As I was reading the background to the Gospel of Matthew a question came up: why or how was Matthew's former name Levi changed? Is this similar to Saul who changed his name to Paul. Is this a common tradition in the early church for believers when they believe in Christ to change their names to signify new life in Christ? Was the name change related to baptism, is then when it was given or chosen? Was it the Lord Himself who renamed Matthew like He did Simon ie. Cephas or Peter (John 1:42). Please respond below if you know. Thank you.
Great question!I studied this some time ago. There is a "Christian" tradition in many churches whereby a person is "christened" with a "Christian name" at baptism or upon entrance into the church after conversion. In fact, many people use the term "christened" quite loosely and in many fields despite its etymology tracing back to Christian practice. The word is commonly used across academia and even common usage.In fact, I remember reading a textbook in college about how each of the planets was "christened" despite the fact that they are primarily named after the gods, demigods and other figures of Roman and Greek mythology. While the practice of "christening" something is undoubtedly now based upon traditions of men, we do know that believers had their names changed. Cephas became PeterLevi became Matthew Saul became PaulJoseph became Barnabas Jacob became IsraelAbram became AbrahamSolomon became Jedediah (2 Samuel 12:24-25)A quick search via Google led me to this website with a list of some of the name changes that appear in the Bible:https://godwords.org/name-changes-in-the-bible/I've known several people who had their names changed for which they attributed that change to the Lord. I've had Indian and Arab friends who had their names changed after conversion to Christ. This is akin to how popes began changing their names upon ascendancy to the papacy. In 533 A.D., a man named "Mercurius" was selected to become the pope. He decided that it wouldn't be appropriate to be named after a false god ("Mercury"). So, he selected the name "John II" (named after a previous "John" who was martyred a decade earlier). I knew an evangelist named "Justo" who changed his name to "Jordan" (long before "Jordan" became a popular name). I knew a woman named "Amy" who changed her name to "Elizabeth" (which was her middle name). I do believe that names are important. In fact, I believe that they can be a blessing or a curse. There have even been children named after Satan, Hitler and other evil things. During college, a friend told me that he had a friend from high school who was named "Darwin" but changed his name when he came to Christ. In other words, there is a practice when it comes to changing a name. It is certainly biblical -- even as far back as the book of Genesis. As for your question: I'm not sure why or even if "Matthew" and "Levi" was changed. It may simply have been a secondary name or nickname. The Bible isn't clear on this particular instance.
I am not an expert in Church history, so I cannot answer you that way. But there is a tradition in India to have a name change during Baptism. I am a Hindu by birth and I am named after 2 Hindu gods. When I came to Christ at the age of 25. I did not consider changing my name but later when I moved to India, people started asking for my baptism name. That is when I prayed about it. I got this verse. 1 Cor 7:10 - Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.I was called with a Hindu name, let me remain in that. I have personally found it a good way to share the Gospel with others, because as soon as they hear a Hindu name, they ask me why am I a Christian!