“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might – Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength – Mark 12:29-30
In the previous installment, the apparition of a figure dubbed as the the glory of the LORD was examined in detail and not only do we find out that this figure is YHWH, but also, that based on many numerous lines of evidence, we can ascertain the identity of this figure as one of the several “aliases” of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. The Old Testament regarded the glory of the LORD as YHWH Himself, narrated the role of this figure in the First Exodus and also told us of His dwelling in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple which He departed at a later time. The Old Testament prophets longed for the coming of the glory of the LORD and by the Holy Spirit, foretold the coming of this glorious figure as the One who will go forth again alongside The Father and Holy Spirit to execute the Second Exodus (Isaiah 63:9-14). Without doubt, this figure can be none other than our Lord Jesus Christ – a contention reinforced by many lines of different types of evidence.
Now, as far as the discussion regarding the Divine Bridegroom is concerned, the Shema plays a highly important role. If Jesus is truly the Divine Bridegroom, obviously the kind of devotion, outlined in the Shema, reserved for YHWH alone, should be given to Him. Considering the fact that the very kind of devotion ultimately reserved for the God of Israel is given to Christ, there is no way you can truly deny the deity of Christ without violating the most important commandment.
In this article, we shall examine the Shema as another witness that stubbornly confesses the deity of Christ, identifying Him as YHWH. To this effect, the christological appropriations of the Shema by the inspired New Testament authors will also be examined.
The Shema: Undiluted
Many a cult often appeal to passages like Deut. 6:4, confusing the great Jewish confession of monotheism therein with unitarianism despite the fact that it has been established that unitarianism is not synonymous with monotheism – at least as far as the inspired authors of the scriptures are concerned. In fact, you can be a unitarian and still be a polytheist.
Many Christ-deniers, especially the unitarians (of various stripes), when alluding to the Shema, actually end up shredding it into two parts. The first part is that which they emphasize, namely this:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
They argue that this text can only mean that YHWH is just a lonely single person. Trinitarians have rightly pointed out that not only have the unitarians smuggled in an unstated assertion into the text, but also that the Hebrew word used for “one” in the text, echad (H259), does not necessarily imply one person for there are numerous instances in the scriptures where the word is used when multiple persons are in view e.g. Gen. 2:24
The second part, which is the part often neglected by the Unitarians is the part which states:
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Since the first part confesses YHWH as one (rather than as one [person]), it follows that the ultimate devotion outlined in the second part belongs to This ONE. In other words, YHWH is our God, YHWH alone! And it is Him alone we should love with ALL our heart, soul, might and strength. No one else!
Unitarians often ignore what the Shema says (namely that YHWH alone is worthy of our ultimate devotion) while at the same time emphasizing what the Shema has not said (namely that YHWH is unipersonal).
The confession outlined in Shema, by itself, neither confesses Unitarianism NOR Trinitarianism, but rather defines what monotheism truly entails. However, as it turns out, only Trinitarians can truly confess the Shema while at the same time believing what the rest of the scriptures say about God.
The Shema: Justified
Why should YHWH alone be the object of our ultimate worship and devotion? Why should we love YHWH with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Why must our devotion revolve around YHWH alone?
First, YHWH is the creator of humankind. We all owe our existence to Him. In as much as God is not under any obligation or compulsion to create us, God stooping down in an act of condescension to create us is an act of goodness. The fact that He creates us to share in His goodness should prompt a response from us to worship Him in truth if truly we are to be in touch with reality. Paul noted that it is fools who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25)
Second, we are His Image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-27). In the temples of gods worshiped in the ancient days (and now), statues are placed there to serve as images of these gods. However, YHWH specifically forbade His people from making any statue of Him. Unlike other gods whose image bearers are made of wood and stone which are worthless and works of delusions (Jer. 10:15), YHWH places into the “temple” of his heaven-and-earth creation His own “image”, human beings made to reflect Him, to bring His creativity to birth in His world, and to reflect the praises of the world back to the creator”[N.T Wright, How God became King pg. 62]. When asked about paying taxes, Jesus pointed out that in as much as Caesar’s coins bear Caesar’s image, Caesar ought to be given his due (Mark 12:15-17). In the same wise, in as much as humans bear God’s image, humans should give themselves over to God. In other words, “If coins bear Caesar’s image, then they belong to Caesar. But humanity, which bears God’s image, belongs to God!”
