Real word for "rock" in Aramaic?

I’m debating a guy who has until now been almost boring. He’s a feverish, frothing-at-the-mouth Catholic hater, but hey, it kills the time. However, he stumped me on this:

Aramaic/Syriac – “You are KE’PHA’ (a movable stone) and upon this SHU`A’ (a large massive rock) I will build my church.”

Any truth to this? Specifically, is this what Christ said? I talked to a Jewish friend who knows Hebrew and Aramaic, and he confirmed for me that kepha means “rock,” (though he didn’t say if it meant “large, massive stone.”

I have NEVER heard the argument that Christ used the word “Shu’a.”

Need your scholarly advice, please. :thumbsup:

That’s another word for rock in Aramaic. But I don’t know if it means “big rock” or how that differs from kepha or if that underlies “this rock”.

You can search for “rock” here and here.

[quote=montanaman]I’m debating a guy who has until now been almost boring. He’s a feverish, frothing-at-the-mouth Catholic hater, but hey, it kills the time. However, he stumped me on this:

Aramaic/Syriac – “You are KE’PHA’ (a movable stone) and upon this SHU`A’ (a large massive rock) I will build my church.”

Any truth to this? Specifically, is this what Christ said? I talked to a Jewish friend who knows Hebrew and Aramaic, and he confirmed for me that kepha means “rock,” (though he didn’t say if it meant “large, massive stone.”

I have NEVER heard the argument that Christ used the word “Shu’a.”

Need your scholarly advice, please. :thumbsup:
[/quote]

Peace be with you,

First let me say that we don’t have any New Testament documents in Aramaic or even Hebrew. We do have them in Greek so let me share with you the Greek sources for our english translations. Arguing about Aramaic is complete conjecture and I would suggest avoiding.

Peter is named “Petros” and upon this “Petra” I will build my Church…

Petros is the masculine form of rock where as Petra is the feminine form. It is customary to use the feminine form to suggest a source of something (i.e. literally big). Of course, Peter was a man and so needed the masculine form as a name. I am guessing that your friend is attempting to establish a distinction with the arguement that Jesus spoke aramaic and that these are the actual words he used but we know that the Syraic Scripture where copies of Greek Scripture so we are wiser, in my opinion, to stick with the Greek as our source.

Peace, Love and Blessings,

The common arguement that is used to establish that Jesus was calling Peter Rock, and not “small stone” is the one you used, in addition to the one that Montanaman is referring to.

The point is that Aramaic would have been the language that the conversation occured in, therefore, does Aramaic have similar masculine and faminine characteristics to Greek, is there more than one word for rock? I have never heard the arguement that there is more than one word for rock in Aramaic. It would be interesting to find a source on this.

The problem with the first arguemant is that it is also possible that there was a differance in meaning intended between Petra and Petros. We know that isn’t the case, but some will argue that, therefore comes the necessity of the arguement about Aramaic. Sticking to the Greek seems like a more reliable idea, but in this case some have twisted the meaning because of the linguistics of Greek.

Your desperate friend is resorting to changing the words of Scripture to fit his refusal to accept their plain meaning. The phrase in Greek (and presumably in Aramaic) is meant to be a play on words, so the similarity in the sound of the words is key to the meaning of the text. In Greek, it is “You are Petros and on this petra, I will build my Church.” It would be even clearer in the Aramaic: “You are Kepha and on this kepha…” In English it is even less clear than the Greek because we completely lose the word-play. Next time you are in a hotel in Ontario, however, grab a French Gideon’s Bible and check out Matthew 16:18. It conveys the play on words much better: “You are pierre, and on this pierre I will build my Church.”

For a masterful destruction of your friends lame attempt at twisting Scripture, see Tim Staple’s article in Envoy Magazine, found here:

envoymagazine.com/backissues/2.2/nutsandbolts.html

There’s also a good one on the Catholic Answers main apologetics page:

catholic.com/library/Peter_the_Rock.asp

The Aramaic lexicon on this site states that the gender of kepha is feminine. If that’s true, then apparently there’s no problem with assigning a feminine noun as a man’s name in the Aramaic of the Peshi-tta.

