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1 Corinthians 8:6: A Reproduction Of The Shema?

Updated: Aug 7, 2023




Introduction:


In the duration of the New Testament times, the city of Corinth governed the Roman province of Achaia, which encompassed almost the totality of Greece. As a locus of political superiority, it hosted the residence of the regional governor, or proconsul. The community had been rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Colonia Laus Julia Corinthiensis. Cultic worship and pro-imperial ideology was the daily experience of the people in Corinth. Participation by the general public in the cultic celebration of gods, be they powerful earthly rulers (κύριοι) or imagined heavenly beings (θεοί), gave the very setting of the Greco-Roman culture an idolatrous aroma. [1]


Around 50 AD Paul pressed ahead into Athens, the center of Greek philosophy and culture (Acts 15:40–17:15) after a full year of hard travel over land and sea from Antioch, across Asia Minor, and through Macedonia, preaching the gospel with Silas and Timothy. [2] Paul sought to address a rising number of problems dividing the church, the effects of its diverse membership of Jews and Gentiles, its precarious beginnings of persecution, and the corrupt religious and moral culture in which it ministered. As the lights dim on our own culture and our churches begin to look more and more like the disheveled, self-serving church in Corinth, Paul’s words to that fragmented church take on greater import and more urgent practicality. And for this reason, scholars of the Pauline corpus and the NT in general, see a more sociological dynamical element that influence Paul's theological credences.


Exposition and exegesis:


In the chapter before us, a grammatico-historical exegesis will be applied to our brief synopsis of Pauls salutation letter to the people of Corinth. Paul here speaks of an eating that is not advisable, pointing out in verses one through three that such an eating is not according to love that builds up. One of the other symptoms of Corinthian cultural influence was intellectual freedom. Verses four through seven indicate that idols and earthly intellectualism are nothing, and verse eight says that food does not commend us to God. Vs eight is especially significant and deserves unique attention. Likewise on the table was Paul's compare and contrast to pagan heavenly gods and earthly lords (rulers) would not have been a fresh idea to his immediate audience, because among his listeners, besides Jewish Christians, were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (the intellectual elites of the day).[3] Whom were well educated on the matter. The Stoics believed in individualism while Epicureanism encouraged the seemingly selfish pursuit of pleasure and tranquility. They endorsed and encouraged analytical, consistent work. But their self-centered individualism was completely antithetical to the believers emphasis on the body of Christ and inscribing an egotistical identity that would distinguish one individual from another. They would establish an ad hoc hearing at the Areopagus, also known as “Mars Hill” [4] (Acts 17:19-21). Fortunately, there Paul’s preaching gained a number of new believers in Christ, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a member of the city’s cultural and social elite (Acts 17:34).


The anti-imperial propaganda promoted by Paul sought to counter this ideological construct by depicting Christ as the obedient anti-type of Adam- the disobedient founder of humanity- who had triumphed over the calamitous effects of the fall by his death and resurrection. It's also amazing that Paul was utilizing Pythagorean political theorists and the popular philosophers to implement and communicate his objective to his audience [the Corinthians] in a compare and contrast motif of how in messianic hebriac theology, the Imperial cults version of a earthly king and a Supreme God fails in comparison. Bible scholar R. Allen Street insightfully notes “The normal motif within the Jesus movement was that he is indeed κύριος (see Acts 2:36 & 1 Cor. 12:3). This was in contrast to Caesar and all other claimants such as Emperor Nero, who at the time of Christ also claimed to be the established Lord and Jupiter's Earthly representative".[5] Paul presents Jesus Christ as not the source; but rather the means. For this reason Paul uses the string of prepositions "δι" and says “through” Whom are all things." According to John 1:3, all things came into being through Him. Thus, the Lord is actually not the Creator; He is the means through whom all things were created. It is crucial that concerning the Father, Paul uses the prepositions "of" and "unto," but concerning the Lord he twice uses the preposition "through". This unequivocally communicates God the Father as the source, and we are of Him and unto Him.