Third, YHWH is the true Redeemer of mankind. In the first Exodus, YHWH redeemed Israel from Egypt so that Israel could be a light to the other nations. Israel failed. However, YHWH, in the second Exodus, did what Israel could not do, and went on to restore the image that had been defaced at the Fall of Humanity. The image which was defaced in the beginning was redeemed by YHWH in whose image man was created. This means that we owe our lives to YHWH at least twice OVER! In other words, after YHWH created us, He also redeemed us from the destruction wrought by our own hands. Since the acts of creating and redeeming us require an infinite power, the cost of our debt to God is infinite such that we can’t pay. Thus, we owe YHWH our lives and complete allegiance.
It is hardly surprising to see Moses standing at the crux of Israel’s redemption, declaring among his brethren that YHWH is Israel’s God, YHWH alone! (Deut. 6:4). Also, that Israel should serve and love YHWH with all her might, soul, strength and mind. YHWH alone is Israel’s Husband.
Also, at one of the events leading to the crux of mankind’s redemption, our Lord Jesus Christ, quoting Moses, reminded us that the most important commandment is that YHWH is our God, and that YHWH is one (i.e. YHWH) and also that we should love YHWH with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Mark 12:28-31).
Idolatry or Polytheism?
People often think that the Old Testament writers direct their polemics against polytheism. Actually, the thrust of the polemics is rather directed against idolatry i.e. offering a cultus to anyone apart from YHWH. In fact, you can be a monotheist and still be an idolater. Israel (including some of her neighbours) was never condemned based on the number of deities they serve. Rather, the Israelites including her neighboring pagan nations were condemned because they offered cultus to someone other than YHWH.
However, this is not to say that polytheism is not a form of a idolatry. Of course, there is no way you can offer cultus to YHWH and some other apart from Him, without being an idolater. This distinction may not seem crucial at first, but this is the junction at which many heretics and Christ-deniers stumble. Many of them are so fixated on guarding against polytheism that they eventually end up becoming idolaters. Based on their faulty philosophical presumptions, in order to hold on to what they perceive as “true monotheism”, they end up becoming idolaters, coming under the direct judgment of the inspired scriptures.
With the foregoing in perspective, this article proceeds to explain why the appellation “Biblical Unitarian” should be labeled in standard dictionaries as an example of a misnomer. In other words, just as you can’t be a married bachelor, you can’t be a Unitarian and be Biblical.
Therefore, we begin to examine the Christological appropriations of the Shema in the New Testament.
Yes, the Church’s Bridegroom is good!
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:17-18)
This passage is one of the favourite passages quoted by Christ-deniers in order to deny the deity of Christ. Ironically, they base their interpretation upon what Jesus never said even though their interpretation contradicts what Jesus had said!
The young man was referring to Jesus as “good” for the wrong reason. It is already obvious that the man did not consider Jesus to be God, but rather as one of the numerous pious teachers (Rabbi) lounging around in first century Israel. If Jesus is just a pious teacher, then the young man has come to the wrong person to ask about how to inherit eternal life. In fact, Matthew brought this out clearly by reporting that Jesus questioned the man, saying, “Why do you ask me about what is good?” (Matt. 19:17).
Jesus corrected the man’s wrong perception about who is truly good. Jesus reminded the young man that God alone is good which implies that the man should stop running about referring to teachers as good. Even teachers are far from good or perfect – hence they shouldn’t be the model for goodness or perfection. Jesus was neither denying His goodness nor was He asserting it. All He had said is that God alone is good.
