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What’s in a name?

Wikipedia estimates there are 2600 proper names mentioned in the Bible. Whole studies have been done on Bible names and their meanings. The general consensus is that proper names emanated from such things as national heritage, religious influences, family characteristics, physical characteristics, or the names of natural objects such as plants and animals.

What about Tabitha, who is generally known as Dorcas?

English: Gazella dorcas neglecta (Dorcas gazel...

English: Gazella dorcas neglecta (Dorcas gazelle) in the Zoo de Madrid, Spain. Español: Gazella dorcas neglecta (gacela dorcas) en el Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, España. Galego: Gazella dorcas neglecta no Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, España. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sources agree that the name Tabitha is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew name which means a “female gazelle.” The gazelle was regarded in the East, among both Jews and Arabs, as a standard of beauty. The word properly means “beauty.” Luke gives Dorcas as the Greek equivalent of the name.

Carol Meyers, General Editor of Women in Scripture (2000 “Tabitha”) comments: “The name [Tabitha] itself appears to have originated as a nickname, rather than as a proper name. Its use is attested in rabbinic traditions thought to date to the late first century C.E., where it appears to have been common among the slave population; it is possible that Tabitha herself was either a slave or a freedwoman of slave origins” (160).

Meyers’s comment peaked my curiosity, but since she does not cite her specific source regarding rabbinic traditions, and I have not been able to verify this, it remains just that—an interesting but thus far unsubstantiated possibility.

About womenfromthebook

Mine is a life-long interest in the women of the Bible, and I enjoy exploring the world in which they lived, and discovering the challenges that they faced. I have enough curiosity about them to last the rest of my life.

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