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 ?
  • 1
    No disrespect, but if even this question is opinion based, then so is (almost) every single one here on this site; unless one thinks that either all denominations interpret the Bible in the same way, or that all others are provably wrong; the former is folly, the latter infantile. In a sense, though, the close vote does indirectly address the question, by implicitly choosing option (c), both. – Lucian Jun 29 '20 at 10:46
  • 'Perhaps a scribal error.' 'Perhaps not'. 'Perhaps something similar'. 'Could be a simple coincidence'. All of these lead to this being a matter of opinion. – Nigel J Jun 30 '20 at 12:44
  • @NigelJ: Perhaps John envisions the pre-incarnational Logos as a person, perhaps not; perhaps its becoming flesh refers to Jesus embodying the Logos (divine thought) through his holy life (Sirach identifies wisdom [Sophia] with the Law [Torah], for instance); or perhaps to him being a preacher or prophet of the Logos (divine word); or perhaps to him being indwelled by it (in one way, or another), etc. Go, therefore, and close all questions and answers mentioning John 1 as opinion based. – Lucian Jun 30 '20 at 13:55
  • Many questions and answers wander into the area of opinion. And individuals will exercise their own judgment as to which these are. This is how the Stack Exchange model works. – Nigel J Jun 30 '20 at 16:33

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.

  • 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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