εἷς θεὸς & εἷς κύριος


Paul decides to now flex his Jewish provado to the mixed crowd in Corinth. He reminds the Corinthians that they, have one θεὸς , The Father. The fact that Paul had the opportunity to inoculate two objects immediately after this isolated profound statement that would have indeed ended all anti-arguments against the possible multiplicity of persons as the one θεὸς. Even a single use of κύριος in conjunction with two objects would have sufficed. Instead, the above phrases (εἷς θεὸς & εἷς κύριος) exhibit the uniqueness of our one God and our one lord. It is often misguidedly associated with the words of the Shema’ (Deuteronomy 6:4), κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν.


First, it should be noted that the expression the ‘Lord is one” is not the syntactically same expression as “to us…there is one Lord, Jesus Christ” nor is it analogous to saying “one God”. Moreover, in 8:6, the one Lord Jesus is portrayed as a clear distinct figure from the “one God,” as the NT (New Testament) writings consistently do. The fact that κύριος εἷς is in an appositional relationship with κύριος ὁ θεὸς in Deuteronomy 6:4 (LXX) proves to be in full compliance and crucial for a traditional reading of the text. Furthermore, it would have been very problematic for Paul to distinguish between God and Lord as Jesus and the Father without clarifying it or defending it. To the Jewish believers who likely understood the explanatory equivalent of κύριος ὁ θεὸς and κύριος especially. The Father according to Paul in a quintessential way was pinned as Supreme God (Rom 1:7,6:4, 1 Cor 1:3, 15:24, 2 Cor 1:3), and how bizarre it would be for Paul to throw a curveball to the Corinthians there.[6]


A Christianized Shema?


A troublesome, yet existing roadblock for the view that Paul was somehow blatantly reshaping a well-known creedal confession, “The Shema”, and was subtly giving rise to a "poly-personal” God is the common New Testament salutation, which maintains the words "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31; Eph. 1:3, 17; 1 Pet. 1:3). The idea of a revision is a uncanny proposition for Paul to make. This proposal is far too Christocentric rather than Theocentric. If "Lord" when applied to Christ were a substitute for the divine proper name, which it would have to be for this "Christianized Shema" assertion to work, then the typical salutation would have been arduous for an ancient Jew to comprehend. There was no evidence of such a concept as "God and Father" of YHWH. To an ancient Jewish practitioner it would have been viewed as sacrilegious to normal ideological practices to boot. Jews would have found it intolerable and controversy would have resulted, thus forcing the Apostles to address the proposition directly in his writings. Unfortunately we have no evidence of such controversy.[7]


All things from the Son?


It must also be noted for exclusive grammatical reasons, the preposition ἐξ that compliments θεὸς ὁ πατήρ (out of & out from) is never associated with Jesus. Instead is only devoted to the Father as the ultimate sign of causation. That is, creation was never to have been said to be “from” the Son in this text. The notion of creation of ALL things should be understood in a par excellence sense, that is efficient causation. In Aristotelian thought, this moving cause is the ultimate source and initiator.[8] The only true source as to the likes of a Father is the producer of a child. Additionally, everything outside of the efficient cause is derivative and non-self-originated. As such, the unique preposition (ἐξ) is uniquely attached to the Only True God, the Father, who is the creator described in 1 Corinthians 8:6. For other parallels to the Father’s aseity see Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 11:12 & 2 Corinthians 5:18.


Finally, The Son would be included in the group of creation, which by Paul’s choice of the Greek, includes the Son our Lord in the group of dependency.


Anytime we see "all things" (πάντα), It's critical to determine the parameters implied. πάντα with the article pas (πᾶς) can be proximate according to its contextual usage. It usually has a predicative position with relative significance so the context will interpret the parameters. So when we read "yet to us there is one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things (τὰ πάντα), and we through Him." There is absolutely no mention of the Universe. That can only be eisegetically imposed on the text. The context of who is being addressed is clearly "the church of God being in Corinth, having been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called holy, together with all those in every place calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is consistent with Paul's inclusio of Jesus when he says in 1 Cor. 15:27 that all things have been put in subjection, it is evident that the One having put in subjection all things (πάντα) to [Jesus] is excepted. This is also further proof that the Father alone is Almighty (Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ὁ Παντοκράτωρ-The Lord God Almighty).


