Lately I've read some discussions that says the word "echad" ("one" in English) in the Shema refers to a unity more than an absolute singularity. (Here's one example of those explanations) and would then compare it to husbands and wifes becoming one flesh, among other things. Some even would use the terms "absolute unity" in comparison to "compound unity" These are done, based on my understanding, to support the Trinity via the Old Testament.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. [Deuteronomy 6: 4 and 5 KJV]

However, in light of what we know of Divine Simplicity, this doesn't quite make much sense to me, and would seem contradicting: God is not a union of separate individuals (like the husband or wife is, or a nation, etc), nor can He be said to be "compound" because He is not composed of parts.

With these in mind, I wonder how the concepts of Divine Simplicity and Echad as "compound unity" relate to each other - can they be reconciled at all? Or should Deut 6:4 be even used to support the Trinity in the first place? What do I miss?

  • 1
    Union in humanity can be union of mind and spirit. In the especial case of marriage the scriptures teach union of flesh also. The union of Deity is a matter of Spirit. Jesus said 'I and my Father are one' and also said 'God is Spirit'. Thus the union is union of Spirit, within one Deity, that is to say union of Persons within one unique divine nature. I am not convinced that 'simplicity' is relevant but up-voted +1 as a question worth considering. I have edited to include the quotation you refer to.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 18:20

1 Answer 1


In Hebrew, the way they express to concept "one" is to say "אחד" (pronounced "echad") which, at its root means unity.

The root word of "אחד" is "חד". The "ח" means wall, or separate, and the "ד" means door. If you put a door in a wall, then you've united what was separate.

The "א" is an ox head and means strong. This may signify true unity. Everything in nature that is one is a unity of separate parts. One apple has a core, skin, seeds, and stem. Even an atom has parts. I don't think the word is meant to emphasize one thing having multiple parts, but rather emphasize the concept of it being one whole thing. In Genesis 1, the first day has an evening and a morning, and it is considered "אחד" (one) day.

Hebrew, being an ancient language, has fewer, more general words, as opposed to English, for example, which had a vast array of highly specialized words. We might want to fit a Hebrew word into a very specialized English meaning, but to do so would be losing the essence of the Hebrew word. So to say that "אחד" emphasizes unity as opposed to one-ness would be over-specializing it. "One" is quite a good general translation. It's nice to know why and how it means that, but it's also important to know that they had to start somewhere.

Hebrew is a pictographic and concrete language. Every word breaks down into letters which are pictures of things, which have basic concepts. To communicate the concept "one", they chose the metaphor of putting a door in a wall, making 2 rooms into 1 space. It's an easy metaphor.

Deuteronomy 6:4 doesn't support the idea of a trinity any more that Genesis 1:5 supports the idea of a day being triune. The first day is one. Yahweh, which means "He who causes to exist", is one.

Interestingly, the term "G-o-d" is from the Hebrew word "אלהים" (pronounced Elohim) which means Powers. It is a singular plural, which means it is one being who has multiple powers, and the word is used as a proper noun. This differentiates Yahweh from the concept of there being many supernatural being which all have different powers.

The concept of a trinity doesn't seem to have arisen from Hebrew scripture. There is the famous case of a trinitarian text having been inserted into the NT in the KJV, which has since been corrected. The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew (by George Howard, Mercer University Press, 1995) shows 9 Hebrew manuscripts, none of which mention "baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" at the end of Matthew.

John 1:1 is popularly mistranslated by most, to this day, as saying that "the Word was G-o-d", but it actually says "the Word was a G-o-d". The significance is that the Word later becomes flesh. This would imply that the messiah is Yahweh in the flesh. And such a concept seems to come from polytheism.

Greek culture, a culture of polytheism, adopted Christianity, and instead of conforming to the concept of pure mono-theism, they put a trinitarian spin on it. The trinity doctrine has been a holy war ever since 325 A.D., when Emporer Constantine invoked the First Council of Nicea. Constantine was the first emperor who identified as a Christian. His faith came from his mother's side, and his power came from his father's side. It seems he fused, or syncretized, Christianity with Greek concepts such as polytheism.

In certain manuscripts of Matthew, Christ, when asked, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?", responds "Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, Elohim the Father. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

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