Aramaic Matthew and Kepha

I read many times that Matthew is written in Aramaic and that the word Jesus used for the Church and Peter was “Kepha”.

  1. How do people know that Matthew was written in Aramaic? Why not Greek?

  2. How do we know Jesus used “Kepha” in both cases if the origionals are lost? Couldn’t he have said a different word?

I believe early Church Fathers had access to an Aramaic version that has since fallen into decay. Did St. Jerome have one when he was translating to Latin?

But notice what Jesus says in John chapter 1. “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter)”.

“Cephas” is the Greek rendering of the word “Kepha”. “Petros” is the Greek rendering of a rock (the meaning of Kepha).

Think of the word “John”. In Ireland, its “Sean”. In Mexico, its “Juan”.

1st, what language did Christ speak, Aramaic, Hebrew, not Greek, therefore the Greek would be a translation of the oral spoken word.

Two from early church fathers we know that Mat was originally written in Hebrew/Arameic

Mark who wrote the Gospel, which he [Papias] has given in the following words]: And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered… **Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language **(Papias of Hierapolis Fragments from the Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord 90 AD) Chap IX

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews3 in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.(Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies Book III Chap I 180 AD)

" In his[ie. Origen] first book on Matthew’s Gospel, maintaining the Canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing as follows: Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language. The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus, my son.’ And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts. Last of all that by John." Origen,Commentary on Matthew,fragment in Eusebius Church History,6:25,3(A.D. 244),in NPNF2,I:273

Going on what others have said…

John 1:42 Peter is renamed Cephas a transliteration of the Aramaic Kehpa meaning rock.

Matthew from what I’ve read wrote his gosepl to Jews who spoke Aramaic as their every day language so did not write it in Greek.

Jerome says it was written in Aramaic.

Jesus spoke Aramaic.

In the Greek of Matt 16:18 Peter is renamed Petrus and the rock of the church is petra. On Greek grammatical grounds they both refer to Peter.

As Peter is male the masculine less common word for rock was used. To illustrate he really is the rock the feminine more common word for rock follows.

The Aramaic reads Kepha…kepha
The French reads Pierre…pierre

Yes but how do we know it was ‘Kepha…Kepha’ in the Greek origionals instead of some other Aramaic word meaning ‘small rock…Kepha’?

Two points:

a) In Aramaic, there is no “large Kepha” and “small Kepha”.

b) Why are you asking about “small rock… Kepha” in the first place? Please don’t buy into the Protestant arguement that “Petros” meant small pebble. Petros had to be used instead of Petra because it was masculine and Petra is feminine. Also, Petros meaning “small pebble” had died out over 600 years prior to Christ. Its a non-supported argument.

Jesus said (in the Inspired Greek version) “You are Petros and upon this Petra…” because Matthew (or the subsequent Greek translator) knew how to use correct Grammar. Period.

May I suggest a book…“Upon This Rock” by Steve Ray is excellent in addressing this issue for you. Matthew wrote to the Jews and would have written it in Hebrew or Aramaic. Jesus likewise would have used Aramaic as well. It is not likely that Jesus would have used another word as history doesn’t support it. By using Kepha, which is Aramaic, He perfectly correlates the rock and Peter in building His Church.

Rock in Aramaic is Kepha.
Jesus renames Peter Kepha in John 1:42
If on the rock Christ will build his Church and Peter is Kepha than it must be Kepha…kepha.

We know also because Peter was called Cephas by St. Paul, which is a Grecofied version (transliteration) of Kepha, as opposed to Petros/Peter which is a translation. Peter was obviously originally named “Kepha” by Jesus, who was speaking in Aramaic, because that’s the base of the transliteration “Cephas” which is used to refer to him by Greek speakers throughout the New Testament.

Peace and God bless!

