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What's In A Name?

John Collins01/29/2013Cult leaders, like William Branham, try to limit God by distracting their followers from the power of the cross to convince them that salvation is a mystical power humans can control.  Through oppressive legalism and strange doctrine, their followers must "earn" their salvation -- denying the power of the cross.   In one simple statement, Ephesians 2:8 unravels the entire theology of a cult leader:  "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."

William Branham taught that part of the responsibility for salvation lay in the hands of parents.  If parents chose the wrong name for their children, then the child would be "marked" by the name instead of covered by the blood:

And did you ever notice, our young boys has become Ricky and Elvis. You got a child named that, change it right quick, call him number one or two, or something. Don't... That's a horrible... You say, "What difference does the name mean?" Why, sure, it means something. Your name characterizes your life. "Now, Brother Branham, you're on numerology." No, I'm not. I'm on THUS SAITH THE LORD. Why was it when Jacob, he lived to his name as--as deceiver, supplanter, Jacob. And when God changed him, He changed his name. God changed Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter. Certainly, it has something. And Ricky and Elvis, and such names as that, is the modern American name which throws a child automatically right into that.
Branham, 63-0120M

There are multiple problems with the above doctrine, even overlooking the unscriptural aspect.  In this doctrine, Branham only gave two names: "Ricky" and "Elvis."  What if we chose another name that was just as bad?  What if we named our child "Richard," and he used a nickname of "Ricky?"  The questions go on and on.

Most pastors today count this off to numerology, especially since William Branham mentioned it here.  The strange part is that Branham himself was an avid study of numerology, specifically Indian numerology.  Woven all through his doctrines that he called "gospel," Branham would make statements like "The Zodiac was the first bible," or how the planets aligned on his birth.  Many doctrines we were taught are influenced by numerology, and many followers study this pagan practice.  

But the false religion pales in comparison to the numerology aspect to the name "Elvis" being bad for your children.  In Indian numerology, "Elvis" calculates to "9," and there is one other name that calculates to "9":  Jesus.  The Name above all names has the same number that cult pastors say is bad for a child.  

The examples William Branham give in this false doctrine are just as false as the doctrine itself.  Especially the statement claiming that "God changed Saul's name to Paul."  

At the time of the Roman empire, it was common to have two names.  Saul, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), was from a city in Cilicia called Tarsus.  His father was a Roman, and the name "Saul" had a similar name to the Romans: "Paul."  Both names refer to the same person, but one was his Hebrew name and one was his Roman name.  When writing to the Romans or to those cities under Roman influence, Paul used the Roman name instead of the Hebrew name.  

In Acts 13:9, both names are used at the same time: "But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him"

The other names changed in the Bible also show this false teaching for what it is.  In the ancient world, names were not always a lifelong choice.  Many times, they changed as major life-changing events took place.  This is the case with Sarai.  

Sarai was the daughter of Abraham's brother Haran, yet she also had another name: "Iscah."  "And Abram and Nahor took wives.  The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah.  Now Sarai was barren; she had no child."  (Genesis 11:29-30)

God did speak to Abraham, telling him that he would no longer call her name Sarai, but she would be called Sarah.  But this was not because the old name was "unworthy."  The name "Sarai" meant "my princess," while "Sarah" had the meaning of a greater princess, a coming queen.  God was telling Abraham that his bride would no longer simply be his princess, she would be the coming queen for the Jews.

The same is with Abraham's name change.  God told Abraham that he would no longer be called "leader of many," but he would become a "father of nations."


The names "Simon" and "Peter" are a different situation altogether.  "Peter" was more of a nickname than a real name change.  The name "Peter" means "rock," which was quite a compliment.  Peter was a solid rock in the faith.

Matthew mentions Simon by both names in Matthew 4, and then later calls the same person by "Simon," because the name did not actually change.  

"While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen."  Matthew 4:17-19 

"Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" Matthew 16:16

Moreover, this false teaching overlooks the other great men named Simon in the Bible.  Simon of Cyrene carried the cross of Christ!  (Matthew 27:32

As Christians, we should ask ourselves:  Why did we listen to these false teachings from a false prophet?  Why did we let unscriptural teachings influence our faith in Christ by detracting from the power of the Cross?  Why did we allow a man who lied about practically every aspect of his own life lie to us about the scriptures?