The Christian Shema: Confessing Jesus as Yahweh God the Son

The Hebrew Bible exhorts the Israelites to confess that Yahweh is their God, Yahweh alone and that Yahweh is the sole Creator who made and gives life to all creation. I include the English translation of the Greek version (known as the LXX) along with the translation of the Hebrew texts:

“Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one (YHWH echad).” Deuteronomy 6:4 World English Bible (WEB)

“Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord (Kyrios heis esti).” LXX

You are Yahweh, even you alone (YHWH labadeka). You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their army, the earth and all things that are on it, the seas and all that is in them, and you preserve them all. The army of heaven worships you.” Nehemiah 9:6 WEB

“And Esdras said, Thou art the only true Lord (Kyrios monos); thou madest the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, and all their array, the earth, and all things that are in it, the seas, and all things in them; and thou quickenest all things, and the hosts of heaven worship thee.” LXX

“Yahweh, your Redeemer, and he who formed you from the womb says: “I am Yahweh, who makes all things; who ALONE stretches out the heavens; who spreads out the earth BY MYSELF;” Isaiah 44:24 WEB

“Thus saith the Lord (Kyrios) that redeems thee, and who formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord (Kyrios) that performs all things: I stretched out the heaven ALONE, and established the earth.” LXX

“Yahweh will be King over all the earth. In that day Yahweh will be one (YHWH echad), and his name one.” Zechariah 14:9 WEB

“And the Lord (Kyrios) shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord (Kyrios heis), and his name one,” LXX

Note carefully that the Greek version renders the divine name Yahweh as Kyrios (“Lord”). Also pay attention to the fact that the Greek translates the expression YHWH echad (“Yahweh [is] one”) as Kyrios heis (“[Lord [is] one”), while rendering YHWH labadeka (“Yahweh alone”) as Kyrios monos (“Lord [is] one”).

What this shows is that a Greek-speaking Jew during the time of the Apostles would have understood the expressions Kyrios heis/monos as references to the God confessed in the foregoing texts, i.e., a Jew speaking Greek would interpret Kyrios heis/monos as simply the Greek way of confessing that Yahweh is the one and only God. This would especially be the case when that Kyrios is then said to have been the One who brought all of creation into being. 

This is where it gets rather remarkable.

The first Christians, including Jesus’ own Jewish followers, started confessing Christ as the Kyrios heis/monos whom the Father appointed to be the Agent and Sustainer of all creation:

“So concerning the eating of foods that are offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For there are those who are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there are many gods and many lords. But for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist. And there is one Lord Jesus Christ (heis Kyrios ‘Iesous Christos), through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

Pay close attention to Paul’s words. The blessed Apostle states that all things came into being from God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. Since all things here refer to all of creation, and since all creation was made by the Father through the Son, this means that the Son personally existed with the Father before the entire creation came to be. As such, the Son cannot be a mere creature any more than the Father can be a creature since Christ was already there even before creation came into existence. Therefore, the Son like the Father is uncreated by nature, having eternally existed.

I’ll put this in the form of a syllogism so the readers can more readily grasp this glorious biblical truth:

  1. The Father created all things through the agency of the Son.
  2. In context, the phrase all things is a reference to all of creation.
  3. Both the Father and the Son are therefore separate and distinct from all creation since they both personally existed even before the entire creation came into being.
  4. As such, both the Father and Son must be eternal by nature, having eternally existed together in perfect, intimate love and fellowship.

There is simply no way around the plain implications of the inspired Apostle’s statements here.

Paul wasn’t the only inspired emissary of Jesus to describe the risen Christ as the one Lord of the OT:

“… For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (ton monon Despoten kai Kyrion hemon ‘Iesoun Christon)… ” Jude 1:1, 4, 25 New International Version (NIV)(2)

Jude, whom Christian tradition identifies as the Lord’s biological sibling from his mother (not father since our Lord’s blessed mother conceived and gave birth to him as a physical virgin),

“‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? are not also his sisters here with us? And they were scandalized in regard of him.’” Mark 6:3 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

Applies to his risen brother another title often ascribed to Yahweh in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, namely Despotes:

“And Abram said, Master [and] Lord (Despota Kyrie), what will you give me whereas I am departing without a child, but the son of Masek my home-born female slave, this Eliezer of Damascus [is mine heir.]… And he said, Master [and] Lord (Deespota Kyrie), how shall I know that I shall inherit it?” Genesis 15:2, 8 LXX

“Be it so, Lord (despota), in their prosperity; surely I stood before you in the time of their calamities, and in the time of their affliction, for [their] good against the enemy.” Jeremiah 15:11 LXX

To say that this is a shocking description would be putting it rather mildly since a Greek speaking Jew would immediately recognize that Yahweh God is the one and only Despotes and Kyrios, that believers look to, especially in heaven itself:

“A Song of Degrees:] Unto you who dwell in heaven have I lifted up mine eyes. Behold, as the eyes of servants [are directed] to the hands of their lords (ton kyrion auton), [and] as the eyes of a maidservant to the hands of her mistress; so our eyes [are directed] to the Lord our God (Kyrion ton Theon hemon), until he have mercy upon us.” Psalm 122[Heb. 123]:1-2 LXX

And since Jude identifies Christ as the one and only Despotes and Kyrios that dwells in heaven, this means that the Lord’s very own biological sibling began worshiping him as Yahweh God Incarnate!

The Mutual Interdependency of the Father and the Son

Another important aspect of the NT teaching that needs to be highlighted is the fact that the identity of the one God is connected to his being the Father.

