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What about the word 'despotes' ?

by The Author on 07/14/12

A recent website visitor asked: "What about the word 'despotes'?


There are only ten uses of despotes in the Greek New Testament while there are another twenty-three uses in the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament.


In the Hebrew Old Testament, Jehovah refers to God in His covenant relationship with his creation [Genesis 9:26] and God [Elohim; Gen. 1:1] refers to Him as the Creator of the Heavens and Earth. Lord [Adon] was also used for God as the owner of all those things He has Created [Joshua 3:11 and 13].


God is also named in Genesis 14:19 and 22 as the possessor of heaven and earth. This would be the perfect place to find the Greek word despotes in translation; however, the LXX reads who made. The references above in Joshua to Jehovah Elohim as adon of all the earth are especially significant because Joshua was entering the Promised Land which God, who owns all, had given to Israel.


There was a fourth, intensive use of Lord [Addonai], sometimes substituted for Jehovah by later scribes to protect the “Divine Name” from use by Gentiles.


Below are the Old Testament uses of despotes with each purpose noted:


Gen. 15:2    for Addonai

Gen. 15:8    for Addonai

Jos. 5:14     for Jehovah

Prov. 6:7     for Master

Prov. 17:2   for Master

Prov. 22:7   for Master

Prov. 29:25 for Jehovah

Prov. 30:10 for Master


Job 5:8 This is an interesting reference to Jehovah as Sovereign Ruler, despotes, of all. It isn't in the Hebrew. The English translation of the LXX Greek is also excellent. The English word we get from despotes is despot. Removing the negative connotations the absolute rule of a lord or complete owner is part of the sense of despotes.


Jon. 4:3     for Jehovah

Isa. 1:24    for Addonai

Isa. 3:1      for Addonai
Isa. 10:33  for Addonai

Jer. 1:6     for Addonai

Jer. 4:10   for Addonai

Jer. 15:11 for Jehovah


Dan. 3:37 There is no longer Hebrew for this verse. Perhaps this was for Jehovah.


Dan 9:8   for Jehovah


Dan 9:15 There is no Hebrew word corresponding to this use. Perhaps this was for Adon.


Dan 9:16 for Addonai


Dan 9:17 There is no Hebrew corresponding to this use. Perhaps for Addonai


Dan 9:17 for Addonai

Dan 9: 19 for Addonai


The uses of despotes in the New Testament are accurate references to Old Testament Hebrew meanings. Despotes is not a substitute for either Jehovah or Adonai in the New Testament.


Lk. 2:29  Simeon is making a special reference to God as Sovereign Ruler of all. Simeon has just beheld His Christ. Simeon is rejoicing in God’s accomplishment for all mankind. Everything has worked together for good for those who love God. God has shone Himself to be the owner of heaven and earth and Lord [adon] of all the earth. None of the forces of unbelief could keep God from bringing to pass His promise of Christ.


Acts 4:24  This is a reference to God as owner. The Hebrew word is qanah 7069.


1 Tim. 6:1    human master or slave owner.

1 Tim. 6:2    human master or slave owner.


2 Tim. 2:21 This is a reference to our Lord. In the allegory, the pots are owned by the master. The Christian leader is to walk in fellowship (I John 1).


Tit. 2:9       human master or slave owner.

1 Pet. 2:18  human master or slave owner.


2 Pet. 2:1   to our Lord Jesus Christ. Despotes may have been chosen here because the ownership of the church is in the immediate context.


Jude 1:4   the text is "denying the only despotes God and our Lord Jesus Christ." This verse is about God as asqanah 7069. The ungodly men will not even recognize that the Creator of the Heavens and Earth is owner of all. Likewise, these ungodly men deny the Lordship of Christ.


Rev. 6:10 The context from Revelation 6:1 shows this is a reference to our Lord as owner of all who believed. The "dead" in the vision appeal to our Lord as his own property that he should avenge. The opening vision is of the Lord as conqueror in judgment is explained in the unlocking of the seals.

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