Did Adam and Eve Have a Surname?

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored ninety-two books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Surname, also called family name, or the last name, name added to a “given” name, in many cases inherited and held in common by members of a family. Originally, many surnames identified a person by his connection with another person, usually his father (Johnson, MacDonald); others gave his residence (Orleans, York, Atwood [i.e., living at the woods]) or occupation (Weaver, Hooper, Taylor). A surname could also be descriptive of a person’s appearance (Little, Red) or his exploits (Armstrong). surnames can be divided into five different classifications: (1) The description of a person’s appearance; (2) the record of an incident or exploit in one’s life; (3) to identify him by his connection with some other person, usually his father; (4) to give his residence; (5) to show his occupation.—Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Surnames or last names in the English-speaking world were not used in the beginning when Adam and Eve were created, nor within the history thereafter. However, names have always had meaning. Adam, which means “earthling man” or “mankind.” In early times, great importance was attached to the meaning of names. For instance, let us take the Bible person Ruth, whose name likely meant “friendship.”

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Now, when the human population was very low, this having one name was no real problem but after a while, you could have many people named John (Jehohanan) in one community. How were people to know whom you were talking about? Well, one John may have been very short, so he was called “little John.” Another John may have been very tall and so he was called “big John.” Then, it might be distinguished by occupation, you might have “John the carpenter.”

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Surnames and Last Names

Many of these names took hold. Some believe that surnames were first used by the Chinese. Notwithstanding, early in the Roman Empire, they used family names of a sort. However, when the Roman Empire came to an end this practice faded with it, with single names returning as the common practice. It was not until about 1200 A.D. that surnames started to increase among a growing population. In time, these surnames became family names. Remember “little John” from above, he would then become “John little.” Another way of distinguishing people early on was to combine whom they were related to, such as, James, Son of Robert, which would now become James Robertson. John Atwood was probably formerly known as John at the Wood. When these family names first got started they were not passed on from parents to their offspring. For example, our above James Robertson, who had a son named Harold, he did not automatically become Harold Robertson. He was likely distinguished by the factors that we have already mentioned above. If he had developed skills as a butcher or a wood carver, he might have been called Harold Butcher or Harold Carver.

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At the start, it was only the high society who passed on their family names, which was a way to show pride in their family. In time, however, this became a common practice, even among the common people, who adopted this custom. By about 1500 A.D. this was a widespread practice throughout most of the world, particularly the western world, which is used in most countries today.

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