However, Jesus did not stop there. He went on to say,
You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” (Mark 10:19)
Jesus was quoting from the famous Decalogue (otherwise known as the Ten Commandments). Since Jesus quoted only six out of the ten commandments, we are left to wonder: what happened to the other four? Let’s retract our steps a little bit by highlighting the Ten Commandments:
- Do not have any gods apart from YHWH (Ex. 20:3)
- Do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Ex. 20:4)
- Do not serve or bow to any other god apart from YHWH (Ex. 20:5)
- Do not take the Name of YHWH in vain (Ex. 20:7)
- Honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12)
- Do not murder (Ex. 20:13)
- Do not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14)
- Do not steal (Ex. 20:15)
- Do not testify falsely against your neighbour (Ex. 20:16)
- Do not covet your neighbour’s properties or belongings (Ex. 20:17)
Paying a careful attention to these commandments reveal that the first four commandments tell us how we are to relate with God while the last six tell us how we are to relate with our fellow mankind/neighbour. Jesus summarized the Decalogue by saying:
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
The first four commandments are the most important ones for many reasons, some of which had already been discussed earlier in this article.
Now, back to the question: why did Jesus leave out the MOST IMPORTANT commandment when answering the young man’s query? In fact, the young man even violated the most important commandment by giving God’s due (namely, His goodness) to teachers – a mistake that Jesus pointed out and corrected. Now, why did Jesus deliberately leave out the first four most important commandments?
After the man replied that he had observed the last six commandments, Jesus continued, saying:
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
First, the reader should note that Jesus claimed that for the man to be perfect, he must follow Him. Is that not an indication that Jesus is truly good? If Jesus is not good, how on earth can He ask the man to follow him in order to be perfect? Furthermore, if Jesus is not good, then no one is. Considering all what Jesus had done, that is, leading a pure, holy and blameless life that no mortal can ever hope to boast of, offering Himself up to pay for the crimes He never committed (in fact, the crimes were committed against Him!), how on earth could anyone say that Jesus is not good in the sense that YHWH is good? Didn’t the New Testament give us the impression that The Son is the ultimate manifestation of The Father’s goodness and love? Are we to believe that of whom the scriptures said that He “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption”(1 Corinthians 1:30) is not good? Far be it from us!
Second, Jesus had rephrased the most important commandment, thus making Himself the object of the ultimate allegiance. If truly the man loved Jesus with all his mind, strength, soul and heart, he will throw away his wealth and come to follow Jesus. Of course, Jesus already knew what the man lacked, namely, that the man does not love God according to the precepts of the Shema.
After the young man left, Jesus continued, saying:
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
Jesus also said something similar here:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38)
In other words, you must love Christ more than your family and other “loved ones”. How on earth can Jesus demand that people love Him more than anything/anyone if He is not YHWH? How can Jesus be demanding the kind of allegiance or love that people ought to offer to YHWH alone if truly Jesus does not see Himself as YHWH?
Contra the rather popular impression given by many that Jesus denies being good hence denies being God, a close examination of Mark 10:17-21 reveals that Jesus, in accordance with the most important commandment, has claimed to be the recipient of the ultimate allegiance due YHWH alone as demanded by the Shema. In fact, in conclusion, at least two syllogisms which proves the deity of Christ can be gleaned from the passage:
Major Premise: No one is good except God alone (Mk. 10:18)
Minor premise: Jesus is good (Acts 3:14; Tit. 3:4; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 3:18)
Conclusion: Jesus is God
Major Premise: YHWH alone is the recipient of man’s ultimate allegiance (Deut. 6:4-5; Mk. 12: 29-30)
Minor Premise: Jesus is the recipient of man’s ultimate allegiance (Mk. 10:21)
Conclusion: Jesus is YHWH
One God, One People
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
A careful examination of Jesus’ speech here is a bold proclamation of His deity. How can a mere creature give eternal life? How can a mere creature boldly claim that none can snatch the redeemed out of His hand just as they can’t be snatched out of God’s hand? As if those are not enough, Jesus went to declare that He and His Father are one. The audience were shocked and decided to stone him
“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:31-33)
The Jews find Jesus’ declaration about Himself and His Father shocking. Jesus’ statement reminds them of a particular passage in the Old Testament:
“‘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 32:39)
This passage belongs to one of the seven passages that contain the “I AM” (ani-hu) sayings (which is a form of self-asseveration) of YHWH. Just as YHWH said that He “makes alive”or bring to life, Jesus said that He gives eternal life. Just as YHWH said that “none can deliver” out of His hand, Jesus said that “none can deliver” out of His hand and that of His Father. Then Jesus went further to justify the reason He spoke this way by saying that He and His Father are one. Of course, passages like this irritate the Heretics United and they have found means to get around this passage. We shall examine the three major explanations used to get around the obvious implications of this passage.
