Matthew 16:4  A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

Then, several verses later :

Matthew 16:17  Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Similarly in John :

John 1:6  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 1:15  ¶John bare witness of him, and cried, saying: This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 1:19  ¶And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him: Who art thou ? 1:20  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed: I am not the Christ. 1:26  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 1:27  He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 1:28  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. 1:29  ¶The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 1:32  And John bare record, saying: I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 1:35  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 1:36  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God ! 1:40  One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

Followed, once again, a few verses later, by :

John 1:42  And when Jesus beheld him, he said: Thou art Simon the son of John / Jonah: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Some manuscripts of John have John in 1:42, while others read Jonah; perhaps a simple scribal error, due to the name appearing nine times in the previous forty verses; or perhaps not; perhaps something similar is going on here to what is happening in Matthew; basically,

  • in both instances, the name of an important prophet is brought up, and then, only verses later, that same prophet's name appears as Peter's ancestor. (It could, of course, be all just a simple coincidence; maybe both names were relatively popular among the Jews).


  • in the initial Gospel, that of Matthew, which, by all accounts, precedes John by decades, the presence of Jonah makes logical sense, inasmuch as the aforementioned Apostle, along with his brother, Andrew, are described as fishers (4:18), being offered the opportunity of upgrading their lowly status by becoming fishers of men (4:19), which, given Jonah's unique status as the sole prophet to have ever been swallowed alive by a whale, and lived to tell the tale, fits rather conveniently into the original narrative.

Which finally brings us to the following question :

  • in light of the above considerations, is the expression son of Jonah / John to be taken literally, or allegorically, or both ?

5 Answers 5

English Greek Strong Origin Ocurrences
John Ἰωάννης 2491 Hebrew - Yochanan (יוֹחָנָן) 135
Jonah Ἰωνᾶς 2495 Hebrew - Yonah (יוֹנָה) 9
Barjona Βαριωνᾶς 920 Aramaic - bar (בַּר) and Yonah (יוֹנָה) 1

Prophet Jonah's name Ἰωνᾶς is straightforward:

Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν. (Matthew 16:4 SBLG)

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. ((Matthew 16:4 KJVA)

John fully translated what Jesus said (in Aramaic) into Greek, including:

  • υἱὸς which means son, in Aramaic as בַּר
  • The father's name was translated into the Greek name Ἰωάννου which corresponds to the English name John

ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν. ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Σὺ εἶ Σίμων ὁ υἱὸς Ἰωάννου, σὺ κληθήσῃ Κηφᾶς (ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Πέτρος). (John 1:42 SBLG)

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. (John 1:42 KJVA)

Now the problem comes - looks like Matthew didn't translate the בַּר bit to proper Greek word υἱὸς, instead, he translated בַּר phonetically into Βαρ. More interestingly, here ὁ υἱὸς Ἰωάννης becomes Βαριωνᾶ.

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ⸃ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ᾽ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· (Matthew 16:17 SBLG)

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17 KJVA)

So here's the analysis:

  • Jesus probably said בַּר in both occurrences verbally in Aramaic.
  • In the story of Peter being called by Jesus, Apostle John translated בַּר into Greek and chose Ἰωάννης as the father's Greek name.
  • In the story of Who do you say I am? Matthew translated בַּר phonetically into the Greek word Βαρ and used Ἰωνᾶς as the father's Greek name. (The only occurrence in the Bible)
  • The father's Aramaic name, according to Jesus, was probably either Ἰωάννης or Ἰωνᾶς
  • Even in modern days we have Dan, Danny, Dannie, Daniel etc. which may very possibly refer to the same person, when translating a name phonetically into another language, having slightly different translations are very understandable.
  • It needs to be at least taken literally. Imagine Jesus saying "Your name is Peter, son of Abraham / David" (a much safer answer), it wouldn't be as powerful as mentioning his real genetic father's name without ambiguity.
  • I don't find a strong case to take the name metaphorically. Reason below:
  1. It's the only occurrence in the Bible and contextually there's no need to take Jonah into the picture.

