A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


Question:

The Bible, specifically Paul, says there is only one God and that is the Father (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). Since Trinitarians believe that Jesus is not the Father, this means that Jesus is not God.

Answer:

Paul is no more denying the fact that the Lord Jesus is God than he is also denying that the Father is Lord. Notice, for instance, the context of two of the citations mentioned above:

"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 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 (di') whom all things came and through (di’) whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

"There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through (dia) all and in (en) all." Ephesians 4:4-6

According to Paul, Jesus is the one Lord. Thus, using the logic of the questioner, this means that the Father cannot be Lord since the Son is said to be the one Lord. Obviously, this is not what Paul intended to convey, nor did he intend to deny that Jesus was also God when stating that the Father is the one God.

In fact, by saying that Jesus is the one Lord Paul is evoking OT texts, specifically Deuteronomy 6:4 (also known as the Shema, the Jewish creed of monotheism), that say Yahweh is Israel's one Lord:

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" Deuteronomy 6:4

"I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me.I am the LORD, and there is no other," Isaiah 45:5-6

Thus, Paul's creedal formulations are his way of expanding the OT Shema to include Jesus within Yahweh's identity! NT scholar Richard Bauckham agrees that, in the case of 1 Corinthians 8:6, this is essentially a Christian expansion of the Shema. Bauckham believes that Paul intended to include Jesus in the identity of the one Lord of Jewish monotheism:

"Paul’s concern in this context is explicitly monotheism. The issue of eating meat offered to idols and participation in temple banquets is an instance of the highly traditional Jewish monotheistic concern for the loyalty to the only true God in a context of pagan polytheistic worship. What Paul does is to maintain this Jewish monotheistic concern in a Christian interpretation for which loyalty to the only true God entails loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. He takes up from the Corinthians’ letter (at the end of verse 4) the typical Jewish monotheistic formula ‘there is no God except one’ in order to agree with it and to give, in verse 6, his own fuller monotheistic formulation, which contrasts the many gods and many lords of the Corinthians’ pagan environment (verse 5) with the one God and one Lord to whom Christians owe exclusive allegiance.

Verse 6 is a carefully formulated statement:

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.

"The statement has been composed from two sources, both clearly recognizable. One is the Shema’, the classic Jewish statement of the uniqueness of God, taken from the Torah itself, recited twice daily by all observant Jews, as we noticed in chapter 1. It is now commonly recognized that Paul has here adapted the Shema’ and produced, as it were, a Christian version of it. Not so widely recognized is the full significance of this. In the first and third lines of Paul’s formula (labelled a and c above), Paul has in fact reproduced all the words of the statement about YHWH in the Shema’ (Deut. 6:4: ‘The LORD our God, the LORD, is one’), but Paul has rearranged the words in such a way as to produce an affirmation of both one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. 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 out right di-theism. The addition of a unique Lord to the unique God of the Shema’ would flatly contradict the uniqueness of the latter. The only possible way to understand Paul as maintaining monotheism is to understand him to be including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God affirmed in the Shema’. But this is in any case clear from the fact that the term ‘Lord’, applied here to Jesus as the ‘one Lord’, is taken from the Shema’ itself. 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. Thus, in Paul’s quite unprecedented reformulation of the Shema’, the unique identity of the one God consists of the one God, the Father, and the one Lord, his Messiah. Contrary to what many exegetes who have not sufficiently understood the way in which the unique identity of God was understood in Second Temple Judaism seem to suppose, by including Jesus in this unique identity Paul is certainly not repudiating Jewish monotheism, whereas were he merely associating Jesus with the unique God, he certainly would be repudiating monotheism." (Bauckham, God Crucified-Monotheism & Christology in the New Testament [Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, U.K., 1998], pp. 37-39)

Imminent NT Scholar N.T. Wright concurs:

"The pagan pantheon cannot be simply dismissed as metaphysically nonexistent and therefore morally irrelevant. It signals an actual phenomenon within the surrounding culture that must be faced and dealt with, not simply sidestepped. For this reason - which Paul will deal with in more detail in ch. 10 - the allegiance of local paganism to this or that ‘god’ and ‘lord’ must be met with nothing short of the Christian version of Jewish-style, Shema-style, monotheism. It is this that Paul now states. Whatever its links with the Hellenistic-Jewish world of Philo and others, v.6 resonates thoroughly with echoes of the far more ancient and widespread formula from Deuteronomy 6:4. In the Hebrew the confession of faith begins with the words: [quotes the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 6:4 here]

In the Septuagint this reads:

Akoue ‘Israel kurios ho theos hemon kurios heis estin.

