🔼The name Boanerges: Summary
- Ox Energy, Testosterone, School Of Cattle, Curbed Battle Cry
- From (1) βοα (boa), a (collective) cry, or βους (bous), cattle, (2) possibly α (a), not, and (3) ενεργεια (energeia), energy, work.
🔼Caught in the Middle of a Railroad Track
The name Boanerges is a tantalizing enigma. Everywhere one looks, the well-known name Boanerges is said to translate into Sons Of Thunder, but as we will show below, that is simply not so; neither in Latin, nor Greek, nor Hebrew, nor Aramaic.
The name Boanerges occurs only once in the Bible, namely as the nickname that Jesus gives to James and John, the two Sons of Zebedee (Mark 3:17). That suggests that Zebedee equals Thunder, or at least that Zebedee leads into Thunder, but Zebedee, or Zebadiah, means Gift Of Yah, so how is thunder a gift?
Luke reports that a dispute arose among the disciples on who would be called the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24-30). Mark adds the detail that James and John were at the heart of the dispute, with their request that Jesus would let them sit at his left and right hand (Mark 10:35-44). But Matthew reveals that behind the two men's impetuous request was the ambition of their mother (Matthew 20:20-28). That means that the Thunder of which James and John were sons, may very well have been their mother, rather than their father.
From the intricate wording of the 2nd century poem titled The Thunder, Perfect Mind found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi (a.k.a. the slightly less intricate Bitch by Meredith Brooks), we know that at least in certain circles, "Thunder" represented something like a feminine deity, the companion of the Father God — ultimately representing virtually anything from Isis to Sophia or the Virgin that would bear the Logos (see our article on παρθενος, parthenos, virgin). And that suggests that the phrase "Sons of Thunder" was probably a generic term or proper name for a particular sect or intellectual leaning, obviously on a dual par with the more familiar "Sons of Light" (Luke 16:8, John 12:36, 1 Thessalonians 5:5; see Qumran's War Scroll). The Talmud tells of a Rabbinic hotspot called Bene-berak, which was a town in the territory of Dan (mentioned in Joshua 19:45). The name Bene-berak means Sons Of Lightning.
The phrase Son of Thunder translates into Hebrew as Ben-hadad, which was a nickname for Damascus, the seat of power of the Arameans. The Arameans invented the block-letters in which Hebrew is written — at some point, scribes began to transliterate Hebrew texts into Aramaic script, possibly because Hebrew Scriptures had been deemed illegal and transliterating them into Aramaic script was the only way to hide them in plain sight. Suspiciously similar, Paris, the son of king Priam of Troy and instigator of the Trojan War, had been hidden as an infant prince among shepherds.
To anyone familiar with these stories, the moniker Sons of Thunder would be identical to Shepherds Who Hide A Precious Child Among Them — like one prince amidst two shepherds, one heir between two thieves (Matthew 27:38), or one freeman amidst two soldiers (Acts 12:6).
It takes some getting used to, but the Hebrew language differentiates between masculinity and femininity by understanding the former as the tendency to be alone or individualistic, and the latter as the tendency to be many or a collective. This is why God is masculine and humanity feminine. It's also why one's testicles are feminine and one's penis masculine. The image of the one prince amidst the two shepherds obviously corresponds to the mammalian scrotum.
The Sons Of Thunder are society's Testicles: the feminine (i.e. societal, human) organs that produce both the seeds and the testosterone that drives the husband to deliver the package, via his masculine (i.e. governmental, divine) member who — like Paris, like Jesus — never stops being part of the husband but enters the world of the bride and so becomes part of her and forges a union between the feminine (humanity) and masculine (God). The tabernacle was called the Tent of Meeting because it equaled Israel's national vulva.
For more on this titillating topic, see our articles on the nouns ירך (yarek), genitalia, and כבד (kabed), "glory", the verb περιτεμνω (peritemno), to circumcise, and the name Stephen, for an extended look at the mammalian reproduction cycle, which explains major elements of the Resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11).
🔼A Many-Splendoured Thing
Jesus doesn't actually call James and John the Sons Of Thunder. The term comes from Mark, who helpfully explains that the name Boanerges means υιοι βροντης (uioi brontes). However, the noun υιος (huios) does not simply mean son in a biological sense.