  2. If you look at Acts 13:6:

διελθόντες δὲ ὅλην τὴν νῆσον ἄχρι Πάφου εὗρον ἄνδρα τινὰ μάγον ψευδοπροφήτην Ἰουδαῖον ᾧ ὄνομα Βαριησοῦ (SBLG)

And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus (KJVA)

Certainly you wouldn't assume the name would be metaphorically son of Jesus / Joshua, right?

That's my two cents, hope it helps.


There are two questions here, one about the text of John 1;42, and one about the connection, if any, between Peter's father's name and the OT prophet in Matt 16:4 & 17. Let us take these one at a time.

Text: Ἰωνᾶ vs Ἰωάννης

UBS5 lists the MSS evidence at John 1:42 between the readings Ἰωνᾶ ("Jonah" = dove) vs Ἰωάνου (= of John). The very earliest MSS have Ἰωάνου such as P66, P75, P106, Siniaticus, etc. For more details, see UBS5. The Cambridge commentary observes:

Simon the son of Jona: The true reading here and John 21:15-17 is Simon the son of John. There is a tradition mat his mother’s name was Johanna. The Greek form Iônâ may represent two distinct Hebrew names, Jonah and Johanan = John.

Matt 16:4 & 17 Jonah/Jona

The OP essentially asks if there is any connection, biological or otherwise between the prophet Jonah (V4) and Peter's father's name, Jona (v17). John was a VERY common name in the Bible, eg, John the disciple, John Mark, John the Baptist, and numerous OT persons, (1 Chr 3:15, 12:4, 12, 14, 6:9, 10, 2 Chr 28:12, etc).

Therefore, the similarity of the Peter's father's name and the prophet Jonah is presumably a coincidence.

I also note that the connection, if any, between Matt 16:4 and V17 is strained by the fact that the two incidents occurred on opposite sides of the lake, many hours apart, in completely different conversations: one near a place where there were leaders of the people (V1) and the other in Caesarea Philippi.

"Son of", vs, "Bar..."

Lastly, there is the important distinction to be made.

  • "Son of" υἱός is often used both literally (luke 15:12, Matt 10:37) but most often metaphorically, in the sense of being a like-minded person. There are dozens of examples of this: Matt 5:45, John 8:44, Acts 3:25, Rom 8:15, 2 Cor 6:18, Gal 4:6, 1 Tim 1:2, Tit 1:4, Heb 12:7, etc.
  • The other construction is "Barjonah", or "Bartimaeus", "Bar Yacob", "Barshuma", etc. This ALWAYS means the literal son of someone. We see many examples of this such as, Acts 1:13, 13:6, 18, Matt 10:13, Luke 6:14, 16, Mark 3:18, John 21:15, 16, 17, Matt 10:2, etc. In some cases this is simply abbreviated to simply the genitive such as in John 21:15, 16, "Simon of John", and Luke 6:16, etc.

Thus, in the case of Matt 16:17, we must conclude that Simon's literal, biological father was John and not Jonah.

  • So, if I am understanding you correctly, you suggest that, with Iônâ being ambiguous, and the earliest manuscripts of John unambiguously reading John, the most likely interpretation of Matthew's Iônâ is John, rather than Jonah. And then you further argue that, in light of John's frequency, the coincidence is not particularly noteworthy. Have I described your view accurately ?
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 22:36
  • That is broadly correct. However, whether the original said Jona or Ionas is almost immaterial - the name is probably coincidental.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:12
  • @Dottard letting you know I submitting an answer to an old question on the same passage, different question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/2549/…
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 23:26

Some thoughts.

