The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, Lesson 2

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

December 9, 2018 | The Sanctuary UPC

Daniel L. Segraves

[1] In a chapter titled “The Holy Spirit and the Oneness of God,” Frank Stagg offered a perspective on the Holy Spirit that focuses on the deity of the Spirit rather than any notion of distinctions between persons in the Godhead.[1]

[2] The accuracy of this perspective becomes apparent as we examine the various biblical references to the Spirit. As we have seen, the Spirit is God at work in creation. For this reason, we will not refer to the Holy Spirit as “it.” We have also seen that the Spirit is God at work in the granting of skills for the construction of the tabernacle and in the impartation of wisdom needed for leadership.

[3] In short, we cannot fragment God by separating Him from His Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is present, God is present. David acknowledged this in his prayer of repentance: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). In another prayer, David asked, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). As Jesus said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24).

[4] It is difficult to think of God as a “person” in view of our self-identity as persons. If we think of God as a person like ourselves, we have made Him in our image. We are, instead, made in His image.[2] Whatever that may have meant at the time of creation, that image is now marred by our participation in sinful rebellion against God. Jesus is, of course, God manifest in human existence, but spared sin’s mar by the miracle of His conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin.[3]

[5] In the King James Version, the word “person” appears only once in reference to God. This is in Hebrews 1:3, where the Son of God is declared to be the express image of God’s “person.” The word “person” is translated from the Greek hypostasis, which refers to the substratum, or that which underlies something. Here, it is a reference to the essence or essential nature of God. Thus, Jesus is the exact representation of God’s essence. As Paul put it, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn[4] over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). God is invisible because He is Spirit. Jesus is visible because He is God incarnate, God in flesh. In this miraculous event, God added complete and authentic human existence to His divine essence. This included not only a human body, but everything essential to human existence, materially and immaterially.

[6] The invisibility of God apart from the incarnation is also seen in John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” There are those who think this means the Son is not God. This is not the case. In the Greek text, there is no definite article preceding the word “God” (theon). This means the reference is to God’s essence, to what He essentially is. God is essentially Spirit,[5] and a spirit is invisible.[6] The word translated “declared” (éxēgéomai) means Christ revealed God, making Him fully known.[7]

[7] Confusion arises when we think we define what it means to be human. But the incarnation did not require participation in the sin “nature,” for sin is not inherent in what it means to be human. Neither Adam nor Eve were created fallen, but both were fully human. As Paul wrote, “ ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45). Due to our fallenness, we could say that Jesus was more human than we are. He was perfectly human, as people were created to be.

[8] But the English word “person” does not really capture the idea of hypostasis. For that reason, most translations of Hebrews 1:3 do not use the word “person” at this point. Instead, the words used include “being,” “nature,” “essence,” “character,” and “subsistence.”[8]

[9] In an effort to avoid the fragmentation that so often occurs when the words “person” and “persons” are used to describe God as a trinity, Alister E. McGrath explains the contrast in meaning between the third century use of the word “person” and the meaning of “person” today.[9]

[10] It is of historical interest that “person,” when first used by Tertullian, referred to the role played by an actor in a face mask who could also fill other roles by means of different masks, but it remains that the use of the words “person” or “persons” complicates and obscures the biblical witness to the oneness of God as proclaimed in the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). To speak of God as one person in the modern sense of the word seeks to preserve His oneness, but the problem remains that this is not precisely the sense with which Scripture speaks of God. To use the word “person” in the ancient sense of the word does not avoid sequential Sabellianism or modalism, because no actor could wear three masks at once.

[11] Millard J. Erickson observes that there is nothing in the term “Spirit of God” that indicates the Spirit is a separate person from God.[10] After a discussion of the Spirit of Jehovah in the books of Judges and I Samuel, J. H. Raven asserted that the Old Testament includes no “distinction of persons in the Godhead.”[11]

[12] Ideally, we should use biblical language when speaking of God. As it relates to Hebrews 1:3, the word is hypostasis. This word must, of course, be defined in our language. Lexicons agree that the essential meaning of the word is essence, nature, real being, substance.[12] The word “person,” in the ancient or modern sense, does not capture this meaning. God is a being, a spirit being, a spirit being who added sinless human existence to his unmitigated deity.

