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What’s in a name?

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Look and see, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11: 1-9
Because of the leaked Panama Papers, “Panama” has a name, a bad name. Because of the leaked Panama Papers, “Mossack Fonseca” also has a bad name. “Jersey” has a name and it seems that it does not wish its name to remain associated with that of “Mossack Fonseca” because that firm of Panamanian lawyers will exit Jersey shortly.

In the light of these events, what exactly is in a name?

You may well say that a name is shorthand for an identity. That’s true but sometimes the identity portrayed in a name is not true. Mossack Fonseca will soon no longer be part of Jersey’s name. Nevertheless many similar tax-haven legal firms will continue to provide Panamanian and BVI incorporation services to businesses within Jersey’s finance industry.


‘Add one small bit to the truth and you inevitably subtract from it.’ (Anon.)
The strong desire of human beings and groups of human beings to create a name – an identity - for ourselves has existed for millennia. The extract in bold above from the Book of Genesis describes human society around 2000 BC in what is now Iraq. They built a tower. “Let us make a name for ourselves…”

People claim that the Tower of Babel is a fiction. But around 600 BC the Babylonian Emperor Nebuchadnezzar II wrote this about it when he used its foundations to build his own tower on the site: “A former king built it but he did not complete its head. Since a remote time, people had abandoned it ... Since that time the earthquake and the thunder had dispersed the sun-dried clay. The bricks of the casing had been split, and the earth of the interior had been scattered in heaps. Merodach, the great god, excited my mind to repair this building. I did not change the site nor did I take away the foundation.”

Like his predecessors (and like Jersey today) Nebuchadnezzar II wanted to make a name for himself – to give himself an identity. He didn’t succeed. His ziggurat also fell into disrepair. Alexander the Great also sought to make a name for himself by rebuilding it around 330BC. It collapsed during the build.

What about your name? Do you have an identity? Are you making a name for yourself? Is it a name which reflects truth or aspiration, fact or desire?

A man Jesus met around AD30 had no name – no identity. People addressed him as Bartimaeus, which means “Son-of-Timaeus”. He was a blind beggar. He had no identity to fabricate, no ability to fabricate anything. Maybe you also have no identity to cling to – and no way of creating one. Here’s what happened.


‘This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” (The Message, Romans 8)
As he [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. [Do folk try to stop you also?] But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” [He calls you also.] And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” [They changed their tune when they saw how much Jesus valued a blind beggar with no identity.] And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. [Was he not, being blind, rather rash?] And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” [Along with his new identity Jesus gives him new autonomy.] And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. [He decides his new-name future.]
Richard Syvret

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