Names, Nicknames, and Name Changes

source: vblibrary via flickr
source: vblibrary via flickr

But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit….”
Acts 13:9 (NRSV)

Names and Nicknames I’ve been given by others over the years:
Thomas James
Tommy James
Tommy James-es
Tommy
Tom Tucker
Tompt
Thomas DiGomas “Don’t Give a Damn” Nostrum
Tommy V.
T.V.
T.

I find names and the monikers we give one another fascinating.

I find it fascinating that a man born and raised as Saul became known to the world and to history as Paul. I have written several posts over the years about names. I find that names can be powerful metaphors. Changes in lives paralleled with a change in names is a somewhat recurring theme across all of God’s Message. Abram becomes Abraham. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul.

The interesting thing about Saul’s change is that it happens abruptly in today’s chapter. It just happens with no explanation. Scholars assume that the Hebrew “Saul” gave way to the more Greek “Paul” as his ministry switched from preaching to Jews to preaching to Greeks. It is a logical and simple assumption. The fact that the meticulous and detailed archivist, Luke, does not explain the change leads me to believe that even Luke thought that the reason for the change would be apparent to his readers.

But it’s fascinating to know that “Paul” to the Greeks meant “little.” Paul the persecutor and executioner of early Christians considered himself the “least” (or “littlest”) of the apostles. Paul alluded to physical afflictions that humbled him and left him feeling “little” and weak, but trusting in God’s strength.

This morning I’m asking myself: “What’s in a name?” and “What’s in a name change?” A name is a metaphor. It’s a label placed upon us, and as such it holds a certain meaning.

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