The author of the gospel of John has Mary Magdalene refer to Jesus when speaking to the angels in the tomb as "my Lord" (Jn 20:13). But when she reports to the twelve, she uses the term "the Lord" (20:18). Is "my Lord" a common usage? What might the author of John have intended to convey about Mary Magdalene and her relationship to Jesus by having her use these terms? Or about her relationship to the twelve? Or about the gospel writer's contemporaries' relationship to Jesus?

11But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

  • It is a Hebraism, adoni appearing quite frequently in Scripture.
    – Lucian
    Jul 22, 2020 at 17:39
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    My guess is 'My Lord' is because she talking to angels for whom Jesus might not be their Lord, and 'the Lord' because the disciples and Mary M. considered Jesus Lord, so it doesn't make sense in the second case for her to say 'my Lord'. No, there's no explicit reference to the Tetragrammaton with her use of 'Lord'. Jul 22, 2020 at 20:10
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    As a side note, use of LORD for the Tetragrammaton is IMHO one of the biggest mistakes translators have made. Confusion abounds because of it. Jul 22, 2020 at 20:24
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    @Margolis: No, I was simply speaking of the relatively common appellation adoni, meaning my lord, employed about 140 times in the Jewish scriptures for respectfully addressing other human beings, such as fathers, husbands, masters, kings, etc.
    – Lucian
    Jul 23, 2020 at 16:13
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    @Margolis You can easily find out the word used in the Greek text by going to, for example, biblehub.com and looking up a specific verse, then scrolling down to the lexicon section. For John 20:13, the word used is Kyrion. As far as we know, John was originally written in Greek, so that would be the original word used. LORD (all caps) is traditionally used in English translations where you would find the Tetragrammaton in the (usually) Hebrew original. Jul 24, 2020 at 17:05

5 Answers 5


They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:13) [ESV]

At this moment in time, Mary does not know Jesus has been raised from the dead. As her question shows, she believes someone has taken His body. Consequently, "my Lord" refers to the crucified Jesus whom Mary believes is still dead. When she learns the body was not taken and Jesus was raised from the dead, she tells the disciples she has seen the [resurrected] Lord.

The fundamental difference between my Lord and the Lord is Mary's knowledge of the Resurrection which affected her belief in the identity of Jesus: He is "the" [universal] Lord.

"My" Lord could refer to anyone Mary called "Lord" regardless of whether they were dead or alive. So after His crucifixion, disciples could still think of themselves as "His" disciples intent on following His teachings despite His death. In this way the crucified Jesus would be "her" Lord. This appears to be Mary's initial mindset before fully comprehending His bodily Resurrection:

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:16)

Despite His death, Mary had determined to continue as a disciple; hence her immediate reaction is to call Him Teacher. Then she is told she cannot touch Him until, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. After this encounter she went and announced she has seen the Lord.

Mary's encounter with the risen Lord, parallels that of the first two disciples:

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:37-38)

In both, the initial term "Teacher" is used. In the beginning the two asked where Jesus was staying; at the end Jesus tells Mary where He is going (to stay). Thus her encounter is a type of inclusio whereby her story as the first disciple encountering Jesus after the Resurrection begins in the same fashion as the first disciples who encountered Jesus before His crucifixion. There are two primary differences between the beginning and ending. First, Andrew and the other disciple could follow Jesus "where He was going" but Mary could not:

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ (John 13:33; also 13:36)

Second, Andrew's reaction in the beginning was to go and tell Peter about Jesus: “We have found the Messiah.” Likewise Mary's reaction at the end is to go and tell the disciples "I have seen the Lord." Yet her confessional sequence includes something Andrew's lacked:

Andrew:          Teacher --> The Messiah
Mary: My Lord -->Teacher --> The Lord

Mary can honestly say to the angels, "my Lord" because after following Jesus before His crucifixion, she had determined He was "her" Lord and would be so despite His crucifixion. Then when she realizes all that He had taught was true, she understood Jesus was the Lord (of all).


