🔼The name Carpus: Summary
- Fruit, Yield
- From the noun καρπος (karpos), fruit or yield.
🔼The name Carpus in the Bible
The name Carpus occurs only once in the Bible, namely in the rather curious verse of 2 Timothy 4:13.
Literalists will maintain that whilst imprisoned in Rome, Paul requested of his young protégé Timothy to bring him his favorite snuggle, which he left with someone named Carpus, who lived at Troas, in western modern Turkey, and who also happened to have some scrolls and parchments laying around.
Others may realize (a) that in those days, very few private individuals had scrolls and parchments in their possession and (b) that if Carpus was indeed such an exceptional individual, he wouldn't have been pleased to be pointed out as an illegal Christian in a widely copied letter.
The writings bundled in our New Testament are most likely deeply coded communications between centers of (unarmed) resistance against Roman imperialism — and read our article on Onesimus for more on this. Carpus was most probably not simply an individual but the leader of or code word for a particular wisdom school with which Paul may have been communicating.
What precisely Paul referred to with the word φελονης (phelones) is not clear. This word appears to be a unique Paulism, although most commentators take it for a variant of the word φαιλονης (phailones), which in turn is probably a transliteration of the Latin word paenula, which denotes an outer garment; a cloak or mantle which also served as blanket during the night. But if Paul was cold in his cell, he could have easily obtained a cloak locally, and asking someone to transport something across a great distance (1300 kilometers as the crow flies and 1700 kilometers per today's roads) better have a very good reason.
Timothy was obviously up to immaculate speed with the hippest slang and doubtlessly comprehended what Paul was on about. To us moderns, it's less clear. Perhaps Paul was quoting a particular hymn or psalm, as he urged his audience to do (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), or perhaps even Livy's famous History of Rome, and particularly book 25, which tells of a Roman centurion named Marcus Centenius Paenula (same word) who was given eight thousand troops to halt Hannibal.
Livy's mister Paenula had promised his government a swift victory as he was "acquainted with the character of the enemy and the nature of the country" (Livy Hist.25.19.11-12). Unfortunately, Paenula's declaration "was not promised more foolishly than it was believed" and he and his troops were massacred.
Perhaps Paul thus covertly instructed Timothy to go to the overly optimistic and not-so-peaceful resistance movement in Troas and calm them down. Jesus, after all, had taught that when someone wants to take one's tunic, let him have one's cloak as well (Matthew 5:40), and Peter stated that love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8).
🔼Etymology of the name Carpus
The name Carpus is identical to the noun καρπος (karpos), meaning fruit or yield:
The noun καρπος (karpos) means fruit in its broadest sense, from fruits that hang from trees, to the returns on monetary investments, the entire proceeds from a vineyard to even one's own human offspring.
The negating adjective ακαρπος (akarpos) means fruitless, and the adjective καρποφορος (karpophoros) means fruit-bringing.
The name Carpus literally means Fruit or Yield, and may in fact not refer to a person but rather to Paul's instructions to the congregation in Troas to love both one another as well as the Roman enemy.