christopher

bearing CHRIST

Living Stones

What’s in a Name?

Surely you are familiar with the passage in Matthew:

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

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

At face value, our LORD was talking to some fellow named Simon Barjona, brother of Andrew Barjona. We learn from Matthew 4:18 that the Barjonas are fishermen. Brother Andrew is the first to follow the Christ, and locates his brother Simon, telling 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…”

There is so much going on here, linguistically, that it must be unravelled to make any sense. In most English Bibles, there are three separate languages at work in this passage: English, Greek, and Aramaic. 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. It’s a real mess.

Matthew – Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona… thou art Peter…

John – 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.

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:

Matthew – Supremely blest you are, Simon Barionas

John – Andreas, the brother of Simon Petros, found his brother, Simon, and told him, “We found the Messias” (which translates into Greek as Christos. Christos translates into English as “the anointed”). Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of Ioannes. You are to be called Kayphas (which translates into Greek as Petros. Petros translates into English as “a stone”)”.

The Greek text transliterates all the Aramaic words and names in this passage:

Messias

  • Aramaic – למשיחא (English pronunciation: La MSheeyKaA), English transliteration: the Messiah
  • Greek transliteration: Μεσσίας (English pronunciation: Messias), (“which is Χριστός in Greek”)
  • Greek – Χριστός (English pronunciation: Christos), English transliteration: the Christ, English translation: the anointed

Iesous

  • Aramaic – ישוע (English pronunciation: Yeshu), English transliteration: Jesus
  • Greek – Ἰησοῦς (English pronunciation: Yay’ soos), English transliteration: Jesus

Simon

  • Aramaic – שמעון (English pronunciation: Shēm’ yune, alt. Shēm’ yōn), English transliteration: Shimeon
  • Greek – Σίμωνος (English pronunciation: Sē’ mōn ōs), English transliteration: Simon

Barionas

  • Aramaic – ברה־דיונא (English pronunciation: Bar Yona), English transliteration: Bar-Yona, English translation: son of Yonah
  • Greek – Βαριωνᾶς (English pronunciation: Barionas), English transliteration: Barjona

Kephas

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

The name Barjona 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 the Hebrew language’s word ‘ben’). Andreas and Shimeon’s dad was named Yona.

The word Μεσσίας in the Greek texts is a transliteration of למשיחא (La MSheeyKaA), the Messiah. Knowing this, let’s interpret the Greek text of John chapter 1, verse 40: “We found the Messias (Greek: Christos).”

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 (Kēpha). The Greek word for stone is Πετρος (Pet’ ros). Knowing that, let’s interpret the Greek text of John chapter 1, verse 42: ” You are to be called Kēphas (Greek: Petros).”

Greek doesn’t have a ‘Sh’ sound, so it substitutes ‘S’. Thus Shimeon (Shēm’ yune, alt. Shēm’ yōn) becomes Simeon or Simon (Sē’ mōn). The Greek language doesn’t have a ‘Y’ and substitutes ‘Io’ or ‘Ie’ to reproduce (transliterate) the sound. Greek also does not allow proper names to end in a vowel. Our LORD’s name, Yeshu, needs altered in three places: ‘Y’ becomes ‘Ie’, ‘sh’ becomes ‘s’, and the final ‘u’ becomes ‘us’. ‘Yeshu’ becomes ‘Iesous’ (Yay’ soos).

While we are at it… It is rather straightforward to watch the name the angel gave Maryam (Mary) for our LORD, Yeshu, transliterate through the common languages and into English:

  • Aramaic: Yeshu (Yē’ shoo)
  • Greek: Iesous (Yā’ sūs)
  • Spanish: Jesus (Hā’ sūs)
  • Latin: Iesus (Yē’ sūs)
  • English: Jesus

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:

Yeshu (Yē’ shoo) spoke with Shimeon (Shēmyūn) and his brother Andrewas, both sons of Yona. Yeshu told Shimeon he would now be called Kaypha (Kēpha).

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”.

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:

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 Yeshu was. Recall when Nicodemus told the Messiah that he knew who He was, and Yeshu told Nicodemus what transformation had permitted him to see these things (for more on this topic, see my article titled, “Born Again”).

Yeshu had asked, “Who do you say I am?” Upon hearing Shimeon’s response, He told the man, “You are stone. Upon stone I will build…”

God’s choice for house-building material is stone…

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. Pete 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

A civil disturbance resulted, as people congregated without a license to hear more about what had just happened. The facility operators, along with the local cops, arrested Peter and John and threw them in jail for the night. The next day they were hauled before the council and they were demanded to respond to the question:

By what power or in what name do you do this? 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 boys, 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 “a stone” from that point on.

Shimeon (a stone) 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