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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Lord (2)

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LORD.—This title is used as the translation of three different words in the Gr. Gospels: (1) ὁ δεσπότης. This word occurs only once in the Gospels, in the prayer of Simeon, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word’ (Luke 2:29). It is the proper correlative of δοῦλος. In thus addressing God, Simeon thinks of himself as His slave. (2) οἱ μεγιστᾶνες. This word also occurs but once in the Gospels, in Mark 6:21 ‘Herod … made a supper to his lords.’ It describes the chief men or nobles of a city or kingdom. (3) κύριος, ὁ κύριος. Except in the above instances, this is the word which stands for ‘Lord’ and ‘lord’ in the Gospels. It occurs with great frequency. With or without the article, it is found at least 244 times. The frequency of its use is concealed from readers of the English versions. It is sometimes translated ‘master’ (‘Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table,’ Matthew 15:27), or ‘sir’ (‘I go, sir, and went not,’ Matthew 21:30), or ‘owner’ (‘the owners therefore said, Why loose ye the colt?’ Luke 19:33). Fundamentally the title describes one who has power or authority (ὁ ἔχων κῦρος) over persons or things. Strictly speaking, it implies ownership, but it is also used as a title of reverence or courtesy. In the Gospels it is applied in a wide variety of relationship.

1. It is frequently used as a name for God.—(1) In most cases as a name for God, it is used without the article. It occurs in all 59 times (17 in Matthew , 8 in Mk., 30 in Luke , 4 in Jn.). It is found in quotations from the OT, as ‘Thou shalt not tempt (the) Lord thy God’ (Matthew 4:7); and in phrases of OT origin, as ‘the angel of (the) Lord’ (Matthew 1:20 || Luke 1:11); ‘the law of (the) Lord’ (Luke 2:23); ‘the power of (the) Lord’ (Luke 5:17). It is noteworthy that the only instances in the Gospels where the title is used in direct address to God, are found in the prayers of Jesus: ‘I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth’ (Matthew 11:25 || Luke 10:21). In both cases the title is found in exactly the same phrase. (2) The use of the name with the article is infrequent, occurring in all 11 times (twice in Mt., once in Mark , 8 times in Lk.): e.g. ‘Perform unto the Lord thine oaths’ (Matthew 5:33); ‘Tell how great things the Lord hath done for thee’ (Mark 5:19); ‘Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest’ (Luke 10:2). In the application of this name to God, with and without the article, the Gospels follow the usage of the LXX Septuagint .

2. It is also used with great frequency as a general title of courtesy, or as a name for a master or owner. (1) Without the article, it is employed in direct address, as the salutation of a son to a father, ‘I go, sir’ (Matthew 21:30); of servants to their master, ‘Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field?’ (Matthew 13:27); ‘Lord, let it alone this year also’ (Luke 13:8); of the Greeks to Philip, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ (John 12:21); of the Pharisees and priests to Pilate, ‘Sir, we remember that this deceiver said’ (Matthew 27:63). This use of the title, as a general term of courtesy in direct address, is not found in Mk., but it occurs 9 times in Matthew , 8 times in Lk., and twice in John. As the name for a master, without the article it is found only in Matthew 6:24 ‘No man can serve two masters,’ and in Luke 16:13, the parallel passage. (2) With the article, it is a frequent name for a master or owner, as ‘the lord of the vineyard’ (Matthew 20:8), ‘the lord of that servant’ (Luke 12:46), ‘the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth’ (John 15:15). In Luke 16:8 it is the ‘lord’ of the unjust steward who commended his dishonest method of providing for himself.

