🔼The name Laodicea: Summary
- Place Of People Of Common Fairness
- From (1) the noun λαος (laos), (common) people, and (2) the noun δικη (dike), justice.
🔼The name Laodicea in the Bible
The name Laodicea and the ethnonym Λαοδικευς (Laodicean) occur about half a dozen times in the New Testament. Laodicea is the name of a city which was formerly known as Diospolis, and which was situated on the river Lycus, close to Colossae and Hierapolis.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks of his great struggle for the Colossians and for the Laodiceans, although he hadn't visited either, at least up until the time of writing (Colossians 1:4, 2:1, but see Acts 18:23 and 19:10). At the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul conveys the unspecified concerns of church founder Epaphras concerning those of Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), and salutes the brothers of Laodicea along with Nympha and the church in her house (Colossians 4:15).
In Colossians 4:16 Paul refers to a letter to the church of the Laodiceans which we no longer possess. To rectify this sad loss, someone in the second or third century AD produced a kind of Paul's Greatest Hits compilation (composed largely of statements found in Paul's letters to the Philippians, Galatians and Colossians) and named it Paul's Letter To The Laodiceans. It's unknown what the original selling price of it was but since this product is still with us today, we may assume that it circulated in heavy rotation; a kind of Da Vinci Code of its day. It was probably written in Greek but exists today only in Latin.
The name Laodicea occurs 7 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
🔼Etymology of the name Laodicea
The name Laodicea comes from the common feminine personal name Laodice (which doesn't occur in the Bible), and that's because it was named after the wife of the Syrian king Seleucus II, who in turn (we may assume) was named after the great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of none other than Zeus, namely Laodice the daughter of Priam of Troy and his second wife Hecuba, as mentioned in Homer's Iliad (and read our article on Hellas for a lengthy look at the Iliad).
The name Laodice/Laodicea consists of two elements. The first element is the noun λαος (laos), meaning (common) people:
The noun λαος (laos) means people and is one of a few words to do so. What precisely distinguishes this word from the others is hard to say — it mostly implies the common masses at large, but so do the others — but it bears a remarkable resemblance to the noun λεον (leon), lion, which helps to explain the many proverbial lions romping around ancient texts. That word in turn looks like it has to do with the adverb λεως (leos), wholly or entirely, which is turn relates to the adverb λιαν (lian), very, very much or greatly.
The second part of the name Laodicea comes from the potent noun δικη (dike), meaning justice:
The noun δικη (dike) means justice in a formal, judicial sense, and fairness in a common sense. Ultimately, it denotes a harmony with the rules of the universe, and can be easily recognized from stability and perpetuity in all sorts of circumstances. Injustice, in a cosmological sense, causes instability and ultimately demise. This word comes with a long list of compound derivatives.
The noun δικτυον (diktuon) means fishing net. It's not technically related to δικη (dike), but in the hands of a gifted poet may still help to explain why the disciples would be fishers of men.
The name Laodice stems from deep antiquity and it's difficult to establish what it may have meant to the original name giver.
Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott's A Greek-English Lexicon lists what appears to be a variant or at least a related term: Λαοδικος (laodikos), meaning tried by the people, which would contain almost an oxymoron. The common people didn't do any trying in the legal sense. Magistrates did that. But if the names of gods and demigods could be indicative of their relationship to mankind (they frequently are), Laodice could convey humanity's motivation to standardize codes of conduct, something that eventually led to formal law.
Perhaps Laodice denoted the judicial counterpart of street-wisdom; the common sense of everyday fairness. In that case a personification in the form of a demigoddess named Laodice would govern the social cohesion of a people that follow the precepts of common fairness (which would be represented by the higher-ranking goddess Dike, whose name is identical to our noun δικη, dike). The name Laodicea would therefore mean Place Of People Of Common Fairness.