YHWH, Adonai, Adoni


YHWH, Adonai and Adoni in the Hebrew Scriptures:

         While elohim does not have intrinsic meaning of deity, the word YHWH does.  This word appears 6,828 times in the OT and is understood to be the actual name of the Creator God.  YHWH is invariably accompanied by singular personal pronouns and verbs in the singular.  YHWH is often referred to as the Tetragrammaton, which is a Greek word meaning “word of four letters.”  The Hebrew language does not have vowels but only consonants and semi-consonants.  YHWH is composed of four semi-consonants. Vowels must be supplied in the speaking and writing of this word.  Between the seventh and tenth centuries A.D., a group of Jewish scribes and scholars called Masoretes began to insert “vowel points” in the Hebrew text for better clarity of meaning but left YHWH as is.  Consequently we can’t be sure how to pronounce or write this name in other languages to this very day. 

       YHWH is an English transliteration of this Hebrew name for God.  A transliteration is the taking of letters in one alphabet and matching them to corresponding letters in another alphabet.  Since the vowels are missing in YHWH, all spellings of YHWH are interpretations of what the transliteration YHWH may sound like.  For example, the American Standard Bible renders YHWH as Jehovah and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) renders YHWH as Yahweh.  Other renderings that are used include Yahveh, Yehweh and Yahvah.          

        Most English versions of the OT Scriptures don’t use the transliteration YHWH but translate YHWH as LORD or Lord.  The NIV and ESV render YHWH as LORD (all caps) while the KJV, NASV, NET and other English translations render YHWH as Lord (capitol L followed by lower case letters). The Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translation of the Hebrew Scriptures use their equivalent of the Hebrew YHWH.  

       The precise meaning of YHWH is much debated.  It appears to be taken from the Hebrew root word hayah which has the meaning of “be” or “become.” YHWH came to signify self existent one or eternal one.  The OT Scriptures clearly identify the name of God as being YHWH.

       Exodus 3:15:  God (Elohim) also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, `The LORD, (YHWH) the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.   

       Isaiah 42:8: I am the LORD; (YHWH) that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.

        Psalm 83:18: Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD (YHWH) -- that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

       Psalm 96:2; Sing to the LORD (YHWH), praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

       Jeremiah 16:21: Therefore I will teach them-- this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD (YHWH).

       Jeremiah 33:2: This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it--the LORD (YHWH) is his name

       As already mentioned, when the Masoretes began to add vowel points to the Hebrew text they left YHWH as YHWH.  However, in 134 passages where YHWH appears in the OT text, they substituted the Hebrew word Adonai (sometimes spelled Adonay) which is taken from the Hebrew root adon.  This Hebrew word, when substituted for YHWH, is translated as Lord with a capitol L to designate the one true God. Since our English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures are often taken from Masoretic Hebrew texts, the use of LORD for YHWH and Lord for Adonai is an easy way to distinguish between YHWH and Adonai in English Bibles that use this method of rendering these words into English.  Adonai is also found in pre-Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts as a replacement for YHWH in the text and translated as Lord in the English.

       The Hebrew word adon is used multiple hundreds of times in the OT in association with Elohim, YHWH, and man.  Adon is translated as Lord or lord depending on the suffix attached to this word.  Its basic meaning is lord or master.  It is used to describe the owner of someone or something.  When found as descriptive of YHWH this word appears in the Hebrew with the suffix “ai” as Adonai.  When adon appears with the suffix “i” it becomes adoni and in this form is never used to describe YHWH but is applied to man and angels.  Adoni is often translated into the English word master.  For example, the servants of Abraham consistently refer to him as adoni which is translated master.  The Pharaoh of Egypt is called adoni.  So are Joseph and the kings of Israel.

       Adonai is mostly seen as a reference to deity and is often found in a plural form but modified by a singular pronoun.  In such cases it takes on the same meaning as the plural elohim and signifies plural of majesty.  Since the root word adon can reference both God and man, the word does not have intrinsic meaning of deity as does YHWH.  In its form as adonai, as is true of elohim, it is sometimes applied to an angel or a human who has attained a high status.  However, adonai is used the majority of the time in association with YHWHAdonai is found 449 times in the OT in association with YHWH or Elohim in reference to the one true God.       

      As mentioned above, the NIV and ESV translate YHWH as LORD with all capitol letters and adonai as Lord with a capital L followed by lower case letters instead of all caps.  Adoni, on the other hand, is translated as lord with all lower case letters which is how it is rendered in many English translations with one major exception.  In Psalm 110:1, the Hebrew adoni is rendered Lord with a capitol L in most English translations.  This has led many to assume the Hebrew in this passage is adonai rather than adoni.  This assumption has led to Psalm 110:1 being used as major Scriptural support for the Trinitarian concept of Jesus being God as the Father is God.  It is believed David references both the Father and Son as God in this passage.    

