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Living Stones

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Three building materials are referenced repeatedly throughout the Scriptures: wood, clay, and stone. Noah constructed the ark of Gopher wood. The tower built in the city that came to be known as Babel (and later, as Babylon) was constructed of clay bricks held together with bitumen, a naturally occurring tar (think: asphalt). God formed adam from the dust of the Earth. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah reference God being the potter and Israel being as clay in His hands. Stones were used as pillars, vessels, altars, tablets, tools, weapons, markers, idols, houses, temples, and more. Metaphorically, the hardness of stones is referenced, where waters become hard as stone, and hearts are hard as stone.

Maryah Yeshua Meshika (our LORD Jesus Christ) is the prophesied 'stone which the builders rejected,' the stone that became the chief cornerstone, the stone of stumbling, and the rock of offense. Jesus called one of His disciples, Shimeon bar Yonah (Simon, son of Jonah), “Kaypha,” an Aramaic word meaning petros in Greek, and stone in English. Years after Jesus was resurrected, Kaypha, in turn, referred back to Jesus as the “KhaaYaA Kaypha,” or Living Stone, then entreated us also as “KhaaYaA Kaypha,” or living stones, to be built up into a spiritual house, a spiritual temple.

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What's in a Name?

My name is Christopher. As a very young boy, others would take it upon themselves to call me 'Chris.' It took me many years to learn and accept that there are legions of mankind who find it difficult and strenuous to attempt to speak multi-syllabic names, and these include armies of people who speak my native tongue. Evidently, for these people, uttering anything past a single syllable becomes lost in a morass of mental anguish accompanied by physical pain, all to be avoided at any cost. I was not hampered by such restrictions and, when introduced to Frederick Leonard Theodore Smythe, III, I did not take it upon myself to call him 'Fred' or 'Leo' or 'Ted', let alone 'Bubba.' That doesn't make me better, but I did tend to get along with a lot people that others didn't (or couldn't). Hmm...

When I was young, I traveled to Mexico. I was introduced to Spanish-only-speaking people as 'Christopher' and, once again, I encountered people who had great difficulty pronouncing my name. 'Crease' was easier for them to say, so I changed tactics: I started introducing myself as 'Cristobal.' I always got a snicker, they would try harder to say my name the way I pronounced it, and I didn't care what they called me, afterward.

When I was young, I traveled to France. I was introduced to French-only-speaking people as 'Christopher' and, once again, I encountered people who had great difficulty pronouncing my name. I was getting better at this, so I introduced myself as 'Christophe' and the problem was solv-ed.

And so it went: I traveled a great deal and, in country after country, encountering language upon language, my name was pronounced in a variety of ways, some very unique and others, quite amusing. You may be surprised to learn that I never lost myself; I never forgot who I was, or what my mother named me. And, more importantly, I never refused to answer someone who called upon me, even though they didn't get the pronunciation "just right."

I am sure you are familiar with the passage in Matthew, where Jesus meets Shimeon (Simon) for the first time:

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

~ Matthew 16:15-20 (King James Version (KJV))

In order to grasp the significance of Jesus's words, let's first look at a related passage in John:

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

~ John 1:40-42 (KJV)

When we combine the two accounts, reading solely from the KJV, one might assume that our LORD was talking to some fellow named Simon Barjona, brother of Andrew Barjona. We learn from Matthew 4:18 that the Barjonas were fishermen. Brother Andrew was the first to follow the Christ. He located his brother Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messias.” Upon meeting him, Christ tells Simon, “Thou art Peter! Upon this rock I will build my church... and thou shalt (also) be called Cephas...”

The Gospel of Mark doesn't appear to mention the “Cephas” part (or does it?):

And Simon he surnamed Peter;

~ Mark 3:16 (KJV)

Here is the scary part: It is quite possible you have heard this story presented enough times this way as to be perfectly comfortable with it. You may not be aware that, as presented by the KJV, there are three separate languages at work in this passage: English, Greek, and Aramaic, along with a complete butchering of names, meaning and pronunciations. You are reading it in English, which has been translated and transliterated from Greek texts, which the Greek translators of John state have been translated and transliterated from Aramaic. As presented, it is a linguistic mess. Most importantly, as a result you may have completely missed the significance of the Master's words!

And, for those who tend to fall off a cliff over disputes, petty or otherwise, our Master did NOT say, “If you don't get the spelling and pronunciation JUST RIGHT, I will reject you!” I point these details out to build you up, not arm you with weaponry to go tear down others.

Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona... thou art Peter...

~ The Gospel of Matthew

And Simon he surnamed Peter...

~ The Gospel of Mark

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother...findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ... Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.

