June 24, 2012

An Interpretation of the Name "JOHN"

By John Sanidopoulos

Nikephoros Theotokis (a Greek scholar and theologian of the late eighteenth century, who became an archbishop in the southern provinces of Russia and is considered by Greeks as a "Teacher of the Nation"), in his treatise on the Nativity of Saint John the Forerunner, writes: "The name Ioannis (Ιωάννης or John), sent from above by the All-Holy Spirit, was given to him by the Archangel Gabriel, to Zachariah, saying: 'and you shall call his name Ioannis'."

Theotokis goes on to interpret this name according to each individual letter, of which in Greek there are seven: Ι.Ω.Α.Ν.Ν.Η.Σ or I.O.A.N.N.I.S. This was given to him to fulfill the prophecy of the Prophetess Hannah, who in 1 Samuel 2:5 says "she who was barren has borne seven children"; one "child" is represented by one letter from the name Ioannis. Also, in Holy Scripture the number seven is found many times and is considered holy.

Below is the Divine Mystery of the name Ioannis derived from the seven letters of the Greek alphabet, according to Nikephoros Theotokis:

Ι = Ιεραρχίες or Hierarchies:

According to Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, who wrote The Celestial Hierarchy, there are three Ιεραρχίες (Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads) of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. They are as follows:

1 First Hierarchy
1.1 Seraphim
1.2 Cherubim
1.3 Thrones or Ophanim

2 Second Hierarchy
2.1 Dominions
2.2 Virtues
2.3 Powers or Authorities

3 Third Hierarchy
3.1 Principalities or Rulers
3.2 Archangels
3.3 Angels

There is also a Tenth Order, which according to Orthodox tradition fell through the tempting of Satan and became Demons. This Tenth Order was replaced on earth by the Order of Monastics, which is why when a monastic is tonsured they receive the "Angelic Schema", by virtue of their living as earthly angels through their virginity, total reliance on God, and their constant prayers. Monastics are thus the Tenth Order of Angels, and it is from Saint John the Forerunner that monastics received an initial example of their lifestyle. St. John is the first and chief of the Order of Monastics, and the day of his joyous birth marks the beginning of the Monastic Order. Theotokis also mentions that according to Greek numerals, the letter "I" is the Greek value for ten, which is symbolic for the Honorable Forerunner.

Ω = A Pre-Image of the Two Natures of Christ:

According to Theotokis, "Ω" (Omega = the last letter of the Greek alphabet) is a pre-image of the First Coming of Christ, just like "I" was a pre-image of St. John the Forerunner. According to scholars, the letter "Ω" has its origins in putting two "O" together to form one letter; thus "OO" became "Ω" (two Omikrons became one Omega). The letters "OO" together are what pre-image Christ's two natures, both the Divine and Human, as well as pre-imaging His eternalness through the never-ending circle shape of the letter. Essentially the meaning is that the God-man, Jesus Christ, has neither beginning nor ending. Since the "OO" together became the last letter of the Greek alphabet "Ω", we also recall the title Christ gave Himself in Revelation 1:8, where He says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega".

ΑΝΝ = Ανάσταση Νεκρών or Resurrection [of the] Dead:

Following the pre-image of the birth of John the Forerunner through the letter "I", and the pre-image of the First Coming of Christ through the letter "Ω", the next three letters in the name Ioannis go together to pre-image the Second Coming of Christ. The "AN" together are the first two letters of the word "Ανάσταση" (Resurrection) and the next "N" is the first letter of the word "Νεκρών" (Dead), which confesses the creedal statement that we believe "in the resurrection of the dead" at the end of the age.

H = The Eighth Age:

The letter "H" according to Greek numerals is the letter for the number eight, and the number eight according to Orthodox tradition pre-images the Eighth Age, which is the post-apocalytpic age to come following this present age. And just as we confessed through the letters "ANN" our belief "in the resurrection of the dead", so now we continue to also confess the creedal statement "and the life of the age to come".

Σ = Twice-Perfect:

According to Greek numerals, the letter "Σ" is valued at 200. 200 comes to us by adding together two 100's. The number 100 in Holy Scripture is a number of perfection. When you add two 100's together, however, you make something beyond perfect or twice-perfect. This beyond perfect number therefore images the beyond perfect and ageless age of the life to come.

This is the Divine Mystery behind the name Ioannis, according to Nikephoros Theotokis.