Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Answering The Catholic Aramaic And Greek Word Gender Argument On Matthew 16:18

        "When Matthew’s Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christ’s life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a man’s name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros." (

        This argument begs the question. It is an instance of grasping at straws. Jesus Christ naming Peter the rock in being appointed to a position of supremacy and the Greek word rock being feminine are separate issues.

        If Jesus had to change the gender from feminine to masculine in order to address Peter, then all that point indicates is that (1) rock is usually feminine and (2) Peter is a male. The Greek word has a gender. It had that gender long before the authors of the New Testament associated the term with church foundations.

        The Greek New Testament does use the Aramaic Cephas in reference to Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:14). It is also true that if Matthew wanted to tell us that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built, he could have used petros twice in the same sentence ("you are petros and upon this petros I will build my church"). But two separate terms are used in Matthew 16:18 (petros and petra).

         Aramaic was not as advanced a language as the other semitic languages. It did not have an extremely rich or complex vocabulary. It could not utilize two different words in Matthew 16:18 as does the Greek. Thus, the usage of kepha in Aramaic twice is not due to some unique primacy bestowed on the Apostle Peter by Christ but to limitations in that language.

        In addition, the New Testament does apply the feminine petra to the man Jesus Christ (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8). There are no Aramaic manuscript copies of Matthew, which means any discussion of such involves speculation. Scripture does not use the terms petros and petra interchangeably. The church is built on the revelation that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.

1 comment:

  1. What evident do they have that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic?