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The Binitarian Nature of the Holy Bible’s supreme proof text for the unity of God Pt. 6

Sam Shamoun

We resume our discussion by analyzing what the blessed Apostle Paul had to say concerning the creed of Deuteronomy 6:4.

Paul and the Shema

Seeing that Jesus himself explained Israel’s monotheistic creed along binitarian lines it shouldn’t come as surprise to find that his followers did as well. In his letter to the churches at Corinth the Apostle Paul reminds the believers that they have only one God and Lord:

“With regard then to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know that ‘an idol in this world is nothing,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ (kai heis kyrios ‘Iesous Christos), through whom are all things (di’ hou ta panta) and through whom (di’ autou) we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

It is apparent that by calling Jesus the one Lord the blessed Apostle is hereby identifying Christ as Yahweh. This is readily seen from Paul’s statement that everything exists through Christ, i.e. God the Father created and sustains all things through the agency and mediation of Jesus.

This isn’t the only place where Paul refers to Christ as the Agent of creation and redemption:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For IN HIM (en auto) 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 (di’ autou) and FOR HIM (eis auton). And he is before all things, and IN HIM (en auto) 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. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:15-23


“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (en pasin).” Colossians 3:11

Amazingly, the inspired Apostle uses the same language to describe God’s relation to all creation! Paul says that all things exist in, through and for God:

“‘For in him (En auto) we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:28

“‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him (di’ autou) and for him (eis auton) are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:35-36

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord (heis kyrios), one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all (dia panton) and in all (en pasin).” Ephesians 4:4-6

What makes this all the more remarkable is that according to the prophetic writings the only Lord or kyrios who created and sustains all things, and who alone perfectly redeems and grants eternal salvation, is Yahweh!

And Esdras said, Thou art the only true Lord (su ei autos 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. Nehemiah 19[Heb. 9]:6 LXX

“Who wears out the mountains, and men know it not: who overturns them in anger. Who shakes the earth under heaven from its foundations, and its pillars totter. Who commands the sun, and it rises not; and he seals up the stars. Who ALONE has stretched out the heavens, and walks on the sea as on firm ground. Who makes Pleias, and Hesperus, and Arcturus, and the chambers of the south. Who does great and unsearchable things; glorious also and excellent things, innumerable.” Job 9:5-10 LXX

“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.” Isaiah 44:24 LXX

Notice that according to these last two passages Yahweh created all things by himself. And:

“Israel is saved by the Lord (kyriou) with an everlasting salvation: they shall not be ashamed nor confounded for evermore. Thus saith the Lord (kyrios) that made the heaven, this God (ho theos) that created the earth, and made it; he marked it out, he made it not in vain, but formed it to be inhabited: I am and there is none beside. I have not spoken in secret, nor in a dark place of the earth: I said not to the seed of Jacob, Seek vanity: I, even I, am the Lord (ego eimi ego eimi kyrios), speaking righteousness, and proclaiming truth. Assemble yourselves and come; take counsel together, ye that escape of the nations: they that set up wood, even their graven image, have no knowledge, nor they who pray to gods that do not save. If they will declare, let them draw nigh, that they may know together, who has caused these things to be heard from the beginning: then was it told you. I am God, and there is not another beside me; [I am] just and a Saviour; there is none but me. Turn ye to me, and ye shall be saved, ye that come from the end of the earth: I am God, and there is none other. By myself I swear, righteousness shall surely proceed out of my mouth; my words shall not be frustrated; that to me every knee shall bend, and every tongue shall swear by God, saying, Righteousness and glory shall come to him: and all that remove them from their borders shall be ashamed. By the Lord (kyriou) shall they be justified, and in God shall all the seed of the children of Israel be glorified.” Isaiah 45:17-25 LXX

“But I am the Lord thy God (kyrios ho theos sou) that establishes the heaven, and creates the earth, whose hands have framed the whole host of heaven: but I shewed them not to thee that thou shouldest go after them: and I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no God but me; and there is no Saviour beside me… I will deliver them out of the power of Hades, and will redeem them from death: where is thy penalty, O death? O Hades, where is thy sting? comfort is hidden from mine eyes.” Hosea 13:4, 14 LXX

Hence, Paul obviously believed that Jesus is Yahweh since he ascribes to Christ the very unique functions which the prophetic writings claim Yahweh performed all alone, i.e., according to the OT Yahweh is the Lord who made and upholds all things by himself whereas the Apostle claims that Christ actually created and sustains all of creation!