This reminds me of when I learned that Peter was called Kepha, Cepha, Kephas, Cephas depending on the way written in the bible. I was taking an apologetics class at church. When Dr. Bob said that St. Paul called Peter Cephas, I was shocked. I was like, “What!!” No one had ever told me that they were the same person. :eek: I had read the entire bible, back when I was protestant. I had just thought that Paul was writing about some guy named Cephas. Never knew it was Peter. That got a laugh from the class. :blush: But, now that I know, I have made a point to let my CCD class and my own kids know that they are the same person. :thumbsup:

Others have provided documentation about the Gospel of Matthew being written in Aramaic and later translated to Greek but that begs the question. Aramaic was the language in use in the area where Jesus lived and taught. Even if Matthew had not written in Aramaic, Jesus would have said it in Aramaic. The fact that the Bible sometimes refers to Peter as Cephas, the Greek form of kepha, amply demonstrates that.


The Church Fathers tell us that Matthew wrote it in Aramaic. I believe Matthew wrote it in both Greek and Aramaic, I explain more on this theory here We do have an Aramaic version of the Bible (Peshitta), and in it Kepha is used in both places. Here is an interlinear here that shows it

Could you give me some references or quotes where 600 years earlier it was used and in Christ’s day it had died out?

No, I don’t want to go digging through the Greek theater to find out.

But, in the Greek New Testament, can you show where Petros means pebble, or will you find that “lithos” is used for small rock and pebble. I believe you’ll find that its “lithos” that is used.

I’m not Greek speaker, but I’ve heard numerous MP3 talks that discuss this. The problem with MP3 files? Its hard to categorize them and to cross-reference.

Well, in Classical/Attic Greek, there was a difference (though “lithos” would have been a truly “little stone”) – but in Koine Greek, the dialect in which the NT was written, there was none.

Regardless of the Aramaic, even the Greek supports that Peter is the Rock:

The text uses the conjunctive phrase “kai epi tautee” which is translated “and upon this.” “Kai” typically indicates continuity of thought between two words or clauses, in contrast to the adversative conjunctions “alla” or “de” , which would be translated “but.”

“Tautee” is the near demonstrative pronoun, in contrast to the far demonstrative pronouns *hetera * or ekeinos which would be translated “that.” This conjunctive phrase builds upon the previous clause in the sentence. It serves to equate the second rock with the first.

Protestant Apologist D. A. Carson comments:

"… on the basis of the distinction between ‘petros’ and ‘petra’ many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Peter is a mere ‘stone,’ it is alleged, but Jesus himself is the “rock,” as Peter himself attests (1 Peter 2:5-8). Others adopt some other distinction: e.g. ‘upon this rock of revealed truth- this truth you have just confessed- I will build my church.’ ***Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretation, it is doubtful whether many would have taken ‘rock’ to mean anything but Peter. ***

“… Had Matthew wanted to say no more than Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been “lithos” (“stone” of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun- and that is just the point!”

And it’s not wrong to see that it’s both the FAITH of Peter (which is IN JESUS) and Peter himself which are the rock; Christ Himself is the rock, and in the OT, Abraham is the “ROCK” of the Jewish people (cf. Isaiah 51:1-2).

In the whole context (and Protestant apologists IGNORE totally the passage of Isaiah 22:20-25 – which Jesus is fulfilling IN PETER, in appointing Peter the prime minister over His Kingdom, the Church! – simply since it blows their anti-papacy arguments out of the water), we see what the Scripture is telling us.

Jimmy Akin has done a concise and clear analysis of Mathew 16:18 in an article in This Rock. You can read it here:
God bless

good points. i’d be very interested, as well as many defiant protestants, if you could provide verification for us.

Some have stated that Isaiah 36:22 and Isaiah 22:20-22 are signs that point to Peter being head of the Church. It mentions Eliakim in both. Who exactly was he and what did he do? Was he a leader in the Jewish Church?

Eliakim was the High Priest in Israel. Although I wasn’t aware of Isaiah 36:22. I’ll go see.

I suppose Isaiah 36:22 might look like a random verse, but the ‘palace administrator’ is what I get out of it-could ‘palace administrator’ mean he was king?

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