One of the central themes of The Book of Names centers around the idea of names, oddly enough. It's not just the titular object that I'm talking about. Briggs seems to base some of his book's idea on the ancient idea that names carry power.
This is actually an idea that pops up in the Bible. Remember Exodus 3? God shows up in a burning bush and tells Moses to head back to Egypt. Before he goes, though, Moses has a question for God: "Suppose I do go and tell the Israelites that You sent me. What if they ask me what Your name is? What should I tell them?" God's answer is the cryptic "I Am Who I Am."
One of the reasons why God might have answered that way is because of what the ancient Egyptians believed. Names have power. If you knew a person's true name, you had power over them. For example, the goddess Isis once gained power over Ra, the supreme god, by learning his true name. It's entirely possible that Moses, with his Egyptian education, asked God what His name was as a back-up position. If he knew God's true name, he could try to control Him.
That's why God replies with the enigmatic "I Am Who I Am" (which is even more cryptic in the original Hebrew; the grammar is a bit vague). He lets Moses know that He can't be controlled by human beings. He's no genie in a bottle.
This idea of names being a part of us reminded me of something I often say when I perform baptisms. All of us are born with a true name, one that describes us fully. That name is "Sinner." But because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, God can and will change our names to "Christian." Our new name becomes a part of us and changes our destiny.
Anyway, there we go. A little sermonic rambling for your Wednesday. Go see what the other tourists have to say:
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