In writing to the Galatians, Paul includes some historical material:

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me. (Galatians 1)

1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 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 his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2) [ESV]

First, Paul calls Peter by the name Cephas; then he calls him Peter before going back to Cephas.

Assuming Paul is referring to the same person, what difference does he intend the Galatians to place on the changing of Peter's name from Cephas to Peter and back to Cephas?

  • I simply means that Kephas and Peter were almost interchangeable.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 3:28
  • I think you have answered your own question by quotation. The name Peter stands out in your quotation referring to entrusted with the gospel and apostolic ministry. The other quotes tell us what Cephas did, acting according to nature (sometimes erroneously). (Upvoted for both question and answer +1). I have taken the liberty of emphasising the two Peter references. Please feel free to roll back if you think that unsuitable.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 17:12

2 Answers 2


This is an interesting question and I think it reveals something of Paul's thinking.

In the context of a situation where Paul had to face Peter regarding an issue of legality in the church, that is to say an inappropriate application of the law of Moses upon Christian believers, Paul calls the apostle both 'Peter' and 'Cephas'.

Paul does not deprive Peter of his 'apostleship' or his being 'entrusted with the gospel' both of which Simon Peter was gifted by, and privileged by, Jesus, himself.

Nor does Paul deprive Peter of the name which was gifted him by Jesus - 'Rock'.

But Paul subtly makes a point by using the Hebrew/Aramaic form 'Cephas' in which I would see Paul hinting that the apostle, entrusted with the gospel, is still influenced by what is of old, what is of Israel, what is limited in revelation.

Referring to 'Peter', however, Simon's 'Rock' name in Greek (when speaking of his apostleship and entrustment) Paul is, I would suggest, widening the scope of Peter's office and gift to the whole world, not just Israel. To the whole Greek-speaking world of the Mediterranean region, of which Greek was the lingua franca.

This is a lesson in 'ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou, also, be tempted'.

Without demeaning Simon Peter, without asserting himself inappropriately, yet Paul hints at the reason for the apostle's mistaken stance, tracing the fault back to its (understandable) origin, yet admonishing the reluctance to see further, to progress fully and to administer that liberty that is in the gospel to the Gentile converts.

I find this reminiscent of the way in which Paul touches on the reason for the rift between himself and Barnabas, which, perhaps, was never resolved within their own lifetimes and remains to be resolved in the final judgment when the Lord returns.

Simply referring to Mark as 'sister's son to Barnabas' [Colossians 4:10, KJV] Paul discloses a matter of natural relationship and blood, which, one must assume, was the cause of contention regarding the service of the gospel, in the Spirit.

A difference of priorities, the difference between spiritual service and natural life, is hinted at by Paul's mention, but without any rancour, criticism or bitterness on his part.

And with those three words in Greek, ο ανεψιος βαρναβα, Paul dismisses a past indiscretion and paves the way for Mark's considerable future service with trust and confidence.


Peter (Πέτρος) was the Greek translation of the Aramaic, Cephas (Κηφᾶς, ܟܻ݁ܐܦ݂ܳܐ, כֵּיפָא) meaning stone or rock. In Galatians Paul disputed with the Jewish Christian group who said Gentile Christians needed to follow the Jewish law and become Jews before becoming Christians. Thus, Paul addressed both Gentiles familiar with the name Peter and Jewish Christians familiar with the name Cephas. To some degree one can make a point in each case why Paul used one name over the other, but Paul wanted his Jewish background to be clear.

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism... (Gal. 1:13a, ESV)

The way Paul interchanged the names without explanation indicates that Paul expected his readers to understand that the two names were the same person.

To some degree Paul used the name relative to the memory. In Jerusalem and Antioch Peter was Cephas. Antioch spoke Aramaic.

  • Do you think the Gentiles in Galatia would understand Paul was referring to the same person? Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 2:53

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