The Greek New Testament uses the following words to describe God.
- θεός (theos) = God
- κύριος (kyrios) = Lord
THEOS – GOD
The first of these words is the general word for a deity. In English, it is found back in technical terms such as theology and theistic. Based on the number of gods you worship, you are atheist, monotheist, or polytheist. The New Testament use of theos typically corresponds to the Hebrew word Elohim in the Old.
In the Greek language, the word θεός is often accompanied by the definite article: ὁ θεός (ho theos) “the God”. There is no significant difference in meaning. In almost all cases, θεός refers to the one, only true God.
kyrios – Lord
The second word is found in the liturgical phrase Kyrie, eleison! “Lord, have mercy!” (In the direct address, or vocative case, the ending –ος becomes –ε.) The word kyrios was used to denote a “master” over a household; it was a polite address of students to their teacher; and it was used in a way similar to the English title “sir” to address a gentleman.
At the same time, kyrios translates the Hebrew word adonai “Lord” of the Old Testament. Already centuries before the New Testament era, Jewish believers were accustomed also to read adonai “Lord” when the Hebrew text had the tetragrammaton, YHWH, the proper name of God. Thus, the Greek kyrios also correspond to this divine name.
When Jesus’ followers addressed him as kyrios, it was not always obvious whether it is merely a polite address (“sir”, “master”), or a reference to his divine identity (“Lord”). But as the church continued using this title, it is clearly in acknowledgment of his divinity. In Christian literature, “the Lord” nearly always denotes Jesus Christ, the glorified Son of God, who himself deserves divine honor.
“And the Word was God” – John 1:1
An important much-debated passage is John 1:1:
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος
en archê ên ho logos, kai ho logos ên pros ton theon, kai theos ên ho logos
In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, …
The last section literally reads: “and God was the Logos”. Traditionally it has been understood as saying that Jesus Christ, the “Logos”, is no other than God himself. It is an important element in the doctrine of the Trinity.
This view has been challenged. Some (notably the Jehovah’s Witnesses) argue that theos, without the article, must be rendered “a god”—that is, a divine being, but not the one High God. For one thing, predicate nouns often lack the article, even where we would use them in English. Also, if the point was merely that the Logos was a God, this could easily be clarified by writing: θεὸς εἷς (theos heis) “one God”, or εἷς τῶν θεῶν (heis tôn theôn) “one of the gods”. Others have suggested that theos here is qualitative, and so functions as an adjective (“divine”) rather than a noun. However, this would normally accomplished by the adjective θειός (theios).
All in all, the traditional reading, “and the Logos was God”, is clearly the correct reading.
“My Lord and My God” – John 20:28
In John 20:28, the disciple Thomas exclaims:
ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου
ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou
“My Lord and my God!”
Here both divine titles, theos and kyrios, are directly applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. While it is true that Jesus never directly said: “I am God,” he received this appellation by Thomas without criticizing it. On the contrary, he acknowledged this as an expression of Thomas’s faith and responded by a blessing. This simple verse, in straightforward Greek, powerfully underscores the Christian faith that Jesus Christ is himself the eternal Lord and God.