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GIVEN NAMES, JUDAISM, AND JEWISH HISTORY
3. JEWISH HISTORY, GIVEN NAMES OVER THE AGES
What has been distinctive about Jews over the centuries is that their personality traits have been steeled by their Covenant with G-d and by adversity. Starting out as a nomadic, patriarchal family tribe with Avraham Avinu as the Patriarch, they were continually forced to come to terms with their responsibilities under the Covenants of G-d with Avraham in Charan, and with the Israelites at Sinai, and to fight battles against others in defending themselves. After the nation was shattered in its land, other approaches needed to be adopted both there and in their Dispersion.
The Covenants have been the basic driving force for Jews, for they are everlasting. As a single family under Avraham, a modest, hospitable, strong, inspired religious/civil/military leader, the family members had a passive role in expressing their religion. This same passive role held later when the tribal structure existed for the Jews. This passive role changed when in 950 BCE the First Temple was built and became a focal center for sacrifices, and the people brought animals to the Cohanim in Jerusalem for this purpose. After the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE, a quiet century was used by the Sofrim to redefine Judaism and to redesign it as a personal religion with the active participation of individual Jews. Methods of Jewish observance became portable, and accompanied the Jews as they were cast into dispersion outside of Palestine, throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa.
In general, their early battles in the Land of Israel with enemies became increasingly one-sided in favor of their more numerous and more powerful enemies, and the Jews had to fall back on resources other than power -- analytical ability, shrewdness, logical thinking, persuasiveness, mobility, and other similar traits. Over time, these acquired traits became a permanent facet of their ways of thinking and of their personality as a People. This was particularly true in the Land of Israel and Europe from the first century CE on, when Christendom ruled the world around the Mediterranean basin, and when Jews were periodically persecuted and massacred. While in "good" times in some countries of the Dispora these traits tend to be submerged and downgraded in importance, it seems (unfortunately) that in time they are returned to prominence by the recurrence of anti-semitism and persecution.
Inevitably, these traits and their origins were a major factor, along with the unique status of the Jews as the Chosen People, in their choice of given names.
After the Israelite period (1200-586 BCE) when original Hebrew names were still used, Jews in exile to foreign countries or under the yoke of foreigners, adopted names from the lexicons of those foreign names. This phenomenon began with the Babylonian exile and continued unabated during subsequent centuries. Eventually, those foreign names which seemed logically and phonetically correct to the Jewish ear became formal sacred/Hebrew names, and were used in the synagogue and in legal Hebrew documents.
Archeologists who do research in the Near East (Land of Israel, Babylonia, etc.) normally define timelines as follows:
For our purposes, the major periods of history may be divided as in Table 1.
Table 1. Major Periods of Jewish History
The target period for the Given Names Project is 1795-1925, essentially in the Age of Enlightenment period.