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13. Peter
13.1 Peter’s Conversion || 13-1-1 Peter The Rock || 13-1-2 Peter Our Example || 13-1-3 Peter's Coversion || 13-2-1 Peter And The Cross || 13-2-2 Peter And Quo Vadis? || 13.3 Peter’s Preaching: 13-3-1 Peter’s Preaching || 13-3-2 Peter And The Stone Of Daniel 2 || 13-3-3 Peter's Realization Of Sinfulness || 13-3-4  Appreciation Of Christ’s Exaltation || 13.4 Peter The Shepherd: 13-4-1 Peter The Shepherd || 13-4-2 Peter And The Judaizers || 13-4-3 The Letters Of Peter || 13-5-1 Peter And Christ || 13-5-2 Peter And The Titles Of Christ || 13-6 Peter: Bible Student || 13-7 Walking On Water

Chapter 13: PETER

13-1 Peter The Rock


We begin these studies in full knowledge that Peter is presented to us in the Gospels as a believer who several times failed, who was unstable, and whose spirituality soared up and down. Yet the Lord nicknamed him “Peter”. Because ‘Peter’ is a common name now, it is hard to appreciate that before the Lord coined this nickname, ‘Peter’ didn’t exist as a name. “Neither Petros in Greek nor Kepha in Aramaic is a normal proper name”(1) . Likewise C.T. Grant: “Petros was not used as a name at that time”(2). Simon / Shimon obviously existed- but not ‘Peter’. The Lord Jesus was nicknaming Simon ‘the rock’, or, ‘Rocky’. The American ‘Rocky’ is rather similar- it wasn’t a proper name in the English language, then it began being used as a nickname, and now it is becoming accepted as a personal name. Why, then, did the Lord nickname the most apparently unstable of the disciples ‘Rocky’? Surely because He perceived, in His generous and gracious way, that beneath all the surface instability, the ups and downs of loyalty to Him, there was a wonderful base stability and rock-like faith and commitment to Him in this man. May we learn likewise to discern our brethren, and also discern the rock-likeness of the man Simon. And we may also take some comfort that for all our mess ups, we are seen by our Lord for who we basically are. And of course, it is Jesus Himself who is “the rock”, just as He is the shepherd, and yet He calls Simon the shepherd (Jn. 10:11,14 cp. 21:15-17). He wished for Peter the rock to perceive that He truly was willing and eager to manifest Himself through him. Perhaps this is why John records Peter’s name change as occurring at the beginning of the ministry, whereas Matthew places it over halfway through- as if the Lord needed to encourage Peter, as Jacob needed to be encouraged, to believe that his name really had changed in God’s perception of things.  

It has been pointed out that the name ‘Simon’ was “the commonest male name by far in 1st century Palestine”; and that Peter was “originally not a name in its own right but simply the Greek word used to translate the Apostle Simon’s Aramaic nickname, Kepha, meaning ‘rock’” (3). What this means is that the most mundane name was taken, and the owner of it given a totally unique and new name. And yet each of us are granted a new and totally personal name by the Lord, reflecting our essential personality; and this name will be confirmed at judgment day. The same researcher, who extensively surveyed all Palestinian personal names in the first century through study of inscriptions etc, came to observe that many of the new names given to Jewish converts were names which she never found given to anyone else- they were freak names. There is the case of John Mark- ‘Mark’ was “a name not otherwise known among Palestinian Jews”, and yet he was given it. This suggests to me that it was a practice to give a convert a new name, either a made up name like ‘Peter’ [‘Rocky’] which nobody had used before, or a name quite ethnically inappropriate to them as a Jew or Gentile. This would have paraded before the world their unity and the radical transformation that had overtaken them through their personality-changing encounter with the living Jesus.  

The great paradox that Peter was named ‘rock’ and yet was in some ways so un-rock like is carried over by him being called a ‘pillar’ in the new temple of God which the Lord Jesus built (Gal. 2:9). And yet he, the pillar, collapsed under pressure from the Judaizer brethren. Yet ultimately, he was the rock and pillar. And we need to see each others temporary failings in the same way. Significantly, Rev. 3:12 promises to each believer that they will be made a pillar in God’s temple; Peter is being set up, by this allusion to Gal. 2:9, as a pattern for us all. 


(1) R.E. Brown, The Gospel According to John [New York: Doubleday, 1981 ed., p. 76].

(2) C.T. Grant, ‘The nature of the Universal church’, Emmaus Journal Vol. 7 No. 1, Summer 1998.

(3) Margaret Williams, Palestinian Personal Names in Acts in Richard Bauckham, ed. The Book of Acts Vol. 4 pp. 93, 104 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995).