What’s in a Name?

What's in a Name - ShakespeareShakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet II, ii, 1-2) That may be true on the surface. However, there is much to be said about names. It may be “much ado about nothing,” but worth exploring all the same.

When immigrants first came to this country many changed their names. There were no rules about names so they altered them any way they wished. Maybe they would get rid of a pesky umlaut, shorten syllables, omit a few z’s, or adopt an English version and presto, chango! They had a new name that was easier to pronounce and perhaps increased job opportunities.

Increasing job opportunities might be what these movie stars had in mind when they changed their names: Danielovitch (Izzy) Demsky became Kirk Douglas, Thomas Mapother IV became Tom Cruise, Marion Morrison became John Wayne, Benjamin Kubelsky became Jack Benny, Archie Leach became Cary Grant, Muzyad Yakhoob became Danny Thomas, Reginald Dwight became Elton John, Maurice Micklewhite became Michael Caine, Jennifer Anastassakis became Jennifer Anniston, and Doris Von Kappellof became Doris Day.

Not many actors today bother to change their names. I guess they follow the advice Walt Disney gave Annette Funicello when she was thinking of changing her last name. “Once people learn how to pronounce it, they will never forget it.” Ah yes, learning to pronounce it…that is the dilemma in this age of Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), and Shia Labeouf (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Although rumor has it that Shia isn’t too fond of his name, which translates into “thank God for beef,” but he still didn’t change it.

Some names were changed in Biblical times, too. Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Sarah became Sarah (Genesis 17:5), Jacob became Israel (Genesis 32:28), and Simon became Cephas or Peter (John 1:42). These were significant because they were done by God for a purpose. After Saul’s conversion, God changed Saul’s name to Paul (Acts 13:9).

Some even feel the meaning of your name prophesies what you will become. But all in all a name is just a name………unless, of course, that name is JESUS.

The name of Jesus has deep meaning and profound significance for the whole world. When Mary was pregnant she and Joseph didn’t bop over to the bookstore to find the latest faddish name. The name of Jesus was chosen by God (Matthew 1:21) because it represents grace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope, salvation, and eternal life. Jesus fulfilled prophesies (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:22-23). It is through the name of Jesus we have life (John 20:31) and our sins can be forgiven (Acts 2:38). Only through that name can we be saved (Acts 4:12)! And one day every knee will bow to that name (Philippines 2:10)!

Another nice thing about Jesus is that he knows our names. (Isaiah 43:1) Not only does he know our names, but he knows everything about us….and loves us anyway. So what’s in a name? Quite a lot if that name is Jesus.

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