The Shema: The Creed of Jesus

by Sean Finnegan on April 13, 2008
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    Definition of a creed:
  1. 1. a brief authoritative formula or religious belief
  2. 2. a set of fundamental beliefs, also : a guiding principle
  3. Apostles' Creed
    I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.

    I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the grave.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy universal church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.
    Nicene Creed
    We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
    he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under
    Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.

    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
    Why creeds? What is their purpose?

    The Shema in Scripture

    What is the Shema? Deut 6.4-9
      Other related Scriptures that speak of God's absolute oneness
    • Ex 3.13-16
    • Ex 19.16-20; 20.1-6, 18-21
    • Dt 4.31-39
    • Is 37.16-20; 43.10-13; 44.24; 45.5-7, 12, 18; 46.9
    • Zechariah 14.9

    The Shema in Jewish Tradition

    -Full Shema includes Deut 6.4-9; Deut 11.13-21; Num 15.37-41
    Deuteronomy 6:4-9
    4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
    Deuteronomy 11:13-21
    13 "It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. 15 "He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. 16 "Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. 17 "Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you. 18 "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 "You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when yu sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.
    Numbers 15:37-41
    37 The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 "Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 "It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 "I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God."
    -Said twice daily: when one rises and when one reclines...i.e. morning and night

    -Children are taught the shema as soon as they are able to learn it

    -The reciting of the first verse of the "Shema'" is called the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of God" (Ber. ii. 5).

    -Further, as written in a Torah scroll, the letters "Ayin" and "Daled" of the first verse are enlarged -- encoded to spell out the Hebrew word Aid -- "witness." When we say the Shema, we are testifying to the Oneness of God.



    The Shema and Jewish martyrs

    "It is the last word of the dying in his confession of faith. It was on the lips of those who suffered and were tortured for the sake of the Law. R. Akiba patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron combs, and died reciting the "Shema'." He pronounced the last word of the sentence, "Eḥad" (one) with his last breath (Ber. 61b). During every persecution and massacre, from the time of the Inquisition to the slaughter of Kishinef, "Shema' Yisrael" have been the last words on the lips of the dying."

    The great second century Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Akiva (second century) loved God so much, that he taught Torah despite the Roman law forbidding it. When the Romans found out, they sentenced him to a painful death. They took a large iron comb and began to scrape off his flesh. When Rufus--"Tyrannus Rufus," as he is called in Jewish sources--who was the pliant tool of Hadrian's vengeance, condemned the venerable Akiba to the hand of the executioner, it was just the time to recite the Shema. Full of devotion, Akiva recited his prayers calmly, though suffering agonies; and when Rufus asked him whether he was a sorcerer, since he felt no pain, Akiva replied, "I am no sorcerer; but I rejoice at the opportunity now given to me to love my God 'with all my life,' seeing that I have hitherto been able to love Him only 'with all my means' and 'with all my might,'" and with the word "One!" he expired (Yer. Ber. ix. 14b, and somewhat modified in Bab. 61b).

    Seth Mandel, spoke at the massive pro-Israel rally in Washington DC in April 2002. He told the following story:
    In the Sbarro Pizza bombing which killed 15 people in Jerusalem, five members of a Dutch family were killed. One was a 4-year-old boy named Avraham Yitzhak. As he was lying on the ground -- bleeding, burning and dying -- he said to his father, "Abba, please help me. Save me." His father reached over and held his hand. Together they said the words of the Shema.

    Jesus and the Shema

    The background to Mark 12.28-34
    Jesus had just overturned the tables in the Temple the day before
    The chief priests and scribes were actively seeking a way to destroy him
    When Jesus arrived at the Temple the chief priests, scribes, and elders questioned him
    By what authority do you do these things?
    Jesus told the parable of the wicked tenants
    A man planted a vineyard and rented it out
    At harvest he sent a slave to receive some of the produce
    They beat him up and sent him back empty handed
    He sent another
    They wounded him and treated him shamefully
    He sent another
    That one they killed
    So he sent many others
    They beat some and killed others
    Last of all he sent his beloved son thinking they will respect him
    They said, "this is the heir, come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be hours! They killed him and threw him out of the vineyard
    What will the owner of the vineyard do?
    He will come and destroy the vine--growers and give it to others
    Mark 12.12 And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.
    Pharisees and Herodians came to trap him in a statement "should we pay taxes to Ceasar?"
    Mark 12.17 And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him.
    Some Sadducees came and asked him a question about resurrection
    When a man dies, the law teaches that his brother should marry the widow
    There were 7 brothers and the oldest died so the next one married his wife but then he died and so on until all 7 had married her
    In the resurrection whose wife will she be?
    Jesus answers: " when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."

    Mark 12.28-34
    - Some Observations
    -- 1. The Jewish scribe did not believe that either Jesus or the holy spirit was God
    -- 2. The scribe plainly understands the Shema to mean, "He [Yahweh] is one, and there is no one else besides him"
    -- 3. Jesus agrees with the scribe on this understanding by saying to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
    - Conclusion
    -- If the Jewish scribe did not believe in the Trinity and Jesus agreed with the scribe on his definition of God then Jesus was a biblical unitarian--he believed that Yahweh alone is God.

    Jesus taught that there was one and only one God (John 5.43-44)
    - John 5.43-44 43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
    44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
    Jesus' God is our God--the Father (John 20.17)
    - John 20.16-17 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.'"
    Jesus denied that he was God (Mark 10.17-18)
    - Mark 10.17-18 17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
    More Statements by Jesus about God
    - "Truly, truly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself" (Jn 5.19)
    - "I can do nothing on My own initiative" (Jn 5.30)
    - "I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me." (Jn 8.28)
    - "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak...the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (Jn 12.49-50)
    - "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." (Jn 14.10)
    - "The Father is greater than I" (Jn 14.28)
    Jesus taught that the Father is the only true God (John 17.3)
    - John 17.1-3 1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you, 2 even as you gave him authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given him, he may give eternal life. 3 "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

    The rest of the New Testament on God's Oneness

    - The only God is eternal, immortal, and invisible (1 Tim. 1.17)
    - There is one God and one mediator (1 Tim. 2.5)
    - God is the only Sovereign who alone possesses immortality whom no man has seen or can see (1 Tim. 6.15-16)
    - for us there is but one God, the Father (1 Cor. 8.6)
    - God is one (Galatians 3.20)
    - There is one God and Father of all (Eph. 4.6)
    - Even the demons know that God is one (James 2.19)

    The Challenge

    Why not adopt the creed of Jesus, the central creed of Israel, the Shema as your creed? Knowing who God is and loving him are the foundation of everything.
    Romans 3:29-30
    29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
    Deuteronomy 6.4-5
    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."
    Jude 1:24-25
    24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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