Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Trinity in the Shema?


I am about to begin a conversion process. My boyfriend is Jewish and I wish to convert before we marry. I have believed for many years that this is the way for me and will be the way in which I bring up my children.

I have a born-again Christian friend coming to visit me next weekend. She has been very involved in Messianic Judaism (even though she is a gentile) and I know she is going to have a big talk with me. I want to be able to answer her intelligently. I know exactly the one she is going to throw at me and I would like some help with the answer. She is going to talk about the time in the bible (can't remember where it is) when they bought back a sample of the fruits of the promised land. Apparently it says that they bought "echad" grapes. The word "echad," although it refers to ONE, is talking about a BUNCH of grapes. Therefore, when we talk about "Adonai Echad," we can be talking about three gods in one.

None of this rings true for me, but I want to be well thought out on all of this. Would you please help ASAP. (She is arriving next weekend!)


I am very pleased that you have asked this question because I am certain that some of our Jewish readers will be quite taken aback by your dilemma. How can I be so sure that they will be stunned by simply reading your question? Try to imagine the astonished reaction of a Jew (who has his monotheism intact) as he discovers from your question that missionaries use his cherished national creed, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one" (Hebrew: echad), to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. To the surprise of many, Trinitarians will often use this celebrated verse to support their belief in a triune nature of God. Let's examine this missionary argument more closely.

To support their claim that there are multiple persons within the godhead, missionaries insist that the Hebrew word echad (one) at the end of Deuteronomy 6:4 does not mean an absolute one, but rather it can only signify a compound unity, or many things in one. They will often cite two verses to support this assertion.

The first is the one you have mentioned, Numbers 13:23 reads,"Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one (echad) cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs."

The second is Genesis 1:5, which reads,". . . and there was evening and there was morning, one (echad) day."

From these verses, they contend, it is clear that the Hebrew word echad can only mean a fusion of a number of things into one.

Although this "proof" is as flawed as the doctrine it seeks to support, for those who lack an elementary knowledge of the Hebrew language, this argument can be rather puzzling.The word echad in the Hebrew language functions in precisely the same manner as the word "one" does in the English language. In the English language it can be said, "these four chairs and the table constitute one dinette set," or alternatively, "There is one penny in my hand." Using these two examples, it is easy to see how the English word "one" can mean either many things in one, as in the case of the dinette set, or one alone, as in the case of the penny.

Although the Hebrew word echad functions in the exact same manner, evangelical Christians will never offer biblical examples where the word echad means "one alone." Thus, by only presenting scriptural verses such as Genesis 1:5 and Numbers 23:13, it creates the illusion to the novice that the word echad is somehow synonymous with a compound unity. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

For example, Deuteronomy 17:6 reads,"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one (echad) witness he shall not be put to death."or Ecclesiastes 4:8 reads,"There is one (echad) alone, without a companion; yes he has neither son . . . ."In the above two verses the exact same Hebrew word is used, and clearly the word echad is referring to one alone, not a compound unity.The question that immediately comes to mind is: If the Hebrew word echad can signify either a compound unity or one alone, how can one tell which definition is operative when studying a verse?

The answer is: In the exact same way the word "one" is understood in the English language, that is, from the context. "Four chairs and a table make up one dinette set" is a compound unity, and "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one" is unsullied monotheism. I thank you for your question, and may the Merciful One guide you in your conversion process.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Singer

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