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Deuteronomy 6:4 YLT

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

Mark 12:29 YLT

and Jesus answered him -- 'The first of all the commands is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one;

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    Up-voted +1. Why did you leave out Jesus' statement 'I and my Father are one' ? Whatever the answer to the above, must refer also to John 10:30. Besides, you are (perhaps) asking two questions : one of Hebrew and one of Greek. (But those 'two' may be 'one' question.)
    – Nigel J
    Nov 23 '21 at 5:23
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First, the Hebrew, אֶחָד (echad) simply means "one" or "unity", eg,

  • Gen 1:5 - ... there was evening and morning, day one.
  • Gen 1:9 - ... seas be gathered into one place
  • Gen 2:11 - The name of the first is Pishon
  • Gen 2:21 - then He took one of his ribs
  • Gen 2:24 - and they shall become one flesh

Note the final entry here - when married, a man and woman become "one".

The Greek εἷς, μία (eis, mia) simply means "one, first, unity", etc, eg,

  • Matt 5:18 - 'till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall pass
  • Matt 6:27 - one cubit to his height
  • Matt 12:11 - one sheep
  • John 10:30 - the Father and I are one
  • Matt 19:5 - the two shall be one flesh (see also Eph 5:31)

Thus, the Greek and Hebrew words for "one" are very similar and show the very close relationship between the Father and Son.

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Echad אֶחָֽד is the numerically "One" 1 as first stated in [Bereshit 1:5] to document the creation of Yom Echad. - In Greek LXX [Genesis 1:5] translates Echad as "Mia" μία (one).

Alef " א " is given the gematrial value of 1. Echad " אֶחָֽד " contains a gematrial value of 13.

Deuteronomy 6:4 states שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֶחָֽד (Hear, Yisrael : YHVH [is] our-God ; YHVH [is] one).

Jesus the Nazarene quotes Moshe in [Mark 12:29] but in Greek stating : "Ἄκουε Ἰσραήλ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστίν" - We see the "Echad" אֶחָֽד in Greek LXX of [Deuteronomy 6:4 | Mark 12:29] is translated as "heis" εἷς (1) a primary number - which references the distinct singularity of YHVH in Exodus 20 verses 2-3.

Exodus 20 verses 2-3 expressed the singular entity of Eloheinu YHVH by stating אָֽנֹכִ֨י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ "Anoki, YHVH Eloheikha" (I am, YHVH your-God), elaborating : לֹ֣א יִֽהְיֶ֣ה־לְךָ֩ אֱלֹהִ֨ים אֲחֵרִ֜ים עַל־פָּנַ֗י "Lo Yihye lekha elohim acherim al-panay" (You will have no other gods over my-presence).

  • The saying לֹא No אֲחֵרִים other gods means YHVH is the only "Echad" 1 God.

Isaiah 44 verse 6 elaborated אֲנִ֚י רִאשׁוֹן֙ וַֽאֲנִ֣י אַֽחֲר֔וֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַ֖י אֵ֥ין אֱלֹהִֽים "I am First and I am last, and besides Me there is no god."


If YHVH Eloheinu is numerically 1 "Echad" with no other, then why does man + woman become 1 "Echad" flesh in [Genesis 2:24] ?

A human "A-dam" אָדָם (One-Blood) is the creation of YHVH + Father & Mother. | "Adam" has gematrial value of 45 expressed by the One-Blood of Father (אָב = 3) + Mother (אֵם = 41) + YHVH (א = 1). Thus the phrase לְבָשָׂ֥ר אֶחָֽד "In-one-flesh" refers to a new "A-dam" אָדָם (One-Blood).

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    This answer needs to address the Greek half of the question (Mark 12:29) also. As it stands this is only half an answer.
    – bob
    Nov 23 '21 at 15:41
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The Hebrew word used can also mean (as in English) the "number one" that is "the best" though that is a rare usage. Some examples where this occurs are as follows i) May Dan judge his nation like the number one of the tribes (Gn49-16); ii) What did you do to us (by telling use that your wife is your sister) The "number one" of the nation (that is, the King, me) almost slept with her (Gn 26:9); iii) Behold, Adam has become like the "number one of us" since he knows good and evil; and now [we must banish him] lest he also eat of the tree of life (and become immortal so that creatures will think he is a deity) (Gn 3:22)

Similarly, Dt 6:4 states that God is the "number one"

In passing all these verses present exegetical problems which can elegantly be solved if we use the above translation. (See the Rashi commentatary on the Bible)

Russell Jay Hendel

-1

Hebrew

Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone[b] (Deuteronomy 6:4 NJPS)
[b] Cf. Rashbam and Ibn Ezra; see Zechariah 14.9. Others "The LORD our God, the LORD is one."

Bernard M. Levinson explains the reasoning behind the NJPS translation:

4: The LORD...alone: NJPS correctly departs from the more familiar translation, "The LORD [YHVH] our God, the LORD is one" (see translators' note b, end). Each of the two translations is theoretically possible because, in Hebrew, it is possible to form a sentence by simply joining a subject and predicate, without specifying the verb "to be." The Hebrew here thus allows either "YHVH, our God, YHVH is one" or "YHVH, is our God, YHVH alone." The first, older translation, which makes a statement about the unity and the indivisibility of God, does not do full justice to this text (though it makes sense in a later Jewish context as a polemic against Christianity). The verse is not a quantitative argument (about the number of deities) but a qualitative one, about the nature of the relationship between God and Israel. Almost certainly, the original force of the verse, as the medieval Jewish exegetes in translators' note b recognized, was to demand Israel show exclusive loyalty to our God, YHVH - but not thereby to deny the existence of other gods! In this way, it assumes the same perspective as the first commandment of the Decalogue, which, by prohibiting the worship of other gods, presupposes their existence...

