Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 1

Is 1 Cor. 8:6 a Trinitarian text? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In light of my blog on 1 Cor. 8:6, I was challenged to go through a paper by Andrew Perry that can be found here. So I did go through and sadly, much of what I saw from someone who is no fool on the topic was still going by the same mistakes many anti-Trinitarians make. Let’s dive in and see what i saw.

Wright says that it has an “apparently extraordinary ‘high’
christology” and it is a “Christian redefinition of the Jewish confession of faith, the Shema”. This remark
shows that Wright (and it is true of others4) is conducting his analysis within the socio-historic context of
Jewish Monotheism in the Second Temple period. He (and it is true of others) is not considering the text
just within the context of inspired Scripture, i.e. what text means within the context supplied by the Spirit
alone. This narrower and different context of appraisal generates the questions: does the Spirit present
Deut 6:4 as a ‘Jewish’ confession of faith or rather a proclamation of divine revelation? Would the Spirit
‘redefine’ its own presentation in Deut 6:4?

One wonders how it is that one is supposed to know what the Spirit, which here is listed as an “it” is saying. Does Perry alone have this insight or is it just that no Trinitarian has it? Has Wright committed a major flaw in actually going to the socio-historical context to understand the text? Could it be that Paul did not write in a vacuum but that Jews actually did some thinking about the Old Testament from the ending of the Jewish canon to the time of Jesus?

And if they did, could it perhaps be beneficial to us to look at that? Yes it could be, but Perry will have none of that. This reminds me greatly of Francis Beckwith’s statement that if they can’t win with logic, they will trump with spirituality.

This also assumes that the Shema has been redefined in an evangelical understanding of 1 Cor. 8:6. It has not been. The Shema is still a statement of monotheism. Instead, Jesus is being included in that monotheistic context. Were the Shema changed into a statement of ditheism, yes, that would be a change, but that is not what is going on here.

The intertextuality of the NT with the OT is so vast and any intertextuality with
contemporary Jewish and non-Jewish literature so tiny that the method of bring extra-Biblical parallels to
bear must take second place.

Tiny? Not at all. Are we to assume that in all those Jewish writings, they didn’t really have anything much to say about the Shema, the defining statement of Jewish monotheism? On the one hand, we have it that this was supposed to be a defining doctrine of Israel. On the other hand, the references to it would be tiny.

The flow of ethical argument in this part of the Corinthians’ letter is also not essential for a discussion of
how Christological Monotheism reads 1 Cor 8:6. The situation in Corinth and the teaching about
knowledge which Paul was opposing is addressed by a statement with two main clauses: one that is
monotheistic and one that is about the Lord Jesus Christ. To say that there are two clauses, only one of
which is monotheistic, is to take the opposite position to Christological Monotheism, and it doesn’t
depend on any particular view about the situation in Corinth regarding food offered to idols. This is our
‘critical’ argument against Christological Monotheism. Hence, we are characterizing the position of this
paper as ‘monotheistic Christology’.

Yet the argument from us is that all of the clauses here are monotheistic. If they are not, then it is not the Shema. As soon as Perry presents it any other way, then he is not really engaging with the argument as is from the evangelical perspective. He can say that to interpret his position is opposite of Christological monotheism, but it seems to boil down to “This position is wrong because it disagrees with my position.” That only works if you establish your own position.

In looking at 1 Cor. 8:6, Perry says that the proposal is:

“Any Greek-speaking Jew who hears a Christian say what 1 Cor 8:6 says is
bound to hear those words as a claim that Yhwh is now somehow identified with Jesus Christ.” Such a
proposition, without evidence in Second Temple writings from Greek-speaking Jews, is of little value as it

First off, I thought that the Second Temple writings didn’t matter. Now supposedly a silence from them does matter. Which is it?

Second, what is actually supposed to be said in these writings? Are we to expect Greek Jews outside of the apostles were talking about Jesus? However, if the question is could the Jews conceive of someone being in this kind of position, the answer is yes.

