Tag Archives: Deuteronomy

Romans 10:6-8 – Paul’s Use of Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Review:

We saw with verse 5 what Paul was doing with Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5.

  • Our paraphrase from that lesson will help us here.
  • about the [uprightness w/in Israel] that is based on the law, that the person who [is covenant faithful to] the commandments shall [receive covenant blessings] by them.

 

Given this view of Paul’s use of Leviticus…

  • We made a few very important observations.

 

Paul is contrasting “doing” with “faithing”.

  • Or, an uprightness in the OT that works by “doing”.
  • And, a “right with God” thing that works by “faithing”.

 

Each has their place.

  • Each has their purpose.
  • But they operate differently and provide for different things.
  • They are not mutually exclusive.

 

Paul does the same thing in Galatians where he also quotes Moses and Leviticus 18:5.

  • Galatians 3:12 (ESV) — 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

 

Exactly – the law works by doing.

  • Not by faith!
  • You can’t be obedient to God’s law w/o action (or the act of refraining from action).

 

The doing is not bad or obsolete.

  • As long as you understand that doing does not save you!

 

Think about Leviticus 18:5:

  • We saw that to “live by them” is to not be vomited out of the land.
  • It is to remain in God’s covenant blessing of people, nation and land.
  • This is a good thing!

 

Well…how is this “vomiting” avoided?

  • Is it avoided by faith? No.

 

The answer is real simple.

  • If Israel “does” the covenant faithful stuff they get the covenant blessings.
  • Doing = Receiving.

 

So, “Doing” and “Faithing” are different tools used for different purposes.

  • The contrast (or link) Paul is making is not to beat down the doing of the law.
    • For as we saw in our “Renovation” lesson – the law is God’s wisdom and faithfulness in which we are to delight.
  • Paul’s contrast (or link) shows us that this remarkable thing called “faithing” is what joins us to Christ.
    • It’s the thing that actually unites us to the personification of God’s wisdom and faithfulness.

 

Now, let’s jump into verses 6-8.

 

 

Verses 6-8 Begins with Moses:

Verse 5 – Paraphrase:

  • about the [uprightness w/in Israel] that is based on the law, that the person who [is covenant faithful to] the commandments shall [receive covenant blessings] by them.

 

Verses 6-8:

  • But [or, “And now”] the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

 

Once again, Paul is quoting Moses.

  • So where does Moses write about all this “based on faith” stuff?
  • Deuteronomy 30:11–14 (ESV) — 11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

 

So what did Moses mean?

  • And does Paul mean the same thing Moses did?
  • We have to first start with Moses.

 

 

Moses in Context:

We have to go back to Deuteronomy 29.

  • Deuteronomy 29:1 (ESV) — 1 These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb.

 

So Israel, on the plains of Moab, is poised to enter the promise land.

  • And God, through Moses, is exhorting Israel through covenant and covenant language.

 

But there exists a problem for the nation of Israel.

  • Moses says they have seen God do awesome stuff.
  • They have been witnesses to the power of God.

 

But, he has a “but”.

  • Deuteronomy 29:4 (ESV) — 4 But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
  • More on this in a bit.

 

Then Moses talks about more awesome stuff Israel has seen God do…

  • How God led them, clothed them, gave them victories, etc.
  • All so that they would “know that I am the Lord” (29:6).

 

So having reminded them about the faithfulness of God.

  • Moses then exhorts them to faithfulness in response.
  • Deuteronomy 29:9 (ESV) — 9 Therefore keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.

 

If they do – good news:

  • Deuteronomy 29:13 (ESV) — 13 that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

 

But then verse 4 raises its head again:

  • The Israelites lack a certain heart, eyes and ears.
  • Moses knows this is potentially bad news!

 

Some of Israel will fail to be faithful – with disastrous results:

  • Deuteronomy 29:18–19 (ESV) — 18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.

 

And when they fail to be faithful:

  • Deuteronomy 29:24–26 (ESV) — 24 all the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ 25 Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, 26 and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.

 

So Moses knows that the people (at least many of the people) of Israel will:

  • Abandon “the covenant of the Lord”.
  • Stray from “the God of their fathers”.
  • And serve and worship other gods – “gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them”.

 

The result of this unfaithfulness:

  • Deuteronomy 29:28 (ESV) — 28 and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’

 

But the Israelites gathered on the plain of Moab need to remember…

  • That if and when this happens – there is hope!

