🔼The name Dioscuri: Summary
- Zeus' Lads, Zeus' Native Army
- From (1) the name Zeus, and (2) the noun κουρος (kouros), boy, lad or native soldier.
🔼The name Dioscuri in the Bible
The name Dioscuri occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Acts 28:11, where Paul notes that the Alexandrian ship he was on carried Dioscuri as its figurehead. Probably fearing unfamiliarity of their audiences with the name Dioscuri, most modern translations of the Bible omit it and insert either "the Twin Brothers" (NAS, ASV) or "Castor and Pollux" (KJV) or a combination of these (NIV: "the twin gods Castor and Pollux"). The versions of Darby and Young read Dioscuri.
The divine twins Castor and Pollux were known together as the Dioscuri (or Dioskouri) or Gemini in Latin, and became personified by an astronomical sign and a set of eight to seventeen stars, depending on the observer's clarity of vision. Their mother was Leda and their sister was Helen of Troy — that is to say: Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, whereas Pollux and Helen were immortal spawn of Zeus (via his incarnation as swan).
The Dioscuri were known for their willingness to lend assistance to humans, and probably since particularly sailors depend much on the goodwill of the gods, the stellar twin became the mariners' patron and was called upon for favorable winds.
Famous twins of the Old Testament that may or may not reflect some of the same literary or theological considerations that gave us the Dioscuri in Greece are Perez and Zerah but most obviously Jacob and Esau.
There are several other fraternal couples mentioned in the Bible, but for the most part it's made obvious that these were not twins: Cain and Abel, Ephraim and Manasseh, Peleg and Joktan, and the list goes on. The three brothers Shem, Ham and Japheth may have been triplets who were born when their father Noah was five hundred years old (Genesis 5:32), even though it's emphasized that Shem was the oldest and Ham the youngest (Genesis 9:24, 10:21).
🔼Etymology of the name Dioscuri
The name Dioscuri consists of two elements. The first part comes from the name Zeus:
The name Ζευς (Zeus) and its genitive form Dios (Διος) correspond to an ancient root that expressed brightness of sky and clarity of vision. That same root gave us the words dio and deus, meaning god, divine, meaning godly, and diva, meaning deified (feminine). Some say this root even yielded the noun "day" and the verb "to do."
The second part of our name comes from the noun κουρος (kouros) or κορος (koros), meaning boy or lad, or soldier:
The noun κουρος (kouros) means son, boy or lad. Soldiers were known as a nation's "sons" and the auxiliary, non-native troops were known as επικουρος (epikouros). The derived noun επικουρια (epikouria) means help (from auxiliary, non-native troops).
The name Dioscuri literally means Zeus' Lads or Zeus' Native Army.