In the Mail section of the May 3, 2004 New Yorker, Professor Robert Eisenman of Cal State University Long Beach writes
The debate addressed in his letter regards the so-called “James ossuary”, which is alleged to have held the bones of James, brother of Jesus Christ. My question has nothing to do with that debate, but instead is a purely factual one ( hence my having placed this O.P. here, instead of in G.D.)
How can one man have three complete different first names? Is this a case of different names being applied because of different languages being spoken at the time?
Let’s say my name is Dexter Fullbright. My family name, Fullbright, is carried and Dexter is what my parents chose to call me. David Ben Gurion, famous Israeli founder, is David, Ben ( son of ) Gurion. No matter what culture I am placed in, I will be called Dexter Fullbright, and Mr. Ben Gurion would be addressed as he would be in Jerusalem. Local accents aside, our names would be spoken as we are used to. More accurately, my kid’s birth name is Cho Sung-Hee. ( South-Korean) Her birth-family name is Cho. When I refer to that name, I use it as I’ve typed it above, I don’t “Americanize” it by placing the family name after the first name. Similarly, news organizations don’t call the head of North Korea Il-Jung Kim, they call him Kim Il-Jung, because that is how he is known in his own culture. Kim is his family name.
In Biblical times, did one have many different names? Are the various names that the good professor is referring to really all names that Joseph would have been known by? Or, are they various names used in early Christian History to refer to Joseph, even though he never heard them spoken to him?
Note that the good professor said “son of Cleophas” or " son of Alphaeus", not James Ben Cleophas or James Ben Alhaeus. What do I make of this? How many names did James’ father have? Or did he have but one and has history given him many? OR, is one a Hebrew name, one a Greek name and one a Latin name? Or, Aramaic?
Hmph. Any Biblical scholars who really know their languages able to gimme the Straight Dope on why James’ father Joseph has many names?