 

Moses puts it this way:

  • Deuteronomy 30:1–3 (ESV) — 1 “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, 2 and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.

 

And then Moses drops a huge truth bomb in the midst of this hope:

  • Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) — 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

 

And he follows that up with the results of this truth bomb:

  • Deuteronomy 30:9b–10 (ESV) — 9b For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

 

Then comes the text Paul quotes:

  • Deuteronomy 30:11–14 (ESV) — 11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

 

So now we have a broad context to unpack verses 11-14.

  • It resides in a section of obedience after a section of disobedience.
  • It resides in a section of repentance after a section of stubbornness.
  • It resides in a section of covenant blessing after a section of covenant curses.
  • It resides in a section of hope after a section of despair.

 

But, we need just a bit more than that before we get deal with them specifically…

  • And before we deal with Paul’s use of them.

 

Specifically, we need to notice something Moses has introduced into the obedience equation.

  • There is, of course, his usual talk about obedience.
  • And, how covenant faithfulness leads to covenant blessings.

 

But Moses adds an additional element into the covenant mix – the heart.

 

He makes use of heart language with both negative and positive connotations.

  • But one in particular, one with a positive connotation, is where we need to camp out.
  • The reason will become evident, I hope, as we go forward.

 

 

Circumcision of the Heart:

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (30:6)

  • Understanding this is the lynchpin for making sense of Moses, and later, of Paul.

 

So what does Moses mean by “circumcision of the heart” in this passage?

  • Deuteronomy 30 gives us a number of clues to its meaning – let’s unpack them.

 

 

The Clues:

Eventually, Israel will return (repent) and obey.

  • Why?
  • See verse 1.

 

They will call to mind all that Moses has taught about obedience and disobedience.

  • the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you,” (30:1b).

 

In other words, they will remember what Moses said.

  • And his words – God’s words – will bring about repentance and obedience.

 

And their repentance will have a certain quality.

  • They will repent and obey “with all [their] heart [whole-heartedly] and with all [their] soul” (vs. 2).

 

Remember, Moses told us in chapter 29 that Israel would…

  • Be unfaithful to God by going after other gods.
  • They would be covenant adulterers.

 

This is the opposite of that.

  • For Israel to act “with all your heart and with all your soul” means…
  • They will meet their covenant responsibilities “with undivided loyalty” to Yahweh (Heiser).
  • They will have complete, utter and undivided allegiance for Yahweh alone!
  • Deuteronomy 5:7 (ESV) — 7 “ ‘You shall have no other gods before me.

 

And when this whole-hearted obedience happens…

  • Let the indicatives fly!

 

God will…(vss. 3-5):

  • restore
  • have mercy
  • gather you
  • take you
  • bring you
  • make you

 

And if that isn’t good enough…

  • Moses gives us the indicative of all indicatives:
  • And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring…” (vs. 6a)

 

And why would God do such a remarkable thing?

  • …so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (vs. 6b).

 

 

The Meaning of COH:

From these clues we can understand what Moses means by circumcision of the heart.

 

(1) Circumcision of the heart is an act of God – not of man.

  • It is one of the great works of God.
  • It is not a work of any creature.
  • And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart…” (vs. 6)

 

(2) Circumcision of the heart is more than just another awesome act of God.

  • It is a new act of God that signals the start of a new covenant.
  • God’s act of heart circumcision “indicates the new covenant, when God would in his grace deal with man’s basic spiritual problem” – Peter Craigie.

 

Check these out:

  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

 

(3) Circumcision of the heart takes place in a certain context.

  • The context is a whole-hearted repentance and obedience to God’s law (instruction and wisdom).
  • A repentance and obedience brought about by or initiated by what?
    • Remembering the word of God.
    • …you call them to mind…” (vs. 1).

 

(4) Circumcision of the heart will finally bring about…

  • A proper love of God…
  • Which joins or connects Israel to the ultimate life – “that you may live” (vs. 6b).
  • “When God ‘operated’ on the heart, then indeed the people would be able to love the Lord and live (v. 6)” – Peter Craigie.

 

 

Let’s sum up:

We have seen that life – covenant blessings – is a purpose of the law of God.

  • Much of this life is achieved through obedience – through doing.

 

However, Moses has shown us that there is yet another aspect of covenant faithfulness.

