Simon Peter Cephas

One reason multiple names are given for some people in the New Testament was that three cultures were prevalent at that time, and each had its own language. Greek was a nearly universal language, much like English is today. Latin was the language of Rome, more prevalent in the Western Empire and used in official government business. People also spoke the native tongue of their own ethnic culture. For Jews, this was Aramaic. Another reason for multiple names is nicknames.

The apostle we know best as Peter was named Simon1 by his parents. This is an alternate spelling of Simeon2, one of the tribes of Israel. Simeon meant “Hear.” This was his Jewish name. Jesus gave him his nickname, Cephas3, which meant “Rock” in Aramaic. We know him better by the Greek equivalent, Peter (from Petros4). Genesis 29:33; John 1:42; Mark 3:16

Jesus used Peter’s nickname, “The Rock,” in a play on words when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, which is the foundational truth upon which Jesus built his church. Matthew 16:13-18

Jesus also called him “Simon bar-Jonah,” which simply means Simon, son of Jonah (or John). Matthew 16:17; John 1:42

There were many men named Simon in the New Testament, but the nicknames Cephas and Peter are unique to the apostle.

Hebrew/Greek Pronunciations:
1 Simon = See-mown
2 Simeon = Shim-own
3 Cephas = Kay-foss
4 Petros = Pet-ross

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:42

~ SR

Citation
Ruhmann, Scott. “Behind the Name: Simon Peter Cephas.” 27th Street Church of Christ. Access date: . http://www.churchofbend.com/bth/peter.htm