1. Is Jesus is merely declaring a unity of agreement rather than unity of substance and essence?:Unfortunately, there are some Trinitarian commentators who drop the ball at this point. For instance, Calvin remarked saying “the ancients made a wrong use of this passage to prove that Christ is of the same essence with the Father… Christ does not argue about the unity of substance, but about the agreement that he has with the Father, so that whatever is done by Christ [his “works”] will be confirmed by the power of his Father.”
Unfortunately, like others, Calvin’s argument is based on a false dilemma. This line of reason presupposes the fact that the unity of substance between The Father and Son is mutually exclusive to the unity of agreement between The Father and Son. The declaration in John 10:29-30 about the unity of agreement between The Father and Son is based on the fact that there is unity of substance/essence between The Father and Son. In other words, the justification for the unity of agreement between The Father and Son rests on the fact that both of them are one in essence, nature and substance.
To bring out this point clearly, let’s go back a little bit in the chapter. Jesus said:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn’t own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn’t care for the sheep. (John 10:11-13)
Note the contrast Jesus was making here. Jesus was saying that unlike the hired shepherds, He is the good shepherd who owns the sheep. The hired hand cannot lay down his life for the sheep because the sheep is not owned by the hired hand. However, the reason why Jesus lay down His Life is because He is the Owner of the Sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.
Jesus made it clear that the sheep truly belongs to Him. Jesus didn’t become the shepherd because He laid down His life for His sheep. To the contrary, Jesus laid down His life for the sheep because He is the owner. In other words, Jesus is the OWNER of the sheep while others are merely hired hands.
Jesus went further saying:
I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd.
Now, this passage sounds similar to what YHWH said in the Old Testament:
“‘For thus says the Lord Yahweh: “Behold, I MYSELF, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so I will seek out my sheep. I will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
YHWH said that He Himself (please note the emphasis!) will search for His sheep and seek them out. And here we have Jesus standing before the Jews telling them that He will seek out His other sheep and bring them into the flock. Saying that Jesus was merely stating His agreement with The Father is a fanciful idea. Peter remarked that Jesus is the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). This implies that Jesus appointed other shepherds (who are really not shepherd but hired hands) to watch over His flock – for Peter regarded church elders as shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-2).
Can you now imagine a church elder or minister or pastor saying what Jesus said in John 10:27-30 based on the justification that these elders/ministers/pastors are working in agreement with God? Of course not! So where does the argument that Jesus was saying what He said in John 10:27-30 merely because He is in agreement with The Father comes from?
Major Premise: John 10:27-30 applies to Jesus merely because He is working in agreement with His Father
Minor Premise: Apostle Paul worked in agreement with The Father
Conclusion: John 10:27-30 also applies to Apostle Paul.
Can you imagine any true minister of God, working in agreement with The Father’s purpose and will, making statements like “I give the sheep eternal life” or “none can deliver out of my hand”?
Therefore, “the ancients” are right. Calvin is in error. Any interpretation that follows Calvin’s fanciful idea should be dismissed.
2. What about the disciples becoming one?:This objection is being used to anchor the first one. Christ deniers often point to passages such as this:
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17: 11, 21-23)
It is often argued that unity of the Father and Son must correspond completely with the unity of the believers. In other words, according to the skeptics of the traditional interpretation, The Father and Son must be “one” in the same sense that the believers are “one.
