Here is a guest post by Sir Anthony Buzzard. In it, he discuses what many would consider an obvious point, though some ignore or deny it: that the theology of Bible-era Judaism is monotheistic in a way that implies that the one God just is a certain mighty self. In Mark 12, Jesus simply affirms that theology.
It is standard information in all the big Dictionaries and Encyclopedias that Judaism, based on its Scriptures, believed God to be a single Person, a single undifferentiated Self. That is what I and many others call unitary monotheism. or unipersonal monothesism. Often referred to as strict monotheism, although I see this last phrase could be ambiguous.
The Bible is turned into chaos if one superimposes philosophical language on to its simple realism. God is said to be a single Self (He calls Himself a nephesh) thousands and thousands of times. This is the massive, pervasive and obvious evidence to be dealt with.
The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and Scripture convinced Judaism always to believe in unitary monotheism. Thus at Oxford, the Regius Professor lecturing on the Trinity said “Judaism was always unitarian.”
The major point to be taken in is that Jesus affirmed that unitary monotheism of Judaism. (Mark 12:28-34) The Jew who agreed with Jesus showed that Jesus was entirely Jewish in his description of who God is. One single self. The Jew echoed back Jesus words by saying “there is no other except HIM,” It takes no special learning to know that Him is one WHO! One Self. Some would urge that the Shema makes no proposition one way or the other about how many Persons God is! This is not true at all. What good is a creed if it is so unclear? It really impugns the integrity of Holy Scripture (and Jesus said that “salvation is from the Jews”) if we are unable to give a clear meaning to the Shema.
I need only quote three sources which are echoed by many: Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (Judaism):
Abraham, Moses and Elijah were all equally zealous monotheists and in none of their successors was there any retrogression from the highest and purest form of unitarian belief.
Leonard Hodgson D. D., Regius Professor at Oxford: :
The monotheism of the Jews was then, as it is still, unitarian. (Christian Faith and Practice, 1952, p. 74.)
The Jewish Encyclopedia:
Judaism has always been rigorously unitarian (“Deism,” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.)
Judaism [is] Unitarian (Dogmatics, Vol. 1. p. 205).
Jesus agreed with the Jews in Mark 12:29, and as Dr. Dennis Nineham says in his commentary on Mark, this passage is meant to demonstrate that Jesus was thoroughly orthodox in his description of God.
These non-complicated facts should settle our discussion, since we are all agreed that our Christian task is to follow the teaching of Jesus.
Some trinitarians suggest that in John 10:30 Jesus introduced something new. In this case Jesus was less than honest in his reply to the friendly Jew! But who today in commentary advances John 10:30 as any sort of Trinitarian proof? So the argument is defeated. Jesus did not change his mind on the definition of “God.” Nor did Paul when he affirms the same Shema in I Corinthians 8:4-6.
What Jesus did so brilliantly, anticipating no doubt controversy about his own status in relation to the One GOD, YHVH, was to teach them about Psalm 110:1.
The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
That Psalm, vv 1-4, is alluded to or cited 33 times in the NT and was decisive and should be decisive for us too. In Psalm YHVH is still one single SELF (as 7,000 times in the OT). YHVH directs an oracle to some other SELF. This of course defeats Modalism, and Modalism shows how terribly mired in controversy our subject can become!
Surely one does not need a PHD to tell us that a Father cannot be his own Son! Jesus never imagined such a thing, and the trinitarian must agree.
What Jesus shows in Psalm 110:1 is that the exalted Jesus is not a second YHVH or a second Person “in YHVH.” Rather he is the supremely exalted MAN Messiah, my lord, tragically misrendered in many versions (not all) as my Lord!
Paul said it all very easily in 1 Timothy 2:5:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus
One God and one Man Messiah. Two selves. One of them is GOD.
The issues we are discussing are simply huge, since billions of human beings deserve to hear who God and Jesus really are. At present the very complex philosophical Trinity smothers good information. And few seem to know that the church fathers, the orchestrators of the Trinity, admitted that they were deliberately eliminating the “Jewish error”! That “Jewish error” was in fact that teaching of Jesus. How much does the public know of what really went on?