"The Lord"

This word occurs 717 times in the New Testament; we shall not be looking at them all. One good reason for looking
carefully at such a common word is that it is so common that the eye can easily slide over it without really registering its significance - just as, all too often, the word can slide unthinkingly off our tongues in prayer or worship. In one sense, then, this study is a consciousness-raising exercise for one of the most important words in scripture. But it is also, I hope, a valuable linguistic exercise, for ‘kurios’ can have several meanings, or shades of meaning, so that translators use different words in English to translate the same Greek noun. Although in each individual context this is clearly helpful, it does in a number of instances obscure interesting and valuable implications or connotations that are to be found in the original text. These passages we shall look at in detail later; we shall also focus on the vocative form of the noun, ‘kurie’, familiar today in its liturgical use as part of the three-part prayer for mercy, the ‘kyrie eleison’ (‘Lord, have mercy’), and familiar, too, in modern Greek, where it simply means ‘sir’. First, however, we need to look at the various meanings which this word can have. In classical Greek it is more common as an adjective, meaning ‘having authority',, and this basic sense it reflected in all the usages of ‘kurios’ as a noun.

[1] 'kurios' in the LXX: 'Yahweh'
'the angel of the Lord'

It is used in the Septuagint (‘LXX’) over 6,000 times to translate the Hebrew ‘Yahweh’, and so means ‘the Lord God’; we shall certainly not be looking at all these. Many of the NT occurrences of ‘kurios’ in this sense are quotations from the OT; one example will suffice: “Love the Lord (‘kurion’, accusative form) your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22.37 = Deut. 6.5). In addition to such direct quotations, ‘kurios’ is also used in a number of phrases commonly found in the OT, such as ‘the law of the Lord’ (Luke 2. 23. 24. 39), ‘the name of the Lord’ and ‘the hand of the Lord’. One of the most frequently used of these is ‘angelos kuriou’, ‘the angel of the Lord’, who appears, so described, in the nativity narratives in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke. Matthew uses the phrase again, perhaps as a flashback echo of the earlier ones, in the resurrection narrative of his final chapter, where ‘the angel of the Lord’ from heaven rolls away the stone from the tomb to reveal that Jesus is risen from the dead. Luke also uses the phrase again several times in the first half of Acts, perhaps suggesting a parallel between the angelic activity surrounding the birth of Jesus with the angels who were so active at the birth and in the infancy of the church. ‘The angel of the Lord’ freed the apostles from prison (5.19), directed Philip into the desert for his meeting with the Ethiopian (8.26), appeared in a vision to Cornelius (10.3), and finally freed Peter from prison (12. 7). Again, it is possible to see a deliberate pattern here (such patterning is characteristic of Luke’s narrative technique), with the two prison rescues framing the two angelic interventions needed to prepare the way for the gospel to reach the gentiles. The one recorded instance where Paul experienced such an angelic visitation occurs right at the end of Acts, during the great storm which led to his shipwreck on the voyage to Rome. Here, however, Paul is recounting his experience in direct speech to a gentile audience of sailors and Roman soldiers: “This night an angel of the God I serve appeared to me”. To an audience not familiar with the Jewish scriptures, the phrase ‘an angel of the Lord’ was not appropriate; but this verse does remind us that this use of ‘kurios’ is simply a synonym for God.

[2] 'kurios' as an earthly ruler, master or owner
Ephesians 6.5-9, Gal 3.23-41

‘Kurios’ is also used to refer to earthly rulers, and all those who have some kind of power or authority over their fellow men, whether as kings or rulers, or as landowners, householders or owners of slaves. In the gospels we find a number of examples of this usage in the parables of Jesus: the landowner in the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt. 13.27), the king who wants to settle accounts with his servants in the parable of the two debtors (Matt. 18 21-34), and, in the parable of the talents, the master who entrusts his servants with his money while he is away (Matt. 25. 14-30). Luke, too, uses ‘kurios’ to refer to the master of the dishonest steward in that parable (16. 1-8), and to the householder who hosts a great banquet (14. 15-24). But perhaps the most memorable occurrence of ‘kurios’ in this sense in the gospels is Jesus’ stark statement in the sermon on the mount “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 16.24). Equally challenging, in its way, but rather more heart-warming, are Jesus’ wonderfully gracious words to his eleven disciples (Judas has, by now, gone out into the night) “I no longer call you servants, for the servant does not know what his ‘kurios’ does; you I have called friends.” (John 15.15). Two examples from Acts show the wide social range it can encompass. In Philippi Paul is harassed by a slave-girl (in gentile society ‘slave’ is more appropriate than ‘servant’ as a translation for ‘doulos’, though this is the same word I have translated as ‘servant’ in the verse from John quoted above). This slave, we are told, earned her owners (‘kurioi’, the plural form of ‘kurios’) a great deal of money by fortune-telling. It is, incidentally, a telling indictment of the inhumanity of slavery that ‘kurioi’, used here of the owners of a slave-girl, is used in Luke 19.33 to refer to the owners of the donkey on which Jesus rode in triumph into Jerusalem - a passage we shall revisit. Similarly, it is a telling indication of the sentimentality of the English that this same word, ‘kurioi’, when used of the owners of dogs by the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15.27) is regularly translated ‘masters’ rather than ‘owners’ - “the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ tables.” At the other end of the social scale from this sleazy bunch who owned the slave-girl, though perhaps just as sleazy, is the emperor Nero himself. The Roman governor Festus tells King Agrippa that his prisoner Paul has appealed to Caesar, but “I have no reliable information to write to the ‘kurios’, i.e. ‘our lord and master’. Finally, in the epistles Paul enables us both to revise and anticipate. In parallel passages in Ephesians 6. 5-9 and Galatians 3. 23 - 4.1, he tells slaves to “obey their masters in the flesh”, i.e. their earthly masters, because they are actually the slaves, or servants, of Jesus the ‘Kurios’ (anticipation !) , and they will be rewarded for their obedience by ‘the Lord’ - God himself (revision !). Similarly, slave-owners (‘masters’) are told that they are to treat their slaves justly and humanely (literally, “relaxing the threat”), because they themselves are answerable to the ‘kurios’ in heaven.

[3] 'kurios' with a genitive: 'Lord of ---'
Gal 4.1-7

‘Kurios’ is sometimes used with an accompanying genitive to define the area over which someone has power or authority. This third category, therefore, does not necessarily offer us a different meaning for ‘kurios’, since it can generally be translated ‘lord’, but rather a specific usage; and once again our examples remind us of the first category, God himself, and look forward to our next, Jesus. Our first example is Jesus’ prayer to his Father in Matthew 11. 25-7
(= Luke 10.21-2 - for some reason 25-6 in Matthew are combined into a single verse, 21, in Luke). Matthew’s version, otherwise more or less identical to Luke’s, introduces the prayer, literally, thus: “In that time, replying Jesus said ---”, as though we were suddenly breaking into a conversation between Jesus and his Father (the word ‘replying’ is omitted from the NIV ). Luke’s introduction is equally intriguing, suggesting that this is a three-way conversation: “In that very hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said ---”. So what did he pray ? “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth ---”: authority cannot extend further than this. Paul, addressing the Athenian Areopagus (Acts 17.24), develops this idea: God is ‘Lord of heaven and earth’ for the very good reason that “he made the universe and everything in it”. Our next example is also found in nearly identical passages in Matthew and Luke, though the context in each is slightly different. In Luke, after several would-be disciples have turned back (9. 57-62), Jesus chooses and sends out 70 (or 72) disciples into his ‘harvest field’, saying: “the harvest is great, but the workers are few; so ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (10.2). In Matthew (9.37-8), this statement seems to be prompted less by the fewness of faithful disciples and more by the size of the harvest and Jesus’ compassion for the crowds, who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”, and the workers here are even fewer, for this passage precedes the sending out of the 12. But this double reminder that it is God who is ‘Lord of the harvest’ should be a great encouragement to all those working in his harvest-fields, however few they may seem and however weak they may feel: if the seed of the gospel is faithfully sown, the harvest depends ultimately not on our labours but on God’s sovereign grace. For our next example we move from agriculture to viticulture. In Matthew 20 and 21 Jesus tells two parables , each about a ‘master of a household’ who owned a vineyard as part of his estate (the word for ‘master’ here is not, for once, ‘kurios’ but ‘despotes’, whence, of course, the English ‘despot’). In the first parable, the ‘lord’ or ‘owner’ (‘kurios’) of the vineyard hires workers at different times throughout the day, but pays them all the same at the end of the day; and in the second, he entrusts his vineyard to stewards, or tenants, while away, who refuse to give him any of its fruit, beating his servants and killing his son. Here again we clearly have a picture of God the Father, with the vineyard representing Israel, as in Isaiah 5. 1-2. In each case, God’s authority over the workers he has hired and the vineyard he has planted is challenged, in the first parable with grumbling, and the second with violence. These reactions to God’s authority by those who live in the world he has made are typical not just of the Jewish nation but of all mankind. Our next example ascribes lordship not to the Father but to the Son. All three synoptic gospels record a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees when his disciples, walking through a cornfield, pluck and eat some of the grain - on the Sabbath. Each account ends with the (almost) identical words “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath”, and each evangelist puts ‘kurios’ first word in the sentence for emphasis. Mark goes further, adding a small but significant word to Jesus’ claim: “the Son of Man is lord also of the Sabbath”, or “even of the Sabbath” (NIV, Mark 2.28), the implication being that he is Lord of everything else as well - that he is, in fact, God himself. This same point is made by another instance of the same form of words being used in two different contexts. In his glorious extended doxology at the end of his first letter to Timothy (6.15), Paul describes God as “King of kings and Lord of lords”, echoing a similar description by God himself in Deuteronomy 10.17: “for the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords”. But in the Book of Revelation Paul’s description of God the Father is applied to “the Lamb”, God the Son (Rev. 17.14, and again in 19.16), our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28.18). This leads us on conveniently to our final category - but first there is one more example to look at under this heading, surprising but wonderfully encouraging. In Galatians chapter 4 Paul develops an elaborate analogy to illustrate the difference between the era of law and the age of faith - between OT and NT religion. He has just ended chapter 3 with the ringing assurance to his readers that, regardless of race, gender or social status, “you are all one in Christ Jesus”, and so equally “heirs” of the promise made to Abraham hundreds of years before, and hundreds of years (Paul says 430) before the law was given. He then develops this idea of an heir into the analogy of the young son of a rich Roman family; while he is still a minor, though he is “lord (‘kurios’) of everything”, or “of the whole estate” (v.1), he is treated no better than a slave, being subject to the authority of guardians and tutors - in chapter 3 (v.24) Paul had described the law as a “pedagogue”, the slave who escorted a boy to school. And just as for the boy his coming-of-age brings his freedom, so the coming of Christ brings freedom from subservience to the law for all who put their faith in him. The further implication of this analogy, of course, is that, just as the Roman boy is now free to enter into his inheritance as ‘lord’ of the estate, so Christians can look forward not just to being with Christ in heaven (and to being like him, 1 John 3.7), but also, in some way, to sharing his Lordship over God’s new creation: a glorious hope indeed!

