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2.

Comparison of Greek original with other translations

The word πέτρος except the ancient Greek literature, where it is used as a derive
noun1, is also used twice in Septuagint with meaning of the “rock” or the rocky
ground.2 It appears in New Testament only as a proper name and if it will be taken
in consideration that it is as a translation of Cephas, there is no other reasonable
way out except that the author wanted to underline the sense of Peter’s being.3

It’s worth mentioned that the name Peter (Πέτρος) appears only after the
Christianity, i.e. in the ancient Greek world does not existed as a proper name, at
least it is not attested before Christian era.4 Essentially can be assumed that the first
man with this name in history is the Simon who was called Peter (Πέτρος), and to
whom the name was given by Jesus Christ.5 Worth of attention is also the fact that
almost all Greek names had its meaning in ancient world, which declared the
character of a person, at least the name was itself given for characterization. When
in the 1 chapter of John’s Gospel refers that Jesus gives the name to the Simon and
calls him Cephas (Κηφᾶς), evangelist directly gives the explanation of Cephas in
Greek as Πέτρος (Peter), but in other translation as King James Version we have
that it means A Stone6, or A Rock. But when we go back to the original text, we see
that evangelist gives as Cephas’s (Κηφᾶς) translation the Peter (Πέτρος) in Greek, in
many English translations is also translated as a proper name Peter, which gives us
an impression of only a well-known masculine name and not a definition of
Aramaic word Cephas. What meaning could Peter (Πέτρος) have for 1st century’s
Christians if it was not yet masculine proper name?

“The play on Πέτρος/πέτρα in Matt. 16:18 suggests that Peter is the “rock-man”,
the foundation on which Jesus will build his church. Some have argued that such a
sense would require πέτρα in both halves of Jesus’s pronouncement, but since this
word is a feminine noun, one can understand why the less usual Greek term, having

1
“the derived noun πέτρος is found only 4x in Homer, and aside from Eurip. (who uses it c. 30x), the
term is relatively infreq. among class. and Hel. writers.” - Moises Silva, New international dictionary of
new testament theology and exegesis– volume three Λ-Πν , Zondervan (2014), p. 735
2
Moises Silva - New international dictionary of new testament theology and exegesis– volume three
Λ-Πν , Zondervan (2014) P. 735-739
3
EXEGETICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, VOLUME 3 edited by Horst Balz and Gerhard
Scheneider, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. P. ?
4
EXEGETICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, VOLUME 3 edited by Horst Balz and Gerhard
Scheneider, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. P. 82
5
John 1:42
6
King James Translation
the masculine ending ος, would have been chosen as the Greek equivalent for
Cephas, Simon’s second name.”7

“In Aramaic the Greek play on the word “Peter” is marked by an identity: “you are
Kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church.” – is originated in Aramaic
speaking environment. …. The identity of the “Rock” is an important exegetical
question. In view of Aramaic identity of Kepha/kepha there can be no doubt that
the rock on which the church is to be built is Peter. Even though there is a slight
difference between Petros/petra in Greek text of Matthew, most scholars today
would hold that this same identity between the rock and Peter is also the intention
of Matthew. However other views are possible. One such view is found in the
church fathers and advocated by some today is that petra is not Peter himself but
Peter when he confessed and “thinks the things of God.”8

“The basis here is play on the words petros and petra. According to Mark. 3: 16 and
john 1:42, Jesus himself gave Simon the name Peter. In Mat. Simon already bears
this name when he is mentioned for first time in 4:18; many commentators conclude
from this that Matt. 16:18 he is not the name, but rather that the name is
interpreted. Paul mostly use the Aramaic form Cephas. In john 1:42, the only place
in the NT where the noun petros is used in its normal sense, it is stated that the
name Kephas means petros. So both Aramaic transliteration and Greek translation,
kephas/petros, can mean rock and therefore petra in Matt. 16:18 can be translated
as rock. The assonance of the words makes it immediately evident that Peter is the
“rock-man” the foundation on which Jesus will build his Church. O. Cullmann
suggests that the sense would require petra in both halves of the pronouncement,
but since petra is a feminine noun, the NT chooses the less usual Greek which has
masculine ending- ος for the masculine name.”

Although in many versions of New Testament translations, the name Peter (Πέτρος)
of Matthew 16:18 where it has particular importance, is transliterated according to
the language requirement.

For example, in Latin Vulgate “Petrus” and “petram” are quite similar and can be
compered with Greek original “Petros” and “petra”. Same thing we have in case of
French and Italian translations. In French (revision of David Martin 1744) there is
“Pierre” as Peter and “pierre” as rock. Also in Italian, (Giovani Diobati Bible 1649)
accordingly “Pietro” and “pietra”. We see that in languages with Latin origin we

77
Moises Silva - New international dictionary of new testament theology and exegesis– volume three
Λ-Πν , Zondervan (2014) P. 738

8
?
have transliteration of Greek Πέτρος and it is obtained as masculine name, which
is also similar with a rock or stone.

“In general the meaning of Greek Πέτρος has been determined by that of the
Aramaic equivalent. Moreover since a world-play is thought to exist between
Πέτρος and πέτρα, and furthermore owing to a peculiar theory of what constitutes
world-plays, the presumed Aramaic original behind the Greek text has often been
seen as the key of understanding of the passage.”9

In the Syriac Peshitta, which has translated from Greek, indirectly can tell as, since
it retranslated back to the Semitic dialect, that is close to the Aramaic.10 We have
“Kepha” instead of Peter (Πέτρος) and “kepha” instead of rock (πέτρα). Which gives
as an impression that the name of Peter and the promise to him are directly
connected.

While in Latin languages is maintained original word-play Petros/petra and in


Syriac Peshitta the problem is solved easily by used original Aramaic word Kepha,
however in other translations we meet some specifies. which can lead in different
conclusions than these above mentioned editions of New Testament.

For instance, in Palestinian version, which is independent of other Syriac versions,


we have transliteration of Πέτρος, while the πέτρα is translated as kepha. In this
case it would be: “Thou art Petros and upon this kepha..”11

Such tendency we meet also in Slavonic translation, where we have “Petr” (петр)
and kameni (камени), in place of Πέτρος and πέτρα. And there is no need to be
someone language specialist to understand that there is no connection between
transliterated masculine name Petr and the Slavonic word, identical with stone,
“kameni”.

These transliterations most of the times do not say nothing about Peters meaning
and it is far away from the meaning of rock in those languages.

In Armenian, in which language we have translation of the Scriptures in early of 5th


century, the Peter (Πέτρος) is transformed as “Petros” (Պետրոս) and the rock
(πέτρα) as “vemin”(վէմին).

Also in Slavonic translation of the gospel we have in the place of Peter

is transformed unchanged, or transliterated as the language requires.

9
Chrys C. Caragounis - Peter and the Rock, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1990, P. 26
10
Chrys C. Caragounis - Peter and the Rock, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1990, P. 31
11
Chrys C. Caragounis - Peter and the Rock, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1990, P. 34
It’s worth mentioned that in western translations usually the name Πέτρος is not
transformed or translated, but is taken as it is in Greek form (Peter). Hence in
Vulgate we have the “Petrus” and as πέτρα we see “petram” which is equivalent with
rock.