🔼The name Pyrrhus: Summary
- Fire Colored
- From πυρρος (purros), fire-colored, from πυρ (pur), fire.
🔼The name Pyrrhus in the Bible
The name Pyrrhus occurs only once in the Bible, in Acts 20:4, although not all Greek manuscripts have this name and some translations leave it out. The reason for this is that the character called "Sopater of Pyrrhus Berean" is almost certainly synthetic, which doesn't agree with how some people view the Scriptures in regards to history.
🔼Time: whose side is it on?
It takes some getting used to, but time is a function of the universe (time is a thing that the universe does), not the other way around (the universe is not a thing that time does). That means that the universe did not begin at a point in time, but time began at a point in the universe. Time is the music; the universe is the instrument. (And for the die-hards: our world is data-driven, and complexity is reality's most dominant fundamental axis of progression. Time begins at a minimal level of complexity: God is One before anything happens).
Some people insist that the Bible is true because it really happened, but forget that only the present is determined (by the physical atoms that make up the real world), whereas both the past and the future exist only as information stored in the same atoms in which our present is expressed. And that information gets more ambiguous and indetermined the further away from the present we go — because, yes, the physical quantum world around us works like a big conscious mind that forgets certain events but is haunted by others. The physical world around us is very much alike an organic brain, in whose patterns all information (and consciousness and intelligence and identity) is stored.
Said otherwise: an organic brain is a clump of organic molecules that have somehow managed to learn to work together in an imitation of the universe at large. That means that every organic brain is a mini-universe within the greater one (John 14:2).
The only scientifically observable point on the timeline is the now, which is the singular context of all information stored in the atoms that make up our physical world. But because of quantum indeterminacy, there are several possible yesterdays for every present, and from our one and only present, several tomorrows may come. So no, the timeline is not a line but a bow tie, and only the button is physical and the wings are imaginary and exist only as fading information stored, along with everything else, in the button.
Said otherwise: the weather today may result in several kinds of weather tomorrow (some kinds more likely than others), and that means that the weather today may have been caused by several kinds of weathers yesterday. That means that the Bible is only true if it is true now, regardless of whichever past preceded it. If the present is the house we live in, then any window in that house is part of the present, and must agree with the whole of the present. If we regard the past that surrounds our house through that one particular window, that window must be true to our present, and what we see projected on the glass pane of that window must be true today.
In short: the Bible is true because it describes present reality, not a past reality. The Bible describes the patterns that make up present reality, which are fractals that ripple through time and of which time is a function rather than the other way around. Precisely like the universe at large, and reflecting the universe at large, the Bible is a mind and functions like a mind, which is why the Bible is much rather a thing for humans to learn to resonate with (Ephesians 5:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6) than a thing for humans to harvest for rules to consciously and piously try to live by (Galatians 3:11). The Bible is a time crystal, a multi-dimensional fractal matrix, and describes relations that are true regardless of what time the observer thinks it might be.
Jesus on the cross is much more like E=mc2 than yesterday's news. It describes a principle of timeless reality from which every relevant set of circumstances derives its further development, not a unique event in a distant past that has mostly faded from relevance. Did it really happen? You bet it did, because it does. Did it happen only once, uniquely in the first century in Jerusalem? Nope, it happens countless times, all over the universe, at all levels: atomic, biological, mental (Luke 14:27) and social.
So yes, Sopater Berean truly is the son of Pyrrhus; always and anywhere, regardless of when or where we look. Sopater indeed helps propagate the Word of God, which is embodied by Jesus, who is the Son of God, who does hang on the cross, where he does absorb all the sin of the world and does spearhead the resurrection. Both past and future are relevant only if they exist within the present today. Any future that doesn't have its seeds sown today will never come about (hence Matthew 11:12, Luke 17:21 and Revelation 21:2). And any part of the past that does not exist today has either never been real or else is gone for good behind doors that will never again open (Isaiah 43:25, Revelation 20:15).
🔼Pyrrhus of Epirus
In the first century, the name Pyrrhus of Epirus was as proverbial as the name Napoleon Bonaparte is in ours, and Sopaters epithets "of Pyrrhus" and "the Berean" would have sounded to Luke's audience the way "of Napoleon" and "the Corsican" would sound to us moderns. The formidable Phoenician general Hannibal ranked Pyrrhus of Epirus as the greatest commander ever, save perhaps for Alexander the Great. Any author who did not intend to bring to mind these famous figures would have omitted Sopater's confusing credentials. Luke put them in because he fully intended to paint Sopater's relation to Paul (or more precise: the propagation of the Word through the gentile world) in the terms of the greater patterns of history.
Another famous Pyrrhus was a literal and ideological ancestor of Pyrrhus of Epirus, namely a man who was better known as Neoptolemus (i.e. New Warrior, or Fighter of a New Kind of War), who was a son of Achilles, the great Greek hero of the battle against Troy. The story of the Trojan War is roughly set in the same world as the Exodus, namely the world that would end in the Bronze Age collapse (12th century BC). Homer and Isaiah were contemporaries and lived in the same 8th century that saw the first beginnings of the miraculous and unprecedented Republic (hence Isaiah 7:14), as well as the legendary foundation of the twins Rome and Carthage. Rome grew out of a remnant of Troy, whereas Carthage was a colony of Tyre, the great city of the same Phoenicians who had built the Temple of YHWH together with Solomon.
