For those who know me only from such online venues as my blog and blog comments, my name poses a bit of a mystery–an enigma wrapped in a Twinkie, if you will. What do these letters mean? What does he go by? Shall we call him “JR”? “JRDK”? “JERK”?
I want to take this opportunity to clear the fog, step by step. Welcome to this “get to know you” episode of Storied Theology.
First, although my name ofttimes appears as “J. R. Daniel Kirk,” the reason for this is not that I go by J. R. To the contrary, the reason is that I go by “Daniel,” and therefore abbreviate my superfluous names.
What others do with their middle initials I must do with my first. It is my cross to bear.
Second, my name begins with a superfluous J for the following reason:
My parents loved Pentateuchal source criticism and became enamored of the Jahwist’s understanding of Israel’s relationship to God. Every man in my family has the same first name: James.
And by everyone, I mean: My grandfather (Jim), his two sons (J. Thomas and J. Robert), my brother and I, my son and my nephew. But when one has the same name as everyone else, one cannot very well go by it, can one?
Third, then, I have the superfluous R. My dad’s name (see previous paragraph) is James Robert. I got named after dad. But then, one does not want two persons in the same house fighting over the same name, does one?
Thus, fourth, my parents bestowed upon me the name Daniel, foreseeing in a prescient moment that I would need a perennial and persistent reminder that God is my judge, since I have never seemed capable of listening to anyone else.
Fifth: please note that my name is Daniel. This has two syllables. This mystery is great, but I am speaking about being addressed by both of them. I am not Dan. Nor am I Danny.
Sixth, you might be asking yourself, why do I flout my superfluous letters rather than simply allowing “Daniel Kirk” to stand and clarify all potential misunderstandings?
To this there are two answers.
First, from my early love of J.R.R. Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, yes, J. I. Packer, and my later respect for N. T. Wright (time would fail me to speak of F. F. Bruce or E. P. Sanders)–I simply realized from the world around me that superfluous letters are absolutely sine qua non for an enduring legacy in the world of theological writing.
Second, well, let’s just say that it helps minimize the number of thank-you notes I get from grateful parents. Honestly, I’ve only gotten one, and it made me somewhat horrified for the poor lad who had done his fifth grade book report on my book.