~ The Gospel of John

If we are bit more careful converting the translation/transliteration already present in the Greek texts into English, and employ the same liberties the Greek translators employed, we get something like this:

“Supremely blest you are, Simon Barionas... you are Petros...”

~ The Gospel of Matthew

And Simon he surnamed Petros

~ The Gospel of Mark

Andreas, the brother of Simon Petros, found his brother, Simon, and told him, “We found the Messias (which translates to Christos).”

~ The Gospel of John

You may be thinking that, if you are (were) a native Greek speaker, you might have lived out your life blissfully happy believing Simon and Andreas, the Barionas boys, followed a “Messias” (which is a Christos to us Greeks), and the Christos renamed Simon, Petros. Cool, huh?

But “Messias?” What is a “Messias” (pronounced: Meh see' us)? This isn't a Greek word, as the Greek text of John 1:41 reveals. “ευρηκαμεν τον μεσσιαν ο εστιν μεθερμηνευομενον χριστος" (euriskanen ton messian o estin methermeneuomenon christos) – We have found the Messias (which is, being interpreted, the Christos).

Andrew did NOT speak the words to his brother, “We have found the Messias (which is, being interpreted, the Christos).”

In the native language of Palestine at the time, Aramaic, Andraeus (Andrew) said,“ אשכחניהי למשיחא (EShK’aaKhNaaYH_Y LaaMSheeyKhaA).”

Translating/transliterating directly from Aramaic into English (bypassing Greek entirely), we hear Andrew say to Simon, “We have found Him, the Messiah!”

When the Greek translator(s) of the Gospel of John encountered the non-Greek word למשיחא (Meshikha), they transliterated it into Greek as μεσσιαν (Messian/Messias), then explained that Messias means χριστος (christos), what we English readers would later require to be translates again as “The Anointed.” Oh, wait, the English translators didn't do that. They didn't do what the Greeks did, and actually translate the word after transliterating it. They just stopped after the transliteration, and we all adopted the non-English word “Christ,” using it as though it was Jesus's last name. {Sigh}

Apparently, Christos *is* a Greek word, assumed to be derived from Chrio, a primitive word meaning “to anoint.” I have my doubts, but that doesn't really matter. Let me point out again that, if we were honestly translating the Greek text into English, we should arrive at, “We have found the “Messias” (which is, being interpreted, The Anointed).” But the English translators of the Greek text transliterated (not translated) the passage to read, “We have found the Messias (which is, being interpreted, the Christ).” They created a word (or used a word others had created) from Greek, and used it as a title or name for the Son of God.

But for this passage, along with John 4:25 (the woman at the well), where both a transliteration (“Messias”) and an explanation (“which means Christos”) are included, everywhere else the Aramaic word למשיחא (Meshikha, anointed one) is written, the Greek translators simply substituted χριστος (Christos) without the transliterated word “Messias”.

Wherever the Greek word χριστος (Christos, the anointed one) is written, the English translators TRANSLITERATED it into Christ, 565 times throughout the New Testament! They never attempted to TRANSLATE it. Did you know that the King James version of the Bible NEVER refers to Jesus as the Messiah (unless you count the only two occurrences of the word in the entire KJV, found in Daniel 9:25-26)? Using just two languages (Greek and English) they have produced five words (Messias, Christos, Christ, Anointed, Messiah) for the one Aramaic word למשיחא (Meshikha).

Whew, what a ride! And we aren't even to the best part, yet!

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The Best Part

Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of Ioannes. You are to be called Kayphas (which translates into Greek as Petros.” Petros further translates into English as “a stone,” or we can transliterate Petros into “Peter.”

But these boys weren't Greeks - none of these names originate in Greek. And we are reading this all in English. There are multiple Aramaic names in use. The Greek text transliterates all the Aramaic words and names in this passage. Read through this a couple of times and it may help to clear the confusion:

Meshikha - Messias (Christos) - Messiah (Christ)

  • Aramaic - למשיחא - English pronunciation: La MSheeyKaA), English transliteration: the Messiah
  • Greek transliteration: Μεσσίας - English pronunciation: Meh see' us (“which means Χριστός in Greek”)
  • Greek translation - Χριστός - English pronunciation: Christos, English transliteration: the Christ, English translation: the anointed

Yeshua - Iesous - Jesus

  • Aramaic - ישוע - English pronunciation: Yā' shū (final 'a' (ayin) is soft or silent), English transliteration: Jesus
  • Greek transliteration - Ἰησοῦς - English pronunciation: Yā' sūs, English transliteration: Jesus

