Peter, Petros, Petra and Cephas

Recently I discovery that in the try to desqualified Peter like the rock to just a “tiny rock” or part of set of rocks it’s told that in Mathews 16:18 when Jesus say

Say to you are Peter, and through this rock I will build my Church

It’s argue that there is a large difference between (In Greek) Petros and Petra. The reference from Petros is found here.

This link shows that Petros is “a large rock” and Petras is “A mass of rocks”, however if you see this versicles in the greek Jesus called Peter “Petros” and then next said “upon this Petra”.

I could found this better contextualized here:

In these links are more specific that Peter is not just a rock, but a large rock and Jesus is compare Peter to a mass of connected rocks, because Petros is related to Petra and some tiny rock or made by rock in greek is Petrinos.

More forward I discovery that Jesus languague used to tell this was aramaic and the word for Petros in aramaic is cephas and a word for “tiny rock” is evna and now my question comes. Does anyone have a source for this? I try to found the translation to evna, but I only encounter this affirmation on Peter’s wikipedia page and also there other times in greek bible that Peter call Jesus “Petra”, but in this case is because Jesus is the angular stone and Peter the foundation stone?

My suggestion is to avoid over-analysis. Much has been written over Πέτρος and πέτρα, attempting to identify some sort of well-hidden and subtle difference between the words in order to enlighten exegesis.

There isn’t. Jesus’ utterance to Peter was a pun. The rhetorical term is paronomasia, the use of words with different meanings and similar sounds to highlight a close association. In this case, Πέτρος and πέτρα sound very similar and are used to represent Peter the person and a foundation stone respectively, and the intended effect of the paronomasia is to equivocate the two: Peter is the figurative foundation stone upon which Christ will build his Church.

Some have attempted to distinguish Πέτρος and πέτρα based on the type of rocks in question based on some very particular Classical usages of the words: πέτρα is used in Homeric Greek for small rocks cast as projectile weapons, and Sophocles uses it with the sense of cairn (i.e. a stack of rocks that functions as a landmark). But that’s completely missing the point of a pun, which is the primary semantic organisational feature of Jesus’ utterance.

It’s like beginning a joke by saying “three guys walk into a bar”, then having your listener ask for their names, their ages, their occupations, their criminal histories. All of this ancillary information is, for the most part, quite irrelevant to the purpose of the phrase, which is to introduce a joke.


This article by Tim Staples should help.

Thanks for your response, so Πέτρος have many meanings between and I belive that Homeric and Sophocles are two language from Greek?

Greek varies over time and region. As far as I understand it, Homer wrote in “Epic Greek”. A little later prose began to be written in Ionic Greek. Attic Greek developed in Athens and a lot of literature and works we have is written in it (Pericles, Plato, Aristotle, drama). It’s considered tough for beginners. Koine Greek (common Greek around the first century) became the language of the Roman Empire and was widely used in cultures outside of Greece. It was an international language. The Old Testament was translated into it. The New Testament was written it. It’s based mostly on Attic Greek, but the grammar and vocabulary is considered simpler than Attic.

And there’s other dialects I haven’t mentioned.

But a lot of the people arguing for an important distinction between petra/petros are making reference non-Koine literature.


Yes. In general, Classical Greek and Latin words had a much narrower functional vocabulary than contemporary languages. That is, they often used the same word to describe a large amount of different entities, and they would rely on qualification (e.g. adjectives) or context to determine the specific reference.

Ancient Greek had many regional dialects: Attic, Ionic, Doric, Aeolic, Lesbic, etc. Homeric Greek is the term applied to the particular dialect of Greek used in the Iliad and the Odyssey (epic poems attributed to the poet Homer) It was an artificial literary language that was probably not spoken natively by any Greek communities. Sophocles was a playwright and Classical Greek drama tended to use a fusion of different dialects.

As @Wesrock notes, by the time of Christ the predominating Greek dialect was Koine, which was mostly Ionic in character (e.g. πράσσειν rather than πράττειν in Attic), although it did become ‘Atticised’ in the Patristic period.

There’s no issue in referring to past, non-Koine literature in order to exegete the NT, which wasn’t written in a literary or cultural vacuum. To a certain extent one must as the NT is written in a very peculiar register of Koine (some term it ‘Palestinian Greek’) which has a very limited corpus. The underlying issue is whether it is appropriate. For Πέτρος and πέτρα it isn’t. To be quite frank, I’m not aware of anyone who is reasonably familiar with Greek (both Classical and Koine) literature and aware of customary rhetoric and poetic devices that would claim πέτρα does not refer to Πέτρος.


