Fragmentation and Wholeness in the Mosaic Eschatology

Scott Redd
Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington D.C.

Fragmentation is a problem in today’s culture, isn’t it? It’s not just in the large intellectual property reboots that we see going on the big screen, reboots that create new universes that may not continue or even corroborate the narrative of the told in the previous universe (e.g. what does Sony’s Spiderman have to do with the MCU? What does Rogue Onie have to do with A New Hope? These are life’s pressing questions). More seriously, however, we see fragmentation troubling us at every level of society. This can happen in new and innovative ways.

Here are a few more significant examples. If you’ve paid attention to the conversation about gender and sexuality these days, you know about this idea that who I am on the inside is not who I am on the outside. that reality has created some kind of irreconcilable conflict or “dysphoria” – the inner person and the outer person being two different people. It’s a common trope in our daily conversation and sort of incipient Gnosticism at that. Fragmentation can show up in other ways, in typical technological innovations. We talk about our virtual lives, maybe our social media handles, and then we compare that to how we are IRL, “In Real Life.” I heard someone refer to it as the “meat world.” How I am in the meat world is very different from how I am in social media. And you start creating a bifurcation of the self between your virtual presence and your physical, carnal body.

It can happen to all of us, particularly those of us in ministry. How can I keep myself sane and protect my family when I go home to my wife and five daughters, the youngest ones still running to the door to greet me, after counseling someone who is undergoing deep personal stress? How do I receive them after just having had that conversation? There’s got to be some kind of blocking mechanism. I’ve got to compartmentalize. It’s a technical solution to a basic problem of finitude. And yet we shouldn’t forget when we fall into those habits, even if something like compartmentalization or multitasking, we set ourselves on a trajectory that we need to be mindful of. It’s easy to become fragmented.

We know where fragmentation came from. It’s no mystery. We can go back to the garden and we can see what happened right after that first moment of fragmentation, where the man and the woman living in perfect harmony with the kingly-creator turned away to create a little fiefdom of their own. It is at that point that we actually learn something very important about fragmentation in the human: fragmentation regularly and necessarily results in concealment and deceit. Following your first parents, where do you go? You hide, you obfuscate when you are questioned, you blame others. We are going to see these questions come up over and over and over again in Scripture. It’s the problem of fragmentation.

My address is about Mosaic eschatology, and I want to establish that Moses is the first to really articulate the theme of wholeness as such. He’s the first one to give a clear explication of wholeness. And yet as soon as he does, we see the doctrine reified and reiterated over the course of redemptive history. What I’d like to is lay out a few bullet points on how the doctrine develops in redemptive history. We will start with Moses’ first articulation of this in Deuteronomy 6. We’ll trace it up primarily through the prophet Jeremiah, because the prophets give us a good trajectory on how to go with this. Prophets are in many ways the connective tissue between the Old and the New.

Then we’re going to end up with the gospels, in particular the gospel of John, that we will make a few stops in the Synoptics. I am taking as a model what I would call just an apostolic hermeneutic, the notion that the Old Testament speaks naturally and organically to the New, and that the New Testament gives us eyes, particularly eyes of the risen Christ through which we can read the Old.

This approach has been most recently articulated in popular form by Richard Hays in his book Reading Backwards, and he has expounded on it at length elsewhere. It’s been received as somewhat of a new idea or a new approach to hermeneutics, and yet I would argue it’s actually been with us for quite a long time.

Hays writes, “I want to suggest to you that we will learn to read the Scripture rightly only if our minds and imaginations are opened by seeing the Scriptural text and therefore the world through the Evangelists’ eyes.”[1] He’s speaking primarily of the Gospels in this case. In other words, we learn to read the Old Testament by reading backwards from the Gospels in the New Testament as a whole, and at the same time we learn how to read the Gospels by reading forwards from the Old Testament. So we’re going to start chronologically with Moses and work our way up to John 17, and then we’re going to stop, pivot, and walk our way back to Moses again at the end.