What Paul seems to have done is as follows. He has expanded the formula, in a way quite unprecedented in any other texts known to us, so as to include a gloss on theos and another on kurios:

all hemin

heis theos ho pater

ek hou ta panta kai hemeis eis auton,

kai heis kurios ‘Iesous Christos,

di’ hou ta panta kai hemeis di’ autou.

Paul, in other words, has glossed ‘God’ with the ‘the Father’, and ‘Lord’ with ‘Jesus Christ’, adding in each case an explanatory phrase: ‘God’ is the Father ‘from whom are all things and we to him’, and the ‘Lord’ is Jesus the Messiah, ‘through whom are all things and we through him’. There can be no mistake: just as in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1, Paul has placed Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament’s quarry of emphatically monotheistic texts, of the doctrine that Israel’s God is the one and only God, the creator of the world. The Shema was already, at this stage of Judaism, in widespread use as the Jewish daily prayer. Paul has redefined it christologically, producing what we can only call a sort of christological monotheism.

This fact is becoming more widely recognized in recent scholarship, though its omission from some of the older literature remains remarkable." (Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, Christ and Law in Pauline Theology [Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1993 ISBN 0-8006-2827-6], pp. 128-129)

As does renowned Evangelical scholar Gordon D. Fee:

"What Paul has done seems plain enough. He has kept the 'one' intact, but he has divided the Shema into two parts, with theos (God) now referring to the Father, and kurios (Lord) referring to Jesus Christ the Son... He insists that the identity of the one God also includes the one Lord," (Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Commentary [Hendrickson Publishers, March 2007], pp. 90-91)

"In the striking passage where Paul reshapes the Jewish Shema to embrace both the Father and the Son while as the same time emphasizing his inherited monotheism, Paul asserts that the 'one Lord' (=Yahweh) of the Shema is to be identified as the Lord Jesus Christ ... In a still more profoundly theological way, by his inclusion of the preexistent Son as the agent of creation, Paul has thus included him in the divine identity at its most fundamental point, since the one God of the Jews was regularly identified vis--vis all other 'gods' as the Creator and Ruler of all things. Thus, it is one thing for Christ to be the means of redemption, but for him likewise to be the divine agent of creation is what clearly includes him within Paul's now adjusted understanding of 'the one God,' ... One of the reasons for naming Christ as 'the Lord' = Yahweh of the Shema [is] to place Christ as already present with the Israel to whom the Shema was originally given," (Ibid., 502-504)

Another Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris agrees with these gentlemen:

Did the four NT writers who applied the title theos to Jesus regard this dramatic departure from Jewish custom a compromise or an abandonment of their hereditary monotheism? Apart from Paul’s heis theos kai pater panton in Ephesians 4:6, written subsequently to Romans 9:5, there is no explicit use of the heis theos formula by these writers after they had used theos as a christological ascription. But perhaps 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 indicates how Paul and other NT authors reformulated their monotheism to accommodate their belief in the deity of Christ.

