The Difference Between “LORD” and “Lord”

Q: When the Bible uses the word “lord,” sometimes it is all in capital letters (“LORD”), sometimes only the first letter is capitalized (“Lord”), and sometimes no letters are capitalized (“lord”). Why is this?

A: When you encounter the word in all lower case — lord — it is simply a reference to a human ruler.

When you encounter the word with the first letter only capitalized — Lord — it is either because it is at the front of a sentence or because it is a reference to one of the three divine Persons of the Godhead (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) or to the entire Godhead.

When you see the term entirely capitalized — LORD — it will be in the Old Testament and is translating the Hebrew word for the name of God — YHWH, or Yahweh (Biblical Hebrew has no vowels, only consonant letters). The reason for this is that the Ten Commandments forbid anyone to misuse the name of Yahweh, stating:

“You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not hold anyone who misuses his name guiltless.” (Ex. 20:7; cf. Deut. 5:11).

Although the name Yahweh was used freely in the early history of Israel, by the time of Jesus the Jews (especially the Pharisees) had become hyper-scrupulous about breaking the Mosaic Law and, in an attempt to “build a wall” around the commandments of the Law so that no one could even get close to breaking them, they ruled that no one should speak the name of the Yahweh ever. The only exception to this was during one feast day of the year when the priest would intone the actual name Yahweh once during the liturgy.

This prohibition on saying “Yahweh” created a problem for people reading the Bible out loud in synagogue liturgies. Since the name of Yahweh was freely used in the Scripture texts, what were they to say in its place as they read the Bible out loud? The answer that was reached was that they were to say the word “Adonai” instead. Adonai is the Hebrew word for “lord,” or actually “my lord.”

When the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) was translated, it replaced the Hebrew word YHWH with the Greek word for “lord” (kyrios).

Thus the New Testament writers, because they were both devout Jews and people who were quoting the Septuagint in their writings, never used the name “Yahweh” in the New Testament, but consistently used “Kyrios” in its place. This is a good poke in the eye for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are obsessed with the divine name and try to argue that it was “hidden” by Christians while they themselves have restored it. In reality, the Apostle Paul himself used “Kyrios” instead of “Yahweh.”

Another good poke in the eye for them is the fact that when vowels were eventually introduced into the Jewish alphabet, they came in the form of vowel points above and below the consonant letters that were written on the page of Scripture. Because the custom of saying “Adonai” instead of “Yahweh” was already in place, when the Jews added vowel points to the Old Testament, they used the vowel points for “Adonai” (a-o-ai) whenever the encountered the word “YHWH,” giving us “Yahowaih,” which is transliterated into English as “Jehovah.” Thus the Jevhovah’s Witnesses, for all their insistence on the divine name, have actually named themselves after something that isn’t the name of God. “Jehovah” is not God’s true name. Based on the patristic and other evidence available, the actual way the divine name was pronounced was “Yahweh,” not “Jehovah.”

Furthermore, because they have named themselves after something that isn’t God’s name and then gone out and rubbed this in the face of the world, they have actually perpetuated the “hiding” of the divine name by reinforcing in the world’s memory the name “Jehovah” instead of “Yahweh.”

Also, they are venomously anti-Catholic, yet they are actually named after a term coined by a Catholic monk from Spain. The Jews knew full well that the vowel points a-o-ai in their Scriptures were not actually part of the name YHWH, but in the middle ages, along came a Spanish monk who read them as a single word — Jehovah. It was thus a Catholic monk from medieval Spain that gave us the name “Jehovah,” and it is this that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have named themselves after.

Finally, they themselves know this but have visibly tried to suppress this fact. That the name “Jehovah” was invented by a medieval Spanish Catholic monk is admitted in the Jehovah’s Witnesses old Bible dictionary, An Aid to Bible Understanding, however it has been suppressed in the new edition of this work, Insight on the Scriptures.

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