Name change in the bible? Why are they important and how many are there?


So there have been many name changes in the bible. How many are there in total and why are they important?

Abrahm to Abraham
Sarai to Sarah
Jacob to Israel
Simon to Peter


My non-professional opinion is that it is to signify a big change in someone’s life, and that this name change is a way of making that known to others. It is like a form of evangelization, beginning with whom the person is.

Must be careful with name changes in NT. Saul / Paul maybe were two existing names by which he was known. Saul was his Hebrew name, because he was Jewish and Paul was his Greek name, because that was the general language in places that he traveled.

My grandparents went by names other than their baptismal names, for some reason that I don’t understand. I don’t think it was for religious reasons, but for some social reason.

A new name says something to others and to one’s self.


The one who gives you your name is the one who has authority over you and cares for you. The one who names you is the one you serve. You get your identity and purpose from the one who names you.

God named Adam but allowed Adam to name the beasts. This shows us the proper order of creation. Beasts serve man and draw their identity and purpose from man while man is to care for the beasts as a gift from God. Man serves God and draws his identity and purpose from God while God cares for man whom he created.

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:4)

The people of Babel did not get their purpose and identity from God but “made a name for themselves.” They gloried in their own accomplishments and based their value as people on what they had done for themselves rather than on their relationship with God.

Joseph and Azariah said the same thing in 1 Maccabees 5. They said, “Let us make a name for ourselves” and went into battle. They were slaughtered.



I agree with the previous poster. In addition, I will add this. Naming is a way of asserting one’s authority over the other. These people have been selected especially by God. They have accepted this and they are His.


It goes to identity and ownership. To whom does a man owe his allegiance? New allegiances call for new names.

We have the same thing even now in this society. The true name is not the same as the legal name. The family name is tacked onto the true name, creating the legal name, which is controlled by government.

One also has the option of using any name he wants, provided it’s not used to defraud anyone.


Does accepting the name of one’s patron saint @ confirmation figure into this?


Not in the sense of changing your name. You’re adding a name of someone who is a friend of God whom you wish to emulate. But you don’t change your name.


Well, yes. Your name is whatever you answer to when called. My dog calls me ‘woof’, and my kids call me ‘dad’. I answer to those names.

When Moses asked YHWH his name, it is translated in various ways, but basically ‘I AM WHO I AM’.

I took Joseph as my new name at confirmation, and I answer to it, too.


Two more, or maybe 1 1/2.
Joshua to Jesus
And the triple play: Simon to Cephas to Peter.


Pharaoh renamed Joseph.

And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaph’enath-pane’ah; and he gave him in marriage As’enath, the daughter of Poti’phera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:45)

Joseph was Pharaoh’s prime minister or right-hand man. Pharaoh is a forshadowing of Christ while Joseph is a forshadowing of Peter. Also Daniel and his three companions, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, who were all placed in the furnace and lived. ,

Among these were Daniel, Hanani’ah, Mish’a-el, and Azari’ah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshaz’zar, Hanani’ah he called Shadrach, Mish’a-el he called Meshach, and Azari’ah he called Abed’nego. (Daniel 1:6-7)

This was during the Babylonian exile, under the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

And let’s not forget St. Paul. :wink:



Never thought of that!!


Josheph the Cyprian became Barnabas.Barnabas means “Son of encouragement.”

Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36-36)

Isaiah prophesied that God would change the name of the city of Jerusalem.

*The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
which the mouth of the LORD will give.

(Isaiah 62:2)



In certain instances, names may be pronounced slightly differently depending on who is saying them. Adolf Hitler was baptized Adolphus Hitler by his church. His predecessors, who were generally illiterate peasants, alternately had their names written down in various records as Hiedler, Huttler, Hytler, Hietler, Huetler, Huedler. So, are these really name changes or just variations on a name pattern established by word of mouth?

In the movie “The Godfather, Part II” Vito Andolini from Corleone, Sicily has his name recorded by the immigration clerk as Vito Corleone.

Because scripture is the result of original text being copied over and over and over through the centuries by imperfect human scribes, it is a wonder that anything stayed the same.


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