Not long ago novelist Marilynne Robinson published an article in the New York Times about Biblical references in literature, which got me thinking about Bible-inspired company names and product names.
Surprisingly, there aren’t that many.
Robinson pointed out in her article, “Biblical allusions can suggest a degree of seriousness or significance.” They have gravity and resonance and indicate a complexity of experience, she noted.
I believe these points can apply also when Biblical allusions appear in business names. Because of widespread education in religious faith, Bible-inspired names often draw on a well of familiarity. They have more potential for long-term relevance and recognition than references from movies, songs and other elements of popular culture.
If you are running a secular business, you might want to avoid a religious flavor. However, as you’ll see in most of the examples below, Biblical references don’t necessarily come across as either sectarian or devout.
Biblically derived names fall into these categories:
1. Characters from the Bible. For example:
* Samsonite – After Samson, the Old Testament’s legendary strong man.
* Lot’s Wife Gourmet Sea Salt – A reference to the woman married to Abraham’s nephew, who was warned not to look back as they fled the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah. She did, though, and was turned into a pillar of salt.
* Bezalel Coins – In the Book of Exodus, Bezalel was a master artisan chosen to craft the Ark of the Covenant and other sacred objects.
2. Words, phrases or concepts from the Bible, especially from the Book of Proverbs, but also from other parts of the Bible.
* Iron Men – A two-man construction company in Michigan named for Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
* Apples of Gold – An online jewelry company that explicitly notes a reference to Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold, in settings of silver.”
* Forbidden Fruit – A store in Austin, Texas that sells (ahem) adult toys, named after the scene in the Garden of Eden where naughty Eve persuades Adam to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which God forbade them to consume.
3. Chapter or verse numbers. This kind of Biblical reference surprised me, as most people can’t cite chapter and verse by memory for familiar Bible passages. However, when explained, these allusions have resonance.
* Fitness 9:27 – A personal training company whose name points to I Corinthians 9:27: “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
* Thirty-One – A direct sales company offering purses, tote bags and organizational products, whose mission of celebrating, encouraging and rewarding women parallels the evocation of the Woman of Valor in Proverbs 31.
In North America, Biblical references – especially those from the Old Testament – tend to have an ecumenical flavor and don’t necessarily identify you with a particular religion. However, internationally that may be less true.
While discussing company names with a man intending to set up headquarters in Dubai with a company name in English, I asked him about using the name Solomon to evoke wisdom. “No, that would be perceived as Jewish. Islam has the same figure but refers to him as Suleiman.” And naturally, in India or Indonesia, King Solomon may not evoke any associations at all.