John 20:28:

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Why both words? Doesn't God imply "Lord" as well? I'm assuming this has something to do with the exact original text?

  • 2
    Most significantly, it highlights the deity of Christ. Jesus didn't deny being God. Jul 4, 2013 at 5:03
  • 1
    "My lord" could be an allusion to Psalm 110:1, where "l(a)-'adon.I" (not "'Adon.AY") is translated by the LXX as "to(.i)- kuri.o(i)-mou". Aug 20, 2014 at 15:12

6 Answers 6


For reference, see: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/5096/862

The Greek word κύριος literally means "master." Confusion occurs because it appears to be used in the Greek Septuagint to translate the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew word יַהְוֶה. But, in fact, it is not being used to translate יַהְוֶה, but instead, אֲדֹנָי. It was used to translate אֲדֹנָי because אֲדֹנָי is what the Jews actually read when they saw the word יַהְוֶה in their scriptures.

Gesenius writes,

The Jews, from an over scrupulous and superstitious reverence for the name of God, whenever in the sacred text יהוה occurs, read it אֲדֹנָי...

The exact meaning of אֲדֹנָי is debated. It may mean "my master," but the possessive pronoun beng ignored over time, the word later was understood as simply "master." For an example, consider the French word monsieur, understood as "master" (or "sir," "lord"), which is formed from mon ("my") and sieur ("master").

In John 20:28, when Thomas calls Jesus «ὁ κύριός μου», he is simply saying what would be equivalent to the English phrase "my master." The reason is simple: if indeed κύριος was being used as the equivalent of the Tetragrammaton יַהְוֶה, it would not be joined with a possessive pronoun, e.g. "my Yahveh." It's unacceptable grammar in Hebrew and Greek (and many other languages, if not all) to adjoin a proper name with a possessive pronoun.

  • Just a heads up, "adonai" is plural, the singular is "adoni", (much like how "Elohim" is plural, while "El" or "Eloh" is the singular) so the correct translation would not in fact be "my Lord" but rather "my Lords". Mar 30, 2016 at 3:53
  • @RaphaelRosch "my lords" is אֲדֹנַי, not אֲדֹנָי.
    – user862
    Mar 30, 2016 at 4:21
  • where did you read that? I can't find any reference to this. Mar 30, 2016 at 21:15
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    See Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, "The Paradigms," Paradigm A - The Personal Pronoun, p. 509, third column on right. archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/509/mode/1up
    – user862
    Mar 30, 2016 at 22:01
  • Interesting, I'll give that a read, thanks. Just a quick note though, the original Hebrew had no nekkudot, that was an introduction by the Masoretes (if I am not mistaken). Apr 1, 2016 at 2:17

There exist a few possibilities for the translation here. Should John 20:28b be understood as predicate nominatives ("You are my Lord and my God") or as vocatives ("My Lord and my God!")?

I understand it to be the first because the context is confessional. Thomas has proclaimed he will not believe until he sees and feels. Now he sees and confesses (The sentence may have been an exclamation, but it was still confessional).

This is confirmed by Jesus treating the statement as confessional in 20:29.

20:29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed." (NET Bible)

As mentioned in the other answers, this verse harkens back to 1:1 and 1:14. We also note in the text how John uses many titles for Jesus in just the opening: the Lamb of God (1:29, 36); the Son of God (1:34, 49); Rabbi (1:38); Messiah (1:41); the King of Israel (1:49); the Son of Man (1:51).

Both "lord" and "master" are used in 20:28 to bring us full circle. In 1:1, John showed us what Jesus is. In 20:28, the last of the Twelve knows by experience who Jesus is. Thomas' new understanding also fulfills a prophecy from Jesus himself (John 8:28, which also reminds the reader of 3:14 and 12:32):

3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

8:28 Then Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am..." (Though most English translations add "he" to the clause ("I am he"), the Greek simply uses ego eimi, "I am.")

John shows us through Thomas' words that Jesus being lifted up for crucifixion fulfilled these prophecies, and through his death, resurrection, and exaltation he has revealed his true identity as both Lord and God.


Since shortly after this

John 20:28 Thomas replied to him, "My Lord and my God!"

the author (John) writes

20:31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Therefore one need not read more and not less into the statement than what it meant for the disciple in his time and language: It is the experience of the presence of God that he experienced in seeing his resurrected Master.

Even the encounter with angels had lead humans (Abraham, Moses) to call on God in the person of the angel. How much more was he in the right to call on God in the person of the Son of God, who had been dead and was living. (Why should the disciple not know the Psalms and the Torah at least as well as we do?)


Though almost certainly coming from different authors, the Fourth Gospel and the Revelation are each commonly dated to the period of Emperor Domitian, and both from the Asia region.

Some have recommended that the phrase 'my Lord and my God' is an allusion to a label Domitian insisted be applied to him. (Revelation 4.11, written in the same period, may also allude to this.)

Suetonius, in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars 13.2, writes:

With no less arrogance [Domitian] began as follows in issuing a circular letter in the name of his procurators, "Our Master and our God bids that this be done." And so the custom arose of henceforth addressing him in no other way even in writing or in conversation.

The particular phrasing 'lord and god' is found rarely in the Hebrew bible, which is why the allusion to Domitian is seen as a strong primary source for Thomas' wording: 'our/my lord and our/my god'. Strengthening this association is that the Gospel apparently originated in a region where the emperor cult was prominent.

Much like the now-common suggestion that certain jargon in the new testament has been appropriated from Roman political language (e.g. the 'good news' of Caesar was that he was 'lord' and 'savior' of the empire), the idea here is that John was countering Domitian's claim to lordship and divinity by applying the emperor's preferred nomenclature to Jesus instead.

