Did Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, include Jesus into the Shema?

Summary

ShemaThe Shema

Hear, O Israel!
The LORD is our God,
the LORD is one
!”

(Deuteronomy 6:4)

In contrast to the many gods of the surrounding nations, this verse (called the Shema) declares that there is only one true God, and His name is YHVH.

1 Corinthians 8:6

1 Corinthians 8:4 effectively repeats the Shema, saying:

There is no God but one.

Verse 6 identifies who that one God is:

“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.”

This verse contrasts the Father and the Son in both their titles and in their functions:

Different titles Different roles
One God, the Father From whom are all things
One Lord, Jesus Christ By whom are all things

1 Corinthians 8:6 has always been a favorite proof text for Unitarians (as opposed to Trinitarians) for it identifies the Father alone as God, which means that Jesus is not God. But Trinitarians counter this conclusion with the following arguments:

(A) The Son co-created the universe with God.

Father and SonAccording to 1 Corinthians 8:6, the Son co-created the universe with “God, the Father.” From this, Trinitarians conclude that Jesus must be God. However, that verse, and other similar verses (John 1:3, Col 1:16, and Heb 1:2), identify the Father as the Great Source of all things—the uncaused Cause—and identify the Son as the Means through whom God created. For example, according to Hebrews 1:1-3, in some mysterious way, “God” made the world “through” His Son.

(B) “God” and “Lord” are synonyms.

ShemaTrinitarians secondly argue that first-century Jews (such as Paul) understood “one God” and “one Lord” as synonymous and that this is confirmed by the fact that Paul referred to the Father both as “God” and as “Lord.” Therefore, Trinitarians argue, when Paul described Jesus as “one Lord,” he also identified Him as God. This article responds with two counterarguments:

The word that is translated as “Lord” is kurios. This title means “lord” (e.g., Acts 15:26) or “master” (e.g., Mark 13:35) or “owner” (e.g., Matt 20:8). This title, therefore, may be applied to God and Jesus and to human beings without saying that they are all God.

Furthermore, the Father appointed Jesus as Lord of the universe. For example, Peter said, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36; cf. Phil 2:9-11). Since God appointed Jesus as Lord over all, the Son will always remain subordinate to the Father and the Father will always remain His God, for example: “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17; cf. Rev 3:12).

(C) Corinthians includes the Son into the Shema.

The third proof which Trinitarians find in 1 Corinthians 8:6, for the claim that Jesus is God, is to argue that that verse intentionally distributes the words of the Shema between the Father and the Son:

The “God” of the Shema becomes
One God, the Father.”

The “LORD” of the Shema becomes
One Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, Trinitarians propose, Paul included Jesus into the unique divine identity of the Yahweh of the Old Testament. They do not claim that Paul presented Jesus as a second God, but that he redefined monotheism as Christological monotheism. In other words, the unique identity of Yahweh of the Shema CONSISTS OF BOTH the “one God” and the “one Lord.

However, for the following reasons, Paul did not redistribute the words of the Shema between the Father and Jesus to include Jesus into the Yahweh of the Old Testament:

(1) 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 explicitly identifies only the Father as God.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 says, “there is no God but one” and then explicitly identifies only the Father as God: “For us there is but one God, the Father.” By implication, Jesus is not God.

(2) Other “one God” statements do the same.

1 Corinthians 8:6 is just one of a number of Paul’s “one God” statements in which he applies the Shema within the Christian context, but in all of such statements, the Father alone is God. For example:

There is one God,
and one mediator also between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus
” (1 Tim 2:5; cf. Eph 4:5-6).

(3) Paul consistently identified the Father alone as God.

If Paul thought that Jesus was God, he would have written that frequently and clearly. However, Paul consistently identified the Father alone as God. For example, he opens every one of his letters with phrases that distinguish between God and Jesus and identify God as the Father, e.g.:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ
” (1 Cor 1:3; cf. Phil 4:19-20).

(4) 1 Corinthians 8:6 describes Jesus as subordinate to the Father.

As discussed, 1 Corinthians 8:6 emphasizes the distinction between the Father and the Son by describing God (the Father) as the ultimate Source of all things, while Jesus is the Means by which God works. Jesus, therefore, is not only distinct from God; He is also functionally subordinate to the Father. This is also a consistent teaching of the New Testament. For example:

Christ is the head of every man,
and the man is the head of a woman,
and God is the head of Christ

(1 Cor 11:3; cf. 1 Cor 3:23).

(5) The Trinitarian interpretation contradicts the Shema.

The main point of the Shema is monotheism, namely that “YHWH, our God, YHWH is one.” In the New Testament, the Father and Jesus are two Persons with two separate wills. For example, in the night before He was crucified, He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42; cf. Mark 15:34). Since the Father and the Son are separate Persons with separate wills, to understand 1 Corinthians 8:6 as saying that YHVH is actually two Persons would be to contradict the Shema.

