🔼The name Bartimaeus: Summary
- Son Of He Who's Highly Prized, Son Of Honor
- Son Of The Unclean One(s), Son Of Uncleanness
- From (1) the noun בר (bar), son, and (2) the noun τιμη (time), value or honor.
- From (1) the noun בר (bar), son, and (2) the verb טמא (tame), to be unclean.
🔼The name Bartimaeus in the Bible
The name Bartimaeus occurs only one time in the New Testament. Mark tells us that blind Bartimaeus is a son of Timaeus, and that he is sitting by the side of the road close to Jericho (Mark 10:46). Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus and Jesus pronounces him healed by his faith.
🔼Etymology of the name Bartimaeus
The name Bartimaeus consists of two elements, the first being בר (bar), the Aramaic word for son:
The Aramaic noun בר (bar) is cognate with the Hebrew noun בן (ben) and both mean "one of," i.e. one of a certain house, one of a certain profession, one of a certain country, and so on. These nouns are also the regular words for "son."
The second part of the name Bartimaeus is the same as the name of his father: Timaeus, and Timaeus comes from the noun τιμη (time), meaning value (and note the similarity between our name Βαρτιμαιος and the noun βαρυτιμος (barutimos), which few members of a Greek audience would have missed):
The noun τιμη (time) describes something that is dear, valuable or honorable. It stems from the verb τιω (tio), to honor, revere, prize highly or simply: to value or price. Both this verb and its noun speak of an intimate knowledge of the thing assessed, and an intimate knowledge of the item's usefulness relative to the economy at large.
The name Bartimaeus means Son Of Timaeus, and it's formed like a pretty straight forward surname, comparable to something like Timson or McTim. And since the name Timaeus means Highly Prized, the name Bartimaeus means Son Of He Who's Highly Prized, or Son Of Honor.
However, there are some problems with this interpretation. First of all: some scholars object to the hybridism of Bartimaeus, consisting of the Aramaic bar and the Greek name Timaeus. But even though it's unusual, it's not a complete no-no. Our surname Peterson, to name an example, consists of the Greek name Peter and the Germanic word son. The surname McGregor comes from the Greek name Gregory and the Celtic word for son.
But then: although Mark writes for a predominantly Greco-Latin audience, his wording seems rather redundant: a man named Son-Of-Timaeus who was the son of Timaeus. That doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.
Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary) circumvents this conundrum by deriving the second part of the name Bartimaeus from the Hebrew verb טמא (tame), the regular Hebrew word for to be or become unclean.
That would render the name Bartimaeus the meaning of Son Of The Unclean One, or Son Of Uncleanness. This may seem a bit stretched, but it would neatly solve the puzzle of why Mark insists talking about one Son-Of-Timaeus, who was the son of Timaeus. This statement may now be explained as: what is high-prized in our society is really a state of uncleanness, which results in blindness, which can only be healed by Christ.
See our article on the verb προσαιτεω (prosaiteo), which describes the highly unique kind of begging Bartimaeus was engaged in, for a closer look at the literary function of Bartimaeus in the New Testament.