[B-Greek] Dead Sea Semitic Petros=Firstborn, not Kepha

Alfred Persson alpersso1 at adelphia.net
Fri Apr 28 23:16:08 EDT 2006

Alfred K Persson

alpersso1 at adelphia.net

We can finally put to rest the "Peter is the Rock of the Church" fallacy, recent Dead Sea research has proved Petros did not originate in Jn 1:42 when Jesus called Simon a kephas, a stone:

"There may now be an early example of Petros in Hebrew (or Aramaic). On a fragment of leather from Qumran Cave 4 (4QM130), James H. Charlesworth has identified what may be the first instance of Semitic Petros from the time of Peter ("Has the Name 'Peter' Been Found Among the Dead Sea Scrolls?" in Christen und Christliches in Qumran, ed. Bernhard Mayer [Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1991], pp. 213-225). Petros, is found in a list of names that includes Magnus, Malkiah, Mephibosheth, Hyrcanus, Yannai, Aquila, Zakariel, Eli and Omriel." -


This find confirmed German scholarship's proposal is possible:

"That there was in Aramaic a proper name Petros(Str.-B., I, 530)) which perhaps meant "firstborn"(Levy Wort., s.v. PeTeR ; Dalman Wort., s.v.) might have influenced the preference for Petros, but this is by no means certain."-Oskar Cullman, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Kittel, Wm B Eerdman's Pub Co, 1968), Vol VI, p. 101, footnote 8. 

Transliteration PeTeR(Strong's 6363) and bracketed material mine. 

All theories assuming "Cephas" is the Aramaic mother of the Greek "Petros" born when Jesus named Simon Cephas in Jn 1:42, are wrong. The child was alive long before its supposed mother.*

The Dead Sea find confirmed Simon was called Petros before he was called Cephas (cp Jn1:40):

KJV Matthew 4:18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

When critically comparing Petros and Cephas, an incompatible property relevant to their being the same word in different languages, crops up.

Petros/Peter is manifestly a common Jewish name, it alone was insufficient to identify Petros from all other Jews named Petros (Matt. 4:18; 10:2; 16:16; Mark 3:16; 14:37; Luke 5:8; 6:14; John 6:68; 13:6, 9, 24, 36; 18:10, 15, 25; 20:2, 6; 21:2f, 7, 11, 15, 17; Acts 1:13; 10:5, 18, 32; 11:13; 2 Pet. 1:1 .

In stark contrast, Cephas is unique to Simon and identifies him exclusively. ( John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal. 2:9)

Clearly Paul didn't consider Petros the Greek translation of Cephas, he purposely switches to the latter in verse 2:9 lest anyone mistake whom it was being rebuked. In context (2:6ff) Paul is making it clear, he has authority equal even to the Cephas and it was the teaching of this Petros he was rebuking.

This incompatible property would have been enough to prove Petros/Peter cannot be the Greek translation of the Aramaic Cephas/Kepha if it were not for the fallacies of circular reasoning and sweeping generalization.

Greek speaking Christians assumed Petros/Peter must be petros/stone as both are spelled the same and as the same Simon, known as Petros, is also called Cephas, a rock. To them, these words "sprang up together," before reading the NT in Greek, neither Cephas or Petros were names of men.

This circumstantial evidence caused them to presume Petros was the Greek translation of Cephas. It was only natural they would then fall victim to sweeping generalization fallacy, by ignoring the peculiar details of Jn 1:41-42 and generalizing hermeeneuw (2059) in vs 42 as synonymous with methermeeneuw (3177) in vs 41. After all, both convey the meaning of "interpretation," don't they?

BUT both do not convey the meaning of "translation" and THAT is the question in Jn 1:42, whether Petros a translation or an explanation?"

The apostle John chose methermeeneuw to mean "translate," rendering the Aramaic "Messias" into Greek as "Christ." 

So if John was still translating, why switch to hermeeneuw unless he is no longer translating.

Thefore it is parsimonous to the data verse 42 shows John "explaining" what kind of kepha Jesus called Simon.

