🔼The name Octavian: Summary
- From octavus, eighth, from octas, eight.
🔼The name Octavian in the Bible
The name Octavian isn't explicitly mentioned in the Bible, but it (or rather Gaius Octavius) is the original name of Augustus, the man who created the Roman Empire and became its first emperor. And since the New Testament (the entire Bible, actually) is largely a polemic against human tyranny in favor of personal sovereignty and responsibility, the name Octavian is covertly referenced in all sorts of creative ways, but probably most spectacularly in the story of Peter healing Aeneas (Acts 9:33), who had been paralyzed for a telling eight years.
As literally everybody in the original audience of Acts knew, Aeneas was the name of the legendary founder of the people of Rome. Virgil's celebrated Aeneid, which had become the foundational text of the Empire, told all about Aeneas, and how his godlike benevolence had poured over into Octavian and the subsequent leaders of the divine Empire. The author of Acts, obviously, had some different adjectives to describe that transaction.
🔼Etymology of the name Octavian
The name Octavian, which is English, comes from Octavius, which is Latin, and stems from the word octavus, eighth, from octas, eight, the equivalent of the Greek word οκτω (okto), eight:
The word οκτω (okto) is the cardinal number eight (hence words like October, octopus and octave). Its ordinal counterpart is ογδοος (ogdoos), eighth.
The name Octavian is one of several Roman names derived from numbers (others are Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, Nonus, Decimus). This tradition appears to have stemmed from deep antiquity: the name Arba, of the greatest among the giant Anakim, means Four. Then there is Shelesh, whose name means Third, who was a great-grandsons of Asher, the eighth son of Jacob and second of Zilpah.
Quite a few Latin words derive from the number eight, and any may have been the source of our name. Some historical characters with numbers for names had certainly been named after the months they were born in (in modern times we still have names like January Jones, Avril Lavigne, the March sisters). The name of the Roman eighth month, October, was on occasion used as a surname.
It's also been suggested that the family name Octavius stemmed from the first name of Octavius Mamilius, who was the son-in-law of the legendary seventh and last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, who was deposed in the 490s BC, in favor of the hallowed Republic. Hence, the phrase "seven kings" is a hardly disguised reference to non-republican Rome, pre or post (Revelation 17:10).
This suggests that to poetically inclined observers, the name Octavian points to a continuation (or restoration) of the Roman Kingdom. And this further suggests that the Octavii may originally have been a nest of anti-republican monarchists, and ultimately that Octavian's formation of the Empire was nothing but a devious fulfillment of his family's long festering desire.
This is far from unthinkable. Rome, in all its forms and guises, was continuously under attack, from all sides and even from within (see our article on the Illyrian Revolt). Several Roman family names had originated in movements of resistance against the original Latins, the Romans, the Republic and finally the Empire (see our articles on Pontius, Caesar, Rufus and Sergius).
🔼A Law that liberates
Throughout human history, names have tended to be derived from words, and when a culture begins to name its people by means of numbers, it does so to demonstrate that it seeks to switch from an emotional (and artistic) experience of the world to a rational (and scientific) one. Cultures like that also tend to glorify law (or more general: algorithmic thought), which is of course a major step up from the lawlessness of animals, but if it stalls in that phase and never rises above the law, it becomes a soulless automaton.
Transcending the law follows a mastery of the law, but certainly not an annulment of the law, or even its reduction by a single digit. Transcending the law can only be achieved when the law is fulfilled, and the authors of the New Testament stated that love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8, see Matthew 5:17 and Hebrews 10:1).
The authors of the New Testament emphasized that the purpose of the gospel is ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law (Galatians 5:1) and that the law of God is perfect (Psalm 19:7, James 1:25), holy and spiritual (Romans 7:12-14), even a law of liberty (James 2:12). Yet the law itself made nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:19), and thus Jesus was not a descendant of Moses, so as to result from the Law, but as a son of David (whose name means Love), so as to fulfill the law.
To the Bible writers, an individual's personal sovereignty — the result of having no earthly superior and reporting directly to God alone — was a defining quality of a king, a prophet or a high priest, who were all anointed into office. The word for "anointed one" is Christ (from the verb χριω, chrio, to anoint), which makes Antichrist everything that contradicts or opposes personal sovereignty, and any form of society based on that.
Religious Christianity didn't become its own thing until the 4th century, and until then was for all practical purposes a proper Jewish sect — meaning that to a pagan observer, there were only Jews. And Jews, though always obedient and respectful, took pride in their independence from human governments, which was dubious to say the least and downright threatening in times of political trouble. And the Jews insisted on three yearly festivals that took a whole week to complete, and a weekly day off, not only for Jewish males but even their wives, children, slaves and animals!
