Paul’s Expanded Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6

On the blog Diglotting, in a post with the title “Paul, 1 Cor. 8.6, and the Shema,” Kevin Brown asked if anyone apart from me views what Paul is doing in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as a supplementing of the Shema (adding one human lord alongside the one God) rather than an inclusion of Jesus within the Shema (and, according to Richard Bauckham, within the “divine identity,” whatever that means).

My own thoughts on this subject can be found not only in the chapter on Paul in my book The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context but also in a forthcoming article in Biblical Theology Bulletin which you can already read online via my Selected Works page. Jimmy Dunn’s recent book, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence, also addresses this possibility.

You already know what I think, and it has been a while since the biblioblogs were alive with a discussion of monotheism and Christology. So let’s hear from others. What do you think Paul meant in this passage? Was Paul a monotheist in exactly the same sense as his other Jewish contemporaries? Please answer in the comments here, or on your own blog!

  • John

    Can you give the page numbers for the forthcoming article in BTB; I assume these are on your page proofs. I also assume the issue will be 41/3, and the title will be the same.

  • John

    Can you give the page numbers for the forthcoming article in BTB; I assume these are on your page proofs. I also assume the issue will be 41/3, and the title will be the same.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
  • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com/ Tom Verenna
  • TomVerenna
  • Geoff Hudson

    Paul has fabricated the words. The passage (1 Cor. 8:1-8)  was originally about sacrifice not bringing a person any nearer to God, and had nothing to do with the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”  Everyone possessed a spirit including animals which came from the Spirit of God.  8.1 continues at 8.6. The original passage was in the context of what the prophets believed at the time the original document was written. 
     
    8.1.Now about [food] {animals} sacrificed to [idols] {God}: We [know] {understand} that [we] {they} all possess [knowledge] {a spirit},  
     
    [Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 
    8.2.The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 
    8.3.But the man who loves God is known by God.
    8.4.So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:
    We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 
    8.5.For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords",]
     
    8.6.yet for us there is but one {Spirit of} God, [the Father], from whom all [things] {spirits} came and [for] {by} whom we live;
     
    [and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 
    8.7.But not everyone knows this.]

    Some [people] {priests} are so accustomed to [idols] {sacrifice} that when they [eat] {sacrifice} [such food] {an animal} they think of it as having [been sacrificed to an idol, and] {no spirit} since their [conscience is weak, it] {spirit} is defiled.
     
    8.8.But [food] {sacrifice} does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not [eat] {sacrifice}, and no better if we do.

     
     
     

  • Geoff Hudson

    Paul has fabricated the words. The passage (1 Cor. 8:1-8)  was originally about sacrifice not bringing a person any nearer to God, and had nothing to do with the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”  Everyone possessed a spirit including animals which came from the Spirit of God.  8.1 continues at 8.6. The original passage was in the context of what the prophets believed at the time the original document was written. 
     
    8.1.Now about [food] {animals} sacrificed to [idols] {God}: We [know] {understand} that [we] {they} all possess [knowledge] {a spirit},  
     
    [Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 
    8.2.The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 
    8.3.But the man who loves God is known by God.
    8.4.So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:
    We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 
    8.5.For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords",]
     
    8.6.yet for us there is but one {Spirit of} God, [the Father], from whom all [things] {spirits} came and [for] {by} whom we live;
     
    [and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 
    8.7.But not everyone knows this.]

    Some [people] {priests} are so accustomed to [idols] {sacrifice} that when they [eat] {sacrifice} [such food] {an animal} they think of it as having [been sacrificed to an idol, and] {no spirit} since their [conscience is weak, it] {spirit} is defiled.
     
    8.8.But [food] {sacrifice} does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not [eat] {sacrifice}, and no better if we do.

     
     
     

  • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Joel

    According to some, even Jim West is fabricated

  • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Joel

    According to some, even Jim West is fabricated

  • Alethinon61

    I wonder if it makes a difference whether Paul restructured the Schema to include Jesus or whether he added to it, because it seems to me that the implications could be the same in either case.  Either device would make clear that, with the coming of the Messiah, God’s rulership is now expressed through the Son, who functions as His cosmic power of attorney.  Once the Son has fulfilled his commission he will hand the authority that has been granted to him back to the Father so that God can be all in all (an idea just so happens to be expressed in the same book). 

    I think that fundamentalists sometimes try too hard to find support for later creeds in Paul’s writings.  It almost seems to be an obsession for some.  I remember listening to a dialogue between N.T. Wright and James Dunn where they spent about 45 minutes discussing Jesus and 45 minutes discussing Paul.  When it came time for the Q&A after both discussions, the first question asked focused on the deity of Christ.  Maybe the presence of N.T. Wright inspired the questioner’s focus, as
    he’s one of the leading proponents of the view that Jesus has been
    incorporated into the Schema.  Still, I just shook my head.  Here we got to listen to two brilliant scholars engage in a rich, multi-faceted discussion, and the first question to pop into someone’s head after *both* sessions took us back — again — to Nicea?

    ~Kaz

       

      

  • Alethinon61

    I wonder if it makes a difference whether Paul restructured the Schema to include Jesus or whether he added to it, because it seems to me that the implications could be the same in either case.  Either device would make clear that, with the coming of the Messiah, God’s rulership is now expressed through the Son, who functions as His cosmic power of attorney.  Once the Son has fulfilled his commission he will hand the authority that has been granted to him back to the Father so that God can be all in all (an idea just so happens to be expressed in the same book). 

