Lord - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Lordkyrios (G2962) Lord
despotes (G1203) Master
According to the later Greek grammarians, a man was a despotes in relation to his slavesand therefore an oikodespotes (G3617)but a kyrios in relation to his wife and children. Certainly there is a degree of truth to this distinction, since kyrios implies a limited moral authority whose wielder takes into consideration the good of those over whom it is exercised. The despotes, however, exercises a more unrestricted power and domination, with no such limitations or restraints. To address another as despota implies an element of submission not found in the title kyrie. The Greeks refused the title of despotes to any but the gods. Our own use of the terms despot, despotic, and despotism, when contrasted with our use of lord and lordship, attests that these words are colored for us as well.
Nevertheless, there were influences that tended to dissolve this distinction. Slaverythe appropriating without payment of other men's toilhowever legalized is so abhorrent to men's innate moral sense that they seek to mitigate its atrocity, in word at least. In antiquity, wherever a more humane view of slavery was present, the antithesis of despotes to doulos (G1401) was replaced by that of kyrios to doulos. The harsher antithesis might survive, but the milder existed along with it. Paul's writings contain examples that show that the distinction of the Greek grammarians was not observed in popular speech. In Paul's usage, masters are both kyrioi (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1) and despotai (1 Tim. 6:1-2; Titus 2:9; cf. 1 Pet. 2:18).
Experience has shown that sinful man cannot be trusted with unrestricted power over his fellow man, for such power will certainly be abused. When man regards God as the absolute Lord, Ruler, and Disposer of his life, however, it results in great benefits, since God's power is never disconnected from his wisdom and love. Just as the Greeks were willing to call the gods despotai, though they refused this title to any other, so in Scripture both despotes and kyrios are applied to the true God. In 2 Peter 2:1 and in Jude 4 the term is applied to Christ as God. Erasmusperhaps because of an unconscious, latent Arianismdenied that despotes in Jude 4 refers to Christ; he attributed kyrios to Christ and despotes to the Father. But the fact that in Erasmus's Greek text Theon (G2316) followed despoten and was joined to it really lay at the root of his reluctance to ascribe despotes to Christ. It was really not a philological but a theological difficulty for Erasmus, regardless of how he may have sought to persuade himself otherwise.
The Christian use of despotes expresses a sense of God's absolute disposal of his creatures, of his autocratic power more strongly than kyrios. Philo found evidence of Abraham's eulabeia (G2124) when he tempered boldness with reverence and godly fear in addressing God not as the usual kyrie but as despota. As Philo elaborated, despotes is not only kyrios but a "frightful kyrios"that implies a more complete prostration of self before the might and majesty of God than does kyrios.