The Differences Between “lord”, “Lord” and “LORD” In The Bible

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It can be very confusing to understand how the different titles used for God are used in the Bible. Part of the problem is that different Bible translations use the terms somewhat differently.

For example, in the in the King James Version (other versions will use these words similarly), you may have frequently come across the word “lord,” but you may not have noticed that this word is written three different ways: all lower-case letters (lord), all upper-case letters (LORD) and only the first letter in upper-case (Lord). Each of these styles of writing the word “lord” identifies different Hebrew words.

Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? (Genesis 18:12, KJV)

And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: (Genesis 18:3, KJV)

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; (Genesis 18:1, KJV)

lord

When you see the word “lord,” written in all lower-case letters, it is the Hebrew word אֲדוֹן (adonStrong’s #113) and means “lord” or “master,” one who has authority over another. In the example above (Genesis 18:12) this word is a description of Abraham, Sarah’s “lord.”

Whenever this word is written as “lord” (all lower-case), this word is referring to men, but when this word is referring to God, then the first letter is written in upper-case (see Exodus 23:17).

Lord

Besides the few times the Hebrew word אֲדוֹן (adon) is written as “Lord,” the word “Lord” (first letter in upper-case) is used for the Hebrew word אֲדֹנָי (Adonai, Strong’s #136). While this word is translated as “Lord,” it doesn’t exactly mean “Lord.”

As previously mentioned, the Hebrew word for “lord” is אֲדוֹן (adon). When this word is written in the first person, possessive (my lord), it is written as אדֹנִי (adoniy, see Genesis 18:12). The plural form of the word אֲדוֹן (adon) is אֲדֹנִים (adonim, see Exodus 26:19). The first person, possessive, plural form (my lords) is written as אֲדוֹנָי (adonai, see 1 Kings 22:17).

אֲדוֹןadonlord
אדֹנִיadoniymy lord
אֲדֹנִיםadonimlords
אֲדוֹנָיadonaimy lords

If the Hebrew word Adonai literally means “my lords,” why is it only translated as “Lord” so many times (see Exodus 4:13 as an example)? Most names attributed to God are in the plural including Elohiym (literally meaning “powers”) and Shaddai (literally meaning “my breasts”). The word Adonai (a plural word) is another name used for God that means “my lords.”

LORD

When the word “lord” is written in all upper-case letters (LORD), the Hebrew behind this word is the name of God, יהוה (YHWH).

Lord God and LORD God

And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? (KJV, Genesis 15:8)

In this verse Hebrew phrase Lord GOD is written in Hebrew as; אדני יהוה, which transliterates as; Adonai YHWH. The word Elohiym is the Hebrew word for “God.” But in Genesis 15:8 the word “god” is written in all upper-case because it is the KJV’s translation of the name Yahweh. Because the word Adonai means “lord,” they couldn’t translate this as “Lord LORD,” so they chose to use the word “god” for Yahweh and wrote it in all upper-case letters (Author’s Note: Just another case of a translation disregarding the actual Hebrew text).

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (KJV, Genesis 2:15)

In this verse the phrase “LORD God” is written in the Hebrew as; יהוה אלהים, which transliterates as; YHWH Elohiym. The name Yahweh (whose pronunciation is debated) is the name of the God of the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament, the KJV, and most other translations, translate the Hebrew name Yahweh as “LORD,” in all upper-case, and this is the case in Genesis 2:15. Following this word is the Hebrew word Elohiym, which is often translated as “God.”

Why Is ‘LORD’ Not In The New Testament?

In the Old Testament, all capital “LORD” is used when the English translators were translating the Tetragrammaton (the most holy name of God that was not spelled out entirely, but only using the four letters “YHWH”). That is the reason for the all caps emphasis (such as Genesis 18:1).

In the Old Testament, when the translators use the English “Lord” (only capitalizing the first letter) they are translating the word “adonay” or “adonai” in reference to God (like in Genesis 18:3).

Elsewhere, however, the translators have translated “adonay” as “lord” (not capitalizing anything). They do it like that because the word “adonay” does not necessarily refer to God; it can merely refer to someone in authority (such Abraham as Genesis 18:12).

In the Greek New Testament, there is no Tetragrammaton (YHWH), and that is why there is no English translation “LORD.” The Greek word used for God is “theos,” and the New Testament writers also followed Jesus’ lead by referring to God as “patēr” (meaning Father)

Also, the Greek word for “lord” is “kyrios” (pronounced very much like “curious”), so each time you see “Lord” or “lord” in the NT that is the word the translators are putting into English.

Most interestingly, the New Testament authors largely used the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the septuagint) when they quoted from the Old Testament. The Tetragrammaton was translated into Greek (in the septuagint) as “kyrios” or “lord,” just the same as “adonay.”

So, you won’t find any “LORD” in the New Testament because the authors were generally quoting from the Old Testament text which did not include the Tetragrammaton. But the same LORD of the Old Testament is the Lord of the New, and His attributes remain unchanged throughout the entire text of the Bible.

Originally Published On AncientHebrew.org and MarcMinter.com.


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