🔼The name Sergius: Summary
- Branch Man, Man Of Intertwining
- From the noun שריג (sarig), branch or tendril, from the verb שרג (sarag), to be intertwined.
🔼The name Sergius in the Bible
The name Sergius (from which come popular names like Sergio and Sergei) occurs only once in the Bible, namely as the nomen of Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul of Cyprus at Paphos, who asked Saul and Barnabas to come and proclaim the Word to him (Acts 13:7). Sergius Paulus was obviously interested in that sort of thing because he had also extended his hospitality to a Jewish pseudo-prophet named Bar-Jesus (a.k.a. Elymas), who became offended because Saul and Barnabas knew what they were talking about whereas Elymas was a religious charlatan, protecting what he perceived to be his monopoly.
As we explain in our articles on the names Onesimus and Philemon, the stories of the New Testament are rarely about what they seem to be about. And as we discuss in some detail in our article on the noun αστηρ (aster), meaning star, the narrative fabric of the Bible is not one of linear progression or even a bundle or lattice or interacting strands, but rather a fractal in which similar structures appear at different levels of complexity and confirm and explain each other. Having said that, we can further state with considerable confidence that the story of Sergius Paulus goes very far beyond the obvious.
Paul, the author of half of the New Testament, and arguably the instigator of the wisdom tradition that would only later come to include the fleshed out gospels (Paul wrote from the 40s to the 60s, whereas the gospels are from the 70s to the 90s) is introduced in the story as a literary character, whose first recorded act was to care for the robes of those lynching Stephen (Acts 7:58; see 2 Kings 10:22 and 22:14). This makes Paul rather obviously self-similar to Moses, who wrote the Torah and who was introduced in the story as a literary character, whose first recorded act was to kill an Egyptian and hide the body (Exodus 2:12; also compare Exodus 2:3 with Acts 9:25).
Paul, then still called Saul, continued his Biblical career by prosecuting the People of the Way (Acts 9:2), whose name draws from the term Exodus (meaning Road Out, see our article on οδος, hodos, road or way) as well as the famous statement of Isaiah: "Prepare the Way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a Highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4). On the road to Damascus, Saul was famously struck blind by Jesus himself (Acts 9:8), but regained his sight and eventually became what he himself would later refer to as a "babe in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1).
Much later still, Saul made it to Cyprus, where he met Bar-Jesus, whose name means Son of Jesus, which is a play on "babe in Christ". The subtle difference between these two terms still confuses many today, but the key is that Jesus Christ is the first-born of an inevitable large following of Christs, a tribe or "Body" of Christ, in which the Spirit of Christ is incarnate. The word "Christ" is not a name specific to Jesus but is a regular word that means anointed. And anyone who is anointed is Christ, and forms the greater Body of Christ together with all the other anointed ones, also all Christs.
Every one of us started out as a single cellular human called zygote, which grew into the mature human we are now, whose body consists of a wide variety of cell types that are all still based on the same genetic Word that defined the first zygote (see our article on Stephen for more on this). The unfortunate term Christian, on the other hand, describes someone who does not partake in the anointing, but who pertains to the anointing. Said otherwise, Christianity, whose core is Hellene, is canine (κυων, kuon), whereas Christ, whose core is Jewish (and Levite), is simian. The Body of Christianity sits panting and drooling beside the Body of Christ: a wholly separate animal, who's learned some tricks through repetition but who does not at all comprehend the ways of his master and who's in it for the reward.
Obviously, and it deserves emphasis, a well-behaved dog is Man's best friend, but Bar-Jesus wasn't very well behaved, and kept snarling and snapping at the friendlies he didn't recognize. Saul accused Bar-Jesus of not stopping (the verb is παυω, pauo, to stop, the proposed source of the name Paulus) to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord (Acts 13:10), an obvious pun on the mission of the People of the Way. Upon this rebuke, Bar-Jesus fell blind, but this is much alike what happened to Saul earlier. Saul, in turn, assumed the name Paul, which not only relates to the verb παυω (pauo), to stop, but is also the cognomen of the host of this encounter, Sergius Paulus.
