Jesus, the Shema, and the Glorious Trinity

I have a piece over at Tabletalk about the prayer of Jesus in John 17, often called the High Priestly Prayer due to its clearly intercessory gist. Here, in prayer form, Jesus expounds on the passage from Deuteronomy 6 that would have been well-known and rehearsed by faithful observers of the biblical faith in his day.

The call of Deuteronomy 6:4–5, often referred to as the Shema (the first Hebrew word in v. 4, which means “Hear!”), is one of the most important texts of the old covenant mediated by Moses between God and the nation of Israel. It reads: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The text was of great significance during the New Testament period, a significance that seems understood between Jesus and His interlocutors (Matt. 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–28). Students of the Bible who read the New Testament with an ear for the Shema will find references to it elsewhere among the new covenant writings. For instance, the Apostle Paul develops the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6 when he teaches that not only is God one, but this arrangement should be understood in a Trinitarian sense: “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Paul is obviously not affirming two deities here. Rather, he is using the two divine names of the Old Testament, “God” and “Lord,” to help us understand the Father and the Son as two persons but nevertheless one God.

Elsewhere, Paul includes the Holy Spirit in his formulation of the Shema. In Ephesians 4:4–6, the Spirit figures prominently in the oneness of God: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul is clear that the Shema was not made obsolete by the Christian gospel, but rather that Christians are called to observe it in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ and the filling of the Spirit, both of whom are one with the Father in heaven.


In the gospel of John, we find what is perhaps the most expansive theological reading and exposition of the Shema in the New Testament Scriptures. In the finale of His High Priestly Prayer (John 17:20–26), Jesus takes up the language of the Shema in order to describe first His identity with the Father, then His identity with His people, and finally the identity of His people with one another. In this passage, He prays that the oneness of the triune God would be expressed in the oneness of the people with the result of love.

Read the rest here.

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