Php_2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a title which is above every title: Php 2:10 That at the title of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; Php 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is KURIOS, to the glory of God the Father.

In Greek the title Jesus received from God for his obedience was KURIOS. This is commonly rendered "Lord" in translations but I think that by considering the context we should understand it to be "Emperor" or "Caesar". The Latin title afforded to the divinely elected leader of Rome was "Imperator" which we butcher as "Emperor" but in Greek it was rendered KURIOS. (The Imperator was also called "Caesar" which started out as a name but evolved into a title).

If this is correct then Paul risked crucifixion to make such a declaration. If I am not correct then Paul still risked crucifixion as did anyone bearing the letter because the plain sense of the words would undoubtedly be interpreted as a challenge to Caesar by any Roman. "Title above all titles" is dangerous speech!

So should KURIOS be understood as "Emperor" in Philippians 2:9-11? Or the generic "lord"?

  • 3
    It's a good question in general, but isn't Καῖσαρ the Greek for Caesar, not Κυριος?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 12, 2015 at 12:07
  • Hmm, it appears you are correct and I am mistaken. "Kaisar" is an alternative title of the Roman emperor. Thank you for the correction.
    – user10231
    Aug 12, 2015 at 23:06
  • 4
    I would suggest that κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς in Phil. 2;11 be translated as "Jesus Christ is Yahveh" and not merely "Jesus Christ is Lord." Then we can understand the import of Paul's statement. Remember, κύριος was written as the Greek translation of the Hebrew אֲדֹנָי (adonai), which itself was spoken by Jews whenever they read the Tetragrammaton יהוה in the Tanakh. So, in reality, Paul is saying, "...every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Yahveh, to the glory of God the Father." What name is above every other name? Yahveh, of course, as that is God's name.
    – user862
    Sep 16, 2015 at 2:36
  • 1
    That name is taken! Note that working from the Greek the name never appears, just that title KURIOS. The thing is YHVH used to be the lord but he has taken a vacation and temporarily made Jesus lord in much the same way as Pharaoh made Joseph the "effective lord" - though he never became Pharaoh.
    – user10231
    Sep 17, 2015 at 0:08
  • Related Jul 20, 2016 at 18:55

5 Answers 5


I believe that this hymn is building on the Jewish ritual for the Day of Atonement. In the Day of Atonement, one element after the priest has laid his hands on the scapegoat and confessed the sins of the people, he would pronounce forgiveness for the nation. Within this pronouncement, the high priest would speak the divine name. At the mention of the divine name, the people would fall down and praise his name. There are quite a few connections between Philippians 2 and the details of Yom Kippur.

And the priests and the people standing in the courtyard, when they would hear God’s name explicated coming out of the high priest’s mouth, would bend their knees, bow down and fall on their faces and say “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever!

Mishnah Yoma 6.2

Shared Elements between Hymn and Mishnah

  1. The pronunciation of the name
  2. Response of bending the knee
  3. Response of praising the name

Therefore, it appears that Paul is reframing this ritual around Jesus' death and resurrection. You can see that both depictions share multiple elements. However, in this depiction, Jesus is receiving the praises that were previously directed towards God. If this be the case, the name mentioned is the divine name, YHWH. Paul is presenting Jesus as an atoning sacrifice (Phil. 2:6-8) and as God who forgives, who is worthy of worship (Phil. 2:9-11).

  • Thank you for this thoughtful post. What do you make of the fact that Jesus is clearly said to be "promoted" and "given a name" in response to his "obedience" to God?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 26, 2019 at 15:41
  • I believe the "promotion" and "given name" are a return from the "becoming nothing" in v. 7. Thus, I don't think the giving of the name indicates that he became God, but that the humbling which he experienced had been reversed, and that it has been recognized.
    – Daniel
    Nov 26, 2019 at 18:28
  • Please see this related question and the accepted answer: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/33276/…
    – Ruminator
    Nov 26, 2019 at 18:37

What is Jesus' title above all titles in Philippians 2:9-11?

Isaiah 9:6 helps us to answer. In prophesying about the coming Messiah, Jesus, that verse says:

Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)

" For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, And the government will [a]rest on His shoulders, And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."

Here Jesus' "name" has to do with his exalted position and authority bestow on Him by God, that is,"the title of Jesus every knee should bow" mentioned at Philippians 2:9-10

2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a title which is above every title: Php 2:10 That at the title of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; Php


"Title" is not an accurate translation of ὄνομα (onoma) - the word that appears in the passage you cite. "Title" is τίτλος, not ὄνομα, as in:

John 19:19 (RSV)

Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

ἔγραψεν δὲ καὶ τίτλον ὁ Πιλᾶτος καὶ ἔθηκεν ἐπὶ τοῦ σταυροῦ· ἦν δὲ γεγραμμένον· Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

Given this, I don't think there is really a solid basis for your question.

  • You could answer the question by first correcting the translation ('title' should be 'name'), and then answering question ('What is the name above all names?').
    – user2910
    Feb 15, 2018 at 22:07
  • @MarkEdward - I disagree. If a question is founded on false assumptions, they should be addressed. It's up to the OP to either withdraw the question or correct it.
    – user33515
    Feb 15, 2018 at 23:20
  • Furthermore, the whole body of the question is founded on the premise that ὄνομα means "title". I wouldn't know how to salvage it.
    – user33515
    Feb 15, 2018 at 23:36
  • I consulted the Big Greeks who seemed to have no problem with taking onoma as "title": ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/…
    – Ruminator
    Nov 26, 2019 at 15:43

In the same Philippians 2:6, just before the sentences you have adduced, it is said that Jesus even before His historical Incarnation was in the very reality/form of God and equal to Him, thus Jesus even before the historical Incarnation possessed in eternity the same divine name and dignity as God the Father and was worshipped together with the Latter.