As we note in our article on that word: The noun υιος (huios) describes a legitimate child, but legitimate in the sense of being a rightful heir. It's the counterpart of νοθος (nothos), which denotes an illegitimate child, a non-heir. That means that our word rather denotes a person (of any age) who has been acknowledged and accepted into a household as someone who has the rank and rights of a male heir, and whose destiny it is to represent and ultimately replace the male parent, and thus to take over the governmental duties of the male parent. Unlike our English word "son", which brings to mind the mere biological act of procreation and is an epithet that can never be removed, the Greek word υιος (huios) conveys the political act of representation, which could be bestowed and rescinded independently from any physical affiliation.
The epithet Sons Of Thunder does not denote men who somehow have thunder as a parent, but rather inseparable elements that together add up to the singular and real thunder: theoretically separate but superimposed waves that add up to actual thunder, in a Fourier sort of way. Likewise, the Sons Of Light are, simply put, the visible colors that together constitute white light. The pallet of colors in the rainbow is the mark of God's covenant with the whole of life (Genesis 9:12-17; for the term כל הי, kol hay, all life, see the name Eve), which obviously speaks more of genetic variation than of color vision (all genes vary but not all living things see color).
Deuteronomy 6:4 reads: "Hear, O Israel! YHWH is our God, YHWH is One". About the Son, Hebrews 1:3 reads: "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" but Hebrews 1:1 reads: "God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets πολυμερος (polumeros), many-sidedly, and πολυτροπως (polutropos), in many ways."
As we show in our article on the amazing verb נהר (nahar), which means both to flow (what a river does), and to shine (what a star does), the ancients possessed knowledge of what later would be called Relativity Theory. And in our article on the noun αστηρ (aster), star, we show that the ancients were aware of the fractal nature of creation, and so could deduct vast amounts of knowledge from what can be seen with the naked eye (Romans 1:20). They certainly also mastered genetics, thermodynamics, electrodynamics, optics and harmonic analysis. The ability to break any observation down to its inseparable constituents is of course the basis of both the distillation of the alphabet from audible speech, as well as of modern science. Paul famously worded what later would be known as the Scientific Method in Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
The noun βροντη (bronte) means both thunder (the rumble that comes after lightning) and the state of one struck with sudden insight: astonishment or perplexity — hence the title of Maimonides' famous work: the Guide for the Perplexed, which might as well read: the Guide for the Thunderstruck.
In mythology, thunder is widely considered an attribute of the divine, and thunderbolts are wielded by Thor, Zeus, Hadad, even YHWH. In the words of the Psalmist: "The voice of YHWH makes the deer to calve, and strips the forests bare. And in His temple everything says, "Glory!"" (Psalm 29:9). But contrary to modern intuition, atmospheric thunder is not the primary form of the Voice of YHWH. Instead, thunder is an attribute of the Voice, in all its many forms, and thunder happens when God raises his Voice (Deuteronomy 5:25, ), which is the exception rather than the rule since the Voice is most commonly charged with reasonable instructions (Exodus 15:26, Deuteronomy 8:20, Joshua 5:6, Jeremiah 44:23), and often appears as a mere whisper (Genesis 3:8, 1 Kings 19:12-13).
More strikingly (and unique to the Biblical view on thunder), thunder is not only the singular Voice of God but also the collective voice of the godly, those who are in His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) and cry "Glory" in whatever way or form (Psalm 19:1, 57:5, Isaiah 6:3). Wordless roaring requires no common language, but language can only emerge within a contracting society — a society in which hot-heads cool off and begin to forgo war and seek reasonable congress with their neighbors. The term קול יהוה (qol yhwh) means Voice of YHWH, in which the word for voice, namely קול (qol), obviously relates to the verb קהל (qahal), to assemble.
Thunder is associated with αστραπη (astrape), lightning, which is a noun derived from the afore mentioned noun αστηρ (aster), meaning star. The Hebrew word for luminary, namely מאור (ma'or), literally means agent of light, and the word light refers in the Bible to anything from life, warmth, safety and social centralization, knowledge and wisdom and finally godliness (see πυρ, pur, fire). Hence stars (the agents of light) were made to be signs, governors and guides to righteousness (Genesis 1:14, Daniel 12:3). Hence Abraham's seed would be like the stars (Genesis 15:5, Galatians 3:7).
All this means that even though our modern intuition dictates that physical stars and atmospheric thunder are the originals and all else is metaphor, in the Bible the originals are righteous and godly minds, whereas physical stars and atmospheric thunder are the metaphors (actually, they're self-similar, not metaphors).
