Friday, July 11, 2008


In the past, I have drawn attention to a few examples of 17th-century New Englanders named Jezebel. This name puzzles me. Why would an intensely religious person name his or her daughter after a Biblical woman who is chiefly remembered as being "representative of all that is designing, craftty, malicious, and cruel" and for being eaten by dogs? I am similarly puzzled by New Englanders named Bathsheba (Bathsheba Lee of Concord, MA d. 1791 @ age 70). It's not as bad as Jezebel, but Bathsheba doesn't have very positive associations either.

I would like to add a new name to this discussion:


There are several men named Antipas in the Boston records, including Antipas Boyce (b. Feb. 8, 1661/2), Antipas Edwards (b. Nov. 23, 1698), and Antipas Marshall (b. May 3, 1699).

Antipas is a Biblical name, but not one with generally positive associations. There is a minor martyr named Antipas of Pergamum who is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, but very little is known about him. The more famous Antipas is Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, executioner of John the Baptist, and instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus.

Herod Antipas was not a good role model for little boys in Puritan Massachusetts. In a 1738 catechism printed in Boston (title page at right), the section on Herod Antipas goes like this:
M: By whom and for what was [John the Baptist] made a Prisoner?
C: By Herod, viz. Herod-Antipas, Son to that Herod, who sought Christ's Life. And the Reason of it was because John said to Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy Brother's Wife: And well he might, for Herod in that one Act, was guilty of Violence, Adultery, & Incest.
If Puritan parents named their children Thankful and Prudence because they hoped that they would exhibit those virtues, how can we explain names like Jezebel and Antipas?

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