[13] Perhaps a better way to think of God in connection with various biblical terms is this: God is spoken of as God, and sometimes as God the Father.[13] When we see these terms, we can think of God as transcendent, prior to, above and beyond the created realm. The Son, Jesus, is spoken of as God.[14] When we see this, we can think of God made known to us in sinless human existence, God incarnate. The Spirit is identified as the Spirit of God.[15] When we see references to the Spirit, we can think of God immanent, among us, with us, in us.

[14] Regardless of the words used in reference to God in Scripture, it is the same God. The Shema undergirds all that can be said of God. Whether He is before us, beyond us, above us, among us, in us, or incarnate, He is the same God.

The Holy Spirit is God

[15] At several places in Scripture the Holy Spirit is spoken of in such a way as to identify the Spirit with God. For instance, the dramatic event of the death of Ananias because of his lie about the price of the land he sold reveals that Peter viewed the Holy Spirit as God.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God (Acts 5:3-4).

When Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, he lied to God. This indicates not only that the Holy Spirit is God, but also that the Spirit is not a mere force or power. The Spirit is a conscious, thinking being with whom one can communicate.

[16] Paul also understand the Holy Spirit to be God. He wrote,

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (I Corinthians 3:16).

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (I Corinthians 6:19).

For believers to be the temple of God is to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. To say one thing is to say the other.

[17] There are many claims in Scripture that it is inspired by the Spirit. Some of these claims are made by Jesus, David, Paul, and Peter. For example:

Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (II Samuel 23:1-2).

Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’ ” (Mark 12:35-36).

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus” (Acts 1:15-16).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16).

For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21).

The topic is the same in all cases: the origin of Scripture. The terms used include “the Spirit of the Lord” and “the Holy Spirit,” but these words refer to God Himself.

[18 It is quite interesting to note that Peter, who twice credited the giving of Scripture to the Holy Spirit, also saw “the Spirit of Christ” as its source.

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into (I Peter 1:10-12).

How could the Spirit of Christ have been in the prophets when Christ, the Messiah, had not yet come? One possible answer is to note that the term “Spirit of Christ” is a genitive of description, referring perhaps not to the Spirit possessed by Christ but the proclamation of the Holy Spirit about Christ.[16] Another suggestion is that this is a reference to Christ following His resurrection and thus first century prophets, but that does not seem likely in view of the context provided by the three verses.[17]

[19] In the interest of developing a biblical pneumatology, we should note that the only other time the term “Spirit of Christ” appears in Scripture is in Romans 8:9: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” It seems certain here that Paul used the terms “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” as synonyms. This would mean these terms were understood to be equivalents in the first century. In that case, the deity of the Spirit and of Christ is further underscored, and clarity is brought to Galatians 4:6: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”

[20] After the incarnation it was possible to refer to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of His Son because the same Spirit, the same God, who gave the Scriptures by inspiration was now manifest in Christ, the Son of God. A statement of the essential oneness of God, the oneness of the church, and the oneness of saving faith is found in Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

[21] In this text informed by Paul’s interest in the Shema – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”[18] – we see that there is but one church, one salvation experience, one Spirit, one Lord and God, the Father. We cannot separate the Lord from God. To do so would be to fly in the face of the Shema. God is the Lord, and the Lord is God. At the same time, there is one Spirit, identified elsewhere in Scripture as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of the Lord. It is because the Lord God is a Spirit being that He can be “above all, through all, and in you all.”

[22] The oneness of the Spirit is also seen in Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). As in Ephesians 4:4, there is one body and one Spirit.

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (I Corinthians 12:3-7).

We notice first in this text that the Holy Spirit testifies to the deity of Jesus: He is Lord. Then, it is the same Spirit that grants diverse gifts. These gifts are the manifestation of the Spirit.