If you asked the Jews how God made the world, they would tell you through Wisdom. This is seen in Proverbs 8 especially. The extra irony to this is that this is a passage ancient and modern-day Arians point to to say Jesus is a creation. However, what do Jewish writings say about Wisdom? Let’s go to the Wisdom of Solomon starting at chapter 9 verse 9.

With you is wisdom, she who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
she understands what is pleasing in your sight
and what is right according to your commandments.
10 Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of your glory send her,
that she may labor at my side
and that I may learn what is pleasing to you.
11 For she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me wisely in my actions
and guard me with her glory.
12 Then my works will be acceptable,
and I shall judge your people justly
and shall be worthy of the throne of my father.
13 For who can learn the counsel of God?
Or who can discern what the Lord wills?
14 For the reasoning of mortals is worthless,
and our designs are likely to fail,
15 for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.
16 We can hardly guess at what is on earth,
and what is at hand we find with labor,
but who has traced out what is in the heavens?
17 Who has learned your counsel
unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
18 And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and people were taught what pleases you
and were saved by wisdom.”

No doubt, Wisdom is being referred to here. Yet let’s look at what happens in the next chapter.

Starting at verse 18:

She brought them over the Red Sea
and led them through deep waters,
19 but she drowned their enemies
and cast them up from the depth of the sea.
20 Therefore the righteous plundered the ungodly;
they sang hymns, O Lord, to your holy name
and praised with one accord your defending hand,
21 for wisdom opened the mouths of those who were mute
and made the tongues of infants speak clearly.

Beg your pardon?

Wisdom did that? Isn’t that what God did in the Old Testament? Indeed. It also doesn’t say God by His Wisdom did X. It said Wisdom did this. At the same time, there is still an idea of the Lord being praised. Go ahead and keep reading and you can ask “Is this praising Wisdom or the Lord?” Not only that, but if we look at the last verse quoted above, we can see a parallel to Exodus 4:11.

Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

All of this needs to be taken into consideration. One cannot just say “Well, the Wisdom of Solomon isn’t in the Bible” (I realize some Christians do have it in theirs, but for those who do not, that does not mean we can disregard it even if we don’t view it as Scripture.). Data is data. The Bible was not written in a vacuum.

One more point for tonight. Perry goes on to say this:

A more plausible proposal would be that a Greek-speaking Jew would see an allusion in Paul’s words to
the Shema in, for example, ‘God’, ‘us/our’ and ‘one’, but it is not obvious that Yhwh is to be identified
with Jesus Christ. Rather, the descriptive aspect of ‘our God’ and ‘one’ is picked up by ‘to us…one
God’, which therefore in turn identifies ‘the Father’ as Yhwh rather than Jesus Christ. Further, the
counting aspect of Paul’s conjoined statements, ‘one…and one’, rather militates against the interpretation
that Christ is being placed within the identity of the one God of Israel. The Shema has a single
occurrence of ‘one’ whereas 1 Cor 8:6 has two occurrences. Finally, if we accept Wright’s claim, we still
have to do the work of saying what we mean by ‘included within the identity of the one God of Israel’ –
this could be explained as simply as the indwelling of God’s Spirit rather than anything more complicated,
say, such as a recognition of an incarnation.

But if Kurios is a reference to YHWH in the Shema and it is applied to Jesus here, then yes, Jesus is being identified as the Lord in the Shema. The problem with making a divide is ultimately, you can say Jesus isn’t the one God, but then you have to say that YHWH isn’t the one Lord. If anyone is guilty of dividing the Shema and splitting it, it is the anti-Trinitarian.

Do we still have to do the work of explaining what is meant by being included in the divine identity? Yes. And? Having to do the work of explaining the concept isn’t a problem. Saying the indwelling of God’s Spirit is quite complicated. There were plenty of people in the Old and New Testaments that were said to be indwelled with the Spirit of God. Are they to be included in the Shema because of that?

We will continue with more of this next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Support Deeper Waters on Patreon!