In Deuteronomy 6:4, the most important text for both ancient and modern Judaism, we read: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

For the Apostle, the phrase “The Lord is our God” referred to the present covenantal reality for Israel as God’s ancient people; while the phrase “The Lord is One” referred to the future time when the fullness of the nations will join Israel in the worship of their God. What is striking is that Paul was not alone in his thinking. There are good reasons to see Paul’s views as representative of the views of many other Jews who were contemporaneous with him and those who would come later. Let us consider several Jewish sources that place the Apostle Paul firmly within the Jewish matrix of thought regarding this issue (For an expended treatment consult Paul and the Jewish Tradition: The Ideology of the Shema by Mark Nanos).

A commentary on the book of Deuteronomy written in the third-century states:

“The Lord, our God,” over us (the children of Israel); “the Lord is one,” over all the creatures of the world. “The Lord, our God,” in this world; “the Lord is one,” in the world to come. As it is said, “The Lord will be king over all the earth. In that day will the Lord be one and His name one.” (Sifre on Deut. 6:4)

A commentary on Deuteronomy written in the eleventh-century states:

“The Lord who is our God now, but not (yet) the God of the (other) nations is destined to be the One Lord, as it is said… ‘And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be One and His name One.’” (Rashi on Deut. 6:4)

The big difference between the Jews who authored the above-mentioned writings and the Apostle Paul comes down to this: Paul was convinced that time of the ingathering of the nations described in the prophets had already arrived, while other Jews were not.

The centrality of the Shema in Paul’s letters can be seen in many instances. Here are but a few representative examples.

Paul, when making an argument that while there are other gods who are loved and worshiped by other people, stated that for him and his community there is but One God.

“Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are beings who are called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

In a letter written from prison, Paul calls Christ-followers to covenantal unity based on the oneness of God:

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called… There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4: 1-5).

Was the Shema important to Paul? No. It was central to his theology!

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80 COMMENTS

  1. Just my personal observation of the use of language (english is not my first language). If the Shema was not important to Paul, based on the final question and No answer, then neither is his theology as the “unimportant” Shema is central to his theology. Just my take on the use of words and words have meaning. Probably not what you meant, but….

      • I simply wish to say, “Amen,and Amen!”

        The Trinity can best be seen as an illustration of an egg.

        Take an egg.
        It’s one whole egg. (3 in 1)
        Divide it into three parts.
        Egg white
        Egg yolk
        Egg Shell

        Separately they are still 100 percent egg, but three distinct parts.

        God the Trinity = 3 in 1
        God the Father
        God the Son
        God the Holy Spirit

        • God, Father,Son And Holy Spirit
          Sounds more accurate and inseparable instead of God the Father(1), God the Son(2) God the Holy Spirit (3) Sounds like three separate Gods

        • I am a woman, and I feel that i am being made an afterthought of God. He created man in His image. When He realized that man was lonely He created a woman for this man. So does that mean I was not created in His image?

          • If I am created in His image as a woman within the trinity, which bears the famine nature of God? The holy spirit, perhaps? I refuse to feel like an afterthought of God, please share your thoughts on this

          • Were people created after animals and plants because we were an afterthought? The opposite, actually. We were the crown of God’s creation. All the more, therefore, woman must be the crown Jewel since she was created after the man!

        • The Holy Spirit is just the Spirit of GOD it is not a person as Christ or GOD is it is just GOD’s Power Jesus said in the LORDS Prayer our FATHER and nothing about the Holy Spirit in this prayer Don’t be deceived by this false teaching

          • The Holy spirit is a valuable beloved part of God , not just anything but has great value, you see how much Jesus Loves his Father his spirit is also part of him , God is holy and beloved , appreciate him , glad his up there and safe .

      • The SHEMA was very relevant to Rav Shaul and to the other Believers than and now. Hear o’ Israel, that’s physical Israel and ‘spiritual’ together. We are all of the same ‘tree’, wish the grafted in ones actually knew they were grafted in to Israel.

    • It’s the first words from Yah to shema Israel it’s very important to Yah that we obey and keep His commandments. As we are grafted into Israel and Yah says not one law to natural born Isreal and a different law to them who join Israel in Yeshua Greco Roman took away from Torah and Paul teaches all who believe to uphold the Law Torah .

    • I also understood the highlighted blue letters as having more emphasis as just important. The Shema was the centre of his teaching.

