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Apollos meaning


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🔼The name Apollos: Summary

Of Apollo
From פלל (palal), to discern, פלא (pala'), to be extraordinary, or אפל ('apal), to darken.
From απολλυμι (apollumi), to exterminate, to destroy.

🔼The name Apollos in the Bible

The name Apollos belongs to a minor character in the narrative of the New Testament, but a major player in the early development of the Gospel. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentions Apollos along with himself and Peter, as a kind of third pillar of the church. Ultimately, the name Apollos occurs 10 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

Author Luke informs us that Apollos was an educated Jew of Alexandria, who for undisclosed reasons came to Ephesus and preached with fervor, albeit with the curious distinction of being both correct about Jesus but still acquainted only with the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-25). What Apollos might have been fervently preaching about, since his knowledge didn't go beyond John's ministry, is a bit of a mystery — but see our article on the adverb ακριβως (akribos), meaning "accurately" (which might actually mean lovelessly or inconsiderately). This scene does demonstrate that it's perfectly possible to be very enthusiastic about Jesus, and that due to one's formidable intellectual clout, and even to preach Jesus left and right, without having an actual clue about the nature of Christ beyond the earthly work of his herald.

Apollos, like many after him, did not know Christ but knew only of Christ. Fortunately for Apollos (and the rest of us) there are also people like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila in the world, who indeed are up to snuff with the latest revelations.

Updated and rebooted, Apollos continued his journey to Achaia and arrived at Corinth, but while already there, Paul arrived back in Ephesus and still managed to find some people there who knew only the baptism of John and hadn't heard any news about the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). Paul subsequently baptized them in the name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit subsequently came upon them. Luke informs us that these were twelve men — making it overly obvious that this story (like the rest of Acts, even the whole of the Bible) is not anecdotal but rather epic and conductive of the greater themes of mankind's marvelous story. In our article on Aeneas we show that the composition of Acts largely derives from Virgil's Aeneid, and also serves as a commentary on that seminal work.

In Corinth, Apollos appears to have provided fuel to the ever raging fires of segregation, although at that time, Apollos himself must have understood that in Christ there is only unity and no factions (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). Still, if Peter mostly ministered to the Mosaic Jews and Paul to the gentiles, then Apollos may have specialized in catering to the Hellenized Jews (Luke inserts a playful commentary on the inevitable Hellenization of Judaism in Luke 4:23-30).

In strictly literary terms, the character of Apollos obviously serves in the Book of Acts as a reference to the scholarly tradition of Alexandria, and note that in the few centuries before Christ, Alexandria was considered the global capital of knowledge and learning, the MIT of its day. In Titus 3:13, Paul ostentatiously teams Apollos up with lawyer Zenas, while pretty much every scholarly soul in his audience would have known that the first two chiefs of the legendary library of Alexandria were:

  • Zenodotus of Ephesus, who became the first Director of the library in 284 BC, and ultimately the father of the modern library. Zenodotus appears to have been the first librarian to group literary works alphabetically and by genre and subject. And he appears to have perfected the use of tags. Zenodotus was also a formidable Homeric scholar, who managed to synthesize a standardized Homeric body of text from the great many variants in existence. His methods, however, were rather novel and rather personal and not overly rigid, which caused later generations of scholars to criticize his choices.
  • Apollonius of Rhodes, who either directly succeeded Zenodotus as librarian or else closely followed. He is also the author of the formidable epic poem Argonautica, which tells of the ancient legend of Jason and the Argonauts (i.e. which offers a detailed and highly insightful commentary on the social mind of man by means of the familiar legend of the itinerant healer), and whose form and themes in turn inspired Virgil's Aeneid, and thus also the Book of Acts.

🔼Etymology of the name Apollos

The name Απολλως (Apollos) is thought to be short for the more common term Απολλωνιος (Apollonios), meaning of or belonging to Απολλων (Apollon), Apollo, which in turn could refer to certain places — this term's feminine version, Απολλωνιας (Apollonias), referred to Delos, the birthplace of Apollo and his sister Artemis — or temples of Apollo, or festivals dedicated to Apollo. Apollo, mind you, was the national deity of the Greeks, and the list of qualities ascribed to him — qualities which in turn are summed up in our name Apollos — is quite nearly endless.