       Psalm 110:1: The LORD(YHWH) says to my Lord (adoni): "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." 

       The word translated LORD in Psalm 110:1 is YHWH.  Therefore, the one true God is identified by His name.  The second word Lord in this passage is adoni.  This form of the Hebrew adon is not used in the Hebrew Scriptures to identify deity but always references man in some position of authority and power and a few times references angels.  Here are several examples where adoni is used to refer to man in contrast to references to God as YHWH and Elohim

         1 Kings 1:36-37:  Benewah son of Jehoiada answered the king, "Amen! May the LORD (YHWH), the God (Elohim) of my lord (adoni) the king, so declare it. As the LORD (YHWH) was with my lord (adoni) the king, so may he be with Solomon to make his throne even greater than the throne of my lord (adoni) King David!"

       1 Samuel 24:6: He said to his men, "The LORD (YHWH) forbid that I should do such a thing to my master (adoni), the LORD's (YHWH’s) anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD” (YHWH).

       Numbers 36:2:  They said, when the LORD (YHWH) commanded my lord (adoni) to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters.    

         Adoni is used in reference to man and a few times to angels in every one of the 198 passages in which it occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In the passages where adoni references an angel, even where YHWH is seen as speaking through the angel, there is a clear distinction between the angel as adoni and references to YHWH who speaks through the angel.  In the Septuagint translation of Psalm 110:1, adoni is translated as “ho kurios mou” which in English means “my lord.” 

       In older English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, adoni is sometimes rendered as Lord (lord with a capitol L) when designating an angel interacting with YHWH.  Such renderings have been changed to “lord” or some other designation in updates of these translations.  For example, in Judges 6:13, adoni is rendered “Lord” in the KJV but “lord” in the NKJV.  Here adoni clearly references an angel in contrast to YHWH

       Only in Psalm 110:1 do we still see adoni translated with a capitol L in many English translations (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASV, NIV and ESV).  Even though translators of these versions see adoni and not Adonai in the Hebrew, they render it as "Lord" rather than "lord."  The adoni in Psalm 110:1 appears to be a reference to Christ as will be seen below.  Those who translate adoni as "Lord" rather than "lord" apparently do so because they assumed Christ is YHWH.  Therefore, adoni is translated as though it was Adonai even though adoni is not seen as meaning YHWH in all other passages where this word is used.  Adoni is consistently used in reference to a non-deity such as a man or angel in the Hebrew Scriptures in contrast to Adonai and YHWH which refers to the one true God.

       It is instructive that some English versions of the Scriptures, such as the RSV, NRSV, the New American Bible (NAB), the New English Translation (NET) and the Moffatt translation, do not use the capitol L for “lord” in Psalm 110:1, but use the lower case L.  Translators of these versions apparently realized the Hebrew adoni does not mean deity and therefore should not be made to look as though it does.  In view of all this, let’s consider what Apostle Peter wrote in reference to Jesus in his quote of Psalm 110:1.

       Acts 2:34-36:  For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, "`The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."  "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."    

       Apostle Peter shows the prophetic nature of David’s statement and records that the lord who David referred to is none other than Christ Jesus who God has made lord and Christ.  Christ (Greek: Christos, which means anointed one) is seen as being made lord and Christ by YHWH God.  When Peter quotes Psalm 110:1, it must be understood that to be consistent, Peter is using Lord in the same sense as David did and David used the word adoni which is not used of deity but of man throughout the OT.  Peter is saying God has elevated the man Jesus to a position of lordship (having power and authority) as the promised Christ (the anointed one).  Notice also that in the quote from the Psalm, “YHWH says to adoni “sit at my right hand,” which implies a separation of Beings as opposed to the non-separation Trinitarianism requires.

       Peter prefaces his quote of Psalm 110:1 by clearly showing that David, in seeing Jesus at God's right hand, was prophesying God raising Jesus from the dead and exalting Him to a position of power and authority.  Jesus is alive not because He always was alive but because the one and only God made Him alive after He had been dead.  Peter shows Jesus receiving from the Father the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is a co-eternal, co-equal, con-substantial entity of a single God, why is the Holy Spirit consistently seen in Scripture as emanating from the Father?   

       Acts 2:29-33: Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.  But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

       It is instructive that Peter speaks of Jesus being exalted to the right hand of God who Peter then refers to as the Father from whom Jesus has received the promised Holy Spirit to give to his disciples. Here again God is identified as the Father in distinction from Jesus who is seen at the right hand of the God/Father who is giving him the Holy Spirit to share with His disciples.   