  2. Sir, one cannot deny the importance of the Shema to the Israelites. However, the passages you quote from Paul can be discussed in many myriad ways. First of all, they contain some of the Scriptural evidence for a belief in the Trinity which declares Jesus as God. Second, Christians should believe that the ‘unity’ that is God comes first. Later comes ALL kinds of unity, including the covenantal unity of Judaism. Paul transcended the Shema in this respect. Thirdly, these passages prescribed a certain behavior that would encourage unity in the early Church as the body precedes the Spirit.

    • Yes, of course, there are more ways than one to interpret texts (or anything else for that matter). (I am fully aware that EHAD in Hebrew was interpreted by many Jewish Christians as a support for Trinity). I am showing here that Paul saw it this way and he saw it in a common Jewish way.

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  3. I think it interesting to bring up the Trinity in this text. Many Christians are told from a young age that the Trinity is far beyond their concept in knowledge to understand. They are told that by faith they except the Trinity as true. When looking into the Trinity one must first understand that the Trinity is one God* (the God* of Abram) in three persons. When you break that down God* the Father, God* the Son and God* the Holy Spirit is one person in three forms. Paul understood this point fully.

  4. I have been struggling with the word called because it seems to be associated with an assembly and I was unchurched. What I see in Deu 6 is that the congregation (eza) was a nation and means to see or observe, to witness. So, to be called would include the nations experiencing “being brought out” with a mighty hand (Power, Spirit), Deu 6:21, This sounds like Romans 8:26.

  5. Shalom dear all The word SHEMA ….. what does it actually mean? Apologies I am very new to this lesson. Cheers and God Bless Betty Khoo

    • Shema means “hear, listen and obey.” It is the first word in the Jewish confession of faith in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel…and therefore the whole confession of faith beçame known as the Shema. Hope this helps.

  6. “…EHAD in Hebrew was interpreted by many Jewish Christians as a support for Trinity)…. Paul saw it this way and he saw it within common Jewish way to see it.” For clarity, Dr. Eli, these last two statements really need to be included in the article— either as the opening topic statements or as the article‘s summary.

  7. The “Shema” is extremely important to Paul and all God fearing Jews and followers of Y’Shua. Not only is this prayer recited before you sleep and when you wake, but you shall bind it on your head and on your heart. The Shema continues to be as very important today it was for the People being led to their promised land. Be Blessed.

  8. All believers of Paul’s day were member of the Body of Christ (Church) Paul spoke to all believers Jews and Gentiles alike Paul two main fellow-workers were Barnabas and Silas, in conducting the ministry when the Body of Christ (Church) began. Paul gives credits to Apollos for the watered the seed that Paul started in Corinth (1 Cor 3:6) Apollos was a leader and preacher that only knew about baptism of John until Priscilla and Aquilla taught him more about Pauline doctrine. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for being divided between Peter, Apollos and himself, because their was only one program

  9. Dr Eli, my take on this is that; The God of Israel is the true and only God and is Lord of all the earth ( all creation-peoples) whether those people acknowledge or not that The God of Israel s the Lord of all. So it doesn’t denote that the God of Israel will be the Lord of all at a later time. By the fact that He created and has authority over all His creation attests to the fact that He is Lord of all from the beginning.

    • The word “Lord” implies the one whom you obey. Yes, YHWH created everything and is the ultimate elohim, but not everyone reveres or obeys Him yet. There will come a time when EVERY knee will bow, but that time hasn’t come. For those people, YHWH is not Lord.

  10. 33.Uno: a)Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”(Dt 6:4;7:12-11:25; cf Mc 12:29-34; I Co 8:6; Gá 3:20; Ef 4:1-6; Stg 2:19 ) ¿”there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Co 8:4-6)¿Es Dios uno o? ¡Qué complejidad! No desampara (Dt 31:6,7, es retomado (Mt 28:20)! Una debe ser la original! y ¿la otra relectura?

  11. Shema – only one God- not three persons- only 3 offices or manifestations presented scripturaly-God the Father became flesh – not God the Son became flesh- not a trinity – The One God of Israel manifests Himself in many ways. Still One God and Yeshua is His Name. Thankyou- 🙂

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Apostle Paul I: His World or The Revelation in a Jewish Context II : Discovery. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

    • How about , One Being, three persons? Not manifestations. A mystery but not without examples in the creation. Check out the subatomic resonance structure of nitrate as an example given in Nabeel Qureshi book, No God But One. Also, having more than one person in the one Being is important in order to think of a relational God who views His people with love and not simply as a fulfillment of His need to relate.l

  12. I am very much with Eli on this, although Paul clearly had a narrower comprehension of all that humankind includes than we know now. Paul, I believe, would have travelled to China had he conceived of it.

