Why is Peter translated Peter and Cephas in Galatians 2?


7 but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles), 9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; 10 only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.



To be clear, I think what you are asking is why would Paul change from referring to Peter as Peter (vs. 7,8) to calling him Cephas in verses 9 and 11. Correct?

I offer three possibilities.

  1. It may be a little ‘dig’ at Peter for thinking according to his Jewish roots (Cephas was his Aramaic name, Simon or Simeon the Hebrew version) rather than being more inclusive of the gentiles which was the point he was addressing in the letter to the Galatians (a gentile community. Paul’s use of the words “reputed to be pillars” also seems a bit of a tease.

  2. Perhaps it was a little ‘slip’ on Paul’s part who, when he makes references to the Jerusalem community, where Peter was likely known as Cephas. Hence, the trio of James, Cephas and John may have just rolled off his lips and his pen absent mindedly.

  3. Perhaps a combination of 1) and 2) where Paul initially made the error inadvertently but left it in to remind Cephas of his lapse.


I had always heard that Cephas was the name given to Simon by Jesus and means ‘Rock’. Peter being the english of the greek ‘petros’, which also means ‘rock’. I think what may be happening here is that St. Paul is writing in greek and, therefore, uses Petros to identify Simon Peter and then uses Cephas, the aramaic, to indentify him in the office he held among the Apostles. That’s just a guess from an uneducated man. :slight_smile:


Actually, you are correct. My error. Simon was the Greek form of the Hebrew Shim’on, so Cephas was unrelated in etymology.

Your view that Cephas may have become understood as a kind of ‘office’ or stature within the Church, i.e., ‘the rock,’ is entirely plausible.

Thanks for clarifying things. :thumbsup:


Cephas was the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic Kepha. Somehow like Alphaeus was the Greek transliteration of Clopas.

Its not really a translation, like Kepha to Peter, its like what we do with Latin words to make them sound more Anglicanized. He took the Aramaic name of Peter and made sound a little more Greek.

I think he also did that because of the problem of gender inherent with Greek grammar. Since Peter’s name was Kepha “rock”, yet that was a feminine term in Greek (“Petra”), he did that to not confuse them.


Paul is referencing both a title and a name.

Peter is a title. Cephas was the name of the man who held the office of Peter.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio currently sits on the chair of Peter.



Yet another possibility – one that has ancient roots going back to St. Clement of Alexandria in the very early 3rd century but which is seemingly unknown these days – is that St. Peter and Cephas are two different people, although St. Peter* also was called *Cephas.

James Likoudis has addressed this issue here, and there is further research that can be done after reading through this brief article.


Interesting article and worth looking into the possibility. Paul making the the rather disparaging statement that “James and Cephas and John” were “reputed to be pillars” would make more sense if he were speaking of persons other than the three Apostles who were indisputable “pillars” of the Church and recognized by Paul as such in other writings.


I absolutely agree!


Paul wrote Galatians in order to defend his gospel against a false gospel that was being handed out in that area.

“Purpose: Paul wrote this letter to defend his gospel against opponents and to dissuade the Galatians from receiving circumcision. Apparently rival missionaries, known as Judaizers, infiltrated the ranks of the Galatian churches during Paul’s absence and stirred up trouble among his Gentile converts. Internal evidence within the letter suggests they preached a false gospel (1:6–7) that pressured Gentile Christians to embrace circumcision and the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant as indispensable requirements for salvation (5:2–12; 6:12–13). Although they professed to be Christians, they felt that Paul’s gospel of “faith working through love” (5:6) was incomplete without the ritual observances of the Mosaic Law. The success that these Judaizers enjoyed in Galatia forced Paul to respond with a vigorous defense of the gospel (1:11–2:10) and a sophisticated explanation of how the New Covenant inaugurated by Christ dispenses with the ceremonies of the Old (chaps. 3–4). In his view, to add circumcision and other Mosaic requirements to the gospel is to exchange freedom in Christ for spiritual slavery (2:4; 5:1). Stern warnings thus punctuate this letter as Paul appeals to the Galatians to distance themselves from the Judaizers and to disregard their propaganda.” (ICSB)

Given this information, Paul is writing Galatians 2, to give his gospel more authority. He says that he went back to confer with the apostles in Jerusalem and he says “they added nothing to him”. In other words the gospel that Paul was preaching was the same as what the apostles were. This is very important because it means that Paul was not some lone ranger but that he was part of the church that was founded by the apostles. And, it is important in this letter because it means that Paul’s gospel is the same as the apostles giving it an authority that the Judaizers do not have. Whenever we have a dispute we often turn to an authority to settle the matter for us. So it makes sense that Paul would be giving his gospel authority from the apostles that were ‘reputed to be pillars’.

This also means that when Paul mentioned, “James and Cephas and John”, he was talking about the apostles James, Peter and John, who were reputed to be pillars of the church. Who else could be pillars of the church? He does this to establish the authority that he is attempting to give his gospel. So it wouldn’t make sense for him to talk to 3 people who were not apostles to give him authority for his gospel. Those 3 must be the apostles in order for it to make any sense.

Paul mentions Cephas because it is an authoritative name, continuing with the theme of authority. Cephas was a title given to Peter by Jesus. It would be like calling someone the Administrator. If someone disputed with you about something you did in your organization, but if you had permission from the Administrator, you could tell them that the Administrator gave you permission and that would settle the matter, because the Administrator has authority. However, if the Administrator’s name was John and you went to coffee with him, more than likely you would say I went to coffee with John, and not use the term Administrator. Since John is more personal and everyone in your organization knows that he is the Administrator.

Paul may be using both the terms Peter and Cephas in a similar ways. He uses Cephas as term of authority to establish the authority of his gospel. And, he uses Peter, a more personal name, since Paul is close friends with Peter.

Also, when later Paul says that “Cephas stood condemned”, he does so after he establishes that his gospel and that of Cephas, James, and John were the same. So Cephas was condemned not for having the wrong gospel, but for not living up to his own gospel on the matter of gentile circumcision.


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