Because "all things" are relative, we have to read the passage before us in light of proportionality. I.e, I can say "all things will be reconciled to God". Would Satan be included in “all things”? Obviously not, I can also say Jesus forgives all sins and still assert that there is the unforgivable sin.


The new creation: A case can be made for an allusion to the new creation established by in new covenant. Paul is a known proponent of this view with his declarations of all things “anew”. An important component of the context in 8:6 is the notion of “Food Sacrificed to Idols”, we know the act of sacrifices and idols were not established at the time of the original creation. This then leads us to the assertion that Christ was appointed over all created things as a conduit (reason). See 1 Corinthians 3:21-2. The “all things in the beginning” would seem odd here. Jesus could be seen here as a tool for creation: A related modern analogy would be that of a Father building a treehouse for his soon to be son, only to have him as the lead occupant over all things contained in and around the treehouse. Likewise, the Father is the lone creator performing the act of creation, yet the created thing(s) were appointed to the child for rulership. Hence the agentival construction δι + genitive (οὗ & αὐτοῦ).


Consider Colossians 3:10-11, it uses a verbal form for "created" (κτίσαντος) and "image" and "all things" as found in Colossians 1:16-17 and refers to it as what was "new." Paul may have been alluding to the reconciliation of all nations in Christ and not the original creation.


Exegetes often overlook the immediate evidence throughout the book of Colossians. Paul also used the term "all creation under heaven" in Colossians 1:23 simply to refer to those within the Roman Empire to whom he had preached the gospel. This can't be definitively construed to pertain to the Genesis "creation".


Overview:


Given that Paul is comparing the θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί (many gods and many lords) of the world with the εἷς θεὸς καὶ εἷς κύριος (one God and one lord) of the believers, he couldn't be appealing to the Shema. Furthermore, sacrifices were offered to gods, and to lords who were not gods (the emperor for example). Emperors became ‘gods’ at their death but they were not gods in an ontological connotation. Either way, the many "lords" are not many "Yahweh’s" which makes 1 Corinthians 8:6 incomprehensible if it's referencing the Shema, which it undoubtedly isn't. We should be aware that gods/lords are also not synonymous in the context, since a lord in Greco-roman culture mostly signified a type of powerful human being, and a god normally signified a type of ultimate being which as I mentioned earlier, the emperor who was lord of the pagans wasn't deified until his death.


Ideally, God the Father is the source, and the cause. Christ is the conduit and the purpose, not the source. The only way 1 Corinthians 8:6 references the Shema is if Paul didn't actually know the Shema... and didn't know that it involved the actual divine name. Extremely unlikely given his education (there's no way he didn't know Hebrew unless he wasn't a pharisee and didn't study under Gamaliel), plus, as mentioned in another blog, I make a claim that all the LXX manuscripts we have pre-Bar Kochba don't contain κύριος as the divine name replacement but have the Tetragrammaton where the divine name appears. [9]


Does Paul use all LXX language? Frankly, It’s an over-exaggeration to say that Paul has appropriated all of the Greek words of the Shema: Noticeably the verb ‘to be’ is formally absent from the Greek of 1 Cor 8:6.


The idea of Paul expanding or modifying the Shema by adding another element to the One God in front of Greek-speaking Jews should have sent a shockwave through the second temple audience. We find no such parallel to this idea in any contemporary literature nor any integral second Temple writings. Even a plea for the 2 Powers In Heaven Theory©️[10] would not suffice. Since the idea was 2 separate powers, (1 lesser) not 2 powers in One God. We should not assume Paul here is presenting something brand new to the believers who were highly familiar with the famous Jewish confession.

Is κύριος a proper name?


