Does Paul swap “Lord [i.e. YHWH]” in OT quotes with “Lord [i.e. Jesus]”

  • Clarifying the question

    Does Paul recite Old Testament quotes, contextualizing “Lord” [i.e. YHWH] into “Lord” [i.e. Jesus]? Does Paul write about Jesus, quoting Old Testament verses about God, so as to imply that quoted OT instances of “Lord” (God) designate Jesus? In playing with the word “Lord”, does Paul recast Old Testament “Lord” references as references to Jesus (who Paul now calls “Lord”).

    To elaborate: the Greek-speaking era had an officialized translation of the Old Testament from its original Hebrew, called the Septuagint (LXX). In the original Hebrew, God’s personal name is written as YHWH (Yahweh). In the translation, however, every instance of YHWH was replaced by the generic Greek word for “Lord”—kurios. (They had reasons to do this.) English Bibles do the same today in the Old Testament (hence “LORD” in all caps.) Paul writes his letters in Greek, and frequently quotes the LXX. He also habitually calls Jesus “Lord” (kurios). Here is our question: In describing Jesus as “Lord”, does Paul quote scriptures about YHWH (God), turning in-text instances of “LORD” (meaning YHWH) into “LORD” (meaning Jesus). That is, does he contextually substitute Jesus into it?

“Yes, after all…
  • Rom 10:13 makes Joel 2 (“call… Lord”) about Jesus

    Paul quotes Joel 2:32 in Rom 10:3, and the context implies Joel’s use of “Lord” actually designates Jesus as the one whose name we are to call upon for deliverance. (Read Joel 2:32,1 then read Rom 10:13.2) This seems to be a clear instance of Paul swapping “Lord” (i.e. YHWH) in Old Testament quotes with “Lord” Jesus (or rather identifying the two as the same Lord).

    But so what? Plausibly...

    • Romans 10:13 is not referring to Jesus.3
    1. Joel 2:32 — “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord Will be delivered;”
    2. Rom 10:8-14 — “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, … you will be saved… for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
    3. it is quite futile to suggest Romans 10:13 is not about Jesus. After all... • Paul frequently speaks of boasting in Christ on the Cross.
      • Paul uses “Lord” to designate Jesus in general (not God).
      • Romans 10 is contextually about Jesus in general.
      • Romans 10 designates Jesus as “Lord” in the immediate context (just prior to the preceding verse),
      • Rom 10:13 “call…Lord” is supplying Old Testament justification for “confessing with your mouth” to acknowlede Jesus as Lord (v8);
      • It’s how other early Christians in general used it.4
      • Paul elsewhere applies the expression to Jesus.5
      • The following questions only make sense if they refer to Jesus. (The one whom they classicaly advance ‘belief in’. The one whom Jews and Gentiles have not even “heard” about, and the one about whom Paul was preaching [cf. Rom 16:25 — [our] preaching of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor 1:19, 4:5; see the same phraseology in Acts 5:42; Acts 8:35; Acts 10:36; Acts 11:20; Acts 17:18; Acts 19:13.)
    4. We know Christians in general applied the formala to Jesus because: • The author Luke-Acts reports it matter-of-factly. • Acts 2:21 — [Peter referring to Jesus:] “BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’”) • Acts 9:21 — “[They said] ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name,…” • We see Paul writing matter-of-factly, “with all who call on the name of Jesus”
    5. E.g. 1 Cor 1:2 — To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
  • 1 Cor 1:31 makes Jer 9 (“boast in… Lord”) about Jesus

    If Paul quotes Jeremiah 9:23-34 in 1 Cor 1:31, the context implies Jeremiah’s use of “Lord” actually designates Jesus as the one we are to “boast” in, for personally “knowing [the Lord]” in his greatness. (Read Jeremiah 9:23-341, then read 1 Cor 1:23-2:1.2)

    But so what? Plausibly...

    • 1 Cor 1:31 is not referring to Jesus.3
    1. Jeremiah 9:23-34 — “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom,… but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth;’”
    2. 1 Cor 1:23-2:1 — we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness… but God has chosen the foolish things of the world… so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified”
    3. We can be sure that 1 Corinthians 1:31 is referring to Jesus for a couple reasons:
      • In context (v1:23-2:1), it is Jesus on the cross that is the world as shamefully foolish, unworthy of boasting.3
      • Soonafter (2:15-16), Paul makes Jesus “Lord” of Isa 40;1, which is about our knowing God via knowing God’s mind. (So in knowing Jesus, we know God, and per Jer 9, can boast in this.)4
    4. We know Paul is designating Jesus Christ as the “LORD” in this quoted passage. After all, in context (see below) it is Jesus on the cross that is being labeled as foolish—something to be ashamed of. The context makes best sense if Paul counters the criticism by saying he boasts in what they call foolishness: in “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Hence, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” Compare Rom 1:16 (“I am not ashamed of the gospel”).
    5. In 1 Cor 2:15-16 — “For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. (This is relevant because Jer 9:23-24 was saying we are to boast in knowing God’s mind: “that he understands and knows Me”)