One does not explain what a "car" is by calling it a "Ford." Neither does one explain what kind of Rock Jesus meant, by translating it as "Peter."

In the Aramaic versions of the Old Testamen, kepha is a petros, a stone of grace:

Pr 3:15 "more precious than pearls (kepha)," 

Heb. paniyn, LXX, lithos.

Pr 17:8 "stone(kepha) of grace," 

Heb. eben cheen, 

"...which rock when bored will give forth water..."-"Dictionary of the Targumim Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature," Marcus Jastrow [Judaica Press, NT, 1996], pp. 634-635.


KJV John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

1 Peter 2:4-5 4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Scripture interprets scripture, Peter clearly is applying what Jesus said about him, to the church. We all, preaching the gospel of Christ, impart living water to the people.

So it is circular reasoning based upon sweeping generalization fallacy when folks point to Jn 1:42 as proving Petros/Peter is the Greek translation of Cephas/Kepha. If they hadn't already assumed that, then Jn 1:42 wouldn't be translated contrary to John the apostle's intent.

Then the mistake is compounded, in Mt 16:18.Unlike Jn 1:42, here Petros/PTR does appear. It is clear from Mt 16:17, ("[u]Bar[/u]jona") this context was spoken in Aramaic. But circular reasoning again victimizes the church. 

Because it is assumed Cephas when translated is Petros, the hypothetical 16:18 is:

"You are Kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church."

However, if we construct our hypothetical according to the Greek, Kepha cannot appear twice because:. 

1)If Matthew were rendering Kepha as Petros everywhere in his gospel, why the switch to petra in 16:18b? It is "misdirection" to argue he didn't want to give Peter a female name, that is irrelevant. The real question is why the rock of the church is not Petros if indeed Petros is how Matthew renders kepha.

2)Jesus is speaking TO Petros ABOUT the petra, therefore he cannot BE the petra.

3)Petros is a Semitic name meaning "firstborn" and has nothing at all to do with Kepha so there is no play with words at all.

"You are Petros and upon this very kepha I will build my church."

How in context is Simon really "firstborn?"

Peter just confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is the gospel all who do that are born again, (Rom 10:9f).

Right after confessing he believed the Revelation of God, Christ calls him blessed, "son" (bar) of Jonah. No doubt Matthew retained the Aramaic to emphasize this was Jonah the prophet, Simon figuratively rose from the dead and preached the revelation of God, just as Jonah did.

"Thou art Petros ("firstborn" of the gospel of Christ) and upon this the kepha (The Truth) I will build my church.

"Now you really are what your name Firstborn means, because you confessed the truth about me before men, and upon this very truth I will build my church."

Confirming this truth about Christ is the Petra, is Jesus' command:

Matthew 16:20 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

Having folks reborn before Christ's sacrifice for sins was moving ahead to fast.

The imagery confirms this. The truth about Jesus is like the kepha Moses struck, out of which came water that sustained the lives of the people. In the Aramaic translations of the Old Testament Jesus was familiar with, Kepha is used for the Rock Moses struck:

Numbers 20:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the ROCK before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the ROCK: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the ROCK, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this ROCK? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the ROCK twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

I capitalized ROCK everywhere KEPHA(3710) is found in the Aramaic Targum of this passage. In these passages the Greek Septuagint reads PETRA(4703), the Hebrew Masoretic CELA (5553).

A Kepha is either a small or massive stone, "which rock (when bored) will give forth water"-from Y'rushalmi Sh'kalim, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud babli, Yerusahalmi and Midrashic Literature, Prof. Marcus Jastrow (Judaica Press, NY, 1996), p. 634.

KJV Deuteronomy 32:13 He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to su ck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;-Targum Y'rushaimi.-Ibid.

KJV 1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.


The Dead Sea discovery tends to confirm the Aramaic Talmud reflects customs of Jesus' day. See Petros, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, Prof. Marcus Jastrow (Judaica Press Inc, NT, 1996). p. 1162.

It is interesting to note the Peshitta preserved the Semitic PETROS in Acts 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1.

Alfred K Persson

alpersso1 at adelphia.net

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