The people of Judea in Jesus' days fought for their existence a battle on two fronts: the reality of the Jewish political state was compromised by the overbearing Roman Empire, but their religious identity was under attack by all sorts of Greek philosophies. The Sadducees and Pharisees tried their best to stay true to pure Mosaic Law but many others had embraced elements of Greek thought, and had become Hellenized Jews (mostly Stoics and Epicureans). Ultimately, the friction between the Jews (the Mosaic Jews) and the Greeks (the Hellenized Jews) triggered a civil war, which had long been ready to break out due to Rome's outrageous taxations, which in turn resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.
Jesus, Peter and Paul all taught that Jews should respect their Roman overlords and pay Roman tax (Matthew 22:17-21, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1), but also that the only way to defeat the Roman monster was to use its own rules against it, and so force it to break its own rules and thus crumble (Matthew 12:25, Acts 25:11, 2 Peter 2:19). They also recognized Greek mythology as not mere pagan nonsense but as very serious attempts by very smart people to marry observable reality to the human mind (see our article on Hellas for a more detailed look at this).
🔼Thunder, Shields and Rivers of Light
In Greek mythology, thunder and lightning were the twin goddesses Astrape and Bronte, whose primary job was to bear Zeus' shield. Rather significantly, when the Logos (the Word of God) first engaged mankind, his first words were: "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you" (Genesis 15:1).
As we point out in our article on λεον (leon), meaning lion: when large predators circle the herd, the core of the herd is the safest place. The observation of this by our remote ancestors probably set our kind onto the road to animal husbandry. The ubiquitous noun צאן (so'n) means flock. The related noun צנה (sinna), denotes a large shield that covered the whole body.
Greek theologians further deducted that father Zeus had obtained his signature thunderbolts from three grateful Cyclopes. The word Cyclops appears to technically derive from the verb κλεπτω (klepto), to steal (specifically cattle), but obviously to everybody came to strongly resemble the words κυκλος (kuklos), circle, and ωψ (ops), eye. The corresponding Hebrew word for round-eye is En-eglaim, which also means Fountain of Calves, as an obvious nod to the Cyclopes' origin as cattle thieves. The name En-eglaim occurs only in Ezekiel's spectacular vision of the River from the Temple (Ezekiel 47:9-10, see Revelation 22:1, also see the noun δικτυον, diktuon, fishing net), and see our article on the name Tigris for the significance of rivers in the Bible.
Significant to our present story, one of Zeus' three Cyclopes was called Brontes, meaning Thunderer (his name Βροντης, brontes is identical to the genitive of βροντη, bronte, used in Mark 3:17; nobody in Mark's original audience would have missed this). Further extrapolations demanded that either Zeus or his son, the Silver-Bowed Apollo, eventually killed the Cyclopes, which posed a continuity problem because earlier traditions had declared that the Cyclopes were immortal. To solve this paradox, the theologian Pherecydes gave the Cyclopes mortal sons, into whom their qualities transferred (a familiar mechanism that also explains much of Jesus' human nature), and whom the greater powers could conveniently dispense with (see the same story told in Matthew 21:33-41, albeit from the perspective of the truly Highest God, unknown to the Greeks but obviously suspected to exist: Acts 17:23).
And that means that the Sons of Thunder were not simply some isolated Jewish sect, but a very specific one, namely the embodiment of an intellectual mechanism that forced death to and transcendence of the legacy of the Cyclopes. Said simpler: the Sons of Thunder aimed to be the thunderous entourage of a silver arrow from a silver bow, to Greek mythology what the Nazarene would be to the Mosaic tradition — see Job 38:7, and note that the name Orthrus equals the noun ορθρος (orthros), which describes the time just before morning. The Greek hero Heracles killed the dog Orthrus, in order to liberate a herd of mythical cattle. We'll return to the great Heracles further below, but for the Biblical take on mankind's celebrated liberation from the bondage of the natural cycles, see our article on the name Sabbath.
Luke tells how Jesus expanded upon Isaiah by proclaiming freedom to the captives (Isaiah 61:1-2) plus sight to the blind (Luke 4:18). His audience obviously heard the link with the name Homer, which means both Blind Man and Captive, and decided to drive Jesus up the hill to throw him off. But the Jewish custom for dealing with blasphemers was to stone them to death; throwing people off mountains was a pagan thing. When they finally got to the top, Jesus simply turned around and walked back down. To literally everybody in those days, this would have been an obvious retelling of the story of Sisyphus, who was condemned to eternally push a rock up a hill only to see it roll back down again each time.
