There is only one Messiah?

According to this news report, a judge disagreed with a parent’s choice of name for their child and went ahead and changed it.

A judge in Tennessee changed a 7-month-old boy’s name to Martin from Messiah, saying the religious name was earned by one person and “that one person is Jesus Christ.”

Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the name change last week, according to WBIR-TV ( The boy’s parents were in court because they could not agree on the child’s last name, but when the judge heard the boy’s first name, she ordered it changed, too.

Ballew said the name Messiah could cause problems if the child grows up in Cocke County, which has a large Christian population.

“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” the judge said.

The judge may be fighting a battle that is already lost. According to that same report, to the Social Security Administration says that Messiah was fourth in the list of the fastest-rising baby names in 2012 in the US.

On my bookshelf is a highly regarded two-volume set of textbooks titled Quantum Mechanics by Albert Messiah. But he was French and his named was pronounced more like ‘messier’. There was no danger of people thinking that he represented the second coming of Jesus because we all know that the messiah must be an American.


  1. Scr... Archivist says

    That’s just silly. “Messiah” means “the anointed”, so any kid with oil on their head qualifies. The word also has a meaning of “an expected liberator or savior of a captive people”. So that could be anyone, really. “Martin” would qualify, after Martin Luther King, Jr.

    But the judge should have gone with “Brian”.

  2. raven says

    They should have stuck with the name “God”.

    After all, there are thousands of gods with more being made up all the time.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Quantum Mechanics by Albert Messiah”

    Blast from the past! Excellent textbook(s). Up there with Jackson’s Classical Electrodynamics.

  4. unbound says

    @1 – Well, JC’s name translated correctly into English is actually Joshua…so there is already a much bigger problem in the US. 🙂

  5. Nick Gotts says

    Well, when you bring a baby into a previously clean and tidy house, it does tend to get a bit Messiah.

  6. Mano Singham says

    I think that Jesus is a name while Messiah is considered a title. Though of course nothing stops people from giving other titles as names, like Duke or Prince or King.

  7. Corvus illustris says

    … JC’s name translated correctly into English …

    More like transliterated, since it passed through Greek and Latin on its way to God’s Own Language™ as spoken by King James. The “Christ” part of it, on the other hand, comes from a translation of “anointed” into Greek, with “Christos” (sorry, I have no Greek font) having pretty much that meaning. FWIW, the IE stem for that word is the same one that gives the English “grime” and “grease.”

  8. Corvus illustris says

    Some countries have laws on what you can name the baby: a guide to the German ones occupies a couple of pages in the Dudan Lexikon der Vornamen = Dictionary of Proper Names, and I believe the French restrictions are even tighter. But naming the baby had been thought to be a prerogative of the parents in the US. It would be interesting to know if ethnic connections of the parents/judge played a role in the judge’s high-handedness.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    The judge is historically wrong as well: numerous men (no women, of course) have been officially declared “messiah”, including Persian emperor Cyrus the Great* and Judaean rebel Simon bar Kochba.

    *The King James version of the Hebrew Testament attempts to finesse this by calling him “anointed” – but I rather doubt Cyrus allowed any grubby rabbis from a vassal petty kingdom of a vassal kingdom to get anywhere near him with a jug of oil.

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    Corvus illustri #12: Some countries have laws on what you can name the baby: a guide to the German ones occupies a couple of pages in the Dudan Lexikon der Vornamen = Dictionary of Proper Names…

    I hear Adolph is not so popular these days.

  11. Corvus illustris says

    According to the Duden, Adolf became only slightly more popular in the 1930s than it had been up to then. After 1945–well, anyway … . Because of Gustavus Adolphus, that combination (in modern form) remains in modest use in Sweden–Mrs Corva has a relative with that combination (and Sweden was neutral in WW_2).

  12. Corvus illustris says

    The “long I” that became “J” has in almost every other language written in Latin characters the sound you represented as “Y” as in “you,” hence the Anglophone confusion. The first three letters of the Greek transliteration are “IHC” (where the “C” is a Byzantine Sigma) which would get pretty close to something like “yayss”. Classical Greek and Latin lack the “sh” sound; not sure about barbaric varieties of Koine. I assume that the choice of vowels in unpointed Hebrew could vary.

  13. Corvus illustris says

    You may recall that when John Ashcroft was appointed GWBush’s first Attorney General, his father anointed him with a jug of Crisco. (We don’t discuss the reason for the Crisco lying around the house.)

  14. Chiroptera says

    Good for that judge! I think we should go farther: it should be illegal to pronounce the word out loud!

  15. Corvus illustris says

    Then we’ll have Handel’s Nameless Oratorio to pair with his Occasional Oratorio.

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