Sergius Paulus is actually a confirmed historical character, with several inscriptions to his name. The main praenomen of the Sergii was Lucius, which makes it likely (albeit not certain) that our proconsul was fully named Lucius Sergius Paulus, which in turn puts the literary character of Sergius Paulus in enticing proximity to the Lucius mentioned in Romans 16:21.
🔼Etymology of the name Sergius
The name Sergius comes from the progenitor of the great Roman family of the Sergii, namely Sergestus, a Trojan who, after the fall of Troy, traveled with Aeneas via Carthage to Italy, where they peopled Rome. Where the name Sergestus comes from is again unclear, but as we aim to show in our article on Hellas, Homer's Iliad, like the Books of Moses, are really all about information technology and protocol wars — a nation's soul is in its stories, and these stories are preserved only when the script in which they are told is preserved; see Psalm 16:10.
We further propose that Virgil's Aeneid rather tells of the introduction of the Greek alphabet to Italy, where it became the Latin alphabet. Since the Greek alphabet was an adaptation of the Semitic alphabet (and see our article on the name YHWH for a quick look at the profundity of this), the name Sergestus may very well have been Semitic and imported into the Greek language basin along with the alphabet (and the names Hellas and Helen).
That said, we propose that the name Sergestus (and thus Sergius) comes from the Semitic root שרג (s-r-g), and specifically the noun שריג (sarig), branch, tendril or vine (Genesis 40:10 and Joel 1:7 only), from the verb שרג (sarag), to be intertwined (Job 40:17 and Lamentations 1:14 only):
The verb שרג (sarag) means to be intertwined, and the noun שריג (sarig) means tendril or twig. Both words are used only two times each in the Bible.
Note that this root שרג (srg) also appears to have generated the Greek noun σαργανη (sargane), braided wicker basket. This noun occurs in 2 Corinthians 11:33 only, where it describes the basket in which Paul as lowered over the wall of Damascus.
The name Sergius may be Semitic and mean Branch Man, or Man Of Intertwining, which expresses some crucial quality of alphabetic script. This obviously puts the literary character of Sergius in close proximity to the Man named Branch (a.k.a. Logos or Word) prophesied about by the prophets (Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 3:8). Note that the earthly profession of Jesus (and Joseph) was not that of carpenter but of τεκτων (tekton), or assembler, from the verb τικτω (tikto), to produce or "weave together" one's offspring. This verb comes from the Proto-Indo-European root "teks-", meaning to weave, from which also come our English words textile, technology, and (crucially) text.
The story of Paul on Cyprus is the story of how the Man Of Intertwining, and his pet pseudo-prophet who wouldn't stop making crooked the straight ways of the Lord, finally get stopped.
Paul wrote that the purpose of the gospel is ελευθερια (eleutheria), with which he meant the freedom-by-law that had been so carefully pondered by the Greek philosophers. This freedom is comparable to freedom of speech, which only works when everybody willingly adheres to the rules that govern the language (also see Luke 4:18). Less careful thinkers had proposed that drinking wine and massively going ape should be considered a kind of liberation too, and subsequently endowed Dionysus (or Bacchus to the Romans) with the epithet Ελευθερευς (Eleuthereus), or Liberator. Bar-Jesus' second name Elymas may derive from a verb מעץ (ma'az), to be enraged, and mean God Of Rage. Or it may have to do with the word עלם ('elam), to be young, and refer to Bacchus' ever young looks.
All this may have lubricated the rise of the cult of saints Sergius and Bacchus, whose story (The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus; 5th century AD) makes them high ranking Roman officers who were discovered to be secret Christians and hence severely punished and killed. The story's details make it obvious that this is a synthetic account, and scholars have proposed that it was based on older material. Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that somewhere in the pedigree of Sergius and Bacchus there may have been an echo of the story of Sergius and Elymas.