Shimeon - Simonos - Simon

  • Aramaic - שמעון - English pronunciation: Shēm' yune, alt. Shēm' yōn, English transliteration: Shimeon/Simeon
  • Greek transliteration - Σίμωνος - English pronunciation: Sē' mōn ōs, English transliteration: Simon

bar Yona - Barionas - Barjona

  • Aramaic - ברה־דיונא - English pronunciation: Bar Yona, English transliteration: Bar-Yona, English translation: son of Yonah/Jonah
  • Greek transliteration - Βαριωνᾶς - English pronunciation: Bar yōn' us, English transliteration: Barjona (pronounced: Bar Jōn' uh)

Kepha - Kephas - Cephas

  • Aramaic - שמעון - English pronunciation: Kaypha, English translation: stone
  • Greek transliteration - κηφας English pronunciation: Kay' phas, English transliteration: Cephas, (“which is Πετρος in Greek”)
  • Greek translation - Πετρος - English pronunciation: Petros, English transliteration: Peter, English translation: stone, rock

Andraeus - Andreas - Andrew

  • Aramaic - אנדראוס - English pronunciation: On dreh' wass
  • Greek transliteration - Ἀνδρέας - English pronunciation: On drey' us, English transliteration: Andreas/Andrew

The name Barjona (Barionas) in the Greek texts is not some Greek fisherman family name, nor is it a Galilean name. Bar-Yona is Aramaic for 'son of Yona', with 'bar' being the equivalent of 'ben' in the Hebrew language. Andraeus and Shimeon had a dad named Yona. The boys were called Andraeus Bar-Yona and Shemeon Bar-Yona.

The Messias in the Greek texts is their transliteration of למשיחא (La MSheeyKaA), the phrase we transliterate into English as the Messiah. Knowing this, let's interpret the Greek text of John chapter 1, verse 40, like the Greek translators did: “We found the Messias (That's Christos in Greek).”

Like Βαριωνᾶς (Barionas) and Μεσσίας (Messias), the word κηφας (Kay' phas) did not originate in the Greek language. Not only is it not a Greek name, it has no meaning in Greek. It is a Greek transliteration of the common Aramaic word for stone, שמעון (Kaypha). The Greek word for stone is Πετρος (Pet' ros).

NOTE: In Greek, a stone is not a “Petro.” Due to spelling and grammar rules, it is a Petros. Thus, when transliterating (moving a word into our language form another language, trying to closely approximate it) the word for stone in Aramaic, Kaypha, the Greeks turned it into Kephas to follow their spelling and grammar rules. Knowing this, let's interpret the Greek text of John chapter 1, verse 42: “You are to be called Kēphas (That's Petros in Greek).”

Greek doesn't have the 'sh' sound of the Aramaic letter Shin, so it substitutes the Greek letter Sigma 's'. Thus Shimeon (Shēm' yune, alt. Shēm' yōn) becomes Simeon or Simonos (Sē' mōn ōs).

While we are at it... It is rather straightforward to watch the name the angel Gabriel gave Maryam (Mary) for our LORD, Yeshua, transliterate through the common languages and eventually arrive into English - hundreds and hundreds of years later! When discussing our LORD's name, pronounced Y'shu in Aramaic, it is common to associate it with the Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua). My understanding is that the Angel did not speak to Maryam in Hebrew, but in Aramaic, and the Master and His disciples were not conversing in Hebrew, let alone Greek, but in Aramaic.

It is commonly held that the book of Joshua was recorded in Hebrew circa 1405-1385 BC. Transliterating the name of the title of the book into English, we get Yehoshua. The namesake of the book, Joshua, Yehoshua) is referenced 30 times in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, yet his (transliterated) name is not spelled Yehoshua in these passages, but Yeshua. This should not be confusing, as by the time Ezra was written (457-444 BC) and Nehemiah was written (424-400 BC), the lingua franca of Mesopotamia, indeed, of all the levant was Aramaic, thanks to the rise and spread of the Neo-Assyrian world-conquering empire in the 8th century BC. The shortened Yeshua (Y'shu) was the Aramaic name for Yehoshua (Joshua).

By the time the Angel called to Maryam, Hebrew was relegated to special readings by the qualified clergy, only. She was told to name her son, Yeshua (Y'shu).

Aramaic - ישוע - Read from right to left, Yōdh ('Y') Shin ('sh') Waw ('ū' or 'oo') Ayin (guttural 'a' - soft at the back of the throat or silent, altogether). In English, this is pronounced Y'shū or Yā' shū. It is unlikely this name was ever pronounced “Yay' shoo AHH” by any native speakers.

