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11. Of Names given at Baptism

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XIV. Of Baptism

11. Of Names given at Baptism. 

The naming of a child has been esteemed a transaction of peculiar interest by all people, and under every form of religion. The onomatology of different nations opens an important field of investigation to the philologist, the historian, and the theological inquirer, for the illustration of national peculiarities. Jews, Mohammedans and Christians, all indicate the common origin of their religion by the similarity of their names, drawn from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Daniel, Job, Tobias, Sarah, Miriam, Rebecca, Hannah, Susanna, etc.

The Jews derive many names from those who have been distinguished among the Levites and Pharisees, as Levi, Aaron, Phineas, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc.

Christian nations, on the contrary, derive their names from the christian virtues, Grace, Faith, Temperance, etc.; also from the martyrs and apostles – Stephen, Peter, Paul, Polycarp, Matthew, Ursula, Clara, etc. Again, they compound names expressive of reverence and affection for God and for Christ, as Gottlieb, Gottlob, Theophilus, Christlieb, etc.. Beloved of God, God-loving, etc.

The modern practice of giving the names at baptism probably originated with infant baptism. It may have been derived from the rites of circumcision. No mention, however, is made of this practice either in the New Testament or in the early ecclesiastical writers. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Constantine, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, etc. retained the same names after baptism which they had previously borne. But there are not wanting instances of a change of name at baptism, about the same period of time. Slephanus the bishop in baptizing two young people, Adria and Paulina, changed their names, giving the former the name of Neo, and the latter that of Maria. Nemesius, after baptism by the same person, retained his original name, whilst his daughter was called by a new name, Lucilla. Eudokia, wife of Theodosius the emperor, received that name at her baptism. Balsamus, on being asked his name, said, "My surname is Balsamus, but my spiritual name, which I received at baptism, is Peters

Whilst the system of catechetical instruction preliminary to baptism continued, the name seemed to have been designated some time before the administration of that rite; as appears from the custom, often mentioned by writers of that period, of entering the names of candidates in the baptismal register. 

The name was assumed by the individual himself, if of adult age. Either the parents, or sponsors conferred the names upon a child at his baptism. The right belonged, appropriately, to the parents. The minister by whom the rite was administered had, also, the right of refusing the names proposed, if it appeared to him to be objectionable.

D. Mart. Luther's Nahmen-Buchlein. 1537: Neu edirt mit Anmerk. von Godofr. Wegener. Lips. 1674. 8: Jo. Henr. Stuss, De nofninnm mutatione sacra. Goth. 1735. 4: H. A. Meinders, De nominibus et cognominibus Germanorum et aliorum populorum septenir. vet. S. Miscell. Lips. torn. vi. p. 1 seq.: Catalogus notninum pr. in Goldasti Antiq. Ale.iiann. torn. ii. p. 92 seq.

Baron. Annal. A. D. 259.

Soe. eecl. hist. lib. vii. c. 21.

Cyril. Hieros. Procatech. and Catech. 3: Gregor. Nyss. Orat. in cos. qui differ. Bapt.: Augustin. Confess, lib. ix.

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