🔼The name Apelles: Summary
- Of Apollo, Of The Destroyer
- From the Spartan word for Popular Assembly.
- From the name Apollo, in turn from the verb απολλυμι (apollumi), to destroy.
🔼The name Apelles in the Bible
The name Apelles occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Romans 16:10, where Paul greets Apelles and calls him accepted or approved in Christ. Some have proposed that Apelles is the same as Apollos, but there is no proof of this either way, or even that Apollos was ever in Rome, particularly when Paul was not.
The name Apelles was probably best known from the painter Apelles of Kos, who had frequented the court of Philip of Macedon and painted him and his son Alexander. The famous painting of Alexander at the Battle of Issus is ascribed to Apelles. Most of what we know of Apelles of Kos comes from Pliny's Natural History, which was published in AD 77, two years before Pliny's death and about twenty years after Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. Perhaps Apelles was as proverbially known in the first century as, say, Rembrandt is in ours. But (slightly more daring, and wholly without scientific support), perhaps Pliny was up to snuff with the Pauline code (see our article on Philemon), and recognized in the Apelles whom Paul mentioned the pillar of human consciousness the artist surely had been.
🔼Etymology of the name Apelles
The name Απελλης (Apelles) is probably a variant of the name Απολλως (Apollos), which means Belonging To Apollo. But strikingly, the Dorian (Spartan) variant of the Attic name Απολλων (Apollon), Apollo, is Απελλων (Apellon), which very closely mimics the word Απελλα (Apella), the Spartan equivalent of the familiar Attic word εκκλησια (ekklesia), meaning Assembly.
That suggests that the Spartan interpretation of the Apollonian complex (the whole of the psychological reality embodied by the character Apollo) may have been much more political than that of their Attic neighbors, who rendered Apollo patronage of shepherds and flocks. The accepted twin sister of Apollo was Artemis, who was the goddess of the hunt. Their half-sister Athena was rather the city builder. That means that the Spartan understanding of Apollo may have had him preside over the very Assembly whose origins the Athenians ascribed to Athena.
It's unclear where the name Apollo ultimately came from, although here at Abarim Publications we creatively suspect it may have had something to do with the Hebrew root פלל (palal), to discern. Once at large in the Greek language basin, however, it appears to have gravitated toward the verb απολλυμι (apollumi), to exterminate or destroy:
The verb ολλυμι (ollumi) means to terminate, kill or destroy, and verb απολλυμι (apollumi) means to destroy or exterminate, specifically by a removal from a natural environment or social collective (this word describes the proverbially "lost" sheep).
This verb may also mean to be extracted by merit of the destruction of whatever was holding one back, and as such it conveys an important principle of evolution, namely that future winners exist in evolutionary stasis as long as they remain overwhelmed by a majority of inferiors. The ancestors of mammals and birds existed long before they could finally arise, and could do so only when the great dinosaurs had been exterminated.
Noun απωλεια (apoleia) means a loss or extermination. Verb συναπολλυμι (sunapollumi) means to jointly exterminate. Noun ολεθρος (olethros) means a termination. Verb ολοθρευω (olothreuo) means to cause termination, and noun ολοθρευτης (olothreutes) describes a terminator.
The name Apelles is probably the same as Apollos, and would have meant Of The Destroyer in Greek ears. Spartan ears, however, would have associated these names with a somewhat bellicose Assembly, or a government whose primary aim was to leap over the hedge and destroy whatever was on the other side. Since the name Apollo may be similar to the Hebrew theonym Shaddai, this may all together not have been a bad policy.