Monday, March 28, 2011

Yahweh = Adonai = Κύριος = Ἰησοῦς

or 

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.

22 comments:

  1. You might find Larry Hurtado's "Lord Jesus Christ" worth reading.

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  2. Thanks Stephen and Stirling! Stirling, I'l check out the book!

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  3. So in fact Paul, who is a one God believing Jew is saying Jehovah is Jesus Christ. Immanuel God with us. Which God? The Only God.

    Wow, this is powerful insight that affirms the numerical identity of God as one. Deut. 6:4

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  4. Thanks for posting! : )

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  5. Sir, my question is, "Why don't we see Lord in all caps when it is used by Paul and the others referring to Jesus as YHWH? It is in all caps in other places in the NT when referring to YHWH but why not when used in reference to Jesus as YHWH?

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  6. Jennifer, are you referring to the OT instead of the NT? Nowhere in the NT is "lord" ever in all upper case. It is capitalized in the NT. As to why English translations don't render it "LORD" is because in the NT, κύριος (lord) is what's being translated, not YHWH. By the 1st century, κύριος is used because YHWH was no long spoken nor written and any Greek New Testament nor Greek Old Testament manuscripts.

    I hope this answers your question. If not, please leave another comment. God Bless!

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    1. Good point, Hebrew to English it gets CAPTIALIZED. But with Greek to English the Greek word no longer is attached to Yahweh, due to being once remove in by the simple process of translation. So now in the NT it hold it's Greek meaning alone

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  7. Brother Beatty, what about all these internet guys claiming that Yahweh and Jehovah are made up by evil monks and masons trying to inject Jehovah into the scriptures? I feel that they are kooks but they make very good arguments to a Greek novice. Have you seen their claims and what do you think?

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  8. Brother Beatty,
    When Moses was at the burning bush God told him to tell them I Am has sent you. Later Jesus said before Abraham was I AM. Are these related and we should be able to know what Jesus said when He said I Am. So why don't we call God I Am instead of Adoni-Jehovah-Yahweh or anything else? I just don't get it, LOL.

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  9. The folks who claim that Yahweh was made up in later times are just behind times. The Dead Sea Scrolls predate the masoretic text by some 1000 to 1200 years and the divine name appears in them.

    As to the meaning of Yahweh, it doesn't mean "I am". It "might" mean "you are". Jesus indeed used "I am" to show his authority. Since Jesus taught us to refer to God as "our father", I tend to like calling him that.

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  10. Hello Brother,
    Just had a quick question.

    I am very knowledgeable in the old testament and new. But I noticed YHVH speaks to YHVH many times. How could we difference The Son from the Father?

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  11. I've been having some "lovingly spiritual debates" with a Facebook friend who is telling me the trinity is made up by Satan.... How does the Jesus and God "Father" being "One only" resolve when in places like the baptism of Christ when a voice came down from heaven (His Father) saying to lots of witnesses..."This is my Son, in Whom I'm well pleased. Listen to Him". How does this explain in Revelation when Jesus (Son) removes the crown from His head and hands it to His Father? As Jesus being our model of submitting to a "Higher Authority"outside of ourselves.... and worshiping God the Father Almighty knowing it was only His Son Jesus that makes it possible.... how does these get resolved?

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    1. Jeffrey A. Potter, this is a debate that has been going on since the 2nd or 3rd Century. I tend to fall into the camp of "how can we understand the One whom we can't be fully understood from a human perspective?" We can put God in a box or we can let God be God (which he will do in spite of us trying to put him in a box!).

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    2. Think of it like a kingdom; King (God,) Prince (Jesus,) and messenger (Holy Spirit/HG). The King rules on His throne and sends the Prince to mingle with the people, to represent the people back to the King and to represent the King to the people. Even though there is only one part of the Kingdom in our midst the whole Kingdom is present. The same is true after the resurrection when Jesus the Prince sent His messenger (Holy Spirit/comforter/counselor) now the Holy Spirit is representative of God among us and even though only one piece is in our midst the whole Kingdom is represented and present....I hope that made sense.

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  12. If those who tend to reject the Trinity should stop reading after Genesis1 because God continued to Reveal Himself and so why think it strange that Grace and Truth Came by Jesus Christ,Truth of God,who He is revealed in Fullness,if God desired to reveal Himself in portions why not in Fullness..? We worship God not our "idea" of God.peace

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  13. Another homerun my Brother! Thank you.

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  14. The Bible that we have now is already 'super-translated' before it came to English. So, if 'ego eimi' ['I am' in Greek] were blasphemy in the first place, people before Jesus would have been stoned to death already. They picked up the stones because they are trying to have something to accuse him. I believe only in what Jesus teaches. I somehow doubt his disciples since their views have quite irreconcilable differences. And as I have read from Jesus' testimonies, he is sent, he speaks for the One who sent him, and he has a God.

    Plus, I doubt that John the Apostle really is the author of the Gospel with his name. He could drop some of the things that Christ has done in his ministry; but, come on, Peter, James, and John was with Christ in 'The Transfiguration,' how could only his Gospel in the Bible have none to say in account of such remarkable event.

    [Rev. 22:18,19]"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Do you guys think this warning was written for no reason at all?

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  15. Good stuff! More understanding and revelation to you all.

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  16. I heard this in a sermon by a Jewish Messianc. He was teaching from the Book of James. He made the same comments regarding Lord Jesus Christ. Lord is an OT Testment Label, for Yahweh.

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