As told by Homer: Achilles killed Hector, the Trojan champion, thus effecting Troy's demise. As told by Virgil: a surviving Trojan prince and cousin of Hector, namely Aeneas, sailed to Italy, where he sired the future Roman people. Neoptolemus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, stayed where he was, namely in Epirus, the ancient kingdom on the western coast of Greece (the island of Corfu is off the coast of Epirus), where he sired the Molossian rulers of Epirus.
In 319 BC, the Molossian ruler of Epirus was Aeacides, who was a second cousin of Alexander the Great, who had died in 323 BC and whose empire had been divided among the four Diadochi: Seleucus Nicator (the Seleucid Empire in Persia and environs), Ptolemy Soter (Egypt), Antigonus (Asia-Minor), and Cassander (Macedonia and Greece).
The Molossian ruler Aeacides and his wife Phthia (and see Il.9.363) had a son: Pyrrhus of Epirus. In 317 BC, Aeacides, who was friends with Ptolemy Soter, was ousted by Cassander (and a siding Molossian faction). The latter's soldiers would kill the former in battle in 313, but his servants had nabbed the two year old crown prince Pyrrhus and after some adventures — involving a mortal conveniently named Achilles, tells Plutarch in life of Pyrrhus — safely evacuated him to Illyria to the north of Epirus (and note the parallel with the story of Mephibosheth, which in turn ties into that of Hephaestus, the lame god of fire who made Achilles' mighty bronze armor: Il.18). In Illyria king Glaukias received the refugees warmly and Glaukias' wife, queen Beroea (also of Molossian extraction), raised Pyrrhus into a dapper young man who married Antigone, the stepdaughter of Ptolemy Soter, who bore him a son whom they gratefully named Ptolemy.
Long story short: the "historical" Beroea raised Pyrrhus, whose son was named after Ptolemy Soter (means Warrior Savior), whereas the Biblical Sopater (Savior Father) was a son of Pyrrhus and hailed from Beroea. Nobody in Luke's original audience would have missed this. Pyrrhus' memoires and studies of war are only preserved subliminally in the writings of his admirers, among whom Hannibal, Plutarch and Cicero, and probably Luke too, which means that his legacy even pervades the Bible, and thus the very Word of God (which is not unusual: as we briefly discuss in our article on Homer, the Bible quotes a great many pagan writers; also see Luke 4:16-30 and John 21:25).
Pyrrhus did more than marry the daughter of Ptolemy Soter. When he was twelve, the armies of Glaukias restored Pyrrhus to the throne of Epirus. Five years later, he was ousted again by Cassander supporting Molossians, and Pyrrhus began his famous wandering. In 302 he joined forces against Cassander and was noted as an unusual strategic talent. Captured in 298, he was taken to Ptolemy's Alexandria, where he met and married Antigone. A year later, Cassander died and Ptolemy restored Pyrrhus to the throne of Epirus, albeit one shared with a rival Molossian. A plot against Pyrrhus (of which Acts 20:3 reminds) was discovered and the rival king was killed. In 295, Pyrrhus married Lanassa, daughter of the king of Sicily in Syracuse. And this is where things began to go sideways.
Apparently lacking anything else to do, Pyrrhus declared war on his former ally against Cassander, namely Demetrius, who was the husband of Pyrrhus' sister and king of Macedon. Demetrius struck back by defeating Pyrrhus' armies and accepting the unhappy Lanassa's offering of herself in marriage (which is not dissimilar to Helen's dealings with Paris). Years of chaos and war ensued, during which Gauls invaded Macedonia from the north and the Seleucids from the east, and Pyrrhus, besides surviving a spear wound and earning the nickname Eagle (see Aquila), somehow managed to secure the rule of a mini-empire that included half of Macedonia, but which quickly fell apart.
In 280 BC, Pyrrhus boldly (or perhaps manically), declared war on Rome and invaded Italy with a vast army that included 20 war elephants on loan from his friends the Ptolemies. He did substantial damage to the Romans, but ultimately failed in defeating them. In 278, he remembered his tested allegiance to the people of Lanassa: Greeks living in Syracuse on Sicily, who were being harassed by the Carthaginians. Sensing bigger windmills to fight, Pyrrhus transported his troops to Sicily and engaged the enemy, while expanding his army with recruits and mercenaries, as well as his reputation with random acts of tyranny and bad management. In the end, the Sicilians began to understand why Lanassa had left Pyrrhus, and trickled over to join the Carthaginians against him. When Pyrrhus finally left Sicily, both his allies and his enemies were exhausted, confused and near ruin. He crossed back over to Italy, where he continued to join various causes against the Romans, until he was finally defeated in 275, and retreated back to Epirus.
