I'm looking for scholarship on the phenomenon of the Bible treating official titles as though they were proper names. Examples of this seem to include: Pharaoh, Abimelekh, Rabshakeh (maybe Agag?), all of which seem to be royal titles, but are used without the "the" as though they are given names.

Related question: Are the words Tartan and Rabshakeh Assyrian titles or proper names in Isaiah?

  • This question will probably be ruled off topic, because this site deals with the interpretation of specific verses/passages. But Jesus Christ is often treated as of the title were a last name. Ba'al is another case treated as if Ba'al were always a specific deity's name and never a title when if fact it literally means Lord or Master. The question also made me think of a reverse case: 'Herod' being taken as a title as if the Herod in "Herod Agrippa" were a title similar to Pharaoh Ramses, when in fact Herod was a family name. Jul 10 at 18:56
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    Some of these misconceptions were created by early translators like Tyndale (and perpetuated by the KJV) not being aware that they were titles and not names.
    – Dottard
    Jul 10 at 22:04
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    @DanFefferman "This question will probably be off topic, because this site deals with the interpretation of specific verses/passages." Closing the post would be a mistake. The question pertains to the item of hermeneutical approaches. Additionally, the practice the OP points out is recurrent throughout the Tanakh, thereby obviating the need for specific passages. Jul 11 at 11:51
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    @IñakiViggers I rarely vote to close questions and will be happy if this one remains open. Jul 11 at 14:34
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    "without the "the" as though they are given names". That's a feature of Hebrew, not Greek (which can say "*the Isaac" or "the Jacob" — Strong's G3588, in Matthew 1:2). ¶ You might want to restrict this question with the hebrew-bible tag, unless you really are interested in the Greek scriptures too. Jul 11 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


My go-to source for that information is the Jewish Encyclopedia. For example, Tartan.


There are many words in Scripture that are transliterated. Several of which have become names or titles. Someone has done some work in this area that can be found at The Problem of Untranslated Words in the Bible.

  • Hello, Trace. This is considered a "link-only" answer. It would be helpful for future visitors to this question if you would edit in a summary of that page. Links can become broken or outdated so a summary would still provide the necessary information.
    – agarza
    Oct 13 at 2:02
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    Although I agree a summary would be useful, I upvoted the answer. No one has attempted an answer for several months, and the OP asked only for sources of scholarship. Oct 19 at 14:49

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