Greek theology is masterful and much discussed but never truly fathomed. Suffice it to say that Apollo was neither a mere figment nor an easily dismissed folly, but rather a true element of what makes the collective mind of man tick. Not emphasized often enough, Greek gods are first and foremost human ancestors; perhaps not physical ones but mental ones, not souls that collect into flesh or tribes but words that collect into languages: the archetypes of mind that had congealed from primordial generations, from a collective mind of primordial man that existed prior to the emergence of speech, when man was still animal, under the common command of planets, mountains and rivers (see our article on Tigris). Titans were alive in those days before the Great Flood, but in modern times everybody agreed that they had been consigned to Tartarus, and greater and younger gods had taken control of the human cosmos.

Early monotheists had dismissed the classical pantheons of warring and wily gods, simply because they observed the harmonic oneness of all things, including the collective mind of man as much as the individual one (compare John 17:21-24 to Romans 8:28-29). But just like words in different languages may convey the same ideas, so the Greek Apollo was not at all incompatible with the qualities of the single God of the Jews. Not at all.

Without a written language, it's virtually impossible for a society to settle on definitions for abstract ideas (you can't point at "love" and discuss it like you can point at and discuss a rock or a tree), which suggests that the many gods of Greece may have originated as verbal anchors for complex abstractions. Mass literacy came with the introduction of the alphabet, and the Greek one was an adaptation of the Hebrew original. That means that the idea that Apollo embodied was very probably also recognized by other cultures, and that the name Apollo had begun to form when within the liquidity of the natural language, words began to crystalize that expressed abstractions and settled on the Apollonian complex like snow-flakes settling on an already existing statue.

"That" which became Apollo appears to have been first recognized as "that" which slayed the great chaos monster called Python, a very real event in the making of man's collective psychological reality; an event that the Hebrews depicted as YHWH slaying Rahab: "Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago: was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon?" (Isaiah 51:9).

Apollo was also "that" which healed, which brings to mind the legendary Rephaim (and of course Jason and his Argonauts). He was "that" which prophesied (see Nebo) and "that" which brought light (see Lucifer), hence his primary epithet Phoibos, or "bright" (see Phoebe). Apollo was even venerated in Celtic cultures, where he was mostly a sun-god (see Samson, see ηλιος, helios).

The difference between Hebrew theology and Greek theology was not in the naming of divine qualities, because those were remarkably the same. The difference was that the Hebrews figured that all these qualities linked together into a harmonic whole, and ultimately described One living God, whereas the Greeks translated them into a slew of independent and independently operating deities. Much later, early Christians likewise failed to wholly comprehend the miracle of monotheism, and settled on the trinitarian dogma (modern reflections like "The Shack" demonstrate that much popular Christianity is crucially polytheistic, and much rather Greco-Roman pagan than Hebrew).

It's formally a mystery where the name Apollo came from, also because it shows up in many vaguely connected languages, like an echo that has reverberated between different kinds of structures, some stone, some wood, some living. The original cry, who knows, perhaps came from the great Semitic stock פלל (palal), to discern, to intercede, to pray; פלא (pala'), to be extraordinary; אפל ('apal), to vanish or darken; נפל (nepel), to fall; hence the fabled Nephilim:

Excerpted from: Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary

Root פלל (palal) is all about distinguishing and discerning, and often emphasizes representation of something unseen or not present. It's frequently used in the sense of to entreat or pray on someone's behalf.

Noun תפלה (tepilla) means prayer. Noun פליל (palil) describes an inspector or umpire and noun פלילה (pelila) refers to the place at which an umpire operates; a judge's office. Adjective פלילי (pelili) means "for a judge" or "to be judged" and noun פליליה (peliliya) means verdict or assessment. Noun פול (pol) means beans (and was probably imported but fits right in).

Verb פלה (pala) means to be distinct or separated. Pronoun פלני (peloni) refers to "a certain person/place."

Verb פלא (pala') means to be extraordinary. Nouns פלא (pele') and מפלאה (mipla'a) refer to extraordinary things or deeds. Adjective פלאי (pil'i) means extraordinary.

Verb אפל ('pl) means to disappear, depart or set (of the sun). Nouns אפל ('opel), אפלה ('apela), מאפל (ma'apel) and מאפליה (ma'pelya) mean darkness. Adjective אפל ('apel) means gloomy. Adjective אפיל ('apil) means late or belated (i.e. long unseen).

Verb נפל (napal) means to fall (down, down to, into or upon). The plural form נפלים (napalim) literally means 'fallen ones' or 'settled ones'.

Noun נפל (nepel) refers to an abortion or untimely birth. Noun מפל (mappal) describes that what falls. Nouns מפלה (mappala) and מפלה (mappela) mean ruin, and noun מפלת (mapplet) refers to a ruined thing or a falling.