  13. What a wonderful privilege to share our faith in the LORD with so many believers! Thank you Eli for the splendid work you do for HIM. May HE bless you and keep you…

  14. Dr. Michael Heiser has written on this theme, and agrees with you. The nations were doled out to “other elohim” after the tower of Babel, with YHVH taking Abraham to start a nation for Himself. Paul, knowing that Jesus defeated these “other elohim” at the cross, taking back the right to rule over all nations in fulfillment of scripture, urged “gentiles” to forsake these other “gods” and return to YHVH. On a related note, Heiser and a Jewish scholar, Alan Segal, have both written on the debate within ancient Judaism over scripture describing “two YHVH”, titled “Two Powers in Heaven”.

  15. Dr. Eli Apostle Paul believed and taught the Shema because he was Jewish fist and when Apostle Paul became a Roman citizen his heart was torn between the Jewish and seeing Jesus Christ. Apostle Paul love the Jewish people and Jesus Christ’s both. Excellent job is being taught by the Israel Biblical Center. I shall never walk away from Isreal Bible Center, Jesus Christ asked me to search past history while I was attended Liberty. I walk away from a Christian college because I have see and hear from some of the Prophets and the Divine Mother.

  16. Dr. Eli I have been very ill with a pain condition. I study all the Holy Teaching. To the the student’s I know the gifts that the Creators of Earth gives to each and every one of us. My gift has never been to asked for money because I see the suffering of little children, men and women in the Middle East and Africa. I was never suppose to walk again, I was not suppose to use my right hands. Jesus Christ repaire his body twice before he was fourteen years old Amen, Amen, and Amen

  17. “in this post we weren’t actually looking at the doctrine of he Trinity” Believe this – read again what the good professor Eli is actually getting at. Dwell on this post! Arguments aside, there is great understanding revealed here, other than the apologetics for the doctrine of the Trinity. This post, including the two quotes by the commentators of old have opened my eyes to focus clearly on something that I had hoped to comprehend someday. Todah rabah, my teacher!

  18. I was taught by a Rabbi that was a Languast. I was taking Hebrew from him and he told us that Echad meaning was pural not just one. I believe he was meaning One G~d and one Holy Spirit. I also believe the Yeshua was also G~d.

  19. Reading from the commentators of old, and many of the comments, I am forced to conclude that there are TWO SHEMAS! There is the Shema of Moses before the holy name became too holy to be pronounced. It said: Hear O Israel! Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is One. Then there is also the Shema of the Greek Septuagint after the holy name had been dropped from the lips of the Jews. It says: Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is One. We shall see the implications below.

  20. To commentators who appreciate the existence of many Lords, it makes sense to put the Shema’s “The Lord is one” in the future, and link it to a global worship of one Lord. But since there were never many Yahwehs (Psalm 83:19 says, shemkha Yahweh levadekha, your name is Yahweh, yours alone), the Mosaic Shema would never have given that implication. Rather, the focus was to let Israel know that Yahweh was no where else to be found. So Exodus 23:13 became critical.

  21. Exodus 23:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other Gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. When Zachariah says, “In the last days there shall by one Lord and his name one, he appears to support the Greek Shema. But when we understand he actually said, “In the last days, Yahweh shall be one and his name one”, we find him pointing to a restoration of the Mosaic Shema, after the confusion worked by the Greek Shema!

  22. For the Greek Shema allowed a confusion among Lords. In particular, it allowed a confusion between “the Lord” used to replace the name Yahweh, and “the Lord” applied as an attribute to our Lord Yeshua Mashiakh. Even the clearly singular unit “ekhad”, meaning “one”, has been exchanged with the grouping word, yakhad, meaning “together”, to force the Shema to point to some Trinity of the Godhead. Yet, in the eternal Song of Moses, Yahweh re-emphasizes his oneness stating with force, “See now, that I, even I, am he; and there is no God with me!