But how does a name (or any word, for that matter) get changed as it goes from one language to another? Isn't it supposed to stay the same, especially when we are talking about His name? I mean, “How Dare You!”

Do you mean like the name of the Roman (false) god Jupiter? The Romans didn't possess the 'J' in their alphabet! The name was and is properly pronounced 'You pee tare' in Latin (or “You peter,” for the superstitious, fall of a cliff crowd). Where did you get the 'dJ' sound? Is English your native tongue? Then you inherited the pronunciation as it was transliterated through more than one language into English. Simple. Jupiter doesn't mind, not at all.

Let's return to the name the Angel gave to Maryam, and see how Yeshua (Y'shu) became Jesus. I realize this could be shocking to many American readers, but Gabriel wasn't conversing with Maryam in English. He didn't tell the woman to name her son Jesus. And he wasn't speaking Greek, either. He didn't tell her to call the child Iesous. And he wasn't talking to her in Hebrew, saying, 'Call the boy Yehoshua' (or some non-sensical, made-up word like 'Yahuah'). He spoke to her in the regional language that had been in place for the previous 800 years, and would remain in place only until it would be replaced 700 years later with Arabic. That language was Aramaic.

First step - Aramaic to Greek. This may be the most dramatic change men made to the spelling and pronunciation of the name of our LORD. Some languages are SO different from one another that, unless a person is a native speaker, they CANNOT even pronounce some words, let alone write them. While that is not always the case for every language, it is most definitely the case for Aramaic and Greek! The Greek language doesn't have a 'Y' (Aramaic Yodh) and thus substitutes two Greek vowels in the combination Iota omicron ('Io') or Iota epsilon ('Ie') to reproduce the sound that 'Y' makes. Additionally, Greek does not have an 'sh' sound (Aramaic shin), so it substitutes the solitary letter 's' (sigma) as the closest matching sound. I know, I know, “How dare they!”

The Aramaic waw, here pronounced 'oo' or 'ū', is reproduced in Greek using the dipthong omicron upsilon ('ou'). Greek does not permit proper nouns (or any masculine nouns, for that matter) to end in a vowel. Greek grammar (particularly ancient Greek) ends these words in a sigma ('s'), nu ('n') or rho ('r'), depending on usage. Our LORD's name, Yeshu(a), needs to be altered in at least one place to even be pronounceable in Greek, and in three places to make sense in Greek writing, such as in a translation of the Scriptures: 'Y' becomes 'Ie', 'sh' becomes 's', 'u' becomes 'ou', the final ayin 'a' is ignored, and Greek adds 's' to the end. Yeshua ('Y'shu, Yā' shu') becomes 'Iesous' (Yay' soos, or Yā' sūs).

Next step - Greek to Latin. Latin recognizes the beginning 'I' independently from the Greek two-letter replacement 'Ie', and drops the Greek omicron, as Latin only requires the independent 'u'. This results in the shortening of the name from Iesous to Iesus, however, the pronunciation remains the same, identical to Greek. See how it works?

(Apparent) Next step - Latin to Old French. French pronounces the beginning 'I' as a hard J ('dJ') not the softer 'Zh' of modern French. Thus we get Iesus, pronounced Jā' sūs (not Zhā' sūs).

Corollary Step - Early Modern English borrows directly from Old French, with Iesus (Jā' sūs) being spelled Ieſus (Jā' sūs) in the 1611 KJV. Note that the letter 'J', a stylized version of the letter 'I', was not yet available in English. We do not see it in print until the 1637 KJV, where we find the spelling Jeſus, which continues to be pronounced (Jā' sūs).

Eventually, English spelling adjusts from Jeſus to Jesus. How, exactly, the pronunciation shifted from long A ('Jā') to long E ('Jē'), and the long U ('sūs') became a short U ('sus'), continues to escape me.

Here is a recap of the reasonable progression of the rather dramatic alteration of both the spelling and pronunciation of our LORD and Savior, Maryah Messhika Y'shu:

  • Aramaic: Yeshua (Yā' shū, possibly Yā' shū {soft uh}, spoken by a few, depending on where they lived.)
  • Greek: Iesous (Yā' sūs)
  • Latin: Iesus (Yā' sūs)
  • Old French: Iesus (dJā' sūs - not modern French: ʒe'zy, Zhā' zē)
  • Early Modern English (1611): Ieſus (Yā' sūs)
  • Early Modern English (1637): Jeſus (Yā' sūs)
  • Modern English: Jesus (Jē' zus) ???