In response to this, we can start by pointing out the fallacy hiding behind such argument. Just because the same word “one” is used in both scenarios does not necessarily follow that it is used in the same sense. In fact, we can place the skeptics upon the horns of dilemma by pointing out where Jesus said:
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
If we should go by the reasoning of the skeptics, we have no choice but to accept the fact that the flock is one in the exact sense that the shepherd is one. Of course not! Thus, Jesus making reference to the believers being “one” does nothing to oust the traditional interpretation of ‘oneness” between The Father and Son in John 10:30. The onus rest on the those who make the opposite stance to our interpretation to make their case as to why the believers are “one” in the exact sense that The Father and Son are. With the foregoing in view, when we examine the issue at hand properly by placing the unity of the Father and Son and unity of the believers in their proper context, we cannot help but conclude that the univocal comparison of the unity between The Father and Son and that of the believers is nothing but a mere comparison of apples with oranges.
The passage quoted by skeptics to scuttle the traditional interpretation of John 10:30, upon closer evaluation, reinforces the traditional interpretation. Let’s reconsider the passage:
“that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)
First, the reader should notice that Jesus was keeping the unity between The Father and Son distinct from the unity among the believers. He was contrasting the unity of the believers with that of The Father and Son. If we should go by the interpretation that the unity in John 10:30 is that of agreement, then we have to explain the reason why Jesus kept the unity of The Father and Son distinct from that of the believers. Why not just collapse everything into single group since believers too will work in agreement with the Father and Son?
On the other hand, Jesus keeping the two kinds of unity distinct from each other shows that we can’t just say that the two kinds of unity correspond to each other. It is rather alluding to one of the themes that dominate eschatology where there will be “One God” and “One People”. For example, consider passages such as this:
And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. (Ezekiel 37:22)
Yahweh will be King over all the earth. In that day Yahweh will be one, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)
YHWH in the Old Testament promised that He will gather all His people and make them one nation such that there will be one king over them all (Ezek. 37:21-22), one flock such that there will be one shepherd (v. 24) and one people such that there will be one God (Zech. 14:9). This motif underlined by the aforementioned passages underscores a line or boundary between two parties. Of course, this flashbacks back to the metaphysical distinction and boundary that exists between God and His creatures. This metaphysical boundary plays a significant role in eschatology whereby God is a unity (and has always been) on one side of the chasm while His creatures will be a unity on the other side.
Which of the two sides of this chasm does Jesus lie? Obviously, Jesus is placed on the divine side. In other words, The Father and Son (alongside the Holy spirit) are a unity (and have always been) while the believers will be a unity on the other side. The similarities between these two kinds of unity only go as far as that which exist between oneness of the Shepherd and the oneness of the flock; the oneness of The King and the oneness of the nation; the oneness of God and the oneness of His people.
To those who argue that the “oneness of Jesus and his Father, on the one hand, and the oneness of the disciples, on the other” indicates no more than closeness of association or concurrence of will, Bauckham responded brilliantly by saying:
“The Jewish topos that correlates one God with one people, of course, in no way implies that God is a unity in the same sense as his people are. Josephus and Philo understand the correspondence in the sense that service and worship of the one God unites the people of God into one (Josephus, A.J. 5.111; Philo, Spec. 1.52; 4.159; Virt. 7.35). The divine singularity draws the singular people of God together into a relational unity. It is this kind of unity that the Johannine Jesus desires for his people. He prays that his disciples be a single community corresponding to the uniqueness of the one God in which he and his Father are united (17:11, 22).” 