[4] Jesus as 'kurios'
(a) in Revelation

Our fourth category consists of those uses of ‘kurios’ which refer to Jesus as Lord. As such, it is used only sparingly by the gospel writers, as we shall see, but with increasing frequency in Acts, and ubiquitously in the epistles. We will begin, however, in Revelation, where the Lordship and deity of Jesus is most fully revealed, with a verse familiar to all who know and love Handel’s “Messiah”. At the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the heavenly choir sings: “the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (11.15). Notice here the singular verb: “he shall reign”: “our Lord” and “his Christ” are clearly one and the same person - or, more accurately, two and the same. Similarly, in 20.6 we read that the martyrs who did not bow the knee to the beast “will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him for a thousand years”; again, notice the singular “him”. And just as the Father and the Son are (is ?) one, so the titles used to describe the Father are used equally of the Son. There are three such titles, all virtually synonymous, each used three times in Revelation: “Alpha and Omega” (1.8. 21.6, 22.13); “the first and the last” (1.17. 2.8, 22.13); and “the one who was and is and is to come” (1.4, 1.8, 4.8). To these a fourth trio could be added: “the beginning and the end”. This is included in the titles in 21.6 and 22.13, but is missing from many MSS in 1.8, and so from modern texts and translations, but is included in the AV. The parallel with the other three threes suggests that the AV may have got it right. There is also an interesting parallel here with Hebrews 12.2, where Jesus is described as “the author and finisher of our faith”, or “the beginner and ender”: the two words are derived from the two words used in this phrase in Revelation. The second half of chapter 1 (12-20) is clearly a glorious vision of the risen and ascended Christ - “one like the Son of Man” (v.13). He tells John “I am the first and the last” (v.17); this is the full “I am”, using both pronoun and verb, which represents the OT title of God. This phrase is repeated in 2.8 as the title of the sender of the letter to the church at Smyrna; all seven letters are from Jesus to his churches. The third of this trio occurs right at the end of the book, 22.13: “I am coming quickly --- I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” These are clearly the words of Jesus, the “one who is to come”. This is a Messianic title: when John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, has a dark moment of doubt, he sends disciples to Jesus to ask him “Are you ‘the one who is coming’, or should we look for another ?” (Matt. 11.3, Luke 7.19) Jesus is still ‘the one who is coming’, the second time in glory and judgement. At the beginning of this chapter (21.1 and 3), the throne in the New Jerusalem is described as “the throne of God and of the Lamb; again, they seem to be two, yet the same. At the very beginning of Revelation (1.4-5) John greets the seven churches with the words familiar from most of the preceding epistles, wishing them “grace and peace” from the Father - “the one who was and is and is to come”, the Spirit - “the seven Spirits before his throne”, and the Son, “ruler of the kings of the earth” ( an echo, or pre-echo, of his title “King of kings”). But if God the Father is “the one who is to come”, he will do so in the person of his Son, as verse 7 makes clear. The first part of the verse, “Behold, I come with the clouds”, is quoted from Daniel 7.13-14, the origin of the Messianic title ‘Son of Man’; Jesus quoted this verse, applying it to himself, both in his prophetic description of the end-times (Matt. 24.30, = Mark 13.26, Luke 21.27), and at his trial before the Sanhedrin, in answer to Caiaphas’s direct question “are you the Christ, the Son of God ?” (Matt.23.63-4, = Mark 14.61-2). The second half of the verse, “every eye shall see him, and those who crucified him” (literally ‘pierced’) is taken from Zechariah 12.10, and clearly refers to Jesus and his second coming. Then we come to verse 8: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, ‘the one we Lord God, ' Omega"10, and clearly refers to Jesus and his second coming. Then we come to verse 8: "4.30, = Mark 13.26ho was and is and is to come, the Almighty”. Not only does the context suggest that these are the words of Jesus, but also the parallelism with his words in v.18: “I am --- the one who lives and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” One final passage makes the same point, 21.6: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last”. Who speaks these words ? “The one seated on the throne”, but he talks to John, and tells him “write”. This is the 12th. occurrence in Revelation of the imperative form ‘grapson’ (from ‘grapho’, whence all those -graph suffixes in English); such numbers seem to be significant in this book. All the previous eleven instances have been spoken by Jesus, or by “a great voice”, which proved to be the voice of Jesus in chapter 1. Another indication that Jesus is the speaker here is the “great voice from the throne” (21.3) - the voice of Jesus again ? - proclaiming “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men, and he will dwell with them.” As reflected in this translation (but not in NIV), noun and verb are related: the noun, ‘skene’, means ‘a tent’, and the verb is the same as that used by John in his gospel to describe the wonder of the incarnation, “he dwelt among us”, or “pitched his tent among us” (1.14). Lastly, the lovely words that follow the “I am” declaration, “to him who is thirsty I will give (to drink) of the spring of the water of life freely” echo the words of Jesus in John 4. 14 to the Samaritan woman at the well: “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst again”. There is much in Revelation that is not clear, nor is it reasonable to expect in it the logical consistency of a Pauline epistle; it is, after all, a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of apocalyptic images rather than a carefully constructed argument. One indication of this is that the standard Greek word for ‘therefore’ (‘oun’), so beloved by Paul, is found more times in Romans chapter 11 (7) than in the whole of Revelation ! But one thing is as clear as the crystal sea surrounding the throne in chapter 4: one of the greatest revelations of Revelation is that Jesus is Lord. All that is true of God the Father, in terms of his character and status, is true of God the Son, and all the heavenly worship of God is as much worship of the Son as of the Father: “Holy, holy , holy, Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (4.8). This revelation that Father and Son are equally almighty (‘pantokrator’ - used 9 times in this book) led to frequent portraits of ‘Christos Pantocrator’ in early Christian art; how tragic that “Christ almighty” is now so often used not as a hymn of praise but, with casual blasphemy, as a swearword!

(b) in Paul's letters
1 Cor 8.4-6

When we move to the epistles, matters are rather more straightforward. But it is worth looking first at a passage in 1 Corinthians (8.4-6) where there is some similarity to what we have seen in Revelation. Paul is talking about eating food offered to idols, first theologically and later pastorally. The theology is clear (4) “we” (i.e. mature Christians) “know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no god but one; (5) and even if there are so-called ‘gods’ in heaven and earth - as indeed there are many such ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ - (6) yet for us there is one God, the Father from whom all things exist, and we exist for him, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom everything exists, and we exist through him.” Verse 6 contains no verb in the Greek, so translation is difficult, because English requires verbs; the general principle when a verb is lacking in Greek is to supply either the verb last used, or a part of the verb ‘to be’ - which makes things easier in this case, since the last verb used (twice, in v.5) is ‘are’; I have used ‘exist’, which seems to work more naturally than the AV’s ‘is’ and ‘are’, and is closer to the Greek than NIV’s variety of (entirely appropriate) verbs. But however it is translated, the theology is clear: the ‘one God’ in verse 4 becomes one God in two persons in verse 6, “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Uniqueness is predicated equally of ‘God the Father’ and of ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’, and the wonder of creation is attributed equally to both, and in both equally can ‘we’ - mankind in general and Christians in particular - find true life and fulfilment.

(c) in Hebrews
Heb 13.20-21

This same truth is found also in the letter to the Hebrews. Here, ‘kurios’ is used 16 times (the brief study of Revelation has got me counting!); 11 of these are quotations from the OT in the LXX translation - as we saw in the first category of its uses. In two other instances the writer uses ‘kurios’ to refer to God the Father. In 8.2 he talks of “the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man”; and in 12.14 he urges his readers to be holy, for “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. But the remaining three usages clearly refer to Jesus. In 2.3 he talks of the salvation “which was first announced by the Lord”, and “was confirmed by those who heard him” - the apostles. Then in 7.14, as part of his argument that Jesus was “a priest in the order of Melchizedek”, he points out that “by birth our Lord was descended from Judah”, which was not the priestly tribe; and finally, in his concluding benediction (13.20-21), the writer invokes “the God of peace who --- brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep”. Here, as elsewhere in the NT, it is the Father who raised his Son from the dead on Easter Day, but they are both equally ‘Lord’ - one Lord in two persons.

(d) the Holy Spirit as 'Lord'
2 Cor 3.16-18

What, then, of the third person of the Trinity? So far he has been sadly missing, as he so often is in our experience, both individually and as the church. The reason for his absence here, of course, is that we are looking at the word ‘kurios’, which is not used of the Holy Spirit - except in one glorious passage. We need to return to Corinth, this time to the second letter. In the last three verses of chapter 3 (16-18), ‘kurios’ is used five times. In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the old covenant - the letter of the law that brings death - with the new covenant, the Spirit who gives life. When Moses received the law on Mount Sinai, he was so transformed by the glory of God that, when he came down from the mountain, he had to veil his face so that the Israelites could look at him. Paul uses this veil, which concealed the glory of God, as an image of the blindness of the Jews “to this day” (i.e. Paul’s day, and, alas, our own) to the truth of their own scriptures; “only in Christ” can this veil be removed (v.14). But, he goes on (v.16), “whenever someone turns to the Lord” (i.e. to Christ, as in v.14), “the veil is taken away. (17) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (18) And we” (i.e. Christians) “who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (unlike the radiance of Moses’ face, which faded), “which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”. The phrase “the Spirit of the Lord” is familiar from the OT, most notably, perhaps, in the verse from Isaiah (61.1) quoted by Jesus at the start of his ministry in Luke 4.18 ff.: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ---”. This, again, is the LXX ‘kurios’, equivalent to ‘God’. Now, twice in quick succession ( so that we should get the point) Paul tells us that “the Lord is the Spirit”, and makes it clear that ‘the Lord’ is also Jesus, who, through the power of his Spirit, can make us more like him in ‘the beauty of holiness’. Here, then, are all the three Persons of the Trinity gloriously united in one Godhead, yet gloriously different in the ways we relate to them, though each is ‘Lord’ of our lives.

(e) 'in the Lord'
Philemon 16

But this reference to the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord’ is exceptional; elsewhere in the epistles ‘kurios’ is used almost exclusively to refer to Jesus - too often to count, but more than 8 columns of citations in my concordance, which has about 40 entries per column. We will just look at two usages which are particularly common. The first is exclusively Pauline, the phrase ‘in the Lord’, which he uses about 40 times. Philemon 16 gives us an idea of what Paul means by this expression. Philemon’s slave Onesimus (which is the Greek for ‘useful’) has run away from his master and become a Christian, presumably through Paul’s ministry, since he refers to him as his ‘son’ (v.10); he in turn has become a ‘useful’ minister to Paul in his imprisonment. Now he is sending him back to Philemon “no longer as a slave, but as much more than a slave, a beloved brother to me particularly, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord”. (Only ‘in the Lord’, incidentally, can the same person be both one’s son and one’s brother!) “In the flesh” refers to a natural human friendship, but ‘in the Lord’ expresses the particular bond of shared love for and loyalty to Christ as Lord which unites - or should unite - all Christians everywhere. Earlier, Paul has used the equivalent phrase ‘in Christ’ in his appeal to Philemon, saying that although he could easily use the ‘boldness’ or ‘authority’ which he has ‘in Christ’ to command him to do what is right, in fact he is appealing to him in love. ‘In Christ’ implies that, as a Christian, Philemon recognises Paul’s apostolic authority, but Paul prefers to ask rather than to instruct, appealing to human emotions rather than to Christian obedience - the same distinction that is being made in v.16.

ii Romans 16.1-16.22

The other passage worth looking at in this context is Romans 16, which consists largely of personal greetings from Paul to Christians in Rome. But to begin with, he asks the Romans to “receive our sister Phoebe in the Lord”, that is, recognising the special bond of kinship which unites all Christians everywhere, and responding with practical love and hospitality. Then follows a list of the greetings Paul conveys; in verses 3-16 he uses the imperative (plural) form of the verb ‘greet’ (‘aspasasthe’) 16 times, mentioning by name 26 members of the church in Rome, in almost every case adding a descriptive phrase or clause. The final instance in verse 16 is “greet one another”. Within these descriptions the phrase ‘in the Lord’ occurs 5 times, and the obviously equivalent phrase ‘in Christ’ 4 times; in neither phrase is the definite article used, so that a literal translation would be ‘in Lord’, parallel both in meaning and in form to ‘in Christ’. These phrases are all adverbial, attached either to a verb or to an adjective derived from a verb. Two parallel examples are instructive: Paul says (v.7) of his relatives Andronikos and Junias that “they became” (or “were born” ?) “in Christ before I was”, that is, they became Christians before Paul did; and then in verse 11 he sends greetings to those in the house-church of Narcissus “who are in the Lord”. To be a Christian is to be in Christ, to belong to him, to be part of his body, the church, both the universal church and the local church. So to be “beloved in the Lord” (v.8), “approved in Christ” (v.10), and “chosen in the Lord” (v.13) refer both to the assurance Christians have in their special relationship with Jesus, and to the love which they therefore have in their special relationship with other Christians. As well as describing a Christian’s status, these two phrases also relate to Christian service. Again, two parallel expressions are instructive. In verse 6, Paul says of Maria that “she worked hard for your sakes” (literally, “into you”); the same verb (‘kopio’, to ‘toil’ or ‘labour’) is used again twice in verse 12, first of Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who “work hard in the Lord”, and then of Persis who “has done much hard work in the Lord”. This reminds us that Christian service is, appropriately, cross-shaped: horizontally, it is motivated by love for others (“for your sake”), and a passionate desire to bring them into the light and life of Christ; vertically, it is done for the sake of Christ and in the strength of Christ - ‘in the Lord’. In the same way, both Prisca (a.k.a. Priscilla) and Aquila (v.3) , and Urbanus (v.9), are described as “fellow-workers in Christ”; again, we have the two dimensions of Christian service, working in fellowship and partnership with other Christians, but all working ‘in Christ’, belonging to him and upheld by him. There is one final example, a ‘p.s.’ at the end of the chapter (v.22), added by Tertius, Paul’s amanuensis. A translation preserving the actual word-order of the Greek reads: “I greet you, I, Tertius, the one who wrote this letter in the Lord”. In defiance of this word-order, and of the 16 previous examples of greeting, in none of which does ‘in the Lord’ belong to the verb ‘greet’, NIV translates “I Tertius --- greet you in the Lord”. This is a pity, because the idea of writing a letter ‘in the Lord’, i.e. as an expression of love for others and as an act of service to Christ, and guided by his Spirit, is both a challenge and an encouragement to us as we take up our pens to write a letter - or sit at our computers to dash off an e-mail!

(f) the beginnings and endings of Paul's letters

The other most common usage of ‘kurios’ as a title of Jesus in the Pauline epistles is itself in two separate categories, the beginnings and endings of the letters. Romans 1.7 sets the pattern for Paul’s opening greeting to his readers: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and [from] [the] Lord Jesus Christ”. This form (and order) of words is echoed exactly in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, and, surprisingly, perhaps, for such a short letter, Philemon. The other letters vary this formula, but Titus 1.4 substitutes “Christ Jesus our Saviour” for “Jesus Christ our Lord”; in fact, ‘kurios’ does not appear in Titus at all, alone of the Pauline epistles (nor does it appear in any of John’s three epistles, though he does end Revelation with “may the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all”). Paul addresses the Colossians as “brothers in Christ”, and then omits “Lord Jesus Christ” from the ensuing formula. In all Paul’s letters to the churches, this opening salutation is followed by either a thanksgiving addressed to God the Father (“I” or “we thank” or “ought to thank”), or an expression of praise to God, of which 2.Corinthians 1.3 and Ephesians 1.3 are identical examples: “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is interesting to note that Peter uses exactly the same form of words at the beginning of his first letter (1.3), and also that all three ‘blessings’ are followed by an ‘article + participle’ construction: “he who encourages us” (2. Cor. 1.4), “he who has blessed us” (Eph. 1.3), and “he who has given us new birth” (1 Peter 1.3), But then, of course, we know from Peter’s second letter (3.15-6) that he is familiar with all Paul’s letters to the churches. The one Pauline letter which breaks this pattern is Galatians, where “I thank God” is replaced by “I am amazed that you have so quickly fallen away”; his disappointment and exasperation are thus emphasised by this contrast with all the other letters. And just as there is a recognisable pattern in the openings of Paul’s letters, so is there in his closing prayers for his readers: all the epistles end with variations on the theme “may the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you”. It is worth noting that the only one of these closing prayers that makes mention of God the Father is the fullest and most familiar of them all, 2 Corinthians 13 14, which has become a permanent part of our liturgy - even in churches which do not believe in liturgy ! It makes a fitting conclusion to this section: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

(g) from 'Jesus' to 'Lord'

This, then, is the unanimous testimony of the epistles and of Revelation: Jesus is Lord, God himself in human form, and so distinct from his heavenly Father, yet the same, and equal in authority, ‘Lord’ in the NT just as Jehovah is ‘Lord’ in the OT. How was it, then, that the early church, and particularly the disciples of Jesus, came to believe this momentous - this incredible - truth? All Jews absorbed, as it were with their mothers’ milk, the one fundamental truth which defined their nation and differentiated them from all the heathen polytheists who surrounded them: “Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Deut. 6.4, quoted by Jesus in Mark 12.29, and 6.13, quoted by him in Matt.4.10). How did they become so convinced that the Jesus of Nazareth that they had known and followed for three years was God himself that ‘Jesus is Lord’ became the first and most fundamental creed of the early church? We shall revisit the epistles, and even Revelation, from time to time, but now we shall focus on the gospels, and then Acts, to see how this great truth gradually emerged into the consciousness of the disciples and ultimately became their creed.

