Cephas

The Greek that is transliterated “Cephas” in English — and is an alternative name for Peter — is transliterated in Chinese Protestant translations as jīfǎ (traditional Chinese: 磯法, simplified Chinese: 矶法). The first character (磯 / 矶) is not only chosen because of its sound but also because of its meaning: “rock,” corresponding to the meaning of the Aramaic kēp̄ā (כֵּיפָא), to which the Greek Kēphâs (Κηφᾶς) refers and also alluding to Jesus’ proclamation in Matthew 16:18 (see Peter – rock).

Note that Catholic Chinese versions don’t follow the English pronunciation of “Cephas” with its opening [s] sound. They use kēfǎ (刻法) transliterating the [k] sound from the Aramaic and Greek. Kēfǎ does not carry the additional meaning of “rock.” (Source: Jost Zetzsche)

In the Neo-Aramaic language of Assyrian the terms used for both “Peter” (English transliteration of the Greek “πετρος”) and “Cephas” are identical (كِيپَا, pronounced kēpā). (Source: Ken Bunge)

The passage in John 1:42 (“You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter)” in English) is solved by various translations like this: “‘I am going to name you Cephas.’ Cephas means ‘Peter.’ Both mean ‘rock.'” (Ojitlán Chinantec), “I am naming you Cephas. ‘Cephas’ in the Jews’ language, ‘Peter’ in the Greek language, the meaning being ‘stone’.” (Alekano), “You will become known as Cephas,’ he said, which in our language means ‘rock.'” (Chol), or “You will be called Cephas and also Peter.” Tenango Otomi. (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

See also Peter – rock.

complete verse (John 1:42)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:42:

  • Uma: “And he accompanied him going to Yesus. Yesus looked at Simon, and he said to him: ‘You(s) are Simon son of Yohanes. But beginning from this time, you(s) will be called/named Kefas.’ (The name ‘Kefas’ in the Yahudi language, it is the same as the name ‘Petrus’ in the Yunani language. It means: rock.)” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Then he brought Simon to Isa. Isa looked straight at Simon and said, ‘You are Simon, your father’s name is Yahiya. But I call you Kepas.’ (This name Kepas is the same as the name Petros, it means, rock.)” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And he took Simon and they went to Jesus. And Jesus, he looked at Simon. ‘You are Simon the son of John. I title you Cephas,’ said Jesus. (The title Cephas is the same as the name Peter, and the meaning of that is ‘stone’.)” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then he escorted Simon to where Jesus was. Jesus looked-closely at him and said, ‘You (singular) are Simon the child of Juan. You (singular) will be nicknamed Cefas.’ (This name, it is the same as Pedro and its meaning is stone.)” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He had Simon go with him to Jesus.When they had arrived, Jesus looked-closely at Simon and spoke. He said, ‘Your name now is Simon, son of Juan. But you will be named Cefas.’ (Cefas is Pedro in the Griego-language.)” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Andrew took his brother to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, he said, ‘You are Simon, the son of Jonas. Now you will be called Cephas and also Peter.'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Jesus

The Greek Iēsous is “only” a proper name but one with great importance. The following quote by John Ellington (in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 401ff.) illustrates this:

“In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, Joseph is told that when Mary gives birth to a son ‘you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (1:21). This name is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name [Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ) which is a short form of a name meaning] ‘the Lord [Yahweh] saves.’ The name is very significant and is in itself especially dear to Christians around the world. (…) Unquestionably great importance is attached to the name of Jesus by Christians of all persuasions and backgrounds.”

