The Names of My Children

I have two kids with my wife, Christina, and I wanted to jot down their name meaning. My first-born son is Samuel Luke Vandivier and he is 2 years old. My second-born daughter is Ellie Marie Vandivier and she turns 6 months old later this month.

My wife and I are intentional about not choosing a name that is identified with a family member. We want to avoid imprinting an identity or role model person other than Jesus. We intend the name to convey our hopes for the child. As much as I love my family, I think it would be negatively constraining to hope that my child turns out like some particular member of our family. Removing names of living relatives eliminates John, Matthew, and Mark.

Luke was chosen because it was an available Gospel book. The middle name is intended to highlight that we hope he holds the gospel dear. The many other peculiarities of Luke, such as the fact that he was a doctor and it was an orderly account, were not intended by us but perhaps they can be seen as a providential selection.

We were intentional about choosing one New Testament name, ideally a Gospel name, and one Old Testament name, to drive home the importance of the whole Bible. I preferred Lucas, the Greek form, and I wanted to select a Hebrew Old Testament name in order to emphasize the message that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, but many of the Hebrew names sounded admittedly strange and we were mindful not to give our kids names which are too outlandish. Negotiation with the wife supported the English variants.

Samuel was selected in part because I wanted a Levite name. A priestly name to signal the dedication of my firstborn to God. Tina felt connected to Hannah because Samuel was born out of prayer and miracle to Hannah. Tina and I had a miscarriage during our first pregnancy. Samuel was born from our second pregnancy, and we consider him a miraculous answer to our prayers against miscarriage. Tina also felt that the name just sounded right. She was partial to it even before she could tell the biblical story of Samuel from memory. Tina’s perspective on Sam’s name is detailed here.

I am particular to the name Samuel because this is the prophet who warned against Kings and favored the Old Judges. This can be read to communicate favor to Christian Anarcho-Capitalism and opposition to monopolistic human statism.

Ellie Marie is named in such a way as to pay respect to both family lineages and the bible without specifically matching identity with a particular person. Tina is ethnically Jewish, and since this ethnicity is passed down maternally it means that Ellie’s children will continue the lineage. Tangentially, I get to joke that my son is a redheaded jew.

Marie is a family middle-name in Tina’s family, going back to the first Christian ancestor in her Jewish lineage. There were other Christians earlier elsewhere in the family tree, but not along the singular matrilineal line. Four generations back, in Poland, Tina’s great-great-grandmother converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. Her name was Sabina Marie Grzesozeck. She was born with the middle-name of Marie even before she was Christian! Of course, Marie contains a reference to Mary which is a deeply Christian name, highly valued in the Roman Catholic church, and representing a multitude of values which for Tina and I can be collectively surmised as characterizing a biblical woman. Sabina’s female descendants have all had the middle name of Marie and we continue this to honor Tina’s family line.

Ellie is a name with three intended meanings and a possible fourth providential meaning. First, the relation to my family line: My grandmother is Marijane Vandivier. I asked my family to help brainstorm names with the only key intended meaning from me being the hope that Ellie would get along well with Sam. Marijane suggested some names and was most partial to Elizabeth, the name of her favorite sister. I wouldn’t want to name my daughter after this particular person, but the name Ellie pays homage to Elizabeth while at the same time not being the same name. I also wanted to avoid Elizabeth because it is an English name, not a biblical name, and makes me think of Queen Elizabeth and several other women named Elizabeth of which I’m not terribly a fan.

So Ellie is in part a reference to Elizabeth. It is also the shortened female form of two biblical names: Elijah and Elisha. Elijah is a major prophet in the Old Testament. Elijah means “My God is Yahweh” and he fought against Baal worship. Elisha means “God is (my) salvation.” Elisha succeeded Elijah in prophet lineage. So Ellie is meant to capture these hopes, that Ellie will follow Yahweh and find salvation through God.

Unintended is that Ellie can also be taken as a female form of Eli, the prophet who oversaw Samuel. Kind of weird to think a younger sister might be a mentor in some respect. That was not intended but hey, it may happen. I would love for Sam to grow up with a mindset that he can learn from, not just teach, his younger sister.

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