  • And it too has a bearing on the covenant blessings (life) received by Israel.

 

This additional aspect of covenant faithfulness to God’s wisdom and instruction…

  • Is a covenant faithfulness that flows out of a God given circumcised heart.

 

It is a new covenant “covenant faithfulness”.

  • It is a God-powered covenant faithfulness.
  • It is a covenant faithfulness that meets the “…the fundamental demand of the law (to love God with all one’s heart and soul)” – Christopher Wright.

 

And importantly, It is a covenant faithfulness that:

  • Is shown to be “…the ultimate fruit of God’s grace in the human heart” – Christopher Wright.

 

 

Moses’ Meaning:

Now we have what we need to understand Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (and then Paul).

  • Deuteronomy 30:11–14 (ESV) — 11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

 

So Moses begins in verse 11 with a surprising (at least to the Christian) admission.

  • The “this commandment” is neither “too hard” or “far off”.

 

What is “this commandment”?

  • Moses is referring to the covenant obligations Israel has with God.
  • the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded” – 29:1.
  • “God’s covenantal demand on God’s people, considered as a whole” – Christopher Wright.

 

All right, easy enough.

  • What about the not “too hard” and not “far off”?

 

This is actually a critical question.

  • Miss this and we go off track.
  • To answer we need to make a decision.

 

We saw in our quick review of 29 and 30…

  • That Moses has contended with two approaches to the law.

 

(1) The first approach peppered throughout Deut. 29 and 30 is identical to the Leviticus 18:5 view of the law.

  • The law works by doing it – by covenant faithfulness.
  • Do the law and receive covenant blessings life.

 

(2) The second approach is the circumcision of the heart stuff.

  • This is a relationship to the law that arises from the work and grace of God.
  • It is God who circumcises the heart.
  • It is the circumcised heart that truly loves God with all one’s heart and soul.
  • It is the circumcised heart that brings a life quite different from the first approach’s life.

So from which approach is Moses coming at this idea of the law being not “too hard” and not “far off”?

  • The consensus is approach 1.

 

Why?

  • Remember, we have two scenes.
  • Scene 1 – Moses talking to the Israelites on the plains of Moab.
  • Scene 2 – Moses prophesying about failure, and the hope of return, repentance, COH, and new covenant.

 

In Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Moses is back to Scene 1.

  • …this commandment I command you today… [as we renew our covenant on the plains of Moab]” – vs. 11
  • If correct, this makes his meaning quite straight forward.

 

Too Hard:

The “too hard” means exactly what it appears to mean.

  • God’s covenantal demands as just summarized by Moses are doable.
  • Covenant faithfulness is possible.
  • After all, as we talked about, the whole covenant blessing/covenant faithfulness relationship operates by “doing”, not by “faithing”.

 

Peter Craigie says this:

  • “The commandment did not impress on the people conditions that were totally impossible to fulfill” – Peter Craigie.

 

Christopher Wright sums “too hard” up as follows:

  • Moses’ demand, “It is not, therefore, impossibly idealistic, impracticable, unachievable” – Christopher Wright.

 

Importantly, Wright adds the following:

  • “The idea that God deliberately made the law so exacting that nobody would ever be able to live by it belongs to a distorted theology that tries unnecessarily to gild the gospel by denigrating the law” – Christopher Wright.
  • Aaaawwww snap!

 

 

Far Off:

So what about this “far off” business?

 

Moses answers that one himself – as follows:

  • It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’

 

The idea Moses is conveying is pretty straightforward.

  • “Why can we be covenant faithful?”
  • Because God hasn’t played tricks on the Israelites.
  • Covenant faithfulness is not a puzzle without a solution.
  • It is not something doable only by an elite race of Super men and women.

 

Listen to Wright and Craigie’s take:

  • “…the commandment is not inaccessible because of its height or loftiness, so that some especially qualified person would be needed to make it all clear…” – Craigie.
  • “…the law is [not] somehow only for those capable of rising to the heights of understanding it or that it is attainable only after great struggles and journeys…” – Wright.

 

Huge Point – In fact, Craigie goes on to make this important point:

  • For an Israelite to suggest that the commandment was out of reach was, “a deliberate evasion of the responsibility imposed upon man by the law of the covenant” – Peter Craigie.

 

BTW – There is an interesting ancient Near East insight into Moses’ “who will go over the sea” comment.

