St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is going to be a relatively short post, as all I really want to do is to start a conversation…and avoid doing work on my dissertation.
We know that the name genesis behind the Pope’s selection is St. Francis of Assisi. While the Pope was, by all accounts, a humble person before his elevation, he is still very much destroying the culture of entrenched power, following Francis’ example. We expect more, I think, from this pope.
Often times, we hear the argument — and by argument, I am quite generous — that Jesus is a mythical person because of his name. This is just one of the many arguments. I mean, Joshua was the savior of Israel, the leader, the vindicator. We see the collusion of these names in the Epistle to the Hebrews, something that messed up the KJV translators. So, if one was creating a literary character, why not choose a name that would be noticeable and come not only with emotional attachements but so too literary expectations.
When the newly-elected Pope chose the name of Francis, he did so knowing full well the expectations of the name from the faithful. Likewise, he is working to fulfill those expectations. But, and this is where it gets a bit grounded. Names do matter. In several recent studies, the names we are given are shown to influence our personality, even our jobs. Simply, it is nominative determinism. It is not a new theory, nor one likely to go away. We saw this somewhat in the African-American community the naming of children after Martin Luther King, or people in the Reconstruction South naming their children after General Robert E. Lee. Or why I name my youngest after Sophia. When I look my son, named after my grandfather, I want him to be that Landon. We desire them to grow into their names, don’t we?
I cannot help but to watch Pope Francis as he moves further into acting the part of a pontiff from Assisi and think about the psychology of naming your child Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus when the people of Israel were enslaved. The cognitive development would be something to watch, especially if from an early age, Jesus heard about himself in these stories of Scripture, of a Joshua who saved his people — of a Yeshua (re)conquered Israel and removed from the land the pagan malefactors.
Okay, back to work.