Concerning this Question: Translation of proper Hebrew names

Contemporary names in Biblical languages are indeed a form of language study, which is within the scope of Hermeneutics. I would think there should be some way to ask about Bible-based names, but I'm undecided on how the topic should be couched so that it is on-topic.

We don't want to ask Questions of a "devotional" nature. But, from a hermeneutical perspective, an analysis of how names originate from an ancient language and what lexical meaning they therefore have, along with Bible references as to why children were given those names could be very useful in further exegesis.

For instance, take the name "Joshua" meaning "God saves"...

  • This has relevance to Joshua's leadership in the Book of Joshua.
  • This has relevance to Jesus arguably having the same name in ancient Hebres...

From an MIT site:

But Ben Swett has a far more exciting translation of "Jesus." I was intrigued by it back when I read it in this page. I recently asked for clarification, and he wrote back:

I looked in Young's Analytic Concordance to the Bible. It says Joshua means "Yah saves."

Joshua = Yahshua = Yah + shuah. Yah is short for Yahweh, and shuah is from yeshuah which means "to save, save alive, rescue."

From gotquestions.org:

Yeshua is the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is “Joshua.” Iesous is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is “Jesus.” Thus, the names “Joshua” and “Jesus” are essentially the same;

What about names like "Moses" (Ex 2:10) or "Jabez" (1 Chron 4:9) which was the basis for Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez, which in turn raised many hermeneutical questions.

Bible names are a part of hermeneutics. But, a "Bible names list" seems more like a "devotionals" curiosity. Yet, a massive go-to list could be useful for Bible students doing research. Is or how could this be relevant on Hermeneutics.SE?

1 Answer 1


Theorised meanings of names, or meanings recorded outside the Bible, aren't on-topic I think. I think questions on these names should be limited to the names for which the Biblical texts explicitly give a meaning.

Because those names are given explicitly, we can conclude that it is intentional, and therefore that the meaning has some relevance to the character's life as it's shown in the text.

I don't think questions should be asked about Moses or Jabez as it's quite transparent what relevance the meaning of their names has.

But questions about Peleg, Jacob, or Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz could be interesting.

I think the scope of these questions should be limited to the book the name and its explanation are found in, as that's the basic unit of authorship and authorial intent.

  • 1
    This resonates with me. So, asking for the meaning of a specific name with a Bible passage would be a valid Question? And, we should therefore have a tag? I'm gonna' start and see how it goes.
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 15:38
  • What is the Biblical meaning of the name 'Jesse'? New tag #bible-names. Perhaps this can serve as a precedent for the future.
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 15:56
  • @JesseSteele That's a question I think should be off-topic, as you haven't given any passage where the Bible itself gives a meaning for the name Jesse.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:10
  • Viz Ruth 4, the rational behind Jesse's father's name is given right before. Since the meanings of many names are evident or strongly suggestive in the original language, the Ruth passage hermeneutically suggests: 1. (Obed) A son has been born, 2. (Jesse) God's gift/life, 3. (David) Beloved, all in the form of names. In that context Isaiah 9:6 "for unto us a child is born" cf Luke 2:11 "...in the City of David". If we rule-out this Question, then that hermeneutical cross-reference study would also be ruled-out, and further we would need to rule all word studies as "off-topic".
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:37
  • 1
    Word studies arguably should be off-topic... they're usually systematic theology questions. Sorry, but I'm not really seeing the merits of your Jesse question. Like many of the questions on analogical readings or sensus plenior, names questions like these seem to me to be asking for creative or imaginative journeys through the scriptures, looking for potential links between passages no matter how tenuous. The guidelines I suggested in this answer however are intended to keep it focused on uncovering the meaning contained in one text. I think explicit meanings are necessary for that.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:45
  • If word studies become Sys Theo, then I'm fully with you that they would be off-topic. Also, if a study becomes a kind of wild goose chase, then we should have intervention from the community/moderators. But, word studies include tense, voice, mood, person, etc, which have major ramifications in understanding a passage. We can't have hermeneutics without words and lexicons. Then, if a name's meaning is loudly obvious to the original readers, Bible students should know... especially to identify agreement from the passage to shed light on the passage or that any meaning is purely coincidental.
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:53
  • We're on a tangent now, but yeah, all of that is valuable stuff to include in answers, but I'm not sure of the purpose of the word-study tag. I think the uses of a word within one book would be okay, that's very much still within the wheelhouse of hermeneutics. Within one author? I'm not sure about that... Across authors (a word study of "faith" in Paul and James) should be right out as that's definitely sys theo.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:55
  • 2
    "Then, if a name's meaning is loudly obvious to the original readers, Bible students should know..." Hmm. Yes I can see your point there. But I still think the question should be aimed at drawing out intentional correspondences between the name of the person and their life as described in the text. Because even though most names have meanings, most people are not given prophetic names, and most people's lives don't closely match the names they were given.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:57
  • Tangent, yes. Useful, yes. "faith" = SysTheo, yes. Peter quoting Paul = Hermeneutics. #bible-names tag should be defined to limit scope, specifically there to govern the matter?
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:59
  • 2
    So for names that aren't explicitly explained, I think a question like this might be acceptable: "What is the meaning of the name X, and does the text of book Y highlight aspects of the life of X that correspond with their name?"
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:00
  • Good. Keep comments since useful? Continue elsewhere if needed?
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:01
  • Yeah I'll edit this post later.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:03
  • One thought, I don't want to limit a "Biblical Theology" study to only one book or author, but also include other passages quoting from that original book, or using the word in a manner that suggests meaning—and of course such meaning should be demonstrated. I want Peter to be able to say what Paul said 90% verbatim and that be fair game for Biblical H/Theo.
    – Jesse Mod
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:10
  • Texts quoting/paraphrasing other texts is another matter, as is Biblical Theology. But not really very related to word studies in my mind. I'm not too sure what you're referring to with Peter and Paul?
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:11
  • 2
    Right, Peter refers to Paul, but I can't really remember anywhere that he quotes or alludes to specific parts Paul's writings. So analysing 2 Peter is just ordinary hermeneutics. But this is diverging more and more from the names discussion. Let's return to it later. One tricky question category at a time! :)
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:16

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