The LXX version of the beginning of the Shema (Deut. 6:4) reads kyrios ho theos hemon kyrios heis estin. Paul concurs with the Corinthians in this basic affirmation (oidamenhoti oudeis theos me heis, 1 Cor. 8:4) but proceeds to restate the undifferentiated generic heis theos of the Shema> in a binitarian formulation heis theos ho paterkai heis kyrios ‘Iesous Christos (8:6), which indicates that in Paul’s view ho pater + ‘Iesous Christos = heis theos. That is, Paul did not regard heis kyrios as an addition to the Shema> but as constituent part of a christianized Shema>. Heis theos in 8:6 is not contrasted with heis kyrios, as if they were generically distinct, but with theoi polloi (en ourano) in 8:5, just as heis kyrios is opposed to kyrioi polloi (epi ges). Apparently, then, the solution Paul proposed to the theological problem created by the Christ event was to use the expression heis theos only of the Father (cf. Eph. 4:6), never of Jesus, although theos could occasionally be used of Jesus, while the expression heis kyrios was applied exclusively to Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:5), never to the Father, although kyrios was often applied to the Father. It would seem that Paul never relinquished his inherited Jewish monotheism but reformulated it so as to include Christ, within the Godhead. In light of other monotheistic statements scattered throughout the NT, it is safe to assume that no NT writer regarded the surrender of monotheism as the corollary of belief in the essential deity of Christ. (Harris, Jesus as God – The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI 1993], Chapter XIII – Conclusions: Theos as a Christological Title, J. The Significance of the Christological Use of Theos, 2. Theos Is a Christological Title That Explicitly Affirms the Deity of Christ, 294-295)

The statements of these scholars essentially affirm our point that by using the title "Lord" in reference to Jesus, Paul was identifying Christ as Yahweh. In other words, Paul wasn't trying to say that Jesus isn't God by calling him Lord, quite the opposite. Paul used two divine titles, namely "God" and "Lord," to affirm that both the Father and the Son are the one God, Yahweh.

The readers can see this for themselves by just looking at the immediate context:

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords" – 1 Corinthians 8:4-5

Paul refers to the gods and lords as the many gods that are erroneously thought to exist. Paul is classifying the pagan gods and lords under the same category of gods, e.g. the "many lords" of the pagans were not a class of inferior deities in relation to the pagan gods. In light of this the expressions "God" and "Lord" are to be understood as synonymous references to the same category of divine existence. God and Lord do not refer to different categories of beings, but to the same level of Divine subsistence, to the one eternal Being of God.

There is further substantiation that Paul believed that Jesus is Yahweh God. Notice what Paul says later on:

"I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, AND THE ROCK was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ[1] to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come." 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, 14-22

The NET online english Bible has a note on verse 9 which says:

... Cristovn (Criston, "Christ") is attested in the majority of mss, including many important witnesses of the Alexandrian (Ì 1739 1881) and Western (D F G) texttypes, and other mss and versions (Y latt sy co). On the other hand, some of the important Alexandrian witnesses have kuvrion (kurion, "Lord"; Í B C P 33 104 1175 al). A few mss (A 81 pc) have qeovn (qeon, "God"). The nomina sacra for these readings are quite similar (cMn, kMn, and qMn respectively), so one might be able to account for the different readings by way of confusion. On closer examination, the variants appear to be intentional changes. Alexandrian scribes replaced the highly specific term "Christ" with the less specific terms "Lord" and "God" because in the context it seems to be anachronistic to speak of the exodus generation putting Christ to the test. If the original had been "Lord," it seems unlikely that a scribe would have willingly created a difficulty by substituting the more specific "Christ." Moreover, even if not motivated by a tendency to overcorrect, a scribe might be likely to assimilate the word "Christ" to "Lord" in conformity with Deut 6:16 or other passages. The evidence from the early church regarding the reading of this verse is rather compelling in favor of "Christ." Marcion, a second-century, anti-Jewish heretic, would naturally have opposed any reference to Christ in historical involvement with Israel, because he thought of the Creator God of the OT as inherently evil. In spite of this strong prejudice, though, {Marcion} read a text with "Christ." Other early church writers attest to the presence of the word "Christ," including {Clement of Alexandria} and Origen. What is more, the synod of Antioch in a.d. 268 used the reading "Christ" as evidence of the preexistence of Christ when it condemned Paul of Samosata. (See G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles, 126-27; TCGNT 494; C. D. Osburn, "The Text of 1 Corinthians 10:9," New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis, 201-11; contra A. Robertson and A. Plummer, First Corinthians [ICC], 205-6.) Since "Christ" is the more difficult reading on all accounts, it is almost certainly original. In addition, "Christ" is consistent with Paul's style in this passage (cf. 10:4, a text in which {Marcion} also reads "Christ"). This text is also christologically significant, since the reading "Christ" makes an explicit claim to the preexistence of Christ. (The textual critic faces a similar dilemma in Jude 5. In a similar exodus context, some of the more important Alexandrian mss [A B 33 81 pc] and the Vulgate read "Jesus" in place of "Lord." Two of those mss [A 81] are the same mss that have "Christ" instead of "God" in 1 Cor 10:9. See the tc notes on Jude 5 for more information.) In sum, "Christ" has all the earmarks of authenticity here and should be considered the original reading. (Source)