In another place, he noted:
“In 10:30 Jesus claims: “I and the Father are one [hen].” Commentators tend not to notice the allusion to the Shema here, but the word “one” (even though here it is necessarily neuter) could not fail to recall the Shema for any Jewish hearer or reader. The uniqueness of the one God, as asserted by the Shema, must therefore be evoked. But at the same time the other dimension of oneness language—unity, being at one with one another—must here also be intended. The Father and the Son are one in their communion with each other. Jesus is claiming that the unique deity of the God of Israel consists in the communion between Father and Son… Armed with this understanding of the unity of Jesus with his Father, we can now return to Jesus’s petition, in chapter 17, that believers may be one as he and the Father are one… The unity of believers is evidently, then, not a static fact but a dynamic process of becoming one, to be complete only eschatologically… But how exactly are the unity of Jesus with his Father and the unity of believers connected? Believers are to be one “as” (kathōs) Jesus and his Father are one… The range of such sayings shows that kathōs in 17:11, 21, 22 has its usual comparative force, not, as some have suggested, a causative sense (that they may be one because we are one). It is in any case rather dubious that kathōs can bear such a sense, while John has other ways of expressing causation (cf. 17:9, 19, 24, 26). This means not that the oneness of the believers does not, in some way, depend on the unity of Jesus and the Father but only that the kathōs sayings themselves do not say so. They state an analogy between the unity of Father and Son and that of the Christian community. Such an analogy does not require that the two correspond completely, that the oneness of believers is exactly like the unity of Jesus and the Father. We do not have to conclude that the unity of the Father and the Son is no more than the kind of unity that can exist between human persons, but only that there is a resemblance.” 
Reinforcing this interpretation of ours are passages in the Book of Revelation which gives us a picture of what eschatology looks like:
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23)
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4)
The first passage tells us that the (only) temple is the Lord God Almighty (Father) and The Lamb (Son). Also both Father and Son are the ONE source of light to all the believers dwelling in the city. The second passage on the other hand has made commentators scratching their heads wondering whether the “Him” that is worshiped, “Him” whose face was seen and “Him” whose Name will be on the foreheads of “His” servants refers to God (The Father) or The Lamb (The Son). Of course, when we begin to take Jesus’ statement in John 10:30 seriously as we ought to do, then the alleged difficulty disappears. For in as much as The Father and Son sits on the same divine throne (Rev. 3:21) (note that this is different from the throne occupied by the glorified saints which also belong to Jesus), it shouldn’t be surprising that the singular pronoun “His” and “Him” refers back to both The Father and Son. This is hardly surprising since there are passages in the New Testament where singular verbs (rather plural) is used when both the Father and Son are in view. John Gill is spot on when he comments on the aforementioned passage saying:
“either the angels, who are ministering spirits, and the servants of God and of the Lamb; or the ministers of the Gospel, the servants of the most high God; or rather all the true followers of Christ, who shall be where he is, and “serve him”: both God and the Lamb, who are one in nature, though two distinct persons; wherefore serving them both is not serving two masters: and the service the saints will be employed in, in this state, will not be preaching the word, or attending on the ministry of it, or subjecting to ordinances, which will now be at an end, but celebrating the praises of God, adoring the perfections of his nature, ascribing the glory of every providence, and of all salvation to him, and magnifying the riches of his grace; and this they will perform in the most spiritual, fervent, and perfect manner, and that continually; see Rev. 7:15.” 
It should also be added that unlike in the time past, when the “one people” at Babel were in unity against God such that He (invoking the divine “community” saying: “Let us go down”) has to confound and scatter men, the unity of the “one people” Jesus prayed for will be in The Father and Son (Jn. 17:21), and The Father and Son be in them through the Holy spirit (Jn. 14:23, 26; 17:23, 26).
3. What about the “other gods”?:Shocked and outraged by what Jesus said, the Jews accused Him of blasphemy, saying: “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:33). The Jews having understood the implications of Jesus’ statement in John 10:27-30 and the inclusion of Himself in the Shema, find it hard to believe that Jesus, a man could also be God despite the evidences that such “man” has presented. Jesus countered the Jews saying,
“Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:34-38)
Skeptics of the traditional interpretation latch on to Jesus statement concerning those called “gods” to scuttle the traditional interpretation. According to them, the justification lying behind Jesus’ claims about Himself rest on the fact that there are other “gods” too. Thus, there is nothing special or unique about Jesus’ claims about Himself. However, this “explanation” offered by skeptics flounders and falls on a dead alleyway for reasons that will be discussed below.
