Is there an attested use of the Greek word "petros" (meaning 'stone') as a given name, before it was given to Peter the Apostle?

Note: The name Jesus gave to Peter was most likely 'Kepha,' since that is what John 1:42 says, and since Jesus is most likely to have spoken Aramaic and not Greek. Also, Paul, author of probably the earliest books of the Bible, who had certainly met Peter in real life, called him both Cephas and Peter. So Peter was a name given to Simon/Kepha by those who knew him and spoke Greek. Just wanted to cut the pedants off at the pass.

  • As I lack the evidence for an actual answer, I offer the best that I have. Here is a very long discussion about the meaning of "Petros" as applied to Peter and its prior existence as a word. While it proves nothing, I would find it very surprising if Petros had been used as a name before and this fact escaped mention in the long discussion there. – called2voyage Nov 8 '18 at 13:29
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    You may get a better response on the biblical hermeneutics stackexchange as biblical text linguistics is up their alley – Samuel Russell Nov 8 '18 at 15:57
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    Perhaps of interest: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/14328/… – fdb Nov 9 '18 at 15:33
  • @fdb Fascinating find! The quote there is from Wikipedia, unsourced. I also found it in two books of dubious veracy through Google (here and here). If only there was a reputable source, we could have an answer! – kingledion Nov 9 '18 at 16:55
  • This is not a history question. You might make it one by simply asking for the history of the use of "Peter" (in whatever language) as a name, without bringing in religion. – jamesqf Apr 23 '19 at 15:49


And the only disciple that was ever likely to have an actual Greek name was Saul/Paul because of his family's ties and being a Roman citizen. For everyone else their names are either translated or transliterated into their current form; names which they likely never heard during their lives, including the name "Jesus".

Handling of Proper names in the bible Transliteration or Translation of Biblical Proper Names

Jesus Yeshua to Jesus

Rules of Transliteration Rules for the Transliteration of Hebrew and Aramaic

I say it was unlikely they even heard their names in Greek because there was no reason for them to be called that. Keep in mind the translation and circulation of the New Testament manuscripts took time, often wasn't done by the disciple the book was named after, etc. They obviously didn't read the "New Testament" and (in the case of the 12) were usually suspicious of Greeks and considered themselves as having been sent to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel". Matthew 10:5-6 Apostle to the Gentiles

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    It would help if you included some evidence to support your claims. – Steve Bird Apr 23 '19 at 15:27
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    There are internal references (in the Bible) to some of the 12 disciples speaking Greek, namely Andrew/Andreas and Philip. Both names are attested in Greek before Jesus. Andrew was Peter's brother, so that make it pretty likely that Peter heard the word Petros; not to mention that Peter met Paul who also spoke Greek and wrote his name in Greek. Saul/Paul was not a disciple, since he never met Jesus in life. Instead, he was an Apostle. Doesn't answer the question, and pretty much wrong on all counts here, -1. – kingledion Apr 23 '19 at 16:27
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    No. There's a difference between being speaking a different language, reading that language, and using that language for your own name. Even if you're fluent, that doesn't mean that you'll call yourself by a Japanese transliterated version of your name, nor does it mean that Japanese people will rename you something in their language. With so many Israelites wanting freedom from Rome and following Jesus as the messiah that would free them it's not likely they would rename themselves with the language of their enemy. Please note I never said none of the disciples were able to speak Greek. – Jonathan Sinclair Apr 23 '19 at 18:07
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    Greek language predated Rome. The reference to "Greeks" in the Bible is just as likely to have been Hellenistic Jews as it was actually Greeks. Note the career of Philo, a Hellenistic Jew who was from Alexandria, contemporary with Jesus; his writings show he was not fluent in Hebrew, and probably didn't speak Aramaic at all. Paul being from Tarsus, and again a Hellenistic Jew (he quotes the Old Testament from the Septuagint), there is no hard evidence that he spoke Aramaic. Palestine was an eclectic area with a mix of peoples. Absolutely saying what languages people spoke is presumptuous. – kingledion Apr 24 '19 at 11:07
  • I would agree except that we know Paul started off as more of an agent against the cause of Jesus, the same movement that was branded as seditious. These early followers of Jesus were not "Christians" in the modern sense. They were Jews seeking a Jewish Messiah; the whole point of which was for the Messiah to become king and free them from Roman occupation. This couldn't be accomplished by a group of Hellenistic Jews but rather reformers who represented a more pure form of their religion, absent even the baggage of the traditions of the elders of the tribe of Judah. – Jonathan Sinclair Apr 24 '19 at 13:14

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