Question of gender

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Tue May 14 16:54:06 EDT 2002

At 12:03 PM -0400 5/14/02, mcasale at wrote:
>Hello Group:
>Here is my question
>In comparing Mt 16:18-19 it says
>"Thou art PETROS (Greek masc.)
>upon this ROCK (PETRA fem.)
>In Jo 1:42 it says, "You shall be called KEPHAS (Aramaic)
>which is by interpretation a STONE (Greek masc.PETROS)
>My church has taught that Petros and Petra are a play on words that Jesus was
>using to explain that Petros (or Peter) is a small stone but that he was
>pointing to himself as the Petra meaning a large craggy rock on which the
>church was built. It seems to indicate in the lexicon however that Petros
>and Petra are simply the masculine and feminine gender for the same word
>so they would both have the same, not different meanings as to the size of
>the rock. What is your opinion?

Let's leave aside the question of what the PETRA represents as that's a
question of interpretation rather than a lexical matter, and it's one upon
which there are broad sectarian differences. However, what you say you were
taught is essentially right and will be constated in good lexica of both
classical and Biblical Greek: PETROS does mean a stone of such a size that
can be picked up and thrown, whereas PETRA is a large rock formation;
obviously they are related but they are NOT simply interchangeable generic
words for "rock" or "stone" as a substance; rather they are distinct words,
clearly related to a common root but with distinct senses.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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