  • In the Gilgamesh epic, Gilgamesh set out on a quest for life.
  • Moses speaks of life in verse 6 – “that you may live”.

 

But in the Gilgamesh epic…

  • Life did not come down to Gilgamesh.
  • He literally had to cross the sea (chaos) with the hope that he would find it there.
  • (Insight comes from Peter Craigie).

 

For the Israelites, however:

  • God, though Moses, came to them with the law.

 

Then Moses finishes up with verse 14:

  • But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

 

Moses’ words here are a continuation of why the commandments aren’t “far off”.

  • The idea here is based on Deuteronomy 4:7.
  • Deuteronomy 4:7 (ESV) — 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?

 

As Yahweh’s inheritance, they are privileged with proximity.

  • Proximity to God.
  • Proximity to his law – given at Sinai.
  • Proximity to the principals and wisdom behind Yahweh’s law.

 

Covenant faithfulness to such a God and the gracious proximity…

  • Should flow from a deeply grateful heart.

 

The commandments are not something merely external – a statutory law.

  • They are deeply heart centered (not COH stuff, however).
  • “The idea that for Israel the law was merely an external code likewise belongs to the mythology of distorted theologies that, misled and misleading, try to prove the superiority of Christianity by denigrating Judaism” – Christopher Wright.

 

Now we can unpack Paul…maybe.

 

 

Paul’s Use of Deuteronomy 30:

Romans 10:6–8 (ESV) — 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

 

So Paul is doing something quite novel with his take on Moses.

  • “Paul seems to offer something more like a creative retelling of the text [Deut. 30:11-14] shaped by factors external to the text — in this case, the perspective of messianic faith” – Michael Bird.

 

If this is true:

  • As Moses prophesied, Paul is remembering Moses’ words – “call them to mind” (30:1).

 

But he is doing so not just from a heart of repentance…as Moses said would happen.

  • But from a circumcised, new covenant, united to Christ heart of repentance.

 

And the funny thing is, who does Paul say is “retelling” Deut. 30?

  • the righteousness based on faith says” (vs. 6).

 

This would mean then, that:

  • “…Paul regards this ‘righteousness by faith’ as the voice of new covenant faith in Christ [retelling] Deuteronomy…” – Michael Bird.

 

So, with righteousness speaking…

  • Paul can, “explain what messianic faith is about, without claiming that 30:12 – 14 is itself talking explicitly about messianic faith” – Michael Bird.

 

Translation:

  • Moses is talking from the Scene 1 perspective.
  • But, the righteousness by faith is talking from a Scene 2 (COH) perspective fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

So how does this help us understand Paul’s point?

  • What is the righteousness by faith telling us?

 

Let’s start with a couple of paraphrases.

  • Mine from verse 5.
  • And Michael Bird’s from verses 6-8.

 

Paraphrases:

  • Verse 5: “about the [uprightness w/in Israel] that is based on the law, that the person who [is covenant faithful to] the commandments shall [receive covenant blessings] by them.

 

So…here is the problem.

  • We saw in Deut. 29 and 30, that uprightness before the law was near – was possible.
  • However, when uprightness was rejected in favor of chasing after other gods, what was the result?
  • But…

 

Bird’s paraphrase of 6-8:

  • “…but it is not the whole story. The righteousness of faith replies by pointing out that…exile ends, not by Israel striving in law observance, but in a different way, through the Messiah. If you deny this, then either: (a) you will end up trying to manufacture the conditions for covenantal renewal on your own steam… Or (b) you will simply be denying what God has done for us in the Messiah and end up complaining that God hasn’t brought his saving word to us yet. You’ll be all melodramatic like: “Who will ascend into heaven?” as if to bemoan that no one can launch himself into the sky to bring us some salvation from above (that would be to deny that the Messiah came down from heaven to redeem his people) or complain, “Who will descend into the deep?” as if to bemoan that no one can go on an under-worldly journey to bring us back some salvation from below (that would be to deny that the Messiah died and rose for us). But what does Moses say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” My point is that the striving in the law or waiting for someone to traverse heaven or hell to bring salvation is over because the word that brings covenantal renewal is here in the message of faith that we proclaim in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah” – Michael Bird.

 

Why is covenant renewal found in the message of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah?

 

Because, as Paul said already…

  • Christ is the telos of the law.
  • And now we have more meat on the telos bone.

