Biblical Anthroponymy: Best Dictionary Resource?

Discussion in 'Languages' started by Parmenas, Dec 20, 2017.

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  1. Parmenas

    Parmenas Puritan Board Freshman

    What (preferably free) dictionary resource provides the most literal, most accurate, and most reliable English renderings of the meanings of biblical anthroponyms (names of persons)?

    Below is an example of the variety in renderings that one may encounter.

    Name: Josiah.
    Strong's Definitions: Founded of Jah.
    Smith's Bible Dictionary: Whom Jehovah heals.
    Easton's Bible Dictionary: Healed by Jehovah, or Jehovah will support.
    Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary: The Lord burns; the fire of the Lord.
     
  2. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    There's a lot of nonsense out there. The standard Hebrew lexicon Brown-Driver-Briggs offers a rendition of most names that has at least some basis in linguistics. In the case of Josiah, it opts for "The Lord supports". But BDB is dated in some areas and I wouldn't count on it. I'd look at the best critical commentary on the passage before I'd go into print on the meaning of a name.
    We should also note that some names in Hebrew (as in English) are transparent. Any first year Hebrew student can tell you what Samuel means ("God heard"), just as the origin of the English name "Taylor" is fairly clear. The origin and meaning of other names is not clear at all, however (like Mahlon and Chilion, Naomi's sons). There are guesses as to their meaning, but no certainty. In addition, the Bible sometimes uses puns or "folk etymologies" of names, in which case the technical derivation of the name actually won't help you. In general, I think that preachers should be alert to transparent names, which quite often are illuminating, but be careful not to venture into the minefield of speculative name derivations. Thus the fact that Naomi's husband is called Elimelech (My God is King), but proceeds to live as if there were no king in Israel and thus does whatever is right in his own eyes (like everyone else in the days of the Judges) is illuminating and is obvious at first sight to everyone who reads Hebrew. This helps us to appreciate the tragic irony of the opening chapter of Ruth
     
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