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Shema! – The Creed of Jesus

J. Dan Gill

Christians today often recite creeds which were devised by post-biblical Gentile Christians centuries after Christ. They do that, while at the same time having never learned the Shema, the biblical creed which God himself gave to Moses. It is that creed which Jesus affirms. When he is approached by a Jewish man who asks him which is the most important of all of the commandments, Jesus responds that it is:

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. — Jesus (Mark 12:29)

Christians today seldom reflect on those amazing words which were spoken by the founder of our faith. That is unacceptable. It is tragic that a great many Christians are unaware that Jesus even spoke those words, words which he himself pronounced to be of paramount importance. Has not our attention been drawn away from the essential teaching of Jesus about God and diverted to creeds developed centuries after the Bible?[1]

Why has the creed of Jesus been so tragically neglected by post-biblical Christians? Isn’t it because his creed does not teach the later dogma that God is multiple persons? Isn’t it because his creed does not assert that he himself is also God in addition to his Father? Furthermore, isn’t the creed of Jesus neglected — perhaps avoided — because it declares that only one individual is God, thus completely disallowing that two or three persons are the one God? When will we as Christians stand up boldly for Jesus and his teaching about God? When will we join with the man who asked the question, “which is most important of all?” and respond as he did to the words of Jesus? —

Well said, teacher! You have truly said that he is one and there is no other but him (Mark 12:32).

When will we as Christians come to love and celebrate Jesus’ creed and affirm that only one individual is God? When will our children learn the words of Jesus about God? When will our clergy finally abandon a stubborn affirmation of post-biblical ideas that they themselves admit have never made sense? When will a clergyman run to Jesus, and against all others, unceasingly speak his words about God? Again, it is Jesus who said that his Father is “the only true God” ( John 17:1–3).

And notice again, as was the case in Deuteronomy 6, that the pronouns in Mark 12 allow for no other possibility than that the one who alone is God is a “him,” not a “them.” Jesus’ declaration in v. 29 (“the Lord is one”) has a singular verb of being. Even a first year student of New Testament Greek can affirm that more literally the phrase is, “the Lord ‘he is’ one.”[2]  In that light, the man speaking with Jesus goes on to say:

And to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

And how does Jesus respond to the man’s affirmation?

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

Jesus recognized that the man had “answered wisely.” On the other hand, what would Jesus say to us today who come ignoring the words he spoke, while at the same time we sternly affirm and defend the words of Gentile Christian orthodoxy that multiple persons are the one God? Might not Jesus say to us that we are not speaking wisely, but foolishly? Will we incur the wrath of Jesus by loving and clinging to the creeds of the Gentile church fathers, while minimizing or disregarding his own words? Can we not at least honor and respect him in this matter as much as the good man did in Mark’s account above? Might not that man who inquired about “which commandment is most important” and then rightly affirmed to Jesus that there is no other God but YHWH stand against us in the day of judgment?

Church creeds and statements of faith which propose multiple persons as one God simply must give way to the creed of Jesus: only one individual is God — the Father. Likewise, our various post-biblical statements of faith must give way to YHWH’s own words: “I am God, and there is no one like me” (Isa. 46:9). Why not let go of our post-biblical Gentile Christian traditions about a multiple person God? Why not revise our statements of faith? Let us boldly rewrite them so that they rest upon and quote the actual words of Jesus in Mark 12:29 and John 17:3. Let our statements of faith quote the words of YHWH himself in Isaiah 46:9.

As a Christian, deciding about this matter is not difficult for me. It is the creed of God given by Jesus which is to be relied on unconditionally. Words found in the Bible itself are of necessity always preferable to those of later theologians and church councils. In the case of those later decisions and writings, inspiration may be doubted. Utmost confidence should be placed in the Bible, and Christians should all agree that in Scripture true inspiration is certain. We must put an end to interpreting the Bible through the lens of later theologians and councils. Rather, we must reverse that approach and test later doctrinal developments by the Bible itself. When we do, those later innovations all collapse.

Continue reading – next in series

Gill, J. Dan (2016).  The Creed of Jesus. In, The One: In Defense of God (pp. 252-255). Nashville, TN: 21st Century Reformation Publishing.

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[1] Among the creeds, the Nicene (325 CE), Nicene-Constantinopolitan (381 CE) and Chalcedonian (451 CE) are particularly problematic. They represent the fruits of endless confusion and terrible infighting among post-biblical Gentile Christians as they sought to establish the non-scriptural notion of a multi-person God. In that, they struggled to make Jesus a “God-person.” They also determined to see God’s own spirit as a separate individual — another God-person in addition to the Father. On the other hand, the Apostles’ Creed which is likely based on some early rules of faith is truer to the Scriptures. That creed knows nothing about any one being God other than the Father. It rightly affirms Jesus to be the “Christ,” “God’s son” and “Lord” but does not propose him to be God, God the son or a God-man. Likewise, the spirit of God is mentioned in the creed but not as a God-person. While the Apostles’ Creed is truer to the Scriptures than the others, it is nonetheless widely agreed to have not been authored by the apostles of Jesus and dates later in its present form.

[2] Properly parsed, the verb esti is 3rd person singular, present, indicative.

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