Alone: the traditional translation preserves the normal use of Hebrew "'ehad," "one," which may have contributed to interpreting the Shema as a declaration of monotheism. But what it might mean to say that God is "one" is unclear, since that is not the same as affirming that there is only one God (Isaiah 44.3; 45.5-7, 14, 18, 21; 46.9). Nor is it likely that the verse intends to clarify that there is only one YHVH, as opposed to many YHVHs, since there was no difficulty in recognizing that different manifestation of a divinity could derive from a single god (Exodus 6:3). NJPS thus properly understands "'ehad" to mean "alone," i.e. "exclusively." This interpretation receives support in the prophet Zechariah's interpretation of this verse: "In that day there shall be one LORD with one name" (Zechariah 14.9)1

In context, the Hebrew is unclear and supports either quantity, "one," or quality, "alone."

The LXX

...Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. (LXX)
…ἄκουε Ισραηλ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν

Levinson notes the LXX is the source for understanding 'ehad as "one" and how that grew from the demand for normative monotheism in the Second Temple period:

Once true monotheism became the norm in the Second Temple period, this earlier perspective became unintelligible. Second Temple readers and translators of the Shema were thus forced to read this and similar passages in a way that made them consistent with the normative monotheism. That process of reinterpretation is already evident in the Septuagint's translation (3rd century BCE): "the Lord is one." As the basis for most subsequent translations, that reading is the source for the common understanding of the verse.2

In Mark, the Shema follows the LXX verbatim, but it is necessary to understand the full extent by which the LXX translator(s) treated this verse:

And these are the statutes and the judgments, which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel in the wilderness as they were coming out from the land of Egypt. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. (LXX-Deuteronomy 6:4 NETS)
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

Hear O Israel... was prefaced with text not found in the Hebrew. The LXX repeats Deuteronomy 6:1 with the added element of placing the words as coming from the Lord at the beginning of the Exodus:

as they were coming out from the land of Egypt.

Not only is the LXX the source for understanding 'ehad, it invents historical support for that interpretation. The LXX makes the Shema a command from YHVH before crossing the Red Sea which Moses simply repeats on the east side of the Jordan River. There is no Biblical support for these claims.

The New Testament

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Mark 12:29 ESV)
ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι πρώτη ἐστίν ἄκουε Ἰσραήλ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν

As noted, the portion in Mark follows the LXX verbatim. BDAG list five primary meanings of εἷς:3

a single person, or thing, with focus on quantitative aspect, one
a single entity, with focus on uniformity or quality one and the same
an unspecified entity, some/one
marker of something, that is the first, the first
❺ special combinations

One of the meanings is the cardinal number "one." However, neither the BDAG nor Thayers indicates which meaning best fits Mark 12:29.

Summary
The meaning of 'ehad in Shema is ambiguous. It could mean one; it could mean alone. As Levinson notes, both context and content better support a meaning of alone. That is, the Shema is a call to the exclusivity of relationship between YHVH and Israel.

The meaning in the Greek is less uncertain, but if the New Testament is taken literally, "one" Lord would be consistent with other passages. For example:

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. (1 Corinthians 8:6)


1. Bernard M. Levinson, The Jewish Study Bible, Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 380
2. Ibid.
3. Fredrick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 291-293

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    The Hebrew here thus allows either "YHVH, our God, YHVH is one" or "YHVH, is our God, YHVH alone." I believe this assessment to be in error. Hebrew nouns of equal definiteness, such as two proper nouns or two common nouns, will form a construct chain in which there is no "to be." If the two nouns are of unequal definiteness, then the "to be" is implied and must be added. The only way to say that Hebrew could be interpreted either way here is to say that we don't know whether the nouns were definite or not--but I do not believe anyone questions that YHVH or God are proper nouns.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 24 '21 at 22:44
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    ...Nor does anyone question that the word "one" is a common noun (not proper). Therefore, the first two nouns are in construct, with the third, "one," linked by "to be." This leaves: "Jehovah our God" for the construct chain, and "Jehovah is one" for the remainder as the only reasonable translation. Note that the word for Jehovah is repeated twice in the text, but being of equal definiteness both times (names are always definite) it cannot be interpreted as implying "to be" regardless--so the only other way to interpret might be to say "Jehovah, our God Jehovah, is one."
    – Polyhat
    Nov 24 '21 at 22:53
  • @Polyhat The Hebrew scholars who translated the Hebrew into English for the JPS rendered the passage "Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." As their notes state this follows the understanding of Medieval Hebrew scholars as well as Zechariah 14.9. I provided comments from Bernard M Levinson who serves as Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and of Law at the University of Minnesota, where he holds the Berman Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible. It appears there is sound scholarly basis for "alone" vs "one." Nov 24 '21 at 23:45
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    There is no question from me that "alone" is a possible and valid translation of the Hebrew echad (one). But I will need considerably more evidence that the Hebrew concept of construct chains has ever been different than it now is. My Jewish Hebrew professors never once indicated that this grammar had ever changed.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 25 '21 at 0:48
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    That is not the issue. I have no problem with how "echad" was translated in either case. Its translation can be into several different English words because Hebrew meanings are somewhat flexible. The question was where to place the verb--and the construct chains tell us precisely where that verb should be. By adding the pronominal suffix "our" to "Elohim" it makes this word definite (proper). Because YHVH (Jehovah) is a proper name, it is also definite. Because both words are definite, they form a construct chain--meaning there is no verb between them.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 25 '21 at 1:48

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