First, in as much as the “scripture could not be broken” (John 10:35), it is fitting we turn to the background scripture (Psalm 82) lying behind Jesus statement about these “gods”. Turning to Psalm 82, it is discovered that all that is true of these “gods” is not true of Jesus.
- Unlike these gods who “judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Ps. 82:2), Jesus judges true (Isa. 42:3-4; Jn. 8:16) for He loved righteousness and hate wickedness (Heb. 1:9)
- Unlike these gods who “have neither knowledge nor understanding” (Ps. 82:5), Jesus holds the repository of all treasures of wisdom and understanding (Col. 2:3)
- Unlike these gods who “walk about in darkness” (Ps. 82:5), Jesus is the True Light (John 1:4,9)
- Unlike these gods who will perish and fall away (Ps. 82:7), Jesus not only outlast all creation who are the works of His hands (Heb. 1:10-12), He also gives eternal life to all who believes in Him (John 5:21; 10:10, 28).
The upshot of the comparison done above is that Jesus is totally unlike the “gods” in Psalm 82. None of the description that is true of these gods according to the Psalmist is true of Jesus.
Second, the Psalmist cried out to the God who took His place among these gods (Ps. 82:1) to arise and judge the earth for He shall inherit the nations (Ps. 82:8). Obviously, this God is none other than YHWH. Who will judge the earth? Jesus. Who will inherit the nations? Jesus. As far as Psalm 82 is concerned, Jesus does not belong to the category of the “gods” whom the word of God came to. To the contrary, Jesus is YHWH.
Third, harking back to Jesus’ reply to the blasphemy charge laid at the feet of Jesus, it is noteworthy to point out the mishandling of Jesus’ reply by the Heretics United. These group argue that Jesus claiming to be “God’s Son” in His reply is meant to correct the audience concerning the assumption that Jesus is making Himself out to be God. To this, several points are worthy to note:
- . Jesus regarded their objection against Him regarding claiming to be “God” (v. 33) to be the same as the objection against Him regarding claiming to be “the Son of God” (v.36) unless the Heretics United want to argue that Jesus is misrepresenting the allegations of His opponents. Of course, according to the author of Fourth Gospel, to be the Son of God (in the sense that Jesus is claiming) is tantamount to claiming equality with God (John 5:19). Thus Jesus is not “correcting” their allegation concerning Him claiming to be God. Rather, he is restating their allegation “to be God” as the allegation “to be the Son of God”.
(ii). Jesus is making a fortiori argument, that is, He is arguing from the lesser to the greater. If those to whom the word of God came to (whether angels, humans or other creaturely celestial beings) can be honored with a lofty terminology such as “gods”, then how much more the One whom the Father set apart and sent into the world? The reader should notice the contrast. On one hand, we have the group to whom the Word of God came to (probably a flashback to the Divine Logos in the prologue). On the other hand, we have the One who was set apart by the Father and came to the world. As it had been proven earlier, Jesus does not belong to the category of the “gods” in Psalm 82. Rather, Jesus is the God who takes His place among the “gods” pronouncing judgment upon them. For He is the One who will arise to judge the earth and inherit the nations.
(iii). Jesus continued further to backing up His claim by pointing the audience to the works of The Father that He is doing. If the unbelieving Jews will not take Him for His words, they should at least consider the works that He has done among them since they are signs of approval from The Father whom they regard as God. In other words, the works Jesus does in His Father’s name bear witness about Him (John 10:25). Furthermore, Jesus made reference to the mutual indwelling between The Father and Son such that one cannot act without the other (John 10:38; John 5:30).
Jesus reply to His audience aggravated them further since they “sought to arrest Him” (John 10:39). Jesus’ opponents rightly understood what Jesus is saying but the problem is that they refused to believe His claims. This is the part of the Johannine irony which weaves its way through the narrative of the Fourth Gospel: Hostile testimony that unwittingly bears witness to the true deity of Christ.
