Stephan Huller’s Musings on “Peter”

Looking over my news feeds today, I came across an interesting article by Stephan Huller entitled “Could the Editors of the Catholic Canon Have Thrown ‘Cephas’ as a Diversion from the Real Meaning of Simon’s Name.”

In essence, the argument is that the origin of the title “Peter” is not from כיפא [‘kefa’] but from פתור [‘pitor’].

Where I’m not sure I agree with some of their assertions (for example that כיפא [‘kefa’] means “little stone” when it is used in phrases such as “ארון דכיף” [‘arun d-kif’; “a coffin/chest of stone”] in Ham 575:152 etc., because both אבנא [‘ebna’] and כיפא [‘kefa’] are used in either sense) as well as some of their conclusions (I’m one who takes conspiracy theories with skepticism by default, especially when kephas as כיפא [‘kefa’] is a less-elaborate, more Occam’s Razon-friendly solution), it is certainly thought provoking and draws some interesting connections.

In Palestinian Aramaic (but rarely in other dialects) the root פתר [‘ptar’] did carry the sense of “to interpret” as the cognate to the Hebrew פשר [‘pesher’] which makes his connection between Peter as an “interpreter” an alluring one. However, interpreting πετρος [‘petros’] as פתור [‘pitor’; i.e. ‘interpreter’] is a bit sketchy, as besides being very rare, פתור [‘pitor’] was almost exclusively used in the context of interpreting dreams (i.e. פתור חלמיה).

(Also as a completely frivolous side-note, I must admit that when I first read the proposal, when I saw “pitor” I immediately though to myself, “Well then, what about פַתוּר [‘patur’ = table]?” a much more common homograph. 🙂 )

In either case, the blog post is certainly worth a read. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Stephan Huller’s Musings on “Peter”

  1. Steve: Thanks for visiting my blog. I have read a number of your posts and find them interesting and fun, as well as educational.

    I guess people would think I’m crazy (and not unrightly so) to find fun in this kind of language study, but I also find fun in watching whole sessions of the Florida Supreme Court on TV.

    I’ve read the “Peter-pebble; rock-stone” illustrations and was never sure about them, so when they come up I tend to say, “Some say…”.

    Tossing “Pitor” and “Ptar” in the mix is interesting.

  2. Thanks for visiting my site and getting people to take a look at some of my ideas. I don’t know if the idea that the name ‘Peter’ comes from ‘interpreter’ is true or not. It’s just an idea. But I think the connection with Balaam tips the scales in favor of something here. Balaam is ALWAYS identified as a precursor of Jesus. The idea that the rabbinic reports were based on a misidentification of Jesus as Balaam for the ‘head’ of his tradition, has some legs to it.

    I also stand by the idea that kefa does not mean a stone of any size that you could build anything of significance upon. In other words, Matt 16:18 is a late development by people who didn’t speak Aramaic as a first language. That also explains why Irenaeus doesn’t cite this saying.

    Things always get murky when you try to get back to earliest Christianity. The one thing that we can be sure of is that Peter did not come from kefa. Beyond that its anyone’s game to win.

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