David Platt in Radical offers that the name Lazarus means “God Is My Help” (p.114). I had never heard that before. So I jotted the note down and later went online to verify. And if you look online, you will actually find this all over the place – in countless sermon texts, bible studies and devotional thoughts.
Okay. So when I read that in the book it immediately struck me as a stretch. Why? Well, here was my logic…
- There are three likely languages to deal with here, Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. I don’t know Aramaic, but my guess is it would be reasonably close to Hebrew so far as names go.
- The “-us” ending definitely is Greek-like. However, nothing in the name smacks of a Greek word for “god,” or even of a divine or spiritual entity.
- So lets guess that Lazarus is a transliteration of a Hebrew name into Greek. That seems to be plausible, no? (If you look online, you will eventually find the Hebrew root אֶלְעָזָר – El’azar)
- Well, I don’t know a lot of Hebrew, just enough to get me into some trouble. And I am aware that a noun tagged “my” would end in a longish “i” sound. Yet that sound is strangely missing!
- So at best we have “God [is] help”, or “God helps” or “God helped.”
I know, that won’t be as warm and fuzzy and personally emotive. But still a nice name, reminding one of God’s provision and concern. Finally I found eteacherhebrew.com, which has a page of Hebrew names with brief formation hints. They are nice enough to provide the following:
Eleazar (Elazar, El’azar):
The meaning of the name “Elazar” is “God (אֵל, el) helped (עָזַר, azar)”.
Maybe that seems petty. But to me, “God helped” is somewhat different than “God is my help.” There is a question of time, of completed versus uncompleted status, of agency or activity… Especially if you are going to springboard from that to some theological treatise on how the name Lazarus is significant and intentional, illustrative of Lazarus’ trust in his God compared to the rich-man’s trust in his wealth.
I’m probably going too far, over-thinking and being a little OCD about it. Any thoughts?