I contend that κύριος is not merely being used as a “delegate”, largely because the word “one/εἷς” is the modifier. The ‘one’ is in a semantic agreement with the ‘many’ lords of v. 5, hence why it has the plural of κύριοι. This, in turn, brings that plural into a semantic agreement with the singular ( εις κυριος) of v. 6. Logically κύριοι in vs 5 is not used as a proper name, we should then conclude that κύριος is only used as a descriptive title or a secular or idolatrous title for the pagans and not a proper name, such as YHWH. 1 Cor 8:6 doesn’t entrust itself to an inclusivity thesis, since Paul would seem to acknowledge that the “to-us” class of gods has only one member and likewise the “to-us” class of lords. Given that Paul lays out an echelon of beings called gods in Heaven and on Earth. Finally, maintaining his chronology of descriptive titles in vs 5, Paul allotted heavenly Supreme deity to the Father and earthly lordship to Jesus.


Gaston rightly observes in his work, “Some Thoughts on 1 Cor 8:6 and the Shema”: Paraphrasing, that because the context is one of pagan lords and gods, Paul is not redefining Christianity over against Judaism. The pagan classes of gods and lords each have many members; the class of the Jewish God has a sole member and the class of the Christian Lord has a sole member. [11]


R. Alan Streett concurs with Gaston’s sentiments as mentioned earlier: "The principal declaration of the Christ movement in the first century was 'Jesus is Lord' (see 1 Cor. 12:3). Since Jesus is the 'one Lord', Caesar and all other claimants are not. At the time of this writing, Emperor Nero claimed to be the universal Lord and Jupiter's Earthly representative" [12]


The Jewish polemics against idolatry and a indirect rebellion against God seemed all to familiar to Paul. In 2 Chronicles 13:10, the Chronicler makes a distinctive use of terms, The covenant God and the ministering priest. King Abijah in the wake of a civil war contrasted the rejection of God on behalf of Jeroboam who have over and served false idols. The two texts below are analogous in relation to earthly authorities and a Supreme ruler, thus theoretically and semantically connected. Nevertheless, this serves a more plausible parallel and exudes the essence of what Paul’s Christology represents. We have an exalted human representative (Jesus Christ) who is the ultimate culmination and fulfillment of the priestly duties for a single heavenly deity overseer (God the Father).


But as for us, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and we have priests ministering unto Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites in their work:” (2 Chronicles 13:10)


yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him”. (1 Corinthians 8:6)


The Greek in 2 Chronicles 13:10 reads; καὶ ἡμεῖς κύριον τὸν θεὸν ἡμῶν οὐκ ἐγκατελίπομεν καὶ οἱ ἱερεῖς αὐτοῦ λειτουργοῦσιν τῷ κυρίῳ οἱ υἱοὶ Ααρων καὶ οἱ Λευῖται ἐν ταῖς ἐφημερίαις αὐτῶν


Notice the parallel conjunction καὶ (ἀλλ in 1 Cor 8:6), followed by the plural possessive pronoun (s) ἡμεῗς (ἡμῖν in Cor 8:6). It’s been suggested that the Contrastive conjunction introduces a confession in 1 Cor 8:6, likewise, we have a similar contrastive conjunction in 2 Chr 13:10. We can plausibly say that the declaration in 2 Chr introduces itself as a confession, from which likely Paul alludes to, rather than Deuteronomy 6:4.


Interestingly enough, τὸν θεὸν in 2 Chron. 13:10 is replaced with the Generic noun Θεὸς which is pointing directly to the only possible antecedent, the articular Πατήρ (the Father). The BBE and the ASV captivate the parallel to Duet 6:4 explicitly as "we have" is understood.

