1 Corinthians 8:6, splitting the Shema with Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (and N.T. Wright)

What is God Really Like: Tawhid or Trinity? Dr. Shabir Ally and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi Debate

Back to this debate, there’s another point that Dr. Qureshi makes, which has been made before specifically by N.T. Wright in his work on Paul. At about the 31 minute mark Dr. Qureshi says:

In 1 Corinthians 8:6 We see Paul, I’m sorry this is actually pre Pauline, as Bart Ehrman would argue, he does Argue in his new book, the earliest, even before Paul, even before Mark, Christians took the Shema, “Shema Yisrael Yahweh Eloheinu Yahweh Echad” took that and divided that up, between the father and the son.

Now let’s look at the text, of 1 Corinthians 8:6 (in the NRSV, including verse 5 for some context)

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 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.

And here is it in the Greek.

5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί,

6 ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ

ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι’ αὐτοῦ.

Now then, let’s look at the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4, I’m going to quote it 3 times, English (NRSV), Greek (LXX) and the Hebrew.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a]

[a]Or The Lord our God is one Lord, or The Lord our God, the Lord is one, or The Lord is our God, the Lord is one

Here it is in the LXX

῎Ακουε, Ισραηλ· κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν·

And Finally the Hebrew.

שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה ׀ אחד ׃

Now, if you read my last post about Dr. Qureshi’s treatment of Psalm 110:1, you might have noticed something right away, we have a translation issue, the Divine name (YHWH) יהוה Is translated in the Greek as κύριος and the English as “lord.” So now we have a problem, is the word “lord” that Paul (or whoever came up with the statement) uses about in 1 Corinthians 8:6 actually a replacement for the divine name? Or does it just mean lord in the common sense of the word “lord.”

Well, is Paul directly quoting the Shema? Well look at the form the Shema takes. “The Lord (YHWH) Our God” let’s stop here for a second, the first part of the Shema is only telling us one thing, Yahweh is our God, now let’s continue, “The Lord (YHWH) is one,” here we get the oneness, statement, after the second use of Yahweh, and after declaring that that Yahweh is our God.

Now let’s compare that to Paul’s statement. “for us there is one God, the father.” That isn’t what the Shema says. The Shema’s use of “God” is to say that Yahweh (the lord) is our God. The verse goes on to say “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.” So Paul is saying that along with having one God, we also have one lord, and he explains that from God we have all things and through Christ we have all things. This isn’t really the Shema, is it?

Now let’s assume that Dr. Qureshi is correct and Paul is taking this from the Shema, lets read it throwing away the tradition of replacing the divine name with “lord” and see how it reads.

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Yahweh, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Notice the problem here, if we take the “splitting the Shema” seriously (just to be clear, N.T Wright doesn’t use the term splitting the Shema, he says that Paul finds Christ within the Shema, I think that is an important distinction). Then what we are left with is not “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is Christ and the Father as one” as the Trinitarian would want to say. Rather we are left with “One God, who is the Father, and one Yahweh, who is also called Jesus Christ.” If we really are to take this seriously what we have is a kind of Mormon theology, where you have God and then Yahweh/Jesus as a second god, or perhaps not even that, since the Father is the one God, I suppose Yahweh/Jesus would have to be less than a god. That is if we take it as literally a reformulation of the Shema.

But we can avoid all of this if we just read the prior verse.

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords

Now the use of “lords” here is, and I’m quite sure almost everyone would agree, simply lord in the common sense of the word, not a replacement for the divine name, unless one wants to argue that there were actually many Yahweh’s out there being worshiped in Corinth, and who people sacrificed food to (the background of the discussion was whether or not Christians could eat food that had previously been sacrificed to Idols), if you want to argue that you have a long road ahead of you, but for the sake of argument let’s just say it’s the common usage of “lord.” Given that the first part of Paul’s argument is talking about there being many “gods” and “lords” in the common language sense of the word lord, wouldn’t it make sense that in the second part of his argument, where he declares that for us there is only one God and one Lord, he would be using the word “lord” in the common language sense of the word? Saying “they have many gods and lords, but we have one God and one Yahweh” leaves the “lords” part un-answered.

If we accept that Paul was a Pharisee who learned from Gamaliel, there is absolutely no way he could have come out of that rabbinical education without knowing the difference between the usage of Lord as a replacement for the Divine name and the regular use of the word lord.

So we see here the same mistake being made by Nabeel Qureshi on 1 Corinthians 8:6 that he made on Psalms 110:1, mistaking the translation of YHWH into Lord with the common use of the word lord. Given Psalms 110:1 is the most common verse from the Hebrew Bible which is applied to Jesus, and in that verse it is the Adoni (my lord), the Royal (Human) sense of the word lord and the common language sense of the word lord (not the divine name pronounced differently), which is applied to Jesus, wouldn’t it make sense that it is this sense of the word “lord” which Paul is applying to Jesus? In contrast to the many “lords” of the world.

