Jewish Journal

Christians with Hebrew names

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 30, 2011 | 11:08 am

You probably won’t meet a lot of Christians with the name Greenberg (or Goldberg) in your life. But, as you’ve probably noticed, a lot of American boys have Jewish names.

Religion professor Stephen Prothero writes for CNN:

According to data from the Social Security Administration website, Jacob (as in “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”) was the most popular name for boys born in the United States in 2009. In fact, it has been the most popular name for newborn boys since 1999.

Among the 10 most popular boys names, six are Hebrew (Jacob, Ethan, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Noah) and another (Jayden)—like Paul Newman and Goldie Hawn in Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song”—is half Jewish (derived, some say, from the American name Jaden and the Hebrew name Jadon). In fact, the only non-Jewish names in the top 10 are Alexander (Greek), William (German), and Anthony (Latin).

Among the XX-chromosome set, Hebrew names are not so dominant, though the most popular girls name (Isabella) is Hebrew, as is the eighth (Abigail, King David’s third wife). Rounding out the top 10 on the newborn girls side for 2009 are a mishmash of Greek (Sophia, Chloe), Latin (Olivia, Emily) and others (Emma, Ava, Madison and Mia).

What is striking about both lists, however, is the absence of Christian names. When I was born in 1960, two Gospel authors (John and Mark) cracked the top 10 for boys, and Mary was the most popular name for newborn girls.

Prothero doesn’t explain why this is. Maybe he just doesn’t know. I certainly don’t. Though I also don’t find these statistics surprising. Four of my six groomsmen were Christians with Hebrew names: Aaron, Benjamin, David and Matthew.

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