Tonight, I’m going to be writing on the Shema. For those who do not know, this is the passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which is seen as one of the defining passages in Judaism. Your observant Jew will recite this passage once in the morning and once in the evening.
It will also be used by many a non-Trinitarian be that a modalist or an arian to disprove the Trinity. Let’s go to the text.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
To begin with, I don’t really think this passage is talking about the nature of God. One wonders if the typical Jew wandering in the desert would have been pondering, “I wonder if God is one or if he is two.” Chances are, such questions weren’t rising up in thir minds. Now when we get to a situation like Second Temple Judaism even before the time of Christ, such questions are being asked in relation to the divine identity, as Richard Bauckham uses the term in “God Crucified.”
This is a statement instead of monotheism which is why some translations indicate that the passage is saying that the Lord is Lord alone. This is the way Paul understood it in 1 Cor. 8:6
yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
Paul in the face of polytheism is actually Christianizing the Shema and including Jesus in what is called the divine identity, which is a concept we will look at more when we get to 1 Cor. 8:6 so please keep that in mind readers. If anyone wants a preview, I recommend they go out and read the Bauckham book that I referred to earlier. The point is that in the face of polytheism, Paul, certainly a Jew who knew his Torah well, sees this as a statement of monotheism.
However, I can picture someone asking what if I’m wrong. What if this is a statement about the nature of God?
I still have no problem.
It really amazes me that so many people start an argument against the Trinity by going to this passage and they want to point out that God is one.
Now I’ll admit that if the passage said God is one person, we’d have to get a new concept besides the Trinity. It would no longer fit. The text doesn’t say that though. It simply says that God is one. I, as a solid Trinitarian can affirm that God is one. In fact, it’s an essential to the doctrine of the Trinity that we believe that God is one. However, the terminology that is used here is interesting.
The word for one is “echad.” It is not “yachid.” If a singular person had been meant be spoken of, Moses would have used yachid. However, echad can refer to a compound unity and often does such as night and morning being one day and man and woman being one flesh. I urge the reader to go to a website like blueletterbible and look up the usages of this word.
Now does this prove the Trinity? No. This does not demand that God is a triune being, but it does leave the door open and at this point, that is all we’re wanting to do.
Tomorrow, we shall go to the book of Joshua.