 

In addition to the reasons give a few weeks ago:

  • Christ is the telos, “because the obedience necessary for the end of exile in Deut 30:10 – 11 has taken place in the Messiah…” – Michael Bird.
  • “This means that rather than looking to the law, Israel should look to the Messiah for deliverance and covenant renewal.” – Michael Bird.

 

And more profoundly:

  • “Paul implies that the Word of God spoken in the Torah is identical with the Wisdom of God in the person of Jesus Messiah” – Akio Ito.

 

Therefore:

  • “The new covenant found related to Deut. 30’s demand for covenant faithfulness, “…will come and find them! Then exile will be over; the curse will be undone; Israel will be saved.” – N.T. Wright.

 

The implication of all this is that:

  • “Faithing” in Christ, is the covenant faithfulness “doing” of Leviticus 18:5.
  • And it is the COH stuff of Deut. 30.
  • So in some sense it is the end of exile for the Jews as Moses prophesied.

 

But in what sense can exile be over?

  • Maybe just the end of some kind of “spiritual” exile.

 

Though, admittedly, this is probably not the end of exile Moses had in mind.

  • Remember, Christ split history in two.
  • Life in the age to come has been split by Jesus’ resurrection (first fruits).
  • Life in the age to come consists of the now and not yet.

 

Exploration of the Trinity – Part 7 – The Christianized Shema Background

1 Corinthians 8:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

 

Introduction:

Before we dig into this verse we need to clear up two things.

 

(1) Paul is not denying the existence of other gods (theos/elohim).

  • The ESV puts quotes around “gods” and it could mislead.

 

Paul understands that there exist “cosmic powers” (Ephesians 6:12) in the spiritual realm.

  • He understands the implications of the Divine Council and a Deuteronomy 32 worldview.
  • After all, Paul affirms the OT repeatedly, speaks of demons, and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), etc.

 

For example, later in 1 Corinthians he says this:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:21–22 (ESV) — 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
  • Demons” are elohim/theos.

 

The ASV is much clearer in its translation:

  • For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth; as there are gods many, and lords many

 

(2) Consequently, when Paul says, “there is no God but one” it is an affirmation of the ancient Jewish monotheism we discussed a few weeks ago, not a denial of other elohim.

  • In other words, Paul is saying that YHWH is the unique, incomparable God of Israel.
  • The only God worthy of worship.
  • The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who called Israel out of Egypt.
  • The uncreated Creator God.

 

Or to put another way – Paul is affirming the Shema:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

 

Larry Hurtado sums up both of these points:

“In short, though Paul (with a good many other ancients) thought that there were multiple ‘divine’ beings of various sorts, he seems also to have held the one God of Jewish tradition as in something of a category of one apart from all others” – Larry Hurtado.

 

And this leads us back to 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  • A text where Paul distinguishes the “one God, the Father” and the “one Lord, Jesus Christ” from all other elohim/theos.

 

We are not exploring Paul’s primary concern in this passage – eating food offered to idols.

  • But we will concern ourselves with a particular idea he uses to deal with his primary concern.
  • Specifically, what he says about the Father and Jesus in 8:6.

 

Before we do, we need to look at some OT background.

  • It is deeply embedded in Paul’s messaging about the Father and Jesus.
  • It will be something we need down the road as we unpack 8:6.

 

 

OT Background:

Just like Mark’s Gospel, Paul is deeply indebted to Isaiah for his understanding of the Father and Jesus.

  • Scholar Trent Rogers tells us that in our text Paul is…
  • “drawing on the idol polemic in Isaiah 40-44”.

 

Interestingly, Douglas Oss says the template for Paul’s use of Isaiah probably came from Jesus Himself:

“There is no doubt…that it was Christ himself who originated the approach to Isaiah that was followed by Paul. It was Christ himself who first cited Isa 61:1-2 and then proclaimed, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:18-21); and it was Christ himself who first taught the church that all the scriptures spoke of him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45).”

 

 

Idol Worship:

Isaiah 40-44 shows us an Israel that was faltering in its allegiance to YHWH.

  • They whored after other gods and fashioned idols of those gods.

 

It might be helpful here to clear up something about ancient idol worship.

  • “Ancient people did not believe that their gods were actually images of stone or wood. We misread the biblical writers if we think that” – Michael Heiser.

 

What is idol worship?