[5] 'kurie' as a form of address
(a) not addressed to Jesus
John 12.21, Rev 7.14, Matt 27.63

We shall look first, as promised at the beginning of this chapter, at ‘kurios’ in its vocative form ‘kurie’ - or ‘kyrie’ as it is more accurately transliterated in the liturgical ‘kyrie eleison’. Translation, too, is often a problem here: the translator needs to find a word appropriate to the context, whether ‘lord’, ‘master’ or ‘sir’ (perhaps ‘boss’, or even ‘squire’ in more colloquial versions !), but in doing so inevitably loses some of the subtleties, or ironies, implicit in using the same word in different contexts. We will begin by looking at three examples where the vocative is not addressed to Jesus himself, examples which show the range of meanings and implications that ‘kurie’ can have - though all three imply some kind of authority, the idea at the heart of all forms of ‘kurios’. The first is in John 12.21: some Greeks approach the disciple Philip and say “Sir, we want to see Jesus”. They clearly believe that Philip is in a privileged position as one of the twelve, and can therefore effect the introduction which they are seeking. This example is typical of many where the address ‘kurie’ prefaces a request for some kind of help or favour, and could be labelled “the ‘kurie’ of polite respect”. At the other end of the scale is the ‘kurie’ expressing reverence, and for this we need to return to Revelation (7.14). Here, John sees in his vision a vast, white-robed multitude gathered before the throne of God, and a great chorus of praise goes up from them and from the whole heavenly host. Then one of the 24 elders who continually worship before God’s throne (“casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea”, as the hymn-writer paraphrases it) asks John: “These in white robes - who are they, and where did they come from ?”; to which John replies: “‘kurie’, you know”. Both AV and NIV translate this as ‘sir’, quite reasonably in view of the many instances in Revelation of ‘kurios’ referring to God or Jesus which must be translated ‘Lord’. Nevertheless, ‘sir’ seems too mundane, too matter-of-fact, for the awesome context and the august personage addressed; if a bishop of the Church of England is addressed as ‘my lord’, surely this elder (‘presbyter’) deserves at least as much reverence ! The third example is somewhere between these two, expressing deference, at least, to one in authority, but certainly not reverence, and probably not much respect either, for it is addressed to Pontius Pilate by the chief priests and Pharisees. In Matthew 27.63 they approach the Roman governor after the crucifixion to ask him that Jesus’ tomb be “made secure” until the third day, to prevent the disciples from stealing the body. It is particularly ironic that not once in the gospels does a member of the Jewish religious hierarchy address Jesus as ‘kurie’, but that the only time this expression of deference passes their lips it is addressed to the representative of the hated Roman occupier.

(b) 'kurie' in parables
Matt 7.21, 21.28-30, 25.1-13, 14-30,

Further illustration of the range of connotations of ‘kurie’ can be found in the parables. The first, in Matthew 21. 28-31, is one of Jesus’ shortest, but, like many of the others, establishes a crucial contrast. A father gives the same instruction to his two sons: “Go and work in my vineyard today”. The first answers curtly, without even the courtesy of a formal address to his father: “I don’t want to”; but later, he relents and goes. The other son politely replies “I go, sir” - and went not (the AV translation is indelibly memorable). The point here, which is grasped even by the chief priests and elders to whom, and against whom, Jesus is telling the parable, is that the son who calls his father ‘kurie’ is not the son who does his will. This should remind us of Jesus’ memorable and challenging statement at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7.21-3): “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord, Lord’ --- , and then I will declare to them ‘I never knew you’”. To translate the disobedient son’s address to his father as ‘Lord’ would be inappropriate in the context, but not to do so misses this connection. The connection is reinforced in chapter 25, a chapter full of parables making the contrast between the faithful and the faithless, the obedient and the disobedient. First is the parable of the bridesmaids (1-13). The faithful ones bring a spare supply of oil for their lamps, and so are ready for the bridegroom when he eventually arrives (nowadays, of course, it is the bride’s prerogative to be late); they enter with him into the reception, and the door is shut. By contrast, the foolish bridesmaids have to go off and buy more oil, and so miss the bridegroom’s arrival, and find the door shut. “Lord, Lord”, they cry, “open the door for us !”. The groom chillingly replies: “I do not know you”. The connection with 7. 22-3 is clear here - but less so if ‘kurie, kurie’ is translated ‘sir, sir’, as in the NIV (but not the AV). Then comes the parable of the talents (14-30). “A man going on a journey” entrusts to his three servants, respectively, 5, 2 and 1 talents. On his return, he holds an audit. All three servants address him as ‘kurie’ - ‘Lord’ in the AV, but ‘master’ in NIV, a more natural translation in the context, but less helpful to the overall theme. For we see, once again, that not all those who address him as ‘kurie’ win their Lord’s approval: two have traded profitably with their money, and are further rewarded; but one has just buried the money in the ground (the modern equivalent would be to stuff it under one’s mattress), and done nothing with it. This “useless” servant is not welcomed into the joy of his Lord, like the other two, but banished into “outer darkness” - like the foolish bridesmaids left out in the cold. Last comes the parable of the sheep and the goats (31-46), a parable of the day of judgement, “that day” when Jesus will return, referred to in 7.22. Both groups address the King, who is the Son of Man himself, entirely appropriately, as ‘Lord’; but while one group, the sheep, are welcomed into their glorious inheritance, “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”, the goats are sent away into “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. Why? Because, like the other rejects in this series of parables, though they addressed Jesus as ‘Lord’, they did not truly submit to his lordship.

(e) 'kurie' addressed to Jesus
i. other forms of address: 'Rabbi', 'teacher'
John 1.38, Matt 23.7-8

We come now to the uses of ‘kurie’ addressed directly to Jesus. But before looking at these in detail, it is worth looking briefly at the other forms of address to Jesus that are used in the gospels. We have already seen that the religious authorities never address Jesus as ‘kurie’, but another fact is also worth noticing. For most of Jesus’ ministry they approach him only to criticise and to find fault, either with him or with his disciples, and they use no formal word of address at all. The first confrontation (Mark 2.18) is typical: the Pharisees bluntly ask Jesus “why don’t your disciples fast?”. Soon afterwards (v.24), they are one his case again - an incident we have already looked at, when the disciples plucked and ate grain from the cornfields on the Sabbath. Too indignant to be polite, they simply explode: “Look what they are doing on the Sabbath ! It’s not lawful !”. And so it continues, right up to the last week of Jesus’ ministry, when he is teaching in the temple (Matt. 21. 23-7); the chief priests and elders approach him and brusquely ask “by what authority are you doing this ?”. In reply, Jesus asks them a question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven, from God, or just from men on earth ?” Reluctant to admit that it was from God, and afraid, in front of the crowd, to dismiss it as merely human, they pass: “we don’t know”. After this public humiliation, they go away and have a re-think, and come up with plan B (Matt. 22. 15): they would try cunning rather than confrontation, and attempt to “trap him verbally”. Three attempts ensue, by the Pharisees and Herodians asking whether is was lawful (the same word, incidentally, that they had used way back in the cornfields in Mark 2) to pay tribute to Caesar; by the Sadducees asking about the resurrection of the dead; and by a lawyer ( in Mark, “one of the scribes”) asking which was the greatest commandment in the law. But there is a marked difference in approach from their previous attacks: each question is prefaced by a deferential “Teacher”, or “Rabbi”, as though they hope that this sudden onset of ingratiating politeness may lure Jesus into indiscretion.‘Teacher’ and ‘Rabbi’ are, in fact, equivalent terms, as is made clear in John 1. 38, where two of John the Baptist’s disciples follow Jesus and address him as ‘Rabbi’, just as they were used to addressing John himself (John 3.26). At this point, John (the gospel-writer) adds a helpful parenthesis: “which is translated ‘teacher’” - the Greek word being ‘didaskale’ (the vocative form of ‘didaskalos’, from which is derived the English ‘didactic’ - another helpful parenthesis, I hope). The Hebrew word ‘rabbi’, transliterated into Greek, is only used in the vocative case as a form of address, whereas ‘didaskalos’ is used in all cases, like any other noun. This is well illustrated in Matthew 23. 7-8, where Jesus criticises the Pharisees because “they love --- to be called ‘Rabbi’ by men; but you” (emphatic, to make the point) “do not be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have one ‘didaskalos’”; the disciples were, literally ‘learners’, and Jesus their teacher.

ii Addressing Jesus in Mathew ( 'hetairos')
Matt 8.19, 19.16, 26.25, 49
Matt 11.16, 20.13, 22.12,

At this point, we shall consider the four gospels individually, for each evangelist seems to have a different practice, and a different purpose, in the way that they use these addresses. Matthew is particularly striking. In his gospel, the disciples never address Jesus as ‘didaskale’; that address is used only by the religious authorities, as we have seen, and by what we might call ‘failed’ followers - the over-enthusiastic scribe in 8.19 (“I will follow you wherever you go”), who is easily put off by the lack of a comfortable bed to sleep in at night, and the ‘rich young ruler’ (19.16 - he acquires this title from Luke’s account) who cannot bring himself to obey Jesus’ command to “sell all your possessions and give to the poor”. Even more telling is Matthew’s use of ‘Rabbi’ as a form of address to Jesus. We have seen that nowhere in the gospels do any of the religious leaders address Jesus as ‘kurie’; the same is true of Judas Iscariot: for him are reserved Matthew’s only two uses of ‘Rabbi’. The first is at the last supper. Jesus tells his disciples that “’one of you will betray me’, and they, in great distress, each began to say ‘surely not I , Lord ?’” (‘kurie’, 26. 22). But ‘each’ clearly does not include Judas: in verse 25 he asks Jesus “surely not I, Rabbi ?”. The difference, surely, is deliberate - and deadly. We move on to Gethsemane and the actual betrayal. Judas goes up to Jesus and, as an agreed sign to identify him in the darkness, kisses him, with the words “Greetings, Rabbo Jesus and, as an agreed sign to identify him in the darkness, kisses him, with the words " the disciples never iii” (26.49). One feels that these very words are still ringing in Matthew’s ears as he writes many years later, and that his memory has shaped his use of these words. It is worth making a brief detour here to look at Jesus’ reply to Judas, “Friend, do what you are here to do”. The Greek word translated ‘friend’ here is ‘hetaire’ (vocative case-ending again), which literally means ‘companion’. In classical literature it is associated particularly with Odysseus’s rather turbulent crew in the Odyssey, who were with him but not always obedient to him, and eventually all perished. In the NT it is used only by Matthew, the other three examples appearing in parables where the context implies that someone who has good reason to be friendly, grateful and responsive is behaving unreasonably. In 11.16 he compares the attitude of the Jews to John the Baptist on the one hand and to himself on the other to children calling out to their unresponsive companions - ‘playmates’, perhaps - “we piped a tune for you, and you didn’t dance; we played a lament, and you didn’t mourn”. (Some of the MSS have a different but very similar word here meaning ‘others’, but in view of the parallels cited here ‘companions’ seems preferable.) Then, in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the owner gently reproaches one of the complaining workers: “Friend, I am not doing you an injustice” (20. 13). Finally, and most significantly, in the parable of the wedding feast, one guest gets into the reception wearing his own clothes, not the special wedding robe provided for him; the king, seeing him, addresses him with the same lethal reproachfulness that Jesus uses to Judas: “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding-robe?” (22.12). Like Judas, he is cast into outer darkness. Again, one feels that Matthew’s choice of words has been carefully planned.

iii Addressing Jesus in Mark: 'didaskale'
Mark 4.38, 9.38, 10.35, 13.1

Mark’s gospel is remarkable in that none of the 12 disciples address Jesus as ‘kurie’; ‘Rabbi’ is used three times, once by Judas in Gethsemane (14. 45), as in Matthew, and the other two by Peter, at the transfiguration (9. 5, where, in exactly the same context Matthew has ‘kurie’), and in 11. 21, when he draws Jesus’ attention to the withered fig tree. On all the other occasions on which they address him with a title they use ‘didaskale’, but in each instance the context is a rather negative one, as though Mark is implying that, although they call him ‘teacher’, they still have a lot to learn. In the storm on the lake, they cry in panic “Teacher, do you not care that we are drowning?” (4. 38) - and are rebuked for their lack of faith. In 9.38, John calls Jesus ‘teacher’, saying that they had stopped someone casting out evil spirits in his name; Jesus rebukes him, saying “do not stop him”. In the next chapter (10. 35), James and John, politely addressing Jesus as ‘teacher’, ask him that they may sit enthroned on either side of him in his glory; once again, a negative follows, and they are rebuked: “you do not know what you are asking”. At the beginning of chapter 13, the disciples point out to their teacher, as they leave the temple, the huge stones and magnificent buildings in the temple precincts. Again, Jesus’ response is negative - a double negative, in fact, for emphasis and certainty - though not, this time, a rebuke: “Not one stone, no, not one, will be left on top of another that will not be destroyed”.

