Was Paul identifying the Lord Jesus in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as the εἷς κύριος of Deuteronomy 6:4?

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 (NASB)

4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

2 Answers 2


Absolutely not! Paul has no intention of upending Jewish monotheism, modifying the Shema or out of the blue describing a binary god (no Trinity in view here as there is absolutely nothing "3" about Paul's assertions. If Paul is a Trinitarian he has absentmindedly omitted one of the "Persons" altogether).

Why would he say "to us there is but one God: the father" and then turn around and name another one?! (And where is the "Holy Ghost"?)!

The context of Paul's assertions is the Corinthian concern about their relation to the Roman imperial cult. In that cult there are many gods and many lords, KURIOI, though it is only around the first century, I believe, that the emperor began to be called KURIOS. The emperor was held to be selected by the gods to rule Rome:

New International Version For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"),

So, Paul deals with the many gods first and says that the only one they recognize is the father. Then he deals with the "divinely selected leaders" (KURIOI) and says that they have only one: Jesus, the anointed one. This would have been a direct challenge to the authority of the Imperator/Emperor because "KURIOS" is a higher title than is Imperator.

Paul would never dream of adding to the Shema and it is blasphemous to suggest that he (or God) would.

As to the commonality of KURIOS to both 1 Cor 8:6 and Deut 6:4 I note that Paul teaches explicitly that Jesus was made KURIOS because of his obedience to God. Hence, Jesus was not made "KURIOS" thousands of years BC\E. Here Peter assures the Jews that Jesus does not come in his own name (on his own authority) but is God's elect servant:

Act 2:36 KJV - 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Phl 2:8-11 NLT - 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name [IE: "title"] above all other names [IE: "titles"], 10 that at the name [IE: "title"] of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is **Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Rom 14:11 KJV - 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Paul is actually alluding to Cyrus, whom God made both KURIOS and XRISTOS and God promises to make everyone bow their knee to Cyrus and confess that God (his God) is the only God:

Isa 45:1, 4-6, 13-14, 18, 21-23 KJV - 1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; ... 4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. ... 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts. 14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God. ... 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. ... 21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

  • +1 Good answer , but you could add some scriptures to show the difference and make your answer more convincing .Col.1:15-16, Mark 13:32, Matt.12:31-32 . Feb 22, 2019 at 12:00
  • Thanks. I'm not sure that those passages are central to my points. I added a couple of more links to Wikipedia that give more background.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:09
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    Ruminator: and Radz. C. Broown.: Certainly not, the Egyptians had many gods, but the Isrealites were instructed to worship one god. According to Dr. J. H. Hertz, a rabbi: “This sublime pronouncement of absolute monotheism was a declaration of war against all polytheism . . . The Shema excludes the trinity of the Christian creed as a violation of the Unity of God.” Since Jesus was a Jew by birth, he was instructed to follow this same command. After his baptism, when tempted by the Devil, he said: . Feb 25, 2019 at 16:05
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    Ruminator and Radz C. Brown :“Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Mat. 4:10; Deut. 6:13) We can learn at least two things from this incident. First, Satan was trying to entice Jesus to worship someone other than Jehovah, an attempt that would have been absurd if Jesus were part of the same God. Second, Jesus made it clear that there is just one God who must be worshipped when he said “him alone,” not “us,” which he would have said if he were part of a Trinity. Feb 25, 2019 at 16:06
  • Right. You probably should add 1 Cor 15:26-28, which is by the same author and so obviously tells us what this "one god and one lord" means. I gave a lot more details here.
    – David
    Oct 29, 2021 at 14:47

Yes, see this

Paul is apparently citing from the Corinthians’ letter when he says “we all have knowledge” (8:1). It becomes clearer in 8:4 that the knowledge that they are claiming is based on an idiosyncratic interpretation of Deut. 6:4 (and perhaps other idol-rejecting texts of the OT; see, e.g., Deut. 32:17; 2 Kings 19:18; 2 Chron. 13:9; Isa. 37:19; Jer. 2:11; 5:7; 16:20; Hos. 8:6). That all peoples would come to recognize that Israel’s Lord is the only God was a basic prophetic and apocalyptic motif of the OT (Isa. 11:9; 37:20; 40:28; 43:10; 44:8; 45:5–6; 49:23, 26; 52:6; Jer. 9:24; Ezek. 6:14; 7:4, 9; 15:7; 20:38; 24:24, 27; 25:5, 7, 11, 17; 26:6; 28:23–24, 26; 29:9, 16, 21; 30:8, 19, 26; 32:15; 33:29; 35:9, 15; 36:11, 23, 38; 37:28; 38:23).

In saying that “there is no idol that really exists” and that “there is no God but one,” they evidently are arguing that since there is only one God, idols do not actually represent any spiritual (or other) reality, and therefore there is no reason to fear or avoid contact with their temples or with that which had been offered to them. Those who held to this position considered themselves the “knowing” in comparison to the “weak,” who had serious qualms about any association with idolatry or food tainted by it. The “knowing” may have considered their position unassailable because it is based on an interpretation of the most fundamental text of Jewish monotheism, the first verse of the Shema (Deut. 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Num. 15:37–41), which was recited twice daily by faithful Jews and was central to the monotheistic understanding of early Judaism and Christianity. Yet other members of the church obviously were disturbed that some were even accepting invitations to dinners held in pagan temples (8:10).

