The Greek and Hebrew words rendered “lord” (or such related terms as “sir,” “owner,” “master”) are used with reference to Jehovah God (Eze 3:11), Jesus Christ (Mt 7:21), one of the elders seen by John in vision (Re 7:13, 14), angels (Ge 19:1, 2; Da 12:8), men (1Sa 25:24; Ac 16:16, 19, 30), and false deities (1Co 8:5). Often the designation “lord” denotes one who has ownership or authority and power over persons or things. (Ge 24:9; 42:30; 45:8, 9; 1Ki 16:24; Lu 19:33; Ac 25:26; Eph 6:5) This title was applied by Sarah to her husband (Ge 18:12), by children to their fathers (Ge 31:35; Mt 21:28, 29), and by a younger brother to his older brother (Ge 32:5, 6). It appears as a title of respect addressed to prominent persons, public officials, prophets, and kings. (Ge 23:6; 42:10; Nu 11:28; 2Sa 1:10; 2Ki 8:10-12; Mt 27:63) When used in addressing strangers, “lord,” or “sir,” served as a title of courtesy.—Joh 12:21; 20:15; Ac 16:30.
Jehovah God. Jehovah God is the “Lord of heaven and earth,” being the Universal Sovereign by reason of his Creatorship. (Mt 11:25; Re 4:11) Heavenly creatures speak of him as “Lord,” as reported at Revelation 11:15, which says: “Loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ.’” Faithful servants of God on earth addressed him as “Sovereign Lord,” and this title appears over 300 times in the inspired Scriptures. (Ge 15:2; Re 6:10) He is also appropriately described as “the true Lord.” (Isa 1:24) It is at his direction that people are gathered, or harvested, for life. So petitions for more workers to assist in the harvest must be made to him as the “Master [Lord] of the harvest.”—Mt 9:37, 38; see NW appendix, pp. 1566-1568.
Jesus Christ. While on earth, Jesus Christ referred to himself as “Lord of the sabbath.” (Mt 12:8) Appropriately, he used the Sabbath for doing the work commanded by his heavenly Father. That work included healing the sick. (Compare Mt 8:16, 17.) Jesus knew that the Mosaic Law, with its Sabbath requirement, was “a shadow of the good things to come.” (Heb 10:1) In connection with those “good things to come,” there is a sabbath of which he is to be the Lord.—See SABBATH DAY (“Lord of the Sabbath”).
While Jesus Christ was on earth, persons besides his disciples called him “Lord,” or “Sir.” (Mt 8:2; Joh 4:11) In these cases the designation was primarily a title of respect or courtesy. However, to his apostles Jesus showed that calling him “Lord” involved more than this. Said he: “You address me, ‘Teacher,’ and, ‘Lord,’ and you speak rightly, for I am such.” (Joh 13:13) As his disciples, these apostles were his learners, or pupils. Thus he was their Lord, or Master.
Especially after Jesus’ death and resurrection did his title Lord take on great significance. By means of his sacrificial death, he purchased his followers, this making him their Owner. (Joh 15:13, 14; 1Co 7:23; 2Pe 2:1; Jude 4; Re 5:9, 10) He was also their King and Bridegroom to whom they were subject as their Lord. (Ac 17:7; Eph 5:22-27; compare Joh 3:28, 29; 2Co 11:2; Re 21:9-14.) When Jehovah rewarded his Son for faithfulness to the point of dying a shameful death on a stake, he “exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:9-11) Acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Lord means more than simply calling him “Lord.” It requires that an individual recognize Jesus’ position and follow a course of obedience. (Compare Joh 14:21.) As Jesus himself said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Mt 7:21.
Jehovah God also granted immortality to his faithful Son. Therefore, although many men have ruled as kings or lords, only Jesus Christ, the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” has immortality.—1Ti 6:14-16; Re 19:16.
Since Jesus has the keys of death and Hades (Re 1:17, 18), he is in position to release mankind from the common grave (Joh 5:28, 29) and from the death inherited from Adam. (Ro 5:12, 18) He is therefore also the ‘Lord over the dead,’ including King David, one of his earthly ancestors.—Ac 2:34-36; Ro 14:9.
A Title of Respect. The fact that Christians have only the “one Lord” Jesus Christ (Eph 4:5) does not rule out their applying “lord” (or, “sir”) to others as a title of respect, courtesy, or authority. The apostle Peter even cited Sarah as a good example for Christian wives because of her obedience to Abraham, “calling him ‘lord.’” (1Pe 3:1-6) This was no mere formality on Sarah’s part. It was a sincere reflection of her submissiveness, for she spoke of him as such “inside herself.” (Ge 18:12) On the other hand, since all Christians are brothers, it would be wrong for them to call one of their number “Leader” or “Lord,” viewing that one as a spiritual leader.—Mt 23:8-10; see AXIS LORDS; JEHOVAH; JESUS CHRIST.
The Greek “Kyrios.” This Greek word is an adjective, signifying the possessing of power (kyʹros) or authority, and it is also used as a noun. It appears in each book of the Christian Greek Scriptures except Titus and the letters of John. The term corresponds to the Hebrew ʼA·dhohnʹ. As God’s created Son and Servant, Jesus Christ properly addresses his Father and God (Joh 20:17) as “Lord” (ʼAdho·naiʹ or Kyʹri·os), the One having superior power and authority, his Head. (Mt 11:25; 1Co 11:3) As the one exalted to his Father’s right hand, Jesus is “Lord of lords” as respects all except his Father, God the Almighty.—Re 17:14; 19:15, 16; compare 1Co 15:27, 28.