The Jewish presence in the old world was not limited to a mere smattering of ghettos and shtetls. They were everywhere, in every nation: millions of them, who all took pride in their large families almost as much as in their signature learnedness and skills. Because of the profundity of their teachings and the practical benevolence of their insights, vast multitudes of their pagan neighbors "drifted into Jewish ways" (in the ominous words of Cassius Dio, Hist.67.14).
Much to the chagrin of kings and rulers, the Jews and their converts would continuously interrupt commercial proceedings with their Sabbaths. Their pagan customers would find Jewish shops closed and Jewish workers absconded, and unlike days, months and years, there was nothing in observable nature that would help anyone to keep track of those confounded Sabbaths.
This meant that the Jews forced their pagan host population to start counting their days on non-existing calendars ("...teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom"; Psalm 90:12). The Romans had an eight-day week, so the Jewish week was constantly out of alignment with the Roman one. Like two spirits battling over mankind's marketplace, the Roman Eight (imperialism) and the Jewish Seven (personal sovereignty) slugged it out on every square and every crossroad. As always, the Jewish way would win (Zechariah 8:23), but, as always, the beast would not go down without a terrible fight.
Jews, and thus we moderns, count days exclusively, meaning that a seven-day-week has seven unique days: su-mo-tue-we-thu-fr-sa, with the seventh day being the Sabbath: not merely the last of a series, but rather the one great day that summed up the other six. The Jewish Sabbath stood not merely beside the sixth, as a mere next in line, but lay on top of the whole work-week like a blanket that covered and encompassed all other six. That's why the word Sabbath could also mean week: it literally covered the same chunk of time.
Romans, on the other hand, counted their days inclusively, meaning that a Roman week of eight days would have as its last day the first day of the next week, which was day number nine. And so the Romans referred to their week as nundinus, from the Latin for ninth (nonus), in turn from nine (novem).
To further demonstrate the confusion: A week of eight days was called a Ninth by Roman reckoning, but an Eighth by Jewish reckoning. A week of seven days would have been called and Eighth by Romans but a Seven by Jews (an "octave" is a scale of seven notes, by Roman reckoning: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do; that's eight of them). Six days in a row (a work-week that denies the Sabbath) would be a Roman Seventh and a Jewish Six (hence, perhaps, names like Susa and Tarshish).
🔼Sickness of Mirkwood
The other great theme of the New Testament is how to deal with the Hellenization of Jews (hence Luke 4:16-30; see our article on Hellas), and of course the Romanization of Jews — although these two processes are sorely misnamed since the process so referenced is rather the Judaization of the world. And no, this has nothing to do with religions or modern Judaism or Zionism, and everything with the spreading of alphabetic script (see our article on YHWH), science and unifying social codes of conduct (see our article on γαμος, gamos, marriage).
The Hebrew word Sabbath is the same as the noun שבת (shabbat), meaning a rest or stoppage, from the verb שבת (shabbat), to rest or cease activity. Related verb שוב (shub), means to reverse a motion (from up to down, or there-and-back-again), from which comes the noun שבת (shebet), meaning seat or resting place. The (probably) homophonic verb שבט (shabat) means to smite or beat. The common noun שבט (shebet) describes the staff; a weapon for travelers, a herding tool for shepherds and the implement with which farmers beat their grains. This word's Greek equivalent, namely ραβδος (rabdos), may ultimately relate to the familiar term ραββι (rabbi), Rabbi. The Greek word for doing involuntary work, or work that you wouldn't do if you didn't have to, is the verb πενομαι (penomai), meaning to toil or labor. From it comes the nominal adjective πονηρος (poneros), which is the New Testament's word for evil.
As noted above, the Latin word for week, namely nundinus, derives from nine (novem), which conveniently resembles the word for new, which is novus (which in turn, as fans will attest, goes a long way to explain the Nine Fellows of the Ring, the Nine Nazgul and even the nine teeth of גלם, golem, the formless creature wrought in the depths of the earth; Psalm 139:15-16). Note that the Greek word for nine, namely εννεα (ennea), looks like εν (en), meaning in, plus νεος (neos), meaning new — and for the fans: the Latin word matrix is the equivalent of the Greek word μητρα (metra), meaning "motherhood" or womb or origin (hence also the word metro-polis, or mother-city); Thomas means twin or split and Anderson, or Son of Andrew, means Son of Man.
