A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


According to Deuteronomy 6:4 there is only one Yahweh God. Jesus himself quoted this in Mark 12:29 to prove that God is one. Since Jesus quotes this as one of the greatest commandments doesn’t this prove that he didn’t believe in a Triune God or in his Divinity?


Before we begin discussing the implication and meaning of Jesus’ words we first would like to quote these specific passages, beginning with Deuteronomy 6:4:

"Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God Yahweh is One (Shema Yisrael Yahweh Eloheinu Yahweh Echad)."(1)

And now, here is the immediate context of Mark 12 in order to more fully appreciate Jesus’ point:

"And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (kyrious ho theos hemon kyrios heis estin). 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.’ And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one (hoti heis estin), and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions." Mark 12:28-34

Heis is a singular masculine adjective which in this context modifies kyrios. The verb estin is functioning here as a copula (linking verb) of predication (to state or affirm as an attribute or quality of the subject), i.e. "he is one Lord."

The problem here is that this doesn’t tell us the exact type of oneness that the Bible writers are predicating or attributing to God, i.e. is he a single Being with a single essence that encompasses a plurality of attributes and/or Persons? Or does his essence preclude his having multiple attributes and/or Persons? To put it simply, what does it exactly mean that God is one?

When one carefully examines the Holy Bible God’s unity cannot mean that he has only one attribute since the Scriptures are filled with references to the multiplicity of characteristics that God has such as love, mercy, compassion, justice, righteousness, perfection etc.

"And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name "The LORD." And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.’" Exodus 33:19

"The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’" Exodus 34:6-7

"The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." Deuteronomy 32:4

"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love … So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." 1 John 4:8, 16

Nor can this mean that God is one in Person since both the NT Scriptures and the Hebrew Bible emphatically testify that there are multiple Persons of God. For instance, here is what Jesus went on to say right after he quoted the Shema or Deuteronomy 6:4:

"And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, "The Lord (kyrios) said to my Lord (to kyrio mou), ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’" David himself calls him Lord (kyrion). So how is he his son?’ And the great throng heard him gladly." Mark 12:35-37

Christ was referring to the following Psalm where David’s Lord is exalted above his enemies and is given victory in battle to destroy them:

"The utterance of Yahweh to my Lord (Adoni): ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Yahweh sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord (Adonai) is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head." Psalm 110:1-7

Interestingly, the Lord who is at Yahweh’s right hand is called Adonai in verse 5, a title that is used extensively for Yahweh God. Note, once again, what verse 1 says:

"The utterance of Yahweh to my Lord is: ‘Sit at MY right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’"

Now compare this with verse 5:

"The Lord is at YOUR right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath."

In the context "your right hand" obviously refers to Yahweh's right hand since in verse 1 the Psalter has already made mention of it, i.e. "My right hand." This supports the fact that the Adonai of verse 5 is the same Lord of verse 1 since both are said to be at Yahweh's right hand. Hence, David's Lord, the Messiah, is called Adonai, a name that is often applied to Yahweh!

The other important thing to note about this particular Psalm is that there is an interesting variant that is found in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (Septuagint [LXX]), one that points to the preexistence of David’s Lord:

With You is dominion in the day of Your power, in the splendors of Your saints; I have begotten You from the womb before the morning. Psalm 110:3 LXX (Source)

The official Catholic version of the Holy Bible, the New American Bible (NAB), adopted this reading over against the Hebrew version:

"Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like the dew I begot you."

3 [3] Like the dew I begot you: an adoption formula as in Psalm 2:7; 89:27-28. Before the daystar: possibly an expression for before the world began (Proverbs 8:22). (Source)

Evidently, the translators of the Septuagint believed that this text supported the view that not only was David’s Lord already existing at the time this particular Psalm was composed, but that he was also there with God before the creation of the world!

The Septuagint basically concurs with the theology of the Fourth Gospel which quotes Jesus as saying:

"And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed… Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world." John 17:5, 24

With the foregoing in perspective we can more fully appreciate Jesus’ point: By appealing to this particular Psalm the Lord wanted to call attention to the fact that the Messiah is more than a human descendant of David, since he is also his sovereign Lord. Moreover, the context of the Psalm provides the reason why the Messiah is David’s Lord, and therefore greater than his human ancestor; the former is a preexistent Divine figure that was there with God even before David came into being!

