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Jesus: Lord = teacher?

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  • Bob Schacht
    Question: In Geza Vermes Jesus the Jew (1973), he asks, ...it should be asked how the title lord and the office of an authoritative teacher relate to one
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 23, 2002
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      In Geza Vermes' Jesus the Jew (1973), he asks, "...it should be asked how
      the title 'lord' and the office of an authoritative teacher relate to one
      another" (p.115). After some discussion of the data from various sources,
      he summarizes as follows (in part):
      "It is now possible...to define the linguistic situation into which the New
      Testament's use of 'lord' is to be integrated...
      (3) There is little doubt that some degree of synonymity exists between
      'lord' and 'teacher'. The two words are not infrequently linked, and in the
      Babylonian dialect, at least, 'lord' was a common designation of rabbis in
      general. But any claim concerning the quasi-automatic identification of
      the two must be judged an exaggeration.

      ...Thus in Jewish Aramaic the designation, '(the) lord', is appropriate in
      connection with God, or a secular dignitary, , or an authoritative teacher,
      or a person renowned for his spiritual or supernatural force.... Everything
      tends to suggest that from a purely linguistic point of view Jesus could
      have been both addressed and described as 'lord' in a number of senses. The
      real problem is to determine whether he was actually so addressed and
      depicted by the Aramaic speakers, and, if so, in what capacity he merited
      the title 'lord'." (pp. 120, 121,122)
      In examining Luke's usage, Vermes identified 13 examples where 'lord'
      always implies teacher, with the occasional suggestion that he is the head
      of a group, the master of a circle of disciples (p.125). Examining GJohn's
      usage, he finds that "The meaning of the Johannine 'lord' mostly varies
      between a quite prosaic 'Sir' and 'teacher'." (p.126).

      Vermes concludes with this summation (p.127):
      "The New Testament career of 'lord' reflects the various uses of the term
      listed in the survey of Aramaic terminology. ...
      The title primarily links Jesus to his dual role of charismatic Hasid and
      teacher, and if the stress is greater in the earlier strata of the
      tradition, this is no doubt due to the fact that his impact as a holy man
      preceded that of teacher and founder of a religious community."
      Now, 30 years later, is this analysis still accepted, or has it been
      challenged, changed, or disproved?
      Achtemmeier's Bible Dictionary (1996, "Lord", by Reginald Fuller) seems to
      support Vermes' analysis, in the following comments:
      "In Jesus' time the Aramaic word mari, 'my lord,' was coming into use as a
      title of respect (not of divinity) in addressing human beings with
      authority, e.g., a rabbi, and it would appear that Jesus was so addressed
      (e.g., Matt. 7:21). ...
      Thus, Jesus during his earthly life could be addressed as "Lord" in
      recognition of his authority as a teacher (rabbi) and as a charismatic
      ....Thus Paul uses the title 'Lord' when he appeals to the teaching of the
      earthly Jesus (1 Cor. 7:10; 9:14; 11:21)..."

      Is this a widely held view, or has it been challenged?


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