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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

     

Part IV:  What's in a Name?

Chapter 2

Names as Scripture Views Them

     WE COME, then to the relevance of all this to Christian experience and to the study of Scripture. It appears to me that there is here a class of concepts about the relation between the spoken word and the things spoken which, until the emergence of our materialistic philosophy, were probably shared by almost all of mankind. Biblical commentators have almost entirely overlooked this question. These concepts about the nature of reality all involve in one way or another, whether we are speaking about persons or things, the relationships between names or words and the persons or things for which they stand.
     That there could be so close a tie between a word and a thing is strange in a way. Nevertheless, the language of Scripture reveals that the concept is indeed ancient, for in Hebrew we find but one term for both "word" and "thing". This is the Hebrew dabar (). To the Hebrew mind, the creative power of God is such that He has only to speak and the thing is done (Psalm 33:9): for the word spoken is the thing created.
(17) Indeed, I believe that even vocalization is unnecessary, the actual speaking being merely an accommodation to our limited capacity. It is much more likely that God has only to think and it is done. In a small way, we acknowledge this principle when we say in all seriousness that anything which is conceivable to man, he can probably do in time; and there

17. Psalm 33:9: the original Hebrew of this verse is even more striking. It reads, "He spake and it was done." In the Authorized Version the word done is printed in italics since it is not found in the original. As a matter of fact, the verb (here rendered "was") would probably be more correctly rendered "and it came into being" for certain grammatical reasons.

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are occasions upon which the very will that something should happen is sufficient to influence matter so as to change it. Most people with a scientific background would say this is nonsense, that this is the kind of claim parapsychologists make. Yet in medicine we know for a fact that recovery (which involves fundamental changes in things, whether physiological processes or organs of the body) is often significantly dependent upon the will of the patient. We slyly concede here what we are reluctant to admit in any other area of experience, by cloaking it in scientific terminology and calling it a psychosomatic effect.
     One of the great philosophical and theological subjects of debate is the meaning of the Greek term Logos, most popularly thought to have originated with John's Gospel but in fact appearing in pre-New Testament
Jewish literature. Hebrew scholars, in thinking about the relationship between a God who is pure spirit and the material world which He has created, were faced with the old problem still plaguing philosophers as to how mind can act upon matter. The Jews concluded that there was some intermediate link making this interaction possible, and this step was the spoken word. By an extension of this process of reasoning, they concluded that whenever God appeared to man in a sufficiently material way that He could be seen and heard, in some way He assumed a form which bore the same relationship to that which is substantial as a word does to that which it describes. They thus paraphrased certain passages of Scripture in which God appears in "substantial form" by substituting the word Word (in Hebrew Memra, from the verbal form Amar, meaning "to speak or say") for the word Lord. Thus, it was the Word who appeared to Adam and Eve in the Garden, a passage (Genesis 3:8) which they paraphrased "they heard the Word walking in the Garden". It was really no new concept that John introduced to his readers when he said, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh" (John 1:1,14). The mystery of the Incarnation is not lessened by stating the case in this way, but it was an accommodation to what measure of understanding his contemporaries did have that John was inspired to write in this way about the fact that what is pure spirit became real substance.
     While we turn our thoughts into substance through our hands by creative activity in a process that occupies time, God can turn His thoughts into substance by a much more direct process and without occupying time, namely, by the spoken word which creates instantly. Made in the image of God, it is not so surprising, after all, that man should be able to "speak" with his hands as he does. They are an adjunct to his tongue

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     The Bible begins with a chapter describing creation in which the naming of things plays a pre-eminent part. The light and dark are named as day and night, so the land and the sea, earth and heaven, and even the stars in the sky are named. When we are told in Psalm 147:4, "He calleth all the stars by their names", we are really being told that in spite of their apparently infinite number, each one was nevertheless brought into being by the Word of God ‹ by whom God the Father created all things.
     The process of naming is then turned over to Adam himself. The simple story describing how Adam named the animals - -a story which reads as though it were written for children and has on that account by pseudo-intellectuals been viewed with some condescension ‹ is in fact a profound statement. Part of the inspired character of Scripture is the universality of its message in terms of the ages of its readers. The simplest child may be reading this story in one room of the house while in another room his father, a mature and deeply thoughtful man, may also be studying the very same words ‹ each being stirred by the same record in appropriate yet quite different ways. The words are for children, but the thoughts are for men. And the man who reads it and smiles condescendingly at the childlikeness of the story is merely confessing in fact that he himself is still a child. Rightly understood, there is a truth here which is abreast of the deepest probing into the workings of the mind yet made by modern philosophers of language.
     In Genesis 2:19-23 - -that is to say, in five short verses ‹ God has contrived to record for us certain facts about the kind of being Adam was in his intellectual stature, about his relationship to the living creatures around him, and about his need for companionship and how that companionship was supplied; requiring whole volumes of words on man's part to elucidate. In a way, when God created the written word He concentrated the substance of it in somewhat the same way as the same Lord in the New Testament condensed the time when He performed His creative acts. What God can do in a few words and in a few minutes, man toils over for volumes and for years. Consider then these five verses.

