🔼The name Lysias: Summary
- From the verb λυω (luo), to loose or unbind.
🔼The name Lysias in the Bible
As Paul's message caused a stir in Jerusalem, the resident Romans were called in and their commander had Paul arrested and chained. After a brief interview, the commander established that Paul was not the still fugitive Egyptian pseudo-Messiah (who is also mentioned by Josephus — Jewish War 2.261-262) and Paul explained that he was a Roman Jew from Tarsus (Acts 21:37-39). A subsequent sermon by Paul created further turmoil, and the commander brought Paul safely inside, had him heard by the Sanhedrin the next day, which created a greater uproar still.
Finally, Claudius Lysias had Paul transported to governor Felix in Caesarea (Acts 23:23-24), and even though Felix appears to have been expecting Claudius Lysias and promised further action upon his arrival (Acts 24:22), Paul remained in custody for two years.
🔼Etymology of the name Lysias
The name Lysias is a regular Greek word, namely the adjective λυσιασ (lusias), meaning releasing or delivering. In the classics it's mostly applied to either general deities or else is used as epithet of Dionysus, the god of wine and vineyards. This adjective derives from the common verb λυω (luo), meaning to loose or unbind:
The verb λυω (luo) means to loose, unbind or disintegrate, and may also be used in the sense of "breaking" a law. It comes with a handsome list of compound derivations.
The name Lysias means Deliverance, and the name Claudius Lysias as literary character is probably quite significant. At the time of the incident at Jerusalem, emperor Claudius was incumbent, and Claudius didn't take kindly to Christian and Jewish so-called atheists, "a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned," wrote Cassius Dio (Hist.67.14, see Acts 18:2).
The author of Acts, as well as the other New Testament writers, most probably used a kind of poetic code to hide sensitive material in plain sight, so as to not incriminate readers or carriers of their work when they were inspected by Roman officials.