This verse includes a common expression from the Old Testament which normally uses the Divine Name Jehovah (or Yahweh) instead of the word used in the Greek and Aramaic source texts, which is ‘Lord.’ However, by the 1st century, ‘Lord’ was a well-understood euphemism for the Divine Name, which was now taboo to say or write.
The Greek word kyrios was used to stand-in for the name Jehovah/Yahweh. Aramaic speakers used the word marya, possibly from mara (‘Lord’) and yah (‘Jah’). So the word may literally mean ‘Lord Jah’. However, this may have just meant ‘Lord’ in some circumstances.
When encountering these words, ancient readers and listeners would understand from the context when they were euphemisms for the Divine Name – something now taboo to say aloud – and they would put the name back into the text in their minds.
This tradition was very ancient by the time of Jesus. The tradition of using the word baal as a euphemism for the name of a pagan god was then 1,500 years old. The tradition of using kyrios or marya as a euphemism for Jehovah/Yahweh may have gone back 500 years.
In Bible translation, euphemisms that do not have an equivalent in English are translated to say what they mean. In this case, it appears (although we might be wrong) that Lord means YHWH. So when we encounter kyrios or marya in the source texts, we may judge that it’s just a euphemism for Jehovah.
Learn more about the Divine Name, why we use it, and why we use it our New Testament.
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