Looking for an unexpected Biblical choice for a son? Here’s a seldom-heard possibility, rich with meaning.
Thanks to Adrienne for suggesting Lazarus as our Baby Name of the Day.
In the New Testament Gospel of John, Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha, a friend to Jesus of Nazareth.
When he fell critically ill, the sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus didn’t hurry. In fact, he didn’t arrive until Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days.
John tells us that Jesus tells the anguished sisters, “I am the resurrection, and the life …” and then proceeds to work a miracle.
He brings Lazarus back to life.
The tomb is located on the Mount of Olives, and remains a pilgrimage site.
The name comes from the Greek Lazaros, via the Hebrew Eleazar – God has helped.
It might be more accurate to say that Lazarus means simply “resurrection,” both to the faithful and in mainstream culture.
Lazarus has many uses – medical and scientific, as well as literary and pop culture.
- “Lady Lazarus” is one of Sylvia Plath’s Holocaust poems, a chilling tale of a woman facing death for the third time before being reborn as a phoenix. Plath recorded this poem for the BBC in 1962.
- Television shows, especially those with a sci fi bent, have played with the concept, including episodes of The X-Files, Smallville, and Doctor Who.
- In the very rare cases when a patient is declared dead, but then spontaneously revives, it is called Lazarus syndrome.
Then there’s the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, also from the New Testament. Two men die – the rich and powerful one suffers the torments of hell, but the worthy beggar Lazarus rises to heaven. The rich man asks if Lazarus can be sent from heaven to warn others, so there’s a hint of rebirth in this story. But they’re generally considered different figures.
The beggar Lazarus gives us the Order of Saint Lazarus, founded to care for those with leprosy. It’s also the source of the word lazaretto or lazaret – a quarantine station for travelers arriving by ship. They’d disembark and stay for a time, in an attempt to prevent the spread of plague.
All of this makes Lazarus virtuous and just slightly dark, too.
But here’s my favorite Lazarus reference, and one that tilts the name towards Americana.
Jewish, German and Eastern European families have the surname Lazarus, from the personal name, though it can also comes from longer Greek surnames.
American poet Emma Lazarus – the daughter of Jewish immigrants – penned “The New Colossus” in 1883.Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Originally written to help raise funds to build the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, it has been engraved on a plaque at the statue since 1903, a decade after it was written and seven years after the statue opened in 1886.
For many an immigrant, the journey to America has been its own kind of rebirth and redemption – a different kind of Lazarus story.
So while you might think of Lazarus as dark and gothic, ultimately, it is a story of hope and possibility.
108 boys were given the name in 2013, suggesting this is one to watch.
If boys can answer to Atticus and Ezekiel, why not Lazarus?
Do you think Lazarus is catching on? Would you consider the name for a son?