[b-hebrew] Ramases

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Jul 30 08:43:09 EDT 2004

On 30/07/2004 00:20, MarianneLuban at aol.com wrote:

>...  Please note that the names of Moshe and Aharon never again 
>appear in the HB--which would be very odd if these were names that meant 
>something in Semitic.  They became used in the Diaspora only when such distinction 
>were no longer so well-drawn as even before that Jews had begun to be called 
>by foreign names quite routinely--mostly Greek or Roman ones.  However, we 
>know the name "Joseph" was used before the Roman dispersion--because, after all, 
>Joseph really is a Semitic name the meaning of which is clear.

Nor do any of the names of the great heroes of early Israel (and I won't 
even look before Abraham), whether or not they are of Semitic origin. 
The following names all refer to just one individual in the Hebrew 
Bible: Abraham/Abram, Sarah/Sarai, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, Rachel, 
Moses, Aaron, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon. Some of these are certainly 
Semitic. Joseph and Joshua are not unique, it is true. But there are 
many names, especially forms ending in -yah(u), which are reused many 
times in the long lists of names in Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, so 
the argument from chance is not at all convincing. This certainly 
suggests that, as Yigal has suggested, there was a reluctance, because 
of respect or some kind of taboo, to name children after these great heroes.

It is strange that there is no such reluctance in modern Judaism (all of 
the names listed above are in common use, I think), nor in Islam, nor in 
Christianity except only for the name Jesus and that only in some 

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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