Hidden Divinities

By Moore, Michael | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Hidden Divinities


Moore, Michael, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


Over 100 years ago, Henry Preserved Smith, an American biblical scholar whom the Presbytery of Cincinnati tried for heresy in 1892, claimed to have found about 150 names of divinities in the Jewish Bible, many of them given to individuals. He commented on the widespread use of theophorous proper names in ancient times, "however startling to modern ideas" (Smith, 1907; see also Faulkner, 2008, p. 149). Current anthroponomastics, however, belie his misplaced and premature observation: This practice remains with us to this very day. Furthermore, though I doubt that believers in omnipresence had this in mind, the names of divinities appear in many other contexts, as well, Many of these hide even from native speakers of the languages involved. Who notices nowadays the word for "god" in English "gossip" ("god sibb") or in Russian "spasiba" ("thank you"; a contraction of "spasi bog" or "save you god")? Chances of recognizing the godly element further diminish when it comes from a foreign language, such as the Greek "theos" in "enthusiasm" or the presence of the Hebrew ending "ya" ("god") in "hallelujah."

While I certainly do not pretend to provide an exhaustive list, the following will give a taste of the contemporary ubiquity of the names of gods (Harrak, undated; see also Souvay, 1911).

Names

For the use of theophorous given names, Mozart can serve as a good example: He called himself Amadeus, Theophilus, or Gottlieb, at different times, all meaning either the lover or the beloved of god (same as Habibullah). Patrinomials can also contain "god," as in Goodrich, Gottschalk, Gottfried (same as Godfrey and perhaps also Geoffrey), Gottlieb, Gotthard (Goddard), Gottwald, Gottwin (probably the source of Godwin and Goodwin), Gottesman, Gottdiener (cf. Abdallah), Herrgott, and so on. Some of these appear as both given and family names.

A large group of given names contains either as a prefix or a suffix one (and sometimes two) of the Hebrew morphemes that mean "god" (el, ya, yahu, yeho, yo), such as Daniel, Emanuel, Gabriel (and its Arabic equivalent, Jibril), Michael, Moriah, Raphael, and so on (many of these have both feminine and masculine forms). Several have entered English in a somewhat different form, where the original god-name has become less recognizable, as in Elias, Elizabeth (and Eliza, Lisa, Elspeth, etc., but not Alice), Elliott, Jesus, Joachim, Joel, John, Jonathan (but not Jonah), Joseph (an appellation), Josh, Lazarus, Matthew, or Michele.

Here follows a further list of some interesting examples of human names containing the name of divinities that stem from different cultures and languages:

  Beizebub (aka Lord of the Flies
  Bogornil and Bogdan
  perhaps David (as well as Dawson, Dawkins, Dewey), after a sun-god
  named Dodo
  Dimitri
  Doris
  Denis, Denise, and Dion
  Dominic and Dominique
  Elimelech
  perhaps Esther
  George and its Russian form Yuriy
  Godiva
  Ishrnael
  Israfil
  Issa and Eisa
  Marius, Martin, and perhaps Mark
  Mordecai
  Osmond, Oscar, and Oswald
  Rhea
  Thea, Theodore, and Dorothea (but not Theobald or Tibalt).
  The shortened forms Dirk, Diederick, and Dieter do not contain the
  crucial first element; the Russian form Fjodor, however, does
  Tiffany
  Timothy

In addition to the several Arabic names included in the above list, hundreds more employ one of Allah's many appellations, used by Muslims, from Abdul-Alim Servant of the Omniscient through Abdul-Latif--Servant of the Kind One to Abdul-Wahid--Servant of the One.

Entering the Hindu pantheon provides endless further opportunities due to the large number of divinities and their many appellations. As in the case of Muslim names, mostly these appellations serve as given names, rather than the names of the gods and goddesses themselves. A few examples out of hundreds: Aditri (the goddess Lakshmi), Anish (the bold Shiva), Anwita (the goddess Durga), Kalidas (servant of the goddess Kali), or Mahasweta (the goddess Saraswati).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hidden Divinities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.