Paul wasn’t the only writer to identify Jesus as Creator and Sustainer since the inspired author of Hebrews did as well by taking the following Psalm which refers to Yahweh as the unchanging Lord who created and upholds all things:

“In the beginning thou, O Lord, didst lay the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. The children of thy servants shall dwell securely, and their seed shall prosper for ever.” Psalm 101[102]:25-27 LXX

And applying it to the Son of God, thereby identifying Jesus as the Yahweh spoken of in this particular Psalm!

But of the Son he [the Father] says… ‘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 1:8a, 10-12

What this shows is that the inspired Scriptures expressly and unambiguously teach that Jesus is Yahweh God even though he is not the Father. The following points should help the readers see why there is simply no way of getting around this fact either biblically or logically.

  1. Yahweh is the one Lord who created and sustains all creation.
  2. Jesus is the one Lord who created and sustains all creation.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh God.
  4. However, Jesus is personally distinct from the Father who is also Yahweh God.
  5. Therefore, Yahweh God exists as both the Father and the Son.

In light of all this data it is simply inarguable that Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 has taken the Shema and Christianized it by including Jesus within the unique Divine identity of the one Lord God of Israel. Paul is basically saying that the God whom the Shema mentions is the Father whereas Jesus is actually the one Lord spoken of in this creed! And in redefining the Shema in this manner Paul has explicitly brought out its binitarian implications.

As liberal NT scholar James D. G. Dunn puts it:

24.2. 1 Cor. 8.6. This verse is widely thought to be a quotation by Paul and so very possibly the earliest statement of belief in the pre-existence of Christ … It is obvious that there are indeed pre-Pauline and pre-Christian elements in v. 6. The confession that God is one is clearly Jewish (cf. particularly Deut. 6:4; James 2:19); the confession that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is particularly beloved by Paul but was certainly characteristic of Hellenistic Christianity apart from Paul (Rom. 10.9; I Cor. 12.3; Eph. 4.5; Phil. 2.11); and the use of prepositions ‘from,’ ‘through’ and ‘to’ when speaking of God and the cosmos (‘all things’) was widespread in the ancient world and typically Stoic. But there is no real parallel to Paul’s formulation (not even 1 Tim. 2.5), and it seems to me more probable that Paul himself has put together these earlier and widespread elements in response to the situation confronting him in Corinth…

Thus he starts from the common ground of the basic monotheistic faith (‘There is one God, the Father’); first he adds ‘from whom (come) all things’, an assertion with which the Corinthians would have been familiar and with which they would no doubt have agreed; but then he also adds ‘and we to him’ or ‘from whom we exist’ (RSV). Next he appends to this the basic confession of Hellenistic or Gentile Christianity, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. But with this he does three striking things. First he asserts that Christ the Lord also is one; thereby he splits the Shema (Deut. 6.4), the Jewish confession of monotheism, between God the Father and Christ the Lord in a way that has no earlier parallel. Second he adds ‘through whom (came) all things’; thereby he splits the more regular Stoic formulation also between the one God (‘from him’, ‘to him’) and the one Lord (‘through him’; contrast Rom. 11.36), in a way that is best paralleled in Jewish Wisdom tradition (as we have seen). Third, he again adds a reference to himself and his readers – ‘we (exist) through him’ – using the same preposition as in the preceding phrase. (James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: Second edition, 1996], VI. The Wisdom of God, 24. Christ as Wisdom in Paul, pp. 179-180; bold emphasis ours)