🔼The wind blows where it wishes
Luke explains all this further in a story that is very obviously more metaphor than history: in the days leading toward Jesus' ascension — right after his transfiguration (Luke 9:28), the healing of the demoniac boy (see our article on Paphos), the argument about who might be the greatest (Luke 9:46), and John's astonishing but crucial observation that not everybody who expels demons in Jesus' name is necessarily part of the obvious cluster of followers of Jesus (Luke 9:49-50) — Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Ahead of him he sent messengers, and the word for messenger is αγγελος (aggelos), angel (see Exodus 23:23).
They arrived in a village of the Samaritans, and although Samaria was a proper region, it also represented quintessential Un-Jewishness, which in Jesus' days was pretty much equal to Greekness. When the Samaritans declined to extend their hospitality to Jesus and company, James and John offered to command fire to come down from heaven, clearly with a nod to Elijah's battle with the Baal priests (1 Kings 18:24). Jesus responded by saying: "You don't know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save" (compare Luke 9:55-56 to John 3:16-21), after which they went to another village.
The key to all this is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:17: The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law: the kind of freedom that comes from the mastery of rules (freedom to say whatever depends on mastery of and adherence to the rules of one's language; freedom to jam with friends depends on the mastery of and adherence to the rules of music and one's instruments; freedom to drive one's car anywhere depends on everybody sticking to the rules that prevent traffic from becoming utter grid-locked chaos).
This ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law, was contemplated by the Greek philosophers as the democratic ideal: freedom that is the basis of an autonomous state (a free state; not part of an empire), in which every individual is utterly free to be whatever they want and become whatever they fancy. Such a state, the Greeks had understood, can only come about when all citizens master and adhere to the state's common code of conduct. Paul wrote: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8), and "It is for ελευθερια (eleutheria) that Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1).
Love does not take in account a wrong suffered (1 Corinthians 13:5), and the great gift of freedom begins with the willingness to accept that even Samaritans have every right to close their own doors to people they don't trust. By respecting their concerns and going to the next town over, Jesus demonstrates where salvation begins: not in might, but in His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
🔼Boanerges is Semitic
It's a mystery how the otherwise non-existing appellation Boanerges can be made to correlate with the epithet Sons Of Thunder. Or even from what language it's supposed to have been taken. Most commentator align the Boane-part with the plural of the Aramaic word בר (bar) or the Hebrew equivalent בן (ben), both meaning son or figuratively, partaker in some collective, or quality or skill:
The noun בן (ben) means son, or more general: a member of one particular social or economic node — called a "house", which is built upon the instructions of one אב ('ab), or "father" — within in a larger economy (hence: the "sons of the prophet" are the members of the prophet-class; the prophets). This noun obviously resembles the verb בנה (bana), to build, and the noun אבן ('eben), stone.
Our noun's feminine version, namely בת (bat), means daughter, which resembles the noun בית (bayit), meaning house. Sometimes our noun is contracted into a single letter ב, whose name beth comes from בית (bayit) and means "house" as well. As a prefix, the letter ב (be) means "in." The word for mother, אם ('em), is highly similar to that of tribe or people, אמה ('umma).
The problem here is that although we have no sound recordings of those days — only transliterations from one language into another — this plural noun would not likely transliterate to the Greek boane but something like benay (as in benay Israel, or sons of Israel: Exodus 1:1).
As discussed above, the word for thunder that Mark uses is the regular off-the-shelf Greek word for thunder. But the regular off-the-shelf Hebrew or Aramaic word for thunder is רעם (ra'am — see the name Raamah). Most commentators then creatively assume that the second part of the name Boanerges comes from the verb רגש (ragash), which indirectly may mean thunder, but only figuratively, and probably also because our languages lacks proper synonyms:
The verb רגש (ragash) describes the thunderous rumble of the combined voices of many agitated people. Nouns רגש (regesh) and רגשה (rigsha) describe the sound of an agitated throng, with a connotation of the throng's active plotting or deliberating (rather than just shouting).
Ergo: connecting a meaning of Sons Of Thunder to the name Boanerges requires a phonetic warping of the Semitic word for sons and a misappropriation of a very negative verb meaning to congregate for destructive or conspiratorial reasons.