Deuteronomy 6

Let us go ahead and begin with Deuteronomy 6. One thing I want to lay out early on is that this emphasis on wholeness is connected very closely to the human love of the divine. Worship is the way in which we are made whole. It’s one of the primary ways in which we are unified as humans in the worship of the Lord, and that is through the love of the living God who has redeemed us. But that love begins in the inner person. It extends outward to the whole of the person and then even beyond the person, as we might say. I realize the term “person” has problematic implications if understood in a technical philosophical sense. I am, however, using it in a in a casual way, in a common register, and not in the philosophical sense. I could say “self,” I might say “individual,” but it moves beyond the whole of the individual to that individual’s effect in the world around them. As a matter of fact, I’m going to argue if my interpretation of the shema in Deuteronomy 6 is correct, then it is actually Deuteronomy 6 that Jesus is citing when he says where a person’s treasure is there their heart is also.  The logic of the shema undergirds to that kind of saying. As a result, the human life is never described as an ancillary or secondary arena in which the love of God ought to find expression, but rather as an arena that is inextricably connected to the love that one has for God in the heart. To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, when it comes to worshiping the Lord, there is not one square inch of the human life over which the Lord God of the shema does not declare “mine!”

The astute reader of the Scriptures will note that this passage in question, Deuteronomy 6, falls within the beginning of a section dealing with covenant stipulations as a whole. Stephen Kaufman, the Jewish scholar, is correct when he argues that what we have in the Ten Commandments is really a table of contents for the rest of the book of the law will continue all the way up roughly to about Deuteronomy 26, and that understanding of the book’s outline would locate the shema under the section dealing with the first commandment.[2] In other words, this passage is articulating how it is that we are to worship this one and whole God who exists alone. The shema begins, “Hear, Israel.” (Deut 6:4) Listen, Israel. The word shema is really just the imperative of the word verb. Then what follows: “The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. That’s probably the most common translation, grammatically, reading it with two verbal clauses. The structure does allow for other translations, like, “The Lord our God is Lord alone.”  All of the possible translations are still really articulating two key ideas. The first one is this: Yahweh, and I’m going to use that word, not because that’s I’m committing myself to that vocalization of the name, but because we have to recognize we are dealing with what in the Hebrew Bible is treated as a proper noun, that Yahweh is our God. But not only that, he is of singular nature.

Notice we’re articulating two things about him. One is this kind of genitive relationship that he is our God, and secondarily, that He is one or He is singular. So we have to ask the question, how is it that the Yahweh is our God? The genitive relationship can be described in a variety of ways, it could be instrumental. It can be possessive. It could be one of make up or containment or something like that. How is the Lord our God? Well, can’t be that we own him. It can’t be that he we possess Him. As a matter of fact, this is a common accusation against the idolaters. The prophet highlights this in Isaiah 44:9-22. t48. He keeps coming back to this picture of the idol maker. There he is in his work shed and he’s sculpting or carving away at the idol. And he makes it. He forms it. And then he puts it up on his mantelpiece and he says, you are my maker and bows down before him. That’s an Ancient Near Eastern joke. Nevertheless, how can he say to the thing he just made you’re my maker? You own these things, these are your possessions, you can throw them on the ground. You can’t do that with Yahweh. We don’t possess Him. But how is He our God? Of course, we know from reading the rest of scripture, particularly starting with the with the book of Exodus. Yahweh is our God in the sense that we have a special relationship with him. He is our covenant God. He is bound himself to us. So when we say the Lord is our God, we’re saying not that we own Him, we’re saying not that we possess Him, or that we have some kind of claim to make on His life against His will. We are saying rather that He has bound Himself to us in covenant. By the way, this immediately precedes the section where Moses says that the Lord did not choose Israel because she was great (Deut 7:7). It’s not like Israel earned this relationship. The Lord chose you because you were the least. The Lord chose her because you were the smallest of the nations. Nothing esteemed Israel to God. But guess what, Moses is saying, “He’s still our God. He’s our covenant lord.”

