From: alexali (alexali@surf.net.au)
Date: Wed Jun 09 1999 - 20:40:03 EDT

Jonathan Robie, in a response in the PROSKUNEW thread, refers to an article
in which the words


are translated, "It is Jehovah your God you must worship".

Jonathan comments on this as being strange in that KURION is translated by
"Jehovah", and he asks, "How did KURIOS turn into 'Jehovah'?"

In one of the articles published in Herbert Ch. Youtie's Scriptiunculae
Posteriores, Youtie discusses several words which undergo a significant
semantic shift as they were picked up by Christians and imbued with new
meaning. One of these is the word THEOS. He writes

"The Greek pagans were always, however sophisticated their thought became,
fully at ease with the plural THEOI, 'gods'. For them HO THEOS, 'the god,'
or TO THEION, 'the divine,' never implied the exclusive monotheism which
early became the outlook of the Jews.

When the Jews began to turn their Holy Writings into Greek in the Ptolemaic
period, their various designations of the sole deity of the universe - a
universe emptied of the pagan multiplicity of gods - El, Eloha, Elohim,
were all generally rendered with the Greek THEOS. But it is clear of
course that in passing from Greek into Jewish use, the word changed its
meaning radically. The word passed from a cosmos in which gods were too
numerous to count into another order of things in which those gods had no
existence, where there was only one god whose name was Yahweh. The two
worlds were even more radically different than this statement suggests. In
the pagan world the names of the gods were freely written and freely
spoken. In the Jewish world, the one god had his name and this might be
written but it was too holy, too dreadful, too fraught with potential
consequence for good or evil to be pronounced. For Yahweh the Jews, in
reading out the Scriptures, substituted the harmless Adonai, "my Lord."
And it was this word that determined the rendering of God's name in the
Septuagint as KURIOS. In this way the combination Yahweh Elohim, spoken as
Adonai Elohim, became in the Scripture of Greek-speaking Jews KURIOS HO

This term was later continued by Jewish Christians, as one might expect, as
the name of the one God. But by the middle of the first century, when Paul
began to communicate with his Churches, the word KURIOS was being applied
also to Jesus, i.e. Jesus was being characterized with a divine title.
This phenomenon implies a radical change in the view taken of THEOS. God
now has a son who shares the title KURIOS. Christian communities doubtless
felt that in taking such a step they were extending, supplementing,
completing the Jewish faith that they had inherited. But it is sure that
the Jews did not recognize their god in the KURIOS HO THEOS who shared the
title KURIOS with Jesus."

This is to be found on pages 151-152 of Youtie's Scriptiunculae Posteriores
(the article originally appearing in ZPE 18 (1975)).

Dr Alex Hopkins (Melbourne, Australia)

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