And for the even bigger fans: for his Middle Earth legendarium, Tolkien clearly drew from mankind's quintessential journey (Star Trek, same journey: in his Aeneid, Virgil wrote sic itur ad astra, or "thus one journeys to the stars"), with Men, Dwarfs and Elves as respectively the Greco-Latin, the Semitic and Ugaritic, and Akkadian language families, or more rather, their abjads and alphabets that competed and cooperated in the late Bronze Age. (For the obvious accent of Tolkien's dwarfs, read: Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World, and Hirshman and Yates' When Scotland was Jewish). Tolkien's returning ravens (and this is just pre-1948) represent the Diaspora (see ערב, 'oreb, raven). The name Sauron comes from σαυρος (sauros), lizard (hence the word dinosaur, or terrible lizard), which in turn comes from the adjective σαυλος (saulos), waddling or waggling (descriptive of the way a lizard walks or a snake slithers). Our English words drake and dragon come from the Greek word δρακων (drakon), meaning snake.
The word νεος (neos), meaning new, also bears a striking resemblance to the words ναος (naos), meaning temple, and ναυς (naus), meaning ship. And those similarities are not merely cute; they really express associative patterns of thought that are native and signature to the Greek mind. For instance, from the verb κυβερναω (kubernao), to steer (a ship), came the English words "government", which is control, and "cybernetics", which is the study of control.
The Battle of the Week was essentially a battle over control of society. Niners were imperialists who wanted rule by tyranny. Seveners were anointers who wanted liberty and mass sovereignty (1 Corinthians 15:24, Ephesians 1:21). And for the fans: Seven of Nine — not just a pretty face but rather a serious embodiment of the Jewish presence within the Roman Empire — will perpetually struggle to free her youthful humanity from the cyborg collective.
But, long story short, if someone would have wanted to somehow unify the competing standards of the world into an overarching compromise, and particularly the Niners and the Seveners, the name Octavian would have surely seemed splendidly appropriate. What such a person obviously wouldn't have comprehended is that Nine and Seven don't compromise and can only be reconciled by One (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).
🔼King of Kings and Lord of Lords
The ascension of Augustus upon the creation of the Empire also marks the beginning of Pax Romana, the world-wide "peace" that was achieved by the forced subjection and enslavement of countless autonomous peoples. Until its collapse and replacement by the Empire, the Roman Republic had been governed by a senate, and the first man of a family to enter the senate and be elected consul (two consuls chaired the senate and remained one year in office) was called novus homo or new man. Octavian referred to his father (who was also named Gaius Octavius and who had died when he was four), as such a novus homo, meaning that Octavian's youthful prominence was due to his father's popular election.
Literally nobody in Paul's original audience would have missed the various puns when he wrote: "For He Himself [i.e. Christ, not Octavian] is our peace, who made both groups [i.e. Israelites and gentiles] into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:14-18).
Gaius Octavius was born on 23 September (according to the Roman calendar), which was later made the beginning of the civil year, and celebrated as "the beginning of everything" as it had "restored the shape of everything that was failing". Moreover, the "birthday of the God [i.e. Augustus] was the beginning for the world of glad tidings that have come to men through him" (quoted from official Roman documents cited by Ernest Barker in From Alexander to Constantine, 1956). The Greek word for "glad tidings" is ευαγγελιον (euaggelion), or evangel, which explains why Jews began to refer to the birth of Christ as the evangel.
Upon his father's death in 59 BC, young Gaius Octavius was raised by his maternal grandmother Julia, the elder sister of Julius Caesar, who in that same year became consul. After his year in office, Julius went to conquer Gaul, from which he returned vastly wealthy. He used his wealth to acquire military and political support. In 49 BC, he crossed the Rubicon. In 44 BC he became "dictator for life", which in his case was a few weeks as he was killed by a band of sixty senators who called themselves Liberators (namely the world from tyranny). The Liberators had hoped for a restoration of the Republic, but in his will, Julius had declared Octavian his son and heir. And Octavian was no republican.
Octavian gave chase to the Liberators, and caught and killed the last of them at the Battle of Philippi. He returned to Rome in splendid victory, created the Empire and became Emperor Ceasar Augustus.
Thanks to the wealth looted from the Gaul, the Roman Empire became a pure capitalistic state. That was fortunate for the Octavii, who were bankers (and ointment traders, perfumers, rope-makers and bakers, wrote the historian Suetonius), which in turn means that they were templars (Roman main banks were always situated in temples; hence the story of Jesus overthrowing the money-changers' tables: Matthew 21:12). The paternal family of Gaius Octavius lived in Velletri (40 km south of Rome), but Suetonius (who wrote nearly two centuries after the event) generously placed Gaius' birth ad Capita Bubula, at Oxen Heads, on Palatine Hill, the centermost of the seven hills of Rome (Revelation 17:9).
