The Sons of Thunder — There’s more to this nickname than you thought!

Mark 3:16–17, Surnamed Peter … sons of thunder. Yeshua chose twelve apostles, but the first three of the twelve that he chose were unique. This trio—Peter, James and John—formed the innermost circle of Yeshua’s associates, and ten times the Scriptures record their names together, as a group. Beyond that, Yeshua spoke prophetically over each one which, we can now see in retrospect, pertained to the calling he was giving them to canonize what would later become known as the New Testament. Let’s now examine the scriptural evidence for this assertion.

James and John — the Sons of Thunder

James and John — the Sons of Thunder

To Simon, Yeshua gave the nickname Peter, which means “a stone” (Gr. petros meaning “stone” as opposed to petra meaning “rock, cliff, ledge, large stone.” See Matthew 16:18 where juxtaposes these two words — the former he attributes to Peter, the latter to himself.

To James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, he gave the nickname Sons of Thunder (Aram. Boanerges). Did you ever wonder why he dubbed only these three disciples with sobriquets and not the others? Was Yeshua just having fun and playing games, or was he declaring over them, in these nicknames, what their prophetic mission was to be years later? “These are the original apostles who were given distinctive titles by [the Messiah] in order to convey some special assignments that they were expected to complete. Peter was to be associated with [Messiah] (the Rock himself) in the creation of the Christian ekklesia [q.v.Matt 16:18]. This was accomplished in its initiation phases with Peter on the Day of Pentecost some 50 days after the resurrection of [Messiah] (Acts 2). Peter was also given the ‘keys’ of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). These ‘keys’ were to allow him the power to open ‘the doors of the kingdom’ to those who would hear the gospel. It even entailed an authority to bind or to loose people regarding their entrance into that kingdom. (This power was later extended to all the apostles, John 20:23). And it appears certain that one of the main methods by which Peter would be able to exercise the power of the ‘keys’ was to be in charge of the canonization of the New Testament. The information in the canon would ‘open the doors’ to all people who would read and heed the written messages therein” (Restoring the Original Bible, by Ernest Martin, p. 311).

The other two apostles who received special titles were James and John, who Yeshua called the Sons of Thunder. Martin points out that the meaning of this title has been a mystery to most scholars, and the common understanding of it is that these two brothers were headstrong, impetuous, intolerant and authoritarian. And this may be true, but by the time the aged John writes his letters, his demeanor had changed to one of love and conciliation among the brethren. But in their youth they appear to be stern and uncompromising toward evil (Luke 9:54), and they were ambitious for position (Matt. 20:20–24). “They were not mild tempered. They were to be men of ‘Thunder.’ In Hebrew, thunder (kol) meant “the voice of God” (Exod 9:23; Ps 29:3; Jer 10:13; etc.). The title could signify that they were to speak like God himself—as personal spokesmen for God” (Martin, pp. 311–312).

“This title gave them special rank of authority and, along with Peter, they were the only apostles to witness the Transfiguration and to hear the voice of God the Father himself (and in vision to see Moses and Elijah) (Matt 17:1–9). This experience rendered the jurisdiction of those three men as superior to the other apostles and it singled them out for a special purpose. Peter was to be in charge of congregational affairs (Matt 16:17–19), but James and John were to have the distinction of being ‘Sons of Thunder’—to thunder forth his words to the people as did Moses” (Ibid., p. 312).


17 thoughts on “The Sons of Thunder — There’s more to this nickname than you thought!

  1. God needed two that he could send a strong message through. He cold not do this with Peter. The message had to be spoken with authority’.

  2. This morning we are getting some thunderstorms in the Philly area, and as I listen to the claps (some very good ones, btw!) I started thinking about James and John, and why Jesus had designated them as “Sons of Thunder”. Could it just be that they were a couple of hotheads and Jesus began calling them “S of T” to tease them? I can imagine those two going off about something, and Jesus grinning and shaking his head as if to say “There they go AGAIN!” The only problem I have with MY interpretation is that John never comes across as the type to be easily angered or miffed, but then again, who really knows?!

