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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Tsaphenath' Paane'ä ch, צָפְנִת פִּעְנחִ; Sept. Ψονθομφανήχ , Vulg. Salvator mundi), a name given by Pharaoh to Joseph (Genesis 41:45). (See JOSEPH).
I. Form of the Word. — Various forms of this name, all traceable to the Hebrew or Sept. original, occur in the works of the early Jewish and Christian writers, chiefly Josephus, from different MSS and editions of whose Antiquities (2, 6, 1) no less than eleven forms have been collected following both originals, some variations being very corrupt; but from the translation given by Josephus it is probable that he transcribed the Hebrew. Philo (De Nominun Mut. [ed. Col. 1613], p. 819 c) and Theodoret (1, 106, ed. Schulz) follow the Sept., and Jerome the Hebrew. The Coptic version nearly transcribes the Sept., psonthomphaneck.
In the Hebrew text the name is divided into two parts. Every such division of Egyptian words being in accordance with the Egyptian orthography as Noammon, Pi-beseth, Poti-Pherah we cannot, if the name be Egyptian, reasonably propose any change in this case; if the name be Hebrew, the same is certain. There is no prima facie reason for any change in the consonants.
The Sept. form seems to indicate the same division, as the latter part, φανήχ , is identical with the second part of the Hebrew, while what precedes is different. There is again no prinza faide reason for any change from the ordinary reading of the name. The cause of the difference from the Hebrew in the earlier part of the name must be discussed when we come to examine its meaning.
II. Proposed Etymologies of the Word, This name has been explained as Hebrew or Egyptian, and always as a proper name. It has not been supposed to be an official title, but this possibility has to be considered.
1. The rabbins interpreted Zaphnath-paaneah as Hebrew, in the sense "revealer of a secret." This explanation is as old as Josephus (κρυπτῶν εὑρετήν , Ant. 2, 6, 1), and Theodoret also follows it (τῶν ἀποῤήτων ἑρμηνευτήν 5, 1,106, Schulz). Philo offers an explanation, which, though seemingly different, may be the same (ἐν ἀποκρίσει στόμα κρίνον; but Mangey conjectures the true reading to be ἐν ἀποκρύψει στόμα ἀποκρινόμενον , loc. cit.). It must be remembered that Josephus perhaps, and Theodoret and Philo certainly, follow the Sept. form of the name. We dismiss the Hebrew interpretation as unsound in itself and demanding the improbable concession that Pharaoh gave Joseph a Hebrew name.
2. Isidore, though mentioning the Hebrew interpretations, remarks that the name should be Egyptian, and offers an Egyptian etymology: "Joseph... hunc Pharao Zaphanath Phaaneca appellavit, quod Hebraice absconditorum repertorem sonat… tamen quia hoc nomen ab AEgyptio ponitur, ipsius linglume.debet habere rationem. Interpretatur ergo Zaphanath Phaaneca AEgyptio sermone salvator mundi" (Orig. 7:7, vol. 3, p. 327, Arev.). Jerome adopts the same rendering.
3. Modern scholars have looked to the Coptic for an explanation of this name, Jablonski and others proposing as the Coptic of the Egyptian original psot-m-phenet, etc., of "the preservation (or preserver) of the age." This is evidently the etymology intended by Isidore and Jerome. — Smith. See Jablonski, Opusc. c. 207-216; Rosellini, Mon. Storici, 1, 185; Champollidn, Gramm. p. 380; Pezron, Lex. Copt. p. 207; Gesenius, Thesaur. s.v.
III. Comparison with Egyptian Elements. —
1. The Hebrew Form. — This, after eliminating the Masoretic vowels, is Z- ph-n-th ‘ P-'-n-ch, which transcribed in hieroglyphics, stands thus:
The first syllable, zaf, signifies "provisions;" the second, nat, is the preposition "of;" p is the definite article "the;" and the last syllable, anch, means "life." The whole name, therefore, may well be translated "food of the living."
2. The Septuagint Form. — This is more difficult of rendering. The most literal transcription of the Greek ψονθομφανηχ, omitting the vowels as unessential, i.e. p-s-n-t-m-p-n-'-n-ch, would be in hieroglyphics thus:
This means "he who gives joy to the world," a sense evidently taken by Jerome in the Vulg., who lived while the Egyptian was yet vernacular, and who renders it "savior of the world" (see the Speaker's Commentary [Amer. ed.], 1, 480 sq.).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zaphnath-Paaneah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/z/zaphnath-paaneah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.