3. It is most frequently of all employed as a title of courtesy in direct address to, or as a name for Jesus.

(1) Without the article, it is used (a) by His disciples, as ‘Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water’ (Matthew 14:28). This title in direct address to Jesus by disciples is never found in Mark. It is most frequent in Jn., as is to be expected, since he records most of the private intercourse between Jesus and His disciples. (b) By others than disciples, as ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’ (Matthew 8:2). In Mk. it is employed only once in this relation, by the Syrophœnician woman, ‘Yes, Lord’ (Mark 7:28). In most cases, the title as used by others than disciples is found in narratives of miracle. (c) By Jesus Himself, as ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). (d) It is also found in the words of the angel to the shepherds, ‘Unto you is born this day … a Saviour, who is Christ (the) Lord’ (Luke 2:11). This phrase (χριστὸς κύριος) is found in Ps-Sol 17:36. Briggs (Messiah of the Gospels, pp. 34, 35, notes) says it is probably to be interpreted on the basis of אדני Psalms 110:1 (‘The Lord said unto my Lord’), but adds that Schürer, Ewald, Wellhausen, and W. R. Smith regard the phrase in Ps-Sol as a mistranslation of סשיח יהוה (‘Anointed of (the) Lord,’—a phrase which is found in Luke 2:26’ (the) Lord’s Christ’). Dalman, on the other hand (Words of Jesus, T. & T. Clark, p. 303 f.), thinks it incredible that a translator should have made such a mistake. We agree with him in regarding κύριος (Lord) as a word added by the Evangelist to interpret the Jewish title Messiah (χριστός) to his Gentile readers. (The same necessity of interpretation accounts for the phrase ‘Christ, a king’ (Luke 23:2), in the accusation made before Pilate. The claim that Jesus was ‘the Christ’ had no political significance to the Gentile governor. It had to be interpreted to him as ‘king’ before he could receive the charge as an accusation). In Acts 2:36 the phrase ‘God hath made that same Jesus … both Lord and Christ’ (κύριον καὶ χριστόν), is to be explained in the same way. ‘Lord’ is an addition by the Evangelist, to interpret ‘Christ’ to Gentile Christians. We may add that the same necessity of interpreting ‘Christ’ to Gentiles accounts for the curious phrase in the address of Peter to Cornelius, which has been found so difficult—‘Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all, πάντων κύριος),’ Acts 10:36. The clause in brackets is added to interpret the confessional title ‘Christ.’ It may be due to Lk., but it is more likely that it was added at the time by Peter. He was speaking to a Gentile, who, though he was ‘a devout man and one that feared God,’ may not have understood the confessional significance of the term ‘Christ.’ Without the addition of the interpretation, Cornelius might have regarded it as part of the name of Jesus. The title ‘Christ’ did become a proper name, but that use of the term did not arise till a later date. If the interpretation was given by Peter when speaking to Cornelius, it provides an interesting illustration of the way in which the first preachers of Christianity adapted themselves to the new conditions in which they found themselves, when they began to preach to Gentiles. The Saviour of the world must not have a local or national confessional title, (cf. the words of Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailer as they are given in אAB, and accepted by Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf, and other critical editors, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus (i.e. believe on Jesus as Lord), and thou shalt be saved,’ Acts 16:31. Also, ‘No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost’ (1 Corinthians 12:3), and ‘every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,’ Philippians 2:11). To the Jewish Christian, Jesus was the ‘Messiah,’ to the Hellenistic Christian Jew He was ‘the Christ,’ and to the Gentile Christian He was ‘the Lord.’ The Hellenistic and Gentile terms are combined in our familiar name ‘the Lord Jesus Christ.’ The interpretation of ‘Christ’ as ‘Lord’ enables us to understand that the essential idea of the first term is that of Sovereignty or Lordship. The Saviour is the Lord, the Possessor and Ruler of the Kingdom of God.

This title readily acquired its highest significance as one of Divine honour among the Gentile Christians, especially in the East. ‘Oriental religions are fond of expressing the relationship between the divinity and the devotee, as that of the “Lord” or “Lady” to a slave’ (Deissmann). The higher significance of the title was most likely assisted also by the fact that among Hellenistic Jewish Christians κύριος was in use as a Divine title applied to God.

(2) With the article, the title is applied to Jesus (a) by Himself, directly, as ‘Ye call me Master and Lord’ (more literally, ‘the Teacher and the Lord’) (John 13:13), and indirectly, as ‘(The) Lord said unto my Lord (τῷ κυρίῳ μου), Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool’ (Matthew 22:44). (b) The historical application of the title, with the article, to Jesus is specially significant. Tischendorf and Westcott-Hort omit the title in this form, in the only place where it is found in Mt. (Matthew 28:6). It occurs twice in Mk. (Mark 16:19-20), i.e. in that part of the Gospel which is regarded by critical editors as not belonging to the original Manuscripts . Therefore it is only in the Gospels of Lk. and Jn. that the title in this form is applied historically to Jesus. This is a strong argument for the earlier composition of Mt. and Mk., for the title became so common in the Apostolic Church that its absence from these Gospels can be explained only by their early date. The title occurs 18 times in Luke , 12 times in John. Twelve of the instances in Lk. are found in passages which are peculiar to that Gospel, as ‘the Lord appointed other seventy’ (Luke 10:1). The other instances may be regarded as editorial additions (Luke 7:13; Luke 11:39; Luke 12:42; Luke 17:5-6; Luke 24:3). Three of the instances in Jn., which are found in the early part of the Gospel, are plainly editorial additions (John 4:1; John 6:23; John 11:2). The remaining instances are found in the last two chapters of the Gospel, and in passages which are peculiar to it. They deal with the risen life of Jesus, and were written at a time when the higher conceptions of His personality gave a deeper significance to the title, and when its confessional meaning was universally known. The adoring cry of Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God’ (ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου) John 20:28, is an illustration of how among Jewish Christians the title of respect addressed to a teacher became one of Divine honour. Yet, as Dalman says, ‘it must … be remembered that the Aramaic-speaking Jews did not, save exceptionally, designate God as “Lord,” so that in the Hebraic section of the Jewish Christians the expression “our Lord” was used in reference to Jesus only, and would be quite freh from ambiguity’ (p. 329).