[23] But why the references to the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God? Some read this as evidence of three “persons” in the Godhead.[19] But to do so is to forget Paul’s commitment to the Shema. Earlier in this same letter, Paul appropriated the Shema to remind his readers of the nothingness of idols and of the existence of only one God.[20] Then, in language obviously informed by the Shema, he wrote: “[Y]et for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (I Corinthians 8:6). Perhaps this could be described as a revision or reshaping of the Shema, but it would be more appropriate to see it as an explanation of the Shema in view of the Incarnation. In the words of Richard Bauckham, “Paul offers a Christian formulation of the Shema.”[21]

[24] In view of the radical monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures, this is a dramatic, inspired move on Paul’s part. If the Lord (Yahweh) our God (Elohim) is one Lord (Yahweh), how can God be the Father and Jesus the Lord? New Testament faith is deeply rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures. First century Jewish believers saw their faith as having been anticipated by and as having fulfilled the Old Testament. This is seen by the fact that the New Testament quotes from, paraphrases, and alludes to the Old Testament in at least 800 places, although some scholars estimate a much greater frequency of those references.

[25] Because of these deep Old Testament roots, and because Jesus identified the Shema as the first of all the commandments,[22] it is not surprising to see so many references to the Shema in the New Testament. These references need not specifically quote the Shema word for word. The essence of this first commandment was so engrained in Jewish believers that it would not be too much to say that all New Testament affirmations of one God or one Lord or Lord God hearken back to the Shema. There are twenty of these.[23] But when we recognize that even the words “Lord Jesus” reflect the influence of the Shema, the number increases significantly. There are at least 225 such references.

[26] We can appreciate Bauckham’s analysis of I Corinthians 8:6 which demonstrates Paul’s commitment to the Shema. Our difference with Bauckham’s perspective is that the Shema identifies the Lord (Yahweh) our God (Elohim) as one Lord (Yahweh).[24] Bauckham’s conclusion seems to leave open the possibility that God, the Father, is not the Lord but that the Lord is exclusively the Messiah, the Son of the Father. The Shema declares that Yahweh, who is one, is both Lord and God. Bauckham’s “Christian formulation” of the Shema certainly includes the Messiah, but Paul’s use of the Shema points in the direction of the Incarnation.

[27] In a careful examination of the uses of the words “Lord, Lord” as applied by Jesus to Himself in Matthew and Luke, Jason A. Staples demonstrates that “the distinctive double form of ku,rie . . . serves to represent the name YHWH in Greek texts.”[25] Steven J. Beardsley has explored the significance of the word kurios as it is used to refer to Jesus.[26]

[28] What has all of this to do with the Holy Spirit? The reason for this exploration of the use of kurios[27] as it relates to Jesus in the New Testament is to obtain a grasp of the significance of New Testament references to the Shema. What do these references tell us about God? What do they say about Jesus? To what extent, if any, do they inform us about the Holy Spirit? If they do influence our understanding of the Holy Spirit, our belief in the inspiration of both testaments by the Spirit demands that there be no discrepancy of the Spirit’s identity between the two.

[29] The Shema appears first in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 6:4). In the interest of establishing context, we should note that “the Pentateuch was originally composed as a single book.”[28] The only apparent reference to the Spirit of the Lord in Deuteronomy is near the end of the book: “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9). The event this refers to reaches back to Numbers 27:18: “And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.”

[30] The Spirit with which Joshua was full was not merely the human spirit. The “Spirit of wisdom” describes “the Spirit of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). It is significant for biblical pneumatology that this reference to Joshua’s fullness of the Spirit appears at the conclusion of the Pentateuch while the first mention of the Spirit of God is found in the Pentateuch’s second verse. The same Spirit that hovered over the face of the waters at creation filled Joshua to equip him for his mission of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

[31] If John Sailhamer is right that the first chapter of Genesis, beginning with verse 2, is about the preparation of the land later promised to Abraham and his descendants, the references to the Spirit at the opening and closing of the Pentateuch are even more significant.[29] The Spirit is involved at the beginning of the preparation of the Promised Land and on the cusp of entry into that land under Joshua’s leadership. This literary device, referred to by scholars as an inclusio, heightens the profile of the Spirit throughout the Pentateuch.

[32] The Shema declares, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The New Testament proclaims by its references to the Shema that Jesus is Lord. Finally, as Paul wrote, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3).[30] The word “Spirit” may be absent from the Shema, but the Spirit is certainly present in the Shema, for only the Spirit of the Lord can identify the Lord.