In responding to the situation, Paul does not attack the theoretical basis of the position of the “knowing,” but he redirects their approach to the issue from one based on determining who has the best theological arguments to one based on the most basic issues of love toward God and neighbor (cf. Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; see Hays 1997). In doing so, Paul echoes other parts of the Shema, including Deut. 6:5; 11:13, when he says, “Anyone who loves God is known by him” (8:3). It is loving God, not mere theological knowledge, that is a defining characteristic of God’s chosen people. N. T. Wright (1992: 127) notes the significance of the Shema, pointing out that “Paul’s references to humans loving God, as opposed to vice versa, are few and far between, and in this case at least … the reason for the reference is that he wishes to allude to, or echo, the Jewish confession of monotheistic faith.” The Shema presents two alternatives: God’s people either will love and serve him (Deut. 6:5; 11:13) or will “turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (11:16). In that context it is understood that “loving God” entails an unequivocal rejection of any flirtation with idolatry.

In its original context the Shema does not support the idea that since there is only one God, there is no actual danger associated with idol worship. Rather, proper recognition of God’s unique status requires absolute rejection of any association with the worship of other gods, regardless of their ontological status.

The language of Deut. 6:4 (“the LORD our God, the LORD is one”) governs Paul’s wording and argument in 8:5–6. He expands his opening statement that “there are many so-called gods” so as to allow the plurality of “lords” in the pagan world as well. References to “gods” are common in the OT, but they are not frequently referred to as “lords.” Paul is already thinking of the interpretation that he wants to provide of Deut. 6:4, however, so he speaks of “many gods and lords.” In that way his interpretive use of Deut. 6:4 in 8:6 is provided with a perfect contrast: “But for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came, and through whom we exist.” The key words “Lord,” “God,” and “one” are taken from Deut. 6:4 (“the LORD our God, the LORD is one”), in which “Lord” and “God” both refer to the deity who is declared to be “one.” But now Paul “has glossed ‘God’ with ‘the Father,’ and ‘Lord’ with ‘Jesus Christ,’ adding in each case an explanatory phrase: ‘God’ is the Father, ‘from whom are all things and we to him,’ and the ‘Lord’ is Jesus the Messiah, ‘through whom are all things and we through him’ ” (N. T. Wright 1992: 129). In this one text Paul has simultaneously reaffirmed strict Jewish monotheism and embedded Christ within the very definition of that one God/Lord of Israel (see Hays 1997; N. T. Wright 1992).

The references to the roles of the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ in creation (“from whom and through whom”) also reflect traditional scriptural affirmations of the roles of God and of Wisdom in creation (for the latter, see Prov. 8:22–31; Wis. 9:4, 9; Philo, Flight 109). In prophetic literature Yahweh’s absolute power as creator of heaven and earth is what sets him apart from idols, which, on the contrary, are human creations (e.g., Jer. 10:3–16; Isa. 44:9–24). The description of Christ in terms normally attributed to Wisdom (Wis. 8:1–6; 9:1–2, 9; Sir. 24) suggests that just as Jesus takes the place of “the Lord” in the Shema, he also takes the place of “Wisdom” within Hellenistic Judaism: “Paul has indicated that everything one might hope to gain through possessing [sophia (Wisdom)] can be gained rather by possessing Christ” (N. T. Wright 1992: 130).

Paul’s statement that “there are many so-called gods” and indeed “many gods and many >lords” seems to affirm the OT’s recognition that pagan gods, while not really being gods in any sense comparable to the God of Israel (and thus are only so-called gods), do represent some reality. This may suggest an echo of Deut. 10:17, where, just a few chapters after the Shema, the Israelites are told “the LORD [MT: yhwh; LXX: kyrios] your God, he is God of gods and Lord of lords.” This is the only text in the Hebrew Bible where “gods” and “lords” appear in the same sentence as in 1 Cor. 8:5, and in that sentence Israel’s God is referred to as both Lord and God (as in the Shema), and his superiority over any other hypothetical claimant to that title is strongly affirmed as in 1 Cor. 8:5 (cf. Ps. 136:2–3).

The Shema was important both for its theological affirmation and for its sociological function. Early Judaism rallied around the one God who had redeemed them, and their allegiance to that one God was reflected both by their worship of him and by their rejection of all other claims to deity. It is notable that Paul’s christological modification of the Shema comes in a passage where he hopes that this statement might fulfill the very same roles that the Shema did in Judaism. If the Corinthians would rally together in loyalty to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that signaled a radical rejection of all other claims to deity, it would go a long way toward promoting unity within the congregation and toward maintaining a distinct identity in contrast to the pagan environment.

Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (pp. 717–718). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.

  • 6
    You’ve quoted an eminently relevant resource and cited it appropriately. However, the goal of the SE sites is to add new content to the internet. Please edit this to summarize the relevant portions in your own words, with a focus on the OP’s question, so that the post is more than a quote of someone else’s work.
    – Susan
    Feb 14, 2015 at 23:18
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    Any chance of returning to this and making it more than just a quote? I would like to upvote, but can't upvote something that is nothing more than a quote of someone else's work.
    – ThaddeusB
    Sep 15, 2015 at 14:49

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