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10 Jesus’ Petros–petra Wordplay (Matthew 16:18): Is It Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew?

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Chapter Summary

The פטרוס-פטרא midrash in Matt 16:18 demonstrates that Christian scripture can be read as midrash. The פטרוס-פטרא midrash is also evidence that the Avraham- פטרו midrash is earlier than the first century C.E. The word πέτρα was borrowed by ancient Hebrew speakers just like the French words détente, gaffe and cliché were borrowed by modern speakers of English. Such loanwords gain currency because they have a special flavor or satisfy a deficiency in the host language. Not only did πέτρα become a Hebrew word, but that Hebrew word is the key word in the Avraham- פטרו midrash. The Petros-petra wordplay probably was originally uttered by Jesus in Hebrew, not Greek or Aramaic. If the Petros-petra wordplay is Hebrew, then Jesus could have delivered his famous utterance to Peter in Hebrew.

Keywords: Aramaic; Gospel; Hebrew; Jesus; Peter; Petros-petra wordplay

10.1163/9789004264410_012
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