LORD & Lord: What's the Difference?
by: First Orlando | January 29, 2016
Throughout the Old Testament, we often find the name of our God written in different forms. Sometimes He is referred to as LORD, expressed in all capital letters, and other times He is called Lord, with both upper and lower cases used.
This difference of form is common in most English translations of the Bible, and it originated as an attempt to identify between the different Hebrew words used when addressing God.
In Exodus 3:13-15, God reveals His covenant name as יהוה, the Hebrew verb for “to be,” expressing the absolute and ultimate nature of God. This word is transliterated into English characters as YHWH, which is the tetragrammaton, or combination of four letters without vowels used to represent the name of God.
This name was written without vowels to avoid misusing God’s sacred name and to preserve its nature. In order for readers to phonetically interpret God’s Hebrew name, scribes took vowels from the word adonai, meaning “lord” or “master.” This transformed YHWH into Yahweh.
When we see LORD written in all caps, this a reference to Yahweh, the name for God’s true and complete “to be” nature, both sovereign and divine. This word expresses God in His fullness, Lord and Creator. This is the closest rendering to the original Hebrew Old Testament.
The term adonai continued to be used in an attempt to address God in relational terms, and this word evolved into Jehovah. Both names are used to express the lordship of God. This word literally means “my Lord,” and it represents God in His role as master in the context of His relationship to man. When you see Lord in lower case, it is referring to this name of God. It is a representation of an aspect of God, yet it is not a word representing the fullness and completion of God, or Yahweh. There are seven times where the King James Version uses Jehovah for Yahweh instead of LORD. Almost all essential literal translations have correctly abandoned the use of Jehovah.
Every time the Bible refers to our God as Yahweh, our translations should have it expressed as LORD in all caps. You may be looking at your Bible and wondering if yours is in all caps, because many of our versions have the first letter of LORD written in a larger font. This is simply to provide the word with more definition and authority, and is considered to be in all caps and an appropriate way to reference Yahweh.