In other words, the one God is the Father according to the NT, since that is definitional of whom he is:

“But for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist…” 1 Corinthians 8:6a

one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:6

And because the one true God is a Father by his very nature, this explains why he has created families both in heaven and on earth:

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” Ephesians 3:14-15

Moreover, the Fatherhood of the one God is inextricably tied in with his being the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“When Jesus spoke these words, He lifted His eyes toward heaven and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You. You have given Him authority over all flesh, He will give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, AND Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.’” John 17:1-3

“Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort,” 2 Corinthians 1:3

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3

“For they themselves declare how we were received by you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” 2 John 1:3

This is why the Apostle John writes that a denial of the Son inevitably results in a denial of the Father since there can be no God the Father apart from Jesus Christ his Son:

“Who is a liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? Whoever denies the Father and the Son is the antichrist. No one who denies the Son has the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father.” 1 John 2:22-23

John connects God’s Fatherhood with the Sonship of Christ, showing that God is the Father because Jesus is his Son. As I stated, this implies that there cannot be the one without the other since Jesus’ Sonship is definitional and essential to the identity of the one true God being the Father.

Simply put, it is Jesus who makes God’s Fatherhood a reality, which highlights their perfect, mutual inseparable union and interdependency. This, in turn, leads to Jesus having eternally existed as the Father’s beloved Son.

After all, since the one God is the Father, fatherhood being essential to his identity, and since he wasn’t simply a father in potential, but has always been the Father, this means that he must have been a Father to someone even before creation came into being.

Moreover, since God isn’t dependent on creation, seeing that he is self-sufficient,

“Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes out of it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk in it:” Isaiah 42:5

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” Acts 17:24-29 English Standard Version (ESV)

God’s Fatherhood must, therefore, be independent of the existence of creatures.

Hence, the one God must have been the Father of someone who is also eternal by nature, and therefore personally separate from all creation. And that someone can only be our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One through whom all creation came to be,

“… And there is one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Corinthians 8:6b

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM. And HE IS before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Colossians 1:13-18 ESV

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, THROUGH WHOM also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and THE EXACT IMPRINT of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’… And, ‘You, Lord [the Son], laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 8, 10-12 ESV

Since he is the Son who personally shared in the same glory of his Father, and who has been the object of the Father’s infinite love, from before the creation of the world:

“And now, O Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory which I had with You before the world existed… Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may see My glory which You have given Me. For You loved Me before the creation of the world.” John 17:5

I am now ready to proceed to the second part of my discussion where I take a look at the identity of the Holy Spirit (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/the-christian-shema-what-about-the-holy-spirit/). 

Endnotes

(1) The NT writings often use the terms, God and Lord, interchangeably to denote the one true God, just as the following examples illustrate:

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will reveal the purposes of the hearts. Then everyone will have commendation from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5

“But as God has given to every man and as the Lord has called every man, so let him walk. This I command in all churches.” 1 Corinthians 7:17

“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live in them and walk in them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore, ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

“He who observes the day observes it for the Lord, and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and the one who does not eat, in honor of the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” Romans 14:6

“For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’” Romans 14:11

“that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing to all, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God,” Colossians 1:10

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may quickly spread and be glorified, even as it did with you. And pray that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, for not all men have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will do the things which we command you. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

The foregoing highlights the fact that Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is merely using two different divine titles/names to both distinguish the Father and the Son, and affirm their essential unity as the one true God of all. The Apostle’s intention in using Lord wasn’t to demote Christ to the level of a creature, or a lesser god, but to affirm his being the unique Son of God who is one with the Father in essence, glory, and honor.

(2) There is a textual variant in the manuscripts where Jesus is not only identified as both Despotes and Kyrios, but also as Theos (God)!

“For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about for this condemnation: ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into indecency, and denying our only Master, God, and Lord, Jesus Christ (ton monon Despoten Theon kai Kyrion hemon ‘Iesoun Christon).” WEB

The following textual note, though commenting on the reading that omits the word “God”, is still helpful in explaining the meaning of this verse in general:

20tc Most later witnesses (P Ψ M sy) have θεόν (theon, “God”) after δεσπότην (despotēn, “master”), which appears to be a motivated reading in that it explicitly links “Master” to “God” in keeping with the normal NT pattern (see Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Tim 2:21; Rev 6:10). In patristic Greek, δεσπότης (despotēs) was used especially of God (cf. BDAG 220 s.v. 1.b.). The earlier and better witnesses (P72,78 א A B C 0251 33 81 323 1241 1739 al co) lack θεόν; the shorter reading is thus preferred on both internal and external grounds.

sn The Greek term for Master (δεσπότης, despotēs) is the same term the author of 2 Peter used (2 Pet 2:1) to describe his Lord when he prophesied about these false teachers. Since δεσπότης is used only ten times in the NT, the verbal connection between these two books at this juncture is striking. This is especially so since both Peter and Jude speak of these false teachers as denying the Master (both using the same verb). The basic difference is that Peter is looking to the future, while Jude is arguing that these false teachers are here now.

tn The terms “Master and Lord” both refer to the same person. The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent. Illustrations such as “the friend and brother,” “the God and Father,” etc. abound in the NT to prove Sharp’s point. For more discussion see ExSyn 270-78. See also Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1. (NET Bible https://netbible.org/bible/Jude+1; underline emphasis ours)

We, thus, have the risen Christ identified as the sovereign Lord God of all believers, which simply reinforces his identity as Israel’s one and only Lord. The only reason why anyone would object to this identification is due to one’s abject refusal to accept the plain, explicit biblical revelation of Jesus being Yahweh God Incarnate.

 

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