Conclusion:


The verse is explicit. There is but one God, The Father. There is also only one Lord, to us, Jesus Christ. Note the clear distinction between the two. The Father is the source and origin of all things with respect to "from whom are all things". Jesus the promised Messiah is the implementor of all things concerning: "by whom are all things". We exist "for" God and "through" Jesus. There is nothing anti-Unitarian about this profound declaration. These subtle but important variations rightly distinguish Jesus from the covenant God…Paul's letters are unique and possess the only formal prepositional predications about God, "from whom are all things and for whom we exist," and about Christ, "through whom are all things and through whom we exist”. Possibly echoing Jewish Wisdom theology. We can locate explicit parallels in hellenistic philosophical reflection about the causes or primal principles of the universe (the source, God the Father, "from which"; the cause, "by which"; the form, "according to which"; the instrument, Jesus Christ, "through which"; and the final cause, "for which"). Hellenistic-Jewish wisdom speculation, such as that represented by the Wisdom of Solomon and Philo, had long since appropriated these forms (Philo, Cher. 127; Quaes. Gen 1.58; cf. Seneca, Ep. 65.4.8). Most notably, σοφία/λόγος was that "through which/whom" all things had been created [13]


In retrospect, the force of a splitting the Shema’ is immediately canceled out by the language in the latter part of the verse of Cor. 8:6, "and one Lord, Jesus Christ". Compare to 2 Chronicles 13:10 "and we have priests ministering" to YHWH (the BBE has "we have priest who do the work of the Lord). There is a compare and contrast to God and the one κυριος who are subservient to him, the promised Messiah. I conclude that Paul would not be using many gods and lords as corresponding titles, likewise, the one God and one Lord. With the theme of social status in the background, that is, lords are of lesser ontological and authoritative stature than the heavenly gods. [14]


Note: Some versions for the Chronicles omit "and we have” but that does not suggest the second clause is disjunctive from the first clause. That is, the verse is still attaining one thought by exuding a strict contrast between the rebellion of the northern tribes against God and the priest (sons of God) who represents God. Similarly, the verse in Corinthians endorses the thought of an earthly representative (Priest) of YHWH and a heavenly God (YHWH) that only believers claim ownership of.



Additionally, Paul recognizes ὁ Πατήρ as the God of the Corinthians and Ἰησοῦς Χριστός as their earthly Lord whom was made Lord [15] (God's representative on earth who does the work of God). He uses his Jewish background knowledge of Wisdom theology to incorporate it into his wisdom Christology to inform the Corinthians that they should have this same γνῶσις (knowledge). Only Wisdom was theoretically replaced by Christ. [16] The verbless clause in 2 in our parallel Old Testament text- Chronicles 13:10 says “But as for us, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him, and we have priests ministering unto Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites in their work:” The nature of both texts are compatible and sufficiently strong indeed.


In modern scholarship, N.T. Wright and Richard Bauckham in essence, spearheaded the "splitting the Shema" movement. But their theories as we mentioned before do not go unchallenged. Scholars Andrew Perry & Thomas Gaston details the semantic range for κύριος and rightfully note in their Christological duo-


"Wright’s proposal also ignores the function of κύριος in the sentence. Given that κύριος is generally used to describe or address lords, masters, owners, deities, rulers, persons of rank, as well as the God of Israel, we need to know which use of κύριος we have in 1 Cor 8:6."[17]


Indeed, it is a rather strange assumption to claim Paul was modifying the most Jewish Creedal declaration known to them. That the κυριος is the equivalent of the κυριος in Deut 6:4 is a gross misunderstanding and conflation of titles. The proponents of this view simply reduce the Fathers title (θεος) to a generic term equivalent to Elohim. Ironically, when it actually mentions the Tetragrammaton, it’s a reference to only Christ. It seems quite arbitrary. In the end, the intricacies are subtly undermining their own position. To inadvertently place the Father below his Son, in any fashion, is to completely deteriorate from the motifs in the literature.



 

References:


[1] See Insights on 1 & 2 Corinthians copyright © 2017 by Charles R. Swindoll, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois: see also Bomkamm. G.• "The Heresy of Colossians," in Francis and Mceks. Conflict 123-45. vol. 4: Munich: Kaiser, 1971 I 206-1


[2] Acts 15:40 “but Paul chose Silas, and went forth, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.”