Incidentally the Peshi-tta renders the rock on which Christ builds his Church as *kepha *Keepa]).

Howdy,

what is wrong with this argument?

Why not use petros in the second part of the sentence if the Holy Spirit wanted to make it absolutely clear that He was building His church on the son of Jona, and avoid the gender problem? If petra and petros mean the same thing (as the Catholic apologist insists), Jesus could have said:

“Thou art PETROS and upon this PETROS I will build my church.”

<<<<

Jeff

Your friend got it wrong. Kepha means rock. Evna means stone.

As for the Petros/Petra thing, it has been mentioned several times that in Koine Greek (aka NT Greek) Petros and Petra are synonyms; Petros being a proper noun based on the feminine petra [rock]. Anywhere a movable stone is mentioned, the word used is lithos, not petros.

Even the BAGD lexicon emphasizes the “steadfastness” of Peter’s name.

Ok. But does the grammatical structure work?

Thanks,
Jeff

[quote=porthos11]Your friend got it wrong. Kepha means rock. Evna means stone.

As for the Petros/Petra thing, it has been mentioned several times that in Koine Greek (aka NT Greek) Petros and Petra are synonyms; Petros being a proper noun based on the feminine petra [rock]. Anywhere a movable stone is mentioned, the word used is lithos, not petros.

Even the BAGD lexicon emphasizes the “steadfastness” of Peter’s name.
[/quote]

[quote=jphilapy]Jesus could have said:

“Thou art PETROS and upon this PETROS I will build my church.”

[/quote]

Of course, He could have.

He could have given Simon a different (non-rocky) name. He could’ve said, “and on this faith” (for those that favor the confessional interpretation) or “on Me” (for those who favor the Christological interpretation).

He could have done any of these things. But he didn’t. So now we have to figure out why.

Here’s Jimmy Akin’s explanation.

Here’s the latest response to this issue. You can find my response to it here:
forum.protestwarrior.com/viewtopic.php?p=8671504#8671504

I could use any commentary y’all can give. Thanks!


The NT was written in Greek, So they knew greek also.

Petra = Non moveable rock
Petros = Movable rock, or chip of a rock.

They are both of the same root of rock.

That in no way made your point.

Alexander the Great authored the Language of Common Greek, The SAME language the New Testament was written in.

Thus pagans are part of the point.

That is not proven.

Lets say it was then (Which you can not prove) .

The fact that the Greek text of the New Testament uses two separate Greek words in the passage [Matthew 16:18] indicates that any underlying Aramaic/Syriac original also must have used two separate words.

You are going off a translation error

The proper translation of Petros is Ke’pha’.

On this we have the authority of the Word of God itself in the Greek original of the New Testament, where the name “Ke’pha” (in the English Bible “Cephas”) is six times given as the Aramaic equivalent to Petros for the name of Simon bar Jonas. (John 1:42; 1Corinthians1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 2:9)

So, we can say, based upon the authority of the original Greek of the New Testament that Petros, the name given to Simon bar Jona by the Lord Jesus (John 1:42) is the correct translation of the Aramaic/Syriac word Ke’pha’.

Greek: Petros = Aramaic: Ke’pha’ (“Cephas”).

What of the Greek word Petra?
Is it correctly translated as Ke’pha’?

There is nowhere in the Greek New Testament where the word Ke’pha’ is given as the correct translation of the Greek word Petra.

Greek: Petra = Aramaic: ?

(Concluded below)

(Conclusion)

In the Peshitta Syriac New Testament the Greek word “PETRA” is translated by the Aramaic word SHU`A’ as in Matthew 7:24-25 meaning a massive rock or a boulder.

PETRA is used 16 times in the Greek New Testament:

Of those times it is translated in the Peshitta Syriac

9 times by the word SHU`A’ ,

6 times by the word KE’PHA’ and

1 time by the Hebrew root word ‘ABENA’

Of the ten times PETRA is used in the Gospels it is translated:

7 times by the word SHU`A’

(Mt.7:24, 25; Mk.15:46; Lk 6:48[2x];8:6, 13)

3 times by the word KE’PHA’

(Mt.16:18; 27:51; 27:60)

Of the three times KE’PHA’ is used to translate PETRA in the Gospels:

[1] in Mt. 27:60 the parallel passage in Mark’s gospel (Mark 15:46) more correctly uses SHU`A’ to translate PETRA.