Hence, even though Jesus said that the Lord God is one he went on to speak of two Persons as Lord, namely, both his Father and himself.

Jesus doesn’t stop there since this is what he also said earlier in Mark 12:

"He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard." Mark 12:6-8

In this parable, the owner of the vineyard represents God and the servants represent his prophets:

"From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day." Jeremiah 7:25

"You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever.’" Jeremiah 25:4-5

What makes this rather amazing is that Christ doesn’t identify himself as one of the servants but as the Owner’s beloved Son and Heir!

It isn’t merely the NT that affirms God’s Uniplurality, the OT Scriptures also confirm this truth:

"I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the Angel of his Presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name. Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name." Isaiah 63:7-16

Here, the redemption of Israel from Egypt is attributed to Yahweh God the Father, the Angel or Messenger (malak) of his Presence (panim– lit., "faces"), and his Holy Spirit.

It should be noted that both the Hebrew and Greek words for angel simply mean a messenger, not necessarily a spirit being with wings (1, 2).

Moreover, the evidence from the Hebrew Bible shows that this particular Messenger or Angel is not a creature but a theophany (an appearance of God), or more precisely a christophany (preincarnate appearances of Christ).

The first line of evidence which supports that this is no ordinary angel is the fact that he is called the Messenger of God’s Face, a title which suggests that this Angel happens to embody the very essence and nature of God, a view shared by many commentators. In fact, many commentators believe that this Angel is the Lord Jesus in his prehuman existence:

and the Angel of his presence saved them; not Michael, as Jarchi; but the Messiah is here meant; the Angel of the covenant, the Angel which went before the Israelites in the wilderness, (Exodus 23:20-23) not a created angel, or an angel by nature, but by office; being sent of God, as the word signifies, on the errand and business of salvation; called "the Angel of God's presence", or "face", because his face was seen in him; his name, and nature, and perfections were in him; he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person besides, the presence of God was always with him; he is the "Ithiel", the Word that was with God, and with whom God always was; who lay in the bosom of his Father, and was ever with him; and who also, as Mediator, introduces his people into the presence of God, and always appears in it for them as their advocate and intercessor: now to him salvation is ascribed; he saved Israel out of Egypt, and out of the hands of all their enemies in the wilderness; and which salvation was typical of the spiritual, eternal, and complete salvation, which is only by Christ, and issues in eternal glory: (The New John Gill Exposition on the Entire Bible; source; underline emphasis ours)

(2.) The person employed in their salvation--the angel of his face, or presence. Some understand it of a created angel. The highest angel in heaven, even the angel of his presence, that attends next the throne of his glory, is not thought too great, too good, to be sent on this errand. Thus the little ones' angels are said to be those that always behold the face of our Father, Matthew 18:10. But this is rather to be understood of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, that angel of whom God spoke to Moses (Exodus 23:20,21), whose voice Israel was to obey. He is called Jehovah, Exodus 13:21, 14:21,24. He is the angel of the covenant, God's messenger to the world, Malachi 3:1. He is the angel of God's face, for he is the express image of his person; and the glory of God shines in the face of Christ. He that was to work out the eternal salvation, as an earnest of that, wrought out the temporal salvations that were typical of it. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible; source)

The angel - The same that conducted them through the wilderness; the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to Moses in the bush. Saved them - From the house of bondage. Carried - He carried them in the arms of his power, and on the wings of his providence. And he is said to do it of old, To remember his ancient kindness for many generations past. (John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible; source)

angel of his presence--literally, "of His face," that is, who stands before Him continually; Messiah (Ex 14:19; 23:20, 21; Pr 8:30), language applicable to no creature (Ex 32:34; 33:2, 14; Nu 20:16; Mal 3:1). (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown - Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible; source; underline emphasis ours)


d. And the Angel of His Presence saved them: This refers to the presence and work of Jesus among ancient Israel, especially among those delivered from Egypt.

i. "The angel of His presence is the Messiah … Calvin sees in this angel merely a serving angel. But of this Angel it is said that He by His love and pity saved Israel; this can hardly be said of a created angel. It is the Christ who is meant here." (Bultema)

ii. "Angel of his presence: literally 'of his face'. We recognize people by face; 'face' is the Lord's very own presence (Psalm 139:7), among them in the person of his angel - that unique 'Angel of the Lord' (as in Genesis 16:7ff; 21:17; 22:11, 15; Exodus 3:2; 14:19; 23:20-23; Malachi 3:1) who speaks as the Lord and is yet distinct from him." (Motyer) (David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible; source)

