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"Name" -- Part Three: Its Meaning in Phrases
If Jesus used different words, it is because he wanted to communicate different ideas. My purpose here is revealing the wonderful ideas that Jesus taught. His ideas are much more interesting than their “simplified” translations. For example, Jesus used six different phrases that are usually simplified as, “in my name.”
We must remember that the Greek word translated as “name” (onoma) generally means “reputation” and, from that reputation, “authority.” However, it doesn’t always mean that. Sometimes it only means what someone is called. Because of its translation in the Bible, the phrase “in the name of” has taken on a specific meaning in English, but that meaning ignores the different ideas that Jesus intended in these various phrases.
Those Rascally Prepositions
Jesus used four different Greek prepositions (generally meaning “in,” “upon,” “for,” and “due to”) in these “name” phrases. Some of these phrases have a definite article, “the name,” but others lack it, “a name.” Usually, the “my,” “your,” or “his” we see in translation follows the “name,” with a sense like “this name of mine.”
Prepositions are tricky in ancient Greek, just as they are in English. Their meaning changes with different verbs, and a verb’s meaning changes with different prepositions. There are thousands of examples, but notice the vast difference in meaning between two otherwise identical English sentences using very similar prepositions:
The boy turned in a criminal.
The boy turned into a criminal.
With other verbs, these two prepositions mean identical things:
The boy poured milk in a bowl.
The boy poured milk into a bowl.
The same verb-preposition pairs can even have different meanings in different contexts based on the surrounding words. Consider:
She stood up her date.
She stood up to leave.
She stood up for voters’ rights.
Greek prepositions are even more slippery than English ones because they take different forms of objects, (the “case” of the noun or pronoun) and some prepositions take different cases that change their meaning. The combinations of possible meanings become very complex, very quickly. As in English, many verb-preposition phrases also have multiple idiomatic meanings.
The Six Preposition Phrases
“Name occurs in six different phrases.
“In a name” (ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, ) is the most common phrase, used in twelve verses. Because it is the most common, it created the “default” translation in English. The primary meaning of the Greek preposition, en, is “in.” The definite article used before “name” give the word more of a sense of authority. This is emphasized by the fact this phrase commonly refers to either Jesus or his Father.
Jesus refers to his name in eight verses: Matthew 7:22 using three verbs, “prophesy” (propheteuo) , “cast out” (ekballo) and “done” (poieo), Mark 16:17 with “follow” (akoloutheo), John 14:26 with “send” (pempo), and finally, John 14:13, John 15:16, John 16:23, John 16:24, and John 16:26 all with “ask” (aiteo ). “Jesus references the Father in four verses: John 5:43 using the verb usually translated as “come,” (erchomai), John 10:25 with “do” (poieo), John 17:11 and John 17:12 both with the verb “watch over” (tereo).
"Due to the name" (διὰ τὸ ὄνομά) is interesting because four of its five occurrences use the verb "hated," with the phrase, “due to this name of mine.” In this context, the meaning of the Greek proposition, dia, is “due to.” It generally means “through. The verses are: Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9, and Luke 21:17. All use another phrase meaning "above all" (ὑπὸ πάντων). This is because the Greek verb translated as "hate" is a relative term, understood on a scale of priorities. The only other verb is used by John, who only uses this phrase once: John 15:21 with “do” (poieo).
“Upon the name” ( ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί) is used only to refer to the name of Jesus. The primary meaning of the Greek proposition, epi , is “upon.” It is used in eight verses: Matthew 18:5, Mark 9:37, and Luke 9:48, all with “welcome” (dechomai) referring to “a child.”Matthew 24:5, Mark 13:6, and Luke 21:8 all use “come” (erchomai) referring to “deceiving. Mark 9:39 uses“do” (poieo) referring to a wonder”, and Luke 24:47 with “proclaim” (kerysso )referring to “repentance and remission”. Notice how this phrase is only used by the Synoptic Gospel, usually in parallel verses and. Also notice how little overlap there is in the verbs used. .
“In a name” (ἐν ὀνόματι) used in three verses. Its lack of the definite article, "the," seems to drain “name” of its sense of authority. The Greek proposition is again en. In Mark 9:41 it appears with a description of whose name is involved. and it is used with “give a drink” (potizo). Matthew 23:39 and Luke 13:35 are parallel verses used with “come” (erchomai).
"For the name" (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα) is used in two verses. In this context, the meaning of the Greek proposition, eis , is “for.” It generally means “into.” The sense is “because of their reputation as a student.” In Matthew 10:41, the verb is the phrase appears twice, both with “welcomes” (dechomai). The first in the name of a prophet” and the second, in “the name of a righteous man.” In Matthew 10:42, the verb is “give a drink” (potizo) and the name is “of a student.”
Want to Know More?
Can I simply tell you exactly what these different phrases mean? I can get close, but it would require an article on each phrase. I will survey everyone to see how much you want it.