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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).

Now,

  • 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 ?
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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.

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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.

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  • 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 Aug 21 '20 at 22:36
  • That is broadly correct. However, whether the original said Jona or Ionas is almost immaterial - the name is probably coincidental. – Dottard Aug 21 '20 at 23:12

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