Biblical Names Adopted by This Continent
When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was opened up for settlement, certain groups of religious thought, finding there a land where they could enjoy religious freedom settled in considerable numbers in one corner of the State.
These groups were known as Quakers, Moravians, Dunkards, Mennonites, Amish People and Seventh Day Baptists. Very zealous in their religious exercises, it was natural that they should give to their early settlements Biblical names.
Among the place names on the Map of Pennsylvania are Lebanon, Nazareth, Emmaus, Ephrata and Bethlehem. Lebanon is named for the mountain range which marks the Northern boundary of Palestine. The name is always associated with its magnificent cedars which are truly beautiful, and the wood is of great durability.
Nazareth is the name for the small Galilean village, the home of Joseph and Mary, where the Lord spent his childhood years. Nazareth of Pennsylvania was founded by the Moravians who are the followers of John Huss, the martyred reformer.
Emmaus is mentioned by only one of the Gospel writers — Luke records that on the day of His resurrection, the Lord appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples’ eyes were holden and they knew Him not, but they afterwards knew Him in the breaking of bread. There is now no trace in Palestine of the place where the village stood. All evidence of its existence has disappeared. The word “Emmaus” is related to a derivative root meaning a warm spring, so the natural assumption is that the warm spring has dried up and thus the disappearance of the village.
Besides Emmaus of Pennsylvania many Bible colleges and schools for religious training have adopted the name “Emmaus,” and thus the warm spring of truth is kept alive.
Ephrata is the ancient name for Bethlehem. Rachel the beloved wife of Jacob died on the road to Ephrata — Bethlehem, and that by one of the saddest of all deaths, she died in childbirth. The event of a woman giving up her life in the act of bringing forth a soul into this World, in a special manner pulls at our heart strings. Rachel labored hard and in her death pangs, she named the child “Benomi” son of my sorrow, but Jacob afterwards named him “Benjamin” which in Hebrew means “son of my right hand.”
After the death of Rachel, the village ceased to be called Ephrata but retains unto this day the name “Bethlehem.”
Ephrata of Pennsylvania is a town of about 8,000 inhabitants; beautifully situated about 70 miles from Bethlehem. It was founded by the Seventh Day Baptists, a sect which broke away from the Dunkards on the question of the proper day of the week to be observed as the Sabbath.
Very early in their organization they developed a monastic form of community life. This was not, however, compulsory on the members, who were left in freedom as to marriage. They wore a special garb or dress. The members were given monastic names. Cloisters were built and some of these buildings now standing are of great interest to tourists and historians.
About six miles southwest of Jerusalem is the village of Bethlehem the birth place of the Saviour of the World. There is no place name in Palestine so significant and so descriptive as that little Judean village where the shepherds went by night to see the infant Jesus.
The name Bethlehem means in Hebrew the house of bread and so there is a true correspondence as the Lord was indeed the Bread of Life which came down from God out of Heaven.
Bethlehem of Pennsylvania, starting as a small Moravian settlement, is now one of the best known cities of the world, owing to its extensive steel works and coal mines.