There are multiple names and titles used for God in the Bible, and sometimes it can be confusing to understand. One confusion arises from varied capitalization of the terms “Lord” and “God,” primarily in the Old Testament. In large part, this is a result of English translators attempting to convey the Hebrew term used for God’s name as distinguished from other uses of “Lord” or “God.” Translators have also attempted to respect the Hebrew tradition of not pronouncing or spelling out God’s name. Here are a few of the terms used in the Bible and what they refer to in the original Hebrew or Greek.
LORD (all caps or small caps) reflects the original term
yhwh (found 6,823 times), while Lord (standard capitalization) is the English rendition of the Hebrew
adonai (used some 300 times).
LORD (in all caps or small caps): This spelling is usually used when God’s proper name is meant. The Hebrew, without vowels, is YHWH (also known as the tetragrammaton “four letters”). No one knows for certain what the proper pronunciation of this should be, but other translations are Yahweh or Jehovah.
Lord: “Lord” or “lord” in the Old Testament merely refers to someone of a higher rank (Genesis 18:12), including the pre-incarnate Christ, if the speaker isn’t aware of His identity (Genesis 18:3). If the translation used William Tyndale’s suggestion, the Hebrew Adonai was translated as “Lord” to distinguish it from YHWH. In the New Testament, “Lord” is the Greek kurios, which simply means master, whether referring to God (Matthew 1:20), Jesus (Matthew 7:21), or a general authority (Matthew 18:27). It also translated to master depending on the context.
Major confusion comes when readers try and equate the LORD (YHWH) of the Old Testament with the word Lord (Kurios) in the New Testament. Kurios does NOT denote deity at all. Only a higher authority and thus master. This has led many to assume that Jesus is deity and therefore part of the Godhead. This then forms part of Trinitarian theology. The context can be used to decide if it is speaking about God the Father with the word Lord in the New Testament.
God: “God” is an old English word which may have its origins in the Proto-Indo-European word ghu, which means to pour a libation. In the Bible, it is used for the Hebrew Elohim, which just means god, but since God is the only true god, it’s an appropriate identifier. The prefix of Elohim, “el,” is used in many proper names. “God” in the New Testament is the Greek theos, which means any deity.
LORD GOD/Lord GOD: When this occurs it is usually a combination of the Hebrew Adonai YHWH.