@Tecnologgamer, let us concentrate for a moment on Biblical Greek, leaving aside Homer, Sophocles, and others. In the New Testament, the masculine noun petros is only ever used as the name of Simon Peter. It never appears as a common noun with the meaning stone, rock, or pebble of any size, large or small.

In the Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the Old Testament, the noun petros occurs only in a single book, 2 Maccabees, where Greek is the original language. Unlike 1 Maccabees, which is a translation from Hebrew, 2 Maccabees was written in Greek. Here are the two verses in which the word is found:

Opening the secret door in the ceiling, they threw stones and struck down the leader and his men, and dismembered them and cut off their heads and threw them to the people outside (2 Macc 1:16).

But when the Jews became aware of Lysimachus’ attack, some picked up stones, some blocks of wood, and others took handfuls of the ashes that were lying about, and threw them in wild confusion at Lysimachus and his men (2 Macc 4:41).

In the OT and the NT alike, the usual word for “rock” or “stone” is either petra or lithos. The difference in meaning is that petra is normally used in the case of the living rock, the rock that is part of the local geology, while a loose stone, that can be picked up and thrown or even simply rolled along, is a lithos. David kills Goliath by using his sling to hurl a lithos, not a petra, at his forehead. After the Crucifixion, Jesus’ body is placed in a tomb newly hewn from the petra, after which the tomb is sealed by rolling a lithos across to block the entrance.


I forgot to mention that, if we can avoid imagining Sylvester Stallone as the Pope, we can replicate the effect of the pun if Peter was instead named Rocky: ‘You are Rocky, and upon this rock I will build my Church’.


I pictured a flying squirrel. Does that make Jesus a moose?

1 Like

Yes as others pointed out this all boils down to the need for protestants to diminish Peter to a small rock so that the Petrine ministry can be disproved.
You have done a good analysis of the situation and seem to have concluded that it is all hogwash. Lots of very good apologist at CA and at EWTN have spoken and written about this.
Jesus founded His Church and left us a Prime Minister, holder of the Keys, so that we might not be lead astray by heresy after HE left us. We have His promise.


We reconcile it by interpreting that Jesus gave Peter the primacy over the Church, not impeccability in all his thoughts/actions. As for the primacy of Peter, it was never doubted for the first 1500 years of Christianity, so what would give modern (read Protestant) interpretations credibility?


Sorry but you are misinformed. The EO don’t have an issue with Peter, their issue starts with his successor in the 11th century.

1 Like

I have often wondered, given Jesus certainly didn’t actually address Peter in Greek but rather Aramaic, why analysis of the Greek even matters, unless Jesus is known to have employed the Aramaic distinction you mention?

No, it’s because the protestant article that I read show the word in Greek and linked the translation on a site in english which I post here. Besides, he had some many nails in his head because he didn’t translate correctly so I was looking for other references in Greek, then I found out that Jesus talks in aramaic and then I look for the translate in aramaic and found “cephas”.

In Aramaic – Kepha / Keepa (Depending on the dialect) is used in both places in Matthew 16:18. There is no distinction. “Cephas” (See: Paul’s Epistles - used 4x in Galatians and 4x in 1st Corinthians) is the transliteration of the Aramaic, “Kepha.”

Peshitta (Matthew 16:18): “And I tell you that you are Keepa, and on this Keepa I will build my Church, and the gates of Sheol will not overcome it.”

Image scan from the Peshitta:

Also, might be helpful…

“Primacy of St. Peter Verified by Protestant Scholars” by Dave Armstrong.


This is also supported by the fact that Apostle Simon is indeed by everyone (even our Lord) called “Peter”.

Most Non-catholic Christian faith’s uphold Paul’s teaching’s because of his relentless faith in Jesus Christ to his martyrdom in Rome, where Peter and Paul’s bones still reside.
St. Paul acknowledges Jesus renaming Simon bar Jona to Peter, When scripture records St. Paul as addressing Peter in the Aramaic rock name “Cephas”= Rock.
I believe St. Paul a Contemporary of Peter, who did not witness as the apostles did when Jesus renamed Simon bar Jona to Peter= Cephas. St. Paul learned from the apostles this new name Peter was given to Simon bar Jona from Jesus Himself. That St, Paul writes in his epistles as addressing Peter in the Aramaic name Cephas = Rock.
One who follows St. Paul follows St. Peter or Cephas.
I don’t believe the Orthodox have a problem with Jesus renaming Simon bar Jona to Peter. It’s the authority that Jesus places on Peter singularly that the Orthodox have a problem with centuries later.
Peace be with you

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.