In the Gospel of John, Christ names Simon "Cephas" (Peter):

John 1:41-42: "[Andrew] found first his own brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)."

It seems that Simon is being called Peter ("Cephas") considerably earlier than he is in Matthew's Gospel:

Matthew 16:16-18: "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter [Cephas], and upon this rock I will build My church'"

Is there any parallel between these verses where Christ addresses Simon as "shall be called" (in John) and "you are Peter" (in Matthew) respectively?

3 Answers 3


The Gospel of John is loaded with cases like this. Thus, we need to look at more than this one to see what John did. From both tradition and the character of his gospel, John wrote with the understanding that many of his readers would be familiar with the synoptic gospels and rarely repeated them.

Note the differences in John 1:41-42 and Matt. 16:16-18. In John this was the first time Peter met Jesus when he was first called. He would not be ready to give the confession in Matt. 16 that was a result of spending time with Jesus. In a sense Jesus foretold Matt. 16. Thus, they are different accounts. Lets look at more cases to show this isn't unusual.

John has the account of Jesus calling apostles in chapter 1 (Peter included). This account isn't in the synoptics. However, apparently those called did not understand how the call would affect their lives (Peter included). So, Jesus had to call them away from their occupations (Peter included) in Matt. 4:18-22. The Luke gave a fuller account (Luke 5:1-11). How do you think fishermen felt when following a carpenters instructions gave them a catch they could previously only dream of? Jesus convinced them (including Peter) to leave their occupations and follow Jesus.

But, Peter faced the same struggle after the crucifixion and the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, feeling a failure for denying Christ.

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:3, ESV)

Jesus had to call Peter away from his occupation again showing his ministry wasn't yet finished; again from no fish to too many fish. John and Peter's reactions show this is a different account and déjà vu.

That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. (John 21:7, ESV)

We could go on with other accounts, but hopefully this is enough to show the relation of the Gospel of John to the synoptics.

  • Excellent answer!! +1.
    – Dottard
    Jun 15, 2021 at 10:39
  • @Perry Your thoughts lead me to another question that I hope to post soon. +1.
    – Xeno
    Jun 15, 2021 at 18:55

Johns account is the true introduction of the name. Matthews account labels him "Peter", long before Matthew 16 (4:18 is the first Chronological appearance in Matthew).

To understand what's going on in Matthew 16, you need to be familiar with the meaning of the name "Peter" or Cephus (It's Hebrew equivalent).

Peter/ Cephus literally means, "a rock" or "a boulder" or "a stone".

Simon's exclamation that 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' is in response to the question “You, though, who do you say I am?” from verse 15.

Who is "The Rock" upon whom Jesus is building his Church?

Ephesians 2:20 makes it plain "and you have been built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone."

With this information in mind, and Peters response to the question Jesus asked, pointing toward Jesus as both Christ and Son of the living god, its clear in Jesus own response to Peter, he is making a pun. In plain enginlish Jesus is almost saying "Its ironic that you, whose name means "a rock" have figured out that i am the Christ, son of the living God, and I too am The Rock, the foundation corner stone".

So to answer your question, Jesus is not first naming Simon "Peter" in Matthew 16, he is simply making a Pun. Simon is first given the name Peter in John 1, shortly after Jesus baptism.

  • 1
    Interesting. There’s another point we might consider due to the considerable misunderstanding that it represents. When we look at the Greek of Matthew 16:18 - as you have done, we see something obscured in English. “[You] are Peter (petros) and upon this rock (petra) I will build my church …” Here, the first, "Petros", means Peter, a stone or small rock. I don't know if a "boulder" qualifies because the second, petra, is a large, immovable mass of rock as I understand it, as for example: “[His] own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock (petra);” (Matt. 27:60). +1.
    – Xeno
    Jun 15, 2021 at 18:50

I think it is initially a change of identity God / Jesus instigated. Then an exchange of identity, who do you think I am with the Father laying the identity of Jesus the Son and anointed one in the church revelationary and permanently. In Peter, then wider as cornerstone. Also second in command in the army were renamed often in Israel at their calling. John has a far wider more prophetic ability to see. Is my view on this. His emphasis is on identity more, that's why he mentions this.


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