Some scholars propose that author Mark worked off Aramaic source texts, and that he misread the letter ם (final mem, corresponding to our M) for a ס (samekh, corresponding to our S), and blundered on by wrongly transliterating the Hebrew-Aramaic benay ra'am (meaning Sons Of Thunder) to the incorrect Greek Boanerges, which he then swiftly explained to mean Sons Of Thunder.
It's indeed a common lament among beginning students of Hebrew or Aramaic that the letters ם (M-final) and ס (S) look confusingly alike, as do the letters מ (M-regular) and ט (T), as do the letters ד (D) and ר (R), as do the letters ו (W) and ז (Z), as do the letters ג (G) and נ (N), as do the letters ה (H) and ח (CH), as do the letters ע (') and צ (TZ). But usually, after a lesson or two, the apt neophytes learn to recognize these letters and their obvious differences, and very few mistakes follow. Foreign students of the Latin alphabet, likewise, usually complain about the similarities of our letters O and Q, or O and D, or O and 0, or I (upper case i) and l (lower case L) and 1 (the number one), but that also doesn't last long.
The Gospel of Mark is one of humanity's all-time greatest literary works, and its author was doubtlessly a formidable scholar who certainly did not write in a cultural vacuum. He probably worked with a team of authors, who in turn were surrounded by a larger circle of immediate proofreaders, who would have surely caught any unintended wrinkle in the fabric. The suggestion that Mark came up with the name Boanerges by mistake is really a rather tall order, and commonly rejected by scholars who are familiar with the dazzling complexities of Mark's gospel.
🔼Name or names? Translation or paraphrase?
Most translations will tell the reader that Jesus gave the sons of Zebedee the name Boanerges, which means Sons Of Thunder. And yes, the synthetic version of the Gospel of Mark published by Westcott and Hort (1881) indeed uses the word ονομα (onoma), the accusative singular of the noun that means name. But the Textus Receptus (1551 and 1894), Tischendorf (1869-1872) and the Byzantine Majority Text (2000) use the plural ονοματα (onomata); meaning names. In other words: Jesus didn't give them the name Boanerges that is Sons of Thunder, but he rather gave them the names Boanerges and the similar Sons of Thunder.
The Greek phrasing that ties the two monikers together is ο εστιν (o estin), which translates into English "that is to say" rather than "that translates as". This phrase is used to reflect a far-less-than-perfect symmetry:
- Mark 7:11 reads: "...Corban, that is a gift devoted to God," yet the word corban does not translate into "a gift devoted to God" (see our article on the word Corban).
- Mark 12:42 reads: "...two lepta which is a quadrans," but two lepta does not translate into a quadrans.
- Mark 15:16 reads: "The soldiers took Him away into the palace, that is, the Praetorium," but palace does not translate into Praetorium.
- Mark 15:42 reads: "...preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbat," but one does not translate into the other.
- Ephesians 6:17 reads: "...sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," ... idem
- Colossians 1:24 reads: "...his body, which is the church," ... idem
- Revelation 21:8 reads: "...the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death," ... idem
- Revelation 21:17 reads: "...the measure of a man, that is, of the angel," ... idem
The only time that ο εστιν (o estin) literally translates something occurs in Hebrews 7:2, which reads: "...king of Salem, which is king of peace". And that means that it's nearly certain that Boanerges and Sons Of Thunder are not one and the same name in different languages, but rather two distinct names that loosely paraphrase each other.
🔼A Hebrew thought in a Greek robe
Mark wrote for a predominantly Latin audience of people who were also fluent in Greek, but who would not have been served by a play on words in Semitic. That suggests that the name Boanerges is probably Greek (or Latin but preferably both). Since Jesus came up with the name Boanerges, he must have had considerable mastery over these languages. This in turn demonstrates that he was intimately familiar with Greek literature.
The first part of our name looks like it has to do with the noun βοα (boa) or βοη (boe), meaning a (collective) cry or shout, with a strong association to oxen:
The noun βοη (boe) or βοα (boa) describes a loud collective cry, like a battle cry, but may also describe the roar of massive prayer, mourning, joy and so on. It's of unclear origin and thought to be onomatopoeic. Ultimately, it describes a vocal expression of something for which no words are available, either because those words don't exist yet, or else because the shouter doesn't know them.
Verb βοαω (boao) means to roar or collectively cry out loud (as in: "the voice of one crying in the wilderness"). Verb βοηθεω (boetheo) means to run upon hearing a cry, to rush to a crier's aid. Noun βοηθεια (boetheia) describes the aid received upon a cry for help. Noun βοηθος (boethos) describes someone who rushes to help.