       In another allusion to Psalm 110:1 as recorded in Acts,5, we again see it clearly stated that the Son of God  was dead and is alive because God raised Him from the dead and subsequently exalted Him to His right hand. It is clear this exaltation occurred subsequent to the Son of God being resurrected from the dead and not that this Son of God was always in a state of exaltation as a co,eternal, co-equal and con-substantial entity of a triune God.  

     Acts 5:30-31: The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.

       The disciple Stephen, as he was about to be stoned for his witness to the resurrection of Jesus and his disparagement of the Jews for their refusal to believe Jesus was the promised Messiah to Israel, had a vision of the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  Here again we see an allusion to Psalm 110:1 and a distinction made between God (the LORD (YHWH) Of Psalm 110:1) and the Son of that God (the lord (adoni) of Psalm 10:1).

       Acts 7:55-56: Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

       In his letter to the Ephesians, we see another allusion to Psalm 110:1 when Paul speaks of God displaying His mighty strength in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand. As seen in Acts 5, the exaltation of Jesus to great power, authority and dominion and the placing of everything under His feet occurs subsequent to Jesus being raised from the dead,  

       Ephesians 1:18-22: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.

       The author of the letter to the Hebrews alludes to Psalm 110:1 six separate times in showing Jesus, upon completing His earthly mission and being crucified and raised from the dead, was exalted by God and made to be at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 1:3, 1:13, 8:1, 10:12-13, 12:2).

       Trinitarians will argue that God's exaltation of Jesus subsequent to His resurrection from the dead was a restoration of the power and glory He had before giving it all up to become the incarnate (God in the flesh) Christ Jesus.  I deal with this issue in my discussion of Philippians 2 in Chapter 17 of this series.

       In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus refers to the passage from Psalm 110:1 to show the Pharisees that the adoni (lord) David calls his lord is actually Christ (the anointed one).  He is telling the Pharisees that the Christ was more than the Son of David insomuch as David calls Him his lord.  Jesus is not telling the Pharisees the Christ is LORD (YHWH Elohim).      

       Matthew 22:42-45: "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"  "The son of David," they replied. He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him `Lord'? For he says, "`The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." If then David calls him `Lord,' how can he be his son?" 

       We know from our analysis of David's statement in Psalm 110:1 and Peter's interpretation of this statement in Acts 2:34-36, that YHWH, the Most High God, is speaking to His servant whom He has made Lord and Christ.  Jesus is the adoni (lord) of Psalm 110:1. The fact Jesus points to the adoni (lord) of this Psalm as referring to the Christ while implying He is this adoni (lord), speaks volumes as to who Jesus believed Himself to be as compared to YHWH (LORD).  Furthermore, if the adoni lord of Psalm 110:1 is actually Adonai Lord (YHWH), you have YHWH addressing YHWH in this passage.  While Trinitarians will see this as YHWH the Father speaking to YHWH the Son in a triune relationship of Father, Son and Spirit who are collectively YHWH,  Peter clearly says God (YHWH) has made Jesus Lord.  If Jesus was YHWH, He would have always been Lord.   

       In Psalm 110:1, David is relating to two different Lord’s.  David relates to YHWH as the Supreme Most High Adonai God over all reality.  He relates to adoni as the lord anointed by Adonai God (YHWH) to receive from Adonai God (YHWH) great power and authority as symbolized by seeing adoni at YHWH’s right hand.    

       It is instructive that when Jesus was on trial he was asked if He was the Christ. He told His interrogators that He was the Christ and that "from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God" (Luke 22:69). Jesus clearly distinguishes Himself from "the mighty God."  For Jesus to be seated at the right hand of the "mighty God" doesn't equate with Jesus being the "mighty God." 

     It is also noteworthy that Peter, in stating God fulfilled what had been foretold by the prophets, sees Jesus as the Christ of God which clearly identifies Christ as a servant of God the Father.  This makes the Trinitarian concept of the Father and the Son being co-equal extremely problematical.  Jesus is identified as a prophet in the mold of Moses which shows Him to be an agent of God the Father and no more actual God than Moses was God. 

       Acts 3:18-22: But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, `The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you (See Deuteronomy 18:15).

       Peter’s statement in Acts 3:18-22, clearly portrays Jesus as the Christ (anointed one) of God the Father and a prophet like Moses who was raised up from among the people of Israel.  While Trinitarians will argue that Jesus the Son is seen as the anointed of the Father within the Trinitarian relationship that is Father, Son and Spirit, the language of both Acts 2:34-36 and 3:18-22 in conjunction with what we see in Psalm 110:1, makes the Trinitarian position highly improbable.  The language of these passages portrays God the Father as the source of all Jesus is and all Jesus does.  Jesus is seen as the servant of the Father.  The Father is seen as the head of Jesus in all things just as Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 15:27-28 as discussed in Chapter One. 

