Did many of the disciples change to Greek names like Paul in Acts 13:9 when they ministered to Gentiles? The number of Greek names among the disciples seems strange. They don't seem to have been Hellenistic Jews. For example Philip is a Greek name and his brother Nathanael has a Hebrew name. Of course Jesus changed Peter's name from Simon to Cephas. There is virtually no information about why Saul's name changed to Paul. Is Paul not unique about this?

  • 1
    Many people in the Roman Empire had both native language and Latin or Greek names, usually based on sound correspondence but sometimes based on translation. How and why they were chosen could be a good question for History SE. Jan 24, 2021 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


Before Sha'ul is being flogged they have a examination and never does a question like “Why do you, a Hebrew have a Roman name like Paulus?” but he himself during the flogging/preparation has to tell the centurion that he is a Roman citizen, the centurion then walks back to the tribune and informs them and the tribune comes over to Sha'ul and ask if he is Roman citizen.

24the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” Acts 22:24-27 ESV

I am of the believe that when he repented and followed Messiah he changed from Sha'ul to Po'ál, Pâʻal

פֹּעַל strong H6467
Pó'al - Verb, deed, act.

פָּעַל strong H6466
Pâʻal - work, works, workman Hebrew פּוֹעֵל Po'él workman a worker.

He went from being a oppressor of Christianity to a worker!

They all had Hebrew names but Timotheos (Timothy) who had a Greek father might never had one.

By Jeff Banner;


Peter’s original name, according to the Greek text is Simon son of Jonah (John 21:15). However, being a Jew, his Hebrew name would have been שמעון בן יונה (shimon ben yonah). The name שמעון (shimon, Strong's #559) means “heard.” In Mark 3:16 we are told that Yeshua (Jesus) gives Shimon the name Peter (Petros in Greek), a Greek name that has no equivalency in Hebrew. However, in John 1:42 we are told that his new name is, according to the Greek, Kephas (Cephas), not Petros (Peter). Kephas is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic name כאפא (Kepha, pronounced kee-phah) meaning “stone.”


The New Testament does not give us any clues to his original Hebrew and Aramaic names as it does with his brother Peter, except that the Aramaic name must have meant “brave” as this is the meaning of the Greek name Andreas. While the 4th Century Aramaic Peshitta provided us Peter’s Aramaic name Kepha in Matthew 10:2, it simply transliterates the Greek name as Andraus, which means that, unlike Peter who used his Hebrew and Aramaic name, Andraus may have used his Greek name.

James (2)

James is identified as the son of Zebedee, a Hebrew name, זבדי (zav’di, Strong's #2067), meaning “my gift.” James is the brother John, both of whom are called, in the Greek, Boanerges, which in Hebrew is בני רגז (beney regaz). This is the word בן (ben, Strong's #1121) meaning “son” (but written in the plural form – sons) and רגז (regaz, Strong's #7266) meaning “rage” – sons of rage. In the New Testament Greek text the name James is written as Iakobos, a transliteration of the Hebrew name יעקב (ya’akov, Strong's #3290). This name is the verb עקב (Ah.Q.B, Strong's #6117) meaning “to grab the heel,” and the prefix י (yud) meaning “he” – he grabs the heel.


The name יוחנן (yohhanan) is a compound name consisting of two words, יו (yo) and חנן (hhanan). חנן (hhanan) is a verb mean “he provides protection." The word יו (yo) is universally accepted as a form of the name יהוה (YHWH/Yahweh). When these two words are combined we have the meaning “Yahweh provides protection.”


In the Greek text this name is written as Φίλιππος (philippos) and is a Greek name meaning “horse lover.” In Hebrew and Aramaic texts this name is transliterated as פיליפוס (philipos). In the case of this name, no Hebrew or Aramaic name is provided for this individual.