The noun βους (bous) is the common word for the castrated ox or female bovine, which were proverbially trained to be yoked up in teams. A single bull represented the anarchy of the wordless wilderness, but the image of yoked oxen represented the formation of common words (hence Genesis 2:19-20).
The image of the yoke of oxen became the quintessential emblem of the agricultural revolution, which ultimately resulted in civilization, i.e. a society based in cities with its apex the City of God, utterly divorced from the wordless and lawless wilderness. Humans began to drink cow milk in the 3rd millennium BC, and milk became equated with a baby's first instructions.
The noun μοσχος (moschos) means calf. It's of unclear origin, but a candidate might be the noun מסכה (masseka), cast image (such as the familiar Golden Calf).
The noun ταυρος (tauros) means bull. It's also of unclear origin, but a candidate might be the noun שור (shor), bull.
Lewis and Short (A Latin Dictionary) report that our nouns βοα (boa), collective cry, and βους (bous), bovine, are reflected in the Latin root bo-, meaning roaring, which also leads to the Latin noun bos, meaning ox or bull (hence our English word bovine).
Not without significance, the spelling βοη (boe) is Attic (which originated in Athens and environs), whereas βοα (boa) is Dorian (Sparta, Crete and Rhodes). This means that our name Boanerges seems to express a preference of Sparta over Athens, and thus of the Peloponnesian Leage over the Delian Leage (and ultimately even a nod to the pre-Greek culture of Boeotia). These two great leagues emerged after the collapse of the original Hellenic Leage that had united the many Greek city states against the Persian aggressors. When the latter were defeated, Athens began to act like an overlord, against which Sparta revolted. Trouble lasted until Phillip of Macedon stabilized the region and his son Alexander created his massive empire. Greece's celebrated Classical Age occurred largely on the stage of the grinding competition between Athen and Sparta, and it's not without reason to say that the modern world that came from Greece owes much of its existence to this quintessential conflict.
Above we made the connection between Zeus' thunderbolt producing Cyclopes (i.e. round-eyes, cattle thieves) and the name En-eglaim (i.e. round-eye, fountain of calves), but the link goes much deeper. Psalm 29:5-6 reads: "The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox."
As we discuss in our article on YHWH, vowel notation made the Hebrew alphabet complete, and the very name of the Lord consists of the three vowels of the Hebrew alphabet. The first letters of both the Greek and the Hebrew alphabets were named after the noun אלף ('eleph), cattle or oxen, from the verb אלף ('aleph), to learn or produce thousands:
The verb אלף ('alep) means to learn, or rather to socially synchronize, and hence to produce thousands (of kids and calves in flocks and herds). Noun אלף ('elep) means either cattle or a thousand (or a proverbial "whole lot"). Adjective אלוף ('allup) means tame, peaceful or friendly, or "leader of thousands".
When Elijah proposed the duel of the offerings, the offering itself was that of two פרים (purim), or young bullocks, from the verb פרה (para), to bear fruit:
The verb פרר (parar) means to split, divide and usually make more, expand or multiply. This root belongs to an extended family that also contains פרץ (paras), to break (through), פרש (paras and parash), to spread out or declare, פרס (paras), to break in two or divide, and פאר (pa'ar) means to branch out or to glorify.
The Bible is not concerned with political goings on and only with the evolution of the wisdom tradition, and thus with the rise of information technology (from cave paintings to blockchain). That said: our word "science" comes from the Greek verb σξιζω (schizo), which means to split, divide and make more.
Verb פרה (para) means to bear fruit or be fruitful. Noun פרי (peri) means fruit in its broadest sense. Noun פר (par) means young bull and פרה (para) means young heifer. Note that the first letter א (aleph) is believed to denote an ox-head, while its name derives from the verb אלף (aleph), to learn or to produce thousands. The second letter, ב (beth) is also the word for house (or temple or stable). The familiar word "alphabet," therefore literally means "stable of bulls" or "house of divisions" or "temple of fruitful learning".
Noun פרא (para') is a word for wild donkey. The young bovines were probably known as fruits-of-the-herd, but donkeys in the Bible mostly symbolize lone wanderings and humility.
Noun פור (pur) means lot (hence the feast called Purim). Noun פורה (pura) denotes a winepress and פרור (parur) a cooking pot.
