Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 3, Names in the Gospel Traditions.” Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 39-66.
Bauckham observes that in the Gospels some characters are not named but others are. He suggests “that many of these named characters were eyewitnesses who not only originated the traditions to which their names are attached but also continued to tell these stories as authoritative guarantors of their traditions” (Bauckham 2006, 39). It is no surprise that many public figures would be named, as they root the narrative in history (my observation, not Bauckham’s). However, it is a surprise that some people who, left unnamed, would have no negative effect on the narrative, are named. Bauckham asks why of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus one (Cleopas) is named, why Jairus’ name is used “in Mark and Luke, Bartimaeus in Mark, Lazarus in John” (Bauckham 2006, 40).
Bauckham cites numerous others whose names are retained in some places and not in others. The retention of names is a challenge in oral tradition studies. Bauckham observes that some scholarship considers them to be added to stories over time while some scholarship thinks the names disappear over time (Bauckham 2006, 41). While this is a difficulty in scholarship, Bauckham notes the fact of multiple Gospel accounts suggests that the latter tendency is true. Characters are identified, if they are at all, by the same names in the Synoptic Gospels. In only one instance is a name changed (Matthew/Levi). A name may be dropped, but only once is a name added in a later account (Bauckham 2006, 42). Outside of the canonical Gospels, there is a tendency to give names not known elsewhere, but not until the fifth century and beyond (Bauckham 2006, 44). Bauckham notes that in this regard, Christian literature differs from Jewish literature, which felt free to apply names to characters (Bauckham 2006, 44).
Bauckham observes that many of the named characters in the Gospels would have been likely leaders in groups of Christians, especially around Jerusalem (Bauckham 2006, 46). However, the names may have dropped out when the personal eyewitness authority was not as important. This could be explained by duration of time or by distance, which would make the personal identity less important. As an example, Bauckham considers Cleopas from Luke 24. The unusual name is almost certainly the same as the Clopas whom Hegesippus identifies as the uncle of Jesus (Josph’s brother) (Bauckham 2006, 47). The name would make for more credible testimony than would an anonymous disciple, at least around Jerusalem for a time.
Bauckham also considers the women at the cross and the tomb to be important witnesses, therefore named (Bauckham 2006, 48). Some of the names are given, while others are not. The testimony of two or three witnesses was an important legal principle. Bauckham notes that the distinctions among the different Gospels and their specificity of the identities of particular witnesses should be seen as evidence of the careful composition of the accounts (Bauckham 2006, 48).
Simon of Cyrene, along with his named sons Alexander and Rufus, are also likely to be important characters. Mark describes him, not one of the twelve, as a principal witness in 15:21 (Bauckham 2006, 52). The best explanation for the inclusion of Alexander and Rufus is that they were known as witnesses who would give testimony.
Bauckham finally speaks of the recipients of Jesus’ healing, specifically Jaorus (whose daughter was healed), Bartimaeus, and Lazarus (Bauckham 2006, 53). He also includes several women and Simon the leper. The names are given in Mark but not in all the Synoptic Gospels. Their names are not uniformly reported in second century accounts, presumably because they were no longer living witnesses (Bauckham 2006, 54).