See, for example: Lars Kierspel, The Jews and the World in the Fourth Gospel: Parallelism, Function, and Context, 200ff.


We are not privy to any explanation of why Thomas was motivated to say both words but it is apparent that the literary/religious reason that "John" included them is to show that Jesus was 'o κύριος but not 'o θεος. He does this is a rather sophisticated manner.

I don't think anyone here will take issue with the fact that Jesus self-identified as "lord" but in case anyone does I'll cite this:

Joh_13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.

This is construed by some as tantamount to claiming to be God because YHVH self-identified as "lord":

Hos_13:4 Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.

However, it must be noted that God has temporarily retired from being "lord" and temporarily made Jesus to be the lord of Jews and gentiles:

Act_2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Of course, God has not actually ceded his ultimate sovereignty over all nor his future reclaiming of total and complete lordship while Jesus is returned to the sea of humanity:

1Co 15:27 For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain ["goes without saying"] that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 1Co 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

So what I'm pointing out is that Thomas' reference to Jesus as "my lord" is completely in line with the whole of scripture, is attributed in the scriptures to a temporary promotion from God and is never challenged by other scripture. Per the scriptures, Jesus is lord.

However, while Jesus is consistently called "the son of God" and even "a god" (John 1:1, Heb 1:8) Thomas has crossed a line by referring to him as "my God".

Since Thomas' exclamation is not followed by rebuke or challenge by Jesus many find in this something tantamount to Jesus claiming to be God. HOWEVER if we consider the whole passage we see that Jesus had arranged in advance for one of the women to bear to the disciples a corrective of Thomas' emotional cry:

Joh 20:17 Jesus told her, "Don't hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Her informed confession is, correctly, that Jesus is "the lord":

Joh 20:18 So Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!" She also told them what he had told her.

This incident, in addition to demonstrating the correct title that Jesus bore suggests strongly that when this was written there had already been many "antichrists" (false representations of Jesus' identity) were already operating in the world. "John" says so much:

1Jn 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

So I propose that by John including Thomas' suggestion that Jesus was not only the lord but also God himself AND including Jesus' pointing to the father as his God John reproves those who have departed from the faith:

1Jn 2:19 They went out from us [the apostles], but they were not of [reflecting our position] us; for if they had been of us [the apostles], they would have continued with us [the apostles]. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us [the apostles]. 1Jn 2:20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge [you all recognize all this]. 1Jn 2:21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth [that Jesus is lord but not God], but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.


The Greek phrase ο κυριος μου loosely rendered reads "the master of me," and I can agree with H3br3wHamm3r81 that:

"In John 20:28,..., ὁ κύριός μου [is] simply saying what would be equivalent to the English phrase 'my master.'"

Nevertheless, and ever since the days of Monarchianism and Patripassianism (heresies of the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, respectively), the words ο θεος μου have apparently created problems for both early and modern interpreters. Prof. Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 266, 1993, citing Raymond Brown's The Gospel According to John 29, 1966) wrote that one Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428 CE) later "argued that Thomas [seemingly ecstatically] uttered those words in praise of God the Father" (i.e., יהוה, the God of first century CE converts from Judaism). And that makes sense to me if, as Strong's G611 and H6030 indicate, Thomas began to give praise to YHVH and was interrupted by Jesus (20:29) commending his (Thomas') belief, misconstrued though it might have been.

Refer back to the Greek of John 1:1 and note that θεος is anarthrous. But in John 20:28, Jesus is specifically called ο θεος (the supreme Divinity, or God; cp. Strong's G2316, et al). So what is the average Bible-reading Christian to think except that Jesus IS "God" himself? And when you combine John 20:28 with 1 John 5:7-8, it's little wonder that Trinitarians believe that Jesus is the God of the OT.

I don't have access to a copy of Codex Ephraemi (C/04, ca. 400-499 CE) but, if I recall correctly, it and other Gospel mss. omit the article, indicating to some interpreters that Jesus of Nazareth, while he might have been θεος (divine-like or godly), is not ο θεος; i.e., THE God Orthodox Christians claim him to be. I also do not have anything by Metzger which addresses John 20:28. Does anyone else know what Metzger said about it?

The writer of John is trying to show, according to his religious training and dogma of the proto-Orthodox Church at Rome's rewrite men, that Jesus of Nazareth was ò λεγόμενος λόγος (cp. Matt. 1:16; 27:17, 22; John 4:25). Why? Because the Greek phrase και θεος ην ο λογος is said to be a carefully worded refutation of the heresy of Sabellianism by the writer of GoJ and the churchmen who signed-off on his work (cp. Robinson's Word Pictures in the NT, et al). And:

"Luther argues that here [the writer of the Gospel attributed to] John disposes of Arianism also because the Logos [both who and what] was eternally God" (op. cit.).

But my point was that the writer of the John Gospel (ca. 90-120 CE) misidentified Jesus as being Thomas' ο θεος μου, thereby misconstruing Jesus to be the One God of Israel and Judaism (YHVH), and also of Orthodox Judeo-Christians (YaHVeH, or JeHoVaH).

And, for argument's sake, perhaps your hypothetical John is trying to explain to your hypothetical alien that "èστίν ὀ ἄνθρωπος" is his hypothetical employer, supervisor, or some other person in a position of sanctioned power over others. You know, as in the colloquial expression "he's the man!"??? (Apologies for any redundancy to my other comment)

  • Unless, of course, your hypothetical John is trying to explain the your hypothetical alien that Ἐστίν ὀ ἄνθρωπος is his hypothetical employer, supervisor, or perhaps a person in a position of power over others. You know, "the Man"? Jun 22, 2013 at 12:33

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