The articles on Christology are listed at the end of this article. 

– END OF SUMMARY – 


The Shema

Hear, O Israel!
The LORD is our God,
the LORD is one
!”

(Deuteronomy 6:4)

This is called the Shema after the first word (hear), which is Shema in Hebrew. It is the best-known verse in Judaism. In contrast to the many gods of the surrounding nations, the Shema declares that there is only one true god, and His name is YHVH.

LORD” is in all capitals. This means that it translates God’s personal name YHVH, pronounced as Yahweh or Jehovah. (Strangely, modern translators seem to follow the ancient Jewish practice of not mentioning God’s name.)

1 Corinthians 8:4-6

1 Corinthians 8:4 effectively repeats the Shema, saying:

There is no God but one.

Verse 6 identifies who that one god is, namely the Father. Consider 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 more fully:

4 There is no God but one.
5
… 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.

This verse sets three contrasts:

    • Between pagan gods and pagan lords.
    • Between the many pagan gods and lords and
      the one true god and lord.
    • Between the Father and Son.

Verse 6 contrasts the Father and the Son in both their titles and in their functions:

Different titles Different roles
One God, the Father From whom are all things;
We exist for Him.
One Lord, Jesus Christ By whom are all things;
We exist through Him.

1 Corinthians 8:6 has always been a favorite proof text for Unitarians (as opposed to Trinitarians) for it identifies the Father alone as God, which means that Jesus is not God. But Trinitarians counter this conclusion with the following arguments:

(A) The Son co-created the universe with God.

According to 1 Corinthians 8:6, the Son co-created the universe with “God, the Father.” From this, Trinitarians conclude that Jesus must be God. However, with respect to creation, that verse ascribes different roles to the Father and the Son:

The phrase “from whom are all things” identifies the Father as the Great Source of all things; the uncaused Cause.

The phrase “by whom are all things” identifies the Son as the Means through whom God created.

John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2 also describe the roles of the Father and the Son in creation. Similar to 1 Corinthians 8:6, these verses identify the Father as the Great Source of all things—the uncaused Cause. They also describe the Son as having a passive role in creation, namely as the Means through whom God created all things:”

According to Hebrews 1:1-3, in some mysterious way, “God” made the world “through” His Son.

John 1:3 also claims that “all things” came into being “through” the Word (Christ).

As discussed in the article on Colossians, the same applies to Colossians 1:16.

This means that both the Father and the Son have existed for as long as time has existed. However, scientists claim that time began 13 billion years ago through the Big Bang. We know nothing of the incomprehensible reality that exists outside our universe of space, time, and matter. But what we do know is that the power and energy, which caused our universe to come into existence, came from that incomprehensible reality. This knowledge, which church leaders did not know when the Trinity doctrine was formulated in the fourth to sixth centuries, helps us to understand the distinction between Jesus and God.

For a further discussion, see – God created all things.

(B) “God” and “Lord” are synonyms.

To counter the implications of 1 Corinthians 8:6, Trinitarians secondly argue as follows that the titles “God” and “Lord” are synonyms:

They argue that first-century Jews (such as Paul) understood “one God” and “one Lord” as synonymous and interchangeable; both referring to the same divine being, namely Yahweh.

They find support for this view in the fact that Paul, in his many writings, refer to the Father both as “God” and as “Lord.”

Therefore, Trinitarians argue, when Paul described Jesus as “one Lord,” he also identified Him as God. This article responds with two counterarguments:

Kurios means “lord.”

The word that is translated as “Lord” (kurios in Greek) means “lord” (e.g., Acts 15:26) or “master” (e.g., Mark 13:35) or “owner” (e.g., Matt 20:8). This title, therefore, may be applied to God and to Jesus and to a human being without saying that they are all God.

The Father appointed Jesus as Lord.

Although 1 Corinthians 8:6 identifies Jesus as Lord, this does not mean that He is God or equal to God, for God appointed the Son as “Lord.” For example:

At Pentecost, Peter said to the Jews,
God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

God highly exalted Him … so that …
every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
” (Phil 2:9-11).

God … raised Him from the dead
and
seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places …
And He put all things in subjection under His feet

(Eph 1:17-22; cf. Matt 28:18).

Since God appointed Jesus as Lord over all, the Son will always remain subordinate to the Father. Jesus is not “co-equal” with the Father, as the Trinity doctrine claims. The Father will always remain His God, for example:

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ
(Eph 1:17; cf. 1 Peter 1:3; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

(C) Corinthians includes the Son into the Shema.

A third proof which Trinitarians find in 1 Corinthians 8:6, for the claim that Jesus is God, is to argue that that verse intentionally distributes the words of the Shema between the Father and the Son:

The “God” of the Shema becomes
One God, the Father.”

