from our New Testament.
(Continue in Part 9…if you’re interested, the full series to date can be seen here.)