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Matthew 8:24-25

"And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing'."

Luke 8:24

"And they went and woke him, saying, 'Master, Master, we are perishing!" ESV My emphasis.

How might we explain Matthew using "Lord/kyrie" but Luke "epistata/master" in this story of Jesus being woken in a storm in a boat?

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  • One, or some, cried one thing : another, or another some, cried another. Each writer chooses one or other title according to the aspect of Jesus that his book emphasises : Matthew emphasising the Messiah and the Kingdom of heaven ; Luke, the Saviour by the grace of God. Opinions differ as to the two aspects of the two writers. Up-voted +1. Good question.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 30, 2022 at 18:06
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    Maybe an indication they were translating "Rabboni" ((ραββουνι רַבּוּנִי ܪܱܒܾ݁ܘܠܻܝ): John 20:16.
    – Perry Webb
    Mar 31, 2022 at 0:09

1 Answer 1

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It is true that two of the Gospel writers use different words to describe the same event. Specifically, the reported direct speech of the disciples to Jesus in the storm:

  • In Matt 8:25 the disciples address Jesus as Κύριε = "O Lord"
  • In Luke 8:24 the disciples address Jesus as Ἐπιστάτα = "O Master". [I note that this word occurs only seven times, always in the Gospel of Luke and always used as in the vocative as a form of address to Jesus, Luke 5:5, 8:24, 45, 9:33, 49, 17:13.]

So, which is correct? The answer is probably both for the following reasons

  • the reported conversation in the sinking boat by the panicking disciples almost certainly occurred in Aramaic and thus the reported speech is a translation of of what actually occurred. Both Κύριε and Ἐπιστάτα are presumably valid translations of whatever title they gave Jesus at that moment
  • there were many disciples in the boat and in the unlikely event that they actually used Greek to speak to Jesus, more than one title may have been used. Indeed, if Aramaic had actually been used, this language also has more than one form of respectful address as well. In the shouting and confusion, more than one may have been used.

This illustrates that the actual words used by Bible writers are less important than the ideas they convey.

Note Ellicott's comments:

(Luke 8:24) Master, master. We note another characteristic feature of Luke’s phraseology. The Greek word (epistatès) which he, and he only, uses in the New Testament, is his equivalent, here and elsewhere, for the “Rabbi” or “Master” (didaskalos), in the sense of “teacher,” which we find in the other Gospels. St. Luke uses this word also, but apparently only in connection with our Lord’s actual work as a teacher, and adopts epistatès (literally, the head or president of a company, but sometimes used also of the head-master of a school or gymnasium) for other occasions. It was, as this fact implies, the more classical word of the two.

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