In order to kind of round off the argument, let’s look at how Paul often uses lord Jesus and god together in the letters to the Corinthians .

1 Corinthians 1:2,3

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord[a] and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν·

3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Then 1 Corinthians 6:11

11 And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

11καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε· ἀλλ’ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλ’ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλ’ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν.

And in 1 Corinthians 15: 57

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

57 τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

2 Corinthians 1:2,3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation,

2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ πατὴρ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν καὶ θεὸς πάσης παρακλήσεως,

2 Corinthians 11:31

31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he forever!) knows that I do not lie.

31 ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ οἶδεν, ὁ ὢν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι.

2 Corinthians 13:13

13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of[e] the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

13 Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.

Here we have a couple examples of the usage of Lord Jesus and God (the father) together in the letters to the Corinthians, if I did all of Paul’s letters this would be a really long post. But here’s my point, all of these examples show, that the formula “Our God (The Father) and Our Lord Jesus,” Or “God through the Lord Jesus” or some variation of that, was extremely common. In all these cases, κύριος is best read as plainly what it means in the common language, lord, a common royal title rather than the divine name.

So isn’t it more likely that Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is just using the same formulation he always uses, in order to make a point? Rather than splitting the Shema?

Of course we still have the problem of what Paul means when he says “through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Of Jesus, maybe I’ll take that up in a later post :).

1 Corinthians 8:6, splitting the Shema with Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (and N.T. Wright)

14 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 8:6, splitting the Shema with Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (and N.T. Wright)

  1. jbjbjbjbjb says:

    Thanks for this response. I am surveying the whole NT on this issue, one category I notice in favour of the “suggestive” position is what I have tentatively called Kyrios confusion, that this same word could be used seemingly both of God and of Jesus. Acts 10:4 (angel = Lord) shows pretty solid proof for anyone trying to say anything too wooden about this word, so I am not saying I consider it a weighty argument. However, I would be interested in seeing how you think that such a quick transition is possible in Luke’s mind, for example, in chapter 1:6,16, 17, 25, 28, 38, 45 vs 1:43 & 76.
    Kind regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, here’s the problem with the Kyrios suggestion, seeing as they called Jesus kyrios as a title, and also they quoted the LXX where kyrios was a replacement for the divine name. You also have examples such as the one you mentioned in Acts 10:4 where kyrios is applied to an angel. Keep in mind that Cornelius was called a “Foboumenos Ton Theon” one who fears God, meaning likely he was aware of the usage of Kyrios for YHWH.

      So now on to the scriptures you mentioned. I think it’s clear that 1:6,16,17,25,28,38,45 are talking of Johovah, based on the context and the fact that some are quoting from the Hebrew bible. (17 from Isaiah 40:3 and arguably 25 is an illusion to either 1 Smauel 1:11 or Genesis 30:23.)

      Now as to 1:43 and 76.

      In verse 43 Elizabeth calls Mary “ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου,” the mother of my lord, now let’s say that the “kyriou” there was a divine name replacement, then we would have the mother of my Jehovah. I don’t know any place in the bible, where κυρίου μου, my lord, is used in reference to the divine name, I don’t think it’s ever used that way.

      In vrs 76 I’m afraid I have to concede that there we have a quote from Isaiah 40:3, meaning it’s reasonable to conclude that it’s a replacement for the divine name.

      One might argue that verses 17 and 76 could not be a reference to Isaiah 40:3 at all, rather they could be a reference to Malachi 3:1, in which case we have no problem, as long as we can concede that Luke knew the difference in Malachi between YHWH in hebrew which was translated as kyrios and Adon in hebrew which was also translated as Kyrios but not from the divine name. Problem is we also have Matthew Mark and John all of whome says the quote is from Isaiah. Which would mean we’d have to argue that Luke held a different opinion from all the other evangalists. Although in Mark we have a clear reference to Malachi 3:1 in verse 2, which means that it might be the case that Luke referenced Malachi 3:1. But to be honest, I wouldn’t put my money on it, I think Luke was aware of Mark, who had referenced both scriptures, but cited only the prophet Isaiah.

      So let’s say we simply accept that vrs 17 and 76 use Kyrios as divine name replacements. I still think we have a solid Unitarianism, seeing as Jehovah or Yahweh, was acting through Jesus, Just as he acted through Moses, so it could be said that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, whereas it can also be said that Jehovah delivered them from Egypt. I don’t think we have a conflict, here, John was preparing the way for Jehovah, to accomplish his will through Jesus.