The name Bartholomew is an Aramaic name that is written as בר תלמי (bar talmey). The Aramaic word בר (bar, Strong's #1247) means “son of..,” so bar talmey means “Son of Talmey.” תלמי (talmey, Strong's #8526) is a Biblical Hebrew name derived from the noun תלם (telem, Strong's #8525) meaning “furrow.” In the book of John, Bartholomew is identified as Nathanael. In Hebrew this name is written as נתנאל (natanel, Strong's #5417), which is a combination of the verb נתן (N.T.N, Strong's #5414) meaning “give,” and the noun אל (el, Strong's #410) meaning “mighty one” or “god.” It is likely that Bartholomew’s full Hebrew name is נתנאל בר תלמי (natanel bar talmey / Nathanel son of Talmey).


The name Matthew is a Hebrew name, and is written in Hebrew as מתתיה (matityah). This name is the Hebrew noun מתת (matat, Strong's #4991) meaning “gift” or “reward,” and the name יה (Yah, Strong's #3050). Combined, this name means “gift of Yah” or “reward of Yah.”


The name Thomas is derived from the Hebrew word תאום (ta’om, Strong's #8380) meaning “twin.” His name in Hebrew would then be Ta’om. In the 4th C. AD Aramaic Peshitta of the New Testament, this name is written as תאומא (Toma). When this Aramaic name is Hellenized (made into a Greek name), an “s” is added to the end of the name, as is done with all male names, and becomes Tomas or Thomas.


Some Greek manuscripts simply identify this Apostle as Thaddeus, while others refer to him as "Labbeus who is called Thaddeus," such as seen in the King James Version. It has been proposed that Thaddeus is a Hellenized (Greek) form of an Aramaic or Hebrew name תדי (Taddai), but the actual meaning of this name is uncertain. The name Labbeus is a Hellenized form of the Hebrew word לבב (levav, Strong's #3824) meaning "heart" and the Hebrew name may have been לבבי (levaviy) meaning "my heart" or לבביה (levaviyah) meaning "heart of Yah." The Gospel of Luke omits the name Thaddeus, but instead has "Judas" (not Judas Iscariot) and most scholars agree that Thaddeus is this Judas.


The name שמעון (shimon) is derived from the verb שמע (Sh.M.A, Strong's #8085) meaning to "hear" and the name שמעון (shimon) means "hearer." Notice that both of these words (the name and the verb) appear in the passage above. Leah named her son "hearer" because YHWH "heard" her.


The name Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah, in Hebrew יהודה (ye-hu-dah, Strong's #3063). Most Hebrew dictionaries will define this name as "praise," but as this English word is an abstract word it falls short of its true Hebraic meaning. The parent root of this word is יד (yad, Strong's #3027) meaning "hand". The child root ידה (Y.D.H, Strong's #3034) is derived from yad and means "to throw or stretch out the hand" and is the base root in the name Yehudah. If you were standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time you might throw your hands out and say "Wow, will you look at that". This is the Hebraic understanding of "praise" and the name Yehudah.


To replace Judas, the disciples cast lots for the new apostle, and the lot fell on Matthias. In a previous issue, we examined the name "Matthew," which in the Greek is written as Mat-thai-os. The Greek for Matthias is very similar; Mat-thi-as. Both Matthaios and Matthias are Greek forms of the Hebrew name מתתיה (matityah), which we previously found to be מתת (matat, Strong's #4991) meaning “gift” or “reward,” and the name יה (Yah, Strong's #3050) and when combined, this name means “gift of Yah” or “reward of Yah.”


"Paul" is the English version of the Latin "Paulus" which is the Latin version of the Hebrew שאול‎, which can be transliterated into English as "SHA-OOL", but neither Greek nor Latin have a "SH" sound, so a P was used in its place. The Greek version is Παῦλος.

These are not different or new names, just translations of the same name.

Paul, as a citizen of Rome, appeared in Roman legal documents and Latin language correspondence (e.g. tax records, in his trial, when talked about by Latin speakers, etc) with the Latin version of his name and he appeared in Jewish legal documents (e.g. birth registries, lists of synagogue members) and Jewish language correspondence with the Hebrew version of his name, and in Koine greek correspondence with the Greek version of his name. The exact same thing would be true for anyone else, this isn't even a theological question, it's just a basic question about how names are translated into different languages.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.