The phrase Κύριός μου (= My Lord) occurs in the NT quite sparingly, just 11 times, and always refers to Jesus as a formal form of address. Jesus is often referred to as, "the Lord", as indeed are others such as Caesar, etc; but only Jesus is ever referred to as "my Lord". These instances are:

1. Speaking directly to Jesus or about Jesus:

  • Luke 1:43 - Elizabeth calls Mary, "mother of my Lord"
  • John 20:13 - Mary calls Jesus "My Lord"
  • John 20:28 - Thomas calls Jesus, "My Lord" (and also "My God")
  • Phil 3:8 - the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,

2. Quoting Ps 110:1

  • Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34

3. In Parables referring to Jesus as the subject of the parable

  • Matt 24:48 - Jesus is the landowner and "My Lord"
  • Luke 12:45 - Jesus is the landowner and "My Lord"
  • Luke 16:3 - Jesus is the landowner and "My Lord"

Thus, Mary Magdalene recognized that Jesus was her Lord as many others had done. Interestingly, Elizabeth appears to have been the first to use and express this idea in Luke 1:43. Gill's Exposition records this about this verse:

Elisabeth was far from envying the superior honour conferred on her kinswoman, who was both meaner and younger than she; that she esteems it a wonderful favour, that she should be indulged with a visit from her, who had already conceived the Messiah: and in due time would be the mother of him, as man; who, in his divine nature, is Lord of all angels, and men, and every creature; and in an especial manner was her Lord, and the Lord of all the saints; by his Father's gift from eternity, by his own purchase in time, and by the power of his grace on each of their souls. Thus the virgin is said to be the mother of our Lord, and so may be called the mother of God; because she was parent of that child, which was in union with him, who is truly Lord and God: Just in such sense as the Lord of life and glory is said to be crucified, and God is said to purchase the church with his own blood

  • Yes, but it seems the question is about the difference between my and the Lord. Can you more clearly say what importance, if any, there is in these terms? Jul 22, 2020 at 23:19
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    @AnthonyBurg - many thanks for your comment - answer updated as requested.
    – Dottard
    Jul 22, 2020 at 23:35

In John 20, John consistently identified Jesus as The Lord (Adonai) of the Old Testament. He specifically used the Psalms to show this in his gospel:

Psalm 35:23 LXX ----> John 20:13, John 20:18 Τοn Kyrion [τον κυριον] (The Lord)

Psalm 35:23, 110:1 LXX ----> John 20:28 O Kyrios [ο κυριος] (The Lord)

John did not use the Messianic title τω κυριω μου (my lord: adoni) to Jesus in John 20.

Intertextually, in Luke 1:46 Yahweh is the μου τον κυριον (the Lord of me) for Mary, the mother of Jesus. In John 20:13, it is Jesus Christ who is τον κυριον μου (the Lord of me) for Mary Magdalene.

The context agrees in that Jesus is revealed as God incarnate:

In Genesis 2:7, Yahweh breathed into the man and it became alive. In John 20:22, Jesus is having this role of the monotheistic God of the Jews as life giver. Here the Lord Jesus breathed into his disciples, which revealed his omnipotence in his ability to "do whatever he sees his father is doing and he does them in like manner" (ομοιος) (John 5:19).

In John 20:28, the risen Jesus is explicitly addressed by Thomas as both The Lord [ο κυριος] and The God [ο θεος]. The construction is very similar to Psalm 35:23 LXX which does not have adoni but adonai for its ο κυριος ( For more info:https://www.academia.edu/40076375/Jesus_as_%CE%B8%CE%B5%CF%8C%CF%82_in_John_20_28_An_Inductive_Analyses_and_Exploratory_Research)


Based on grammar and context, the "Lord" in John 20:13 did not differ grammatically with the "Lord" in John 20:18. Both are identically definite in the Greek (τον κυριον). The only difference is that τον κυριον in 20:13 has possessive pronoun with it (μου). This does not affect the meaning of κυριος in the passage. In Luke 1:46, the same phrase τον κυριον indicating Adonai is used: μου τον κυριον (the Lord of me). That τον κυριον is used to Jesus Christ to mean Adonai is suppported by the immediate context wherein other divine title is used to him (ο θεος, 20:28) with divine power associated with it (cf. 51:9, 20:22).


The words "my Lord" in John 20:13 and Luke 1:43 are similar to Psalm 110:1 ASV Jehovah saith unto "my Lord" adoni, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The form l’adoni (to my lord) is never used elsewhere in the Old Testament as referring to YHWH. Adoni always refer to a human master or ruler.

Jesus is addressed as “Lord” in the four Gospels, most often in Luke and John. In the first century C.E., the title was one of respect and courtesy, equivalent to “Sir.” (John 12:21; 20:15, Kingdom Interlinear) In Mark’s Gospel the term “Teacher,” or Rab·boʹni, is used more frequently in addressing Jesus. (Compare Mark 10:51 with Luke 18:41.) Even Saul’s question on the road to Damascus, “Who are you, Lord?” had this same general sense of polite inquiry. (Acts 9:5) But as Jesus’ followers came to know their Master, it is apparent that their use of the title “Lord” expressed much more than simple respect.