iv Addresing Jesus in Luke: 'epistata'
Luke 5.5,8, 8.24

Luke, however, is his own man. He does not use ‘Rabbi’ at all, the Hebrew term, presumably, being out of place in this gospel for the gentiles. Instead, he uses a word unique to himself in the NT: ‘epistata” (vocative form of the noun ‘epistates’, which literally means ‘someone who stands in authority over’). This word is generally translated ‘master’, and occurs seven times in all (I’m still counting!). Two of these appear together in the storm on the lake, when the disciples cry out “Master, master, we are drowning” (8. 24). This compares with Matthew’s “Lord, save us!”, and Mark’s version, which we have just seen, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning?” This shows that, for Luke, ‘epistata’ can be used as an equivalent for all the other three terms. Nevertheless, the events leading up to the call of Peter in chapter 5 seem to mark an important distinction. Jesus tells Peter to “launch out into the deep and let down your nets”. Peter replies: “‘epistata’, we have worked hard all night, and caught nothing; but at your word I will let down the nets.” Here is a fine example of the deed matching the word: Peter acknowledges Jesus’ authority (‘master’), and then submits to it, despite his obvious reluctance. Would that he had always done so! More of this later. But after the amazing catch of fish that follows from this act of obedience, Peter addresses Jesus again: “Go away from me, ‘kurie’ - I’m a sinner”. There is a clear distinction here between the deference due to a teacher and the reverence due to the Lord.

v. Addressing Jesus in John: 'Rabbi' to 'kurie'
John 11.8

John has a different pattern again. In his gospel, none of the disciples ever address him as ‘didaskale’. This title is only used once, by the scribes and Pharisees confronting Jesus with the woman caught in adultery (8.4 - this passage, of course, is missing from many MSS, and the uniqueness of ‘didaskale’ adds a gram of weight to the arguments against its Johannine authorship). Jesus himself, however, uses the word when he says to his disciples (13. 13) “you call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord’”. Elsewhere, though, John puts into the mouths of the disciples the Hebrew version ‘Rabbi’ (translated, as we have seen, into Greek on its first appearance). The last time they so address him is in 11. 8, when they remonstrate with Jesus about the dangers of going to Judaea: “‘Rabbi’, just now the Jews were trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” They call him ‘Rabbi’, but do not unquestioningly accept his authority, though they do go with him - a grudging obedience which reminds us of Peter in Luke 5, an important parallel, as we shall soon see. What takes Jesus back to Judaea is the death of Lazarus, and it is notable that after the raising of Lazarus from the dead the disciples consistently address Jesus as ‘kurie’, never again as ‘Rabbi’. Before this momentous event, the disciples, in the person of Peter, only use ‘kurie’ once (6. 68) - a passage we shall look at later. Afterwards, five separate disciples (Peter again, John, Thomas, Philip and ‘Judas not Iscariot’ - my emphasis!) use this form of address 12 times. So the modulation from ‘master’ to ‘Lord’ which we noted in Luke 5, as Peter’s attitude to Jesus was revolutionised by a minor miracle (though a major catch of fish!) is repeated on a much larger scale in John’s gospel, this time brought about by a truly momentous miracle.

(d) 'kurie': 'sir' or 'Lord'?
i. Matthew 8
Matt 7.21,

We have already come across a number of instances of ‘kurie’ addressed to Jesus in the previous section, but now we will focus on this usage (almost) exclusively; and rather than working methodically through the gospels again, we will look at a few selected examples which seem to be particularly worthy of attention.We will begin by revisiting Jesus’ statement (Matt. 7.21) “not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven”. We have seen how this teaching is reinforced in parables much later in the gospel, but it is also notable, and not, I believe, mere coincidence, that the immediately following chapter 8 contains more instances of ‘kurie’ (5) than any other; it seems that Matthew’s purpose is to illustrate the warning Jesus has just given. First comes a leper, saying “‘kurie’, if you are willing, you have the power to make me clean” (v.2). His faith is rewarded, and he is healed - but he is also instructed to tell no one. We learn from Mark’s parallel account that, in his excitement, the ex-leper disobeyed this command, and the resulting popular furore meant that “Jesus could no longer go publicly into the town” (1. 45). The leper called Jesus ‘Lord’, but did not accept his authority and obey him. Next comes a centurion, and he perfectly understands the concept of authority, since he has a hundred soldiers under his command: “I say to one ‘go!’, and he goes, and to another ‘come!’, and he comes”. So when he addresses Jesus as ‘kurie’ twice (vv. 6, 8), it is not merely perfunctory politeness, but a recognition of Jesus’ authority over sickness and disease, and his uncomplicated faith wins one of Jesus’ most glowing tributes (v. 10), and the healing of his servant. After more healings, we read of two would-be disciples (in Luke’s version there are three); the first is the scribe already mentioned, who addresses him as ‘didaskale’, and then “another of his disciples” (v.21) who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ - but is unwilling to follow him while his father is still alive. The final instance we have already glanced at, the storm on the lake, when the disciples wake the sleeping Jesus and shout at him “Lord’, save us - we are drowning”. So the chapter once again makes the point that not all those who call Jesus ‘kurie’ fully accept his authority - but that, even if healed lepers and failed disciples do not obey him, “the wind and the waves” certainly do (v. 27).

ii the woman at the well
John 4.1-26

Next, the woman at the well (John 4. 1-30). It is worth noting, first of all, how many of those who call Jesus ‘Lord’ in the gospels are women: there are six, four of whom use the term more than once. In fact, every woman in the gospels whose words to Jesus are recorded addresses him as ‘kurie’ - except his mother. This may, of course, owe something to the fact that, in the prevailing culture, it was natural for women to see men as authority-figures, and to address them accordingly. The Samaritan woman, however, in John 4 does not immediately do so: to Jesus’ monosyllabic request “give me a drink” (v.7), she replies without any courteous formality “why do you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?”.If the abruptness of Jesus’ request resulted from the exhaustion of a long journey, and lips parched by the midday sun, her response suggests genuine surprise that Jesus had not only bridged the gender-gap in talking to her, but also crossed the racial divide. Jesus then says that if she had known who she was, she would have asked, and he would have given her “living water” (v. 10). Her rather truculent initial attitude now modifies to polite curiosity: “‘kurie’, you don’t have a bucket; how can you give me living water?” ‘kurie’ here is generally, and reasonably, translated ‘sir’. Jesus then explains that he is not offering water from the well, but an internal well “bubbling up to eternal life” (v.14). Her polite curiosity now develops into real interest, perhaps even spiritual thirst, and , in a reversal of v.7, she now asks Jesus “‘kurie’, give me this water”. She now regards Jesus not as a foreigner or an eccentric, but a figure of authority, so that ‘kurie’ is now more than a formality - but still ‘sir’ seems the best translation. Then Jesus tells her to call her husband, and in her flustered embarrassment, or with defensive abruptness, she just replies “I have no husband”. But Jesus knows her dark secret - as he knows all our dark secrets - and tells her that she has had five husbands, and her present man is not her husband, so she is, at least, telling the truth. To which she replies “‘kurie’, I see you are a prophet” - and tries to divert the conversation into a less personal direction. But is ‘sir’ the right translation here (given in both AV and NIV)? Is this an appropriate address for someone she thinks must be a prophet, and even, so she later tells her friends (v. 29) the Christ? ‘Lord’ here seems more appropriate to express the reverence she now seems to feel towards him. We will see a similar pattern in chapter 9.

iii Capernaum
John 6.34, 68

But first, chapter 6. Here we have an interesting parallel with the woman at the well. To her, Jesus offered “living water”, to which she replied, as we have seen, “‘kurie’, give me this water”. In chapter 6 Jesus is talking to a group of Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum, in the wake of the excitement caused by the miraculous feeding of the five thousand the previous day. In v. 25 they have addressed Jesus as ‘Rabbi’. Now he tells them (v. 32), “My Father gives you bread from heaven, the true bread” (unlike the manna in the wilderness given to their ancestors by God through Moses ); to this they reply, “‘kurie’, always give us this bread” (v.34), the formality of ‘Rabbi’ developing into the (apparently) humble deference of those asking a favour. I think AV is right to translate this ‘Lord’ here, though the NIV’s ‘sir’ preserves the parallel with chapter 4. But this acknowledgement of Jesus’ authority, implied in their use of ‘kurie’, does not last long: his teaching gets more “difficult”, and by verse 66 “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him”. Jesus then turns to the twelve, and asks if they, too, want to turn back. This draws from Peter a memorable confession of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we turn ? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). Peter is thus the first of the twelve to address Jesus as ‘kurie’, both here in John’s gospel, and also in Luke’s gospel (5. 8), as we have already seen. This chapter, then (among many other things) is John’s equivalent to Matthew 8, making the point that “not every one who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven”, and marking the distinction between the temporary disciples in the first part of the chapter, mainly, it seems, drawn to Jesus by a free meal of loaves and fishes, and the (misunderstood) promise of more free bread to come, and the genuine disciples, led by Peter, who followed him for the ‘daily bread’ of his living word. The point, however, and the distinction are obscured if the ‘kurie’ of v. 34 is translated ‘sir’ (NIV) rather than ‘Lord’ (AV).

iv the man born blind
John 9.36, 38

In John 4, then, Jesus offers the Samaritan woman “living water”, and in chapter 6 he claims to be “the living bread” (51). But John 4 is also echoed in several ways in John 9 - not least in the use of ‘kurie’. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus restores the sight of a man born blind - and does so on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, rather than praising God for this great miracle, find fault with Jesus for “working” on the Sabbath, and most of the rest of the chapter concerns their investigations into exactly what had happened. They question both the man himself and, since they cannot believe he was really born blind, his parents, and then the man again, who, wearying of their repeated questions, treats them with less and less respect, until they throw him out of the synagogue. Jesus then finds him, and asks him (v. 35), “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”, to which he replies “Who is he, ‘kurie’?”. Jesus then uses much the same words he had spoken to the Samaritan woman (4.26 = 9.37); there he claimed to be “the Christ”, here “the Son of Man” (a Messianic title): “the one speaking to you is he”. The man’s response is exemplary: “‘I believe, ‘kurie’, he said, and worshipped him”. Again, translators are faced with a dilemma. NIV gives ‘sir’ for the first, and ‘Lord’ for the second ‘kurie’, which certainly does justice to the man’s change of attitude; AV translates both as ‘Lord’, which is at least consistent - and, since the man has already told the Pharisees that the one who gave him his sight was a prophet (v. 17) ‘Lord’ is arguably a more appropriate translation for the first ‘kurie’ as well, just as it is for the Samaritan woman when she addresses Jesus for the third time as ‘kurie’, after realising that he is “a prophet” (4. 19). Certainly the second ‘kurie’ here in chapter 9 must be translated ‘Lord’, since the man’s reverent attitude is demonstrated by his act of worship. This word also forms a link with chapter 4, where in verses 20 - 24 the word is used 9 times as the woman, trying to change the subject from her own chequered marital history, questions Jesus about worship, and he replies. It is here that the parallels of chapters 4 and 9 set up an interesting contrast. The woman treats worship as a subject for theological debate, but as a result of her meeting with Jesus she becomes an enthusiastic and effective witness to her neighbours (4. 28-30, 39-42). The ex-blind man, by contrast, is a very reluctant witness to Jesus when questioned by the Pharisees (9.15, 17,25), but when Jesus reveals himself to him he responds with reverential worship. Witness and worship are often the spontaneous reactions of the young Christian to the joy of finding new life in Christ, and should, in the mature Christian, be the horizontal and vertical axes of a truly cross-shaped faith.

Parenthesis 1: "Worship"
i in Matthew:
Matt 4.10

At this point it might be worth making a brief detour to consider the word ‘worship’ which we have just met in John 4 and 9. The Greek word is ‘proskuno’, and the detour’s relevance is that in one respect its use parallels the usages of ‘kurios’ that we are studying: both words have both a ‘high’ use and a ‘human’ use. Just as ‘kurios’ can be used both of God and of human authority-figures, so ‘proskuno’ can refer to worship both of God and of important men (though not, as far as I can find, of women). Furthermore, for both words it is the resurrection that marks the watershed between the two uses. The best place to start this detour is in the wilderness, with the temptations of Jesus, for here both words are used together. Both Matthew and Luke record three temptations in detail, though in a different order; but in each account Satan offers Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if he will only worship him. Jesus replies: “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’” (Matt. 4. 10, Luke 4. 8, quoting Deut. 6. 13 - the AV seems appropriate here !). In fact, the word-order of the Greek suggests that “you shall worship your God as Lord” might be a better translation. Here, then, are illustrated what we might call the ‘high’, or perhaps the ‘upper-case’, meanings of both the noun and the verb. Upper-case ‘Kurios’ is defined as the God to whom alone worship is due, and upper case ‘proskuno’ is confined to the worship of that God alone. Matthew’s use of ‘proskuno’ is the most interesting. He uses the word 11 times in addition to the 2 just referred to, 10 of which refer to worship addressed to Jesus. The remaining usage is in the parable of the two debtors (18. 26), where Jesus describes how the servant who owed the king the impossibly huge sum of 10,000 talents (the sort of debt that only a rogue trader in a large bank could run up these days) “fell down and worshipped him, saying, ‘have mercy on me’”. In the light of his reply to Satan, this use of ‘proskuno’ on the lips of Jesus makes it clear (if any further clarification were needed) that the king in the parable represents God himself. Matthew uses ‘proskuno’ three times in chapter 2, two referring to the worship offered to Jesus by the Magi, and the third to Herod’s (clearly deceptive) offer “to worship him also”. The genuine and costly worship of the Magi is offered to “the King of the Jews”, so that from their gentile perspective it is entirely appropriate: they are ignorant of the law forbidding worship of any one but God himself. But, of course, they worship what they do not fully know, as Jesus says of the Samaritans in John 4 (v. 22), and their worship is a foretaste of the worship that will be given to the risen Lord through all eternity. Matthew balances these early uses of ‘proskuno’ with two instances of worship after the resurrection, in chapter 28. First, the two Mary’s worship Jesus when they meet him on their way back from the empty tomb ( v. 9 - three wise men, perhaps, balanced by two holy women !); and then in verse 17 the 11 disciples worship him when they see him in Galilee. Both these acts of worship were clearly spontaneous reactions to the sight of the risen Jesus, now fully revealed as God himself in human form. This worship of the disciples (all 12, presumably) is anticipated earlier in the gospel (14. 33) after they had witnessed Jesus walking on the water and stilling the storm: “they worshipped him in the boat, saying ‘truly you are (a) Son of God’”. They do not yet fully realise the truth about Jesus, but they have seen enough to justify their worship; in this respect their reaction is like the spontaneous worship of the man born blind in John 9, when Jesus revealed himself to him as “the Son of Man”. The other 4 examples of worship offered to Jesus are all by people asking for something - an interesting contrast with the worship of the Magi, who came to him bringing gifts. Three come for healing: the leper (8. 2) for himself, and Jairus (9. 18) and the Syro-Phoenician woman (15. 25) for their daughters. The final example is the least edifying: the mother of James and John (20. 20) ‘worships’ Jesus as she asks for privileged positions for her sons in his kingdom. Like the wise men, she recognised his kingship, but otherwise the differences are all too apparent. Of these four, the leper and the Syro-Phoenician woman (3 times) also address Jesus as ‘kurie’. Matthew, then, seems to be inviting his readers to assess for themselves the genuineness and appropriateness of the acts of worship he recounts, and to note the development of ignorant worship of Jesus into “worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4. 24).