Moses makes another theological statement. He is our God and He is Lord alone. This is typically used as a prooftext arguing for monotheism. The passage does give proof to that, but is not just doing that. This is not merely a monotheistic versus a polytheistic point to be made. Monotheism is an innovation, and I mean that in a good way. It is one of the redemptive-historical developments of the Scriptures, like the Creator-creature distinction. You don’t find it anywhere else in the ancient world. Even if you argue that there’s only Adonai, there’s only the Lord, you still have another issue that we don’t explicitly think about so much anymore today. It is the question of whether Yahweh always the same? In other words, if I go to Peor and worship Yahweh there, and He says no to my request for a son, then I can go to the Yahweh cultic center in the next town over and ask for a son there. That is the kind of thing that you find nonbiblical literature about. A person goes to temple and asks for a son and Baal said no. So what does he do? That Baal said no. Now he has to go down to Hebron because there’s a Baal there, too. You have Baal of Peor and you have Baal of Hebron; you have Baal of Ekron and you have Baal of wherever else. You can go to the different Baals and you might find a different response because the deities have different jurisdictions.

This, of course, is tied to this pagan belief, one that is deeply polytheistic, that deities represent natural and national interests.  The story of Abraham is, in many ways, a story about him slowly becoming disabused of the idea that God operates in this manner. Abraham is called out of Ur by this deity, he arrives in the Land, and he finds that God rules there. And so when he goes down to Egypt, he is naturally worried about the Egyptian pharaoh, which leads him to say, Sarai is not my wife. She is my sister (kind of a half-truth because she’s a half-sister, Genesis 12). What is he thinking there? He seems to believe God can’t protect me here in Egypt. His protection, His powers are situated back in Canaan. But now that he is in Egypt he learns this astonishing truth, that the Lord is Lord in Egypt, too. And guess what? When you’re in Philistia and you’re with Abimelech, the Lord is God in that region as well (Genesis 20). This is the lesson taught over and over again throughout the scriptures. Our God does not have jurisdictional limitations. He’s one God. Yahweh in Ur is the same as the Yahweh in Canaan and the same as Yahweh in Egypt, Gerar, Goshen, and Babylon. He reigns at the bottom of the sea, the prophet Jonah would pipe up and say.

Notice the logic of the shema. The Lord is our God. He is ours. He is our covenantal God. We are bound to him and He is one. Therefore, we should respond accordingly; we should respond in like kind. “Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your strength.”

Notice, again, there are two aspects of the command that correspond to the two divine attributes described above. There is what you are supposed to do and there’s the nature in which you’re supposed to do it. You’re supposed to love. That corresponds to our covenantal relationship with the Father. We’re supposed to love. But we’re supposed to love him as He is. Because He is one, we are to be one and singular, or we might say that we ought to be whole in our love for Him. We’re called to love the Lord, our God, responding to the covenantal relationship that we have with Him. That love should find expression across the whole of the worshiper, in the heart and the soul, and with all strength.

We have these three parts of the human life, heart, soul, strength, that are used as place holders to describe the extent to which we are to love God. The first part, the lev The lev, which is commonly translated the heart: “Love the Lord, your God with all of your heart.” This raises the question, what is the heart?  Apart from several biblical accounts that deal with actual physical death (1 Sam 25:37; 2 Kings 9:24), the Hebrew word lev, which is translated “heart,” does not typically refer to the actual human organ, but rather to the inner space of a thing (“heart of the sea” Exod 15:8; “heart of heaven” Deut 4:11) or the inner space of a person.[3] When used to describe the inner parts of the human life, “heart” often refers to the general cognitive and volitional capacities of the person (in the Hebrew lexicon there was not a clear distinction between heart and mind as in the later Hellenistic sense or much later Western rationalistic sense). Emotions, desires, and human will all emit from the heart of a person.

When Hannah’s prayer is heard, her heart rejoices (1 Sam 2:1) When a person fears, his heart “goes out” (Gen 42:28) or “falls” (1 Sam 17:32). Of course, this ties in with our modern use of the word heart; we think of it as the seat of the emotions today. What was interesting, actually, in the Old Testament, as you keep reading, you realize that heart is also used to refer to cognitive functions and intellectual psychological endeavors. It holds cognitive functions as well, storing up the wisdom that guides the sage (1 Kings 3:12; 2 Chron 9:23; Prov 16:23), and is the source of plans and consent, as in “setting one’s heart on something” (of the Lord, Deut 10:15; Job 7:17; 34:14; of humans, 1 Chron 22:19; 2 Chron 2:14; 19:3; Ezra 7:10).

Finally, the heart provides the moral compass from which a person acts in the world either for good, Job 11:13, or for evil, Jeremiah 17:9. Your heart can be bent against God. Again, we ought not to look to it for a fine distinction between the emotional and rational faculties of the human. In the Old Testament, typically speaking, whether you’re talking about the mind or the emotions, whether you’re talking about reason or the emotions, this term heart is used. It is really and truly the inner part of the person. Such distinctions do occur in the New Testament, however, as might be the case in Jesus’ use of the Shema in his own teaching (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). In each of these cases, the word “mind” (dianoia) is added to passage, possibly as an exposition of the word “heart” according to Hellenistic norms. Furthermore, the conjoining of thoughts and desires in the one category of the heart can be found in Hebrew 4:12, where the “thoughts/intentions of the heart” are listed as one of three parts of a person, the other two being “soul/spirit,” “joints/marrow.”  The heart is the seat of the inner person, the core of their inner life out of which the rest of their existence springs.

Now we move on from this inner person, this thing that’s at the core of us, we might even say the person who we are on the inside. It is the inner person who where I take counsel. And yet it’s not my outer person. It’s not the words necessarily that I’m saying. It’s not the things that I’m doing. It’s not the clothes that I’m wearing. But the Lord calls also those things to be directed towards his love as well. Notice what happens when we move to the next word. We’re supposed to love God with all of our heart and we’re supposed to love him with all of our nefesh. The word nefesh (translated “self” in my translation, but commonly translated “soul” KJV, ESV, NIV, JPS and more fittingly as “body” by Robert Alter) speaks to the person, the self, perhaps the whole of the living person as a person. Like “heart,” this term can refer merely to the inner parts of a person, as in the feelings, conscience or appetite, a meaning derived from its basic sense of “throat” or “breath,” but it is here disambiguated from the heart, which has led to the use of “soul” that is common in modern English translations of Deut 6:4-5.  The term can also be used to refer to the whole of a person, the personality or the self, and is found in reflexive constructions with the meaning “to do something to oneself” (Num 30:5; 1 Sam 18:3; Isa 53:10).  Thus, the “self” can refer to the whole of the person as they are, including the body. If the heart refers to the inner person, the soul refers to the whole of the person including the outer body. The word “soul” is not a bad translation as long as we don’t think that it merely means something spiritual. It can be used synonymously the word ruach or “spirit,” but it is also used for the human in ways that can’t be taken as merely spiritual. As a matter of fact, I would say this use of the word “soul” that we find in the King James and still continue to find in later translations is probably closer to the way we use the word is used when we talk about a ship sinking or a plane going down and we say there are 140 souls on board. We’re not saying just they were spiritual beings. We are not just talking about their spiritual selves; we are talking at the whole of the person. Interestingly, in his recent translation of the Hebrew Bible Robert Alter translates nefesh as “body.” I think that’s getting pretty close to how it’s being used here. I’ll come back to that in a minute. Then we come to the last word: m‘od . Love the Lord, your God with all of your lev, nefesh, and with all of your m‘od . Now, m‘od is a difficult word, but that is not because it is  uncommon. It is actually used regularly in the Hebrew Bible. The problem is it isis always used as an adverb. And that adverb means something like “very.” So our literal translation of Deut 6:5 could be something like: love the Lord, your God with all of your heart and all of yourself and all of your “very.” There’s one other place in the Bible where it’s used as a noun in this way, and that is when Josiah is described as following the shema faithfully (2 Kings 23:25), so that passage doesn’t help us very much. Interestingly, comparative Semitics does not help us either. We can’t go to Ugaritic or Akkadian to find some use of the word that sheds a light on what’s happening here.

So what we really have to do is go to the ancient versions of the Bible. We have to go look at the Old Greek, the Aramaic Targumim, the Syriac translations, so that we can see how this word was understood by ancient translators and the communities that received the text? When we turn to the old Greek, for instance, we find the word which you’ll know even if you don’t know Greek, the word dunamis, the word from which we get the English words “dynamite” and “dynamic.” The Greek word dunamis can mean “power” or “might,” but it is not limited to a kind of physical might. It can point to an abstract might or abstract power. Mark and Luke, interestingly use a word with similar meaning ischus(Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27), which has a broad semantic overlap with dunamis.   Both words have the sense of power in abstraction, though they can also be used to talk about power that has effect in the physical world, as in cases like Exod 12:41 where “power” (dunamis) is used to refer to the divine army, or in Num 2:4-28, where the same word is used to refer to the Israelite encampments. Likewise, in the case of Gen 49:3, “might” (ischus) is used to refer to a firstborn child; in Lev 26:20, the same is used to refer to efforts to farming the land; and in Deut 8:17, it refers to one’s might in multiplying property. We will see that this last point is important.

