From the religious vista, some names are forms of praise or gratitude to the God or gods or idols as the case may be whom the people or the parent serve (or begged for the child). For example: Judah means ‘now I will PRAISE the lord. Oluwatosin (a Yoruba name) means ‘the Lord is worthy to be served,’ Ifatosin means ‘Ifa (a Yoruba diety or oracle) is worthy to be served, Ifaseyi or Oluwaseyi means Ifa, or the Lord, has done this; Ogungbemi means ‘Ogun (a Yoruba god of iron and) favoured me. Malomo means ‘don’t go again’ (an abiku name portraying a plea); Kosoko means ‘no more hoes’ (a name given to abiku to show anger and frustration). ‘Onwubiko’ means ‘death, I beg you, spare’ (an Igbo name given to an ogbanje as a plea).
From the example above, it is known that names are not just for naming sake in certain places in the world.
Now, there is a convention, creed, doctrine, sacrament or something like practice that at baptism, believers should or must take a name associated with the Bible (if they don’t have before) which will be their baptismal name. Many churches or Christians group or believers of Yahweh or Jehovah, even make this system a system of repentance or the evidence of repentance and redemption. We may ask some questions: what is in a name, how does my name affect my life and my faith, Must I change my name to a bible name, why must I change my name, what does the bible teaches concerning changing of names, How does God operate with names, Is it a sin to bear some names, Will god reject me because of idol related names?
There is a concept of name being the compass in people’s life. In many parts of Africa, names are believed to have a bearing in people’s life. That is why the Yoruba people say ‘omo akin ko gbodo sojo’ meaning ‘a child of akin (the brave) must not be cowardly.’ They will say, ‘oruko n ro ni’ meaning that names can influence or affect someone’s life. This belief has its way of being true.
In the Bible, there are certain cases that show that this concept of the influence of names: changing a man’s name from Abram to Abraham and Sarai his wife, to Sarah. In genesis 17:5 God says, ‘neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee (KJV). Gen. 17:16, ‘and God said unto Abraham, as for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her and give thee a son also of her; yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.’
From these verses, we can assert that names have significance in people’s lives as well in relationships.
Some names are prophesied before the birth of the certain children. Such names are Samson, Immanuel, John, Jesus and so on. They are given in line with their purpose or mission for Israel and/or the world. God change Abram to Abraham and his wife, Sarai to Sarah to make them fit for his plan for their present time and their future. Then we can say that name affects faith or someone’s walk with God.
Jacob is another example. Jacob is a supplanter. In genesis 27:36, Esau said, ‘is not he rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times; he took away my birth right, and behold, now he hath taken away my blessing.’ Thus, we see that the name has a bearing on the life of Jacob. But in Genesis 32:28, it is written, ‘and he said, thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but isreal; for as a prince he has thou power with god and with men, and hast prevailed. Now God appeared to Jacob again in Gen 35, and in verse 10, it is written, ‘and God said unto him, thy name is Jacob; thy name shall not be called anymore Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.’
Changing people’s name started with God, thus, it is reasonable to conclude here that, name change can be relevant because name has effect on someone’s life, faith, walk and plans in life.
But, must I change my name! At this point, it becomes crucial to point to the fact that since names (in some or many parts of the world) are important to what he may become or may not become, changing of name is a necessary thing to do (when necessary) but is it compulsory, is it a MUST? Why must I change my name? We need to examine the similarities as well as differences in languages. Names have meaning(s) denotatively and then connotatively in Africa and virtually all other parts of the world. Now, as a matter of fact, culture and religion influence naming a child in most parts of the world.