The “LORD” of the Shema becomes
One Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, Trinitarians propose, Paul included Jesus into the unique divine identity of the Yahweh of the Old Testament. They do not claim that Paul presented Jesus as a second God, but that he redefined monotheism as Christological monotheism. In other words, the unique identity of Yahweh of the Shema CONSISTS OF BOTH the “one God” and the “one Lord.

The question, therefore, is, did Paul really redistribute the words of the Shema between the Father and Jesus in 1 Corinthians 8:6 to include Jesus into the Yahweh of the Old Testament? Did Paul purposefully apply the title “Lord” from the Shema to Jesus? For the following reasons, this is not the case:

(1) 1 Corinthians 8:6 identifies God as the Father only.

1 Corinthians 8:4 restates the Shema, saying, “there is no God but one.” Then verse 6 continues by using the titles “God” and “Lord” to differentiate between the Father and the Son, explicitly identifying only the Father as God:

For us there is but one God, the Father.”

By implication, Jesus is not God. This distinction between the Father as God and the Son as Lord is a consistent pattern in the New Testament. The article on Colossians, for example, shows that that letter:

    • Uses the title theos always for the Father;
      never for the Son and
    • Uses the title kurios (lord or master) always for the Son;
      never for the Father.

(2) Other “one God” statements do the same.

1 Corinthians 8:6 is one of a number of Paul’s “one God” statements. It would be fair to assume that, with these statements, he applied the Shema, with which he, as a Pharisee, was intimately familiar, within a Christian context. But in all of such “one God’ statements, the Father alone is God, for example:

There is one God,
and one mediator also between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus
” (1 Tim 2:5).

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God
and Father of all who is over all” (Eph 4:5-6);

(3) Paul consistently identified the Father alone as God.

If Paul thought that Jesus was God, that would have been important information and he would have written that frequently and clearly. However, Paul consistently identified the Father alone as God. For example, he opens every one of his letters with phrases that distinguish between God and Jesus and identify God as the Father, e.g.:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ
” (1 Cor 1:3).

Elsewhere, we find phrases such as “our God and Father” (Phil 4:19-20) and “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph 1:17; cf. 1 Tim 6). (For more detail, see Jesus is not God).

(4) Jesus is subordinate to the Father.

As discussed, 1 Corinthians 8:6 emphasizes the distinction between the Father and the Son by describing God (the Father) as the ultimate Source of all things (“from whom are all things”), while Jesus is the Means by which God works (“by whom are all things”). Jesus, therefore, is not only distinct from God; He is also functionally subordinate to the Father. This is also a consistent teaching of the New Testament. For example:

You belong to Christ;
and Christ belongs to God
” (1 Cor 3:23). OR

Christ is the head of every man,
and the man is the head of a woman,
and God is the head of Christ

(1 Cor 11:3; cf. 1 Cor 15:28).

A further indication, that Jesus is subordinate to the Father, is that the Father is also His God (Matt 27:46; John 20:17). Even many years after His resurrection and enthronement, both Revelation and Paul refer to the Father as His God:

He has made us to be …
priests to His God and Father

(Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 3:2, 12; Eph 1:17).

For a further discussion, see – Head of Christ.

(5) The Trinitarian interpretation contradicts the Shema.

In the Trinitarian interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul contradicted the Shema. The main point of the Shema is monotheism, namely that “YHWH, our God, YHWH is one.” In the New Testament, the Father and Jesus are two Persons with two separate wills. For example:

Jesus prayed to His Father. “He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12; cf. John 17:1).

In the night before He was crucified, He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The next day, hanging on the Cross, cried out “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me” (Mark 15:34).

(6) The Holy Spirit is not mentioned.

If 1 Corinthians 8:6 explains God, and if the Trinity includes the Holy Spirit, why does this verse not mention the Holy Spirit?

(8) The title “Lord” does not appear in the Shema.

The Shema theory proposes that the words from the Shema, describing YHVH, are redistributed between the Father and the Son, identifying the Son as the “one Lord.” However, the word “Lord” is not found in the Shema. The word in the Shema, which is translated as “the LORD,” is God’s name YHVH.

The counter-argument would be that YHVH is translated as Kurios (Lord) in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), and that the Septuagint was the translation of the Old Testament generally used when Paul wrote. However, HO KYRIOS (the lord) was never exactly synonymous with YHVH. It replaced YHVH when the Jews developed the practice of not mentioning the name of God. Paul was well-educated, and he would have known the difference.

The Dangers of the Trinity Doctrine

(1) The Trinity doctrine is polytheistic.

