The illustrious James McGrath has raised the question of how we are to take the allusion to the shema in 1 Cor 8.
Here’s the verse in question:
There is one God the Father.
All things come from him, and we belong to him.
And there is one Lord Jesus Christ.
All things exist through him, and we live through him.
The issue, then, is what are to make of its apparent use and transformation of the language of traditional Jewish piety in its affirmation of YHWH as the one God:
Hear O Israel! The Lord is God, the Lord alone.
Does the reference in 1 Cor to Jesus as “the Lord,” in a sense, write him into the shema’, such that he participates in the divine identity? In other words, is this an early Jewish way of indicating that Jesus is God?
The view that this so identifies Jesus with God that Jesus becomes identified with the works of the God of Israel has a couple of things to commend it. First, there is the calling of Jesus “Lord,” which was how Jewish people were rendering YHWH from the OT, how YHWH would have been rendered in the shema’ itself.
So the pairing of the Father and the Lord with this shema’ language might point in that direction.
Second, Jesus seems to be associated with creation: all things exist through him.
There is one major point against this theory, however, and in my estimation it is decisive: Paul says that there is one God–the Father.
For all the “identification” of Jesus with God, for all the acting in God’s name and exercising God’s dominion over the cosmos through his resurrection Lordship that Paul affirms, he consistently refers to the Father as God. It seems to be irresponsible exegesis to say that Paul was saying in a Jewish way what the later creeds would affirm.
The Father is God. He alone.
Jesus is the Lord over all things.
How, then, are we to take this “Lord, through whom are all things”?
First, there is no problem at all with a Jewish person referring to someone, a King, as Lord alongside YHWH who is the Lord. In fact, as Ephesians can say that there is one Father in heaven from whom all families on earth derive their name, a Jewish person would probably say that there is one kurios in heaven–which is precisely why this Lord’s people can have a king whom we call The Lord.
The Lordship of the Messiah is derivative of the Lordship of Israel’s God.
What, then, are we to make of all things existing through him?
This comports well with what Paul says elsewhere about the advent of new creation with the death and resurrection of Jesus as Messiah.
“One died for all, therefore all died… so then, if anyone is in Christ–New Creation! The old things have passed away, behold! the new things have come!”
To say that all things are through him, that he sustains all things, that all rulers and powers are for him and under him–all of this is new creation language. It is a new creation that comes about through the death and resurrection of Jesus, as he is enthroned as Lord at God’s right hand.
We exist through him–he died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who died and rose again for them.
If the shema’ is altered in 1 Cor 8, it happens through the Christ event per se rather than as a description or realization of Jesus’ pre-existent ontological identity.