Did People in the Bible have Last Names

For most of the time period covered by the Bible, people didn’t use last names. If there was a need to distinguish between two people with the same name, they were usually given descriptive titles. We see this in the New Testament with some of the disciples, like James the Less (Mark 15:40) and Simon the Zealot (Acts 1;13). In those days they would also identify someone based upon who his father was. So the other disciple James was known as James the son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21). Or a person would be identified based upon their occupation. In the book of Acts we read about a man identified as Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43) Sometimes a person would be identified based upon where they were from, such as Mary Magdalene, which means Mary from Magdala. Last names didn’t become common within European families until sometime within the last 1,000 years. In the Bible, people were identified using descriptive, family or occupational references.

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