Avoiding the controversies whirling around the debate of high Christology versus low Christology, I deem it fit to point out Chris Tilling’s insightful approach to the issues of New Testament Christology by compelling us to think about Christology in terms of relation-with God pattern found in the New Testament. The Shema in the Old Testament, while a Jewish confession of monotheism, is also confession of how God’s people are to relate with God. Turning to the New Testament, you can’t help but notice that a believer is expected to relate with Christ in the same way an Israelite is expected to relate with YHWH. Several approaches to explain this phenomenon away have resulted in attempts that shares one thing in common: corruption and distortion of the Shema. There is no way a Christian can truly believe in the Shema, and still believe that Jesus is not YHWH. The devotion that Israel is expected to give to YHWH is what the NT authors and the early believers render to Christ without reservation.
A believer who confesses Jesus as His the Lord over His life, pray to Him, singing hymns and songs in his heart to Him, committing his life to Him, goes to the local assembly and gather to sing praises to Him, prophesy in His Name, gather with believers to eat the sacred meal of holy communion dedicated to Christ, yet keeps saying that Jesus is not YHWH is nothing but confused. Such believer’s conviction is at odds with his/her knowledge. In other words, he/she is doing the right thing for the wrong reason. You don’t necessarily have to believe that an object is YHWH or God Almighty for that object to be your God. In the Old Testament, men are condemned for idolatry not because they believe in the other god they had beside YHWH to be the Almighty God or YHWH, but rather because the very kind of devotion that uniquely belongs to the God of Israel has been given to those other gods. In fact, material things such as money, wealth, fame, carnal pleasure etc. can be a person’s god even though he/she doesn’t believe in such things to be YHWH or God Almighty. For instance, Paul said:
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
Obviously, Paul is not saying that those who has their god to be their belly formally confessed that their belly is anything like YHWH or God Almighty.
The Shema made two things clear: First, YHWH’s uniqueness is transcendent. Second, our devotion should be to YHWH alone and not to or through intermediary agents or lesser entities. The idea of YHWH being the off-ish Supreme God who has to be approached through lesser entities or supernatural intermediaries is completely foreign to the scriptures. We can only know and approach YHWH through YHWH and in YHWH alone can we accomplish this.
How does the New Testament define idolatry in reference to Christ? What happens when you make something else to hamper your devotion to Christ (as well as The Father and Holy Spirit)? These questions will be answered by examining a notable passage that also contains one of the Christological appropriation of the Shema in the New Testament – namely, 1 Corinthians 8 and 10. Lord willing, this passage will be examined in the second part of this article. The readers should stay tuned and remain blessed…
To The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the blessed Trinity be the glory, honor and adoration. Amen.
1. T. Wright (2011). How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. Chapter V (The Story of Jesus as the Story of Israel’s God). pp. 9
2. James R. Edward (2002). The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cambridge, Uk. pg. 364
3. John Calvin: Commentary On The Gospel According To John; A new translation, from the original Latin, by the Rev. William Pringle, John 10:30; p 416-423
4. While there is a difference between function and essence, it is rather alarming to find that many don’t see the relationship between the two. Essence/nature/substance determines function (though not the other way round). If not, why is it that there are functions that you can only delegate to your fellow humans but not to your loyal and devoted dog?
5. Richard Bauckham (2008). Jesus and the God of Israel. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, USA. Chapter 5.3: “John 10:30” para. 4
6. Richard Bauckham (2015). Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Christology. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Chapter 2(4): “The Unity of God”. para. 2,6,7,8
7. “Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus CLEAR (kateuthunai)the way for us to come to you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:11
The verb “kateuthunai” is in singular form – which is odd considering
the fact that two persons are in view here.
Below is another example:
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage (parakalesai) your hearts and strengthen (sterixai) you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
The verbs “parakalesai” and “stērixai” are also in singular forms.
8. JohnGill Commentary on Revelation 22:3