🔼The name Cephas: Summary
- Stone Man, Man Of Stones, Cobble Stone Layer
- From the noun כף (kep), a smooth or rounded stone.
🔼The name Cephas in the Bible
Cephas was originally called Simon (that's Hebrew) Barjona (Aramaic-Hebrew) but would be remembered mostly as Peter (which is Greek and Latin). And that makes him a sort of living Titulus Crucis, the trilingual tablet that was nailed to the cross right above Jesus' head (John 19:19-20).
Speaking of which, when Jesus said: "I am the Way" (John 14:6), and "on this rock I will build my assembly" (Matthew 16:18), very few members of his original audience would have missed the reference to the system of Roman highways that literally tied the Empire together.
Besides allowing the rapid deployment of troops, the Roman highway system provided a stern skeleton for the postal system (the cursus publicus, see our article on the verb τρεχω, trecho, to course or travel along a trajectory), which was developed in Persia among the Jewish synagogues, and would ultimately evolve into the modern Internet and finally the Metaverse (see our article on Apollyon, the Angel of Destruction). But this systematic postal service itself arose on the crest of the same natural forces that had once resulted in the development of script (see our article on YHWH), and even language in the first place (see ονομα, onoma, noun or name, and γραφω, grapho, to write). These elements of humanity are crucial to our kind, and arguably that which sets humans apart from other animals: a formal system of mass communication.
Roman roads were masterpieces of engineering, and extensions of technologies procured mostly from the Phoenicians of Carthage. The via munita, or fortified service road, consisted of a deep gully (more than a meter deep) that was filled with rubble for easy drainage. This stack of rubble was covered with a layer of cement, and on the top came a convex layer of polygon or square stones, so that the edges of the road were lower than the center of it (forming shallow sewers on both sides; Matthew 27:38).
A well-used road could be recognized from the wear of the top layer. Its stones would have been chiseled to standard size in quarries, and thus be sharp and rough upon their installation. Years of use by multitudes of humans, animals and carts would wear these roughhewn stones smooth. The verb that describes this process is τριβω (tribo), to rub smooth. The noun τριβος (tribos), meaning smoothness-by-wear, occurs in the familiar command to "prepare the way of the Lord, make straight its smoothness" (Matthew 3:3), which in turn speaks of an uncountable multitude of people all going the same way on the Highway that is Christ onto the Temple of YHWH (Isaiah 35:8, Revelation 21:24).
Both the Temple and the Way that leads to the Temple are made up of stones, but the crucial difference between the two is that stones that make up the curved top layer of the Way are first chiseled to size and then worn smooth, whereas the stones that make up the Temple are incorporated unaltered (Exodus 20:25, 1 Kings 6:7, 1 Peter 2:5).
🔼Etymology of the name Cephas
The name Cephas comes from the Aramaic word for smooth or curved stone: כף (kep):
The verb כפף (kapap) means to bend or curve, and most often speaks of curving around something, and particularly in order to contain something, or to apply pressure so that the contents come out. Noun כף (kap) describes an opened hollow hand, or a utility vessel, or anything that contains something in order to pour it out or otherwise produce it. Noun כף (kep) describes a smooth or rounded stone, particularly one that provides spaces to hide within (when positioned flat on bedrock or when stacked).
Of unclear relations to the former, verbs נקף (naqap) and קוף (qop) mean to go around and could refer to catching something in a net or wrapping a captured animal with rope. Noun קוף (qop) is thought to describe an ape, perhaps because of its round head, perhaps because it was caught with a net or snare, or perhaps because it was paraded around.
In Aramaic, verb כפף (kapap) and noun כף (kap) are also spelled כפיף (kpyp) and כפא (kp'). Participles כאיף (k'yp) and כיף (kyp) describe anything bent or curved. Noun כוף (kop), literally a "round one", describes a round basket.
Verbs כפה (kapa), כפא (kapa'), and כפי (kapay) mean to bend over or turn upside down. Nouns כף (kep), כיף (keyep), כיפא (keyepa') and כיפה (keyepa) refer to any sort of ball (or honey comb), and specifically to smoothly curved water-worn stones, or pearls and smoothly polished gems. Noun כיפא (keyepa') means pressure or necessity (something that bends or smooths one down over time). Noun כיפה (keyepa) means a bending, or an archway or arched doorway. Noun כפותא (kpota') describes a ball of excrement. Verb כפת (kapat) means to twist or tie together. Noun כפות (kapot) means bandage.
Noun קוף (qop), meaning ape or "round one", is also spelled קופא (qopa'), which could also describe an archway or a large round basket. Noun קופה (qoppa) means heap or pile, archway, or large basket. Noun קפה (quppa), a.k.a. קיפה (qayapa), a.k.a. קיפא (qayapa'), describes a residue or sediment that remains at the bottom of a cook pot, or a glob of coagulated fat floating in water.
The name Cephas means Stone Man, and sounds like the title of the supervisor of a road-working crew: someone in charge of the stones that form the crucial top layer of a Roman highway.
The noun כף (kep), from which this term derives, refers to any kind of stone that was made smooth by long term exposure to the elements of weather or to human traffic between hubs of civilization. But this noun could also describe a gem, in which case the smoothness was brought about by the designs and prolonged dedication of a jeweler. Note that both the ephod of the High Priest (Exodus 28:17-21) and the walls of the city of God (Revelation 21:18-21) are made from such gems.
Also note that in this spiritual topography, the road system that is Christ exists between the locations but is not a location itself. Said otherwise: nationalities, cultural legacies and religions are like cities in which people live, but Christ is the road system upon which people travel, and via which people exchange good, services, ideas and information (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).
The Temple of YHWH, of which Jesus Christ is the High Priest (Hebrews 2:17), is where Creator and creation meet and unite (Exodus 25:8, Revelation 21:22). Surrounding the inner sanctum of the temple is the inner court, the priestly court, which is the court where all autonomous and anointed priests of the Most High (Exodus 19:6, 1 John 2:27) perform their functions wholly independently of any human authority (1 Corinthians 15:24) while answering only to God directly.
Surrounding the inner court of anointed ones is the vast outer court of the gentiles. The priests of the inner court frequently venture out into the outer court, to teach and instruct (and often get mistreated for it; Psalm 105:15, Matthew 21:35). Surrounding the outer court is the outer darkness, where there is no humanity and only animality (Jude 1:10): where humans compete and live by the rule of survival of the fittest.
Despite the promises of quacks, people who are native to the outer darkness, and then decide they want to join the people of God in the inner court, cannot simply jump in. Like the people of Israel at large, these people first have to experience a personal Exodus, then a subjection to Law (an utter novelty to them), then the rise of the Davidic kingdom, then an exile into Babylon and a return from Persia.
Modern religions such as Christianity have made the outer court an enjoyable place, and many settle somewhere in its comforts, without pressing on. The outer court is wide and its pleasures are many. Few are those who find the narrow gate that leads to the inner court, where the actual road system begins and where one's true journey commences. On the outer court we learn how to stand on our own feet and then how to walk; on the inner court we first step onto the Way and our own personal journey begins.
As long as we identify with a particular nationality or religion or even gender, we are in the outer court (at best) and certainly not in the inner one. When we relinquish any claims to religion, cultural heritage or biological constitution, we have become autonomous and sovereign human beings, and we finally enter the road that is Christ, who leads to God (2 Peter 1:4, Ephesians 4:24, Hebrews 12:10).