[3] For an exhaustive historical exposition see Stoic And Epicurean by R.D. Hicks, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York; Also Christians And Epicureans In 1 Corinthians, Graham Tomlinson; https://academia.edu/resource/work/6724633


[4] “And they took hold of him, and brought him unto the Ἄρειον Πάγον, saying, May we know what this new teaching is, which is spoken by thee?” Acts 17:19;



[6] Note that the genitive expression Θεοῦ πατρὸς (Our God the Father) is substantial. For Paul never uses the genitive form of θεός (Θεοῦ) for Jesus, but strictly for the Father. That is the God of him is the Father alone. Had Paul utilized this language (Θεοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) for Christ would have been equally as significant. Instead, Paul uses a more flexible semantic for the Son, Κυρίου (L “l”?ord).


[7] NT Trinitarian Scholars who take the "Christianization of the Shema” view are N.T. Wright (N. T. Wright 1992: 129), James White, Richard Bauckham (may be the first to suggest this), Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A., Gordan Fee.


[8] see Aristotle, Physics II 3, 194b29



[10] As a HERESY which Akiba, Gabriel, Yohai and other historical rabbis railed against, this “Two Powers in Heaven” idea was repugnant to the orthodox Jew even from the first century according to Alan Segal. 117 Two Powers in Heaven (2003)


[11] Gaston, “Thoughts on 1 Cor 8:6 and the Shema”, pg.68


[12] Also Caesar and the Sacrament by R. Alan Streett pg. 141


[13] e.g., Wis 8:1,6; Philo, Det. 54; cf. Fuga 190; Leg. All. 3.96; Sacr. 8; cf. Wis 7:27, and for the whole Corinthian position as reflected in 1 Cor 8:1-6, see Wis 9:10-18.


[14] C. K. Barrett notes in his “BLACK’S NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS” concerning 1 Corinthians 8:6 on pg.113 that “Jesus Christ is not described as God, and the fact that Lord (κύριος) serves very frequently in the Greek Old Testament as an equivalent of the Hebrew name of God (YHWH) loses some force from the fact that it was also used in a variety of other senses; for example, it might be no more than ‘Sir’, used as a polite form of address. It is always important to note the context in which Lord is used. Here it evidently stands in close relation, but is not identical, with God. Christ, in Paul’s usage, is seldom more than a second personal name, but its use means that Paul accepted the belief that Jesus was the Messiah whose coming Judaism awaited; in him the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20)”.


[15] Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Acts 2:36


[16] Ibid, on pg.15 Barrett notes thatin 8:6, where Christ (through whom are all things, including ourselves) takes on the characteristics of the personified Wisdom of, for example, the Wisdom of Solomon. It is not necessary here to expound this thought; it is sufficient to note that it arises and develops in the Corinthian situation.”


[17] Full quote: "Wright’s proposal also ignores the function of κύριος in the sentence. Given that κύριος is generally used to describe or address lords, masters, owners, deities, rulers, persons of rank, as well as the God of Israel, we need to know which use of κύριος we have in 1 Cor 8:6. If κύριος is being used descriptively of Jesus Christ, then it is not representing the name 'YHWH'. YHWH is a proper name, but κύριος in 1 Cor 8:6 is not being used here as a proxy for this proper name precisely because it is modified by 'one.' The 'one' is in a semantic contract with the 'many' of v. 5, which in turn has the plural of κύριος. This in turn brings that plural into a semantic contract with the singular of v. 6. Thus, because the plural is functioning as a descriptive title, so too κύριος in v. 6 is functioning as a title and not as a proxy for the name 'YHWH'. Accordingly, we can observe a symmetry between the two clauses; just as 'God' is not a proper name in 'one God' so too 'Lord' is not serving as a proxy for a proper name in 'one Lord'”. (Horizons in Biblical Theology, Andrew Perry & Thomas Gaston : Independent scholar U.K. 17 Oct 2017), pp. 184 & 185


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