Pyrrhus' near simultaneous wars against the Carthaginians and the Romans thoroughly destabilized the region and ultimately resulted the first Punic War between the two. This, in turn, resulted in the destabilization of the Roman Republic (and the utter destruction of Carthage), which triggered the Marian Reforms, which resulted in the over-confidence of the generals, the rise of Pompey, then Caesar, and then Octavian and the creation of the Augustan Empire: the cliff from which mankind's centuries long excursion into the wonders of Republican sophistication plummeted into a barbaric darkness that would not abate until the Renaissance, 1,500 years later.
Pyrrhus of Epirus died in 272 BC, fighting in a narrow alley in Argos, when an old lady dropped a roof tile on his head. This story comes to us via Plutarch (who also explained that Pyrrhus had a divine big toe that would heal anyone he poked with it), but was obviously as synthetic as the story of Sopater: it combines the legacy of Jason and the Argonauts (a godly government that fights Pyrrhus for the feverish disease he is), perhaps the narrow way mentioned by Jesus, and the demise of pseudo-judge Abimelech son of Gideon, who died at Thebez after a lady had dropped a millstone on his head (Judges 9:53).
🔼Etymology of the name Pyrrhus
The name Pyrrhus is the same as the adjective πυρρος (purros), fire-colored, from πυρ (pur), fire:
The noun πυρ (pur) means fire, which in antiquity was the sole source of artificial light and warmth. Fire was essential for cooking, baking pottery and bricks, cleaning non-combustible objects and metallurgy and thus making tools and weapons. Early tribes were centered around their fire, and later, the strength of a society corresponded directly with the quality (and thus heat) of their fire (and thus their technology at large). Fire was the foundation of civilization, but fire itself required fuel and aspiration, and inevitably also produced worthless smoke and ashes.
Verb πυροω (puroo) means to be affected by fire and noun πυροσις (purosis) describes the condition of being affected by fire. Noun πυρετος (puretos) means fever and verb πυρεσσω (puresso) means to have a fever (which is indicative of an sickness or infection). Adjective πυρινος (purinos) means fiery. Adjective πυρρος (purros) means fire-colored (anything from the yellow of an egg yolk to the red of blushing cheeks), and verb πυρραζω (purrazo) means to be fir-colored.
The noun καπνος (kapnos) means smoke, which is a phenomenon that occurs when πυρ (pur), fire, isn't hot enough to burn all fuel, or when there's not enough oxygen to accommodate a complete καιω (kaio), combustion. Since in the Bible fire and light are synonymous to reason and wisdom, an incomplete combustion process, and thus the production of smoke, is also a thoroughly recognizable effect in the world of cognition.
The name Pyrrhus means Fire Colored, and although some commentators hold that Pyrrhus was named after his red hair (like a misplaced Edomite, even reminiscent of Herod), a much stronger association has always existed with the patriarch of Epirus, the son of Achilles, who had crucially weakened the defenses of Troy: the old block of which Rome was a chip.
In the New Testament, the adjective πυρρος (purros) describes a quality of the satanic Red Dragon (Revelation 12:3). It's not told how big this dragon was, and although it is commonly assumed that he was monstrously large, he may very well have been a similar kind of tiny worm that came at dawn (Matthew 16:3) and ruined Jonah's sheltering shrub (Jonah 4:7). The Hebrew language commonly uses the singular to refer to a class: hence a harvest may be eaten by the locust, or a city may be sacked by the Greek: Jonah's tree was likewise eaten by the worm, not by a worm. This worm was the so-called תולע (tola'), a maggot, which is σκωληξ (skolex) in Greek.
The noun πυρετος (puretos) means fever and the Red Dragon may very well describe a bacterial or viral or worm infection, rather than a huge Smaug-like beast swooping in from above. The story of Pyrrhus, whose frantic antics triggered the collapse of the whole known world is clearly told in terms of some disease that a person contracts via some wound — the name Troy (Τροια, Troia), comes from the name Tros (Τρως), which obviously resembles the noun τρωσις (trosis), wound, from the verb τρωω (troo), to wound; also see Revelation 13:3 — whose agents fester in the shadows until they overwhelm the immune system, cause fever, weakness and delirium, and ultimately the madness of a rabid dog that bites and snarls until it collapses and dies, and rats and flies and maggots feast on the corpse.
The word תולע (tola') also describes the sort of little worm that yielded the purple dye that colored the robes of royals: see our article on the noun πορφυρα (porphura). This worm was the land-equivalent of the maritime Murex, and the people most noted for their purple production were the Phoenicians.
The story of how a tiny worm could bring down the entire human cosmos is contrasted by the story of Jesus, whose death and resurrection closely follows the mammalian reproduction cycle: Jesus corresponds to a mammalian ovum. His death to the ovulation. His resurrection to the conception. And the formation of the church to the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall. The event commonly called the Second Coming (erroneously because Jesus never left: Matthew 28:20) corresponds with the birth of the Child and the collapse of the world. See our article on the name Stephen for more on this.