The Torah provides corroborating evidence that this is what the phrase means since we read in Exodus the following promise:

"And he said, ‘My Presence/Face (panim) will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your Presence/Face (panim) will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.’" Exodus 33:14-15

God promises to send his Presence/Face to lead his people into the land of promise. Earlier in the book the One whom God says he would send is the Angel:

"Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out," Exodus 23:20-23

Notice that God tells Moses that this Angel has the Divine name within his very own Person, implying that he has the very nature of God, and that he has the ability to forgive sins, a Divine function:

"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Micah 7:18-19

Nor is this the only text which speaks of the Angel having the power to forgive sins:

"Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the Angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’" Zechariah 3:1-4

Moreover, Israel failed to heed God’s warning to not rebel against this Angel and this is what happened:

"Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, "I will never break MY covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars." But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the LORD." Judges 2:1-5

Here the Angel speaks as if he is God since he refers to his covenant, his swearing to their fathers to give them the land of promise, and to his bringing Israel out of Egypt!

Moreover, this Angel receives and accepts worship:

"Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face . And the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me.’" Numbers 22:31-32

"When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand . And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, ‘What does my lord say to his servant?’ And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so." Joshua 5:13-15

Something which other angels refuse to accept:

"At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’" Revelation 19:10; cf. 22:8-9

But which the Lord Jesus encourages people to render to him:

"And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’" Mark 3:11

"And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’" Mark 5:2-8

"And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’" Matthew 14:33

"Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him... When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’" Matthew 28:9, 17-18

That is not all. In Genesis we are told that Jacob wrestled with God who had appeared as a man:

"And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’" Genesis 32:24-30

Pay attention to the fact that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, a point reiterated in the following text:

"To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the LORD, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom HE [Yahweh] named Israel." 2 Kings 17:34

Yet according to the prophet Hosea the man whom Jacob wrestled with and who changed his name was actually the Angel of Yahweh:

"The LORD has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God. He strove with THE ANGEL and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. He met God at Bethel, and there God spoke with us-- the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD is his memorial name:" Hosea 12:2-5

As if this weren’t amazing enough we are told elsewhere that it was the Word of Yahweh who actually changed Jacob’s name:

"Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the Word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’" 1 Kings 18:31

When we piece all these texts together the conclusion seems to be that the Angel of Yahweh is the Word of God who comes to speak on Yahweh’s behalf. In other words, the Angel of Yahweh is God’s Word who oftentimes appears in human form!

In fact, there are specific OT passages where the Word is pictured as a rational Being, as a Messenger who appears to God’s prophets in dreams and visions:

"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.’" Genesis 15:1-7

Note that it is the Word who promised Abram that he would have a son as his heir.

"Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision … Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me." But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. And the LORD called again, ‘Samuel!’ and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to himAnd the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’ … And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh BY THE WORD OF THE LORD." 1 Samuel 3:1, 4-6, 10, 21

Yahweh appeared to Samuel through his Word.

"The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, "I am only a youth"; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.’ Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’ And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’ The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land.’" Jeremiah 1:1-14

The Word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah and touched the prophet’s mouth with his hand. Finally:

"Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"’ Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.’" Zechariah 4:6-9

In this reference the Word personally tells Zechariah that once Zerubbabel lays the foundation of the temple the prophet will then know that the Lord had sent him, i.e. God sent his Word to speak to the prophet!

Another interesting point about all of these texts is that the men identify the Word as Yahweh God, therefore implying that the Word is somehow both distinct from and happens to be Yahweh God at the same time.

This perfectly comports with the theology of the fourth Gospel:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-3, 10, 14

Jesus is the Word that became flesh who is both distinct from and happens to be God at the same time. What this basically means is that Jesus is that Word who appeared to the prophets!

Furthermore, this even implies that Christ is the Angel of God since we saw earlier how the evidence supports the view that the Angel is the same Person as the Word who spoke to the prophets. Thus, if the Angel is the Word and Jesus happens to be the Word then he must be the Angel of Yahweh. To put this in the form of a syllogism:

  1. The Angel of Yahweh is the Word of God.
  2. Jesus is the Word of God.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is the Angel of Yahweh.