[1] “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, not the Spirit of the third person of the trinity. The Holy Spirit is God in nearness and power, anywhere and anytime, the very divine presence incarnated in Jesus Christ now present in people. The Holy Spirit is not a third God nor one-third of God. The Spirit is God relating to us in creation, judgment, guidance, strength, redemption, or otherwise” Frank Stagg, The Holy Spirit Today (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1995), 11. Stagg, who was a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, commented further, “ ‘Spirit’ when applied to God implied God’s immanence in the world, near and accessible. . . . ¶In the Old Testament, ‘the Spirit of Yahweh’ or ‘the Spirit of Elohim’ does not imply division within God or a person separate from God. This is simply another way of referring to God. . . . ¶The terms ‘God’ and ‘Spirit’ are there in the Old Testament, but they do not imply two Gods or one God as two persons, a divine ‘Binity.’ The absence of a ‘binitarian’ doctrine in the Old Testament should caution us against any ‘trinitarian’ doctrine implying division within God as three Persons. . . . ¶The Old Testament portrayal of ‘the Spirit of God as active in his world creating, inspiring, and empowering’ anticipates the incarnational representation of ‘the Holy Spirit’ and spirituality in the New Testament. . . . ¶the Old Testament and the Gospels also know of God’s presence as the Spirit. . . . ¶The Holy Spirit, then, is not a third god nor one-third of God. The Holy Spirit is God in nearness and power, anytime and anywhere, the same divine presence as we know in the word made flesh, Immanuel. . . . ¶Someone will say, ‘But this is modalism.’ Labels come easy, and this label as widely employed is to be rejected, even though it is to be preferred to tritheism. If by ‘modalism’ one means that God came serially, now as Father, now as Son, and now as Holy Spirit, this is to be rejected as not doing justice to New Testament faith. . . . That God may be known, and is actually known, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is true to New Testament faith. But ‘modalism’ as God divided or God coming in installments is not true to New Testament faith. ¶Theology’s problem is that it has no terms or models which do justice to the reality of God in the richness of God’s self-disclosure to us and presence with us. Our point is that when we encounter God as Father, it is God (not a fraction) whom we meet. When we encounter God as Son, it is God who is with us. When we encounter God as Holy Spirit, it is God whom we encounter” (12-13).

[2] Genesis 1:26-27.

[3] Luke 1:26-38.

[4] The word translated “firstborn” (prōtotokos) can mean “existing prior to something else,” but it need not. It can also have the sense of “superior in status.” See Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, BibleWorks – Version, 10.43; 13.79; 87.47. When a range of meaning is possible, meaning is influenced by context. The immediate context of Colossians 1:15 concludes “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

[5] Exodus 33:20; Matthew 16:17; Luke 24:39; I Timothy 1:17; 6:15-16; Hebrews 11:27; 12:9; I John 4:12.

[6] Merrill C. Tenney wrote, “The noun God (theon) has no article in the Greek text, which indicates that the author is presenting God in his nature of being rather than as a person. ‘Deity’ might be a more accurate rendering. The meaning is that no human has ever seen the essence of deity. God is invisible, not because he is unreal, but because physical eyes are incapable of detecting him” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981], 34). Edwin A. Blum commented, “God in His essence is invisible (I Tim. 1:17). He is One ‘whom no one has ever seen or can see’ (I Tim. 6:16). But John 1:18 means, ‘no one has ever seen God’s essential nature.’ God may be seen in a theophany or anthropomorphism but His inner essence or nature is disclosed only in Jesus’ (The Bible Knowledge Commentary [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983], 273). According to Marvin R. Vincent, “The seeing intended here is seeing of the divine essence rather than of the divine person, which is also indicated by the absence of the article from θεον, God” (Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), 59.

[7] Friberg, Analytical Greek Lexicon.

 [8] The phrase translated “the express image of His person” in the KJV is rendered as follows: “the very imprint of his being” (NAB); “the exact representation of His nature” (NAS); “the representation of His essence” (NET); “the exact representation of his being” (NIB); “the impress of God’s own being” (NJB); “the very character of God” (NLT); “the impress of His subsistence” (YLT).