     We are presented here with a picture of animals being directed in some way to Adam that he might name them. One might superficially say that, since they were his companions in the Garden, he would want to give them names as we want to give names to our pets and indeed to all creatures and things which are brought particularly into our circle of activities, whether flowers or wild animals or birds.

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     Scripture makes it clear, I think, that Adam really was at that moment the only man in the world and that this isolation was not appropriate to his nature. He was, however, surrounded by various forms of animal life, all of which were absolutely harmless and undoubtedly tame. God desired that Adam should discover for himself that none of these creatures could be a proper companion or helpmeet for him. Many people, especially in the lonelier years of later life, find that animals are good companions. Cats, dogs, birds, horses, even goldfish and, in the case of some farmers I know, cattle too make good company when a man is completely alone. But these creatures are always totally inadequate for a normal, healthy individual, especially one who, like Adam, was in the prime of life. Thus God brought them to Adam that he might discover for himself the true relationship he bore to them by exercising his insight into their real nature as contrasted with his own. Each one he named in turn, but when he had finished he found himself as lonely as he was before. It is clear from what follows in the story that the names he gave them were not simply indicative of his reaction to their colour or their size or
some other physical aspect but rather of their nature in the light of his own.
     Bearing in mind what has been said thus far about the way in which names of things are inseparably bound up with the nature of the things so named, it will be seen that we have upon this occasion a situation in which Adam, with a newly awakened sense of loneliness and yet still in a state of perfect mental health (the Fall was
yet future), looked attentively upon each of the creatures divinely directed into his presence to determine whether by its very nature it could in some way be a counterpart of himself. On the face of it, it would seem rather obvious that God would have brought to him, among the creatures which came, at least some representatives of man-like apes. Yet, clearly Adam recognized in none of them any relationship to his own self. In the usual English renderings of this passage, we are told merely that "whatsoever Adam called it, that was the name thereof" (Genesis 2:19). The significance of this statement is much deeper than appears on the surface. The precise way that it is set forth in the original Hebrew contributes to this deeper significance.
     This is not the place for an excursion into the intricacies of Hebrew syntax and grammar, but it is important to note that in the phrase "this was the name thereof" the Hebrew does not employ any verb corresponding to the English "was". This word is accordingly printed in italics in the Authorized Version, but not in other versions which have failed to observe the importance of this omission. In the normal Hebrew sentence which involves some part of the English verb "to be" where the implication is merely copulative ‹ i.e., "the wall [is] high" or

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"the man [was] good" ‹ the verb is omitted entirely. It is one of the great advantages of the normal printing of the Authorized Version that the absence of the verb in the original Hebrew, when its use is merely copulative, is indicated by the use of italics in the English rendering. In the two phrases above, we have indicated the absence of the verb by putting it in brackets, which would have been an alternative but much more cumbersome method of indicating the original. In other words, whenever the text of the Authorized Version introduces some part of the verb "to be" in italics in order to complete the English sentence, the reader is informed that the Hebrew has omitted the verb.
     As an illustration taken at random, the Scofield edition shows twenty-nine instances of the use of italics occurring in Judges 6 and 7, in every case the verb being purely copulative. By contrast, where some part of the verb "to be" is introduced in the Hebrew, the Authorized Version text will set the corresponding English verbal form in standard type. As another illustration, throughout Genesis 1 the recurrent phrase "and it was so" indicates by not using italics that the Hebrew includes the verb. There are certain exceptions, but it is a general rule that where any part of the verb "to be" is actually used in the Hebrew original, it is intended to show that something new has occurred: and in many instances it will most simply and appropriately be rendered by the English as "became". This particular phrase in Genesis 1 would thus read quite correctly as "and it became so" rather than "and it was so", just as it would be more appropriate to render Genesis 3:20 as "Eve became the mother of all living" or Genesis 4:2 as "Abel became a keeper of sheep." In both these cases the verb "was" is
set in standard type by contrast with the verb in Genesis 2:19. This printer's device is found only in the Authorized Version: it is one of its lasting advantages to the English reader.
     Now, the relevance of this to the story of Adam and his naming of the animals is that in the original Hebrew in the phrase "that was its name", the verb "to be" is omitted. In other words, we are not being here told that Adam named these animals as we name pets so that this became their name thereafter: what Adam was doing was identifying the character of these animals, not saying what they should thereafter be called, but what they actually were by nature at that moment. He did not name a dog as "Fido" or a horse as "Prince" or a cat as "Tabby." He stated in a word his evaluation of their nature and therefore of their relationship to himself. The proof of this is surely to be found in Adam's treatment of the woman, who, after he awoke from his deep

