🔼The name Onesiphorus: Summary
- From (1) the verb ονινημι (oninemi), to be of use or to profit, and (2) the verb φερω (phero), to bring or carry.
🔼The name Onesiphorus in the Bible
The name Onesiphorus occurs twice in the Bible, both times in Paul's second letter to Timothy. In closing this letter to his young protégé, who was apparently stationed at Ephesus at the time, Paul greets the "household" of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 4:19). And in his opening cords, he refers to Onesiphorus as example of someone who is neither ashamed of Paul's chains nor prone to abandon him (2 Timothy 1:16).
Commentators generally assume that Onesiphorus was an actual physical person, who simply had a large house and thus a substantial household, which consisted of converted individuals. Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that Paul would be very careful to not mention actual names of actual people, since the movement he was part of was illegal and punishable by death in the most creative ways.
It's therefore much more likely that the epithet "house of Onesiphorus" belonged to a local Ephesian movement that was devoted to the peaceful resistance to the Romans. See our article on the related name Onesimus was a more elaborate discussion of this.
🔼Etymology of the name Onesiphorus
The name Onesiphorus consists of two elements. The first part comes from the verb ονινημι (oninemi), meaning to be of use or to profit:
The verb ονινημι (oninemi) means to be of use or to profit.
The second part of our name derives from the verb φερο (phero), meaning to bear, carry or bring:
The verb φερω (phero) primarily means to bring, carry, convey or guide, and is associated with willful action and often commercial activity. It's part of a long list of compound derivations and is cognate with the Latin verb fero.
For a meaning of the name Onesiphorus, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Profit-Bearing and Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary) has Profit Bringing.