4. In comparing parallel passages in which the title occurs, it is to be noticed that other titles are sometimes employed as equivalent terms in addressing Jesus.—

i. Matthew 8:25 (κύριε) ‘Lord, save us: we perish.’

Mark 4:38 (διδάσκαλς) ‘Teacher, earest thou not that we perish?’

Luke 8:24 (ἐπιστάτα) ‘Master (teacher), we perish.’

ii. Matthew 17:4 (κύριε) ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here.’

Mark 9:5 (Ραββεί) ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.’

Luke 9:33 (ἐπιστάτα) ‘Master (teacher), it is good for us to be here.’

iii. Matthew 26:22 (κύριε) ‘Is it I, Lord?’

Matthew 26:25 (Ραββει) ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’

John 13:25 (κύριε) ‘Lord, who is it?’

The variety in the title used in addressing Jesus is not confined to the parallel passages. It is to be seen throughout each of the Gospels. Arranging the titles in the order of preference, Mt. uses κύριος, διδάσκαλος, and Ῥαββεί; Mk. διδάσκαλος Ῥαββεί, Ῥαββουνεί, and κὐριος Lk. κὐριος, διδάσκαλος, and ἐπιστάτης; Jn. κύριος, Ῥαββεί, Ῥαββουνεί, and διδάσκαλος. Sometimes the variety of the title is seen even in the same passage. It cannot be without intention or meaning that in (iii.) Mt. represents the eleven disciples as asking, ‘Is it I, Lord?’ while Judas, the traitor, says, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ (Matthew 26:22; Matthew 26:25). Possibly Judas indicated his position of detachment or opposition by using ‘Rabbi’ instead of the title employed by the rest of the disciples. It is only by Judas that Jesus is addressed as ‘Rabbi’ in Mt. (Matthew 26:25; Matthew 26:49). There must also be some difference of feeling in the use of different titles in Luke 5:5 ‘Master (teacher, ἐπιστάτα), we have toiled all night’; and Luke 5:8, where Peter, after the miraculous draught of fishes, falls at the fect of Jesus with the cry, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (κύριε). But it is possible that the variation of title in the parallel passages may have taken place in the process of oral transmission, or in translation from the Aramaic.

5. The variation of title in addressing Jesus suggests that in the original language of the Gospels at least two titles were employed. Of these Ῥαββεί was one, cf. ‘ye call me Master (teacher) and Lord,’ John 13:13, and the frequent use of ‘Rabbi’ in the Gospels. Evidently ‘teacher’ (διδάσκαλος) is a translation of ‘Rabbi’ in some of its forms (רב, רבי, רבן). In 7 places Lk. uses ἐπιστάτης as a synonym for διδάσκαλος (Luke 5:5; Luke 8:24 bis. Luke 8:45; Luke 9:33; Luke 9:49; Luke 17:13), and, without doubt, some form of רב lies behind this also. As to the title κύριος (Lord), which is used so frequently in addressing Jesus, it is most probably a translation of מָרִי or מָרַנָא. It was a common name for a master, and was used as a title of courtesy. It was used by a servant to a master, by a debtor to a creditor, and by a layman to a learned man. It is possible, however, since many of the people of Palestine were bilingual, that κύριος was used by itself when one who knew Greek spoke to Jesus.

6. We thus suggest a twofold origin of the title as applied to Jesus. First, as the translation of the Aramaic titles in use among the disciples; and second, as the substitute for χριστός with confessional meaning among Gentiles. These distinctions of origin and meaning were soon lost in the gradual but rapid adoption of the title as one expressive of Divine honour. It is possible that this use of the title first became common among Eastern Christians.

7. In regard to the application of κύριος to God, it may be said that this was entirely due to the influence of Hellenistic Judaism. It is very unlikely that it was in use among Aramaic-speaking Jews at the time of our Lord. In reading the Scriptures in the synagogue in Hebrew, the name ארני (Lord) was read wherever the sacred name יהוה was found in the text. When it became necessary to translate the Scriptures into Aramaic in public reading, ארני still took the place of the sacred name. In quoting from the Scriptures ארני was not employed for the name of God, but הַשֵׁם (‘the Name’) in Hebrew, and שְׁמָא in Aramaic. In phrases of OT origin like ‘the angel of (the) Lord,’ the name of God was entirely omitted or merely hinted at.

Literature.—Dalman, The Words of Jesus, 324; Bruce, Apologetics, 398; Naville, The Christ, 144; Somerville, St. Paul’s Conception of Christ, 295; Spurgeon, The Messiah, 649: Expository Times, vol. xii. [1901] p. 425 ff., vol. xiii. p. 236 ff., vol. xv. p. 296 ff.: Deissmann, ibid. vol. xviii. p. 195 ff.; Lexicons of Cremer and Grimin-Thayer, s.v. κύριος.

John Reid.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lord (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/l/lord-2.html. 1906-1918.

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