Since the Father and the Son are separate Persons with separate wills, to understand 1 Corinthians 8:6 as saying that YHVH is actually two Persons would be to contradict the Shema. While Christianity prides in worshipping one God (monotheism), the Trinity doctrine argues that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate Persons. This compromises monotheism and risks us to a polytheistic belief system. To say that there are three separate Gods with one substance or being is not what the monotheism of the Bible teaches.

(2) God is presented as severe and unforgiving.

The article on Colossians shows that the Father is the active force in redemption and that He redeems people through His Son. The doctrine of the Trinity has led to atonement theories according to which God is not loving or willing to forgive sin, but has to be persuaded by his Son to forgive. In contrast, such theories present Jesus Christ as kind and merciful and pleading on our behalf before God. To present God in this light is a most grievous sin, for to worship a cruel god, even if one uses the right names, is to worship a false god.

Furthermore, we are saved through faith. Faith is not simply to believe that God exists. Faith means to also trust God. It is not possible to trust a cruel, tyrannical, and arbitrary god. I would say that God’s purpose in giving us the revelations, as contained in the Bible, is to give us hope and to build humanity morally. The theory that God is severe and demanding distorts God’s word. 

(3) Jesus did not die.

We are saved by Christ’s death but the Trinity doctrine tesches that Jesus did not really die. In the Trinity theory, the Son was actually two persons with two natures; a divine and a human nature. While His human nature suffered on the cross and died, His divine nature did not and cannot suffer or die.

(4) The Trinity doctrine led to Mariology.

The adoration of Mary as the Mother of God is a natural consequence of the teaching that Christ is God, the Son.

Final Conclusions

1 Corinthians 8:6 is one of the verses in which Paul applies the Shema in the Christian context. In all such instances, the Father alone is God.

The Father as the Great Source of all things—the uncaused Cause. The Son is the Means through whom God created.

The word that kurios (often translated “Lord”) means “master.

 Paul did not redistribute the words of the Shema between the Father and Jesus to include Jesus into the Yahweh of the Old Testament,

The Dangers of the Trinity Doctrine include polytheism, presented God as severe and unforgiving, teaching that Christ did not really die and led to Mariology.

Available Articles – Christology

Summary Articles

Specific Bible Books

Specific Bible Passages

The origin of the Son

Christ is subordinate to God.

Christ is equal to God.

Jesus is called God.

      • Overview – Overview of the verses that refer to Jesus as theos.
      • Theos – The meaning of theos – the word translated “God.”
      • John 1:18 – The original text of this verse is in dispute.
      • John 20:28 – Did Thomas say that Jesus is God?
      • John’s gospel – Discussion of theos in this gospel.
      • Romans 9:5 – The translation depends on punctuation.
      • Hebrews 1:8 – The next verse says that God is His theos.

The translation of John 1:1

Other

If you are interested in Christology, I recommend Dale Tuggy’s podcasts, even though he understands Christ vastly different from me.

Other Articles Series

Daniel

Revelation

Other Key Articles

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

In the Trinity theory, God is three Persons in one Being, but Jesus is not God.

Purpose

In the Trinity theory, God is one Being but three co-equal and co-eternal Persons (three minds); the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In other words, all three are the Almighty uncaused Cause of all things – the Ultimate Reality. But this article shows that the New Testament does not present Jesus as God. Rather, the New Testament maintains a consistent distinction between God and Jesus.

Summary

“One God” phrases

The Bible is very clear that THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD.  A number of verses in the New Testament contain the phrases:

    • God is one” (Mark 12:28-30; James 2:19);
    • One God” (1 Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 4:4-6), which may be understood as “the one and only God” (John 5:44);
    • “Only God” (Jude 1:25; John 5:44; 1 Tim 1:17); or
    • “Only true God” (John 17:3).

And in all these verses, the Father alone is God. Such verses often identify Jesus Christ as “Lord.” For example:

There is but one God, the Father
and one Lord, Jesus Christ
” (1 Cor 8:6).

A Consistent Distinction

All letters of the New Testament begin by making a distinction between God and Jesus. For example:

Peace from GOD our Father,
and the LORD Jesus Christ

(Rom 1:7-8).

See also 1 Cor 1:3-4; Eph 1:2-3; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; Philem 1:3; 1 Thess 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:2 and 2 John 1:3; cf. Eph 6:23).

Therefore, if we want to derive our definition of the title “God” from the New Testament, then we must use that title for the Father only.

Jesus is the Image of the invisible God.

God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible. God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom NO MAN HAS SEEN or can see” (1 Tim 6:16-17; cf. 1 John 4:12; John 1:18; 6:46). Jesus “is the IMAGE of the invisible God” (Col 1:15; cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 1:3; John 1:18). If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God.

The Father is Jesus’ God.

Jesus referred to the Father as “My God” (John 20:17; Matt 27:46). He did this even 60 years after His resurrection when He gave the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:2, 12; cf. 1:6). Paul similarly described the Father as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17; cf. Heb 1:8-9). And since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God when He was on earth (John 17:1; Luke 6:16).