[9] “How can God be three persons and one person at the same time? . . . The word ‘person’ has changed its meaning since the third century when it began to be used in connection with the ‘threefoldness of God’. When we talk about God as a person, we naturally think of God a being one person. But theologians such as Tertullian, writing in the third century, used the word ‘person’ with a different meaning. The word ‘person’ originally derives from the Latin word persona, meaning an actor’s face-mask – and, by extension, the role which he takes in a play.” ¶By stating that there were three persons but only one God, Tertullian was asserting that all three major roles in the great drama of human redemption are played by the one and the same God. The three great roles in this drama are all played by the same actor: God. Each of these roles may reveal God in a somewhat different way, but it is the same God in every case. So when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word, and when we talk about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word. . . . Confusing these two senses of the word ‘person’ inevitably leads to the idea that God is actually a committee . . . ” Alister E. McGrath, Understanding the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, Zondervan,1988), 130-131. McGrath also wrote, “[T]he New Testament tends to think of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ as much as of God. The Spirit is understood to stand in the closest of possible relationships to Christ, so that his presence among the people of Christ is equivalent to the presence of Christ himself, just as the presence of Christ is treated as being that of God himself. In other words, to encounter the Son is really to encounter the Father and not some demigod or surrogate. To encounter the Spirit is really to encounter the Son and hence the Father. The enormous importance of this is obvious: the believer of today can encounter the living God at first-hand, not through semi-divine or created intermediaries. To affirm the divinity of Father, Son and Spirit is not to suggest that there are three gods, but simply that the one God can be encountered in these different ways, all of which are equally valid. It means that God makes himself available, here and now, directly and personally” (129-130).

[10] “It is not apparent from this construction [of the two nouns, Spirit and God] that a separate person is involved. The expression ‘Spirit of God’ could well be understood as being simply a reference to the will, mind, or activity of God. . . . [T]he Old Testament ‘Spirit of God’ is synonymous with the Holy Spirit” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology [Grand Rapids: MI: Baker, 1985], 866).

[11] “Although these expressions resemble what it [sic] said about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, there is here no distinction of persons in the Godhead. The Spirit of God in the Old Testament is God himself exercising active influence and imparting divine life” (John H. Raven, The History of the Religion of Israel: An Old Testament Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979], 164).

[12] See Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon, Friberg Lexicon, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 847.

[13] John 6:27; I Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 1:1, 3; Ephesians 6:23; Philippians 2:11; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; I Peter 1:2; II Peter 1:17; II John 1:3; Jude 1:1.

[14] II Peter 1:1; Romans 9:5; Isaiah 9:6; I Timothy 3:16; Matthew 1:23; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8, 10.

[15] See endnote 3.

[16] Daniel L. Segraves, First Peter: Standing Fast in the Grace of God (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1999), 55-56.

[17] See Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 62, n. 26.

[18] Deuteronomy 6:4.

[19] Surely this text does not mean that the Spirit is responsible for gifts, the Lord for ministries, and God for activities! Notions like this fragment God into some kind of divine committee. When we see references to “Lord” and “God,” we must keep in mind that the faith of the writers of the New Testament was deeply influenced by the Hebrew Scriptures’ first commandment (according to Jesus [Mark 12:29-30]), the Shema.

[20] I Corinthians 8:4.

[21] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 2008), 97. Bauckham points out the careful structure of I Corinthians 8:6: “but for us [there is] one God, the Father / from whom [are] all things and we for him / and one Lord, Jesus Christ / through whom [are] all things and we through him. ¶In stating that there is one God and one Lord, Paul is unmistakably echoing the monotheistic statement of the Shema` (‘YHWH our God, YHWH is one’), whose Greek version in the Septuagint reads: ‘The Lord our God, the Lord, is one’ (kurios ho theos hēmōn kurios heis estin). Paul has taken over all of the words of this Greek version of the Shema, but rearranged them in such a way as to produce an affirmation of both one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. ¶If Paul were understood as adding the one Lord to the one God of whom the Shema` speaks, then, from the perspective of Jewish monotheism, he would certainly be producing, not christological monotheism, but outright ditheism. . . . [T]he Shema` demands exclusive allegiance to the unique God alone. . . . [T]he addition of a unique Lord to the unique God of the Shema` would flatly contradict the uniqueness of the latter. Paul would not be reasserting Jewish monotheism in a Christian way nor modifying or expanding the Shema`, but repudiating Judaism and radically subverting the Shema`. The only possible way to understand Paul as maintaining monotheism is to understand him to be including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God affirmed in the Shema`. But this is, in any case, clear from the fact that the term ‘Lord’, applied here to Jesus as the ‘one Lord’, is taken from the Shema` itself. Paul is not adding to the one God of the Shema` a ‘Lord’ the Shema` does not mention. He is identifying Jesus as the ‘Lord’ whom the Shema` affirms to be one. In this unprecedented reformulation of the Shema`, the unique identity of the one God consists of the one God, the Father, and the one Lord, his Messiah . . . .” (Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 101).

