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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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In the Authorized Version the word ‘lord’ generally represents the Greek κύριος, with the exception of Acts 4:24, 2 Peter 2:1, Judges 1:4, and Revelation 6:10, where it stands for δεσπότης. In the last three passages the Revised Version renders ‘master.’ On the other hand, there are cases where κύριος is rendered ‘master’ both in the Authorized Version and the Revised Version -e.g. Acts 16:16; Acts 16:19, Ephesians 6:5; Ephesians 6:9. As a common noun the word ‘lord’ is not of very frequent occurrence. It is used of the Roman Emperor (Acts 25:26); of a husband (1 Peter 3:6); of the heir of a property (Galatians 4:1); and of the angelic powers (1 Corinthians 8:5). But usually it is applied either to God or to Christ, and comes to be used almost as a proper name.

1. The name applied to God.-In the Septuagint κύριος is employed consistently to represent אַדֹנָי, which the Jews substituted in reading for the name יהוה, and hence it became the general designation of God. We meet with it frequently in the NT in this application, sometimes expanded into the title κύριος ὁ θεός, or even κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ (Revelation 4:8; Revelation 11:17, etc.). God is addressed as κύριος in prayer (Acts 1:24). The title is used predicatively of Him in Acts 17:24 (‘Lord of heaven and earth’). In such phrases as ‘even as the Lord gave’ (1 Corinthians 3:5), ‘if the Lord will’ (1 Corinthians 4:19; cf. Romans 1:10; Romans 15:32), ‘chastened of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 11:32), the reference is probably to God rather than to Christ. Naturally it is God who is referred to where the term occurs in quotations from the OT, as Acts 3:22, Romans 4:8; Romans 9:28 f., 2 Corinthians 6:17 f.; though, as we shall see, there are occasions where such quotations are interpreted as referring directly to Christ. The reference is likewise to God in various phrases which recall OT associations, such as ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ (Acts 5:9), ‘the fear of the Lord’ (Acts 9:31), ‘the hand of the Lord’ (Acts 11:21). In Rev., with one or two exceptions, the title refers to God-e.g. Acts 4:8; Acts 4:11, Acts 11:15; Acts 11:17, Acts 19:1 -though on occasions Christ, in contrast to the kings of the earth, is called ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Acts 17:14, Acts 19:16). St. Peter, St. James, and Hebrews seem to use the term indifferently for God or Christ. In the Pauline Epistles the term usually designates Christ, but there are occasional exceptions, and we must determine from the context whether God or Christ is to be understood. Thus, e.g., in the phrase ‘the word of the Lord,’ i.e. the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:6), we should certainly expect ‘the Lord’ to refer to Christ, yet the phrase recurs in the following chapter in the form ‘the word of God’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). So ‘the Lord of peace’ (2 Thessalonians 3:16) corresponds to ‘the very God of peace’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23); and 1 Corinthians 3:5, where some take κύριος to apply to Christ, is proved by 1 Corinthians 3:9 to refer to God. But indeed it is difficult to say with certainty in many cases who is intended, and sometimes St. Paul ascribes the same function now to God and now to Christ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:17 compared with 2 Corinthians 10:13). Some (e.g. Cremer and Godet) would lay down the rule that in the NT κύριος is to be understood as referring to God only in the OT quotations and references (so also Lietzmann, so far as St. Paul is concerned); but it is evident from some of the cases already quoted that such a canon cannot be consistently observed.

2. The name applied to Christ.-For the most part, however, the term is employed in the NT to designate Christ.

(1) The subjection of the believer to Christ.-The simplest instance of the use of the word ‘Lord’ for Christ is in the Gospels, where it describes the relationship of Jesus to the disciples. In this sense it occurs in Acts 1:6 as a form of address of the Master, and in the phrase frequently recurring throughout the book-‘the Lord Jesus,’ e.g. Acts 1:21, Acts 4:33, Acts 8:16. But such employment of the term is innocent of the doctrinal implication that attaches to it as generally employed in the NT. We meet with it in various forms-sometimes simply κύριος or ὁ κύριος, sometimes ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν, usually with the addition of Ἰησοῦς or Ἰησοῦς Χριστός. What is suggested by this title as assigned to Christ? The simplest answer is that it calls up the relation of king and subject, conceived in the Oriental spirit as that of lord and slave (cf. 2 Kings 17:32; 2 Kings 24:3 [Septuagint ]), as typical of that which obtains between Christ and the believer. St. Paul frequently calls himself δοῦλος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, etc.); on one occasion he uses that term as a worthy designation of a faithful disciple (Colossians 4:12), and reminds believers that such slavery is the condition into which they have surrendered themselves (1 Corinthians 7:22).

