About that stone with a new name…
By Elizabeth Prata
Revelation 2:17 says:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’
Did you ever wonder about this stone thing? I have. First, before the stone, about the name.
Yahweh changed the name of many people in the Bible. Simon bar Jonas was given the name Peter in Matthew 16:18 by Jesus, meaning rock. Saul became Paul. God renamed Jacob who became Israel. He renamed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Ashpenaz was Chief of Officers of the court, or the master of the eunuchs, for Nebuchadnezzar. He renamed Azariah to Abednego, Daniel to Belteshazzar, Hananiah to Shadrach, and Mishael to Meshach. Ben-Oni also renamed Benjamin by his father Jacob.
The point here is that the one who has authority over another is the one who can rename. In the Bible examples above, the dad, the king, a court officer, Jesus, and God all had the authority to rename a person. In our day, the parents name the child, or we go through a process in the courts that allow or disallow a name change. A higher authority changes the name. In the Bible at the end of the end, God, our authority, will change our name.
The White Stone:
Ovid was a Roman poet who lived from 43 BC – 17/18 AD. He describes a process of casting a vote in a court proceeding. Black stones and white stones would be put into an urn. When all stones were cast, they’d be counted. Black stones meant guilty, white for innocent. More white than black stones meant the person was innocent. In this way, the white stone became a symbol of innocence. Ovid wrote-
15:53 A custom was of old, and still remains,
15:54. Which life, or death by suffrages ordains:
15:55. White stones, and black within an urn are cast;
15:56. The first absolve, but Fate is in the last.
15:57. The judges to the common urn bequeath
15:58. Their votes, and drop the sable signs of death;
15:59. The box receives all black, but, pour’d from thence,
15:60. The stones came candid forth; the hue of innocence.
From Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
There are many other reasons why the white stone was used (once, it was even a sort of credit card with an authorizing name engraved on it). A white stone was also involved in a custom of hospitality-
From Manners and customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight:
Friends as guests. In the East a friend is always welcome to receive hospitality. The Romans of New Testament times had a token of hospitality between two friends, which consisted of a tile of wood or stone, which was divided in half. Each person wrote his name on one of the two pieces, and then exchanged that piece with the other person. These were often kept and handed down from father to son. To produce the counterpart of one of these pieces would guarantee the hospitality of a real friend. The Book of Revelation no doubt refers to this custom in one of the promises to overcomers: “And will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written” (Revelation 2:17).
So, there are many reasons why a white stone will be given, therefore I can’t be dogmatic about the interpretation of why Jesus will give us one in the New Earth, but it’s all so interesting. We don’t know now but we will know when the time comes. For now let us end with Barnes’ Notes. We accept the white stone with new name,
as a pledge that he is accepted of God, and that the rewards of heaven shall be his; the world does not understand it, or attaches no value to it. And in the stone a new name written – A name indicating a new relation, new hopes and triumphs.