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sleep, was brought before him and presented to him in the same way that the other animals had been. But this time he at once recognized and acknowledged in her the counterpart of himself by the name which he gave to her, which was a femininized form of the name by which he had come (perhaps by inspiration) to divine his own nature. He was Ish, she should be Isha.
    In other words, right at the very beginning of human history, man was equipped with a power of discernment which expressed itself in the ability to identify the nature of things and sum up that nature in a word ‹ its name. And although civilization has either adulterated this power or robbed us of it entirely, we have never quite lost the feeling that in some way the name of a thing is uniquely to be identified with its very being. Certainly Scripture has encouraged this view, not as something that is a vestige of a more primitive mentality, but as something which is deeply rooted in the nature of things.
     Upon many occasions the wording of Scripture is precisely chosen to reflect the concept of identity between name and person, and by person I really mean "soul". When a wife takes her husband's name, it is not merely
for convenience. Though none of us would like to hold that a man and his wife, if truly united, lose their
personal identities, yet we do know that those who live fully and long together tend to converge in tastes, in manners and habits, in mental set, in a host of subtle ways‹even on occasion, in physical appearance. In Scripture, it is said of the very first union of man and wife that "He calleth their name Adam" (Genesis 2:5).
Here in a name is plurality in unity. In the New Testament we have a case of the opposite. When Jesus asked the Gadarene maniac his name, the reply was "My name [singular] is Legion, for we are many" (Mark 5:9).
     We have a recent example which, on the face of it, appears to be similar to this, though it may be an appearance only. This is the case of the woman whose basic personality seems to have been expressed when she responded to the name of Eve but who, when assuming either of two other names, became an entirely different personality.
(18) The "experts" are satisfied that this woman is only one person really, but to read the accounts of the numerous interviews that she had with a number of psychiatrists and others ‹ who all agree upon the basic fact that the three "individuals" who seem to be indwelling her were as different in character as it is possible to conceive, with different voices, different handwriting, different encephalograms, different tastes in clothing,

18. Thigpen, Corbett H., and Cleckley, Hervey, The Three Faces of Eve, Regnery, 1954. 

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different mannerisms, and different facial expression - -one has a strong feeling that we do really have three residents taking turns with one another to have possession by some kind of mutual arrangement. A popular but informative account appeared in the Canadian MacLean's magazine under the title "Three Women: One Body." (19) Some years later this same individual became yet another person, and her story was published by McGraw-Hill in 1958 in a book written by Evelyn Lancaster and James Poling entitled The Final Face of Eve. A useful popular review of this book appeared in Life magazine under the caption "The Fourth Face of Eve." (20)
     It helps little in "explaining" this modern illustration to use some high-sounding compound term and label it merely as a case of multiple-personality or some such thing. This is a description, not an explanation. We do not know yet what is the full potential of a human soul under stress to be able to say for certain whether in this particular case we have "plurality in unity"; but we do know that the woman herself behaved upon different occasions in a way entirely commensurate with three distinctly separate personalities that always involved the assumption of a different name for each. The little girl from the psychiatric ward thought of herself as nameless because she had no structured personality. The Gadarene maniac when asked his name could not tell it either because he was so many people with none predominating. This woman could at least say which person she was at any given time. All these are strange illustrations of the mystic union existing between a person and his or her name.
     One of the most distressing effects of our complex civilization is that it destroys personality by undermining its structure and leaving people with a sense of nonentity. We are witnessing all around us divided people with no inner integration. We are witnessing what Leslie Paul termed "the annihilation of man" and what C. S. Lewis termed "the abolition of man". Christian experience is effective in dealing with this situation, because a single
new indestructible seed of a new personality is implanted in the old.

