Yahweh = Adonai = Kurios = Jesus
One of the most amazing things that I’ve found in learning Greek is Paul’s use of Κύριος/Kurios (Lord) to exclusively refer to Jesus. You can see his use of it throughout his letters: “The Lord Jesus Christ”, “The Lord Jesus”, “Jesus our Lord”. What most people don’t realize is that Paul is making a huge point theologically in doing this...and so were other Apostles (more on this in a later blog). Let’s start at the beginning...
One of the main things that all must learn about the New Testament is that almost all of the Old Testament quotes are from the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Old Testament). One of the main things that all must learn about the Old Testament in English is that the English is translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic, not from the Greek Septuagint. Another BIG thing that people must realize about our English Bibles is that translators follow the tradition of the Jews in not “pronouncing” the name of God in translation. In the English Bible, the name is not "pronounced", it is just not translated or transliterated. We have replaced it with “The LORD” which is Adonai (my LORD) in Hebrew. The same thing was done in the Septuagint!
How many times does God’s name appear in the Old Testament in Hebrew? Give up? How about 6828 times! If you are a King James Version person, then you know this name to be “Jehovah”. Today, we know the name as Yahweh. Here are some points to consider:
• Yahweh occurs 6828 times in the Old Testament
• The Jews stopped speaking it about 400 to 350 BC
• Yahweh was replaced with "Adonai" ("My Lord") while being read out loud.
• When the Old Testament was translated into Greek (300 BC), Yahweh was translate from Adonai which is kurios/κύριος (Lord) in Greek.
So, how would our Old Testament look to us if God’s name were actually translated? Let’s take a look at the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.
If we include the name of God in the verse as it actually appears in the Hebrew, then it would be translated:
Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.
Now let’s fast-forward to around 300 BC. This is the time that he Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek. By this time, the Jews had stopped speaking the name of God. That presented a problem with translating the Hebrew into Greek. Since the Jews didn’t think it was appropriate to say the name of God in Hebrew, they also didn’t think is was appropriate to say it in Greek either. So, when it was translated into Greek, instead of translating or transliterating Yahweh, the Jews just translated what they would have said in a public reading. That would be Adonai. Adonai was translated into Greek as κύριος/ kurios (Lord). Modern translators do the same thing in today's English Bibles.
Now let’s fast-forward another 350 years to Paul’s letters. Here are a couple of quick things to take note of:
• Paul’s native language was Greek
• Paul was highly educated in the Septuagint and quoted from it exclusively
• Paul always uses κύριος to refer to Jesus in his letters
• Paul always replaces Yahweh with Jesus when using the Old Testament to point to Jesus.
Let’s look at an example passage in Philippians 2:9-11
9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν
καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα
τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα,
10 ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ
πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ
ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων
11 καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι
κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς
εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός.
9 and therefore God highly exalted him
and graced upon him the name,
the one above every name,
10 so that in the name of Jesus
every knee should bow
in heaven, on earth, and in the depths of the earth
11 and every tongue should confess that
the Lord is Jesus Christ
to glory of God the Father
A couple of things about this passage. 1. The article τὸ (the), that stands in front of the prepositional phrase ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα (above every name), refers to the noun that was previously mentioned in the passage. That noun is τὸ ὄνομα which is “the name”. 2. The phrase κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς (The Lord is Jesus Christ) has two subjects to the inferred "to be" verb “is”. In proper grammar, one of these nouns is called the predicate nominative. The passage can be translated as “The Lord is Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ is the Lord”.
So how does this prove that Paul is replacing Yahweh with Jesus? This passage in Philippians is actually an echo of Isaiah 45:18; 23b.
18 Οὕτως λέγει κύριος ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανόν...
23b ...ὅτι ἐμοὶ κάμψει πᾶν γόνυ καὶ ἐξομολογήσεται πᾶσα γλῶσσα τῷ θεῷ
18 Thus says the LORD (Yahweh), who made heaven...
23b ...that to me, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to God.
Paul’s echo of Isaiah 45:18-23 clearly shows that he is now placing Jesus in the role of Yahweh. More than that, we now know why such a common 1st century name (Jesus) is to be bowed down to. God bestows upon Jesus “the name above every name “name” which is Yahweh. That is why and how “every knee should bow...and every tongue should confess that The Lord (Yahweh) is Jesus Christ.”
***This is the 1st in a series of blogs on the topic that is presented in the title. For the most part, the material used here is taken from Gordon Fee’s book, Pauline Christology, but other sources may also be used going on additional blogs.