ii in Luke: prospipto
Luke 5.8, 8.28, 47

Luke, on the other hand, makes our judgement for us. He only uses ‘proskuno’ 3 times. The first two, of course, are during Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (4.7,8), where, as in Matthew’s account, they two occurrences of the word mark a strong contrast between worship of the devil and worship of God. He does not use the word again until the penultimate verse of his gospel (24.52) when, witnesses now not only of Jesus’ resurrection but also of his ascension into heaven, the disciples worshipped him - in absentia ! - before returning to Jerusalem. But when people ‘worship’ Jesus before his full deity has been revealed, Luke is careful to use different language: the leper is described as “falling beside the feet of Jesus” (5. 11), and Jairus as “falling onto his face” (8. 41). In other contexts he uses the word ‘prospipto’, meaning ‘I fall in front of’, as a synonym for ‘worship’. Peter, after glimpsing Jesus’ divine power manifested in the miraculous catch of fish, “fell in front of Jesus’ knees saying ‘Go away from me, for I am a sinner, Lord’” (5. 8). Then in chapter 8 he uses the word twice. Firstly, the Gerasene demoniac, recognising the divine authority of Jesus (as evil spirits regularly do in the gospels, e.g. Mark 3. 11 - ‘prospipto’ again) “shouted out and fell down in front of Jesus” (8.28 - Mark at this point in his account [5. 6] uses ‘proskuno’). Then the woman with the issue of blood, who had hoped to remain unnoticed in her ritual uncleanness, responds to her healing, and to Jesus’ direct question “who touched me ?”, by "falling down before him" and “declaring before all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed” (8.47. So her response to her miraculous healing is both worship and witness. Luke, then, in all these instances, is careful to use language which clearly describes the physical act of worship without using ‘proskuno’ with all its monotheistic connotations. If we pursue this theme (briefly) into Acts, we can observe once again both Luke’s care over language, and his sense of structure. Cornelius, when Peter enters his house, “fell at his feet and worshipped him” (‘proskuno’), a description combining both the physical and the theological elements of worship. As a god-fearing gentile, Cornelius should know better, but perhaps in the excitement of the moment his pagan background gets the better of him. So Peter, gently, rebukes him: “Get up! I too am just a man like you”(10. 25-6). Interestingly, Peter does not include this detail in his report of the Cornelius episode to the Jerusalem church: was he too embarrassed ? One of the structural features of Acts is that a number of incidents in Peter’s ministry in the first half of the book are echoed in Paul’s ministry in the second half. This is a good example - but there are, in fact, two episodes in Paul’s ministry which combine to form the echo. Both occur in the gentile world, and so in the midst of a pagan culture. In Iconium, Paul heals a man lame from birth; this in itself is a clear echo of Peter’s healing of the lame man at the ‘Beautiful’ gate of the temple (compare 3.2 and 14.8). The citizens are so amazed that they think that Barnabas and Paul (still, at this early stage on their missionary journey, listed in this order, since Barnabas was the older Christian) must be gods, and prepare to sacrifice to them. Horrified, they shout out “we too are men, just like you”, a clear echo of Peter’s words to Cornelius. Then at Philippi, with Silas this time, Paul is ‘worshipped’ by the much-relieved jailer when he discovers that all his prisoners have not escaped after the earthquake has set them free. But here, Luke uses ‘prospipto’, not ‘proskuno’, so that Paul does not need to rebuke him, but can immediately lead him to faith in Jesus. The jailer addresses the two men as ‘kurioi’ (plural form), which both AV and NIV translate, reasonably enough, as ‘sirs’, but in view of the obvious reverence he shows them as he prostrates himself before them, maybe ‘Lords’ would be justified, as for the blind man’s ‘kurie’ in John 9. 38, whose act of worship justifies the change-up from ‘sir’ to ‘Lord’. This brings us nicely to the end of our detour, and returns us to the main road, our study of ‘kurios’, and in particular the use of ‘kurie’ as an address to Jesus.

'kurie' - 'sir' or 'Lord'?
v. Mary Magdalene
John 20.2, 13,15, 18.

The last of these examples we shall be looking at is, I think, the most moving - and the least translatable. We move forward from John 9 to John 20, and to Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning. At the crack of dawn (“while it was still dark”), she comes to the tomb and finds the stone rolled away. She then runs to Peter and John, and tells them “they have taken the Lord from the tomb” (v.2). In saying this, she becomes the first person to refer to Jesus as ‘the Lord’, as distinct from addressing him as ‘kurie’. We shall return to this usage later. Then in verse 11 she looks into the tomb and sees two angels, who ask her why she is weeping. “They have taken away my Lord”, she replies (v. 13). Again, we shall soon be revisiting this vital, personalised use of ‘Lord’. Then, turning to leave the tomb, she sees a man she assumes is the gardener, who repeats the angels’ question: “Lady, why are you weeping?” (In both instances, both AV and NIV translate the vocative form ‘gunai’ as ‘woman’; when Jesus uses this same form of address to his mother in John 2.4, NIV tries to take the edge of what in English sounds rather abrupt by translating ‘dear woman’, which might be appropriate here, too.) Then, in a moment of beautifully poignant irony, she says to him: “‘kurie’, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him.” (v. 15) Clearly, ‘kurie’ here must be translated ‘sir’, and is characteristic, as we have seen, of the deference shown by women to men they do not know in the cultural climate of the time. She would not, of course, address a gardener as ‘Lord’, but the irony is that she is actually addressing the one she has already in this chapter referred to as ‘the Lord’ and ‘my Lord’ - an irony which is only apparent in the Greek. Jesus then addresses her by name, and here is another linguistic subtlety: whereas John twice in his narrative (vv. 1 and 11) gives Mary’s name as ‘Maria’, the Greek form, he quotes Jesus’ use of it here as ‘Mariam’, the Aramaic form. The familiarity of this address brings instant recognition - but here is another irony, just as moving as the previous one. Mary now has every reason to address the risen Jesus as ‘Kurie’ (upper case!), but actually says ‘Rabboni’, which is apparently the Galilean dialect form of ‘Rabbi’, and is, presumably, the word she has used so often before to greet him. We have already seen how, in John’s gospel, the 12 (or perhaps just the 11) disciples regularly address Jesus as ‘kurie’ rather than ‘Rabbi’ after the raising of Lazarus, but Mary’s reaction is deeply personal, an expression of overjoyed love rather than awed reverence. Perhaps Mary told her story so often in those early days of the young church’s history that these ‘ipsissima verba’ were preserved in the records of the resurrection narrative. John, too, subtly marks the paradox of Mary’s address to Jesus by reminding us, in another helpful parenthesis, in case we have forgotten in the intervening 19 chapters, that ‘Rabboni’ means ‘didaskale’, ‘teacher’ (v. 16 = 1. 38), thus linking the first instance in which Jesus is so addressed with the last. A similar framing device, though on a much smaller scale, occurs in this resurrection narrative. It begins, as we have seen, with Mary telling Peter and John “they have taken the Lord” (v.2), and concludes with her telling the disciples “I have seen the Lord”. At one level, perhaps, John is inviting us to imagine for ourselves the contrast in emotional tone between these two utterances: despair turned to triumph, the essential message of Easter. But more important (even) than emotion is the understanding of the truth of Easter. If Mary’s first use of ‘my Lord’ was, perhaps, an unthinking reference to the term they had regularly used to address Jesus during his ministry, the second surely reflects Mary’s full awareness of who Jesus really is - ‘THE Lord’. Her personal love for Jesus as a man has been sublimated into reverence for him as Lord - in response, perhaps, to his gentle rebuke “do not cling to me” (v. 17).

[6] Jesus 'the Lord' and Jesus 'my Lord'
(a) 'the Lord': i. Mary and Thomas
John 20.13, 28

Though we remain in John 20 for a little while linger, we now move on from the uses of ‘kurie’ as a form of address to Jesus to consider the uses of ‘the Lord’ (‘ho kurios’) and ‘my Lord’, both of which we have already seen exemplified in this chapter. Just as Mary’s two descriptions of Jesus as ‘the Lord’ in verses 2 and 18 are used as a frame in which John sets her Easter Sunday story, so he also creates a wider frame for the resurrection story as a whole by using her reference to Jesus as ‘my Lord’ in verse 13 and Thomas’s great declaration of faith a week later (v. 28), “my Lord and my God”. Thomas had not been with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them on the evening of Easter Day, and his refusal to believe what for him was just hearsay evidence of the resurrection has earned him for all time the unflattering epithet ‘doubting’ Thomas. But he deserves better than this: a week later, he became the first person on earth, as far as we know, to worship Jesus as God, and to realise that the God who is given the title ‘kurios’ more than 6,000 times in the OT and the Jesus they have learned to address as ‘kurie’ are one and the same - or two yet the same. And for all later generations his words are a paradigm not just of true belief but of personal faith; for the devil may believe that Jesus is God (James 2. 19), and yet not submit to his authority as Lord. Thomas, however, expresses a personal commitment to Jesus as ‘MY Lord’ which is the essence of faith. We saw that for Mary this was a two-stage journey: the personal devotion expressed in ‘Rabboni’ came, as it were, “while it was yet dark”, and only a while later did the full Christology of Jesus’ lordship dawn on her - “I have seen the Lord”. But for Thomas, when he sees the Lord, both parts of his faith are expressed in one great statement, “My Lord and my God”. Much, however, as we may, and should, honour such a fine example of faith, Jesus honoured even more those (like ourselves?) “who have not seen and yet believed”; such believers he calls “blessed” - his final beatitude

ii Elizabeth
Luke 2.42-3

Before we move on to look at uses of ‘the Lord’ referring to Jesus, there is one more instance in the gospels where Jesus is referred to as ‘my Lord’ - a surprising and beautiful example. I have suggested that in chapter 20 John uses the two instances of ‘my Lord’ and the two of ‘the Lord’ to frame the resurrection narrative, and that the parenthetical interpretation of ‘Rabboni’ deliberately echoes that of ‘Rabbi’ in chapter 1. It is possible, also, to see this third use of ‘my Lord’ as the first half of a frame, whose second half is Mary’s use; but this time the architect and designer of the frame is the Holy Spirit himself, who breathes his life and truth into all scripture. For this example is not in John’s gospel but in Luke, and it is uttered, probably nine months before Jesus was born, by his aunt (great aunt?) Elizabeth. At the annunciation, Mary has been told by the angel Gabriel that her aged kinswoman Elizabeth, “she who was called barren” is now six months pregnant (1.36). As soon as the angel has gone, Mary hurries to visit Elizabeth to congratulate her, and when she hears Mary’s greeting “the infant leapt in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit”. This was evidently the Spirit of knowledge and of prophecy, for she says” “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how is it that I should have the privilege” (literally, ‘whence this to me?’) that the mother of my Lord should come to me ?” (vv.42-3) The same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of scripture, and who, Jesus promised, would lead his disciples into all truth (John 16. 13) here shows Elizabeth the amazing truth that Mary’s unborn son is indeed God himself. Thus of the only two people in the gospels, both women, who refer to Jesus as ‘my Lord’ (Thomas addresses him directly), one does so before his birth and the other after his death, the one faced with a pregnant womb, the other with an empty tomb. Framed between these two utterances is Jesus’ whole earthly ministry, during which many people address him as ‘kurie’ but no one as ‘my Lord’. Lest this suggestion of deliberate structure be thought entirely fanciful, let us move on to verse 45, where Elizabeth’s final words to Mary are recorded: “and blessed is she who believed that the words spoken to her from the Lord will be fulfilled.” Firstly, this shows that Elizabeth is fully aware of the implications of referring to the unborn Jesus as ‘my Lord’: he is the same Lord who has spoken through the OT and throughout the history of the people of Israel. But two other details in this verse point forward to Thomas’s confession of faith. We saw that that was the occasion of Jesus’ final beatitude: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. This verse in Luke contains (chronologically) the first beatitude in the NT, not spoken by Jesus but inspired by his Spirit. (The word translated ‘blessed’ in v. 42 is not the ‘makarios’ of the beatitudes.) The other parallel with John 20. 28 is that in each case it is believing which leads to blessing: both verses use the aorist participle of the verb ‘pisteuo’, meaning ‘ I believe’, or ‘I have faith’, so that literally the two parallel phrases read: “she who has believed” and “those who have believed”.

