N.T. Wright regularly points out how Paul inserts Jesus into the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6. “There is but one God, the Father,” he begins, and as a Jew there he would have ended. Instead, he adds, “and one Lord, Jesus Christ.” Hear, O Israel, the God is one, and the Lord is one, and this one God and Lord is the Father and Jesus.

The verse also offers a neat bit of Trinitarian metaphysics. The Father is the origin of all things, the Creator (“from [ ek ] whom are all things”). Jesus too has a relation to all things, a relation of origination. But the relation of Jesus to the creation is not strictly origin ( ek ) but agency (“by [ dia ] whom are all things”). This not only describes God’s complex, double relation to creation (origin and agent) but also describes the Father’s relation to Jesus. Jesus is the Father’s agent in the formation of all things.

If the Father is the origin of all, and Jesus the agent of that origination, then that applies to humans as much as to anything. Humans are ek the Father dia Jesus. But when Paul talks about the Father’s and Jesus’ relation to “us,” he uses other terminology. Those who originate from the Father are also destined for the Father (“we [ eis ] for Him”); from the Father unto the Father. The Father is Alpha and Omega.

So is Jesus, but differently. Those who originate from the Father through Jesus are also destined to each the Father through Jesus (“we through [ dia ] Him”). Given the parallel structure of the verse, this second dia -relationship should be understood not only as “Jesus is the agent of my original and continuing existence,” but also as “Jesus is the agent of my destiny, the one through whom I exist “for the Father.”

All human history is encompassed within the chiasm of the Father-Son relation: The Father originates all things through Jesus, and through Jesus we are toward the Father as our final end.

And, in a Jensonian twist, Paul places this in the context of a polytheistic world (“there are many gods and many lords”). We identify the unbaptized God as the one who created through Jesus, and who through Jesus the Christ brings humanity to its destined end.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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