Following his death and resurrection but before his ascension to heaven, Jesus appeared to his disciples and made this startling announcement: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Then, on the day of Pentecost, under the influence of the poured-out holy spirit, Peter referred to Psalm 110:1 and said: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” NWT(Acts 2:34-36)

To the question in one of your comments " Is Mary Magdalene referring to Jesus as God? Or? .

If Mary Magdalene referred to Jesus as God, then that would mean there will be two Gods. If, as Jesus plainly stated that there's only one true God, John 17:3 then one of these two Gods is not the only true God. Consider John 20:17 ASV, (Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.) and John 17:3 ASV (And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.,) if our understanding of Jesus is that he is God, how can God worship and pray to another God?

The idea that Jesus is the only true God, Creator and Sovereign Lord is not found in the scriptures. Consider Jesus unequivocal and plain statements in Matthew 19:4 Jesus Christ recognized God, not himself, as the One who created humans, making them male and female. (Mt 19:4; Mr 10:6). Based on Jesus' plain and unequivocal statements, the Father is the only true God and Creator, not himself.

  • I am still confused about the use of various forms of Kyrie to translate various forms of adonai (pardon me for any misspellings as I have no knowledge of either Hebrew or Greek). So, Alex, are you saying that there are no references in the NT to Jesus using a form of Kyrie that translates the form of adonai used in Hebrew as a substitute for YHWH?
    – Margolis
    Jul 23, 2020 at 16:36
  • The idea that there is more than one YHWH is not scriptural. The YHWH of scriptures is numerically one.
    – user35499
    Jul 23, 2020 at 17:02
  • Would it be fair to say we have now left the arena of hermeneutics per se and have entered that of theology and doctrine? As I am new to this forum, please instruct me as to the best way to continue an exploration of the forms of the Greek "Kyrie" and the Hebrew "Adonai" and how they are related. I would like to know more about those words, but I don't want to get into a doctrinal dispute as to the nature of Christ.
    – Margolis
    Jul 24, 2020 at 12:40
  • @Margolis. Your learning of those subjects will depend on your discipline, hunger for learning the truth and your willingness to examine the answers to your questions. Do the answers/responses definition of God lines up with the definition given us by Jesus. Did Jesus approved the idea that God is 3 persons. Your decision as to which of those "Gods" is the God of the Bible will affect your understanding of who Jesus is . Have courage too. The "church" has a history of persecuting and even killing any who dare to question its dogmas.
    – user35499
    Jul 24, 2020 at 21:55

Mary, Jesus' mother, knew from the angel that Jesus was the son of God - not God, 'cause that would be silly.

Luke 1:30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favour with God. 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

She knew who he was and what he would become - the Messiah, the Saviour and Lord.

Acts 2:36 affirms for us what Mary Magdalene and others, who could hear and comprehend, understood as he grew and taught what was to come. They knew who God was and of the prophecies telling of a Saviour to come from the line of David.

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ-- this Jesus whom you crucified."

Jesus himself explained how he was Lord, but not THE LORD when referring to Psalm 110 clearly showing Yahweh speaking to the Lord - who was to come.

They had no idea of the imaginative constructs of a tripersonal God, neither did Jesus as he consistently spoke of his God and Father - who is the same as our God and Father.

John 20:17 ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

For Mary to say 'my Lord', reflects the new covenant structure where we don't need to be afraid of God, or fear His words, and have a distant relationship via a priesthood.

Now we can know and have an intimate relationship with God's son, and through him, to the very Father of creation - looking forward to when they will make their abode with us - not just in God's spirit, but personally in the kingdom on earth when we will be made like Jesus is.

  • What hobby horse is mentioned in my answer? "My Lord" is in the NT well before Jesus' death and even before His birth. How is that part of the new covenant?
    – Dottard
    Jul 23, 2020 at 4:24
  • I'm not saying yr answer is wrong or unhelpful - it IS helpful and well presented - but to include nonsense like 'mother of God' simply belittles the good effort.
    – Steve
    Jul 23, 2020 at 4:30
  • I did not say that!!
    – Dottard
    Jul 23, 2020 at 4:36
  • I didn't say you SAID it - but you did include it as noted. The post is poorer for it as it doesn't represent authentic biblical teaching.
    – Steve
    Jul 23, 2020 at 4:49
  • The Phrase "mother of God" does not appear in my post at all. I am offended at the idea!
    – Dottard
    Jul 23, 2020 at 6:10

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