The Ottumwa Courier

April 11, 2013

Biblical names were once prominent

Ottumwa Courier

---- — Biblical names given to our ancestors’ children were extremely important with most now out of favor except the New Testament names of Mark, Peter, John, Paul and Andrew with Timothy coming in close behind.

Going through an old church yard looking at stones or if you are involved in genealogy, you become familiar with the names from the Old Testament as Sarah, Mary, Naomi, Deborah, Samuel, Joseph, Adam, David, Ezekiel, Zachariah, Ezra, Elijah, Moses, Isaiah and Josiah, along with the names all of the New Testament disciples (the names of Jezebel and Judas don’t seem to be found anywhere but in the Good Book).

The New Testament disciples’ names still remain popular. Sarah and Mary have stood the test of time with Deborah and Naomi still being used to a lesser degree. Why were these names so important to our ancestors?

With their view of Christianity, our ancestors took the God of the Bible literally and seriously. The pioneer culture depended on their interpretation of the Old Testament, which led to the disciplined lives needed for the hard work required for settlement. The shiftless and loungers were shunned when they did not accept the expected responsibilities due family and community.

However, the pioneers accepted the proposition that to avoid Hell’s fire and brimstone along with the hard work, was to be saved by the blood of the risen Christ of the New Testament, and believed it was their duty to make certain that all lost souls be given this message to keep them away from Satan’s clutches.

Unfortunately, the love opened up by the New Testament was a long time taking root and “thou shalt not” ruled the day.

Having a big love fest wasn’t going to get the work done nor please the God who provided the rain and sun for the assurance of a good growing season.

As there was very little money circulating in the beginning, they had to be self-sufficient and believed their success depended on the view the stern, but beneficent, God took of their hard work and intent.

As it was important that their children be brought up in the “admonition of the Lord” as homes were built, churches were organized with settlers coming from far and wide for church meetings in a home and many times having to spend the night in their wagons.

If there was to be a church building, it was up to a generous homesteader to give a piece of ground for it, and many times a connecting burial ground.

As education was second in importance, this new log cabin church would become the first school. It is hard to imagine today that many of these log structures were built with wooden pegs instead of nails.

Many things are hard to imagine today.

Sue Parrish is a retired museum director and author of the book, “Days Gone By.”