When questioned by a scribe “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 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
This answer seems to be based upon the Greek translation of Deuteronomy:
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, the Lord our God is one Lord is part of the Shema which is recited twice each day. The scribe agrees with Jesus, affirms how the Lord is identified, and adds his own explanation:
And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. (Mark 12:32)
καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ γραμματεύς· Καλῶς, διδάσκαλε, ἐπ’ ἀληθείας εἶπες ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ
A scribe, γραμματεύς, is "a man learned in the Mosaic law and in the sacred writings, an interpreter, teacher. Scribes examined the more difficult and subtle questions of the law; added to the Mosaic law decisions of various kinds thought to elucidate its meaning and scope, and did this to the detriment of religion. Since the advice of men skilled in the law was needed in the examination in the causes and the solution of the difficult questions, they were enrolled in the Sanhedrin; and are mentioned in connection with the priests and elders of the people."
Therefore in saying εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ, the scribe affirms εἷς ἐστιν one He is, and gives his legal explanation of what it means, οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ there is no other beside Him.
Shortly before being crucified, Jesus prayed and spoke of eternal life and the nature of God:
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ ἵνα γινώσκωσι σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν
Based on the Shema, the correct term is one God. Even adding "true" is problematic as it implies more then one God. In other words, if Jesus is praying to "one God" as in the Shema, no further identification is needed. Also, in replacing εἷς with μόνον, Jesus exchanged a word whose meaning is clear with one whose meaning is ambiguous. In John, μόνον typically is understood to mean "alone" (cf. John 6:15, 6:22, 8:9, 8:16, 8:29, 12:24, 16:22). Some translation even understand John 5:44 as God alone.
This leads to three questions:
- Did Jesus and the scribe correctly understand the Shema?
- If so, was the scribe's explanation correct?
- If so, why did Jesus abandon the language of the Shema when praying?