🔼The name Nympha: Summary
- From the noun νυμφη (numphe), bride, from an ancient root that meant to marry.
🔼The name Nympha in the Bible
There's some controversy about whether the person whom Paul greets at the end of his letter to the Colossians is a man named Nymphas or a woman named Nympha, and whether the church was in his house, her house or their house (Colossians 4:15). The oldest and best manuscripts we have differ and whether translators go with the masculine or the feminine mostly comes down to taste. The KJV, Darby and Young spoke of Nymphas and his house. The NAS and NIV go with Nympha and her house.
But whether Paul meant to greet a man or a woman, neither the name Nympha nor Nymphas occurs in antiquity. There are scores of folks named Nymphaeus, Nymphodorus and Nymphius (names formed from the joyful wedding procedure at large), but nobody at any time was named Bride or Bridegroom (see below), and that is suspicious and intriguing.
Here at Abarim Publications we doubt that Paul would use his friends' real names in any written document. His movement was illegal in the empire, and by the time Paul wrote, Christians were fed to the lions in droves. It's much more likely that Paul wrote the most caustic of his paragraphs in a kind of poetic code, so as not to incriminate the bearers and recipients of his letters.
The name Nympha(s) most likely refers to some kind of Laodicean school of thought or other collective effort to oppose the Romans in a peaceful fashion, comparable to Those Of The Way (Acts 9:2) or Sons Of The Light (Luke 16:8). Since the church is always compared to a bride and the Lord to the groom, the person Paul greets is probably Nympha and not Nymphas.
🔼Etymology of the name Nympha
The name Nympha would be the common word for bride and the name Nymphas would be the common word for bridegroom:
The nouns νυμφη (numphe), bride, and νυμφιος (numphios), bridegroom, stem from a hugely old Proto-Indo-European root that meant to marry (hence the Latin nupto and the English "nuptial").
The name Nympha means Bride and most probably refers to a very early Christian denomination, which accentuated the marriage metaphor in its service to God and its hope on deliverance from the Romans: