Questions: Old Testament

In exploring Trinitarian theology, questions arise about specific passages of Scripture. This page addresses questions related to the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 6:4
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

How can the Lord be "one" if God is a Trinity? 

We need to understand what this verse means by "one." There are four translation possibilities, and the NIV translation follows number three:
  1. Yahweh (is) our God, Yahweh alone.
  2. Yahweh our God (is) one Yahweh.
  3. Yahweh our God, Yahweh (is) one.
  4. Yahweh (is) our God, Yahweh (is) one.
Next, we need to consider the theological meaning that God is "one." There are two primary possibilities:
  1. That God is one the sense of "unity."
  2. That God one in the sense of "uniqueness."
“Unity” means oneness (a state of being single). In a theological context, it does not mean the harmony among people (unity of mind, etc.) – it means that there is only one God. “Uniqueness” means a state in which there is no equal. Although many gods may exist, only one is to be Israel’s God.

This passage, then, is announcing either that there is only one single being in the Godhead, or that Israel is not to worship any of the other (existing) gods. In determining which of these meanings is correct, it is necessary to give some thought to the second possibility, the notion that the Israelites are to accept Yahweh as their national God (rather than any other existing deity). This can be held by those who take Deuteronomy to be an anthropological account (one that explains the ideas current in a polytheistic Israel) rather than an actual revelation from the true God. Or it can be held by those who believe that God limited his self-revelation to accommodate the polytheistic ideas of the day. Both of these approaches clash with Deut. 4:35 and 39, which clearly assert that only the Lord is God, and there is none other besides him. Deut. 6:4 should not be interpreted to imply that the people thought that other gods might exist, but that only Yahweh should be worshiped.

Although God is clearly unique, Deut. 6:4 is not about God's uniqueness, but about God’s unity. This is not to assert that the Israelites totally understood the true God, or that they abstained from the worship of other (false, non-existing) gods – far from it, the record indicates the opposite. It would be equally wrong to assume that Deuteronomy 6:4 says that God is pure spirit. This concept is the result of abstract reasoning concerning God, which was foreign to the society that received and read the Torah.

Irrespective of what Israel thought about God (or about Deuteronomy), Deut. 6:4 is a divine revelation. As such, it proceeds from the true (that is to say, existing) God. The meaning is that there is no other divine being in existence, and that Yahweh is that being, a single being, whom we should worship.  Later revelation about God in the Bible asserts that there is one God, and the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. This one God is one in essence (being), and three in person. This is the doctrine of the Trinity, which gives to Deut. 6:4 its ultimate, and completed meaning.

Daniel 12:2  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

If all are included and forgiven, why this prophecy about some receiving "everlasting contempt"?

Note a similar statement in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”

Both of these passages refer to the final judgment when Jesus is “revealed” (sometimes referred to as the 'Second Coming' or Jesus’ 'return in glory'). This is the time when all humans will see clearly who Jesus is and thus who they are in union with Jesus. This 'revealing' presents a choice—will they say “yes” to their inclusion in Christ, or will they say “no”?

This decision neither creates nor destroys their inclusion, but it does determine their attitude toward it—whether they will accept God’s love for them and enter the joy of the Lord, or continue in alienation and frustration (and thus in shame and everlasting contempt and destruction). The destruction is a self-destruction as they refuse the purpose for which they have been made, and the redemption that has already been given to them.

In the Judgment, everyone will face Jesus, the Judge who died for all, and they will have to decide whether they will trust him. Those who trust their Savior take part in the joy of the life God has given them in Christ. Those who reject him continue in their hostility and the hell that goes with it.