0

Can Deuteronomy 6:4 be translated or interpreted to mean "we only worship one LORD"?

Deut 6:4 (ASV)

Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah:

Deut 6:4 Clarke's (Hebrew)

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃

Deut 6:4 Septuagint (Greek)

καὶ ταῦτα τὰ δικαιώματα καὶ τὰ κρίματα ὅσα ἐνετείλατο κύριος τοῗς υἱοῗς Ισραηλ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἐξελθόντων αὐτῶν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου ἄκουε Ισραηλ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν

Deut 6:4 [Lexham English Septuagint]

“And these are the ordinances and the judgments that the Lord commanded the children of Israel when they came out from the land of Egypt: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Brannan, R., Penner, K. M., Loken, I., Aubrey, M., & Hoogendyk, I. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Septuagint (Dt 6:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

JPS Deut. 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.

Rashi's comments:

The Lord is our God; the Lord is one: The Lord, who is now our God and not the God of the other nations-He will be [declared] in the future “the one God,” as it is said: “For then I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call in the name of the Lord” (Zeph. 3:9), and it is [also] said: “On that day will the Lord be one and His name one” (Zech. 14:9). (see Sifrei)

Wikipedia

"...The verse is sometimes alternatively translated as "The LORD is our God; the LORD is one" or "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." (Biblical Hebrew rarely used a copula in the present tense, so it has to be inferred; in the Shema, the syntax behind this inference is ambiguous.) The word used for "the LORD" is the tetragrammaton YHWH...."

2

"Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one" is a statement of monotheism plain and simple: "Yahweh is our God" is an identification of the God of Israel as this one God, and "Yahweh is one" is a statement of the uniqueness of Yahweh as the only God (i.e. in contradistinction to pantheons—a plethora of gods among which He is but one).

Importing debates from 3000 years later about how many hypostases are in the Divinity couldn't be more alien to the context, which simply affirmed to an Israel with heinotheistic and idolatrous tenancies that Yahweh is the true God, and He is one, not many.

There is a play on words to be recognized here in that elohim (which is the same word for both "God" and "gods") is used in conjunction with echad ("one [in number]"), strongly negating the inherent plurality of the word elohim with reference to Yahweh, thus affirming monotheism ('strong' monotheism is a contradiction in terms), and that the "God" of Israel is the one and only one God.

Translating the Greek κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν as "the Lord our God, the Lord is one," without supplying the verb, ignores the underlying verbless but very plain and standard use of Hebrew.

  • Good, concise answer. +1 – user25930 Jul 17 '19 at 1:58
-1

80% no, 20% applicably

I'm admittedly torn in this answer, trying to be direct in answering the precise Question, yet understanding the reasonably presumable motive behind the Question, which includes homiletics & exegesis because those are the main professional purpose of hermeneutics.

80% No

The 80% comes from a literal translation: no way, impossible, not allowed, lying to say otherwise. To include "worship" in the translation, it would need a verb, or even in a looser translation a noun, at least with a connotation of worshiping or something of the sort. There is none, zero, nada, zip. No.

20% Applicably

In terms of applicability, and if we extend to Christian Theology (a different SE site and discussion), then a preacher could use this passage, and requiring other passages as well, to argue for only "worshiping" Jehovah/Yahweh. But, that's the 20% applicable side and needs a LOT of other Bible verses to produce a "system" and cannot be reached by this passage alone.

If a translation puts it this way, then that would be a very interpretive translation, arguably not even a translation, but a "thematic rephrasing".

Where can we take it quickly, without outlining a Theological System?

The Question is about possible meaning of this passage, and there is something we can do with that without too much of a stretch...

Back to interpretation & hermeneutics... Once translated correctly, the best way to interpret the most direct meaning would be to cross-reference it with the people who studied and understood its meaning closer to that time: the New Testament...

  1. Where a similar statement is made (John 10:30, 1 Cor 8:4, Eph 4:6)

  2. Their implications & "first mention"

...If you look at those NT passages as commentary-by-application (which we usually should), you will get statements similar to Deuteronomy 4, where the hermeneutic of "first mention" applies. Apparently from their phraseology, NT authors saw a connection of "first mention", so the previous/earlier mention (Deut 4) should have more bearing, the later mention (Deut 6) has more expansion and interpretation...

Deut 4:35, 39 (NASB)

35 To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.

39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

Now consider the context that something follows: instructions and commands to Israel (OT) and to everyone by Jesus (NT)—"I AM ONE" being the basis of the authority to give such commands. Jesus's application is most-clearly worded in Mark 12...

Mark 12:29-30 (NASB)

29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

...also seen elsewhere...

Matt 22:37-39 (NASB)

37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Luke 10:27-28 (NASB)

27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Applications thereof, namely commands, stem from your Deut 6 passage—and you can argue that they include worship, but that requires separate research on your own and is a separate question altogether.

The most direct interpretation/application would be that we "Love God with everything" (separately & arguably including worship) and that the singularity of God's nature compels us to love our neighbors with singular justice just as we love ourselves.

Therefore, according to Jesus's interpretation of this Question's passage, the next interpretation-application step from Deut 4 & 6 "God is one" is the Two Great Commands: Love each other wholly because we love the single God Who IS alone Holy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.