Science is all about breaking things into its constituents: the noun בן (ben), meaning son, closely resembles the adverb בין (ben), meaning between, from the verb בין (bin), to see a difference, to perceive or discern. In Luke 14:5, Jesus says: "If one of you has a son (υιος, huios) or an ox (βους, bous) that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?"
Contrary to common perception, the familiar word science does not describe the pursuit of some absolute truth, but rather that of convention. In modern times, language, law and science are systematically pursued, but all three of these endeavors began to exist as emergent properties of a cooling human society — hence the theme of the Virgin Birth.
Science is the pursuit of agreement, and specifically the agreement on what to drop as certified false. Science is not the art of confirmed verification, so as to build a tower into the heavens, one brick at a time. Instead, science is the art of confirmed falsification. It never proves right and always wrong, and provides mankind with an ever narrowing set of remaining possibilities, or an ever clearing lens to always look upon the whole of everything (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).
As discussed above, James and John offered to bring fire down upon a Samaritan village. The name Samaria comes from the verb שמר (shamar), to keep or guard. The noun שור (shor), bull, comes from the verb שור (shur), to excite or be raised. Noun שור (shur) describes a wall and שורר (shorer) a man on it: a watcher. Noun תשורה (teshura) means gift.
When Jethro advised Moses on how to organize Israel — and Israel's organization closely anticipated the deploy of the Ten Commandments — he told him to assign leaders of thousands (Exodus 18:21, 18:25). The term "leader of thousands" (שרי אלפים, saray 'alepim), is obviously a play on words and looks closely similar to "bulls of the herds".
🔼The Crowd Roars
The second part of the name Boanerges looks like it has to do with the adjective ενεργης (energes), meaning active or effective, or the noun ενεργεια (energeia), which describes internal activity or operation (hence our word energy). This noun exists in Latin as energia:
The verb εργω (ergo) means to work or to enclose an area, and particularly in a virgin or natural and uncultivated landscape. It's the parent and counterpart of the verb εργαζομαι (ergazomai), which means to work within a cultured field or established economy.
The derived noun εργον (ergon) means work. Noun αμπελουργος (ampelourgos) means vine-worker. Adjective δημιουργος (demiourgos) means a "worker from the people" or craftsman.
The adjective ενεργης (energes) literally means in-working, being internally active, having an effect from within. Noun ενεργεια (energeia) means internal work (hence our English word energy), and verb ενεργεω (energeo) means to in-work; to work internally.
Some other Greek compounds that contain the word ενεργεια (energeia) are: the nouns αυτενεργεια (autenergeia), meaning self-moving energy and δυσενεργεια (dusenergeia), meaning lassitude (= weariness of body or mind; lack of energy resulting from fatigue), and the adjectives ανενεργης (anenerges), inefficacious, and συνενεργης (sunenerges), simultaneously active. These words, like the adjective ενεργης (energes), don't appear in the New Testament.
These few adjectives end with ης -(-es) but our name Boanerges ends with -ες (-es). The -ες (-es) is indicative of a third declension plural, but that happens only with nouns that, in singular form, end in a sigma (ενεργους, energous, does not exist, but in rare cases, words that end in -εια, -geia, also exist with a -ους, -gous ending). Regarding verbs, -ες (-es) is normally indicative of a second person singular active imperfect verbal inflection: you were doing something. The only occurrence of an imperfect form of our verb ενεργεω (energeo) is in Romans 7:5: "For when we were in the flesh, the experiences of the errors by the law, was working within our members to bring forth fruit unto death". This Pauline assertion is not unlike the Lukan fire-from-heaven scene, but the -ες (-es) suffix marks the second person singular: you (singular).
That suggests that somehow, in the past, James and John had been one (namely Zebedee) but were now two. This brings to mind the peculiar one-to-two or two-to-one theme that occurs all over Scriptures: most obviously on the Second Creation Day and its many self-similar manifestations (Genesis 10:25, 15:10, 25:23, Exodus 14:21, 1 Kings 11:31, Matthew 25:32), but also in the transfiguration, when the two prophets Moses and Elijah, who had both been testifying of the one Logos, meet the one Logos; the two men at Christ's tomb (Luke 24:4), the two witnesses on the road to Emmaus and the resurrected Christ (Luke 24:13), the two men at Christ's ascension (Acts 1:10), the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3-4.