       Some point to Psalm 110:5 as support for the proposition the adoni of psalm 110:1 is YHWH and therefore Jesus is YHWH.

       Psalm 110:5-7: The Lord (Adonai) is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

       In this verse the English “Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew Adonai.  It is believed Adonai in this passage is a reference to Jesus who is at the right hand of YHWH (Psalm 110:1).  Therefore, it is concluded that the adoni of Psalm 110:1 is in reality Adonai which is to say YHWH.  A number of Hebrew manuscripts from the medieval period actually render Adonai as YHWH in Psalm 110:5.  It is further pointed out that it is the glorified Christ who is seen in Scripture as exercising wrath, crushing kings, judging the nations and so forth (Revelation 6:12-17).  Therefore, the Adonai of verse five is believed to be Christ.

       Is the Adonai (YHWH) of Psalm 110:5 the adoni of Psalm 110:1?  A careful study of Psalm 110 shows it is YHWH who addresses adoni and invites adoni to sit at His right hand until He, YHWH, makes adoni’ enemies a footstool.  YHWH continues to address adoni throughout this Psalm.  In verse two, YHWH tells adoni He will extend his rulership.  In verse three, YHWH tells adoni his troops will prevail.  In verse four, YHWH designates adoni a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Everything that adoni is seen as doing is seen as facilitated by YHWH.  Therefore, there is every reason to believe the Adonai (YHWH) of verse five continues to address adoni.  The NET Bible translators appear to have understood this and translate verse five as follows:

       O sovereign Lord (Adonai), at your right hand he (adoni) strikes down kings in the day he unleashes his anger.

      Here we see the Sovereign YHWH continuing to address His servant adoni.  Even though it appears the translators of the NET are Trinitarians, they have considered the context of Psalm 110 and rendered verse five accordingly.  They are to be also commended for translating adoni as “lord” rather than “Lord” in verse one.  We will conclude this Chapter by looking at Isaiah 61:1-2.

       Isaiah 61:1-2 is believed to be a prophecy pertaining to Christ.  During his ministry, Jesus quoted this passage and said it was being fulfilled as He spoke.  A review of this passage will clearly show Christ is the anointed of YHWH and not that Christ is YHWH.

      Isaiah 61:1-2: The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD (YHWH) is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor…

        Luke 4:18-21: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."    

       The Scriptures show God is YHWH and YHWH is God.  Trinitarianism teaches YHWH is Father, Son and Spirit which is to say the Father is YHWH, the Son is YHWH and the Spirit is YHWH.  In both the Isaiah passage and in Christ’s quotation of this passage, YHWH is seen as the one who has anointed Jesus (the Son) to proclaim the year of YHWH’s favor. 

       Trinitarians explain these passages by postulating that when Isaiah speaks of the Sovereign LORD (YHWH), he is speaking of the Father distinction in YHWHYHWH the Father is seen addressing YHWH the Son.  YHWH the Father is seen anointing YHWH the Son to proclaim the year of YHWH (Father, Son and Spirit). 

       This explanation, however, is very problematic.  First of all, it assumes YHWH is Father, Son and Spirit which this book will show is highly problematical.  Second, this explanation flies in the face of Psalm 110:1 which shows YHWH and adoni (Christ) are not one and the same, as already discussed.  Thirdly, if Isaiah is speaking of YHWH as Father, then, when he speaks of the Spirit of YHWH, he is speaking of the Spirit of the Father and not of the Spirit as a distinction of a Trinitarian YHWH.   

       Trinitarianism teaches the Spirit is a distinction within an indwelling “Godhead” of Father, Son and Spirit.  The Scriptures, however, consistently identify the Spirit as a dynamic of the Father and proceeding from the Father.  If the Spirit is a dynamic of the Father and proceeds from the Father, how can the Spirit be distinct from the Father in a “Godhead” of Father, Son and Spirit?  If God is indwelling distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit, one would expect to see references to the Father and Son proceeding from the Spirit or the Father proceeding from the Son.  You see nothing of the kind in Scripture.  Everything is seen as proceeding from the Father.  This should tell us something as to who God is.  When the whole of Scripture is taken into account, the evidence speaks loudly in favor of God (YHWH) being the Father and only the Father. Therefore, the Father is the one and only God over all reality. The Spirit of the Father is the power of the Father by which the Father establishes and upholds all things.  The nature of the Spirit of God will be discussed in detail in Chapter Twenty-Three.