🔼The name Epaphras: Summary
- Dedicated To Aphrodite, Very Foamy, Very Lovely
- From (1) the prefix επι (epi), on or upon, and (2) the name Aphrodite, or the noun αφρος (aphros), foam.
🔼The name Epaphras in the Bible
The name Epaphras belongs to a fellow worker of Paul, whom the latter mentions three times in his writings. Apparently, Epaphras was from Colossae (Colossians 4:12), first explained the gospel to the Colossians and continued to liaise between Paul and them (Colossians 1:7). He also appears to have known Philemon, to whom Paul sends his greetings (Philemon 1:23).
The name Epaphras is most likely a contracted form of Epaphroditus, and it's possible that Epaphras is the same person as the Epaphroditus mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.
Since the Colossians knew him personally, his name may have been shortened to its amicable form when corresponding to his friends and family (like Bobby instead of Robert) but not when corresponding to less familiar people. But since both these names were very common in the Roman world, it's perfectly possible that these were two separate men. At this remove, we simply don't know.
🔼Etymology of the name Epaphras
The name Epaphras is a common shortened formed of the name Epaphroditus, which consists of two elements. The first part comes from the intensifying prefix επι (epi):
The preposition επι (epi) means on, upon or unto, but often works as an intensifier (very much so, more than so), rather like our word "extra". From this ubiquitous preposition derives the conjunction επει (epei), which mostly means "because" or "since".
The second part of our name comes from the name Aphrodite (Αφροδιτη). What the latter name may literally mean is no longer clear but most suggestions center on the word αφρος, aphros, meaning foam:
The noun αφρος (aphros) means foam: the structure that forms when liquid and air violently mix. When light and water mix, the result is the rainbow, which is the sign of the covenant between the Creator and all life (Genesis 9:8-17). Foam is commonly found on sea waves but also on the mouths of raging beasts or humans, and on wine and blood. The associated verb αφριζω (aphrizo) means to foam or to get very excited or spirited.
Most commentators relate Aphrodite's cult to that of Astarte (and ultimately Ashtoreth) but since Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty and pleasure (cognate to the Roman Venus) her name by implication means Lovely (hence our English word "aphrodisiac").
The literal meaning of the name Epaphras is as unclear as that of Aphrodite, but would literally mean Very Foamy, and by implication Very Lovely or Dedicated To Aphrodite or Dedicated To Love and Beauty.