A Shema Conspiracy?

970 times the adjective echad (one) occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures. This word is the simple, numerical word for one, as in “two are better than one [echad]” Ecc 4:9 or “if one [echad] can overpower him who is alone, two [shenayim] can resist him. A cord of three [shalash] strands is not quickly torn apart” 4:12. The words echad, shenayim, shalash are equivalent to one, two, three in English.

The adjective yachad (unity or denoting togetherness) occurs 45 times. Among many examples are “the kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together [yachad] against Yahweh and against his anointed” Psa 2:2 and “behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity [yachad]!” Psa 133:1.

The adjective yachid (special, unique, solidarity) occurs a heaping 12 times in such ways as “Take now your son, your only [yachid] son, whom you love” Gen 22:2 and “God makes a home for the lonely [yachid]” Psa 68:6.

This may strike some as useless or trivial information, but be assured that battles have been fought over less. As useful and helpful a tool as the internet can be, it can also be a destructive mechanism for endlessly disseminating falsehoods. One must do proper research and check the validity of claims before accepting them as authentic. The argument over the word echad and its implications for supporting the doctrine of the Trinity is no exception.

There have been some – especially among the Messianic movement - who claim that in Hebrew the word echad denotes “a compound plural/unity.” The shema, which is the closest match to a declarative credal statement in Judaism is found in Deut 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one [echad]!”

Needless debate and endless quarrels have arisen in recent (and not so recent) times regarding this subject, but the point of the matter (pun intended) is that facts tell the story. The word echad is never a “compound plural/unity.” Though the accusation has been made, the truth of the matter is that ancient (or modern) Rabbis did not replace echad with yachid (meaning unique, special or solitary) or contrariwise for the sake of covering a supposedly Trinitarian aphorism in the shema.

It is a verifiable fact that there are no existing Hebrew texts (at least in my searching) of Deut 6:4 which contain, or as some seem to suggest, “retain” yachid rather than echad. If such a conspiracy of the rabbis existed, where an attempt was made to hide the “later truth” of a “Triune Godhead” uncovered by third-century AD Christian Bishops that was Israel’s hidden, covenant-God all long, shouldn’t at least one manuscript bear witness of this atrocity? Every extant manuscript of the Torah at verse 4 reads as echad. These manuscripts were meticulously hand-copied utilizing numerous scribes and witnesses to validate their accuracy. Even when entering into the age of the printing-press, bringing with it new bibles and commentaries, throughout the transition, the reading remained consistent.

In the NT, the proof stands for itself, never is the shema redefined as proof of Jesus’ divinity or for a Triune Godhead. Scholars such as Wright and Hurtado have made attempts and continue to opine that 1 Cor 8:6 is an instance where Paul split the shema, redefining it to include Jesus within the identity of Yahweh. The view has multiple issues, having many scholars in disagreement, but it is not the subject of this post. Either way, it may aid views of binitarianism, but does nothing to propose a tri-personal God.

Mark 12:29 is an instance where Jesus, after being interrogated as to the greatest command, cited the shema, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.” The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the HS is quoted where the Greek word heis, is the translator’s choice for the word echad. While it is true that heis can be used in a collective sense such as Paul’s words to the Galatians, “you are all one in Christ” (3:28) it does not work in the designation of God due to the singular pronouns that accompany it.

Ultimately it comes down to the theological traditions to which people are conformed and the lenses through which they have chosen to see. Though it comes with a cost as high as textual veracity, when the apotheosized traditional dogma is threatened, it readily becomes apparent that anything goes. This is a hopeless argument.

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