“What ancient idol worshippers believed was that the objects they made were inhabited by their gods. This is why they performed ceremonies to ‘open the mouth’ of the statue. The mouth (and nostrils) had to be ritually opened for the spirit of the deity to move in and occupy, a notion inspired by the idea that one needs to breathe to live. The idol first had to be animated with the very real spiritual presence of the deity. Once that was done, the entity was localized for worship and bargaining” – Michael Heiser.

 

Paul Rainbow puts it this way:

  • “It was generally believed in the ancient world that a divinity and its physical image interpenetrated one another and thus formed a sort of unity. The god, of course, transcended the physical object, but it was embodied in it in such a way that it could be contacted through the object.”

 

Much of Isaiah 40-44 is YHWH’s response, His polemic, against this behavior.

  • YHWH points out the absurdity and futility of worshipping other gods and making idols.
  • Something, BTW, that was declared over and over in the OT (see Deut. 4:1-40).

 

 

Isaiah’s YHWH:

Generally, Isaiah 40-44 speaks of three reasons whoring after other gods was absurd and futile.

  • (1) YHWH is unique and incomparable.
  • (2) YHWH alone was Creator of all things (including Israel).
  • (3) YHWH alone was Savior and Redeemer of Israel (and eventually the nations).

 

YWHW speaks of His incomparability:

  • Isaiah 40:12–14 (ESV) — 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?
  • Isaiah 40:18–20 (ESV) — 18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.

 

YHWH declares He alone is Creator:

  • Isaiah 40:25–26 (ESV) — 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
  • Isaiah 40:28 (ESV) — 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
  • Isaiah 44:24 (ESV) — 24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

 

YHWH declares He alone is Savior:

  • Isaiah 41:14 (ESV) — 14 Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
  • Isaiah 43:1 (ESV) — 1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
  • Isaiah 43:12 (ESV) — 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
  • Isaiah 44:22 (ESV) — 22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

 

So who is Israel’s God?

  • He alone is the unique and incomparable Elohim.
  • He alone is the Creator of all things – including Israel.
  • He alone is Redeemer of Israel (and the nations).
  • He alone is to have Israel’s loyalty.

 

All of the above is woven into 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 in some surprising ways.

  • Let’s begin to explore how.

 

 

Paul’s God and Lord:

1 Corinthians 8:5–6 (ESV) — 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

The most obvious feature of verse 6 is its relationship to verse 5.

  • It serves as a stark “Isaiah-ish” contrast between gods and the one true God of Israel.
  • Or as Paul puts it, between the “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” (vs. 5) vs. “one God, the Father…one Lord, Jesus Christ” (vs. 6).

 

To properly unpack this contrast we need to recognize yet another OT allusion.

  • We have already noted Paul’s allusion in 1 Cor. 8:6 to the Shema found in Deut. 6:4.
  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

 

But in 1 Corinthians 8:5, there is also an allusion to, “an echo” of, Deuteronomy 10:17 (G.K. Beale).

  • Deuteronomy 10:17 (ESV) — 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.
  • Interestingly, “[Deut. 10:17] is the only text in the Hebrew Bible where ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ appear in the same sentence as in 1 Cor. 8:5” – G.K. Beale.

 

Why is all this significant?

 

Deuteronomy 10:17 is contrasting two wildly different species of “elohim” – beings who reside in the spiritual realm.

  • The two species of elohim parsed out here are:
  • (1) “LORD your God” – YHWH the God of Israel.
  • (2) “gods” and “lords.

 

This basic understanding of Paul’s starting point – his contrast – is where the fun begins!

 

Why?

  • In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul modifies the contrast of Deut. 10:17 and the affirmation of Deut. 6:4 to include Jesus Christ.

 

In other words, Paul does two remarkable things:

  • (1) He inserts Jesus into the ancient Jewish monotheistic formula affirmed in verse 4 – “there is no God but one”.
  • (2) He places Jesus Christ on the “LORD your God” side of the Deuteronomy 10:17 contrast.

 

This mutation of the Shema to now include Jesus is called the “Christianized Shema”.

  • There is much to be gleaned this handling of Jesus.
  • Especially when we understand his Corinthian converts.

 

 

Accounting for Christ at Corinth:

The Church at Corinth presented Paul with a challenge.