      There is also manuscript evidence of Kyrios being spelled out, when just meaning lord, and written in a abbreviated way as KR, or something like that, when used as a replacement for the divine name, except to get into that I’d have to go into some books :), maybe when I have more time I’ll do that later.

      I think I might lengthen this response and turn it into an actual blog post :). Thanks for the question, I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very very interesting! Thanks for your detailed answer, I appreciate it! Your final point of contracted forms and non-contracted of holy titles is of particular note, and I would be fascinated to see if that is born out by the evidence within same manuscripts, especially with the examples we are discussing. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t personally researched the manuscript evidence, but I’ll point you toward an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 96, NO. 1 (Mar., 1977); pp.63-83 called “The Tetragram and the New Testament”, that’s where I first read about the significance of the contracted and non-contracted forms of holy titles. I just wish I had more time to do more research on that.

    Here’s a link to the article.


    I hope it helps, it’s a good place to start :).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I may get round to purchasing it, thanks for the link. Do you know if the guy is a JW?
      On another tac (tack?), I recently came over another passage, while doing a bible study with some friends, where we have a kurios mix-up very similar to the Luke example we discussed, except it is in 1 Samuel.

      “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. [v15]
      “When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. [v26]

      Looking for OT occurrences of κυρίου μου I noticed there were some other examples too.

      In the Luke example, nomina sacra IS applied in Sinaiticus to mother of my LORD.
      However I confess I am struggling to locate the “my Lord” in 1 Samuel 1:15 in Vaticanus. I had even located the pagebbut my Greek is almost non existant and the codex too faded in the relevant section. Now I can’t even find the page 😦 Can you help?

      With much thanks,

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry I took a while to reply, I’ve been busy (on vacation actually :))

        Are you asking if the writer of the Journal of Biblical Literature is a JW? If so I have no idea.

        As far as using the Siniaticus to check for the nomina sacra in the NT, I’d be careful with that. In the verse this blog post was about, 1 Corinthians 8:6, the abbreviated KR is used in the Siniaticus whereas kyrioi is used in the verse prior, that doesn’t mean that Paul wrote “for the there are many lords but for us there is one Jehovah.” The Siniaticus also puts in the KR abbreviation twice in areas where the NT quotes psalms 110:1, for example Luke 20:42,43 and Acts 2:34,35. But we know psalms 110:1 does not say jehovah said to my Jehovah, it said Jehovah said to my lord. So it could be that Siniaticus uses the abbreviation for just the term lord, and when I look at 1 Peter 3:6 I see the KR abbreviation applied to Abraham, so there we go :).

        I haven’t checked the vaticanus, but I would suspect it’s similar.

        I suggest you read the article, it’s not so simple as to simply check a manuscript for KR or ThS abbreviations, the article goes into more of the textual criticism, which I simply have not studied enough on to comment on.

        Thanks for the comments and questions :), I enjoy getting deeper into here things.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The Shema is the central ‘creedal’ confession of the Jews. It affirms their monotheistic faith.

    In first century Second Temple Judaism, God is the only one known as the ‘one Lord.’

    Why , then, would Paul call Jesus with the title reserve to God alone?

    I highly recommend you read this scholarly work: ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:bd303c77-567a-48d5-9d2f…/THESIS01


    1. We have to remember that the Shema doesn’t have the word “lord” in it, it isn’t “one lord” it’s Yahweh echad, Jehovah is one, or one Jehovah. The “lord” part was a replacement for the divine name in the LXX, obviously Paul knew this, he knew that the divine name was not “lord” but rather YHWH. So if we assume he meant YHWH he’s saying there are many gods lords , but one God the father and one YHWH Jesus Christ …. That clearly is not what he’s saying, clearly just like the one God is compared to many gods, the one lord is compared to many lords, if lord is a replacement for YHWH then we have there are many YHWHs but for us there is one YHWH, Jesus Christ, is Paul saying that? Clearly not, there are not many YHWHs.

      What Paul is obviously saying is that Jesus is the Lord who sits at the right hand of Yahweh, the true king, Caesar is not Lord, Jesus is, Jupiter is not God, YHWH is.

      I read part of that work, the part on the distinction between the many lords and the one lord, as far as I can see, at least in the section I read, he doesn’t address the problem I’m pointing out, which frankly, should be quite obvious.


  5. Hi Evangelical apologetics,
    I cannot make these links work. I was interested to see what the scholar would say about 1 Cor 8:6. Rigidly holding to a YHWH = “The One Lord” in every instance seems to fall short here or be overly rigid.


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