While Iēsous (pronounced: /i.ɛː.suːs/) is transliterated as “Jesus” (pronounced /ˈdʒiːzəs/) in English it is transliterated and pronounced in a large variety of other ways as well, following the different rules of different languages’ orthographies, writing systems and rules of pronunciation. The following is a (very partial) list of forms of Jesus in Latin characters: Chesús, Ciisusu, Gesù, Gesû, Gesü, Ġesù, Giêsu, Hesu, Hesús, Iesu, Ihu, Íosa, Ìosa, Isus, Isus, Isus, Isuthi, Îtu, Jasus, Jeesus, Jeesus, Jehu, Jeso, Jesús, Jésus, Jezi, Jézi, Ježiš, Jezus, Jézus, Jėzus, Jēzus, Jezusi, Jėzus, Jezuz, Jisos, Jisọs, Jisas, Jisu, Sisa, uJesu, ŵaYesu, Xesosi, ´Xesús, Ya:su, Yēēsu, Yeso, Yésʉs, Yexus, Yezo, Yezu, Yiisu, Yiitju, Yisufa, Yusu, Zîsɛ, Zjezus, and this (equally incomplete) list with other writings systems: ᔩᓱᓯ, Յիսուս, ᏥᏌ, ኢየሱስ, ܝܫܘܥ, Ісус, 耶稣, იესო, ईसा, イエス, 예수, येशू, യേശു, ජේසුස්, যীশু, ‘ঈছা, இயேசு, ఏసు, เยซู, យេស៊ូ, يَسُوعَ (note that some of these might not display correctly if your computer does not have the correct fonts installed).

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In some languages the different confessions have selected different transliterations, such as in Belarusian with Isus (Ісус) by the Orthodox and Protestant churches and Yezus (Езус) by the Catholic church, Japanese with Iesu (イエス) (Protestant and Catholic) and Iisusu (イイスス) (Orthodox), or Lingala with Yesu (Protestant) or Yezu (Catholic). These differences have come to the forefront especially during the work on interconfessional translations such as one in Lingala where “many hours were spent on a single letter difference” (source: Ellington, p. 401).

In Chinese where transliterations of proper names between the Catholic and Protestant versions typically differ vastly, the Chinese name of Jesus (Yēsū 耶稣) remarkably was never brought into question between and by those two confessions, likely due to its ingenious choice. (Click or tap here to see more).

The proper name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh (YHWH), is rendered in most Chinese Bible translations as Yēhéhuá 耶和華 — Jehovah. According to Chinese naming conventions, Yēhéhuá could be interpreted as Yē Héhuá, in which would be the family name and Héhuá — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, 耶 would be the family name of Jesus and 稣 would be his given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, Jehovah, would be illustrated through this. Though this line of argumentation sounds theologically unsound, it is indeed used effectively in the Chinese church (see Wright 1953, p. 298).

Moreover, the “given name” of 稣 carries the meaning ‘to revive, to rise again’ and seems to point to the resurrected Jesus. (Source: J. Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff., see also tetragrammaton (YHWH))

There are different ways that Bible translators have chosen historically and today in how to translate the name of Jesus in predominantly Muslim areas: with a form of the Arabic Isa (عيسى) (which is used for “Jesus” in the Qur’an), the Greek Iēsous, or, like major 20th century Bible translations into Standard Arabic, the Aramaic Yēšūaʿ: Yasua (يَسُوعَ). (Click or tap here to see more.)

Following are languages and language groups that use a form of Isa include the following (note that this list is not complete):

In German the name Jesus (pronounced: /ˈjeːzʊs/) is distinguished by its grammatical forms. Into the 20th century the grammatical rules prescribed a unique Greek-Latin declination: Jesus (nominative), Jesu (genitive, dative, vocative), Jesum (accusative), from which today only the genitive case “Jesu” is still in active use.

In Lamba the name ŵaYesu consists of a transliteration Yesu and the prefix ŵa, a plural form for “proper names when addressing and referring to persons in any position of seniority or honor.” While this was avoided in early translations to avoid possible misunderstandings of more than one Jesus, once the church was established it was felt that it was both “safe” and respectful to use the honorific (plural) prefix. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)

Translation: German

Auf Deutsch wird der Name Jesus (ausgesprochen: /ˈjeːzʊs/) durch dessen grammatikalische Formen hervorgehoben. Bis ins 20. Jahrhundert schrieben die grammatikalischen Regeln eine nur hier verwendete Griechisch/Lateinsche Misch-Deklination vor: Jesus (Nominativ), Jesu (Genitiv, Dativ, Vokativ) und Jesum (Akkusativ), von welchen heute nur noch der Genitiv-Kasus „Jesu“ aktiv verwendet wird.

Translator: Jost Zetzsche