(2) The majesty of Christ.-The title κύριος as applied to Christ suggests something more than the relation of subjection in which the believer stands to Him. It is deliberately selected to assign a certain lofty dignity to Christ. It was the custom in the East to call gods by the title ‘Lord’ (Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, 253ff.), and, as we have seen, the practice of the Septuagint had made this term the familiar one to the Jew for his God Jahweh. The title was deliberately transferred to Christ by the early Christians to signify that they worshipped Him as a Divine Being. In 1 Corinthians 8:5 f. St. Paul defines the Christian attitude to Christ by contrasting it with that of the worshippers of false gods. They worship many so-called gods and lords, but the Christian has but the ‘one God, the Father, of whom are all things and we unto him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.’ Here St. Paul places Christ alongside of God as entitled to Divine honour. How such a position is compatible with the strict monotheism of the ‘one God, the Father,’ he does not discuss. It may be, as Johannes Weiss (Christus, p. 26) suggests, that he selected the title ‘Lord’ for Christ here as predicating a dignity one rank lower than that of Supreme God, and so leaving room for that relation of subordination which the Apostle elsewhere assigns to Him (2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:17). It was in virtue of the Resurrection that the Church came to invest Jesus with such unique dignity. This is the standpoint of Peter in Acts 2:32-36. Jesus of Nazareth, ‘a man approved of God’ (v. 22), has by the Resurrection and Exaltation been made by God ‘both Lord and Christ.’ So in Romans 1:4 St. Paul says that Jesus has been constituted (ὁρισθέντος) God’s Son in power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead (cf. also Ephesians 1:20 ff.). And the well-known passage Philippians 2:9-11 accounts for Jesus’ investment with the title ‘Lord’ along the same lines. After the humiliation of the Cross ‘God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus [i.e. whenever the name is invoked in prayer by oneself or sounded in one’s ears by others (W. Heitmüller, Im Namen Jesu, 1903, p. 66f.)] every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ There is difference of opinion as to whether ‘the name which is above every name’ is the title ‘Lord.’ In view of the confession of Lordship to which the passage leads up, it seems natural to adopt this interpretation. By exalting Jesus, God has raised Him to supreme honour. He has bestowed on Him that name which He had hitherto borne Himself. The passage becomes pregnant with meaning when taken (as Weiss suggests [op. cit. p. 27]) in connexion with the Septuagint of Isaiah 42:8 : ἐγὼ κύριος ὁ θεός, τοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ ὄνομα, τὴν δόξαν μου ἑτέρῳ οὐ δώσω. But this name and this glory God has given to another. He has invested Jesus with the Divine name; He has given Him supreme sovereignty. All beings in heaven and earth must bow the knee before Him. He virtually takes the place of God, the monotheistic position being safeguarded in that concluding phrase, ‘to the glory of God the Father.’

The whole of the NT goes to corroborate the lofty estimate of the dignity of Christ suggested by this title. As Lord He comes in the mind of the Church to take His position alongside of God, to éxercise such functions as had been attributed to God, and to receive such reverence as had been accorded to God alone-according to an interpretation of Romans 9:5 which is linguistically unexceptionable, He is even called θεός (cf. also 2 Peter 1:1). Prayer is addressed to Him (Acts 7:60, Romans 10:12, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 12:8). He is expected to judge the world (2 Corinthians 5:10 f., 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:8), and is endowed with Divine omniscience (1 Corinthians 4:5). It is He who assigns their various lots to men (1 Corinthians 7:17), who grants power of service and endows with grace (1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:14), who stands by and strengthens in time of trouble (2 Timothy 4:17), and delivers out of persecutions (2 Timothy 3:11). All authority in the Church proceeds from Him (1 Corinthians 5:4, 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10). The most frequent form of benediction invokes His grace. Baptism is performed in His name (Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48). That name is invoked when the sick are anointed with oil (James 5:14); and not only on such formal occasions, but in every word and deed (Colossians 3:17), for that appears to be the significance of the phrase, one is to ‘do all in the name of the Lord’ (Heitmüller, op. cit. p. 69). He is the Creator of all things (1 Corinthians 8:5, Colossians 1:16) and Lord over all beings (Acts 10:36, Romans 10:12), our only Master and Lord (Judges 1:4).