19. MacLean's, 15 September, 1954, pp.12-15, 67-75.
20. Life, 19 May, 1958, pp.101-14.

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     From all that has been said thus far, it is clear that such a change as is brought about in spiritual rebirth must be accompanied by a change of name. This new name sums up the new personality, this new name is written in heaven and is kept secret for the present (Revelation 2:17), and this new name is appointed to the
child of God by the divine Giver-of-Names who, foreseeing precisely what kind of person the individual
Christian will grow into as a work of God, is able to make it entirely appropriate even though that personality has not yet come to fruition.
     The biblical view of the experience of the new birth which leads to the formation of a new personality requires the appointing of a new name, because it involves (a) a great spiritual experience, (b) adoption into a new family (Galatians 4:5), (c) victory over a powerful enemy (Romans 6:14), (d) new incarnation (Colossians 1:27), and (e) an old man who becomes a new man (II Corinthians 5: 17). With all these wrapped up in one single transforming experience, is it not indeed appropriate to be renamed?
     This new personality is wrought in the believer by the indwelling presence of Christ, who enters the heart
and begins to re-express Himself appropriately for the individual's capacity, thus creating a character which is perfect (because it is Himself) and which is now the real inner man which God sees and which is entirely
pleasing to Him. To this extent, Christian experience is God's way of re-introducing the person of Christ into the world. It is Christ in us which is the hope of glory. Only by accepting the fact of new incarnation in this sense can we properly account for the fundamental change which takes place, a change all the more properly associated therefore with a entirely new name. Because this new person who emerges is indeed the Lord in us,
it is completely appropriate that it should be said of us in Scripture that we are "called" by His name
(2 Chronicles 7:14). We are called by His name not so much because we are Christlike necessarily or because we are labeled by others as Christians, but because our new personality is part of His personality and therefore our new name is His name in part.

     Wrapped up in Jesus Christ as the Second Adam is the sum total of all personality that man can have, just as it was originally in the First Adam, though undeveloped. Since it is the Lord who, being planted as a seed in the believer's heart, begins to unfold Himself in some small measure appropriate to the individual, so our new personality is formed out of His and we are therefore properly given in some way part of His name. It is as  

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though all the new names of all the children of God, when added together, will constitute His name, and in this sense His name is above every name and we are collectively called by it.
     One of the comforts allowed to the saints of the Old Testament was that they were assured that God knew them by name. Thus the Lord said to Moses, "Thou hast found grace in My sight and I know thee by name" (Exodus 33:17). This does not mean that God merely knew who Moses was, but something much more important, namely, that He knew what Moses was. I believe that when God calls us by name He is really saying two things: the first, that we are His creation; and the second, that He knows us perfectly, our hopes and our fears, our strengths and our weaknesses, our past and our future. We have not yet attained to the character which God has before ordained that we should attain to, and therefore while our new name is an exact description of what we shall be, it could not yet be appropriately applied to us openly. It is thus kept secret for the present (Revelation 2:17).
     Nevertheless, so certain is the ultimate attainment of that which God has appointed for us in the matter of personality development that the new name which sums it up perfectly has been engraved in stone, as this passage in Revelation tells us.
     There are some who believe that when Jesus stooped down, as the woman taken in adultery stood in the midst of her accusers (John 8:1-11), and wrote with His finger on the ground, He was in fact writing down the names of her accusers or at least the chief of them. Since it is a reasonable assumption that, for Him to write
with His finger at all in this way, the ground must either have been dust or sand, the writing of their names in such an ephemeral medium would have impressed the onlookers very forcibly with His judgment of them as individuals. At any rate, it is significant that there is a passage in Jeremiah (17:13) with which these learned
critics would surely be familiar and which reads: "They that depart from Me shall be written in the earth because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters." The name of the child of God is engraved in stone, not in the dust.