The final mystery of our name comes with the curious α (a) in the middle of it. It probably comes from our word βοα (boa), but inadvertently brings to mind the adjective ανεργος (anergos), which is headed by a negating α (a) and thus means not done, no work, or without effect. Fire from heaven is lightning, and the lightning part is the damaging part. All visible lightning comes with audible thunder, but not all audible thunder comes with visible lightning. Calling James and John Sons Of Thunder when they propose to command fire from the sky, is rather satirical.
Mark tells of Jesus giving the sons of Zebedee the name Boanerges just after he gives Simon the name Peter (Mark 3:16). The name Peter is the masculine noun πετρος (petros) and means pebble, whereas the feminine noun πετρα (petra) means rock. This ties into the principle of the one and the many: many pebbles are better than one rock; many weaklings are better than one hero; many instructions are better than one law (both the words Torah and Rabbi come from verbs that mean to be many, and describe the singular effect of multitudes of rain drops, arrows, instructions, and so on).
All this happened right after "He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him" (Mark 3:14). To literally nobody in Mark's original audience this would have sounded like a hip, novel event.
In Athens existed a famous temple of Heracles (or Hercules to the Romans), who was the greatest of Greek heroes and whose literary character shared its archetypal roots with those of Odysseus and Jesus. This proved marvelously convenient to the early evangelists, who could use key elements of the familiar story of Heracles to explain the eternal truths of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:16). This Athenian temple of Heracles was also a public gymnasium, specifically for νοθοι (nothoi), the illegitimate children we mentioned earlier, the offspring who were not υιος (huios), legitimate sons. All this reflected revolutionary humane considerations to Greeks but core legislation to Jews (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:27; like birds, the Levites were "fatherless", Genesis 49:6, and had orphan status: Deuteronomy 14:29; Jesus was a Levite-by-blood and only Jew-by-law after his adoption by Joseph).
As everybody knew, every year, twelve νοθοι (nothoi) were elected to be παρασιτοι (parasitoi), co-diners with the image, and thus the godly presence of Heracles. This was a serious duty and whoever tried to decline faced prosecution.
The name of this temple annex gymnasium was Κυνοσαργες (Kunosarges), or Cynosarges, which, like Boanerges, terminates in a troublesome and inexplicable -εσ (-es). Even to the classical Greeks, this name Cynosarges was a mystery, and writers concocted a legend of an offering-snatching white dog, and explained the name to come from the words κυων (kuon), dog, and αργος (argos), white, from whence the noun αργυρος (arguros), silver, and the Latin verb arguo, to make clear; hence Apollo's deadly Silver Bow that had terminated the immortal Cyclopes.
Pun number one is that the adjective αργος (argos), white, is identical to the adjective αργος (argos), workless, from our noun εργον (ergon), meaning work. Our English word school comes from the Greek word σχολη (schole), meaning rest or freedom from manual labor in order to pursue learning. A famous school was that of Antisthenes, who lectured at the Cynosarges, which prompted folks to dub his school of thought Cynicism. Later, Zeno of Cyprus would branch off from the main Cynic trunk and create Stoicism. Stoicism paved the way for Rome to become Christian.
Pun number two is that the adjective αργος (argos), white, is also the name of the ship of Jason and the Argonauts. Everybody back then knew that story, and they also knew that the word for ship, namely ναυς (naus), closely resembles the word for temple, namely ναος (naos). The name Jason may be Greek and derive from a future form of the verb ιαομαι (iaomai), to heal, and thus mean He Will Heal. Or it is Semitic, in which case it's a variant of the name Jesus, or Joshua, meaning Yah Will Save.
The name Boanerges is a literary masterpiece of dazzling width and depth. It's a stylized representation of the Second Creation Day; a verbal symbol of a sound that corresponds to a visual symbol representing a bolt of lightning cutting through a dark sky. It tells of hiding a precious Gift safely in plain sight, in between two guarding commoners. It tells of kingdoms within us, of the social synchronicity that makes a herd, and the instinct of cattle to produce and heed chiefs and leaders.
Boanerges tells of the feminine thunder that always accompanies the masculine light (which includes life and wisdom), and provides a hint at thunder's harmonic components that correspond to the colors of the rainbow, with which God marked his covenant with all life.
The name Boanerges means Ox Energy and denotes social cohesion and stratification. It means Testosterone and speaks of the male motivation to compete for a sexual mate. It means School Of Cattle and illustrates how freedom from cosmic cycles allows the pursuit of real wisdom. And it means Curbed Battle Cry, as the rise of language allowed men to converse reasonably rather than meet each other in mindless combat.