Nor are we the only ones to see that the Shema doesn’t preclude there being a plurality of Divine Persons since even some Jewish sources clearly saw a plurality within God, as the comments of the late, noted Bible expositor John Gill attests:

… These words are frequent in the mouths of the modern Jews, in proof of the unity of God, and against a plurality in the Deity; but the ancient ones, not only consider them as a good and sufficient proof, that there is but one God, but as expressive of a Trinity in the Godhead: with a view to this text they observe {t}, that ``Jehovah, "our God, Jehovah"; these are, (Nygrd tlt), "three degrees" (or persons) with respect to this sublime mystery, "in the beginning, God", or "Elohim, created", &c.''

And again F21, ``there is an unity which is called Jehovah the first, our God, Jehovah; behold! they are all one, and therefore called one: lo! these three names are as one; and although we call them one, and they are one; but by the revelation of the Holy Ghost it is made known, and they are by the sight of the eye to be known, that "these three are one", (see 1 John 5:7) and this is the mystery of the voice that is heard; the voice is one; and there are three things, fire, and wind, and water, and they are all one, in the mystery of the voice, and they are not but one: so here, Jehovah, our God, Jehovah, these, (Nynwwg atlt), "three modes, forms", or "things", are one.''

Once more they F23 say, ``there are two, and one is joined to them, and they are three; and when they are three, they are one: these are the two names of hear, O Israel, which are Jehovah, Jehovah, and Elohenu, or our God, is joined unto them; and it is the seal of the ring of truth.''

To which I shall subjoin one passage more, where R. Eliezer is asking his father R. Simeon ben Jochai, why Jehovah is sometimes called Elohim, he replies F24, among other things; ``come see, there are (Nygrdg), "three degrees", (or persons,) and every degree is by itself; although they are all one, and bound together in one, and one is not separated from another.''

To believe this, is the first and chief commandment in the law, and is the principal article of the Christian faith; namely, to believe that there is one God, and that there are three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, in the Godhead.


F21 Zohar in Exod. fol. 18. 3, 4.
F23 Ib. in Num. fol. 67. 3.
F24 Zohar in Lev. fol. 27. 2.
(The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

With the foregoing in the background, the reader may be wondering why then did the Bible writers use the masculine adjective heis for God if they believed that he is multi-Personal? The answer is rather simple, the inspired authors wanted to show that God is a personal Being as opposed to an impersonal force or energy. The use of singular masculine nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs denote that God is a single, conscious, intellectual Being even though he is not a single Person as the evidence presented here clearly proves.

Interestingly, when the NT writers speak of the unity of the distinct Persons of the Godhead they use the neuter form hen as opposed to heis:

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 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, we are one (ego kai ho pater hen esmen).’ 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 10:27-33

By using both the neuter form of heis along with the plural verb form of eimi (esmen, lit. "we are") John dispels any attempt of trying to turn the Father and the Son into a single Person. John’s use of hen, instead of heis, clearly demonstrates that their unity is not in terms of Personhood but in respect to their essence, e.g. they are not the same Person but two distinct Persons that share the same essence fully and equally. That John had equality of essence in view can be easily demonstrated by comparing the words of the Lord Jesus with what the OT Scriptures teach regarding the unique characteristics of Yahweh:

"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

"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God… The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." 1 Samuel 2:2, 6

"For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness," Psalm 95:7-8

"‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?’" Isaiah 43:10-13

Notice how Jesus ascribes to himself the very prerogatives that the OT says belong only to Yahweh, namely, the ability to give eternal life and to prevent anyone from plucking his people out of his sovereign protection and power. He then goes on to refer to the utter incapability of anyone snatching true believers from the Father’s hand, which is a clear affirmation of his equality with the Father. As noted Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris put it, when speaking of the identity of nature which Yahweh and Jesus share:

"Similarly, when Jesus declared ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30), he was not claiming that he and the Father were personally identical, for John uses the neuter for ‘one’ (hen), not the masculine (heis). Nor is Jesus simply affirming a unity of will or purpose or action between him and his Father, so what the Father wishes, he also wishes and performs. In the context Jesus has just declared that no person will be able to snatch his sheep out of his hand (10:28) or out of his Father's hand (10:29). Such equality of divine power points to unity of divine essence: ‘I and the Father are one.’ (Murray J. Harris, 3 Crucial Questions about Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1994], Chapter 3: Is Jesus God?, fn. 14, p. 119; bold and underline emphasis ours)

With this in mind does it come as a surprise that Jesus’ astonishing statements led the Jews to conclude (correctly so we might add) that Christ was making himself out to be God?

