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Peter's Name Change

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brian:
when did peter receive his name change from simon to peter? i believe it was on the mountain as recorded in Matthew 17. however, what of the narrative early in John where Andrew brings Peter to Jesus and it appears Jesus alerts Peter to this name change immediately?

is this another case of how the bible is not specifically literally accurate in the way we would want it to be and the different writers record the same facts in different ways for different spiritual reasons? can we know when his name officially changed?

David W. Emery:
It’s all in the grammar, Brian. In John 1:42, Jesus’ words are, “You shall be called Cephas.” Future tense. In Matthew 16:18, he states, “And I tell you, you are Peter.” Present tense. So in the first instance, he says Simon will carry the name Cephas/Peter, and in the second he formally confers it. Note the prophecies that go with the actual name change. This shows Jesus’ intent and seals the act. Compare it with the formal paternal blessings conferred in the Old Testament (examples: Genesis 27 and 49).

The episode on the mountain which you mention (Matthew 17, the transfiguration) demonstrates to the three chosen disciples the truth which is the basis of Simon Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), but does not confer on Simon the name Peter.

It is in John 21:15–19 that Jesus initiates the fulfillment of the prophecies given in Matthew 16 by commanding Simon Peter to take over the tending of the flock. Notice the subtle shifting of the name. John introduces the scene by saying, “Jesus said to Simon Peter,” an ambivalent name. But Jesus uses Peter’s birth name, “Simon, son of John.” Why? To remind him of what he has been, even as he hands over to him the care of the Church. He again seals his conferral with a prophecy (v. 18). Then John continues his narrative with “Peter turned and saw…,” indicating thereby that the process of Simon becoming Peter is complete.


--- Quote ---Is this another case of how the bible is not specifically literally accurate in the way we would want it to be and the different writers record the same facts in different ways for different spiritual reasons?
--- End quote ---

I am hesitant to say that any passage of the bible is not “specifically [and] literally accurate” in the way intended by the author, for this is precisely what the Church has declared divinely inspired. “In the way we would want it to be” I take in the sense that sometimes we do not discern or understand the author’s intent. Our minds are sometimes not clear on what God, the divine author, and the human author wanted to convey by what is said.

David

brian:
interesting. but did he or did he not confer the name change in matthew. i think he did?

"and in the second (matthew 17) he formally confers it."

 "The episode on the mountain which you mention (Matthew 17, the transfiguration) demonstrates to the three chosen disciples the truth which is the basis of Simon Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), but does not confer on Simon the name Peter."

it sounds like you are both saying he did and did not confer it there. i think i like your demonstration of the later passage in john, but certainly something happens here in matthew of Jesus formally making this change known.

I guess what i found confusing is if Jesus had this important moment in mind to change his name, why even mention it at all early on when he first meets him? is it foreshadowing?

I think as far as my question about things being literal in a stricxt sense also calls into question accounts where different gospels account different happenings in different orders or in different cities or with different amounts of people present. how do we acount for this?

David W. Emery:
To summarize: I see no discrepancies between the different gospel accounts regarding the name change. There is a natural progression and nothing is out of place or contradictory.

It is in Matthew 16, not 17, that Jesus imparts the formal blessing. This is the point at which Simon’s name is officially changed. There are episodes before (John 1) and afterward (John 21) which indicate Jesus’ purpose and the end result, which is that Simon has become Peter and is to shepherd the Church.

Matthew 17 confirms chapter 16 in the sense that it refers to Jesus’ divine nature, which Simon Peter had discerned through enlightenment from the Father. What the chosen disciples accepted by faith in chapter 16 is confirmed to them by experience in chapter 17.

The early mentioning of the name change in John 1 allows the other disciples to become accustomed to Simon being the leader so as to reduce the possibility of a power struggle after he is gone. You can see what such infighting would do to the infant Church. Common sense tells us that the apostles must act in unity, and for the sake of unity they must have a leader. If Jesus, in his wisdom, indicates from the outset who is to be the leader, the matter is settled even before the wrangling can begin.

Different purposes and different organizational styles will produce much the same literary result as you see in the four Gospels. If there is a question of verbal accuracy, such as the name of the place where a certain event happened, either different people gave the place different names (which in most cases is immaterial to the message) or there may have been more than one event taking place in more than one place. Was it the country of the Gadarenes, the Gergasenes or Gerasenes, and was it one or two or more demoniacs (Matthew 8; Mark 5; Luke 8)? How many demoniacs were actually cured? There are ways of resolving these discrepancies without discounting the actual event. One possibility is that there was a group of demoniacs living in the cemetery and at least one of them was cured (likely all of them, since this was Jesus’ style; cf. the ten lepers and elsewhere the throngs where everyone was cured). If some versions of the story mention only one demoniac, this does not contradict the others which speak of more than one; it is merely selective in its approach. The place name problem is likely due to either dialectical differences or copyist error.

David

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