What's in a Name?
Mar 14, 2011 David Lang

What's in a Name?

So often we use Accordance for in depth Bible study, academic research, or to find the answers to theological questions. But you never know when it will be of use in meeting far more simple needs.

While in Israel, I had the opportunity to order necklaces for my wife and two daughters showing their names in Hebrew letters. Most tourists simply spell out a name in English and the craftsman substitutes roughly equivalent Hebrew characters, but I wanted them to have real Hebrew names where possible. That would have been easy if their names were Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah, but alas, it was more complicated than that. Thankfully, Accordance gave me everything I needed to come up with a great gift.

My wife's name is Lisa, which is derived from Elisabeth. That, of course, is a good Hebrew name, but it's a name which does not appear in the Hebrew Bible. I therefore couldn't just find Elisabeth in an English Bible and put the Hebrew Bible in parallel to get the Hebrew name. Yet Elisabeth is found in the Greek New Testament, so I searched for Elisabeth in an English Bible, put the GNT-T in parallel, and triple-clicked the Greek name to look it up in BDAG. Lo and behold, BDAG gives the Hebrew name from which the Greek name is derived (אלישׁבע).

Now that I had the Hebrew spelling for Elisabeth, I toyed with shortening the name somehow to make it more closely resemble "Lisa." But I found that doing that would make the Hebrew nonsensical. For example, the "Eli" in Elisabeth means "my God." If I dropped the "E" at the beginning of the name, I would have cut the heart out of the Hebrew name. I decided to leave it as ‏אלישׁבע and let her explain to anyone who asked that her name comes from Elisabeth.

My daughter, Bethany, also has a good Hebrew name, but like Elisabeth, it is only mentioned in the Greek New Testament. I therefore went through the GNT-T and BDAG again to arrive at ‏בית עניה.

My youngest daughter's name is Alexa, which is a shortened and feminine form of Alexander. That, of course, is a Greek name and has no Hebrew equivalent. So with her name I had no choice but to transliterate. The question was how to do it. I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so I did a search for Alexander (which only appears in the New Testament). Triple-clicking the Greek name to look it up in BDAG would be no help here, since Alexander does not derive from Hebrew, so my best bet was to display a Hebrew New Testament in parallel and see how it transliterated the name into Hebrew. The Modern Hebrew New Testament rendered the name as ‏אלכסנדר, but the next question was how to chop this name down to Alexa. Removing "nder" was obvious, but since the necklace could not use vowel points, the question was how to render the final "a." I decided to add a final he to the end, since that consonant is often used in Hebrew to represent the "a" sound. The final result was ‏‏אלכסה. It's admittedly something of a made-up name, but I figured it was probably the most accurate way to transliterate Alexa.

Now, I readily admit that I was entirely too uptight about giving them good Hebrew versions of their names. After all, it's not as if they know many people who would look at their necklaces and tell them, "That's not how you spell that in Hebrew!" Still, I figured if I was going to give a personalized gift like this, I might as well do it right. And as with everything else I do, Accordance made it easy.

Bookmark and Share

Archived Comments

bkMitchell

March 14, 2011 11:28 PM

 

Great Work!

 

You hit a home run with אלכסה ! That is just how Alexa is written/translitterated in modern Hebrew.

Here are two ways that name Elizabeth can be written in Modern Hebrew:

אליזבת

יליזבטה

And, Lisa can be written like this  

ליסה

Bethany isn't Hebrew it actually is from Aramaic and it's really two words rather than a compound word that it appears as in the GNT.

Anyway Great Work!

 

 





Your Name*
Your Email*
Your Friend's Name*
Your Friend's Email*
Subject*
Body*
Characters Remaining: 4755
Verify Words
  * Privacy: Don't worry, we respect your privacy and do not collect any information from this form.