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Zaphnath-Paaneah (Hebrew צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ Ṣofnaṯ Paʿnêaḫ, LXX Ψονθομφανήχ Psonthom-phanêkh) is the name given by Pharaoh to Joseph in the Genesis narrative (Genesis 41:45). The name is ostensibly "Egyptian", but there is no straightforward etymology; some Egyptologists accept that the second element of the name may be contain the word ˁnḫ "life". Jewish tradition provides an explanation of "revealer of secrets". Jerome gives the supposed translation of servator mundi "preserver of the world".


Targum Onkelos (1st century AD) gives the meaning of the name as "the man to whom mysteries are revealed"; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, "one who reveals mysteries"; Josephus (Antiquities ii.6.1, c. AD 94), "a finder of mysteries". The Jewish interpretation is received in early Protestant translations: the Geneva Bible (1599) glosses "The expounder of secrets",[1] while the Authorised Version of 1611 has in the margin: "Which in the Coptic signifies, 'A revealer of secrets', or 'The man to whom secrets are revealed'.

The Christian interpretation of servator mundi (reinforcing the ancient concept of Joseph as a prefiguration of the Christ) is influenced by the Greek form of the name, Ψονθομφανήχ Psonthom-phanêkh and Ψομθομφανήχ Psomthom-phanêkh in the Septuagint and the Hexaplaric version, respectively. This, at least, is the suggestion made by Gesenius in his Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon .[2] Early Egyptologists have interpreted the name as equivalent to Coptic ⲡⲥⲟⲧⲙ ⲫⲉⲏⲉϩ psotm peneh, "salvation of the age"[3]

After the decipherment of hieroglyphics, Egyptologists have interpreted the final element of the name (-ʿnêaḫ, -anêkh) as containing the Egyptian word ˁnḫ "life"; notably, Georg Steindorff in 1889 offered a full reconstruction of ḏd p3 nṯr iw.f cnḫ "the god speaks [and] he lives".[4] This interpretation is philologically plausible and has since become somewhat popular.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Genesis 41:45 GNV - And Pharaoh called Joseph's name". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  2. ^ "The genuine Egyptian form of the word appears to be more accurately given by the LXX."[1]
  3. ^ where ⲡ is the article, ⲥⲟⲧ is "salvation" (loaned from Greek soter) and ⲫⲉⲏⲉϩ is "aion, age" (Gesenius). This interpretation goes back to the Glossarium Aegyptiacum by Jablonski (published 1809). The Asiatic Journal. Parbury, Allen, and Company. 1837-01-01. < See also "Coptic Dictionary Online". Retrieved 2017-03-16. 
  4. ^ "Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache," xxvii. 42, modifying Krall's etymology in "Trans. 7th Orientalist. Congr." p. 110


  • Marquardt, Philologus, vii. 676;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. col. 5379 (where a disfigured Hebrew original is suspected);
  • Steindorff, G., Der Name Josephs Saphenat-Pa'neach: Genesis Kapitel 41, 45. ZÄS 27, 1889, 41–42.
  • Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch. xx. 208 (where the other theories have been collected). E. G.
  • "Zaphnath-Paaneah". Retrieved 2015-08-30.