My question is philological: Can the name "Cephas" have derived
from or be a variant of "Alphaeus"?

There has long been a minority of scholars who have questioned
the identification of Cephas in the letters of Paul with Simon
Peter of the Gospels and Acts.  Two arguments internal to the 
NT have made me sympathetic to this suspicion of the 
traditional Cephas/Peter identification: (1) Paul switches from
"Cephas" to "Peter" in Galatians.  Prima facie, this sounds to
me like two persons.  (2) While it is true that "Cephas" in
Aramaic and "Peter" in Greek mean "crag"/"rock" (close in
meaning, though not quite exact), it does not seem to be normal
practice--then or now--for names, or nicknames, to be translated
*semantically* from one language to another, so far as I can 
tell.  Prima facie, this is suspect to me in the case of Cephas/
Peter.  The strongest argument for the Cephas/Peter
identification is John 1:42, but in light of the phenomenon
throughout the Fourth Gospel of irony and double meanings read
into innocent and casual statements I can think of other ways
of interpreting this.  But on to philology.

As I understand it, the name Alphaeus (Mark 3:18) is commonly
understood to be a transliteration of an Aramaic name
something like *Chalphai.  (And Clopas of John 19:25 is often
identified as a Graecized form of Alphaeus/Chalphai.)  On
philological grounds, could the name "Cepha," in the Greek-
speaking audiences of Paul in Macedonia and Asia Minor, have
come from the name pronounced by Aramaic-speakers in Judea
as "Chalphai"?

I think of patterns in English involving dropped [l]'s before
certain consonants.  We pronounce "would" and "could" without
[l], though from the spelling [l] used to be pronounced
(cp. "will").  Some dialects of American English pronounce
"help" as [hep].  Save, safe, safety, and saving are cognate
with salvific, salve, and salvation; and when the [l] is 
dropped there is a regular vowel change.

"Calf" and "calves", "half" and "halves" are usually
pronounced without the [l].  The word "almond" is pronounced
either [owlmund], [awlmund], or [amund], all correct 
American English pronunciations, the last having lost the
[l].  Compare German to English Wald/woods, welch/which,
and Kalb/calf.

Offhand, I cannot think of any Greek word which contains
the sound sequence [alp].  If so, this would lend support
that a name *Chalphai in Aramaic would undergo a regular
sound change when pronounced by speakers of Greek in
Asia Minor and Macedonia (or anywhere), to become perhaps

On purely philological grounds, is this proposal credible,
possible but unlikely, or impossible?  Thanks!

Greg Doudna
Department of Religious Studies
Marylhurst College