Seminary Ramblings

Updates from life at seminary

The Shema and 1 Cor 8:6

The fact that Jesus is God is splattered all over the pages of the New Testament. It’s ridiculous to argue otherwise, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and others do. This is becoming clear to me in new ways all the time and tonight I just read about a little connection in Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the God of Israel and I felt like it needed to be shared. There is a bit of thinking needed to understand this post, so please stick with me for the heavy-lifting (I know….this is a blog, and blogs aren’t made for heavy thinking, but too bad!), and I think you will see some of the riches in 1 Cor 8:6 about the Lord Jesus Christ.

The thesis: 1 Corinthians 8:6 affirms the highest conceivable Christology; that is, 1 Corinthians 8:6 affirms that Jesus shares the divine identity of YHWH, the LORD, in striking fashion.

To see this, we need to realize something. Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, is one of, if not the most, important texts in the whole Old Testament for Jews. It was in Jesus’ time and it still is today. It reads like this:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one

A good Jew would recite this every morning and every evening and was intimately familiar with the words. They were part of the rhythm of their life and the monotheism affirmed in Deut 6:4 informed all of life. In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul makes a strikingly similar statement:

But for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we for him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him.

This statement of Paul’s is carefully structured and could be laid out in the following fashion.

A. But for us there is one God, the Father
          B. From whom are all things and we for him
C. And one Lord, Jesus Christ
          D. Through whom are all things and we through him.

It is sections A and C that concern us here, as they are the reformulation of the Shema (sections B and D are taken from a different source, and are remarkable in their own way. That’s for another time though). What Paul is doing here, is he is taking the classic Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, a strong affirmation of monotheism, and he is reformulating it to include Jesus as the one LORD of which it speaks. Notice the “one God,” “one Lord,” parallels (the “our” of Deut 6:4 becomes the “for us” of 1 Cor 8:6). Paul effectively takes the “LORD our God” of Deuteronomy 6:4 and identifies the LORD with “one Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Richard Bauckham states the significance like this:

“It should be quite clear that Paul is including the Lord Jesus Christ in the unique divine identity. He is redefining monotheism as christological monotheism. If he were understood as adding the one Lord to the one God of whom the Shema’ speaks, then, from the perspective of Jewish monotheism, he would certainly be producing, not christological monotheism, but outright ditheism. The addition of a unique Lord to the unique God of the Shema’ would flatly contradict the uniqueness of the latter…..Paul is not adding to the one God of the Shema’ a ‘Lord’ the Shema’ does not mention. He is identifying Jesus as the ‘Lord’ whom the Shema’ affirms to be one.”

Wow! From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:36)

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