Dunn also notes that Paul wasn’t intending to undermine Biblical monotheism by his splitting the Shema between the Father and the Son:

(d) Perhaps we should see I Cor. 8.6 as an extension of the thought of I Cor. 1-2. As there he claims that the crucified Christ is the one who fulfils God’s plan of salvation, who embodies God’s wisdom, so here he extends the thought to assert in effect that God’s plan of salvation is continuous with his power in creation. Here the ‘folly’ to the Gentiles would be that he has united creation and salvation so closely together (breaking down the Hellenistic dualism between spirit and matter; cf. 6:12-20). And the ‘stumbling block’ to the Jews would be that the one Lordship of God (Deut. 6.4) has to be divided with a crucified Christ. Paul is not thereby abandoning his monotheism (and he seems to recognize no such tension in his affirmation of Jesus’ Lordship elsewhere – Rom. 15.6; I Cor. 15.24-8; II Cor. 1.2; 11.31; Eph. 1.3, 17; Col. 1.3; even Phil. 2.11, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’), then presumably he must intend something (a word missing??) the same in I Cor. 1 – Christ who because he is now Lord now shares in God’s rule over creation and believers, and therefore his Lordship is the continuation and fullest expression of God’s own creative power… (Ibid. p. 182; bold emphasis ours)

Moreover, Paul’s Christianization of the Shema would have been especially evident to the Greek speaking Christians who read the Greek version of the OT, otherwise known as the Septuagint (LXX), since the LXX substitutes the Divine Name with the Greek word kyrios.

In fact, Paul uses virtually the same language that is found in Deut. 6:4 LXX to describe Jesus as the one Lord.

“Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord (kyrios heis estin).”

“and one Lord, Jesus Christ (kai heis kyrios ‘Iesous Christos),”

The Apostle’s language is also similar to the following OT text:

“Behold, the days of the Lord come, and thy spoils shall be divided in thee. And I will gather all the Gentiles to Jerusalem to war, and the city shall be taken, and the houses plundered, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, but the rest of my people shall not be utterly cut off from the city. And the Lord shall go forth, and fight with those Gentiles as when he fought in the day of war. And HIS FEET shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave asunder, half of it toward the east and the west, a very great division; and half the mountain shall lean to the north, and half of it to the south. And the valley of my mountains shall be closed up, and the valley of the mountains shall be joined on to Jasod, and shall be blocked up as it was blocked up in the days of the earthquake, in the days of Ozias king of Juda; and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with him. And it shall come to pass in that day that there shall be no light, and there shall be for one day cold and frost, and that day shall be known to the Lord, and it shall not be day nor night: but towards evening it shall be light. And in that day living water shall come forth out of Jerusalem; half of it toward the former sea, and half of it toward the latter sea: and so shall it be in summer and spring. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one (estai kyrios heis kai to onoma autou hen) ... And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall be left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem, shall even come up every year to worship the king, the Lord Almighty, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever of all the families of the earth shall not come up to Jerusalem to worship the king, the Lord Almighty, even these shall be added to the others.” Zechariah 14:1-9, 16-17 LXX

Hence, anyone familiar with the Greek Bible or heard the Shema recited in Greek would have most likely made the connection between these particular OT texts and 1 Corinthians 8:6. As a result they would have understood that Paul was equating Jesus with Yahweh since the Shema identifies Yahweh as the one Lord.

If this weren’t remarkable enough Paul also adopts the very language and functions which Zechariah and other OT writers ascribe to Yahweh and applies them to Christ!

For instance, the day(s) of the Lord spoken by Zechariah – which is the time when Yahweh comes to judge the nations and deliver his people – becomes the day of the Lord Jesus for Paul:

“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:7-8

“I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:5

“For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 1:13-14 – cf. Philip. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2

The blessed Apostle also writes that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who will come with his saints or holy ones to save and judge, whereas in Zechariah it is Yahweh his God who does so!

