Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of unnamed men in the Bible? Many of them can be called “God’s Anonymous Men.” Too often we fix our attention exclusively on the greater characters of the Book, yet the vast host of the inconspicuous and unnamed has been preserved by the pen of inspiration as being worthy of our meditation. The unknown saints—unknown, that is, to human fame—must not be passed by. While full consideration must be given to those God called into the limelight, we dare not ignore others who remain in the shadow of obscurity or anonymity. So let us think of many Bible men whose deeds are recorded, but not their names. The following list is by no means complete.
While three of Adam’s sons are named, others born of him and Eve are not named (Gen. 5:4). Were they among the many who perished in the Flood?
None of the carpenters who assisted in the building of the Ark are mentioned, neither are several of those who labored in the preparation of the Tabernacle. The same is true of the overseers of the Temple repairs in the reign of Jehoash, whose honesty was such that their superiors had no need to scrutinize their accounts.
Gideon’s three hundred men, valiant heroes all, deserve to be named but appear among the unknown servants of the Lord.
The three valiant men who at the risk of life brought water from the well of Bethlehem are not named. These anonymous heroes, however, left behind a stirring example of courage and of love for their leader.
Also among the unnamed of the Bible we have the seven thousand who refused to bow to Baal. God knew them but Elijah was not aware of them. If only the members of this host had openly declared themselves as being on God’s side, how they would have cheered the lonely heart of Elijah.
The nameless prophet who has been referred to as, “this great man of God who comes out of a cloud, shines for a splendid moment before all men’s eyes, and then dies under a cloud,” is another unknown man. Heroic, he was yet human, an unnamed man whose fascinating story lies in its mixture of courage and weakness (1 Kings 13:1-3).
The New Testament abounds in its anonymous characters, historical and literary. By the latter, we mean those employed in parabolic form, which our Lord freely used. Those He portrays might have been individuals He had observed. Many of these literary characters are as forceful as many of the historical ones. Think of:
The Hypocrites—(Matt. 6:2, 16; 7:5).
The Wise Men—(Matt. 2:1).
The Sower—(Matt. 13:3, 24).
The Shepherd—(Matt. 18:12).
The Brother—(Matt. 18:15).
The King—(Matt. 18:23).
The Householder—(Matt. 20:1).
The Man with Two Sons—(Matt. 21:28).
The King—(Matt. 22:2, 12).
The Servant—(Matt. 24:46).
The Bridegroom—(Matt. 25:1).
The Traveler—(Matt. 25:14).
The Strong Man—(Mark 3:27).
The Rich Man—(Mark 10:25).
The Man Journeying—(Mark 13:34).
The Creditor—(Luke 7:41).
The Good Samaritan—(Luke 10:36).
The Friend—(Luke 11:5, 11).
The Rich Fool—(Luke 12:16).
The Wise Steward—(Luke 12:42).
The Guest—(Luke 14:7).
The Builder—(Luke 14:28).
The King—(Luke 14:31).
The Loving Father and His Sons—(Luke 15).
The Shrewd Steward—(Luke 16:1-13).
The Snobbish Pharisees—(Luke 18:9-14).
The historical unnamed characters of the New Testament are far more numerous than all the named men of the Bible put together. Here is a galaxy of these anonymous men, famous or infamous as the case may be, although unknown by name:
The Wise Men from the East—(Matt. 2:1, 2).
The Sick and Lunatic Men—(Matt. 4:23, 24).
The Leper—(Matt. 8:2).
The Centurion and His Servant—(Matt. 8:5, 9).
The Certain Scribe—(Matt. 8:19).
The Two Demon-Possessed Men—(Matt. 8:28).
The Palsied Man and His Four Bearers—(Matt. 9:2).
The Two Blind Men—(Matt. 9:27).
The Man with a Withered Arm—(Matt. 12:10).
The Demoniac—(Matt. 12:22).
The Four Thousand Men—(Matt. 15:38).
The Lunatic—(Matt. 17:15).
The Young Child—(Matt. 18:2; 19:13).
The Rich Young Ruler—(Matt. 19:16).
The Blind Men—(Matt. 20:34).