[22] Mark 12:29.

[23] One God: Mark 12:32; Romans 3:30; Ephesians 4:6; I Timothy 2:5; James 2:19; One Lord: Mark 12:29; I Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5; Lord God: Luke 1:32, 68; I Peter 3:15; Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 18:8; 19:6; 21:22; 22:5, 6.

[24] ‎יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה׀ אֶחָֽד

[25] Jason A. Staples, “ ‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies (2018), 64, p. 19. Referring to Matthew 7:21-22; 25:11; and Luke 6:46, Staples says, “[T]hese verses thereby place a self-referential use of the divine name on Jesus’ lips, an echo any first-century reader familiar with the Greek Bible would be unlikely to miss. Such applications of the name to the exalted Jesus amount to calling him God . . . . In this respect, the presentation of Jesus in these passages appears comparable to that of Philippians 2 and the creedal statement of 1 Cor 8:6, in which Paul expands upon the Shema to talk of ‘One God, the father . . . and one ku,rioj, Jesus Christ’.” Further, it is Staples’ view that the use of the “double ku,rioj” in Matthew and Luke “seems to confirm that the frequent application of the single ku,rioj to Jesus elsewhere should be understood as echoing the divine name.” In some manuscripts, another “double ku,rioj” is found in Luke 13:25.

[26] “Luke reached back into the common religious cultural context of the early Christians where he obtained his understanding of ku,rioj as Yahweh from the Greek Jewish Scriptures . . . .  When Luke and his Jewish audience heard ku,rioj, they first understood it to mean Yahweh. . . . For Luke, the identity of Jesus was profoundly clear.  Jesus was Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel, born a human being and as such he explicitly replaced Caesar as Lord of all” (Steven J. Beardsley, “Luke’s Narrative Agenda: The Use of ku,rioj within Luke-Acts to Proclaim the Identity of Jesus” [Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 2012], iii).

[27] Some translations, like the KJV, translate kurios as “Lord,” even when the New Testament reference is to an Old Testament text using the Hebrew Yahweh. More recent English translations tend to translate kurios as Lord when the Old Testament text uses Yahweh. This is helpful for English readers because it immediately indicates the deity of Jesus. See, for example, Hebrews 1:10 (NKJV). In nearly every case where Yahweh appears in the Old Testament, the KJV renders it as Lord. The Greek Septuagint, commonly referred to as LXX, renders Yahweh as kurios. Most of the quotations from the Old Testament, as well as paraphrases of and allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament, are from the Septuagint. Since the Septuagint translates Yahweh into Greek as kurios, so does the New Testament.

[28] Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, xix.

[29] Sailhamer maintains “that the narratives of Genesis 1 and 2 are to be understood as both literal and historical. They recount two great acts of God. In the first act, God created the universe we see around us today, consisting of the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the plants and animals that now inhabit (or formerly inhabited) the earth. The biblical record of that act of creation is recounted in Genesis 1:1 . . . . ¶The second act of God recounted in Genesis 1 and 2 deals with a much more limited scope and period of time. Beginning with Genesis 1:2, the biblical narrative recounts God’s preparation of a land for the man and woman He was to create. That ‘land’ was the same land later promised to Abraham and his descendants. It was the land which God gave to Israel after their exodus from Egypt. It was that land to which Joshua led the Israelites after their time of wandering in the wilderness. According to Genesis 1, God prepared that land within a period of a six-day work week. On the sixth day of that week, God created human beings. God then rested on the seventh day” (John H. Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account [Colorado Springs, CO: Dawson Media, 2011], iBook edition, “Introduction.”

[30] In I Corinthians 12:3 there is no specific quotation from the Old Testament, but the association of the word kurios (Lord) with Jesus throughout the New Testament provides strong contextual evidence that any use of “Lord” with “Jesus” recalls the Shema’s assertion that there is one Lord who is God.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]