According to Paul, the Lord Jesus was the Rock which followed the Israelites in the desert and the very One who killed them by fiery serpents for tempting him. Yet according to the Hebrew Scriptures the Rock which followed and provided for Israel, the One whom they tempted, was actually Yahweh God Almighty!

"Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.' The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.' And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.' And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived." Numbers 21:4-9

"For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he ... But the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of Bashan and goats, with the very finest of the wheat-and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape. But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols ... If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern their latter end! How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves ... For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection! See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.’" Deuteronomy 32:3-4, 9-21, 29-31, 36-39

Finally, by saying that all things are from the Father and through the Son, Paul was again affirming the essential equality of the two divine Persons. Paul states elsewhere that Jesus created all things for himself:

"For BY (en) him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things were created BY (di') him and FOR (eis) him. He is before all things, AND IN (en) HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." Colossians 1:16-18

There other NT writers which agree with the blessed Apostle concerning Jesus being the Agent of creation:

"All things were made through (di') him, and without him was not any thing made that was made... He was in the world, and the world was made through (di') him, yet the world did not know him." John 1:3, 10

"but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through (di') 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... And, 'You, Lord, 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 1:2-3a, 10-12

However, both the Hebrew Scriptures and the NT teach that all created things are from and through God and that Yahweh alone created everything for himself:

"You alone are the LORD You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You." Nehemiah 9:6

"He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He ALONE stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea." Job 9:7-8

"I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." Isaiah 43:6-7

"The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I FORMED FOR MYSELF that they may proclaim my praise." Isaiah 43:20-21

"This is what the LORD says- your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who ALONE stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by MYSELF…" Isaiah 44:24

"For IN (en) him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." Acts 17:28

"For from him and THROUGH (di’) him and FOR (eis) him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36

"In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, FOR (di') whom and THROUGH (di') whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." Hebrews 2:10

The above passages plainly state that God is both the primary ("from") and instrumental ("through") cause of all creation, and that all things consist or are sustained in (en) him. For Paul to then claim that Jesus is both the source ("in/by him all things were created") and the instrumental cause of creation, and that all things are sustained in (en) him, affirms beyond any reasonable doubt that the Apostle clearly believed that Jesus is Yahweh God (yet not the Father).

Bauckham comments on Paul’s claim that all things are from God and through Christ:

"The description in its undivided, unmodified form is used elsewhere by Paul, specifically in Romans 11:36a: ‘from him and through him and to him [are] all things’. Here the statement simply refers to God, whereas in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul has divided it between God and Christ, applying to God two of the prepositions that describe God’s relationship as Creator to all things (‘from’ and ‘for’ or ‘to’) and the third of these prepositions (‘through’) to Christ. Although Paul’s formula in Romans 11:36 does not appear precisely in this form elsewhere, there are enough Jewish parallels to make it certain that Paul there simply quotes a Jewish formulation. That God is not only the agent or efficient cause of creation (‘from him are all things’) and the final cause or goal of all things (‘to him are all things’), but also the instrumental cause (‘through whom are all things’) well expresses the typical Jewish monotheistic concern that God used no one else to carry out his work of creation, but accomplished it alone, solely by means of his own Word and/or his own Wisdom. Paul’s reformulation in 1 Corinthians 8:6 includes Christ in this exclusively divine work of creation by giving to him the role of instrumental cause." (Ibid, p. 39)

In conclusion, Paul's statements, when properly understood and interpreted in light of their immediate and overall biblical contexts, do not exclude Jesus from being God in the same sense that the Father is. Rather, Paul was simply applying two different divine titles, God and Lord, to both the Father and the Son in order to show that both Persons are the one true God, Yahweh Almighty.

For more on this issue we highly recommend the following link:

http://forananswer.org/1Cor/1Cor8_index.htm


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