What's in a name?

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). John 1.42


Among those who receive a new name in the early church, Peter is first. Given his origins in the predominantly gentile and Greek-speaking town of Bethsaida, on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, he may already have had the nickname, Peter, as an alternative to his birth-name Simon/ Simeon, with its Jewish nationalistic overtones. Cephas is Aramaic so, in applying that name to him, Jesus may have being playing on words, as well as making a point about Simon-Peter's character, identity and destiny.


Simon, bar Jonah (literally, son of Jonah), Peter, Cephas: the multiplicity of names referring to the disciple who became Jesus' righthand-man and spokesman for his colleagues is suggestive of much biographical detail about the man that we can only guess at. We imagine that, had he been around today, every detail of his life would be documented and circulated on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds. But would it?


In its own time the Jesus movement was relatively obscure, apart from the odd moment of drama and controversy. Even today we may think we know everything we could possibly wish to about our celebrities yet, as TV programmes like 'Who do you think you are?' reveal, they often turn out to know very little about themselves! Understanding who we are, beyond and behind the public persona we present to the world, might seem like a pointless or even self-indulgent exercise, yet it could also help us to understand better whom God has created us to be and where we fit into that great tapestry of life, which both includes and involves us.


How comfortable are you with your own name. And, if you had the opportunity to give yourself another, or a new one altogether, what would it be - and why?



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