(b) Jesus 'the Lord'
i gone fishing
John 21. 9,12

So now we come to references to Jesus as ‘the Lord’. In John’s gospel, just as it is only after the raising of Lazarus that the disciples regularly address Jesus as ‘kurie’, so it is only after the resurrection of Jesus that they refer to him as ‘the Lord’, led, as we have seen, by Mary Magdalene, and soon followed by the remainder, as they tell the absent Thomas “we have seen the Lord” (20. 25). Three more instances follow in the next chapter. Peter, with characteristic impulsiveness and activism decides to go fishing, and six of the other disciples join him. That night they catch nothing. Then, in the grey light of dawn, Jesus appears to them on the shore of the lake, but, as with Mary at the tomb and the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus, they do not at first recognise him. But when, in response to his instruction, they immediately catch a whole shoal of fish, John divines the truth: “It is the Lord,” he says to Peter (v. 7), and these three words (just three in Greek) are repeated twice, in this verse and in verse 12, to emphasise the point: Jesus is not just their Lord, but THE Lord.

ii dramatic irony in Luke?
Luke 10.39-41, 12.35-48

Luke adopts a different practice in his gospel. Unlike the other evangelists, he regularly refers to Jesus as ‘the Lord’ in his narrative, and on several occasions seems deliberately to juxtapose this description with the address ‘kurie’ on the lips of a disciple, or all of them. It is as if he is stressing what he, as a literate Greek, might see as dramatic irony: the disciples using a word without yet fully realising its appropriateness. Two examples will suffice to make this point. At the end of chapter 10, Jesus is a guest in the house of Mary and Martha. Mary “sits at the feet of the Lord” listening to him, but Martha, annoyed that she has been left by her sister to provide the service, says to Jesus “‘Lord’, don’t you care?”, to which ‘the Lord’ replied (39-41). By sandwiching Martha’s ‘Lord’ between two of his own ‘the Lord’s Luke is perhaps suggesting that if only she knew that Jesus really was ‘the Lord’, she might consider it more important to listen to his teaching than to prepare his food. The second example is in chapter 12, and is itself very simple, but the context is more elaborate. Verses 35-48 fall into two parallel sections, consisting of parables of the second coming of Jesus which stress the importance of his servants’ being ready. These 14 verses contain 9 uses of ‘kurios’, 7 of them referring to the absent but returning ‘Lord’ of the parables (NIV translates ‘Master’, which loses the point). In the first section, the disciples as a whole are likened to the servants whose lord is away at a wedding and may return at any time, and the quality required here is watchfulness: watchful servants twice earn a beatitude from Jesus (37 and 38) - though one would not know this from the NIV. The link between the two sections is formed by a question from Peter: “‘kurie’, are you telling this parable to us or to every one ?” (41) Then Luke writes: “And ‘the Lord’ said --- ”. Jesus does not answer his question directly, but the second section is about a single servant, the steward, and the quality required from him is not watchfulness but faithfulness - and this time there is only a single beatitude for the faithful servant (v. 43). The shift of emphasis in the second section seems to suggest that, whereas all Christians need to be watchful for the return of their Lord, those Christians, like Peter, to whom special responsibilities have been entrusted, such as oversight of their fellow servants, should be especially faithful; and Luke, by his various and repeated uses of ‘kurios’ seems to be suggesting that the Lord of the parables is the same Lord as ‘the Lord’ who is telling the parables, and that by addressing him as ‘kurie’ Peter is acknowledging his authority and placing himself firmly inside the parables, especially the second one, even if he does not yet realise, as Luke the narrator does, that Jesus is ‘THE Lord’.

iii skilful word-order in Luke: 'the Lord' is 'the owner'
Mark 5.19-20 Luke 19.30-34

The only person to refer to Jesus as ‘the Lord’ before his resurrection is Jesus himself. In Mark’s account of the healing of the Gadarene demoniac, Jesus does not allow him to come with him and the disciples, but tells him: “Go to you own home and your own people and proclaim to them what great things ‘the Lord’ in his mercy has done for you” (5. 19). That both Mark and the ex-demoniac regard this title as a reference to Jesus himself, and not to the OT ‘kurios’, is evident in the next verse: “he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him”. But the most interesting example occurs in the account of Jesus’ sending two of his disciples to borrow the donkey for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. All three synoptic gospels record this incident, and all three quote the exact words the disciples were instructed to say if they were questioned: “The Lord has need of it” (Matt. 21.3, Mark 11.3, Luke 19. 31). The two disciples obviously learned this line so thoroughly that they could remember it years later when the gospels came to be written. But Luke uses these words to make a subtle linguistic point, as we have seen in the two previous examples from his writings. And, once again, this is impossible to express satisfactorily in English. Luke records the instructions they are given by Jesus, as already quoted; then, in verse 33, “when they were untying the colt, its owners (‘kurioi’) said to them: “why are you untying the colt?” They replied, as instructed, “the Lord (‘kurios’) has need of it”. Just as the two references to “untying the colt” frame verse 33, so the two quotations of Jesus’ instructions frame the whole incident, so that particular emphasis is placed on “the owners” at the centre of this double enclosure. Surely Luke’s point here is not just linguistic: he is encouraging us to ‘translate’ “the Lord” (‘ho kurios’) as “the owner”, so that all three uses of the word have the same meaning. The “owners” certainly seem to have regarded Jesus as the rightful owner of the colt, with the authority to ask for its use when he wanted it. Thus the profound Christian doctrine of stewardship - that all we ‘own’ is merely entrusted to us by the Lord, the true ‘owner’ of all things - is suggested here by Luke simply by skilful use of words and word-order.

iv "the Lord is risen"
Luke 24.34

We can now briefly conclude this section on Luke’s use of ‘the Lord’. We have seen that only Luke, as the narrator, and Jesus himself use this phrase of Jesus before his resurrection. But, as in John’s gospel, the disciples, once they have seen the risen Lord, have no more doubts about his Lordship - most of them anyway (see Matt. 28 17). The two disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus, when they eventually realise who he is, rush back, on foot, all the 7 or 8 miles to Jerusalem to report this glorious news to the rest of the company, only to be met by a chorus of “the Lord really is risen, and has been seen by Peter” (24. 34). If Jesus “really is risen”, then he really is the Lord.

7. Peter and the Lord: a developing relationship
(a) in the gospels: highs and lows. i. on the Lake
Matt 8.25, 14.29-30

For the penultimate section of this study, we will be focusing on Peter and his use of ‘kurios’. We have already seen that in both Luke and John Peter is the first of the disciples to address Jesus as ‘kurie’. It is, perhaps, worth noticing, in passing, that whereas in Luke Peter is so awed by the miraculous catch of fish that he asks Jesus to go away from him “because I am a sinful man, Lord” (5. 8), in John it is Jesus who asks if the twelve disciples, too, want to turn back from following him, as many others have done, and Peter, already, it seems, the spokesman for the others, promises to stay with him, “for you have the words of eternal life” (6. 68). So from the beginning we get an impression of Peter’s volatile, up-and-down nature, and this is reinforced in Matthew’s gospel. He records two similar incidents on the Lake of Galilee. In the first, a sudden storm threatens to sink the boat, and the terrified disciples wake the sleeping Jesus: “Lord, save us - we are drowning!” (literally, “being destroyed” - 8. 15). Jesus, rebuking them for their lack of faith, calms the storm with a word, to the amazement of the disciples. This is the first time in his gospel that Jesus is called ‘kurie’ by his disciples. The second time occurs in the second incident on the Lake. This time Jesus is not with them in the boat, which is being buffeted by the waves as it battles against a head-wind. Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. At first, the disciples are terrified, not this time by the storm, but, as they think, by a ghost. Jesus calls out “It is I; don’t be afraid !”, and Peter replies, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus does, and Peter walks towards him on the water; but then he looks at the waves rather than at Jesus, and begins to sink. “Lord, save me!”, he shouts out, and, of course, Jesus does - but then rebukes him for his lack of faith. How typical this is of Peter: impulsive faith and crippling fear in successive verses! (14. 29-30)

ii. at Caesarea Philippi
Matt 16.13-23 (double negative)

This see-saw nature of Peter’s discipleship is shown again two chapters later in Matthew's gospel, when he makes his famous confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus rewards him with his own personal beatitude: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of John” (16. 16-7), and then goes on to warn the disciples of his own impending arrest and crucifixion. This is too much for Peter, doubtless still on a high after Jesus’ glowing tribute; he “took him aside and rebuked him, saying, ‘May you be forgiven, Lord; this shall never happen to you’”. Peter has just recognised Jesus as “the Christ - the Messiah - the Son of God”, yet here he is, just six verses later (22) flatly contradicting him. He addresses him as ‘kurie’, but usurps his authority, telling him off as though he, Peter, is the master and Jesus the errant disciple. This point is reinforced in three ways by the language used, though they are lost in translation. Firstly, the word ‘rebuked’ is the same word used in 8.26, when Jesus ‘rebuked’ the storm, and there was an immediate calm. Mark’s account of this episode at Caesarea Philippi makes even more use of this word (‘epitimo’), stressing its ring of authority. After Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus ‘rebuked’ them to tell no one this truth about him (clearly a different translation is needed in the context, but that inevitably loses the poin); then, as in Matthew, Peter began to ‘rebuke’ Jesus when he talked of his death, whereupon Jesus turned and ‘rebuked’ Peter, saying “get behind me, Satan” (8. 30, 32-33). By sandwiching Peter’s ‘rebuke’ between the two uses by Jesus, Mark, even more than Matthew, contrasts the authority of “the Son of the living God” with Peter’s (satanically inspired) attempt to usurp that authority. The second linguistic point in Matthew’s account of this episode is the phrase he puts into Peter’s mouth, which I have translated “may you be forgiven!” (NIV: “Never!”; AV: “Be it far from thee!”) Literally it means “mercy to you”, or, even more literally, “merciful to you” - a real challenge to translation! The word ‘ileos’ is only used in one other place in the NT, and that in a quotation from the LX X (Jeremiah 31. 34) in Hebrews 8.12: “I will be merciful to their wickedness” - the words, and the prerogative, of God himself. The verbal form of the word is also used once, in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector (Luke 18.13), when the latter simply and penitently prays: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. Peter, then, may be asking God to forgive Jesus for saying something so unthinkable - that the Messiah should be put to death by the rulers of his own people; for Peter, this almost amounts to blasphemy. The irony of this would-be role-reversal is evident. The third point to note is Peter’s characteristic use of the double negative here: “This will not, not happen to you”, a Greek idiom which seems to typify his forthright manner and vehement temperament.

iii. foot-washing
John 13.1-11 (double negative)

We find this double negative again in the next passage, John 13.1-11, where again Peter’s up-and-down career is illustrated. Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet, but when Peter’s turn comes, he incredulously, perhaps indignantly, asks “Lord, are you washing my feet?” (the subject pronoun is not needed in Greek, but is used here for emphasis). Peter’s use of ‘kurie’ here stresses the anomaly of the Master’s washing his disciples’ feet. But Jesus replies that he may not understand the significance of his action now, but he will later. But Peter seems always to live in the ‘now’ (before Pentecost, at least), and this does not satisfy his objections: “You will not, not, wash my feet - ever!” At least, in contradicting his Lord he does not have the nerve to address him, here, as ‘kurie’. Jesus then tells him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me”. The Greek may not be quite so monosyllabic, but it is still devastatingly direct, and Peter is duly devastated: “Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and my head !”. This brief exchange characterises Peter more vividly, and more movingly, than any novelist could.

iv. denial foretold and fulfilled
Mark 14.31 (double negative), Luke 22.33,61

At the end of this chapter (John 13), Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (v. 38), a prediction which is recorded in all four gospels. Matthew and Mark also record Peter’s ‘denial of his denial’, as we might term it, once again expressed with that double negative: “I will not, absolutely not, deny you”. Mark emphasises the vehemence of this denial by using a word unique in the NT, ‘ekperissos’: “he spoke exceptionally excessively” gets the force of it, as it were underlining Peter’s double negative with a double positive (14.31). Only Luke has Peter addressing Jesus as ‘kurie’ here: “Lord, with you I am ready to go to prison and to death” (22.33). Peter’s threefold denial is also recorded in all four gospels, but it is Luke’s account which is of particular interest to us. We have seen that Luke, alone of the evangelists, refers to Jesus as ‘the Lord’, and also that he alone records Peter as addressing Jesus as ‘Lord’ when he predicts his denial. The other three accounts conclude with the predicted crowing of the cock, but Luke includes an unforgettable, and almost unbearably poignant, detail (v. 61): “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord ---”. Surely Luke’s repeated use of ‘the Lord’ here is intended to remind us of Peter’s earlier overconfidence in addressing Jesus as ‘kurie’, and to emphasise the significance of the relationship which he is denying. Furthermore, the second usage here could well be translated “he remembered the word of his Lord”, since Greek regularly omits the possessive adjective in contexts where it may be naturally inferred. We can only imagine that look on Jesus’ face, but Peter, surely, never forgot it, and must, at some stage, have confided it to Luke.