Jesus is at God’s right hand.

The New Testament often states that Jesus, at His ascension, “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of GOD” (Mark 16:19; cf. Acts 7:56; Matt 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom 8:34 and Eph 1:20). This is the position of power over the entire universe; subject only to God.

The Father is the One who exists without cause.

In a number of New Testament verses, God, the Father, is identified as the Ultimate uncaused Cause of all things, in distinction to Jesus. For example, “There is but one God, the Father, FROM WHOM ARE ALL THINGS … and one Lord, Jesus Christ, BY whom are all things” (1 Cor 8:6; cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19; 1 Tim 6:13; Heb 1:1; John 1:3). 

Many other examples

Many, many other passages may be listed to show that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God. For example:

Before He had to suffer and die on the Cross, Jesus pleaded with His Father: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt 26:39; cf. Matt 2:12, 22; Mark 10:18).

The book of Revelation refers “to God and to the Lamb” (Rev 14:4; cf. 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

The Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:16).

Possible Objections

Various articles are available on this website that address possible objections to the view proposed above. For example:

Of the about 1300 times that the word Greek theos appears in the New Testament, it refers to Jesus about 7 times. But theos may be translated as god or as God. To translate the instances of theos that refer to Jesus as “God” is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of. (For a further discussion, see, for example, the article on Hebrews 1:8 or on the word theos.) 

Jesus’ statement, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) means to be united in purpose and in work (see John 17:21-23).

Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9) because He “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15.

Both John 1:1 and 1:18 refers to Jesus as God but both verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus. The Greek grammar requires John 1:1c to be translated as, “the Word was like God” and the original text of verse 18 is disputed.

Who is Jesus?

Jesus always existed and God created “all things” through Him (Heb 1:2), but this describes the Son only in terms of our little universe, for time and “all things” refer to our universe. Beyond our universe exists a completely incomprehensible but the true reality that is the source of our universe.

Fourth Century Controversy

CONSTANTINE THE GREAT

The controversy about the nature of Christ arose early in the fourth century. An article series on this website shows that the Trinity doctrine became accepted in the church during the fourth to sixth centuries when the church was the state religion of the Roman Empire, with the Emperor as the de facto head of the church. That article series shows that the decisions to adopt the Trinity doctrine were not taken by independent Church Councils, but by the Roman Emperors; particularly Constantine, Theodosius, and Justinian.

This means that the church received the Trinity theory from the Roman Empire. As stated in Revelation 13:2, the dragon (the Roman Empire), gave the beast from the sea (the Church of the Middle Ages) “his power and his throne and great authority.

Subordinate to the Father

This article is the first of four that show that Christ is distinct from and subordinate to God, the Father. The other articles provide evidence that:

Identifying Mark

This website also opposes other traditional doctrines of the church, such as the doctrine of eternal torment, but the most vicious attacks on this website are aimed against its views about the Trinity. Many regard the Trinity doctrine as the identifying mark of true Christians. As soon as one rejects the Trinity doctrine, you are no longer regarded to be a Christian.

– END OF SUMMARY –


The Father is the Only God.

Only One God

In opposition to the prevailing polytheism of the surrounding nations, one of the primary messages of the Old Testament is that there is only one God. For example:

ShemaThe Shema announces:
Hear, O Israel!
The LORD is our God,
THE LORD IS ONE!

(Deut 6:4). 

The LORD” (Yahweh) declared:
I am the first and I am the last,
and there is NO GOD BESIDES ME

(Isaiah 44:6; cf. 45:21-22; 43:10-11).

The New Testament confirms this principle. For example, when asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus quoted the Shema:

Hear, o Israel!
THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD

(Mark 12:28-30).

James similarly wrote:
You believe that GOD IS ONE;
you do well
” (James 2:19).

The Father is the “one God.

A number of verses in the New Testament (NT) contain the phrase “one God” and in all such instances, the Father alone is God:

There is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER …
and ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST
” (1 Cor 8:6).

For there is ONE GOD
and
ONE MEDIATOR between God and mankind,
the man Christ Jesus
” (1 Tim 2:5).

There is … ONE LORD,
one faith, one baptism,
ONE GOD AND FATHER of all
who is over all and through all and in all
” (Eph 4:4-6). 

These verses, in contrast to the “one God,” identifies Jesus as “Lord.”

There are many texts in the Bible that mention the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but the quoted verses specifically define God, and must, therefore, be regarded as very important when we ask who God is.

The Father is the “only God.

The following are the New Testament verses that contain the phrase “only God” or “only true God.” These verses confirm that the Father is the only God, while Jesus is identified as Lord:

To the ONLY GOD our Savior, through Jesus Christ our LORD, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority” (Jude 1:25).

