In this series Professor Shmuel Safrai introduces readers to several prominent priests—descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses—who play a role in the New Testament. To read more articles in the New Testament Priests series, click here.
…and she [Elizabeth] gave birth to a son…. On the eighth day when they came to circumcise the child they were going to name him after his father, but his mother interrupted, “No, his name will be John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” Then they made signs to his father to find out what he wished to name him. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:57-63)
The naming of a child at his circumcision ceremony, as presented in Luke 1, is also mentioned in Luke 2:21 regarding the naming of Jesus. In fact, naming a child during the circumcision ceremony is still accepted Jewish practice. The naming rite includes a prayer for the child’s well-being:
May this little one, [the child’s name], be great. Just as he has entered into the covenant of circumcision, may he also enter into the Torah, the marriage canopy, and into good deeds.
Apparently this prayer is quite ancient since part of it is found in the Samaritan ritual as well.