But what does it mean that "God gave Him the name" as a consequence of His crucifixion and death on behalf of humanity? And this was indeed the name κύριος, as you rightly say, but not Caesar or Emperor, for those are venerated and obeyed only by their subjects and not even by subjects of other states, whereas Jesus is worshiped by the entire creation, visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly, just like God is. But, again, if He always was equal to God and always possessed this feature of being worshipped by all, how then God gave Him this after and because of the death on the cross? The answer is that not only His divine nature bears now this name, but also His human nature, that He is the Lord not only as eternal God with eternal God (John 1:1-2), but now also as a man, as a bearer of human nature, in which nature the death has been conquered and which nature also has been deigned worthy of being worshiped due to the reason that since the Incarnation it eternally belongs to the Person of God-the-Son.

Thus, the expression "every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is KURIOS, to the glory of God the Father" simply means, that unless one asserts divinity of the God-Incarnate, God-Man Jesus Christ, no glorification of Father is possible, for to deny the divinity of the Son and not worship Him, excludes glorification of the Father, but is rather an insult to the Father. No-one who does not have Son, that is to say, does not have Him as the Lord and God to be worshiped, has Father as God (1 John 2:23).

Moreover, just one more point, for it is of a crucial ontological-theological importance: who gave the name KURIOS to also the human nature of the Logos, of God-the Son? Father of course! But Father not only does nothing but through the Son, but is perfectly impotent to do anything without the Son, through Whom He has created the entire universe and through whom He works all His deeds forever (John 5:17), just as the Son is perfectly impotent to do anything but together with the Father (John 15:19) - (with exception of deeds connected specifically to His human nature, like sleeping, eating, weeping, getting tired, feeling pain and fear etc. which He does not share with the Father). Thus, the consequence is, that God gave the name κύριος to the human nature of His Son (i.e. His co-eternal Logos), through His Son. Therefore, would it be correct to say also that the Son gave to Himself, that is to say, to His own incarnate self, to His own God-Man-hood the name κύριος? Yes, indeed! For Father's and Son's activity is one, and as the Father gave, so the Son did.

  • Dear incognito down-voter, please, let me know, if you would like, of course, what did not you like: a) the wording and rhetoric, b) the exegesis itself? The exegesis is correct and theologically justified, so if you have any objections with regard of this, I will be happy to dissipate them on the scriptural and theological basis and clarify even more the doctrine of Jesus' Godhead for your benefit. Feb 15, 2018 at 12:19
  • Please see this question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/40013/…
    – Ruminator
    Nov 26, 2019 at 18:40

You ask, "What is the title above all titles," and then, apparently, go on to suggest that this is "κύριος" (the Hebrew אֲדֹנָי , adonai), but rather, don't these verses clearly say that His name is "Ἰησοῦ" ... of~Yeshua/ of~Jesus {2424 N-GSM}?

Also, the question is somewhat confusing, in that you are reading "ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα" as referring to "title" instead of "name." That is, there are, indeed, a couple "titles" or positions referred to ("kurios" and "christos"), but it is His name Ἰησοῦς (iEsous), which verse 2:11 says that every tongue should outwardly-avow.

Again, He has the title of "χριστός" (Anointed/Christ), as well as the position of "κύριος" (Lord) ... think of this as "to lord it over others (for the glory of God)" ...but the verse, very clearly is saying that it is His name Yeshua/Jesus, which is "the name over every name"

2:9* Through-which also, to~Same the God had over-exalted, and to~the name, over every name, He had graciously-granted unto~Same,

2:10 so-that in with~the name of~Yeshua, every knee should bow, of~heavenly [ones], and of~on-earth [knees], and of~subterranean [ones],

2:11 and every tongue should outwardly-avow, that Yeshua Anointed [be] Lord, for’ a~glory of~God [the] Father. (~robin)

NOTE: By the way, there's a source text variant involved here, that is, the Byzantine texts only have the one definite article (see below):

"τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα" Westcott and Hort

p46 ‭א A B C 33 629 1175 1739 pc copsa copbo eth Origen1/3 Eusebius4/7 Apollinaris Cyril15/31 Ps-Dionysius WH NR CEI Riv TILC (Nv) NM

"...ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα" RP2005

D (F G ὄνομα εἰς) K L P Ψ 075 0150 6 81 104 256 263 365 424 436 459 1241 1319 1573 1852 1881 1912 (1962 omit αὐτῷ) 2127 2200 2464 Byz Lect copbo(ms) arm geo slav Theodotus Gnosticaccording to Clement Origen2/3 Eusebius3/7 Asterius Athanasius Didymus Didymusdub Epiphanius Chrysostom Severian Marcus Eremita Cyril16/31 Nestorius Theodoret John-Damascus ς ND Dio

  • Isn't Paul's point that Jesus, who was given the name Jesus by the angel from birth, is after his exaltation referred to as LORD?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 26, 2019 at 18:41

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