Jesus said, “you do not seek the glory that is from THE ONE AND ONLY GOD” (John 5:44).

In prayer, Jesus said to the Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the ONLY GOD, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim 1:17).

And in all these verses, the Father alone is God.

Note also the word “through” in Jude 1:25, quoted above. This word often describes the relationship between the Father and the Son.  Everything we receive from God, we receive through His Son. And all glory we give to God, we give Him through His Son.

Is it then not sufficiently clear, from the above, that the New Testament presents the Father alone as God?  If Jesus prayed to the “only true God” (John 17:3), how can Jesus also be God?

A Consistent Distinction

James White is perhaps the best-known Trinity apologist today. He emphasizes that the New Testament makes a distinction between the Father and the Son. However, that point is rather obvious. Our argument is rather that the New Testament consistently makes a distinction between God and the Lord Jesus, which means that Jesus is not God, as the New Testament uses the term “God.” 

The introduction to every New Testament letter makes a distinction between God and Jesus. For example:

“Peace from GOD our Father,
and the LORD Jesus Christ”
(Rom 1:7-8).

“Grace be unto you … from GOD our Father,
and from the LORD Jesus Christ”
(1 Cor 1:3-4).

“Blessed be the GOD and Father
of our LORD Jesus Christ
” (Eph 1:3).

See also Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 1 Thessalonica 1:1, James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:2 and 2 John 1:3; cf. Eph 6:23).

Therefore, if we want to derive our definition of the term “God” from the New Testament, then we must use that title for the Father alone.

(Do not place any reliance on the capital letters in the verses quoted. Remember, the New Testament was written only in capital letters.)

Jesus is the Image of the invisible God.

God is invisible.

God “dwells in unapproachable light,
whom no man has seen or can see

(1 Tim 6:16).

No one has seen God at any time
(1 John 4:12; cf. John 1:18).

Not that anyone has seen the Father,
except the One who is from God;
He has seen the Father
” (John 6:46; cf. Col 1:15; John 4:24).

The last verse quoted (John 6:46) identifies the Father as God and as distinct from Jesus. The Invisible God is the Source all things. He exists outside our physical realm of time, space and matter:

By faith we understand …
that what is seen
was not made out of things which are visible
” (Heb 11:3).

Jesus is His image.

Jesus “is the IMAGE of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).

“Christ, who is the IMAGE of God” (2 Cor 4:4)

He is the radiance of His glory and
the exact representation of His
(God’s) nature

(Heb 1:1, 3).

God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible. Human beings are unable to comprehend a Being that is not limited in space or time and Who exists without cause.

But in His Son, appearing in a form that we are able to understand, God becomes knowable, visible, and audible to the material creatures of the universe. For that reason, He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God and, therefore, not God.

The Father is Jesus’ God.

Jesus referred to the Father as “My God.For example:

I ascend to MY FATHER and to your Father,
to MY GOD and to your God
” (John 20:17). 

Hanging on the Cross, Jesus cried out:
MY GOD, MY GOD,
why have
You forsaken me?“ (Matt 27:46).

Jesus identified the Father as His God even 60 years after His resurrection when He gave the Book of Revelation. 

He has made us to be a kingdom,
priests to His God and Father
” (Rev 1:6).

I have not found your deeds completed
in the sight of MY GOD
(Rev 3:2)

“I will write on him the name of MY GOD” (Rev 3:12).

Paul similarly described the Father as Jesus’ God:

The Father of glory” is
the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17).

Since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God when He was on earth (John 17:1; Luke 6:16):

In the days of His flesh,
He offered up both prayers …
to the One able to save Him from death
” (Heb 5:7).

The entire John 17 is a record of Jesus’ prayer to “the only true God” (John 17:1, 3). “He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:16).

Jesus is at God’s right hand.

The New Testament often mentions that Jesus is at God’s right hand. For example:

At His ascension, Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the RIGHT HAND of GOD” (Mark 16:19).

Stephen, just before he was stoned, said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the RIGHT HAND of GOD” (Acts 7:56).

Other examples include Matthew 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Romans 8:34 and Ephesians 1:20.  

His position at God’s right hand is the position of power over the entire universe but subject to God. That confirms that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God.

Trinitarian apologists claim that the Bible only makes a distinction between the Father and the Son but these examples make a distinction between God and Jesus.

The one who exists without cause

The Bible identifies only the Father as the uncaused Cause of all things. For example:

There is but one God, the Father,
from whom are all things

and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
BY whom are all things
” (1 Cor 8:6). 

All things are from God,
who reconciled us to Himself through Christ

(2 Cor 5:18-19).

In the presence of God,
who gives life to all things,
and of Christ Jesus
” (1 Tim 6:13).