  1. Reading John 21:7, I was struck by the rather odd information provided about Peter. On one level, we surmise he desires immediately to get to Jesus on the shore, but that is our interpretation and not the narrative provided by scripture. Instead, Jonah 1:12 comes to mind, with Jonah cast into the sea. Bear in mind at this point he has as yet not engaged with Jesus in the memorable threefold resolution of his threefold denial.
  2. Is there a connection between Jonah’s ‘huge fish’ and the symbolically significant ‘153’ (much to investigate here!!!) fish, both speaking of the church.
  3. Back on shore, Jonah preaches to Nineveh. Back on shore, Peter hauls the net to shore, and the church age commences. Put all this together, and Peter has much in common with Jonah, and the reference to Jonah we are discussing is merely a prompt for us to discern those deeper connections. Lots of meat in this passage and much to gnaw upon!!! Have fun!!

Jesus is making a play on words, of a sort. It's not an "either/or" situation. Logically, "John" is Simon's father-- there's no contextual reason in those places in St. John's Gospel for Jesus to use anything but Simon's father's actual name. But in Matthew 16, shortly after the repetition of the "sign of Jonah" statement, and just before "He began to tell them that it is necessary [dei] that the Son of Man" die and rise the third day, there is ample reason for Jesus to make a slight play on the sound of Peter's father's name, and say "Jonah", instead of "John". Especially in light of Jesus "giving the keys" to Peter (as later He explicitly does to all the apostles, ch. 18) Peter is becoming a "prophet" like Jonah, and a prophet of the Sign of Jonah-- a preacher of repentance and forgiveness of sins, as happened in Nineveh, in the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, Son of the Living God.

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    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 21:29

Jesus calling Peter Barjonah and Son of Jonah is metaphorical. And it has nothing to do with Peter's father. Jesus was referring to the sign of Jonah. It was deeply coded language.

For 2000 years we have wondered about the connection of Peter to Jonah but now we see that he was clearly drawing us to the definition of the sign of Jonah in Matthew 13:40. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth. Those words too have fully escaped us.

Please follow me. We need to understand the sign of Jonah first. And it does not refer to the three days and three nights that Jesus was in the grave for we all know he never spent three nights in there but only two.

The sign of Jonah is a sign contained in the Bible that involves the verse and chapter numbers of the Bible.

In Acts 1:17 Peter makes reference to the numbering of the apostle Judas and adds that he was numbered with us. Then in V20 ha tells us that Judas final abode shall be desolate with no other man to dwell therein. Now that's interesting.

When we look at the Bible we notice something very very amazing. In accordance with Peter's words in Acts 1:13-19, we find Judas numbered alone in Mark 3:19. There he occupies a full verse alone while the other apostles share Vs 18 and 17 save John.

The reason we are told in V19 that Judas is allotted his own verse is that he was the betrayer of Jesus, the same reason given in Acts 1:13-19.

The numbering by Jesus takes place in Mark 3:13-19 where we see John allotted, just as Judas, his own verse 16. It is the central verse between 13-19. And the reason for this special allotment, we are told is because Jesus surnamed him Peter.

So we are tasked to find out just where was Simon surnamed Peter by Jesus. This is where the mystery of the sign of Jonah starts unraveling. The Ning of Simon as Peter by Jesus is found in Matthew 16:13-19. In particular Vs 17 and 18.

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

In V17 Jesus calls Simon by his name and adds Bar-jona. Then in V18 Jesus surnames Simon Peter. Why? Because of Peter's words in V16!

If by Matthew 16:18 Jesus is referring to the numbering in Mark 3:16 then it behooves us that we look into those numbers. And we see Jesus makes these remarks in the book of Mark for Jesus does not stop there.

On closer scrutiny of the Bible, we find something totally amazing. Jesus himself is allotted not one but two verse 16s in the Bible. And these happen to be the very first and last verse 16s of the New Testament: Matthew 1:16 and Rev 22:16. This is no coincidence, Jesus and Peter are leading us somewhere with these numbers.

If we look at the definition of the sign of Jonah above we see a definite correlation with the numbering of the apostles above, the incident in Philippi above. They all are related in verses 13-19. Three verses above and below verse 16. Could these be the sign of Jonah? Let's dig further. What we find totally shocks us and pleases us.


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