Interpreting the Word "Lord" in the NT

March 5, 2011

In the Greek version of the 39 books of the OT, 37* of them use the Greek word for Lord (kurios) to express the judicial actions or authority of God:

  • Gen. 6:5ff.; Exod. 9:3; Lev. 10:2; Num. 33:4; Deut. 32:36 
  • Jos. 24:20; Judg. 11:27; Ruth 1:17 
  • 1 Sam. 2:10; 2 Sam. 3:39; 1 Ki. 2:32; 2 Ki. 15:5; 1 Chr. 2:3; 2 Chr. 7:21 
  • Ezr. 9:15; Neh. 1:8; Est.  4:17* [the Hebrew does not have a word for Lord here or anywhere else in Esther] 
  • Ps. 7:7; Prov. 3:32-33; Job 42:7 
  • Isa. 1:24; Jer. 1:14; Lam. 1:5; Ezek. 5:8; Dan. 1:2 
  • Hos. 1:4; Joel 1:15; Amos 1:2; Obad. 1:1-2; Jon. 1:14 
  • Mic. 1:3; Nah. 1:2-3; Hab. 1:12; Zeph. 1:2-3; Hag. 1:9; Zech. 1:12; Mal. 1:4

Only Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon do not have the word in them. 

This Greek word for Lord is used profusely in the Greek Old Testament to communicate truth about God as the Judge. For example, the word is used more than 40 times just in Genesis alone in that way. Genesis also explicitly identifies the Lord (18:22-33) as the Judge of all the earth (18:25). Although I have not yet compiled the exact number of times kurios is used concerning the Lord in this sense, it is very likely well over 2500 times in the OT (In my dissertation research, I compiled more than 3700 verses in the OT concerning God as the Judge, and a high percentage of them use the word Lord for God.) 

Based on this data, we should understand that any one who was familiar with the Old Testament in Greek would have had the profound sense that this word with great frequency communicates truth about God as the Judge. Almost every book they would read in their Bibles would testify to them about the Lord as the Judge. When such a person would hear apostolic evangelistic proclamation about Jesus that declared Him to be the One that God has made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), what truth about Jesus would he very likely have understood the term to communicate (cf. the subsequent flow of thought in Acts 2:37ff.)? 

Along that line, of the 27 books in the Greek NT, 21 of them use the word to express the judicial actions or authority of God or Jesus in some manner: 

  • Matt. 7:22-23; Mk. 12:9 (human master; clear implicit significance for Christ); Lk. 13:25-28; John 8:11 
  • Acts 2:20; Rom. 9:28; 1 Co. 4:4-5; 2 Co. 5:10-11 
  • Eph. 6:9; Phil. 2:11 (those under the earth will not bow to Him willingly, but they will be forced to do so; cf. Rom 14:11); Col. 3:24 
  • 1 Thess. 4:6; 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:16 
  • Heb. 10:30; Jas. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:12; 2 Pet. 2:9; Jude 1:5; Rev. 15:4 

Galatians and Philemon do have the word, but they do not have any clear uses of it to convey someone who renders judgment. Four books (Titus and the Johannine Epistles) do not have any occurrences of the word. 

The Greek word for Lord communicates truth about God as the Judge in 58 of the 66 books of the Bible in Greek. When key statements in the New Testament speak of Jesus as Lord, we must interpret them in light of this data.

Rajesh

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2 responses to Interpreting the Word "Lord" in the NT

  1. it is certainly a frighting truth about God being our judge. If we really took this concept in mind in everything we do in this life, we might have some many regrets for the things we have done in the past. Thank you for this encouraging thought.