We all know that John, David, Matthew, Paul, Mary, Eve, and Rebekah are in the Bible, but here are some names from the Good Book that just might surprise you.
I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and I was shocked recently to discover several well-known names in the Bible that I didn’t know were there. I thought it might be interesting to see if others were similarly in the dark. I conducted several surveys on Yahoo! Answers. Each survey had a long list of names (some from the Bible and some not) that respondents were to classify as either in the Bible or not in the Bible.
Based on my own knowledge and the survey results, here is a list of boys’ names you’re probably familiar with but that you may not know are biblical:
- Alexander — You probably know of Alexander the Great, but did you know he shared his name with four men in the New Testament? Among them was a son of the man forced to carry Jesus’ cross. (Chosen as biblical by 41% of respondents)
- Julius — While Julius Caesar does not appear in the Bible, there is a Roman centurion named Julius. He was with Paul when Paul got shipwrecked, and he prevented the other Roman soldiers from killing Paul. (Chosen by 41%)
- Ethan — Ethan is mentioned in 1 Kings as being a man famous for his wisdom. He was also a composer, having authored Psalm 89. (Chosen by 36%)
- Nicolas — One of the first seven deacons in the early Christian church was Nicolas, a man from Antioch who had converted to Judaism. The much more famous St. Nicholas lived 200 years later. (Chosen by 41%)
- Jason — The most famous Jason is certainly from Greek mythology, who sought the Golden Fleece. The biblical Jason was a Christian in Thessalonica who was taken to court for sheltering other Christians in his house. (Chosen by 32%)
- Stephen — He was one of the first seven deacons and the first Christian martyr, stoned to death for preaching about Jesus. (Chosen by 45%)
- Linus — He’s not just a blanket-toting tot from Peanuts. The biblical Linus was a Christian in Rome and a friend of Paul and Timothy. (Linus was apparently the most surprisingly biblical name on the list, chosen by only 15% of respondents.)
- Felix — This corrupt Roman governor of Judea kept Paul imprisoned for two years. According to the Bible, he frequently sent for Paul to appear before him, hoping Paul would offer him a bribe to be released from prison. Instead, he was treated to the pleasure of hearing Paul preach. (Chosen by 35%)
And the girls’ names that might surprise you:
- Lois — Before she was the mother in Family Guy, way before she was even Superman’s girlfriend, Lois was in the Bible. Paul writes of her that she had “sincere faith,” and she influenced her daughter and grandson toward the same. Her grandson grew up to become the young preacher Timothy (important enough to have two books of the Bible named after him). (Chosen as biblical by 18% of respondents)
- Julia — She was a Christian living in Rome and a friend of Paul. (Chosen by 41%)
- Anna — Catholics are familiar with St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, but her story appears only in the Apocrypha. The biblical Anna was a prophetess who met baby Jesus on his first trip to the temple. (Chosen by 50%)
- Rhoda — This Christian servant girl was the first to see Peter after an angel helped him escape execution. (Chosen by 18%)
- Chloe — She was a Christian woman living in Corinth. (Chosen by 27%)
- Phoebe — This deaconess had been of such great assistance to Paul that he sent her to help the church in Rome. (Chosen by 32%)
- Susanna — Centuries before she was beloved by the banjo-wielding Alabaman, another Susanna accompanied Jesus and the twelve disciples as Jesus traveled around preaching. The Bible says she helped to support them out of her own means. (While Susanna was classified as biblical by 59% of respondents, many who identified themselves as Christians failed to recognize Susanna, so she is thus included here.)
- Lydia — After hearing Paul preach, Lydia converted to Christianity and began hosting congregations of believers in her home. (Chosen by 41%)
- Drusilla — Though she’s most famous now as Cinderella’s stepsister, the biblical Drusilla was married to corrupt governor Felix. Though I’m not sure the name could ever overcome its evil stepsister associations, it is quite pretty, and it would be an intriguing route to the nickname Dru/Drew. (Chosen by 25%)
Other Biblical names that were recognized less than half of the time include Demetrius (41%), Augustus (41%), Jadon (41%), Adah (41%), Priscilla (41%), Rufus (30%), Sapphira (27%), Claudia (25%), Clement (20%), and Javan (18%).
Biblical names that were recognized with 100% accuracy were Mary, Paul, John, Peter, David, and Matthew.
Non-biblical names that were most often mistakenly categorized as biblical were Damien (32%), Christopher (32%), Cassandra (32%), Norah (32%), Anthony (36%), Catherine (36%), Theresa (41%), Lilith (41%), Raphael (45%), and Zachary (55%). Of course, many of these are saints’ names, so the mistake is understandable. Lilith and Raphael appear in Christian mythology or tradition, though they are not in the Bible. Zachary, the one most often miscategorized as biblical, is not found in the Bible, but the related names Zacharias, Zaccheus, and Zechariah are.
I should note that the survey was not conducted scientifically. The surveys were posted in the Baby Names section of Yahoo! Answers, and each survey received between 20 and 22 responses. Respondents may have included a disproportionate number of females, younger people, and people who know a lot about names. Participants were not allowed to look up names, but they were allowed to guess.
Are there any names on the list that surprised you? Do you know of any other names that we might not expect to be found in the Bible?