    • Catherine, I fully agree. Here in the deep south I have commercial fisherman through the years. I can just see the brothers in the boat of a morning, about their job of tending the nets and all of a sudden James (the elder brother) twisting off on John for some thing. His voice thundering across the lake for everyone to hear like thunder. If God calls you to be a prophet , he has put the characteristics in you in your mothers womb. They just have not been quickened yet by the Holy Spirit. A prophet before the indwelling and calling is just a super hard headed and opinionated ,my way of highway kinda person. After the calling , a person that stands on the Rock, NOT TO BE MOVED, humble in spirit, God’s way or the highway person!
      Cat, it is fun to ponder these things that God has left void. I truly think he left them blank just for those reasons. After all , it was Him that gave us our imaginations. And as long as they are yoked and submitted to the Holy Spirit they can lead to some profound places and wisdoms. Hallelujah!!.

  3. “Thunder” also evokes images of Mt. Sinai, when God descended to the mountain in “smoke and thunder” (Exodus 19:18-19).

    So, it is possible that “sons of thunder” was a metaphor for “sons of God”!

    • I didn’t mention this in my article, but in it a quote the work of Ernest L. Martin, who has something else to add about why Yeshua called James (Ya’acov) and John (Yochanan) the Sons of Thunder. This is, according to Martin, he commissioned them to be the kol or voice of Elohim, whose voice, the Bible reveals, is like thunder and to canonize the NT, or, as the Bible terms it in several places in the Book of Revelation, the Testimony of Yeshua (as opposed to the OT, which it refers to as the Word of Elohim; see e.g. Rev 12:17; 14:12). How do we know that Yeshua commissioned James and John (along with Peter) to canonize the NT? Read 2 Pet 1:15-21 where Yeshua commissioned these three to this task during his transfiguration. I discuss this whole thing in my article on the canonization of the NT located on the Hoshana Rabbah website.

  4. Could the Sons of Thunder be the 2 witnesses? I’m asking because they witnessed all of the events that took place during Jesus’ time on earth – the transfiguration, crucification and resurrection. I know there’s a Bible verse in Revelations that states that John must prophesy again when he eats the Little Scroll. Also, James and John are brothers like Moses and Aaron who led Israel out of Egypt.

    Luke 9:45 KJV

    54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

    55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
    *spirit ye are of (not observing the difference of persons, timing and things)

  5. They saw Moses and Elijah , they also heard the voice of His father,” this is my beloved son” they witness it’s presents.peter ask is it good for us to be here, they were seeing the past in present time,

    • I think they were recipients of the spirit of Elijah and moses and Peter was the Rock, alot like jesus.


  7. Praise Jehovah Yahwe, now I know the special sense why Simon Peter is a rock, the truth he expressed that Jesus is the son of the living God, he was forthwith given the task of carnonizing the new testament and in effect effectively operating on opening God’s kingdom or closing it, wonder of wonders what Jesus the savior reveals and does.

  8. I really praise God our Lord Jesus Christ for creating each and everyone of us in his likeness and image, and also an imagination (little less than God himself) so that we could always depend our faith to those who opposed and reveled against our Creator. To all of us who loved the Lord so much we are also to be called “sons of thunder” I thank Mr. Martin for his profound explanation about S o T, and to all those who made their comments and insights. I learn so much from you guys!!

  9. James and John were two witnesses. At one point they wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village. There is a literary connection between the Harlot of Revelation and the Samaritan woman (five have fallen, one is/ five husbands, the one you have now is not; themes of mountains and worship, disciples marveling and John marveling, etc). In Revelation there are two witnesses that call down fire from heaven. They prophesy just after the announcement of seven thunders. James and John seem to be a type of the two witnesses. James was also the first martyr of the Church, and John describes himself as a witness (martyria) of Christ’s majesty.

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