🔼The name Pudens in the Bible
The name Pudens is the Latin original of the Greek version Poudes (genitive: Poudentos), and occurs only once in the Bible. At the end of his second letter to Timothy, Paul conveys greetings to his young protégé from folks who are apparently with Paul in his Roman prison. Among these is Pudens (2 Timothy 4:21).
Apart from some legendary material, nothing further is known about this person Pudens. It's even possible, and perhaps even more likely, that Pudens was not the actual name of an actual acquaintance of Paul, who he would thus put in needless danger, but rather a representation of a kin school of thought, or even a reference to a literary character via which Paul conveyed sensitive information (see our article on Onesimus for a discussion of the use of code in by the New Testament writers).
🔼Etymology of the name Pudens
The name Pudens comes from the verb pudeo, meaning to be or make ashamed. This verb in turn, interestingly, stems from a very ancient root that means to strike; in Sanskrit exists the related noun paviram, which denotes a kind of weapon. The basic idea of our verb, therefore, is to inflict shame or to cause humiliation by force or by something that is perceived as forceful (as opposed to, say, an inner conviction).
The derived adjective pudens means shamefaced, bashful or modest, whereas the adjective pudendus describes something to be ashamed of, something disgraceful of scandalous (hence the English word "pudenda").
The name Pudens means something like Bashful (One) or Modest/Shy (One). It's possibly a cognomen, that is a secondary last name, designed to augment the family name and to be indicative of a sub clan within the main family — say: Henry Smith the Brave, in which the cognomen "Brave" sets Henry apart from the rest of the Smiths. A cognomen usually starts out as a nickname and becomes a cognomen when it passes over to one's offspring. Cognomens were very common in the Roman world, but the cognomen Pudens is not too well attested for, especially prior to Paul.
If the name Pudens mentioned by Paul was indeed a cognomen, this person would have had a first and last name too, although folks, then as much as now, were often known and mentioned by just their cognomen (the names Caesar and Pilate, for instance, are cognomens.) But, for security reasons (as mentioned above) Pudens may also have been a specific nickname or even a code name.
🔼Who was Pudens?
Pudens was not a very common cognomen but a few people who bore that name in the first century are known to us from history. Although enthusiasts over the centuries have opted that Paul's Pudens was the same as any of the famous ones, no certainty exists in this regard.
The most famously and most oft cited Pudens was senator Rufus Aulus Pudens Pudentius, who was mentioned a few times by the late first century poet Martial. His wife was named Claudia (see 2 Timothy 4:21), who, according to Martial had "sprung from the blue Britons", that is Celts of Britain.
German Theologian Georg Ott knew of another first century senator, namely Aquila Pudens Pudentius, who had a wife named Priscilla and a son named Timothy (G. Ott, Die ersten Christen über und unter der Erde, Pustet, 1879, Princeton University), although this senator's alleged hospitality to the apostle Peter may inspire dubiosity.
Then there was a soldier named Titus Valerius Pudens, son of Titus Claudius Pudens, who fought in the Roman civil war of 69 AD and died in 76 AD at age thirty (according to his grave stone originally located in Lincoln, UK).