  23. So, there is no God with Yahweh, as the eternal Song of Moses, sung by overcoming saints in Revelation 15:3 makes clear. He is one, a singular one: Yahweh ekhad: the one true God. The resurrected Yeshua Mashiakh therefore called him “My God” in Revelation 3:12. In what imagination, Jewish or Gentile, shall one be the same as one’s God? No, Yahweh ekhad, w’ain elohim im-mo (Yahweh is one, and there is no God with him)!

  24. Let me conclude with these words of Paul: [I Corinthians 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.] …, then shall Yeshua himself be subject unto Yahweh that put all thing under him, that Yahweh may be all in all!

  25. I see the Shema as a central verse and very related to the first commandment which Christ points to when the young lawyer quires Him : Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with Thy whole Heart, they whole soul and Thy whole mind” Mathew 22:36-39 ““Master, which is the great Commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.” it is the end of idolatry.

  26. The Son has always been subject to the Father in the basic sense of being submitted. Therefore, when it says he shall be subject to Him after all things are put under his feet it means that His Oneness shall appear as we see in Revelation 22:3-4 which shows that “Yahweh and the Lamb” shall have one throne, and “His [Yahweh and the Lamb’s] servants shall serve Him [Yahweh and the Lamb] and they shall see His face [the face of Yahweh and the Lamb] and His name [of Yahweh and the Lamb] shall be in their foreheads.

    • Because God’s name as originally written was in Hebrew, but this article and forum are in English.
      Dr. Gruber wrote an article about God’s name that you can check out, but he also provides an entire course on this subject too. Sign up to get started, and learn about God’s name.

  27. I would like to know what is the true translation of John 1:1 because some translate that the Logos was a theos and not Theos, and others says that it should be that the Logos was Theos. Who is telling the true. I don’t believe in Trinity. I believe that Creator manifested himself in 3 different ways, but it is not 3 divine joined beings, but One being manifested in 3 different forms. If not we believe in politeism. YHWH is ONE. One is indivisible. Unit is formed for more than 2 subjects, but Unicidad not. It is my opinion.

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  28. The Shema is actually the central passage in a chiastic structure:

    A – These are the LAWS that you must do to live in the LAND
    B – Keep the LAWS, you and your CHILDREN
    C – HEAR and obey
    D – Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one
    D’ – Love the LORD with all of your heart, etc.
    C’ – The covenant will be in your HEART
    B’ – Teach the covenant to your CHILDREN
    A’ – Bind the covenant on your hand, between your eyes, etc.

    What’s going on here?

  29. There’s a very interesting progression. From A to D, these are commands that are external. In other words, God is telling us, do this, hear that, etc. But from D’ back to A’, these are things that WE are doing OURSELVES!

    This was likely written with A through D spoken by the priests, and D’ through A’ the responsive recitation by the people. But how does that help us to understand the meaning of the Shema?

    Basically, what this is is the MARITAL COVENANT between God and His people. The Lord is “one” with them because he’s MARRIED to them.

  30. These are like the wedding vows where both covenantal parties are taking part. God in A through D, and His people responding to God in D’ through A’.

  31. The Shema concerns the Messiah’s God and none other, the Father. The Messiah himself, Jesus of Nazareth, was/is unitarian.

    As I read Paul, his God and Messiah’s God is the Father alone.

    Jesus is the lord (adoni) Messiah, not the Lord (Adonai) God.

  32. Hi Dr Lizorkin-Eyzenberg
    Pauls faith or belief with some Jews that the Ingathering of nations had happened, while some Jews believed this had not.

    I looked up the meaning of the word amalek last night, one was from a Kurdish word that had a root meaning of straw hut.

    • Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary has “a people that licks up” (which agrees with the rabbinic interpretation of “a people who lick [blood]”), whereas Easton’s Bible Dictionary has “dweller in a valley”. But the name’s origin is simply uncertain.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with Leviticus and The New Testament or The Jewish Apostle Paul I: His World. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  33. The other from Hebrew had a root meaning of doubt.Being fresh in my mind this seems the faith of some and the doubt of others created division. The reason I looked up this word was to do with Saul, not obeying the word of Yahweh in totally destroying Amelek

  34. Dibuseng – I’ve adopted the view from reading scripture that in a sense we can perceive that we are all daughters of Eve as we are all made of flesh and we are all sons of Adam as we are all made of spirit also.

  35. I love reading all these questions and answers!
    Some areas have become clearer.
    I have some materials to study.
    Thanks you all. God bless. Millie🙏

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