🔼The name Zenas: Summary
- Zeus-Giving, Giving Godly Clarity
- From (1) the name Zeus, and probably (2) the verb διδωμι (didomi), to give or hand over.
🔼The name Zenas in the Bible
The name Zenas occurs only once in the Bible. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul requests his young pupil to diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way (Titus 3:13). Who this Zenas was and what kind of lawyer he was, or even on what journey he was going, even whether or not together with Apollos, isn't known, despite a plethora of suggestions and conjectures.
The name Zenas is a bit of a troubler because it's either exceedingly rare or else not occurring prior to the first century AD. But modern scholars generally seem to concede that Zenas is short for Zenodoros. Why Zenodoros and not Zenodotus is not clear.
What nobody seems to notice, however, is that the first two head librarians of the magnificent library of Alexandria were called Zenodotus and Apollonius. A superfluous reader of the Bible may think of the authors as lonely evangelists and street-corner soap-box preachers, but no, the authors of the New Testament (and the Old one too) were highly learned people and dazzlingly skilled literati, who worked in schools and within firmly established literary traditions.
And since Roman rule included very intense censorial policies, we should expect the New Testament to be riddled with references that fellow Christian scholars understood but Roman inquisitors failed to recognize.
🔼The library of Alexandria
Founded by command of Alexander the Great, the library of Alexandria quickly became a monument to science, reason and international and inter-denominational convention. It also formed the way humanity deals with literature; it "stimulated an intense editorial program that spawned the development of critical editions, textual exegesis and such basic research tools as dictionaries, concordances and encyclopedias" writes Steven Blake Shubert in his work The Oriental Origins of the Alexandrian Library.
The glory days of classical academia burned out in a shift away from Aristotelian empiricism and towards Platonic metaphysical speculation, which, together with Roman totalitarianism, plunged the world into 1,500 years of darkness. Despite the misconceptions of many, classical Roman Catholicism was an extension of the Roman Empire, and certainly not of the gospel of Christ, with its central message of individual high-priesthood, personal freedom and thus utter responsibility.
The pursuit of Truth for the sake of Truth did not regain its former respectability until the troubled dawn of the scientific revolution. Still, even today and especially in the scientific and religious arenas, people's primary concerns appear to be largely limited to expressing allegiance to systems, or even the poorly understood key phrases of systems of belief and reality models.
The library of Alexandria continued to exist until the seventh century AD, and held approximately one million volumes by the time of Jesus. At that time, Jewish scholarship was the dominant force in Alexandria. Yet its long period of physical destruction began in 48 BC by Julius Caesar, who obviously also destroyed the Republic and turned it into the monstrous Empire that still enslaves people today.
Had the Republic remained stable, and had scholars stuck to the scientific method, humanity might have reached our present levels of technology and social sophistication a few centuries after Christ. We've lost a millennium and a half in devotion to nonsense. It's by no means an unreasonable preposition that Paul and his colleagues saw this coming, and protested this development as integral part of their gospel message; see Romans 1:20 and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (to name just two of the many references to the Bible's persistent urge to think, reason and investigate).
Also note Paul's warnings to Timothy about "someone" called Alexander, which may very well have been a personification of the decay of scientific rigor at Alexandria (1 Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 4:14), as well as his warnings against getting "robbed via philosophy" (φιλοσοφια philosophia; Colossians 2:8, also see 1 Timothy 6:20; Still, Paul obviously didn't dub all philosophy bad — see our article on the Epicureans).
Zenodotus was not only the first librarian of Alexandria, he was also the first critical editor of Homer. Homer's texts were obviously as sacred to the Greeks as the Hebrew texts were for the Jews, and an editor of Hebrew texts would indeed have been known as a lawyer.
The first six librarians of Alexandria were:
- Zenodotus of Ephesus (325 - 260 BC); perhaps represented in the New Testament as Zenas.
- Apollonius of Rhodes; perhaps Apollos: "Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures," Acts 18:24.
- Eratoshenes of Cyrene (275 - 195 BC); perhaps Erastus.
- Aristophanes of Byzantium (257 - 180 BC)
- Apollonius Eidograph
- Aristarchus of Samothrace (217 - 130 BC); perhaps Aristarchus of Thessalonica, Paul's travel companion.
🔼Etymology of the name Zenas
Whether Zenas is short for Zenodoros or Zenodotus, the Zeno-part of both names comes from the familiar theonym Zeus:
The name Ζευς (Zeus) and its genitive form Dios (Διος) correspond to an ancient root that expressed brightness of sky and clarity of vision. That same root gave us the words dio and deus, meaning god, divine, meaning godly, and diva, meaning deified (feminine). Some say this root even yielded the noun "day" and the verb "to do."
The second part of the name Zenodotus derives from the verb διδωμι (didomi), meaning to give. This verb declines irregularly into forms such as the futural doso or the specialized third person singular dose, from whence comes our English noun "dose" (as in "overdose").
The verb διδωμι (didomi) means to give or hand over. It's very common in Greek texts and comes with a long list of compound derivations.
The name Zenas would thus mean the same as Zenodotus, which comes down to Zeus-Giving or Giver Of Zeus, and that denotes someone who dispenses counsel that could have come from Zeus; someone who Gives Godly Insight.