    We have in Scripture not a few instances of people who acquired a new name. The circumstances surrounding the acquisition are instructive, as are the circumstances surrounding the subsequent life history of the individuals in question. In the case of Paul, we have an example of the absolute sovereignty of God in  

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effecting His will even when the subject himself was utterly opposed to it. When Saul was converted (Acts 9), however, he did not immediately receive a new name, for he was still being referred to as Saul after that (Acts 13:2).  He continued to be called Saul until there came the significant words, "then Saul who was also called Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit. . . " (Acts 13:9). Such was his character thereafter that he never looked back, never returned to his old way of life, and never longed to be anything but this new man: and thereafter he is never again referred to as Saul.
     With Jacob, however, the story is otherwise. It is difficult to be absolutely sure of the significance of Jacob's wrestling with the angel. Around this event the Jewish commentators have built up a number of stories, and some say that the slight limp or stoop which is detectable, they think, in Jewish people as they grow older was inherited from the "wound" Jacob received when the angel touched his thigh. Much later in history, it was believed that when our Lord said, "When ye see these things come to pass, lift up your heads" (Luke 21:28), He was really saying "straighten up," since redemption was nigh. Whatever truth or fancy there may be in these traditions, one thing is certain and that is that a profound change took place in Jacob himself. To signify this change, he was given a new name, "Israel".
     But Jacob was not always called Israel thereafter, and in like manner his descendants were not always referred to as Israel either ‹ but under certain circumstances as Jacob. Although I have not followed through all the passages of Scripture which might be used as proof texts, there is no doubt that upon many occasions both Jacob himself as an individual and his descendants as a nation were referred to as Jacob or Israel depending upon whether they were behaving in the character of the natural man, which was Jacob, or the supernatural man, which was Israel. There are not a few passages in which the distinction is brought out in a striking manner. Thus, in Isaiah 9:8 it is written, "The Lord sent the word unto Jacob and it hath lighted upon Israel." Clearly this looks forward to the time when the Word was made flesh and came to His own and His own received Him not (John 1:11). Yet some did. And to those who did, He gave the power to become the sons of God (John 1:12), for
these were the ones who received the light and these were such therefore who, like Nathaniel, were Israel
indeed (John 1:49). 

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     Similarly, as the prophets looked forward to the time when the nation would be brought into terrible judgment, it was to be a time of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). Nevertheless, as Paul was much later to assure the household of faith, in the time of that great tribulation all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26). Indeed,
Paul virtually clinches the distinction which we are proposing here by pointing out that this will come about because "God shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:26).
     There is no question that all men, saved and unsaved alike, are at times servants of God (Psalm 119:91) and that in the total economy of God all men play their little part knowingly or unknowingly. In this sense the Christian also is a servant even as the Lord was a Servant. But the Lord also told His disciples that because they had entered into a new relationship with Him, they had not ceased to be servants but had become something more than servants merely: they had become personal friends (John 15:15). This transaction resulted ultimately from the fact that they were elect. His very next words to them were "Ye have not chosen Me but I have
chosen you" (John 15:16). It is not surprising, therefore, to find this same principle applied in the Old Testament in a way that bears out what we have said about Jacob's two names. In Isaiah 45:4 it is written, "for Jacob my servant's sake and Israel mine elect."
     When we are invited to make our requests "in His name," this may actually mean something more than merely making our requests "for His sake." By pronouncing His name there may be a sense in which we are gaining a certain power provided that we do indeed "know" the Lord and do indeed therefore "know" His name. In some way this might look like presumption, yet we are told in Scripture that we may "command Him" (Isaiah 45:11) . I think that whether we really know the name we use in the sense of knowing the person whose name it is, or are merely making noises as it were, is quite clear to the Lord Himself. In a crowd of people where several share the same name, the way in which one particular individual addresses another by that name immediately reveals that he does know that person as quite distinct from any of the others who may happen to share the same name ‹ just as the Lord called Mary's name at the tomb when she had failed to recognize His voice up to that moment and He was immediately identified. I think the Lord knows when His name is being appealed to rightly and when it is merely being used ritually. 

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.     Here, then, are some of the passages in Scripture which appear to be predicated upon the mystical identity between word and thing, and name and personality, a concept recognized in one way or another by probably half the people of the world ‹ that half which does not share Western tradition ‹ but repudiated for
the most part by us. And this repudiation has tended to blind us to one side of our nature to which Scripture nevertheless has addressed itself without our realizing it. There is no doubt that once the fact itself is recognized, many more illuminating things will be discovered in the Word of God which have hitherto escaped our notice. 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved 

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