Copy of Personal Letter.


kurios   kurieuO   kurie   despotEs   ho kurios  


Dear Mr. S.,

I am very glad your contact with Jews is getting you into difficulty about the Deity of our Lord. I am glad because a faith that has been thought out and wrestled out is worth ten that are based mainly on accepted authority.

I think I had better start at the end of your letter and deal with the title Son of God first. Son of ... BEN- in Hebrew implies, whenever it is not used literally, that "the son" displays a marked similarity to or an outstanding characteristic of "the father". That is why the angels are called "sons of God";  they resemble God in the superhuman power they possess.

This explains Hebrews chapter 1.. For the writer "the Son" does not automatically imply Deity. That is brought in by the O.T. passages he quotes. In other words "Son of God" is a term compatible with Deity, but does not of necessity imply it.

With "Lord" the position is quite different. kurios represents three entirely different idioms. The verb kurieuO = to rule or control. Hence kurios means :

  1. owner, e.g. Matt.20.8.; Mark 13.35.; Luke 19.35.;

  2. lord, master, i.e. someone with full control, e.g. Matt.9.38, 12.8 ; Lk.10.2 

  3. The owner of a slave, e.g. Matt,10.24.; Jn.13.16.. kurie is the normal address of a slave to his master, e.g. Matt.l3.27.; Lk.13.8.:

  4. The term is used by a wife to her husband (1Pet.3.6.), by a son to his father (Matt.21.30), to a person in high position, e.g. Matt.27.63, and as a term of respect generally, e.g. Matt. 25.11.; John 12.21.:

  5. kurios was used regularly in Greek. as a title of deities, and so it Was used of rulers regarded as gods, e.g. Acts 25.26.. It is in this way that Rom.10.9. should be understood; it is an open challenge to imperial claims.

  6. The translators of the LXX used kurios to represent both YAHWEH and ADON/ADONAI. Sometimes the latter was rendered despotEs; this is found (used) of God in the N.T. in Lk.2.29., Acts 4.24., Rev.6.10. and (used) of Christ in 2Pet.2.1. and Jude 4..

There is no reason for taking the address kurie addressed to Jesus as meaning nothing more than "Sir", though in certain cases, e.g. Luke 5.8., this is obvious1y weak. But John 13.13. bears out what has been said: "Master (i.e. Teacher) and lord" represents the Hebrew (Aramaic) Rab & Mar (cf. Marnatha) which are the normal titles of respect used by a rabbinic student to his teacher.

The use of ho kurios for Jesus implies more. That is probably why in (both) "Matthew and Mark it is used once only, Matt.21.3., Mk.11.3.. In Luke it is common and it must be understood as a claim to more than mere humanity. In John it is very rare until after the resurrection, when it becomes common, viz. 20:2.,13., 18., 20., 25., 28.; 21:7,12.. This must be understood as an affirmation of Deity (cf.20.28). Some such extension of meaning is implicit in the other books of the N.T'., e.g. Acts 5:14.; 9:10, 11, 42; Rom.12:11.; 14:8; 1Cor. 6:13 ., 14., 17 . etc.. While it might be impossible to postulate Deity of any particular verse, the combined effect is undeniable..

Particularly important is the use of O.T. quotations where kurios = YAHWEH but is applied without comment to Jesus. So Isa. 40:3. - Mk.11:3. : Isa.8:13. 1Pet.3:15,  John.9:23-24. - ICor.1:31. Joel 2:32. - Rom.10:13. : Psa.34:8. - lPet:2.3. : Psa l02:2- Heb.1:10. (This is not affected by YAHWEH not being in the Hebrew of v.25) In other words we have the right to apply the title YAHWEH to Jesus.

Perhaps more striking still is that in certain passages the writer is so ambiguous that we do not know whether the Son or the Father is meant (because it did not matter !!) e.g. Acts 9:31.; 1Cor.4:19.; 2Cor.8:21.; Col.3:22.; 1Thes.4:6.

In other words, while during His ministry our Lord claimed special relationship to God, He did not claim or reveal His Deity. After His resurrection, from Thomas on, there was the rapid acceptance of His Deity and the realisation that words used of YAHWEH in the Old Testament could be used without question of Him in the New.

If you want to follow this up you can probably obtain from the library A.W.Wainwright's 'The Trinity in the New Testament (S.P.C.K.). So far as the Jew is concerned, we are not here to preach Jesus to him as God, but as Messiah. He will discover that He is God, when he has discovered Him to be Saviour and Messiah.

Yours in Christ Jesus  H.L.E.  6.1963

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