“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones (saints).” 1 Thessalonians 3:13

“All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

Finally, Paul further believed that it was Jesus who accompanied the Israelites during the time of Moses and that he was the spiritual Rock who provided for them and also punished them for their sins:

“For 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 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.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-10

The OT, however, says Yahweh was the Rock who cared for Israel and punished them for their sins!

“I will proclaim the name of Yahweh. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he… Yahweh ALONE led him; no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, with curds and milk from herd and flock and with fattened lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernels of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape. Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior… You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth… If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be! How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless Yahweh had given them up? For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede.” Deuteronomy 32:3-4, 12-15, 18, 29-31

“They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ Then Yahweh sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against Yahweh and against you. Pray that Yahweh will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live. So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” Numbers 21:4-9

Evangelical authors Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski explain how the context of 1 Corinthians 10 establishes that Jesus is the Lord who delivered and punished Israel at the time of Moses:

Paul: The Israelites and Christ in the Wilderness

Paul’s rather enigmatic statement about the Israelites in the wilderness probably refers to Christ as having been involved in its earliest history, “for they drank from the spiritual rock, that followed them, and the rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). This statement appears to be a reference to Christ’s real preexistence, although some interpreters think Paul meant that the ‘rock’ is a type of Christ. The latter view, however, does not easily fit Paul’s statement that “the rock was Christ.” A few sentences later, Paul warns the Corinthians Christians, ‘we must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents’ (v. 9). Here, Paul states that some of the Israelites in the wilderness ‘put Christ to the test,’ and he warns the Corinthians not to make the same mistake. Although some ancient Greek manuscripts have the reading ‘Lord,’ the NRSV is almost certainly correct here in following the reading ‘Christ.’ Therefore, we should understand Paul to have been affirming that Christ existed during the time of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness. Moreover, what Paul says here is what the Old Testament said about the Lord God, that the Israelites had put him to the test (Num. 14:22; 21:5-6; Pss. 78:18-20; 95:9). Once again, the New Testament affirms not only Christ’s preexistence but also his divine preexistence. (Bowman & Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place – The Case for the deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 2: Like Father, Like Son: Jesus Shares the Attributes of God, Chapter 8. Jesus Has Always Been There, p. 95; underline emphasis ours)


5. The reading ‘Christ’ (christon) has the earliest, most diverse, and most numerous manuscript support (starting with P46), dated about A.D. 200) and is also better attested by early translations into other languages (such as Coptic and Latin) and in other Christian writings dating from as early as the second century. It is followed by the KJV, NKJV, NLT, and NRSV, among others. The reading ‘Lord’ (kurion) does have the support of two major codices from the fourth century (the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), but the rest of its external support is comparatively quite weak. It is followed (surprisingly) most notably by the NIV and NASB. See further Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 740; and especially Carroll D. Osburn, ‘The Text of 1 Corinthians 10:9,’ in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis: Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger, ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 1-12. (Ibid., p. 312; bold emphasis ours)

The NET Bible translators also concur that Christ is the best and widely attested reading, and therefore the original reading.

tc Χριστόν (Criston, “Christ”) is attested in the MAJORITY of mss, including MANY IMPORTANT WITNESSES of the Alexandrian (Ì46 1739 1881) and Western (D F G) texttypes, and other mss and versions (Ψ latt sy co). On the other hand, some of the important Alexandrian witnesses have κύριον (kurion, “Lord”; א B C P 33 104 1175 al). A few mss (A 81 pc) have θεόν (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. (NET Bible; capital and underline emphasis ours)

It is therefore abundantly clear and beyond dispute that the blessed and inspired Apostle of the risen Lord of glory taught that Jesus is Yahweh (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit) and believed that both the Father and the Son are the one Lord God mentioned in the Shema.

We come to the conclusion of this part. Please move on to the final part in our series.