One Means One, Or Does It?
I received some excerpts of a paper by Eliyahoo Silver and Isaac Even Zahav in which they intend to explain why Jews categorically don’t accept the New Testament or Christianity. Unfortunately, I have been unable to acquire the complete 20-page document and only have small excerpts.
Apparently, the authors are no longer circulating their polemical piece, if “they” ever were: I have reasons to doubt their existence as actual people. However, the arguments put forth in their paper are fairly common issues that surface in Jewish Christian dialogues.
I have been asked to respond to their points, and the following is my offering to that end.
According to Silver and Zahav, "The Jewish God is one, as it is written: ‘Hear Israel, Y-H-W-H is our God, Y-H-W-H is one’ (Deut. 6:4). So according to the Bible there is one God, and that one God is one. One means one; not two, not three, not three in one, not two in one, not three divisions of one, but ONE WHOLE ONE ALONE...”
Deuteronomy 6:4 is a great starting point for this discussion because it is so familiar to Jewish people. In fact, it would be hard to underestimate its familiarity. Among Jews, it is commonly offered as the definitive statement on the oneness of God and is known as the “Shema.” Almost every Jewish doorpost is decorated with a small box containing this verse and frequently one can even see cars decorated with bumper stickers displaying the “Shema.” It’s everywhere. Don't be fooled, though, the fact that this verse is so well known, shouldn’t suggest that everyone understands what it actually says. This is the case regarding Silver and Zahav: Their rendering of Deuteronomy 6:4 is accurate, but misleading because it leaves the reader with the wrong impression. (Their additional commentary is simply wrong.)
The reason I suggest their translation is accurate, yet misleading is because in Hebrew there exist two different words that are translated as the English word "one." The word "yahid" means an absolute or single one. For example: a steel ball, a rock, or a son. The word "echad" means a composite one. For example: an egg (three parts: shell, white, yolk), an automobile (thousands of parts make one unit), or a cluster of grapes.
The following biblical examples of “yahid” and "echad" help clarify the distinction: Gen 22:2 – “Take now your son, your only (yahid) son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah. . . “Judges 11:34 – “Now she was his one and only (yahid) child; besides her he had no son or daughter.”Ps 22:20 – “Deliver my soul from the sword, my only (yahid) life from the power of the dog.”Ps 25:16 – “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely [alone] (yahid) and afflicted.” Genesis 1:5 - "...there was evening and and there was morning, one (echad) day."Genesis 2:24 - "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one (echad) flesh." Ezra 2:64 and Nehemiah 7:66 -"... forty two thousand three hundred and threescore stood as one (echad)."
I will render Deuteronomy 6:4 so you can see what Moses actually wrote: "Hear Israel, Y-H-W-H is our God, Y-H-W-H is ECHAD.”
If God wanted to communicate that "one means one; not two, not three, not three in one, not two in one, not three divisions of one, but ONE WHOLE ONE ALONE..." then it seems that He would have used the word "yahid" and NOT "echad".
God chose "echad" because He wanted to communicate that His oneness includes the unity of His composite. We learn from a survey of the Jewish Bible [Old Testament] that God presents Himself in three persons: God you can not see face to face and live, God you can see face to face and live, and the Spirit of God. Christians refer to this as the Trinity.
To be continued…