The Biblical Definition of “God.” Mark 12:28-34
“28) One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 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.’ 31) The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32) The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33) and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34) When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” Mark‬ ‭12‬:‭28‬-‭34‬ ‭
This interchange between Jesus and this Scribe is very interesting. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This is known as “the Shema.” It is the cornerstone statement of monotheism that separated the God of Israel from the polytheism or many gods of the pagans.
Yet the Hebrew word play in Deuteronomy 6:4 is interesting. It is an affirmation of the existence of the plural/singular God. Theologically, it encompasses verses like Genesis 1:6 where the text says, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.” It also embraces Genesis 3:22 when after the fall, “the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.”
This mystery of a plural/singular God is equivalent to the Christian concept of the Trinity, which recognizes “One God eternally existing in the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” This is the mystery of monotheism that acknowledges the plurality of the godhead as taught throughout the whole Bible.
It should be acknowledged that Orthodox Jews who accept the Shema do not embrace the concept of the Trinity. The word play statement of Deuteronomy 6:4 is the extent of the mystery of God that they embrace. This defines the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of Creation and is totally different from the monotheism gods of the pagans.
Ironically, the Shema also embraces the mystery of Isaiah 9:6; “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” This Old Testament prophecy opens the door for Jesus to be “the Only Begotten God.”
A literal translation of John 1:18 says, ““No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (NASB translation) This begins to shed light on the controversy with the Jews over Jesus claiming to be “the Son of God.” His claim ultimately led to His condemnation for Blasphemy.
Yet, there is no room for the concept of a Messiah without embracing the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 as the basis for the mystery of the Trinity. That’s why Jesus responded to this Scribe that he was not far from the kingdom of God. He was close to embracing the gospel as expressed in John 3:16-18.
Those who understand this mystery of God understand, value and love other people as created in the image of God. They see intrinsic value and dignity in humanity not shared with the animal kingdom. They value human life. They love their neighbor as themselves.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
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