God … in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, …
through whom also He made the world

(Heb 1:1; cf. John 1:3; Rev 4:11).

The first verse quoted (1 Cor 8:6) identifies God as the Father. All of these verses contrast God with Jesus and identify God as the uncaused Cause of all things. The only begotten Son, therefore, is not the Almighty uncaused Cause of all things.

Note also the words “through” and “by” in these verses, indicating that God works “through” His Son. In this universe, God always works through His only begotten Son.

Many other examples

Many, many other passages may be quoted where God and Jesus are mentioned as distinct from one another. For example:

Before He had to suffer and die on the Cross, Jesus pleaded with His Father, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;
yet NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL.

(Matt 26:39 – Note that the Father and Jesus have distinct wills.)

The book of Revelation contains phrases such as “to God and to the Lamb” and “of God and of the lamb” (Rev 14:4; cf. 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3), which confirm that Jesus is distinct from God.

The Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:16). The immortality of all other beings is dependent on His immortality.

When Jesus was a baby, “God” warned his father Joseph “in a dream not to return to Herod” (Matt 2:12, 22).

Jesus asked the young ruler, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except GOD alone” (Mark 10:18).

Possible Objections

Various articles have been written to address possible objections to the view proposed above. Perhaps some may be mentioned:

Jesus is called God.

Of the about 1300 times that the word Greek theos appears in the New Testament, it refers about 7 times to Jesus. So why is Jesus called “God” in those instances? The reason is that the word theos may be translated as “god” or as “God,” depending on to whom it refers. It is up to the translators to decide when they will translate theos as “God” and when as “god.” To translate the instances of theos that refer to Jesus as “God” is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of. (For a further discussion, see, for example, the article on Hebrews 1:8 or on the word theos.) 

I and the Father are one.

In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Some people read into this verse that Jesus just is the Father. To be “one,” however, does not mean to be literally one Person. Jesus, in His prayer for His followers, defined the term to “be one”:

“That they may be one as we are one“ (John 17:21-23).

To “be one,” therefore, means to be united in purpose and in work. It describes a relationship between distinct beings. As Jesus said, He did the works of the Father (John 10:32) and He only did what pleased the Father (John 8:28-29).

He who has seen me

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father,” Jesus responded:

He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9)

Some use this to say argue Jesus is the Father, but given the verses quoted above, we should rather conclude that Jesus said here that He is THE EXACT IMAGE of the Father. For a further discussion, see Seen the Father. 

John 1

Both John 1:1 and 1:18 refers to Jesus as God. However, the same two verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus by saying:

The Word was with God” (John 1:1) and
No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). 

Why is He called God if He is not God?  The article series on John 1:1 concludes that the Greek grammar requires John 1:1c to be translated as:

The Word was like God.” 

John 1:1 then has the same meaning as Philippians 2:5, which says that Jesus, before His birth, “existed in the form of God” and had equality with God.

The article on John 1:18 shows that the original text is disputed. Many ancient manuscripts refer to Jesus as huios (son) and not as theos (god). But even if John originally did describe Jesus as theos, we must still remember that, in the Greek language, the word theos is used for any supernatural and immortal being. It is up to the translator to decide whether to translate theos as “God” or as “god.”

Jesus is God if …

Since the New Testament consistently makes a distinction between the Father as God (theos) and Jesus as Lord (kurios), and since we should derive our terminology from the Bible, we should conclude that the Father alone is God. 

However, since the word theos may be translated as “god” or as “God,” before we can ask whether Jesus is God, we must first define the word “God.”

God created all things through His Son (Heb 1:2) and Christ upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). It is possible to define the title “God” so as to include Jesus, but then we will have two Gods.

But if we define God as the Almighty; the Uncaused Cause of all things, then the Father alone is God. The Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and the only truly immortal Being (1 Tim 1:17; Rev 4:10); the invisible and unknowable Ultimate Cause of all things (Rev 4:11). He is our God and also Jesus’ God. The Lord Jesus is always subject to and subordinate to the only true God. To use Bible terminology, “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3).

Who is Jesus?

Given how the Bible describes Jesus, for example, that God created all things through Him (Heb 1:2) and that Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), we find it difficult to distinguish between God and Jesus. But consider the following:

This universe is finite.

It contains a fixed quantum of mass/energy and has existed for a fixed period (13 billion years). Since everything that begins to exist must have a cause, the universe was caused by something.

Beyond the universe

Since things exist, and not nothing, something must exist without a cause and, therefore, without a beginning. Since time and energy/mass came into being when the universe came into being, time does not exist in the completely incomprehensible but true reality which exists beyond our universe, and which is the source of our universe.

