Judith Romney Wegner
At 11:24 AM +0100 8/28/06, Nick Rich wrote:
Would it be likely that a mother would have called her son afterAnswer to question (1) .
This is not only likely , but is more or less required by custom,
though not an actual law. When the father dies between the child's
conception and his birth, it is a firm custom (if the child turns out
to be a boy) to give the son the father's name.
I personally knew such a person -- a fellow student at Cambridge
more than 50 years ago. His Hebrew name was Shimshon ben Shimshon --
and that is when I first learned about this custom (which,
fortunately, rarely needs to be invoked) .
Answer to question (2) .
Now here there is some ambiguity here. There are two distinct
biblical names -- Eliezer and Eleazar -- but there is also a third
spelling, Eleazer (the one you give here) which is actually a very
common mis-spelling of Eliezer found in 19th century documents. So,
you cannot jump to an immediate conclusion. Here's what you need to
First, it so happens that the mis-spelling "Eliazer" is quite often
found as a mis-spelling in documents relating to a person whose
Hebrew name is known to be Eliezer -- so that may well be the case
here (but *only* if the father really did die before the child was
born. The Hebrew name Eliezer is spelled
aleph-lamed-yod-ayin-xayin-resh, so if you have it on a gravestone
this would give you a definitive answer.
Second, as I said, there are in fact two distinct biblical names One
is Eliezer -- a son of Moses, see Exodus 18:4) -- which in Hebrew
has four syllables: E-li-e-zer, and the other is Eleazar -- a son
of Aaron -- pronounced in Hebrew with only three syllables: El-azar,
(see Exodus 6:23) The name Eleazar is spelled
aleph-lamed-ayin-zayin-resh in Hebrew (i.e., it has no letter yod)
-- which makes it easy to distinguish the two.
(Just to confuse the issue, the name Eliezer actually first appears
in Genesis, in the story of Eliezer of Damascus, the slave of Abraham
-- but since that guy was not an Israelite, it is fair to assume
that when bestowed on a Jewish child (or the child's eponymous
ancestor) the name was intended to evoke the son of Moses and not the
servant of Abraham.)
So the answer to your question (2) could be "either of the above."
If the father died before the son was born, his name was Eliezer, but
was misspelled in a way that is unfortunately quite common. If the
father did not die before the birth, presumably the child's name
must be the other one: Eleazar.. Perhaps you can find documents or
stones which give the names of these two individuals in Hebrew --
which will solve the problem for you one way or the other.
One more point: You surmised that his English name Lazarus comes
from Eliexzer. It is in fact the A Latinized version, in the famousNew Testament story of the raising of Lazarus, of the dead man's
Hebrew name. However, given the very distinct pronunciations of the
Hebrew names Eli-ezer and El-azar, it seem far more likely that the
Latin spelling Lazarus reflects the name El-azar and not the name
Judith Romney Wegner