v. breakfast by the Lake
John 21.15-23

In the ups and downs of Peter’s discipleship, his denial of his Lord and his subsequent bitter tears surely mark the low point. If the long and uneven climb up from this low begins with these same bitter tears, perhaps the most important stage, before Pentecost, at least, is his restoration and recommissioning by Jesus beside the Lake where his discipleship began - an event, there as here, preceded by a miraculous catch of fish in obedience to Jesus’ instructions. Peter then addresses Jesus as ‘Lord’ for the first time, and 16 more instances of this address are recorded in the gospels, the last 4 in this passage, John 21. 15-23. The first three are in response to Jesus’ threefold question “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” It is worth pointing out here that the only other time Jesus addresses Peter in this formal way, with the use of his patronymic, is after his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi - his personal beatitude: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of John ---” (Matt. 16.17) - the key passage we have already looked at. Perhaps Jesus is trying gently to remind him of what must have been one of the high points of his discipleship. Twice Peter replies to Jesus’ question: “Yes, Lord, you know that I am your friend”. The distinction between the two verbs ‘agapo’ (‘love’), which Jesus uses, and ‘philo’ (‘like’), with which Peter replies, is significant here; Jesus in his third question uses ‘philo’ himself, and it seems that it is this ‘change-down’, as it were, that grieves Peter here (v.17), rather than the fact that he asks the question a third time. The AV translates both verbs as ‘love’, and so misses the point; the NIV gives ‘truly love’ and ‘love’, which works well; but ‘philos’ is the standard word for ‘friend’ in Greek, and it seems that Peter’s answers reflect a new humility in the wake of his failure: he cannot claim to love Jesus with that love which Jesus had so often urged his disciples to have for one another, and which he himself had demonstrated so powerfully and sacrificially on the cross. His three uses of ‘kurie’ here seem to be the most meaningful and thoughtful of all the times he uses it. But Peter, though humbled, is still Peter, still the all-too-human “son of John” as well as a child of God, and there is still one more ‘kurie’ to come. He has received his threefold commission from Jesus to “feed my flock” - to be the faithful steward of the parable we looked at earlier in Luke (12 41ff).; now he catches sight of John, and asks (literally) “Lord, this man - what ?”, presumably, “what will John’s ministry be?” Jesus’ reply is equally colloquial: “If I wish him to remain till I come, what to you?” - that is, “what business is that of yours ?”. Peter should focus on his own discipleship, not worry about the Lord’s will for others: “You” (emphatic) “keep following me” - a lesson we all need to take to heart. This episode, then, is an echo, even if only a pianissimo one, of Peter’s famous declaration of faith, as we saw above: a moment of great spiritual blessing for Peter, followed by a blurted comment, and a rebuke from Jesus, here in the gentlest tone, there in the most devastating words, perhaps, that Jesus ever used, “get behind me, Satan”. The restoration and recommissioning of a penitent Peter makes a heart-warming conclusion to the gospel story of his discipleship, but John here subtly suggests that he is still no plaster saint.

(b) in Acts: faithful service
i. the first prayer-meeting:
Acts 1.12-26, 15.8
'kardiognostes', 'eklegomai'

The next important stage in Peter’s restoration and transformation is, of course, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; but first it is worth looking at the one event recorded between that and the ascension (Acts 1.12 - 26). Peter is clearly the leader of the 120-strong company of disciples, and he takes the initiative in suggesting that they replace Judas, after his betrayal and suicide, with another disciple who has been with them from the beginning, and is, like the other 11, a witness of the resurrection. Two candidates meet these criteria, and they cast lots to choose between them - but before that comes the first recorded church prayer-meeting: they pray “Lord, you who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these you have chosen” (v.24). It seems clear that they are praying to the risen Jesus here: by this stage they have come naturally to address him as ‘kurie’, and it was he who had chosen the 12 in the first place; Luke makes this point by using the same word here (‘eklegomai’, from which comes the English ‘eclectic’) as he had used in his gospel account (6. 13) of that choosing. It is worth adding here that Stephen also prayed to the risen Jesus at his martyrdom. Filled with the Spirit, he “gazed into heaven” (just like the disciples at the ascension in 1.10) and saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God to welcome him home. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”, he prayed, and then, in another echo of the words of the Lord to whom he was praying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (7. 57-60). We are not told who prayed the prayer to Jesus in chapter 1 before the casting of lots, but Luke does give us a hint. The word I have translated “you who know the hearts” is a single word in Greek, ‘kardiognostes’ (cf. a ‘cardiac diagnosis’!); it is only used in one other place in the NT, again by Luke in Acts: we find it on the lips of Peter in the Council of Jerusalem (15.8), to stress that God knew what he was doing when he gave the gift of the Spirit to Cornelius and his fellow gentiles. So perhaps it was Peter who led the prayer-meeting with this address to Jesus - as he led everything else! Perhaps, too, as he addressed Jesus as the Lord who knows all our hearts, he remembered his own pained answer to Jesus’ third question by the Lake “are you my friend?”: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I am your friend.”

ii. Peter's quotations from scripture
Luke 24.44-5

In proposing the ‘election’ of a twelfth apostle, Peter had quoted, in support of this move, from two psalms (69.25 and 109.8); and in his great Pentecost sermon, as well as quoting Joel’s prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit, he quotes from three more psalms. There are further quotations from the OT scriptures in his second sermon, in the temple, in chapter 3, and in his subsequent appearance before the Sanhedrin in chapter 4; and when, at the end of that chapter, the church holds another prayer-meeting, they begin by quoting psalm 2, which they saw as being fulfilled by the opposition they were facing, and which Jesus had faced., from “the kings of the earth and the rulers”. This new understanding of familiar scriptures is, of course, one of the great ministries of the Holy Spirit; but we may also trace it back, before Pentecost, to the great bible-study Jesus had given to his disciples in Luke 24. 44-5: “This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”. Luke continues: “then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures”. On nine other occasions in the gospels Jesus refers to the OT in the traditional shorthand as “the Law and the Prophets”; on this occasion alone he includes the Psalms. The disciples, and especially Peter, must have taken this to heart, for of the 10 or 11 OT references in the first 4 chapters of Acts 7 are from the Psalms.

iii. Peter's Pentecost sermon
Acts 2.14-36

In his Pentecost sermon, then, (Acts 2. 14-36) Peter quotes from the scriptures to show that the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit are all fulfilments of OT prophecy. We will look at the Psalms quotations first. Verses 25-8 are taken from Psalm 16. 8-11; the key verse is v. 27 (=v. 10): “You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor will you give over your Holy One to see decay”. David cannot have been talking about himself here, Peter argues, so he next uses Psalm 132.11 (itself a reference to 2 Sam. 7. 12-3) to show that the prophecy of resurrection refers not to the psalmist himself but to ‘great David’s greater Son’. So not only are the apostles eye-witnesses of the resurrection, as he says in v. 32, but the scriptures also bear prophetic testimony to it. Now therefore, Peter goes on, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God - “for David says----”; these are the same words he used to introduce the reference to Psalm 16 to justify the statement “God raised him up” (v. 25). This time, he quotes Psalm 110.1: “The Lord said to my Lord. ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your foot-stool’”. We saw earlier that Elizabeth was the first person in the gospels to refer to Jesus as ‘my Lord’, even though he was still an unborn baby in his mother’s womb; but the honour of being the first person in the bible to do so, and therefore, presumably, the first person in history, goes to David in this psalm - an even more remarkable word of prophecy. In all three synoptic gospels, Jesus is recorded as quoting this verse to the Pharisees, after he has answered all their questions designed to entrap him, and asking them, “If, then, David called him Lord, how can he be his son ?” (Matt. 24.45) The Pharisees were silenced by this question: they had obviously never thought through the implications of this clearly Messianic psalm; nor does Jesus himself provide the answer. He is addressed, or referred to, as ‘Son of David’ seven times in Matthew’s gospel, but not until Peter’s sermon is the full significance of this title made clear. Peter, instructed by Jesus’ teaching (Luke 24. 44-5) and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, now sees clearly that the son of David is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and from there he has “poured out upon them” the promised gift of the Spirit. All this scripture exposition builds up inexorably to the great climax of Peter’s sermon: “Therefore --- God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Christ (Messiah) and LORD”. We tend to think that ‘therefore’ is one of Paul’s favourite words, characteristic of the relentless logic of his theology. But this has a good claim to be the greatest ‘therefore’ of them all: ‘the scriptures prophesied it, God has fulfilled it, we have witnessed it - THEREFORE Jesus is LORD!’

Parenthesis 2: 2 paradoxes
Luke 2.21,39

Peter’s long quotation from the prophet Joel (vv. 17-21, = Joel 2. 28-32) is used to refute the crowd’s cynical suggestion that the exuberant behaviour of the apostles is due to drunkenness. They were not, says Peter (v. 13) “filled with wine” but filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus the prophecy had been fulfilled. But the last verse he quotes is not strictly necessary to this purpose: “and it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. This verse prepares the ground for the second part of Peter’s sermon. “What shall we do?”, the crowd asks, and Peter replies: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; for the promise (of the Holy Spirit) is to you, and to all whom the Lord our God shall call” (38-9). The word ‘call’ here is exactly the same (3rd. person singular aorist subjunctive middle!) as that in the verse from Joel. Salvation is available for any one who “calls on the name of the Lord”: God gives us all the free will to take this step of faith. But it is equally true that we can only do so if “the Lord our God calls” us to do so: God is Sovereign, he is Lord. Thus in this, the first sermon of the Christian church, we are introduced to the paradoxical mystery of salvation: any one of us is free to choose God, but when we do, we find that he has chosen us first. We cannot be sure that Peter was consciously presenting his hearers with this profound paradox. It is more likely that Luke, in summarising his sermon, and (probably) translating it into Greek, was deliberately using the same word for ‘call’ in both contexts; for the more one reads Luke’s writings the more one becomes aware that his use of words is characteristically careful and exact (doctors’ handwriting may be illegible, but their prescriptions have to be precise!). And this in turn leads us to a parallel paradox to the paradox of salvation - the paradox of scriptural inspiration: the writers choose their words with care (especially Luke!), according to their own unique abilities and personalities; but the Holy Spirit chooses them first.

Parenthesis 3: "The name of the Lord"
Acts 5.41

This leads us to consider the phrase ‘the name of the Lord’. The quotation from Joel is just one of the 70 or so uses of this phrase in the OT, where it obviously refers to God the Father, and is the standard LXX usage of ‘kurios’ that we have seen many times before. But what happens in Peter’s sermon is deeply significant: the name they are to call upon is the name of Jesus Christ - it is in his name that they are to be baptized (v.38). This becomes even clearer in chapter 4 (v. 12), when Peter is addressing the Sanhedrin after a night in prison. In answer to their question “by what power and in what name did you do this?” (i.e., heal the lame man), he quotes another psalm (118), and then declares that it was in the name of “Jesus Christ of Nazareth” that they had acted; “nor is there salvation in any other, and there is no other name under heaven given among men in which we must be saved”. In fact, there are 30 occasions in Acts when “the name” is used to refer to the name of Jesus, several of them in the context of baptism, and one remarkable instance when the apostles, after being beaten by the authorities, rejoice at having been thought worthy to suffer dishonour “for the sake of the name” (5. 41): clearly, “THE name” needs no explanation or identification; it is the name of Jesus, ‘the name of the Lord’. So what was a standard phrase in the OT referring to God the Father has become, in the book of Acts, a phrase referring to God the Son; and the one who rode into Jerusalem in triumph amid cries of “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 21.9, = Psalm 118. 26)Peter'is phrase in the OT, where it obviously refers to God the Father has now come to be recognised as the Lord himself.

Parenthesis 4: "the word of the Lord"
Acts 8.35,16.32

Before moving on to look at Peter and Cornelius, it might be worth adding that the same process which we have just observed transforming the phrase “the name of the Lord” also applies to the phrase “the word of the Lord”. This occurs in the OT too many times to count, but is found as many as ten times in Acts, though it is difficult to give a precise figure because of the lack of unanimity of the MSS on this point, where “the word of God” is, in several instances, found as an alternative reading. On four occasions, in particular, Luke concludes a section of his narrative with statements such as “the word of the Lord increased”(6.7, 19.20), or “the word of the Lord multiplied” (12.24), or “the word of the Lord spread” (13.49), though in each case some MSS read “the word of God”. But one verse, over which there seems to be no such disagreement, is 15.35: “Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and ‘evangelising’ the word of the Lord”. This suggests that a subtle change has occurred from the OT usage of “the word of the Lord”, technically, a change from a subjective to an objective genitive. In the OT, “the word of the Lord” means the word spoken by, sent by or inspired by God: God is the subject, the agent of the word. But in the NT, “the word of the Lord” is not, principally, the words spoken by Jesus, his teaching - wonderful as that was - but “the word concerning Jesus”, the account, essentially, of his saving death and glorious resurrection. Merely to report his teaching would not be “evangelising” because in it he sets us a standard we cannot hope to keep, which is far from ‘good news’. The good news is that he “died for our sins and rose again for our justification” (Romans 4.25). That “the word of the Lord” is an objective genitive is beautifully illustrated by Philip (the deacon) in his encounter with the Ethiopian official in the desert. The official is reading Isaiah 53. 7-8, and asks Philip “is the prophet speaking of himself, or someone else ?”. Whereupon Philip “opened his mouth, and beginning from this scripture ‘evangelised’ Jesus to him”, that is, he explained to him ‘the word of the Lord’: grammatically, Jesus is the object of the verb ‘evangelizo’, though theologically, of course, he is the subject of Philip’s discourse. Something similar happens at Philippi, where, as here, a sovereign God, through his Holy Spirit, creates a perfect evangelistic opportunity, this time for Paul and Silas, when the jailer asks “Sirs” (‘kurioi’ - remember ?), what must I do to be saved ?”. In response, Paul and Silas “spoke to him the word of the Lord”, and as a result he and his whole household were baptized - presumably “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”.