No other writer had previously mentioned Oxen Heads on the Palatial Hill, which strongly suggests that Suetonius was making an ideological point rather than a historical one. Many commentators have since tried to explain what that point might have been, and here at Abarim Publications we don't know either, but we do recognize a rather obvious nod to Bucephalus, Ox-Head, the name of the horse of Alexander the Great.
How Bucephalus got his name is also not clear, but the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, namely the א (aleph), was nicknamed ox-head. As we explain in our lengthy article on the noun φατνη (phatne), which describes the "manger" in which Jesus was laid (Luke 2:7), the name of the first letter of the alphabet stems from the verb אלף ('alep), to learn, or rather to socially synchronize. Derived noun אלף ('elep) means cattle and adjective אלוף ('allup) means tame or domesticated and docile.
The ancients understood that without domestication there would have been no modern humanity, and duly revered this process (hence, for instance the name Damascus). As the fans might attest, this same verb אלף ('aleph) would also explain Tolkien's star-gazing high elves of the first age, who were the "first awoken ones", much rather than the sparkly sprites of Arthur Conan Doyle. The name Durin, or דורון (duron), is Aramaic for δωρον (doron), meaning gift in the sense of contribution or investment (mostly to the broader templar enterprise).
🔼A fire drake from the north
The Jews pervaded the classical world, not as a genetic race or religious sect, but as a wandering wisdom class. Their homeland, which had always been centered upon the Temple of Mount Moriah, was as famous for its splendor as for it frequent destructions — first by Babylon's invasion upon king Hezekiah's sickness and prideful folly (Isaiah 39:1-8), then the Seleucids (see our article on Hanukkah), then the Romans, starting with general Pompey's invasion in 63 BC and culminating in the wholesale destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The Jews were the craftsmen of their time, who tunneled with great confidence through all the world's foundational texts, which in turn were always identified by popular demand and natural market forces, and never by the forceful decree of some ruler. Perfectly situated on the crossroads of world trade (1 Kings 10:23-25), the Jews handled literally everything from Celtic Europe to Egypt, Greece, Persia and India and possibly even China, and so doing, refined them and connected them into an ever purer unity. So they guided all the world's peoples onto modernity and civilization (Genesis 22:18).
Both Alexander the Great and the Roman Caesars pursued the same objective. Not as lowly Jews, mind you, who twinkled in their millions like silly pin pricks in the curtain of night, but as a single fire-breathing beast (solar, solo, mono, monarch), an abomination that caused desolation, that obsessed over its golden law and wouldn't part with a single "coin" and hence wholly overwhelmed the voice of the stellar galaxy, the silvery white, circular Mily Way — αργυρος (arguros), silvery white; κυκλος (kuklos), circular; γαλα (gala), milk; οδος (hodos), way.
Little did these grunting self-proclaimed Samsons know that everything they held dear had at some point in the past been handled by the Jewish master-craftsmen, and incorporated into the treasuries of their vast narrative cities: labeled, stored and lavishly commented upon, wildly celebrated or bitterly lamented. To them, the entire universe proclaimed that the genuine Christ was born in a house (οικος, oikos) in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:11).
Bethlehem was the city of David, the eighth son of Jesse, who was tending the sheep when he was elected by YHWH — rather than by some biased electorate, or wallowing in stolen wealth — but then went to play soothing harp to mad king Saul and became his armor bearer (1 Samuel 16:10-21).
The Hebrew word for eight, namely שמנה (shemoneh), relates to the verb שמן (shaman), to grow fat, hence the term שמן זית (shemen zayit), meaning olive oil, the oil that burned in lamps and with which kings, prophets and high priests were anointed: the light-bringer and christ-maker. Adjective שמנית (sheminit) means eighth, and is the same as the term Sheminith, which denoted an eight-stringed harp; the colorful heart-binder, known by some neighbors as the Noble Eightfold Path.
What liars and fools don't realize is that everything is connected to everything else, and truth is that which absolutely everybody will ultimately whole-heartedly agree on (Isaiah 45:23). Truth cannot be made up: it's the focal point of all lines of sight, when all deviations have been rubbed away and nothing but pure white harmony remains: the very heart of the mountain.
No matter how much nameless, faceless and formless praise his poets lavished upon him, the imposter Gaius Octavian's glory would never stick but vanish like flecks of ice. The Jews never made their words up, but crafted them from the gold they smelted from the ore they separated from the rocks they sorted.
All else is void and returns to it.