St. Peter Wasn’t the Saint We Think He Was

The saint by any other name would be just as valuable

Colin Pearce
Nov 18 · 5 min read
St. Peter’s Chains at San Pietro in Vincoli
St. Peter’s Chains at San Pietro in Vincoli
St. Peter’s Chains at San Pietro in Vincoli. Image by author

Nicknames are usually fun

I come from a time when nicknames were common. They still are common in sporting codes, although we appear to have gone cold about nicknames for children — especially if they are used to bully the kids.

A vast array of alternate names about a characteristic of the bearer

Back in the day, Scots were known as Jock; Irish people were Paddy; Welsh were Taffy; the tall were known as Shorty; the short were known as Lofty; the fat were nicknamed Slim, Tubby or Guts; and the freckled were called Fly Specks.

I remember others from my neighbourhood; Rattler, Fish, Turk, Slug, Bull Frog, Stocky, Minnie, Goose, Stinky…

I met an ancient cousin of my mother who could not remember the real name of one of his sons. He insisted it was Tiny. When we saw a photo of him being 200 cm tall (nearly 7 feet), we understood why he was never called Stevie.

Right now, I have a burning need to have some more fun with St. Peter

I’ve written before that St. Peter was not the sharpest gaff in the fishing boat, but I love him.

First, I have to advise you that his name wasn’t even Peter

His real name was Simon bar Jonah; i.e. Simon, son of John. And I’m telling you how he got the new name Cephas, or — translated from Aramaic to Greek and Latin to English — Peter. It’s actually a nickname, and that’s not even right.

Simon had a brother, Andreas bar Jonah, or — as we call him — Andrew, a really nice chap. We know he was a kindly man because when he was called to follow Jesus, he went and found his brother Simon.

“Again the next day John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus… one of the two who heard John speak and followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ).” (John 1:35–41, NASB)

Andrew was also the man who told Jesus he’d found a boy with a little bit of food but that it wasn’t much help to feed 5,000 people.

“One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?’” (John 6:8–9, NASB)

Obvious choice

So Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who took one look at him and declared (I think with a laugh, because it’s pretty funny to me):

“Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).’” (John 1:42, NASB)

Why is that so funny to me?

Do you know what a cephas is? It’s a rock, a stone, a rugged little scrap of coarse compacted earth or mineral, like granite, marble or sandstone. Around Capernaum, where the two met, Jesus might well have been comparing Simon to a bit of basalt, a porous volcanic stone neither easily shaped nor very strong. There are still tonnes of it in Capernaum.

Can you see Jesus skidding stones across the water and, as Simon arrives, tossing him a stone and saying, ‘How about Nugget for a nickname?’

  • If he’d met Simon in the US, Jesus might have said, ‘Hey. Simon. Whassup? I’ll call ya Rocky.’
  • If he’d met Simon in the UK, Jesus might have said, ‘How do you do, Simon? I’d like to call you Stoney.’
  • If he’d met Simon in Australia, Jesus might have said, ‘G’Day, Simon. Simon Johnson, hey? I’m gonna call ya Nugget.’

So there you have it, Saint Nugget Johnson

I reckon all these ‘St. Peter’s’ places should be re-named.
St. Nugget’s Basilica
St. Nuggetsburg
St. Nugget’s Cathedral
St. Nuggetsburg, FL
San Nuggetrio in Vincoli

Easily moved, eager and sharp but not too smart — down-to-earth, basic, but solid gold all the same.

Reading the New Testament accounts of his conversations with Jesus and, later, Paul, it is pretty obvious that the nickname Nugget was so apt. He was easily moved, eager and sharp but not too smart — down-to-earth, basic, but solid gold all the same.

Google St. Peter for ultimate confusion

If you Google St. Peter, you will be told the old orthodox line that Jesus called Simon ‘Rock’ because he was going to build his church on him.

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.’ Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.” (Matthew 16:16–20, NASB)

I don’t think so, but how could I argue with the Pope?

I think it is supposed to read: ‘Ah Simon, you couldn’t think this up for yourself because you’re only a nugget, so the Father has revealed it to you. But I will build My church on your rock-of-faith statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”’

So, there you are. A protestant till the last trumpet sound.

Colin Pearce tells stories, writes about storytelling for business, and coaches communicators. He’s been doing it for 40 years in 15 countries, 28 states of the US, and all over Australia and New Zealand. He helps people with a significant message to put it across in a short, sharp story so it impacts, sticks and makes a difference. He’s writing his 11th book now: Storytelling Works. He says, ‘I’ll make you so good they can’t ignore you.’

His wife, four adult children and six grandchildren are his joy.


This story is published in Koinonia — stories by Christians to encourage, entertain, and empower you in your faith, food, fitness, family, and fun.

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Koinonia

Stories by Christian writers to encourage, entertain, and empower you in your faith, food, fitness, family, friendship, and fun.

Colin Pearce

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I coach communicators to put their message over in a short, sharp, story so it impacts, sticks and creates change. http://www.colinpearce.com/storytelling-works

Koinonia

Koinonia

Stories by Christian writers to encourage, entertain, and empower you in your faith, food, fitness, family, friendship, and fun.

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