iv. Peter and Ananias, Paul and Cornelius
Acts 9 and 10

So now we come to Peter’s visit to Cornelius, a key event in the history of the growing church. In preaching the gospel in Samaria (Acts 8. 4ff.), Philip had broken down one major ethnic barrier; now he is followed by Peter, who crosses an even more formidable frontier in bringing the gospel to the gentiles - and, moreover, to the hated Roman occupiers. Peter’s visit to Cornelius is narrated by Luke in chapter 10, and then in chapter 11 by Peter himself (though as reported, of course, by Luke) in his account to the church in Jerusalem. But between Philip’s ministry in Samaria, and to the (presumably) gentile Ethiopian, in chapter 8, and Peter’s ministry in chapter 10, Luke inserts his account of the conversion of Paul, an equally key event in the church’s history, and one that is narrated twice more by Paul himself. We have already seen how Luke draws parallels between what is essentially Peter’s story in the first half of Acts and Paul’s in the second half; but in chapters 9 and 10 the parallels seem to be more between Peter and Ananias, with Paul correspondingly likened to Cornelius.. The latter seems an unlikely pairing of fanatical Pharisee with God-fearing Roman, but they had this in common: God dramatically intervened to call them to Christ. Jesus himself appears to Paul (then called Saul) on the Damascus Road, addressing him with words that must have seared his conscience and branded themselves on his memory (see 1 Cor. 15.9, Gal. 1.13, Phil. 3.6): “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord (‘kurie’)?”, Paul replies. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” It is worth noting here that in Paul’s second account of this event there is a small difference. The first two introduce Jesus’ reply simply with the words “and he said”, but in the third version Paul adds “and the Lord said” (26.15), so renewing a pattern we saw in Luke’s gospel, where Jesus is addressed as ‘kurie’, and Luke, from his post-resurrection perspective immediately refers to him as ‘the Lord’. Paul is then told to go to Damascus and wait, where he has a vision (‘horama’ - cf. English ‘panorama’) of Ananias’s visit, so that he is expecting him. With Cornelius, God intervenes rather less dramatically, though no less decisively. In a vision (‘horama’ again) he sees “an angel of God”; “What is it, Lord (‘kurie’)?” he asks, and is given instructions to send for Peter in Joppa - so that he, too, is expecting the visit. The parallel between Ananias and Peter is even closer: both are spoken to by the Lord in a vision (‘horama’), and both are initially reluctant but ultimately obedient. Ananias only has a cameo role in Acts, but leaves an indelible impression of goodness and warmth - in striking contrast to his ignominious namesake in Acts 5. Luke begins his account of Ananias with the same ‘sandwich’ order we saw with Jesus and Martha in Luke 10. 39-40. “The Lord spoke to him in a vision: ‘Ananias’, and he said, ‘Here I am, Lord’ ('idou' again); and the Lord said to him ---” giving him directions to Paul’s lodgings on Straight Street. Ananias briefly demurs: “Lord, I have heard” much about this man, none of it good. But “the Lord said to him ‘go’” - and he went: his ‘kurie’ was not just a formality, but an acknowledgement of Jesus’ authority (vv.15,17). Then, finding Paul and laying his hands on him he said “Brother Saul --”: what a lovely combination of obedience, faith and love in just two words!

v. Peter's vision "No, Lord"
Acts 10.9-16

And so, at last, to Peter. Chapter 10 should really begin at 9.32, since the previous verse is one of Luke’s general statements marking the end of a section of his narrative. Here he writes, not that “the word of the Lord” multiplied, but that “the church throughout the whole of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria --- multiplied”. Then follow two miracles of Peter, the healing of Aeneas (32-5), and the raising to life of Dorcas (36-43), which form the prelude to Peter’s visit to Cornelius; for the two disciples who travel from Joppa, where Dorcas had died, to Lydda, where Peter had healed Aeneas, to ask for his help are forerunners of the two servants and the soldier that Cornelius sent to Peter to ask for his help. After each of the two miracles, incidentally, Luke comments that, as a result, many of the inhabitants of Lydda and Joppa “turned to the Lord” (35), or “believed on the Lord” (42). We have seen that Paul, Ananias and Cornelius have all had a vision; now it is Peter’s turn. But his vision is rather different: Luke initially describes it as an ‘ecstasy’ (10.10), a word which suggests an ‘out-of-body’ experience (the verb from which the noun is derived means literally to ‘stand outside oneself’). He sees a sheet let down from heaven containing every kind of animal, reptile and bird, and hears a voice saying “Get up, Peter; kill and eat”. Peter’s response - “no way, Lord” - recalls those occasions in the gospels that we have already looked at when he contradicted his Lord; this is the starkest contradiction of them all - indeed, “no, Lord” is a contradiction in terms. In his defence, however, it must be said that we cannot be sure, in view of his trance-like state, whether this reply comes from his conscious mind, or from deep within his subconscious prejudices, for what he objects to is the idea that he should eat anything “common or unclean” (10.14), since that was forbidden in the Mosaic law. The voice of Jesus then tells him: “What God has made clean you must not regard as unclean”. This interchange occurs three times, before the sheet is taken up into heaven again, and this must inevitably have reminded Peter of the threefold question Jesus asked him on the shore of Lake Galilee, “Simon, son of John, do you love me ?” The purpose of this vision, of course, is not that Peter should from now on have no scruples about eating bacon for breakfast, but to prepare him for the invitation from the gentile Cornelius. We have seen how Peter took to heart Jesus’ great bible-study in Luke 24. 44-5, with all the psalm quotations that feature in his early sermons; but he seems to have forgotten verse 47, where Jesus says that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all the nations” (‘ethnē’, the normal word for ‘gentiles’). In his Pentecost sermon he certainly preaches “repentance” and “forgiveness of sins” (2. 38), and adds that the promise of the Holy Spirit is “for you and your children, and for all who are afar off”, but that probably refers not to the gentiles but to those Jews of the diaspora who had not made it to Jerusalem for Pentecost that year. It seems, then, that Peter needs this reminder, or reassurance, that the gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation, and , like Ananias, he is “not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (to borrow Paul’s words to Agrippa, 26. 19).

vi. Peter and Cornelius
Acts 10.23-48

Challenged by his vision, and then instructed by the Holy Spirit (10. 19-20), he first gives hospitality to Cornelius's (presumably gentile) messengers, and then, next day, goes with them and actually accepts hospitality in Cornelius’s house - taboo for a Jew. As we learn in the next chapter (11.15), he is still only beginning his sermon when the Holy Spirit falls on the whole company; nevertheless, Luke gives us 10 verses of this unfinished sermon (34-43), beginning with the words “Peter opened his mouth”, which links this preaching to the gentile Cornelius with Philip’s exposition of Isaiah 53 to the gentile Ethiopian (8.35). At Pentecost, Peter used a series of scripture quotations to build up to his great conclusion “God made Jesus both Lord and Christ” (2. 36); here, it must be said, his words are somewhat incoherent at first, but standing out among the rather disconnected clauses is the triumphant statement “Jesus is Lord of all” - of all people, including gentiles (v. 36).

vii. Peter's report to the church in Jerusalem
Acts 11.1-18, 1 Peter 3.15
'apologia' 'hetoimos'

This declaration of Jesus’ universal Lordship, echoing the words of Jesus himself that “all authority is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28. 18), is the culmination of our study of this word, and of Peter’s use of it - but there are still a few details to tidy up. The parallel between Paul and Cornelius is completed by the baptism of both of them (9.18, 10.48), as a result of the obedient ministry of Ananias and Peter. Peter then (11. 1-18) reports these events to the church in Jerusalem, where “those of the circumcision party” were very critical of what he had done. His account is broadly the same as Luke’s in the previous chapter, though the wording is different, to avoid too much tedious repetition. But two passages are identically worded, the words of the Lord, and the two words of Peter’s reply, “No, Lord”. The first instance emphasises the sanctity of the words of Jesus: neither Peter nor Luke feels at liberty to change them, even for stylistic effect. The second is characteristic of Peter’s honesty; just as his threefold denial of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels, surely at his insistence, so here Peter admits his words “No, Lord”, and does not in any way try to fudge or finesse this denial of his Lord’s authority. There is even an echo of his earlier denials in verse 16: he reports to the church the falling of the Holy Spirit upon his audience “just as on us at the beginning; and I remembered the word of the Lord ---”. These are (almost) the same words that Luke used in his gospel account of Peter’s denial (22. 61) - a passage we looked at earlier - when Jesus “looked upon him” at the crowing of the cock, and he “remembered the word of the” (or “his”) “Lord that he would deny him”. As a final postscript to our study of Peter’s use of ‘kurios’ we move on to his First Epistle (3. 15), where, again, it is possible to detect a memory of his denial of his Lord. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”, he writes, “being always ready to give a reasoned defence” (‘apologia’ in Greek, as in ‘apologetics’) to every one that asks you to account for the hope that is in you.” Could Peter have thought ruefully, as he wrote this, of his own failure to witness to Jesus as his Lord when asked by three different people if he was his disciple? He had professed himself “ready” (Greek ‘hetoimos’, as in this verse) to go with Jesus to prison and to death (Luke 22.33), but had not been ‘ready’ to meet the challenge of a servant-girl.

8. Mother and Son
(a) Mary
Luke 1.38 ('idou')

To draw together some of the threads of this lengthy study of ‘kurios’, we shall look at two final verses. The first is one of the most moving speeches in scripture, the words of the virgin Mary in response to Gabriel’s announcement that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit a child who will be the Son of God: “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1. 38). This humble acceptance by a teenage girl of her awesome destiny is beautiful in its simplicity. She acknowledges the God of her fathers, the God of the scriptures, as her Lord, and submits to his authority. The Greek word ‘idou’, meaning ‘behold’, is hard to translate into modern English; “here I am, ready and willing” is its implication. Ananias responds to his call by ‘the Lord’ in his vision with the same word, in the passage we have just looked at (Acts 9. 10); so, too, does the prophet Isaiah, in the LXX version, in his vision of God in the temple, to the question “whom shall I send ?” (Isaiah 6.8) When God chose a mother for his Son, he chose, in Mary, a mother who would be a beautiful model of humility for him. Human character seems to be largely determined by a mixture of nature and nurture; Jesus’ character was clearly determined by his divine nature - but his nurture at the hands of his human parents must have had some influence, and the humility he showed, most notably in the washing of his disciples’ feet, must have owed something to his mother’s example: it is not hard to imagine her washing her Son’s feet as a small child. Like mother, like Son. If his mother was a model of humility, his earthly father, Joseph, was a model of obedience. Not a single word of his is recorded in scripture, but three times in Matthew’s nativity account he is visited by “an angel of the Lord” (as we have already seen), and three times he obeys the angel promptly and without question (1.24, 2.14 and 21). The writer to the Hebrews tells us (5.8) that “though Jesus was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered”; but long before that he must have “learned obedience” through the example set him by his foster-father: like foster-father, like Son. Humility and obedience: these two most remarkable characteristics of the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, bring us to our final passage, Philippians 2. 5-11.

(b) Jesus
Phil 2.5-11, 1 Cor 12.3

Many think that in this famous passage Paul is quoting from an early Christian hymn or creed, and much ink has flowed from literary critics exploring and analysing its form, and even more from theologians examining its profound Christology. For us, it simply leads us to our final ‘kurios’ - by way of the cross. Paul is pleading for peace and unity among the Christians at Philippi, urging them to show the “humble-mindedness” that puts others before oneself, and which was the attitude of Jesus himself, “who, though being in his nature fully God --- emptied himself of his divine glory and, fully taking upon himself the nature of a servant, he humbled himself, and was obedient (to his Father’s will), even to the point of death, death on a cross”. Any translation of this great passage is inadequate, and almost certainly controversial, but I have focused on those two great characteristics of Jesus, his humility and his obedience, which are so perfectly exemplified by his prayer at Gethsemane, “not my will, Father, but yours be done” (Luke 22.42)). It is Jesus’ “humble-mindedness” which is Paul’s main point in this passage, and it shines out of the magnificent language like a pure beam of light. What is less obvious, and less often commented on, as though concealed in the shadows cast by the glowing humility of the Son, is the humility of the Father: “Therefore God highly exalted him, and graciously gave him” (this verb, ‘charizomai’, is derived from ‘charis’, ‘grace’) the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow --- and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD”. How humbly gracious, indeed, of the Father to let his Son have “the name above every name2, so that his people are universally known as CHRIST-ians, and that the earliest and most fundamental creed of the Christian church was “JESUS is Lord” (1 Cor. 12.3). The only pride in the character of God is the humble pride of a father in the perfection of his son - a perfection which in turn reflects glory on the Father (v. 11): like Father, like Son! There is, as revealed in this passage, a profound humility at the heart of the Godhead - which is why pride s the deadliest of all the deadly sins.


In the light of this passage, it is not too fanciful, I think, to draw a parallel between the usage of ‘kurios’ in the NT and the Lord himself. To begin with, kurios refers to God alone, occurring in the many LXX versions of the prophecies of the nativity quoted by Matthew and Luke - and in the busy activities of "the angel of the Lord". But after the incarnation, as "the word became flesh", so the word 'kurios' is, as it were, incarnated into the everyday world of 'koinē' Greek, the language of the NT, expressing the whole range of purely human meanings that we have studied. But as Jesus' divine nature shines more and more through his human form, by his miracles (especially the raising of Lazarus), by his teaching, and by his sinless life, the disciples increasingly come to realise that the man they address as 'kurie' is more than just a man. But it is not until after the resurrection that the full truth of Jesus' Lordship is revealed , and the church, led by Peter - though that famous doubter, Thomas, deserves a mention too - begins to grasp the amazing truth that the 'kurios' of the OT and the man they have habitually addressed as 'kurie' are one and the same - or (to repeat the point) more accurately, two and yet the same. Increasingly in Acts, and predominantly in the epistles, 'the Lord' is Jesus, since "Jesus is Lord", and his, indeed, is the name that is above every name as the Father graciously entrusts "all authority in heaven and earth" to his obedient Son, who "emptied himself" of his 'upper-case' 'kurios' at the incarnation, but now resumes it for all eternity: Jesus is LORD - 'Kurios' with a capital kappa!