Thursday, May 21, 2009

What does Simon mean? and did "Peter" replace "Simon"?

I recently heard a terrible argument arguing that Simon means "grain of sand" and that when Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, he was changing this grain of sand into a Rock. Obviously, as you might guess, this argument came from someone who thinks that Peter was the first pope.

There are two significant problems with this argument.

First, "Peter" didn't replace "Simon" it became a sort of surname, essentially replacing "Barjonna" although he continued to be called "Barjonna" even after being called "Peter." We can see this from the following:

Mark 3:16 And Simon he surnamed Peter;

John 1:42 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.

Matthew 4:18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

John 1:40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

John 6:8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him,

Matthew 10:2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

Luke 6:14 Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

John 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

John 13:6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

John 13:9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

John 13:24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.

John 13:36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.

Mark 14:37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.

John 18:15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.

John 18:25 And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.

John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

In these verses we see that Simon is referred to frequently as "Simon Peter" or by similar labels, such as "Simon, whom he also named Peter" (where "also" implies that this was an additional name) and "Simon he surnamed Peter" (where "surnamed" implies that an additional name was imposed upon Simon). Finally, while we see a large number of verses (not reproduced above) where Simon is simply referred to as "Peter," we never see Simon referred to as "Peter bar-Jona" or "Peter the son of Jona" or the like. Thus, Simon's name wasn't changed: he was given an additional name that essentially took the place of his natural name.

A second significant problem is that "Simon" doesn't mean "grain of sand" - it means "heard." The Greek word that we translate "Simon" is Σίμωνα (Simona). This Greek word is a borrow word from Hebrew. The Hebrew word to which it (as well as the alternative Grecianized form Συμεὼν (Simeon)) corresponds is שׁמעון (Shimon) which is etymologically derived from the word שׁמע (Shama) which is the root word for "to hear." With some words, the etymology is a bit speculative, but not with this one:

Genesis 29:33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.



Anonymous said...

I am a Native American, a California Indian, as you TF.

When I read this article just now and saw the trace back to Simeon I recalled an unusual sense that came over me once I "got it" after being given a book to read, the title was "Wooden Leg" a Warrior Who Fought Custer.

It is an eye witness accounting from a personal Native American experience of just went on during the massacre and death of General Custer.

I gobbled up the read, intently, as it was powerfully insightful into what happened from an unusually biased point of view, albeit, the loser's point of view.

What's the point of saying all that?

Well, it took me nearly the entire read to realize why the book was titled "Wooden Leg". I thought, hmmmmm, was this Indian an unfortunate recipient of a bullet wound to the leg so that it was cut off and had to use a stick to walk around after? No, it wasn't that. What was it then? Well during the end of the read the news reporter who was given the assignment to go to Oklahoma and do this research on this very old Indian finally got to the place in the research to ask the question.

"Why are you named "Wooden Leg"? I see that you do not have a wooden leg. In fact, even in your old age you get around just fine!"

Answer? "Oh, I was a walker. I could "out" walk any of my peers as I grew up, walking great distances and so they tagged me with that name, "Wooden Leg" because it seemed to them that my "legs" were wooden and I never wearied during long walks"!

Now, to make the connection to your article. Peter, "Simeon", "heard". You get a sense why his mother and father and peers gave him that name, "heard". Could it be because he was a crier and talker and never shut up and everyone "heard" from Peter his entire life? :)

I guess if you are a crier, talker and never shut up, you stand a chance of being named what you are. And we all are now aware of the fact that Jesus did select Peter according to who He made him to be, someone we ought all to "hear" Him through:::>

2Pe 1:15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
2Pe 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
2Pe 1:17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,"
2Pe 1:18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
2Pe 1:19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
2Pe 1:20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
2Pe 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

brigand said...

I guess people didn't have nicknames back then.

I wonder what kinds of interpretations there would be if our given names were seen along side our pseudonyms?

Turretinfan said...


There is perhaps another play on words intended - something I intend to add to a previous post of mine: "Simon bar-jona" knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, but he did not "Hear it from Jona" - flesh and blood did not reveal it to him, but God the Father did. Simon Peter is the one who heard the Rock and followed after the Rock, decaring him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.


Anonymous said...

TF, my guess is if we continue developing these things and bring out all that God intended that River Rock to be, we will undoubtedly make em' mad!

Eze 17:1 The word of the LORD came to me:
Eze 17:2 "Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel;
Eze 17:3 say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar.
Eze 17:4 He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants.
Eze 17:5 Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig,
Eze 17:6 and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.
Eze 17:7 "And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it.
Eze 17:8 It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine.
Eze 17:9 "Say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots.
Eze 17:10 Behold, it is planted; will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it--wither away on the bed where it sprouted?"

Anonymous. said...

It's not that complicated. The guy had two names. His first name was Peter but he went by Simon. It's common in Christian culture to have take the name of a relative but go by your middle name. When he met Jesus he became whole and was allowed to use his true title.

turretinfan said...

His first name was Simon and he was later given the name Peter as a surname. It has nothing to do with modern western Christian double naming practices.