In light of this emphatic and explicit evidence from both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Greek Scriptures, it is clear that when Jesus and the Bible writers speak of God being one they do not mean this in terms of Personhood, e.g. God is not one Person. Rather, they meant that God is one eternal Being who exists with a plurality of attributes and as three eternally distinct, yet inseparable Persons.

Thus, a distinction must be made between God’s essential Being and his Personhood, e.g., there is one uncreated essence of God that is instantiated in three eternal Persons. To put it simply, God is a tri-Personal Being.

Further Reading



(1) It is rather interesting to note that the text of Deuteronomy 6:4 uses the word echad in reference to God’s unity, a word that is often used to denote a compound or composite unity as in the following example:

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (basar echad)." Genesis 2:24

Here, two flesh bodies come together to form one flesh. As one lexical source puts it:

'Echad one, same, single, first, each, once,.

This word occurs 960 times as a noun, adjective, or adverb, as a cardinal or ordinal number, often used in a distributive sense. It is closely identified with yahid "to be united" and with rosh "first, head," especially in connection with the "first day" of the month (Gen 8:13). It stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness.

[E] can refer to a certain individual (Jud 13:2) or a single blessing (Gen 27:38). Solomon alone was chosen by the Lord (I Chr 29:1). The notion of uniqueness is also found in II Sam 7:23 and Ezk 33:24 (for this verse with reference to God, see below). The phrase "in a single day" can refer to the suddenness of judgment (Isa 10:17; 47:9) or blessing (Isa 66:8).

Adverbially, [E] means "once" or "one time" (II Kgs 6:10). God solemnly swore to David "one time" that his descendants and throne would last forever (Ps 89:35 [H 36]). In Hag 2:6 the Lord warned that he would shake heaven and earth "once more in a little while." Yet this prediction of the overthrow of nations probably included a near as well as a far fulfilment (cf. Heb 12:26). The expression "in one day" denotes the swiftness of the Lord’s acts (Isa 9:14 [H 13]; Zech 3:9).

Sometimes the phrase "as one man" can mean "all at once" (Num 14:15), but when Gideon was told he would defeat Midian "as one man" it probably meant "as easily as a single man" (Jud 6:16). The phrase can also refer to a nation aroused to take united action against gross injustice (Jud 20:8; I Sam 11:7). Zephaniah’s mention of people serving God "with one shoulder" (3:9) likely means "shoulder to shoulder," solidly united. Likewise in Ex 24:3 "with one voice" expresses that all Israel was involved in entering into the Covenant with Yahweh.

The concept of unity is related to the tabernacle, whose curtains are fastened together to form one unit (Ex 26:6, 11; 36:13), Adam and Eve are described as "one flesh" (Gen 2:24), which includes more than sexual unity. In Gen 34:16 the men of Shechem suggest intermarriage with Jacob’s children in order to become "one people."

Later, Ezekiel predicted that the fragmented nation of Israel would someday be reunited, as he symbolically joined two sticks (37:17). Once again Judah and Ephraim would be one nation with one king (37:22). Abraham was viewed as "the one" from whom all the people descended (Isa 51:2; Mal 2:15), the one father of the nation.

Diversity within unity is also seen from the fact that [E] has a plural form. It is translated "a few days" in Gen 27:44; 29:20, and Dan 11:20. In Gen 11:1 the plural modifies "words": "the whole earth used the same language and the same words." Apparently it refers to the same vocabulary, the same set of words spoken by everyone at the tower of Babel. The first "same" in Gen 11:1 is singular, analogous to "the same law" of the Passover applying to native-born and foreigner (Ex 12:49; cf. Num 15:16), or to the "one law" of sure death for approaching the Persian king without invitation (Est 4:11). (Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer & Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament [Moody Press, Chicago, 1999 - electronic ed.], p. 30)

This, again, demonstrates that there is nothing in either the Greek or Hebrew words for one which necessarily excludes the possibility of God being a multi-personal Being.

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