Tag Archives: Cyrus the Great

I may have a messiah complex

Cyrus the Great card from the Anachronism gameAt the Biblical Hebrew Instructors Fluency Workshop that I’m currently attending, participants customarily choose Biblical Hebrew names to use during the sessions. One suggestion given during the orientation dinner was to choose a name that begins with the same sound as your given name. I took that suggestion a little bit further and chose the name כּוֹרֶשׁ (Koresh), which has consonant sounds relatively close to Chris. It’s possible that you’ve only heard the name Koresh in connection with cult leader David Koresh, of “Waco standoff” fame. Koresh is actually the Biblical Hebrew pronunciation of the name of the Persian king we call in English “Cyrus the Great.” Isaiah 45:1 famously refers to Cyrus as God’s “anointed one,” or messiah. So I guess that choosing the name Koresh could invite charges of messianic delusions.

However, there’s a quasi-wordplay that might mitigate such charges. The Greek word equivalent to “messiah” is Χριστός (Christos), which comes across into English as “Christ.” My given name, Christopher, derives from a compound of Χριστός and the Greek word φέρω (ferō), which means “I bear, I carry.” Therefore my name means something like “one who carries the messiah.” The legend of St. Christopher plays on this sense of the name with its story of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child across a dangerous river. So given that plus the phonological coincidence of “Chris” and Koresh, I think maybe my choice could be considered a kind of pun rather than mere grandiosity.