I was doing some research for a spotlight on Jacob, which I’ll post later this morning, and came across this bit from our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict, regarding the incident in the bible when Jacob fights the unknown assailant (Genesis 32:23-33):
“His rival, who seems to be held back and therefore defeated by Jacob, rather than giving in to the Patriarch’s request, asks him his name: “What is your name?”. And the Patriarch replies: “Jacob” (v. 28). Here the struggle takes an important turn. In fact, knowing someone’s name implies a kind of power over that person because in the biblical mentality the name contains the most profound reality of the individual, it reveals the person’s secret and destiny. Knowing one’s name therefore means knowing the truth about the other person and this allows one to dominate him. When, therefore, in answer to the unknown person’s request Jacob discloses his own name, he is placing himself in the hands of his opponent; it is a form of surrender, a total handing over of self to the other.”
It’s commentary like this that reinforces for me that our interest in names isn’t frivolous at all — names are so important!