[2] in Mt. 27:51 the word KE’PHA’ is used to describe the rocks (plural) which were broken at the earthquake when Christ died (and hence, these rocks became movable).

[3] the other passage is Mt. 16:18 where KE’PHA’ is used to translate both PETROS and PETRA.

In all other places in the Gospels the Greek word PETRA is translated by the Syriac word SHU`A’, meaning “a massive rock.”

KE’PHA’ is used in the Syriac N.T. as the translation of both the Greek words LITHOS and PETROS.

The Greek word LITHOS, which means “a stone” (generally of a size which could be picked up or moved) is ALWAYS translated by the Syriac word KE’PHA’.

As LITHOS in classical Greek is the common prose word for “a stone” (see the quote from Liddle and Scott’s Lexicon, above) and PETROS is more common in poetry, this shows that the definition of KE’PHA’ as “a stone” is correct. The Syriac KE’PHA’ is equivalent to the Greek LITHOS, a movable stone.

KE’PHA’ IS ALWAYS USED TO TRANSLATE THE GREEK WORD LITHOS.

SHU’A IS THE MORE USUAL AND CORRECT SYRIAC WORD TO TRANSLATE THE GREEK WORD PETRA.

KE’PHA IS A MOVABLE STONE = LITHOS / PETROS.

SHU’A IS A MASSIVE ROCK = PETRA.

The Syriac word SHUA' is NEVER used to translate the Greek word LITHOS. Because a LITHOS is NOT a large massive rock, but a SHUA’ is. The Syriac KE’PHA’ is correctly used to translate the Greek words LITHOS and PETROS because these are movable stones.

The fact that the Greek text of the New Testament uses two separate Greek words in the passage [Matthew 16:18] indicates that any underlying Aramaic/Syriac original also must have used two separate words.

Conclusion:

a. A reconstructed Aramaic/Syriac of the passage would properly be: “You are KE’PHA’ (a movable stone) and upon this SHU`A’ (a large massive rock) I will build my church.”

This is in exact correspondence to the original inspired Greek text: “You are PETROS (a movable stone) and upon this PETRA (a large massive rock) I will build my church.”

b. The Peshitta Syriac New Testament text, at least in its extant Manuscripts, mistranslated the passage in Matthew 16:18, incorrectly using the Syriac word KE’PHA’ for both Greek words PETROS and PETRA.

c. The Church of Rome bases its doctrine of Peter being the Rock upon which the Church is built on this mistranslation and/or a falsely reconstructed Aramaic/Syriac original, ignoring the distinctions in the Aramaic language.

[quote=montanaman]The fact that the Greek text of the New Testament uses two separate Greek words in the passage [Matthew 16:18] indicates that any underlying Aramaic/Syriac original also must have used two separate words.
[/quote]

That’s about as hard to defend as its opposite thesis. The best he could say is that there’s no evidence that either shua or kepha underlies petra. Just arguing that other passages use shua doesn’t make it conclusive that petra in Matthew 16:18 can only be shua.

But why did the Peshitta translators use kepha for petra? Was it due to a pro-papal bias? There’s no evidence of that, as far as I can see. Or was it rather due to the fact that Tradition had always indentifed Peter as the rock on which the Church was built? That would be an interesting question to follow up considering that he Peshitta is the official Bible of the Assyrian Church of the East, which as I understand it, isn’t in union with Rome.

By the way, your friend lifted material from David Stark’s paper.

Let me see if I can get the opposing viewpoint straight.

In Greek we have the Petra (massive rock)/Petros (movable stone)isssue. We as Catholics believe Petros was used due to the necessity to make “Kepha” masculine in Greek. In order to preserve the meaning of the sentance we use the word “Kepha” for the Greek Petra, when in fact there would be another word used.

I have a couple of thoughts on this.

  1. What is the oldest translation. I believe it to be the Greek, therefore all subsequent translations run the risk of being thrown off by the usage of Petra/Petros. And like all translations, the choice of words used to translate can be effected by the meaning assigned to that which is being translated. In other words, if I am translating and I do not believe that Peter is the Rock on which the church is built, then I am likely to pick two different words for Petros/Petra, and linguistically I would be correct for the technical reasons listed above.