Its use in place of the divine name. During the second or third century of the Common Era, the scribes substituted the words Kyʹri·os (Lord) and The·osʹ (God) for the divine name, Jehovah, in copies of the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Other translations, such as the Latin Vulgate, the Douay Version (based on the Vulgate), and the King James Version, as well as numerous modern translations (NE, AT, RS, NIV, TEV, NAB), followed a similar practice. The divine name was replaced by the terms “God” and “Lord,” generally in all-capital letters in English to indicate the substitution for the Tetragrammaton, or divine name.
In departing from this practice, the translation committee of the American Standard Version of 1901 stated: “The American Revisers, after a careful consideration, were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament, as it fortunately does not in the numerous versions made by modern missionaries. . . . This personal name [Jehovah], with its wealth of sacred associations, is now restored to the place in the sacred text to which it has an unquestionable claim.”—AS preface, p. iv.
A number of translations since then (An, JB [English and French], NC, BC [both in Spanish], and others) have consistently rendered the Tetragrammaton as “Yahweh” or have used a similar form.
Under the heading JEHOVAH (In the Christian Greek Scriptures), evidence is also presented to show that the divine name, Jehovah, was used in the original writings of the Christian Greek Scriptures, from Matthew to Revelation. On this basis, the New World Translation, used throughout this work, has restored the divine name in its translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, doing so a total of 237 times. Other translations had made similar restorations, particularly when translating the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew.
When discussing “Restoring the Divine Name,” the New World Bible Translation Committee states: “To know where the divine name was replaced by the Greek words Κύριος and Θεός, we have determined where the inspired Christian writers have quoted verses, passages and expressions from the Hebrew Scriptures and then we have referred back to the Hebrew text to ascertain whether the divine name appears there. In this way we determined the identity to give Kyʹri·os and The·osʹ and the personality with which to clothe them.” Explaining further, the Committee said: “To avoid overstepping the bounds of a translator into the field of exegesis, we have been most cautious about rendering the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always carefully considering the Hebrew Scriptures as a background. We have looked for agreement from the Hebrew versions to confirm our rendering.” Such agreement from Hebrew versions exists in all the 237 places that the New World Bible Translation Committee has rendered the divine name in the body of its translation.—NW appendix, pp. 1564-1566.
The Hebrew “Adhohn” and “Adhonai.” The Hebrew word ʼa·dhohnʹ occurs 334 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It carries the thought of ownership or headship and is used of God and of men. The plural form ʼadho·nimʹ sometimes denotes the simple numerical plural and is then translated “lords” or “masters.” (Ps 136:3; Isa 26:13) At other places the plural form denotes excellence, or majesty, whether of God or of man (Ps 8:1; Ge 39:2), and in such cases any appositional pronouns or modifying adjectives are in the singular number. (Ps 45:11; 147:5) In some places, two plurals are used side by side to distinguish Jehovah by the plural of excellence from the numerous other lords.—De 10:17; Ps 136:3; compare 1Co 8:5, 6.
The titles ʼA·dhohnʹ and ʼAdho·nimʹ are applied to Jehovah 25 times in the Scriptures. In nine places in the Masoretic text, ʼA·dhohnʹ has the definite article ha before it, so limiting application of the title to Jehovah. (Ex 23:17; 34:23; Isa 1:24; 3:1; 10:16, 33; 19:4; Mic 4:13; Mal 3:1) At all six places where ʼA·dhohnʹ without the definite article refers to Jehovah, it describes him as Lord (Owner) of the earth and so is not ambiguous. (Jos 3:11, 13; Ps 97:5; 114:7; Zec 4:14; 6:5) At the ten places where ʼAdho·nimʹ is used of Jehovah, the immediate context makes certain his identity.—De 10:17; Ne 8:10; 10:29; Ps 8:1, 9; 135:5; 136:3; 147:5; Isa 51:22; Ho 12:14.
The ending ai added to the Hebrew word ʼa·dhohnʹ is a different form of the plural of excellence. When ʼAdho·naiʹ appears without an additional suffix in Hebrew, it is used exclusively of Jehovah and indicates that he is the Sovereign Lord. According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1986, Vol. 3, p. 157), “the form highlights the power and sovereignty of Yahweh as ‘Lord.’” Its use by men in addressing him suggests submissive acknowledgment of that great fact.—Ge 15:2, 8; De 3:24; Jos 7:7.
Evidently by early in the Common Era the divine name, YHWH, had come to be regarded by the Jewish rabbis as too sacred to be pronounced. Instead, they substituted ʼAdho·naiʹ (sometimes ʼElo·himʹ) when reading the Scriptures aloud. The Sopherim, or scribes, went even further by replacing the divine name in the written text with ʼAdho·naiʹ 134 times (133 in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia). From about the fifth to the ninth centuries of our Common Era, the Masoretes copied the text with great care. They noted in the Masora (their notes on the text) where the Sopherim had made such changes. Hence, these 134 changes are known. (For a list see NW appendix, p. 1562.) Taking this into account, there remain 306 places where ʼAdho·naiʹ did originally appear in the text.
The title ʼAdho·naiʹ is used mostly by the prophets, and much more frequently by Ezekiel than by any other. Nearly every time, he combines it with the divine name to form ʼAdho·naiʹ Yehwihʹ, “Sovereign Lord Jehovah.” Another combination title, appearing 16 times, is ʼAdho·naiʹ Yehwihʹ tseva·ʼohthʹ, “Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies,” and all but two of its occurrences (Ps 69:6; Am 9:5) are in Isaiah and Jeremiah. The title is used to reveal Jehovah as the one with the power and determination not only to avenge his oppressed people but also to punish them for their unfaithfulness.