Published May 7, 2021 | Version v1
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Hiding in Plain Sight: "Simon Barjona" as Wordplay and Theology in Mt 16:17

  • 1. IABC


Why did Jesus call Peter “Simon Barjona” in Mt 16:17?  The name “Simon” is common enough in the gospels, especially the Gospel of John.  But “Barjona” occurs only once in all of biblical literature.  Commentators tend to focus on textual variants, or how this might be related to “Simon son of John” (Jn 1:42; 21:15-17).  Suggestions are often related to “historical Peter” type questions, ranging from a contraction of Johanan and so squaring it with the Gospel of John, or Peter’s father being known by two names.  Older commentators found in it “son of the dove.”  Or some just skip it altogether.  Public websites might run wild with speculation focusing on weird etymological possibilities for the secrets of the name. 

By taking the name Jonah as a key, I will focus on how the Gospel of Matthew is crafted in contrast with Mark and Luke, specifically as relating to “the sign of Jonah” in Mt 12:39 and 16:4.  Gundry is right that the “son of Jonah” is linked to “the sign of Jonah” which points to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  And he might be right that “the choice of the Semitic Βαρ- instead of the Greek υἱός suits the semitic character of the names Simon and Jonah.” (332)  But there is another clue that these are linked.

Everybody in the world is aware of the πέτος/πέτρα word play in 16:18. But there is another wordplay in v. 17 that has been entirely overshadowed.  It sets up the more famous wordplay and ties it solidly to the sign of Jonah promised in two prior texts:  and it makes the sign of Jonah something that hides in plain sight.


Originally read at the 2018 Stone-Campbell Journal Annual Meeting, Gospel's section.



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