In other languages, the pronunciation is not all that different:

  • Spanish: Jesus (Hā sūs)
  • German: Jesus (Je:zʊs)
  • Chinese: 耶穌 (Jēsū)
  • Korean: 예수 (Je̞sʰu)
  • Arabic: يسوع (Jasuːʕ)

If you have a Bible translated from the Peshitta, there will only be two languages at work: Aramaic and English. From it we get this:

Yeshua (Yay' shoo) spoke with Shimeon (Sheem yoon) and his brother Andreaus (On dreh' us), both sons of Yona (Yōn uh). Yeshua told Shimeon he would now be called Kaypha (Kay pha).

The man did not undergo a legal name change, switching from Simon Barjona to Simon Peter. The Master told Shimeon that, from now on, he will be called “stone.” That's all.

No, really: that's all!

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A Stone's Purpose

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was from the presence of the LORD, and it is a wonder in our eyes.'”

~ Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17

Jesus was quoting from Psalm 118:22-23, and referring to Himself as Kaypha, the stone):

This is the stone which you builders have rejected, and he is The Head of the corner.

In the Matthew and John passages we looked at, above, the Messiah told Shimeon he was blessed because the Father had revealed to Shimeon who Yeshua was. Recall when Nicodemus told the Messiah that he knew who He was, and Yeshua told Nicodemus what transformation had permitted him to see these things (for more on this topic, see my article titled, “Born Again”).

Yeshua had asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Upon hearing Shimeon's response, He told the man who He had already called Stone, “You are stone. Upon stone I will build...”

Yeshua referred to Himself as Kaypha. Yeshua referred to Shimeon as Kaypha. Shimeon referred to Yeshua as Kaypha. Shimeon referred to all of us, the brethren, as Kaypha.

God's choice for house-building material is Kaypha.

Do you see it, yet? It is about stone, not Peter! It is about stone, not the mother church!

Do you recall the story of the crippled man outside Herod's temple, the one who asked for charity from Shimeon (Peter) and Yohannon (John) as they walked past. Shimeon told the man,:

I have no money, but what I do have, I give to you: In the name of Jesus the Messiah, the Nazarene, stand up and walk.

~ Acts 3:6

People congregated, illegally, without a permit, to hear more about what had just happened. A civil disturbance resulted, constituting a domestic terrorist threat. The facility operators had the local militarized police force detain Peter and John. For the men's own safety, they were placed in jail for the night on the grounds of unlawful assembly, disturbing the peace, inciting a riot, etc. The next day the two men were brought before the council and instructed to respond as the Court demanded to know:

By what power or in what name do you do this? (Who authorized / licensed you?)

~ Acts 4:7

Shimeon answered:

Let this be known to you and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus the Messiah, the Nazarene, him whom you have crucified, whom God has raised from among the dead, behold, by him this man stands before you whole. This is the stone which you builders have rejected, and he is The Head of the corner. And there is no salvation in any other (man, god, etc), for there is no other name under Heaven given to the children of men by which it is necessary to receive life.

~ Acts 4:10-12

After threatening the two men, the ruling class was forced to release them, as the crowd was ecstatic over the healing of the man and praising God for what had happened.

The corner stone of the building, the stone which sets that building straight and true, is the stone who was crucified and whom God raised from the dead. This same stone, the only one by which we can be delivered, told Shimeon that he would also be called Kaypha, “stone,” from that point on.

Shimeon Kaypha (stone) definitely got the message, as indicated in his letter, which reads:

Therefore, put away from you all wickedness, all treachery, partiality, envy and slander, and be as nursing infants, and yearn for the word as for pure and spiritual milk by which you shall grow strong for life, If you have tasted and you have seen that the LORD is good, He to whom you draw near, the Living Stone, whom the children of men have rejected, and is chosen and precious to God.
And you also, as living stones, be built up and become spiritual temples and holy Priests to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable before God by Yeshua The Messiah. For it is said in the Scriptures, “Behold, I lay down in Zion an approved and Precious Stone at the head of the corner, and whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.”
This honor is given therefore to you; those who believe, but to those who are disobedient, He is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and they stumble on it, in that they do not obey the word, for they are appointed to this.

~ 1Peter 2:1-8

The purpose of a living stone is to be built into the temple of God; God's holy habitation. Dead stones are not used. They are crushed into powder. Jesus said:

And whoever falls on this stone will be shattered, and it will pulverize to dust everyone upon whom it will fall. And when the Chief Priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he had spoken against them.

~ Matthew 21:44-45

You are built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and of the Prophets, and he is the Head of the Corner of the building: Yeshua The Messiah. And the whole building is constructed by him and grows into a holy temple in the LORD, while you also are built by him for the dwelling of God in the spirit.

~ Ephesians 2:20

Grace and Peace be with you,