Did you know how old these names are?
I first thought about putting this article together as a reaction to the latest spate of way out names chosen by well known personalities and celebraties for their children. It was only when I started to compile my list that I realised just how ancient some of our everyday names truly are. After all, if Adam and Eve really were the first man and woman, then those two names must be thousands of years old. You can't get much more traditional than that!
I guess I intend this hub to be both useful as a resource for those about to name their child, but also a curiousity for people who perhaps hadn't realised just how many everyday names find their origins in the Bible. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and if I've missed any of your favourites, please forgive me. I've tried to stick to names which I can see being used in a modern day context.
A sprinkling from the Old Testament
So I guess we have to start with Adam and Eve, right? Quickly followed by their sons, Cain and Abel. Eden, the garden where the first couple dwelt, has now become a girl's name. I know at this point, even before we go too far, that this list will have many more boys' names than girls'.
Next on my list is Noah (a personal favourite). He was the man with the ark, and the travelling zoo. But can you name his three sons? They were Shem, Ham and Japheth. If I were Spanish, I might want to add the girl's name Paloma to my list, as it means Dove. Being English, however, I will add the name Olive instead for the olive branch that the dove brought back to the ark after the flood. Variants on this theme are Olivia, Olivier, and Oliver.
Moving swiftly on we have Abraham and his devoted wife Sarah, who waited so patiently for their longed for son, Isaac. Isaac went on to marry Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel, and they became the parents of Jacob and Esau. Jacob, (later, confusingly, known as Israel), in his turn, then married both Leah, and Rachel, who were sisters. These two ladies were to become the mothers of a fine large family, including a daughter, Dinah, and sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Isachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin.
Moses and his brother Aaron, and sister Miriam were born after the exodus into Egypt. Moses brought the ten commandments to the tribes of Israel.
David, of course, is famous for slaying Goliath. He then went on to be one of the greatest kings of the Old Testament. David's close friend was called Jonathan.
Samson, Samuel, Solomon, Joshua, Gideon, Caleb, Daniel, Saul, Eli, Elijah, Jethro, Jonah, Gad and Asher are all male names that feature in the early books.
Female names include; Bathsheba, Beulah, Zilpah, Leah, Esther, Judith, Ruth, Naomi, Keziah, Orpah, Hannah, Hepzibah, Deborah, Delilah and Rahab. The name Sharon derives from a Biblical place name.
Now for a few from the New Testament
Well the most obvious name to put on this list is of course Jesus. I know it's not wildly popular among English-speaking peoples, but I've heard it used in Spain as a first name. Joseph and Mary must both appear at this point, and also Gabriel, and a couple of feminised versions, Gabriella, and Josephine.
John the Baptist makes his appearance around this point, and we must also mention his mother Elizabeth, (variants include Liz, Lizzie, Beth and Betty) and father Zechariah,(Zachary, Zac) and naturally, the river Jordan should be included here, as the name Jordan has become quite popular for both boys and girls.
The names from the gospels have become some of the most popular names throughout the generations, and few would have trouble naming Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Add to those, Peter, Paul, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas and Simon, and we must surely have included many of the given names of saints, kings, statesmen, your relatives, and my relatives, throughout the ages.
Once again, the girls fair less well. There's a few Marys, (variations include Marie, Maria, Mari and Mariah). We also have Anne, Joannah, Martha and Susannah. The biblical place name, Bethany, is also now in common use as a girl's name.
I guess this rapid excursion through the Bible perhaps throws up more questions than it answers. We love tradition, and names are systematically repeated in families through generation after generation. What's in a name? As Shakespeare would say,'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
What compells us to preserve the bible names through the centuries, even in today's largely secular society? It's a curious thought that our names provide a thread of continuity that stretches back into legend and earliest history.
ElleBee on September 14, 2014:
Great names. A couple of my favorites that didn't get mentioned are Joel, Isaiah, Julia and Veronica.
May also be worth mentioning the many "virtue" names popular for girls, which do have biblical/Christian roots I.e. - Charity, Hope, Grace, Faith, Joy
Amanda Severn (author) from UK on August 10, 2010:
Hi PaperNotes, Gabrielle is a really pretty name, and I like Miguel too. I nearly gave my son the middle name Gabriel, but my husband talked me out of it at the last moment and we settled for William as a second name. Gabriel would have suited him though.
PaperNotes on August 09, 2010:
My daughter's name is Gabrielle. It was not really the name I have wanted to give her when I was still pregnant but it eventually ended up in her birth certificate. I plan to name my next baby Miguel for a boy or Miguelle for a girl. Gabriel and Miguel(Michael) are both names of archangels if I am not mistaken. Thanks for your useful hub.
Amanda Severn (author) from UK on March 29, 2010:
Hi cbris52, thanks for stopping by and commenting. A lot of my family also have biblical names.
cbris52 on March 28, 2010:
I have a cousin named Joshua... we call him Josh... really thought about naming my little one Peter..Really good advice here!
Peter from Australia on September 27, 2008:
Thanks Amanda great info. I'll pass it on to the parents.
Amanda Severn (author) from UK on September 27, 2008:
Jason does appear in the Hebrew bible, but may be a variation of the name Joshua in that instant. The name can be traced back into ancient Greek history and means 'healer'.
Angelina is a sweet name, and is a variation on 'Angel', so also a sound biblical choice.
I've never heard Devlin used as a first name before. When I saw it, I instantly thought of Bernadette Devlin, the Irish politician, and when I checked it out, I found that it has a solidly Celtic tradition. Here is a link that will tell you more:
Hope this helps!
Peter from Australia on September 27, 2008:
Hi Amanda, I suppose any Tom Dick or Harry can have names like Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. I don't know if you would call it biblical but my son was named after Jason of the Argonaughts (no Spryte we didn't call him Argo for short). and he called his two kids Angelina and Devlin. Does that qualify in the biblical sense?.