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The double vocative κύριε κύριε, Lord Lord is used by Jesus four times (Matthew 7:21, 7:22, 25:11, Luke 6:46). The first two are found in describing judgement:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew ESV)
21 οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι κύριε κύριε εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀλλ᾽ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς 22 πολλοὶ ἐροῦσίν μοι ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ κύριε κύριε οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν 23 καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν

This repeated use of vocative is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. It is found 15 times in the Greek translation of the OT (Deuteronomy 3:24, 9:26; Judges 6:22, 16:28, 1 Kings 8:53, 1 Chronicles 17:24; Psalm 69:6, 109:21, 130:3, 140:7, 141:8; Jeremiah 51:62, Ezekiel 20:49, Amos 7:2, 7:5). The LXX translators found the need to repeat κύριε because of the practice of replacing YHVH with κύριος, Lord. For example:

For unto thee, Jehovah, Lord, are mine eyes; in thee do I trust: leave not my soul destitute. (Psalm 141:8 DARBY) because toward you, O Lord, Lord, were my eyes; in you I hoped; do not erase my soul. (LXX-Psalm 140[141]:8 NETS)
ὅτι πρὸς σέ κύριε κύριε οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου ἐπὶ σὲ ἤλπισα μὴ ἀντανέλῃς τὴν ψυχήν μου

"Lord Lord" is not otherwise used in the New Testament; it is only found in the LXX in uses such as in Psalm 140[141].

Does Jesus allude to the Old Testament in how He uses the expression, "Lord Lord?" If not, what explanation is there for this unusual use?

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  • 1
    This is a truly brilliant question. Many thanks for this! +1.
    – Dottard
    Dec 13, 2022 at 20:12

1 Answer 1

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The ancient Greek aphorism is important here - "Nothing so ruins a good case as when it is overstated." Thus, we must exercise extreme care so as not to claim too much here.

Background

  1. The Hebrew does not have a vocative case, and thus, when quoting from, or alluding to the OT, the LXX and NT frequently used nominative for vocative. [For more details about this, see Wallace, "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics", pages 56-59.] The 15 cases quoted by the OP are an obvious exception to this general rule.

  2. Not all cases of "Adonai YHWH" in the MT are translated by the vocative "Kurie Kurie". Indeed, the LXX uses quite a variety of ways to translate this Hebrew phrase including, "Lord God", "Lord Creator", "Lord", "My Lord", etc. However, the OP has listed 15 cases where at least some versions of the LXX uses the double vocative.

  3. The LXX is far from monolithic. Swete's version of the LXX text does not have "Kurie Kurie" for all of these 15 cases, but it does for some of them.

  4. I could find no standard commentators that believe the double vocative form of address for Jesus is an allusion to "Adonai YHWH" of the OT. [This does not make the argument one way or another but should be noted.]

  5. Any connection between "Adonai YHWH" of the OT and "Kurie Kurie" in the NT is weakened by its use in Matt 25:11 where it used to address the "Lord" of the wedding/feast. However, Jesus' intent is clearly that this "Lord of wedding/feast" clearly represents the eschatological God, makes such a conclusion questionable.

Conclusion

None of the above precludes the OP's suggestion that "Lord Lord" may allude to the OT "Adonai YHWH", but such a connection (if it exists) is difficult to establish on lexical and linguistic grounds alone.

Further, in none of the NT verses that use this double vocative, is there any auxiliary allusion (other words or ideas) to any verse in the OT.

APPENDIX - Meyer on "Kurie Kurie"

For the sake of completeness only (and NOT the final word on this subject) I quote the comments of Meyer on Matt 7:21 about "Kurie Kurie"

κύριε, κύριε In addressing their teachers, the Jews employed the title רַב or מַר. Accordingly it came to be used as a title in addressing the Messiah (John 13:13 f.), and in the church itself came to be regarded as the summary of belief, inasmuch as it contained the full recognition of the majesty of Jesus’ person (1 Corinthians 12:3; Php 2:11). Christ Himself called no man master. It is on this occasion, and while applying to Himself this Messianic title, that He also says for the first time, ὁ πατήρ μου (comp. Matthew 3:17). The twice repeated κύριε is meant to convey the idea of earnestness. See Bornemann, Schol. in Luc. p. 53, and in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 124. Comp. Matthew 25:11; Add. ad Esth. iii. 2, 3; LXX. Psalm 71:5; Psalm 71:16.

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