In the Greek language basin, our name is all too easily formed from the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without, plus a word like πολις (polis), city, making Apollo the deity of the field (specifically shepherds and crops, whereas his sister Artemis was patron of the hunt and wild animals; their half-sister Athena was into cities). Still, some ancient commentators connected our name to απελλα (apella), the Doric or Spartan equivalent of εκκλησια (ekklesia), meaning Assembly (see the name Apelles). The second part of our name may also reflect πολυς (polus), meaning many, which would have connected Apollo to the Hebrew One, if he hadn't already been confirmed as a son of Zeus and member of an extensive pantheon.

Otherwise, our name derives with equal ease from the common preposition απο (apo), from or out of, plus pretty much any l-word. This connects our name to several common terms — most spectacularly, as favored by Plato: the verbs απολυω (apoluo), to redeem or release, and απολουω (apolouo), to wash clean from.

More spectacularly, however, and this etymology was favored by Socrates, is a combination of the prefix απο (apo), from or out of, and the verb ολλυμι (ollumi), to destroy:

Excerpted from: Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary
ολλυμι  απολλυμι

The verb ολλυμι (ollumi) means to terminate, kill or destroy, and verb απολλυμι (apollumi) means to destroy or exterminate, specifically by a removal from a natural environment or social collective (this word describes the proverbially "lost" sheep).

This verb may also mean to be extracted by merit of the destruction of whatever was holding one back, and as such it conveys an important principle of evolution, namely that future winners exist in evolutionary stasis as long as they remain overwhelmed by a majority of inferiors. The ancestors of mammals and birds existed long before they could finally arise, and could do so only when the great dinosaurs had been exterminated.

Noun απωλεια (apoleia) means a loss or extermination. Verb συναπολλυμι (sunapollumi) means to jointly exterminate. Noun ολεθρος (olethros) means a termination. Verb ολοθρευω (olothreuo) means to cause termination, and noun ολοθρευτης (olothreutes) describes a terminator.

This would equate the Greek god Apollo with the Hebrew divine office of Shaddai, the Destroyer, from the verb שדד (shadad), to destroy. In the words of Isaiah: "Wail, for the day of YHWH is near. It will come as destruction (שד, shad) from Shaddai (שדי, shaday)" (Isaiah 13:6).

Both natural evolution and selective breeding hinges on the pruning of fruitless branches and the sacrifice of surpassed generations. But amateurs such as Hitler make the mistake of not seeing the bigger and unified picture. The biosphere is a dynamic whole, and modern humanity could only have emerged when our remote ancestors could be joined by dogs first and then the various herd animals (see our articles on ποιμην, poimen, shepherd, and κυων, kuon, dog; Apollo was also known as λυκηγενης, lukegenes or wolf-born). The unified whole of the human cosmos appears to be self-similar to the biosphere at large — the Ark of Noah, like Michelangelo's Creator-making-Adam, depicts the inner structure of mankind's collective mind — which means that our modern human reality is rather like a farm, governed by shepherd-people, driven by dog-people and peopled mostly by herd-people.

Apollo's most signature attribute is the bow — specifically a silver bow; see αργυρος (arguros), meaning silver. The verb ירה (yara) denotes the shooting of many arrows, the falling of copious rain showers and the teaching of instructions. From this verb derives the familiar word Torah. A similar verb is רבב (rabab), meaning to be many or much, or to shoot many arrows. Noun רביבים (rebibim) means copious showers. The familiar noun ραββι (rabbi) describes a "great one"; a teacher.

That means that Shaddai and his Torah is in many ways the equivalent of Apollo and his bow. Or said otherwise: when a shepherd and his dog both look at the world, the shepherd would see one God, who has a destructive office and issues a correcting Torah, whereas the dog would see a great many gods, among whom an eternal youth carrying a glittering bow.

Apollo was also considered a great horseman, which helps to explain the bow-carrying white horseman of Revelation 6:2.

🔼Apollos meaning

The name Apollos means Of Apollo, which in a Greco-Judaic audience probably brought to mind the much respected intellectual effort of the Greeks, which related to that of the Jews the way a gifted and well-trained shepherd dog relates to his shepherd. The term Of Apollo may also have referred to his most recognizable attribute, which was his silver bow, and which reminded everybody (then and now, judging from the many archers and characters named Archer in modern movies) of both the velocity of money, and thus the health of commerce at large, and the Rabbi as teacher and corrector of communities.