    I think that fundamentalists sometimes try too hard to find support for later creeds in Paul’s writings.  It almost seems to be an obsession for some.  I remember listening to a dialogue between N.T. Wright and James Dunn where they spent about 45 minutes discussing Jesus and 45 minutes discussing Paul.  When it came time for the Q&A after both discussions, the first question asked focused on the deity of Christ.  Maybe the presence of N.T. Wright inspired the questioner’s focus, as
    he’s one of the leading proponents of the view that Jesus has been
    incorporated into the Schema.  Still, I just shook my head.  Here we got to listen to two brilliant scholars engage in a rich, multi-faceted discussion, and the first question to pop into someone’s head after *both* sessions took us back — again — to Nicea?

    ~Kaz

       

      

  • http://jrdkirk.com J. R. Daniel Kirk
  • http://jrdkirk.com J. R. Daniel Kirk
  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    I had a couple of random thoughts: http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/is-the-shema-in-1-corinthians-8-6/

  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    I had a couple of random thoughts: http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/is-the-shema-in-1-corinthians-8-6/

  • Lucian

    Familiarize yourself with the early Fathers’ view on the Trinity, Monarchy, and Monotheism. Then your question will answer itself.

    • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Joel

      I prefer Ignatius who still tried, seemingly, to maintain a connection to the Jewish origins of the sect while later authors tried to incorporate pagan, philosophical terms to describe a Jewish structure they had long suppressed. But, that could be me…

  • Lucian

    Familiarize yourself with the early Fathers’ view on the Trinity, Monarchy, and Monotheism. Then your question will answer itself.

    • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Joel

      I prefer Ignatius who still tried, seemingly, to maintain a connection to the Jewish origins of the sect while later authors tried to incorporate pagan, philosophical terms to describe a Jewish structure they had long suppressed. But, that could be me…

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Lucian, I presume you mean the earliest Fathers, or do you mean any and all of them from any period? I think that once we have the emergence of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo and the debates that ensued leading up to the Council of Nicaea, the nature of the discussion takes a different turn than it ever had before.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Lucian, I presume you mean the earliest Fathers, or do you mean any and all of them from any period? I think that once we have the emergence of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo and the debates that ensued leading up to the Council of Nicaea, the nature of the discussion takes a different turn than it ever had before.

  • Alethinon61

    @Lucian, I suspect that the writings of the Fathers are too late and the philosophical/intellectual context in which they wrote was too different for them to inform us with any reliability how a Jew from Paul’s time would have heard the subject text.

    ~Kaz

  • Alethinon61

    @Lucian, I suspect that the writings of the Fathers are too late and the philosophical/intellectual context in which they wrote was too different for them to inform us with any reliability how a Jew from Paul’s time would have heard the subject text.

    ~Kaz

  • Pingback: Daniel Kirk

  • John Tancock (JT)

    The immediately pre and post Nicene Fathers used greek philosophical terminology to be sure. Thatb however is the milieu they were working in, they can’t be blamed for that. The use of extra biblical language was only because the Arians slipped out of the standard biblical terminolgy hence the use of the homouusin  (oops) clause.
    Ignatius who as you know is ‘early’ is one who is often used to defend the ‘deity of Christ’ by conservatives and rightly so, with not a whiff of nicean perfume anywhere!!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Actually, I think it is more accurate to say that the Nicenes introduced non-Biblical terminology precisely because the Arians could interpret Biblical language in accordance with their viewpoint. Their view was neither simply “Biblical” nor simply a departure from the Bible. Both sides were seeking to be Biblical and both were actually going beyond the Bible in some respects because of contextual issues, questions and concerns.

  • ben

    This is an older post but… compare Eph. 4:4-6:

    There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the 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 all.

    Although “Jesus Christ” isn’t mentioned I think it’s safe to assume that Paul has the same ideas in mind as 1 Corinthians 8:6; since we have “one God and Father of all,” “the God and Father of our/the Lord Jesus Christ” included, both in the same book (see Ephesians 1:3, 17), Paul’s other writings (see Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31;[1]), and the rest of the NT (John 20:17; Revelation 1:6, 3:12; among others), I think its pretty safe to assume that Paul is not “identifying Jesus as the ‘Lord’ whom the Shema’ affirms to one” (Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, pg. 101).

    Simply put Jesus cannot be the same God as his God; this exlcudes him from the (ontological) “divine identity.” Just compare Hebrews 1:1 ‘God, who, long ago at many times and in many ways spoke to our fathers in the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in his Son’; the author is clearly, precisely, and unambiguously identifying Jesus as NOT the God of Israel, but rather this God’s spitting image (vs. 3).

    [1]  We can also add 1 Corinthians 15:24 to this list, it should be translated ‘Jesus hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,’ translating the article as a possesive (see Wallace, ExSyn, pp. 216-217 for a discussion of this principle), and not simply glossed as “God the Father.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @4bed6d46fef7de4b74328c52d5dca9fb:disqus , thanks for commenting on this. I actually posted again just the other day on the terminology of “divine identity” as well.

  • http://focusonthekingdom.org Anthony F. Buzzard

    What an admission and implied warning Dr. McGrath makes in his excellent article in Biblical Theology Bulletin: “Most have not heard Jesus in Mk 12:29 the creed.”

    The one fatal thing in the NT is not to hear Jesus!

    The creeds have long drowned Jesus out.

    Christianity is the one world religion which begins by discarding
    its own founder’s creed.

    Horrifying.


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