"How Did Jesus Find Disciples With Those Names In The Middle East?"



Sometimes, questions or arguments about the Christian faith that I find online make me ask, "Where in the world did that come from?" Sometimes the arguments that I see against Christianity are so bad that I am left scratching my head as to how someone could come up with that argument in the first place. Today, I ran across one such argument. I have run across it before, but I largely ignored it because I didn't think that too many people would give it their time or energy. Yet lately, I have seen it more and more often in both discussion groups and in comments on various posts. The issue that I am talking about is this:

You would think that the average person would understand transliteration, but alas, this doesn't seem to be the case, especially when I see responses like this one:

How this became something that has become prominent in some circles is beyond me. How others do not see the issues with this argument also perplex me. Let's look at a couple of those problems.

The Logical Issue

So to provide context, this appears to be most often raised among individuals and groups who make the claim that Jesus never existed as a historical person. The second place that I commonly see this issue raised are in contexts where the reliability of the Bible is challenged. The reasoning appears to be that, since the English translations of the Bible uses names that are, well, English, then it follows that the text is either not reliable or that the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels are fabricated, which would, in the minds of the person making the argument, raise questions surrounding the historicity of Jesus. Besides being non-sequiturs, there are other, additional problems with this idea, not the least of which is the fact that this is not typically applied to other ancient, historical documents. No one looks at the accounts of Alexander the Great's conquests and argues that they must be later, unreliable accounts because the name Alexander (or its shortened form, "Alex") became a popular name over the course of the last few decades. We would recognize that this is a ridiculous argument to make. We should, therefore, also recognize how ridiculous the equivalent argument is when applied to the Bible.


Many of the names that we read in the New Testament are transliterations. Let's take a look at a couple of examples:

Simon Peter is the transliteration of the Greek name "Simon Petros." The name Simon was a common name among Jewish people in the first century. In fact, as one studies Jewish history surrounding this time period, one sees that Simon was, in fact, not an uncommon name. Simon Thassi, for example, was a leader in the Maccabean Revolt. Peter, as well, was a common Greek name. There is no reason to think that Jesus could not have found a Jewish man named Simon, who he nicknamed Peter, to be one of his disciples.

In a similar way, the name "John" is also a transliteration of a Jewish name that was common in the first century AD and even earlier. There was a John (Greek: "Joannes") among the Maccabees. John Hyrcanus was a high priest in Jerusalem near the end of the 2nd century BC. Later, his great-grandson, John Hyrcanus II, became the high priest.

Similar points could be made about names such as "Matthew," "Andrew," "Elizabeth," "Phillip," and "Thomas." There is no good reason to doubt that these were all names that existed, in an untransliterated form, in the Near East in the first century AD.

The name "Jesus," itself, is a transliteration of the Greek "Iesus." It is not, as the commenter above believes, a name that is Spanish in origin. Instead, those who are named "Jesus" today are often named after Jesus Christ.


While I didn't think that it would need to be said, this complaint against Christianity doesn't hold water. Unfortunately, with the rise of social media in the last several years, we should expect to see more bad arguments against our faith coming from social media's echo chamber.


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