Monday, October 10, 2011

The name Boanerges doesn't mean "Sons Of Thunder" at all!

James and John - Boanerges
For the ever-expanding Abarim Publications' Biblical Name Vault we recently had a go at the name Boanerges, which is a nickname that Jesus bestows on the brothers James and John; sons of Zebedee.

The evangelist Mark says, "And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons Of Thunder");..." (Mark 3:16-17)

We had expected to be able to effortlessly relate the name Boanerges to some Aramaic or Hebrew compound but much to our surprise, we couldn't. Some Internet searching revealed that this name has plagued scholars for centuries, and the leading theories on the etymology of this name either take a whole lot of liberties in bending Semitic verbs out of their proper compass of meaning and allowing transliterations from Aramaic to Greek that make not a lick of sense, or else, the rather bold assumptions that either Jesus had no idea what He was saying, or else that Mark was clueless about Semitic languages.

Here at Abarim Publications we rarely get nervous and we love a good challenge, so we sank our teeth in the name Boanerges and came out chewing on the other side. One thing is certain: the name Boanerges doesn't mean "Sons Of Thunder" at all.

Check out our article, and let us know if you have any objections: The amazing name Boanerges, meaning and etymology.


  1. Great article and very edifying! Thank you!

  2. Shalom,
    It was very interesting for me to read your post on the nickname "boanerges". But first of all, do you think that Jesus called his disciples on basis of the Greek langage? There is a mean in Hebrew that is near the mean "sons of thunder": בן - בני - רגז - sons of regez, that means: or you are too sensitive, or you are too quick to anger.
    Regarding the nickname "Petra", there is a verse (Jn 1, 42)"you will be named Kephas, that is Rock." And one says that Kephas is from the Aramaic language. But in Aramaic, as well as in Hebrew, כיפא - כיף means - not a stone, or a rock, or a pebble: it means: a headland.Peter is said to be a headland for his followers.
    Best regards,
    Myriam from the blog:

  3. Thank you for such in-depth information. I truly enjoy the intelligence you give and have subscribed for further, via email.

  4. I feel sorry for the folks who named their Church "Boanerges Baptist Church"

  5. Thank you for this article. Well done.

  6. Fascinating reading! Thanks.

  7. The Greek boen (beta omicron eta nu) means war-cry. It's not about cattle.

  8. Mark was obviously writing it phonetically. Try looking up these words which mean the same thing and sound like “Boanerges”
    Benai Reghshi

    Mark may not have been a Syriac, Aramaic, nor Hebrew native speaker. He was probably better at speaking Greek. However, Yesuha (Jesus) was a polyglot. Remember his apostles had to guess at his dialect when his final words were spoken: "E′li, E′li, la′ma sa·bach·tha′ni - possibly Galilean dialect Aramaic.

  9. Doesn't «sons of Zebedee» mean «sons of Zeus», who after all was the thunder god ? If my memory is correct, a common myth in many cultures consideres twin birth as being odd and tries to explain it by saying that the thunder (Zeus) is the father the twins. After all, if John and James were twins, it could be entirely correct when Jesus called them «sons of thunder» ...

  10. Wow! You are a 21st century man claiming to know more about Hebrew or Aramaic than Mark and Jesus -- Jewish men who lived during the Roman Empire! very interesting.

  11. Peter the pebble versus Peter the rock. I don't think that would cause some outcrys, particularly among Catholics, So, you are saying that when a person is referred to as a "Boanerges," that could be either a compliment or an insult. So, when you are not sure to compliment or insult your spouse, for example, over some work done, telling he or she that the work was "Boanerges" might be a good compromise.

  12. Since the definitions of the meaning of "Boanerges" tend to go all over the map, I think this lst Century word could equate to the same meaning of the 21st Century's expression or response of "What ever." I like "Boanerges" better than..."What ever."

  13. Elsewhere in Mark's Gospel, the author implicitly compares John and James to Castor and Polydeuces, the sons of the Thunderer (Zeus). By referring to them as sons of thunder and linking this to the comparison to Castor and Polydeuces, he was making this clear to a person raised in a pagan Greek milieu (although not necessarily to us). Then by comparing John and James to Castor and Polydeuces, he was also at a second level comparing Jesus to Zeus.

    Dick Harfield

  14. Whatever...Lawrence (of Arabia) gave this name to his Brough Superior motor cycles with reference to the wonderful exhaust note, that'll do for me.


Be nice.

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