If, however, I do believe Peter is the Rock on which the church is built then I am likely to use the same word for Petros/Petra even if linguistically technically this is incorrect.

  1. To me the key to the interpretation lies in the second part of Jesus’ words to Peter. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heave, and what ever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven".

We can translate the entire passage two ways:
You are little rock and upon this massive rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you, (little rock), the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you, (little rock), bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you, (little rock), loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

or

You are rock and upon this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you (rock) the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you (rock) bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you (rock) loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

I know that the second translation makes much more sense to me, in English, regardless of how I feel about Peter. However I also know that Greek and Aramaic syntax isn’t the same as English. Therefore my question is in Greek or in Aramaic which translation makes more sense?

what exactly does it mean that Peter is a rock? I guess what I don’t get is how from that, one would draw the conclusion that some continuas line of authority will be supreme over all the church. A rock in this sense signifies a foundation. In that sense I see authority but even if Peter is the rock, he is the rock/foundation that is already laid. An unchangeable standard. No matter how we look at it, the foundation, once laid cannot be laid again, or extended, it can only be built on. And if Peter is the foundation, then he can not be solely the foundation, for no man is anything apart from Jesus, which means that whatever foundation Peter is, then it is also the foundation that Jesus is as well. For if Jesus is the only foundation, then Peter has to in some way be apart of that. What part is he? He can’t be the cornerstone, because Jesus is the cornerstone. He can’t be the main foundation because Jesus is the main foundation. There can’t be two foundations because there is only one.

I mean looking at the catholic explanation though, there would need to be two. Why? There is the foundation that Paul said is Jesus, and there is no other foundation. Well this foundation that is Jesus is obviously the foundation that the apostles laid. Which means the revelation of Jesus Christ. However if Peter is the foundation, then how can the Apostles lay him as a foundation? It seems moot to consider him as a foundation because Peter isn’t our life or salvation, and there is so little we know about him.

Yet somehow he has become another foundation.

Another thought that comes to my mind is the verse in the old testament that catholics refer to regarding Abraham. I am not sure where the verse is but I think the idea is something like, abraham is a rock and out of him are carved nations or something similar to that idea. In anycase if that is true then that didn’t make abraham a supreme authority nor did it prescribe a continuas office. Instead he imples character development and strength. Or in other words, those who are sons of abraham will be like abraham.

Hope you catch my thinking out loud and can make some sense of it. Looking forward to hearing your insight.

Jeff

**This is an excellent point that deserves some attention. Just the sheer logic of it.

The protestant view really has no flow or logic behind the statment, and makes no real sense, from a grammatical point of view.

If i were an “athiest” interpreter, and had no particular stand on catholic vs. protestant views on Church authority, I would be more swayed towords the logical flow of context derived from the second of your two translation examples. It just makes more logical and grammatical sense. Jesus was setting up the most Important Institution on Earth, I pretty sure he would have been precise and clear in his statements.

Peace of the Lord be with you all!
**

[quote=jphilapy]what exactly does it mean that Peter is a rock? I guess what I don’t get is how from that, one would draw the conclusion that some continuas line of authority will be supreme over all the church. A rock in this sense signifies a foundation. In that sense I see authority but even if Peter is the rock, he is the rock/foundation that is already laid. An unchangeable standard. No matter how we look at it, the foundation, once laid cannot be laid again, or extended, it can only be built on. And if Peter is the foundation, then he can not be solely the foundation, for no man is anything apart from Jesus, which means that whatever foundation Peter is, then it is also the foundation that Jesus is as well. For if Jesus is the only foundation, then Peter has to in some way be apart of that. What part is he? He can’t be the cornerstone, because Jesus is the cornerstone. He can’t be the main foundation because Jesus is the main foundation. There can’t be two foundations because there is only one.

I mean looking at the catholic explanation though, there would need to be two. Why? There is the foundation that Paul said is Jesus, and there is no other foundation. Well this foundation that is Jesus is obviously the foundation that the apostles laid. Which means the revelation of Jesus Christ. However if Peter is the foundation, then how can the Apostles lay him as a foundation? It seems moot to consider him as a foundation because Peter isn’t our life or salvation, and there is so little we know about him.

