Few books have inspired more baby names than the Bible. Epic tales of miracles and catastrophes, the creation of the world, and the divine hand of God depict the triumph of the human spirit and faith. In times of uncertainty and war (or peace and prosperity), Biblical names are enduring and timeless. Here are some common themes and namesakes.
Jacob's Ladder: Biblical Names in the Top 10
Jacob is the most popular boy's name in the United States (according to the 2007 US Social Security Administration). It took the patriarch of the 12 tribes of Israel just five years to move from number nine to number one in 1999, and it has remained at the top ever since. Joining Jacob in the top 10 are the names Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Christopher, Matthew, and Andrew.
Like a group of tussling, unruly brothers, the top five boys' names have jostled each other for position. Jacob bumped Michael to number two in 1999. Then last year Ethan pushed Joshua, which has been in the top five since 1983, out of the third spot to number four. In the Old Testament, Joshua led the Israelites to the Promised Land, succeeding Moses as the leader of his people.
There are even more Biblical names crowded in the top 20: Alexander, David, Joseph, Noah, James, John, and Nicholas. By comparison, only two Biblical names—Abigail and Hannah—stand in the top 10 girls' names.
Rising star: The third son of Jacob and Leah, the prophet Levi counted Moses and Aaron among his descendants in the Levite tribe. In the New Testament, Levi was the original name of Matthew. Currently at #132, Levi is fast approaching a popularity it has not enjoyed since the late 1880s and will only continue to rise now that Matthew McConaughey has chosen the name for his son.
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells the story of creation, follows the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, their sons Cain and Abel, Noah's ark, and the Tower of Babel. Genesis, which means "beginning" in Hebrew, has become a fashionable name for girls in recent years, climbing from #757 to #139 between 1988 and 2007.
Not surprisingly, Eden has also become a trendy girl's name, evoking visions of paradise on earth and a garden of delights. Desperate Housewives star, Marcia Cross, named one of her twin daughters, Eden. Between 1986 to 2007, the name has risen from #958 to #257. A slight variation on the spelling, Edun is the name of a socially-conscious, nature-inspired clothing company co-founded by Bono.
Rising star: Another name with utopian connotations for parents is Zion, which means "highest point" in Hebrew. A symbolic name for the city of Jerusalem, Zion first debuted as a girl's name in 2005 at #1002, but quickly progressed to #576 within two years. Today Zion is more popular as a boy's name. In 2007, it was ranked #236.