Friday, 3 June 2016

Names And Words

Gratillonius and Verania do indeed have a son, Marcus, named after Gratillonius' father, not, as Verania's parents think, after the Evangelist. But why can he not be named after both? A name can evoke any of its previous bearers - although Gratillonius Senior cannot have been named after the Evangelist because he was a Mithraist.

Pope John Paul II was named after his predecessor who was named after his two predecessors who were named after authors of the New Testament, one of whom, Paul, was named after the second King of Israel, Saul. Thus, one joint name summarized all that history in the Abrahamic tradition.

But any words can do the same. I attended a talk where the speaker said, "In the beginning was the deed." He was quoting Goethe's Faust who was deliberately misquoting and correcting the beginning of the Fourth Gospel. The Fourth Evangelist quoted the opening phrase of Genesis and linked it to a Greek philosophical concept. Here we not only look back along the Abrahamic tradition but also synthesize it with the Classical tradition - and also advance the traditions by progressing from word to deed.

Paradoxes: Faust contrasted deed with word; "deed" and "word" are both words; to speak is to act.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Quite true! A child's name can remind others of multiple bearers of the same name. Altho, sometimes, parents might try to stress one bearer of a name over others. E.g., John Baptist for John the Baptist or John Evangelist for the author of the gospel.


  2. Sean,
    I forgot to mention that both "Name" and "Word" have been capitalized in the tradition. I once offended an orthodox Jewish man by pronouncing the Tetragammaton, the Name that Moses heard.

    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Yes, I too have heard of the Jewish reverence for the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, and their reluctance to pronounce it. Traditionally, only the High Priest said that Name, once a year, at the Passover festival. It also led to YHWH being subsituted by "the LORD" when it appeared in the Scriptures.