But perhaps the most striking instance of all of how Christ comes to have the value of God in the Christian consciousness is afforded by the fact that, repeatedly in the NT, quotations from the OT which manifestly refer to God are immediately applied to Christ. Thus, e.g., the exhortation of the Psalmist to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalms 34:8) is interpreted (1 Peter 2:3) with reference to the experience of the believer of the salvation of Christ; and St. Paul finds an answer to the question of Isaiah 40:13 (Septuagint ), ‘Who hath known the mind of the Lord?’ in the triumphant declaration, ‘But we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Other instances of this practice will be found in Romans 10:13, 1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 10:22, 2 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 10:17, 1 Peter 3:15. Such being the significance with which the title is invested, it is small wonder that St. Paul should have regarded acknowledgment of Christ’s Lordship as the mark of the true believer (Colossians 2:6). To confess Him as Lord with one’s mouth, and to believe in one’s heart that God has raised Him from the dead (observe the connexion between the Resurrection and Lordship), is to be assured of salvation (Romans 10:9). In cases of ecstasy such confession was the infallible sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). The proclamation of Christ’s Lordship was the central theme of the Apostle’s preaching (2 Corinthians 4:5), the universal recognition of that Lordship the consummation of the Divine purpose (Philippians 2:11).

(3) The protest against Emperor-worship.-There remains to be noted one other aspect of the assertion of Christ’s Lordship-the protest implied against the worship of the Emperor under the same title. Deissmann has shown (op. cit. p. 255ff.) that already in the time of St. Paul the title was current as a form of address of the Emperor (cf. Acts 25:26), if not in Rome, at any rate in the East. Caligula had ordered his statue to be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, and required that he should be worshipped as God. Domitian is called in official reports ‘our Lord and God.’ When such was the tendency that was abroad, it is possible that even in the mouth of a man who, like St. Paul, urged subjection to the higher powers, the proclamation of the Lordship of Christ may have had a polemical nuance. In the middle of the 2nd cent. we find Polycarp laying down his life rather than say κύριος καῖσαρ (Mart. Polyc. 8:2), and probably long before that time, on the lips of those who repeated it, if not by the men who first employed it, the formula ‘our Lord Jesus Christ’ was uttered with an emphasis on the word our which suggested repudiation of the claims made on behalf of the Emperor (Weinel, Die Stellung des Urchristentums zum Staat, p. 19). St. Paul could say of the Christian, ‘our state is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20), and endeavour to keep his religion apart altogether from politics. But when politics invaded the sphere of religion and Caesar laid claim to the things that are Christ’s, it became the duty of the Christian to maintain the sovereignty of his Lord. Such passages as Philippians 2:9-11, 1 Corinthians 8:5 f. cannot fail to have been interpreted as a protest against the growing tendency to ascribe to the Emperor the reverence which belonged to Christ alone. We hear the same protest in the claim of Judges 1:4, ‘our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ,’ and in a milder form in the subtle distinction made in 1 Peter 2:17, ‘Fear God, honour the king,’ i.e. the Emperor. In Rev. the references to the Emperor-worship become more explicit (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 20:4), and the protest against it finds freer utterance. Christ is proclaimed King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16), while the sovereignty of this world becomes the sovereignty of the Lord and of His anointed one, and He shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15).

Literature.-A. B. Bruce, Apologetics, 1892, bk. iii. ch. v.; H. Lietzmann, Die Briefe des Apostels Paulus (=Handbuch zum NT, iii. 1 [1910]), p. 53ff.; A. Deissmann, Die Urgeschichte des Christentums im Lichte der Sprachforschung, 1910, Licht uom Osten, 1908; Joh. Weiss, Christus, 1909, Das Urchristentum, 1914, ch. ii. § 5, iv. § 3, vii. § 4; H. Weinel, Die Stellung deg Urchristentums zum Staat, 1908; H. R. Mackintosh, The Person of Jesus Christ, 1912, bk. iii. ch. v.; W. Bousset, Kyrios Christos, 1913.

G. Wauchope Stewart.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lord'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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