  • (1) It existed in the midst of open worship of various gods and their idols.
  • (2) Its pagan Christian converts formerly worshipped various gods and their idols.
  • (3) Its pagan Christian converts switched to the worship of the Father and Jesus…
  • (4) While simultaneously affirming that “there is no God but one” – the Christianized Shema.

 

Larry Hurtado describes the situation:

  • “There was a veritable cafeteria of divine beings of various orders, attributes, and functions…peoples were rather richly supplied with deities” – Larry Hurtado.
  • And the “residents of any given city were expected to participate in the worship of the civic deities, who were typically seen as protectors of the city” – Larry Hurtado.
  • But, “Early Christians…typically departed from these religious customs and defined ‘God’ in a very exclusive manner in beliefs and also in religious practice. For them, there was really…only one deity worthy of worship, as Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6” – Larry Hurtado.

 

So given this info we need to setup an important question:

  • The ex-pagan now worshipped the Father.
  • The ex-pagan now worshipped the exalted Jesus Christ.
  • In their pagan life, this would obviously have been the worship of two gods.

 

The problem Paul faced at Corinth was how to reduce a pantheon of gods down to one God.

  • And do so while calling the Corinthian ex-pagan to worship both the Father and the Son.

 

So how is it that the ex-pagan can see the worship of the Father and Jesus as the worship/affirmation of the one God of Israel?

 

 

Unitarian Answer:

Unitarian John Schoenheit thinks he has the answer to this question:

  • “This verse, when properly understood, is actually strong evidence that Jesus Christ is not God.”
  • In other words, Christ isn’t God so there is no problem.
  • He is the human-only “one Lord” – an exalted divine agent – and worship is given him at the Father’s pleasure not as “a god”.

 

He goes on to say:

“Polytheism was rampant in Corinth, and Scripture is clear that ‘…there is no God but one’ (1 Cor. 8:4)…[and that] there may be many gods and lords, [but] for Christians there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. If the doctrine of the Trinity is correct, then this text can only be construed as confusing. Here was the perfect opportunity to say, ‘for us there is only one God made up of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,’ or something similar, but, instead, Scripture tells us that only the Father is God. That should stand as conclusive evidence that Jesus is not God” – John Schoenheit.

 

There are a number of problems with this approach.

 

(1) The obvious one is the question begging – “Scripture tells us that only the Father is God”.

  • As we have seen, Scripture affirms both explicitly and implicitly that Jesus participates in the uniqueness of YHWH, shares the divine name, and is “my Lord and my God”.
    • Suggesting that these claims are better understood as only agency is one thing.
    • Denying their existence all together is bogus.

 

Moreover, this idea that only the Father is God is not in the Bible.

  • This is an idea that finds life only in a misrepresentation of ancient Jewish monotheism.
  • And in the philosophical Unitarian presuppositions we discussed a few weeks ago.

 

(2) The second problem is that this Unitarian approach is no less “confusing” and does nothing to solve the question we raised.

  • The ex-pagan worshipped Jesus Christ and the Father.
  • In their context, to worship a being is to acknowledge it as god or a god.
    • Something the pagan did with all kinds of “gods”.
  • Simply calling one “Lord” and one “God” does nothing to alleviate the predicament of worshipping two “entities” and thus having two “gods”.
  • Actually, the Trinitarian approach is the only one that makes sense of this practice.

 

(3) But even more of a problem than these two is:

  • (A) The suggestion that when Paul uses “Lord” and “God”, only one rightly refers to YHWH.
  • (B) And…that Paul’s silence on a Trinity means Jesus is not God.

 

Both of these ignore the fact that Paul did say, in Schoenheit’s own words, “something similar” about Jesus’ and the Father’s identity.

  • And the way Paul implicitly identified Jesus with the divinity of YHWH is not obtuse.

 

The problem for many, it seems, is that Paul did this in the style of a 2nd Temple Jew steeped in the messaging of a high context culture.

  • He didn’t do this as a 4th century Greek or Latin philosopher or 21st century analytic philosopher.

 

So where does Paul say “something similar” about Jesus’ and the Father’s identity?

  • (1) Paul’s OT allusions in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.
  • (2) The meaning behind the Greek prepositions used in verse 6.

 

We will unpack both of these.

  • And in so doing, provide the Trinitarians answer to our question.
  • So how is it that the ex-pagan can see the worship of the Father and Jesus as the worship/affirmation of the one God of Israel?