Peter and Petros/Petra


I am terribly sorry to ask a question about a subject that is discussed ad nauseum, but I will proceed anyway :slight_smile:

It is often pointed out that in Matt. 16:18, the Greek word Petros had to be used for Peter instead of Petra, since Peter was male and Petra was feminine. I am curious, is there any instances in ancient Greek of someone being named after an object whose Greek word is the opposite gender from the person being name, causing them to alter the gender of the word? (Peter is name after a rock, whose greek name is feminine, so they had to change the gender of the petra).




How often does something like this happen?

Abram > Abraham
Saria > Sarah
Jacob > Israel
Simon > Cephas/Kepha/Petros/Peter
Saul > Paul

The big issue here is that Jesus spoke Aramaic and named Simon, “Kepha” - not “Peter”, not “Petros”.

Do a word search on Cephas in your New Testament and you’ll see this to be true.

Jesus himself never used the name “Petros”.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


Randy you didnt answer his question —You just gave examples of names that were changed—BIG WHOOP!! the poster is asking if there are specific examples of someone in the Greek language that the name had to be altered because it was fem and the individual was male.(or vis versa)----


Yes, but my post contained two answers to his request.

  1. How often does a name change occur in recorded literature? Seldom.

  2. Why does the Greek matter? Jesus spoke Aramaic.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


He didnt ask you about name changes in literature-----he asked u for a specific example about greek and whether name changes occured based on gender------



I know Jesus spoke Aramaic. I know that he would have said kepha instead of petros and petra. However, I am simply interested in whether there is an instance of someone’s name having to be changed to match their gender. If so, then it seems like much discussion between Protestants and Catholics concerning whether Jesus intended a distinction between petros/petra is superfluous, because documented examples exist of people having to change a feminine word to a masculine ending in order to name someone that.



I can’t think of any ancient Greek literature or example; however, it is often noted that what Matthew did was literary license, since Kephas would end up as Petra in Greek, and it wouldn’t be right to have him in the feminine gender, hence the transliteration to Petro.


So, does no one know of a similar instance? Who could I ask to find out if such a similar instance exists?


Perhaps someone who knows classical Greek…


We see it every time we name a little girl after the Apostle Peter. We write Petra on her birth certificate - not Peter. By the time little Petra is two and a half or three years old, she “gets it” that she is named after Peter, even though her name is pronounced “Petra,” because she understands that girls can’t be called “Peter” - that’s a boy’s name.

Just like a boy could never be called “Petra,” since that’s a girl’s name …


Similar instances do not exist in scripture. Name changes such as the one Jesus did with Peter are rare to begin with, and the few name changes that do exist in scripture are not subject to the problem at hand.

The Aramaic is kepha and kepha. It is only in the translation into Greek that the issue of gender becomes an issue.


They have an Aramaic interlinear NT translation. In Matthew 16:18 they use kepha and kepha.


Hi BigTurkey,
I have only been studying Attic Greek for a week now, so I can’t claim to be an expert:) but I am working on a Master’s degree in linguistics, for whatever that’s worth (sometimes I wonder:)) But to me, putting a masculine ending on a feminine word to make it a male name sounds like the most natural thing in the world. I have really been confused about what all the fuss is about. The phenomenon is very common in names in many modern languages, as others have pointed out.

Moving on, I did a quick Google search on your question and have listed links above to some sites that describe Greek naming conventions. As you will be able to see if you peruse them, many ancient Greek names have both masculine and feminine versions, being derived originally from a noun that was either one gender or the other (actually one of three genders). I have cut and pasted one example from the top website listed above for your immediate gratification. As you can see, in a word like, “NIKE” the “E” is the feminine nominative singular ending. So in Greek, “victory” is a feminine noun. However, the Greeks seemed to have no problem deriving a masculine name, “NIKIAS” from it.

Gender: Feminine
Usage: Greek Mythology, Ancient Greek
Other Scripts: Νικη (Ancient Greek)
Means “victory” in Greek. Nike was the Greek goddess of victory.

Gender: Masculine
Usage: Ancient Greek
Other Scripts: Νικιας (Ancient Greek)
Derived from Greek νικη (nike) meaning “victory”. This was the name of an Athenian general who fought in the Peloponnesian war.


I have restricted the examples listed above to names based off nouns. Many Greek names are derived from adjectives as well. However, in Greek, adjectives are declined to match the gender of the noun they are modifying, so most adjectives have masculine, feminine, and neuter forms (unlike nouns, which are usually one gender). Some nouns do have both masculine and feminine forms though. In my meager exposure to Greek thus far, I have learned the word DOULOS, which means “slave,” (referring to a male). The -OS ending is the masculine nominative singular. In the course of doing my Greek homework today, I encountered the feminine equivalent DOULE, with the feminine -E ending, like in NIKE above, meaning “female slave.”

So yeah, in conclusion, I would think the practice of changing a word’s grammatical gender to match the actual gender of the person whose name was derived from that word, would be fairly common and natural. Of course I am open to dissent, if any Greek experts have any differing views. I can poll some of my more learned Classicist friends in the matter, but I wanted to contribute what little I could. Hope this helps!


Hey Pax, good to see you make use of that resource. Just to clarify a typo, though, the site is (no “r”) and it looks like they have kepha spelled “keepa”. Nevertheless, it is the same word in both instances.



You have helped again in regards to the Aramaic sites…thank you. I found all of it fascinating although I cannot follow all of the linguistic analysis. I get the gist of it but cannot properly explain it to others.


Not a problem, Pax. I am in the same boat as you as far as grasping it all. Its just that if anyone else was intersted, I didn’t want them to wind up at a dead link. You’re right though, it is a fascinating site - with its own very active forum and everything.



I am not sure if this would count, but Johnny Cash wrote a song with the title “A boy named Sue”. In the song, a father named his son “Sue” so the boy grow up to be tough and strong from people teasing him, because the father knew that he would be in prison and would not be around.
At the end of the song the boy named Sue punches his father.

Maybe since Jesus as God would have know about this song, he choose to give Peter a masculine name so Peter wouldn’t punch him at the Second coming.


You can find the best "linguistic" info on Peter Petros petra kepha at this site:

Just look at the Assertions tab... It's good info, with refrences, sources...


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