Is the word one in Deuteronomy 6:4 a “compound unity,” proving the trinity instead of oneness?
While some suggest this, it is usually an uncritical restatement of people without a fundamental knowledge of Hebrew. To put it simply, one does in fact mean “one.” I’ll prove this by simply showing how the Hebrew word for one, “echad,” is used. Some falsely claim the word one is overwhelmingly used of a compound unity like “one cluster of grapes” or “one flesh” but that’s simply not the case. Here is a sampling from a good list on how it’s overwhelmingly used: one place (Gen. 1:9), one man (Gen. 42:13), one law (Exod. 12:49), one side (Exod. 25:12), one ewe lamb (Lev. 14:10), one of his brethren (Lev. 25:48), one rod (Num. 17:3), one soul (Num. 31:28), one of those cities (Deut. 4:42), one way (Deut. 28:7), one ephah (1 Sam. 1:24), one went out into the field (1 Kings 4:39). This list demonstrates what the clear use of echad is, showing it simply means “one.” We would expect this which goes along with the 3,000+ direct and indirect references to God’s absolute numerical oneness in the OT alone.
The facts are the word echad occurs 970 times in the Bible and it is the number “one.” It is a numeral adjective, the ordinary word for “one” like the English number “one.” Hebrew Lexicons offer no support at all for any complication of the simple word one. It can mean one cluster, one flesh but never three clusters or three flesh. Further, Deut. 6:4 says God is “one LORD” which is the name of God in the OT. “One Tim” cannot ever be made into “three Tims.” This passage is not discussing one substance, but one personal name describing the one God. That is why Jewish people don’t accept this argument and even many Trinitarians are backing off from this claim due to the obvious way Hebrew functions. For instance, the Theological Wordbook of the OT discussing one/echad while suggesting “diversity within unity” admits this can only be in the plural form achadim. The problem is this plural adjective is never used for God! Further, even Abraham is called “one” (echad) and “the one father.” No one argues he was a trinity or plurality of persons.
It is fascinatingly painful to watch the extreme linguistic acrobatics some have attempted to get around the clear way the Hebrew word echad is understood. This type of stretch when one looks at the way echad is used in the OT clearly shows trying to make “one” equal “three” (an arbitrary stopping point, why not 3 million?) to convince themselves and others borders on desperation.
From Issue 24-11