Yet somehow he has become another foundation.

Another thought that comes to my mind is the verse in the old testament that catholics refer to regarding Abraham. I am not sure where the verse is but I think the idea is something like, abraham is a rock and out of him are carved nations or something similar to that idea. In anycase if that is true then that didn’t make abraham a supreme authority nor did it prescribe a continuas office. Instead he imples character development and strength. Or in other words, those who are sons of abraham will be like abraham.

Hope you catch my thinking out loud and can make some sense of it. Looking forward to hearing your insight.

Jeff
[/quote]

Catholics point out Abraham as the ROCK of the OT because you guys are constantly saying that Only God is a rock we are proving from scripture that men can be rocks as well. End of story we did not say Abraham started a type of Papacy you falsely accused of us doing that but we didn’t you assumed that. ANd when you assume well things happen.
Well if Peter being a rock isn’t such a big deal why the exagerations by you guys of parsing words to avoid the obvious context that Peter is the Rock.

[quote=Maccabees]Catholics point out Abraham as the ROCK of the OT because you guys are constantly saying that Only God is a rock we are proving from scripture that men can be rocks as well. End of story we did not say Abraham started a type of Papacy you falsely accused of us doing that but we didn’t you assumed that. ANd when you assume well things happen.
Well if Peter being a rock isn’t such a big deal why the exagerations by you guys of parsing words to avoid the obvious context that Peter is the Rock.
[/quote]

Who is “you guys” ? You assume that all non-catholics are Reformed? Are Welsyans? Are ???

You wanna groups us together, who are we? My friend I don’t even goto a church. Who am I?

“ANd when you assume well things happen.”

Jeff

[quote=Vincent]That’s about as hard to defend as its opposite thesis. The best he could say is that there’s no evidence that either shua or kepha underlies petra. Just arguing that other passages use shua doesn’t make it conclusive that petra in Matthew 16:18 can only be shua.

But why did the Peshitta translators use kepha for petra? Was it due to a pro-papal bias? There’s no evidence of that, as far as I can see. Or was it rather due to the fact that Tradition had always indentifed Peter as the rock on which the Church was built? That would be an interesting question to follow up considering that he Peshitta is the official Bible of the Assyrian Church of the East, which as I understand it, isn’t in union with Rome.

By the way, your friend lifted material from David Stark’s paper.
[/quote]

The Assyrian Church communion isn’t a strong argument as they wanted to be reunited with Rome a few years ago but the RC actually discouraged them as to not offend the other Orthodox the Catholic strategy is to get the ORthodox church as a whole rather than cherry picking communions like they have in the past. That being said they allow commuinion to catholics and vice versa this is the only orthodox church that allows this so you know they are very friendly toward the Catholic Communion. That is very unusaul for an orthodox church which can be hostile to catholic churches.
And their autonomous church which also uses the Peshita is the Chaldean Church which is otherwise known as the Chaldean Catholic church both are the exact same church minus their disagreemnt over communion with Rome…
So the Peshita argument is not a sure thing or they might have both agreed about Rome.
If Rome really pushed it both churches could be in her communion. So I don’t think these churches see anything in the Peshitta that denies Peter as the Rock.
It is important to note that many of members in both churches no longer use the Peshitta as they are now Arabic speaking.But in Northern Iraq both churches still uses the Peshita and most speak Aramaic and both call Peter Kepho - large rock.
All copies of the Aramaic Bible use the word Kepha or Kepho large rock non with standing the other possibilites that could be used this tradition shouldn’t reflect a change in doctrine as in a Protestant spin but rather a tradition in favor of the Petrine office.
Remeber people tradition is part of the equation here.

[quote=jphilapy]Who is “you guys” ? You assume that all non-catholics are Reformed? Are Welsyans? Are ???

You wanna groups us together, who are we? My friend I don’t even goto a church. Who am I?

“ANd when you assume well things happen.”

Jeff
[/quote]

You guys are non-catholics. Whatever you want to call yourself is your problem.

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