The Son of God

Therefore, even if we say that there never was a time that Jesus did not exist, that statement describes the Son only relative to our little universe. And even though God brought “all things” into being through His Son, “all things” must be limited to this universe, for “all things” do not include God or the Son Himself. In other words, there still exists an incomprehensible reality outside the time, space and mass in terms of which the unique Son of God is described. 

God

That incomprehensible reality, I would propose, is God. However, it is not humanly possible to understand God. Why is there not nothing? How can we understand a being that exists without cause? “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut 29:29).

We need to accept what the Bible revealed, such as that the Bible identifies the Father alone as the Almighty, and not speculate about things that have not been revealed.

Inherited from the Roman Empire

A series of articles on this website discusses the history of the development of the Trinity theory.

First Three Centuries

The series starts with articles that show that Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and other church fathers of the first three centuries were not Trinitarians. They had a very high view of Christ, and even described Jesus as theos but always as subordinate to the Father, who they identified as the only true and almighty theos.

Fourth Century

The controversy over the nature of Christ arose early in the fourth century when a presbyter named Arius taught that, with respect to the Son, “there was when He was not.” But since he also believed that the Son existed before time began, the phrase “there was when He was not” does not refer to time but simply means that the Father was the Ultimate Source of all things. In other words, the Son received His existence from the Father and, therefore, was subordinate to Him.

To bring an end to the controversy, Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea of the year 225 and exerted his influence on the formulation of the Nicene Creed. That creed declared the Son to be “true God from true God.” To justify this view, the Nicene Creed ventured that the Father and Son are of the “same substance” (homoousios). 

However, over the fifty years following Nicaea, more or less from 330 to 380, the church rejected the Nicene Creed and returned to Arianism. Constantine’s successors, Emperors Constantius and Valens were Arians and actively encouraged the church to reverse the Nicene Creed. They exiled bishops teaching the Nicene Creed and crushed the Nicene party.

But then Theodosius – an ardent supporter of the Nicene Creed – became emperor in 380. In the same year, he outlawed Arianism and exiled all Arian bishops. He did this before the famous 381 Council. Arian church leaders were not allowed to attend that council. Consequently, that council accepted and refined the Nicene Creed.

Fifth Century

After Theodosius died, the Western Roman Empire weakened. Germanic tribes, who previously migrated into the Empire, reached such large numbers and high positions in the Roman army that they, in reality, controlled the Western Roman Empire. Over the course of the fifth century, they divided the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. Since these Germanic peoples were Arians, the Western Empire was Arian once again!

In the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire), with Constantinople as its capital, Nicene Christianity remained dominant.

Sixth Century – Byzantine Papacy

To free the Roman Church in the west from Arian domination, Emperor Justinian, emperor of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in the sixth century, sent troops to combat the Arian nations and significantly weakened them. His troops dispersed the Vandals to the fringes of the empire, forced the Ostrogoths back north to South Austria, and barricaded the Visigoths with the new province of Spania.

Some Arian nations remained, but after liberating the Roman Church from Arian domination, the Byzantine Empire continued to protect, strengthen and reign over the Roman Church in the west. Through two centuries of Byzantine rule over the Papacy (known as the Byzantine Papacy), the Byzantine Empire, through the Roman Church, converted the remaining Arian kingdoms, one after the other, to Nicene Christology.

Conclusion

Given the facts reflected in this brief overview, it is not possible to deny the decisive influence which the emperors had on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine. As mentioned above, Constantine and Theodosius respectively manipulated the key creeds of 325 and 381, and Justinian, through the Byzantine Papacy, wiped Arianism out. 

This means that the church received the Trinity theory from the Roman Empire. As stated in Revelation 13:2, the dragon (the Roman Empire), gave the beast from the sea (the Church of the Middle Ages) “his power and his throne and great authority.

Other Articles

The conclusion, that the Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus, and therefore that Jesus is not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God,” came as a surprise to me personally.  To confirm my conclusion, I studied various books of the New Testament. These studies are available as articles.

One important article provides further evidence of the distinction between God and Jesus by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God

The Book of Revelation is particularly important for the current topic because it was received about 60 years after Jesus died. I sometimes hear people speaking of Jesus as God Almighty and a chill runs down my spine. Except one, all occurrences of the word “Almighty” in the NT are found in Revelation and that book makes a clear distinction between the Almighty God and Jesus. 

Philippians 2 is an important chapter for understanding who Jesus is, for it teaches that He existed in the form of God but emptied Himself of equality with God.

1 Corinthians 8:6 is another key verse. On the one hand, it contradicts the Trinitarian view by explicitly identifying the Father as God and Jesus as Lord. On the other hand, contrary to Socinianism, it confirms the message of John 1:3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:3, namely that God created all things through Jesus Christ.

Articles in this series

Summaries

Specific Bible Books

Specific Bible Passages

Origin of the Son

Subordinate to the Father

Equal With God

Jesus is called God.

Other articles series