The Man Who Owned an Ass—(Matt. 21:3).
The Lawyer—(Matt. 22:35).
The Man Who had a Chamber—(Matt. 26:18).
The Two False Witnesses—(Matt. 26:60).
The Soldiers Who Stripped Christ—(Matt. 27:27).
The Two Thieves—(Matt. 27:38).
The One Who Offered the Sponge—(Matt. 27:48).
The Saints Who Were Raised—(Matt. 27:52).
The Centurion—(Matt. 27:54).
The Man with an Unclean Spirit—(Mark 1:23).
The Maniac of the Tombs—(Mark 5:2).
The Executioner of John—(Mark 6:27).
The Lad Who Gave His Lunch—(Mark 6:38).
The Five Thousand Men—(Mark 6:44).
The Deaf and Dumb Man—(Mark 7:32).
The One Who Cast Out Devils—(Mark 9:38).
The Young Men—(Mark 14:51; 16:5).
The Shepherds—(Luke 2:8).
The Widow’s Son—(Luke 7:12).
The Seventy Disciples—(Luke 10:1).
The Questioners—(Luke 12:13; 13:23).
The Man with Dropsy—(Luke 14:2).
The Ten Lepers—(Luke 17:12).
The Pharisee and the Publican—(Luke 18:10).
The Nobleman—(Luke 19:12).
The Unnamed Disciple—(Luke 24:13).
The Ruler of the Feast—(John 2:9).
The Samaritans—(John 4:40).
The Nobleman—(John 4:46).
The Infirm Man—(John 5:5).
The Man Born Blind—(John 9:1).
The Greeks—(John 12:20).
The Unnamed among the 120—(Acts 1:15).
The Men Among the Three Thousand—(Acts 2:41).
The Lame Man—(Acts 3:2).
The Five Thousand Men—(Acts 4:4; 5:14).
The Eunuch—(Acts 8:37).
The Cripple—(Acts 14:8).
The Jailer—(Acts 16:27).
Paul in his Epistles sent personal greetings to many of his fellow laborers whom he knew and named. But think of those who are summarized as “the brethren” or referred to as “other fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” Glance over the unnamed men referred to in the following passages: Acts 17:34; 19:10, 14; 21:33; 22:25; 23:16, 18; 27:11; 28:8, 16; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:1; 2 Corinthians 11:32; 12:2; Philippians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:11, 14; Jude 4.
Many heroes of the faith are named by the sacred writer (Heb. 11), but what about the others equally faithful and sacrificial, about whom the historian did not write (Heb. 11:32, 36)? Space prevents us from enumerating all the men symbolized in the Book of Revelation.
We cannot but wonder why there are so many anonymous servants. Tradition has given names to several of them such as the Wise Men, the Rich Ruler and the Two Thieves, but Scripture is silent as to their identity. Is there a lesson to be learned from such obscurity? We praise famous men, but what can we do about those who pass away with no memorial, who die as though they have never been?
It is comforting to realize that although multitudes of workers are “unknown” they are “yet well known.” They are “manifest unto God,” who sees that which is hidden from the human eye, and whose approval is the highest reward. Their abiding influence cannot be hid. Of the unknown, who are in the majority, J. I. Hasler says:
Though such unknown ones may not be lights in the world which “cannot be hid,” as are their more famous counterparts, yet they are like salt mingling with the mass to stay corruption, or like the leaven which works obscurely. The “Elijahs” because of their very prominence, cannot escape commemoration; the “anonymous servants” need special commemoration because of the less prominent nature of what they do. Their value lies in the silent witness of sheer goodness, integrity of character, and their faith in god. In their ministry in the home circle or in the Church, and in their helpful influence on other lives with which they come into contact they truly serve God. In a Kentish churchyard one such found a resting-place and on his tombstone is this significant inscription, “He encouraged others in doing good.”
For ourselves, it is sufficient to know that, whether our names are blazoned abroad or unknown, easy or difficult to pronounce, short or long, full of meaning or unattractive, they are written upon God’s palms and in heaven every child of His is to have a new name (Isa. 49:16; Rev. 2:17).