Early Aramaic commentaries on this passage, known as the targumim, translate Deut 6:5 in a way that corroborates this idea of “strength” referring to the effect of the person in the world around them. The earliest of these, Targum Onqelos, renders the strength explicitly as “property,”[4] while Targum Neofiti renders it with the well-known (but not necessarily pejorative!) Aramaic word mammon meaning “money.” Finally, the Syriac translation reflects similar precision in interpretation with the term qanin meaning “possessions.”[5]So there’s a strong case to be made from the comparative translations that this last word m‘od should be translated, something like your power or your property. In one of the Aramaic translations the word that’s used to refer in particular to movable property. We do not make distinctions these days often about movable versus immovable property (this distinction is, however, something like “liquidity”), but it is a big deal if you’re a nomadic community. This is the property that you can take with you. There is a connection between these meanings. Our power is often found in the things that we have control over. There are English words with similar meaning, like the words “estate” or “capital”. . The word m‘od refers not just to what you own materially, but it is your influence and your effect in the world.

We might also use the word “property,” but in the sense of your intellectual property, creative property, relational property, or maybe psychological or political capital . This is your ability to affect and have control in the world. If this is true, then what Moses is saying is that we are to love the Lord, our God with all of our self. But that doesn’t just mean you individually, it means your inner self. In other words, you can’t hide away your secret thoughts and act like your inner self is not under the control of the Lord or under the jurisdiction of the Lord. This includes your body. You can’t say, “Well, my body is passing away. It doesn’t matter what I do with it.” You can imagine a few Bible verses that address that kind of mindset (1 Cor 6:19). God also cares about what you do with your capital, with your estate, with your effect in your world. That is, in an important sense, a part of you. And the Lord also requires that your capital to be devoted to the love of him. In other words, the Israelites entering into covenant with the Lord are not meant to dwell on the heart, self, and strength as discrete, independent parts but rather on the whole, the entirety of human existence. The heart—self—effect/strength dynamic describes can be expressed as concentric spheres emanating out from the inner person to the world around them.

In the immediately following passage, Moses unpacks these words for us. What does he say right away? “And therefore, these words shall be on your heart” (Deut 6:6-9). You’re supposed to bind them to your body. This was understood as a metaphor, that when you bind the law to your hand, it means that the law should affect everything you do , and when you bind it to your frontlets, it’s talking about how the law affects the way you see the world. You are looking through the word of God as you look at the world. But you’re also supposed to talk about it with your children. Talk about it when you’re out on the way, when youare on the road, not just when you are in your household. This is not merely a private faith. You are called to mark it on your door posts and on your gate posts. Everything that you have should be devoted to the love of the Lord.


Moses sets this trajectory and it is a trajectory that becomes one of the hallmarks, one of the diagnostic tools for the rest of the Old Testament, not just the Deuteronomistic histories, , so named because they’re so influenced by the theology of Deuteronomy, but throughout the prophets. I would draw your attention to Jeremiah. Jeremiah, of course, is deeply influenced by this idea of the shema and of Deuteronomy, the book of the law. We know that he was operating as a prophet when the book of the law is found again.

Jeremiah is now the book of the law and told to interpret it and apply it in the  Josianic reforms. As a result, we should not be surprised that Jeremiah is very interested in the content of the book of Deuteronomy or that he cites it throughout his own prophetic corpus. The shema presents us with one of the constituent ideas behind Jeremiah’s message. When he accuses Israel of turning back to the idols that Josiah had cleared away, he says, “You loved me, but not with your whole heart” (Jer 3:8-10), which is a reference to the immediate reversal of the Josianic reforms during the reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoiachim following the his death of Josiah. Deuteronomic language of the heart is evoked elsewhere in the oracles of Jeremiah.  The hearts of the Judahite community are described as “uncircumcised” (4:4; cf. Deut 10:16). Their hearts are “unwashed” (4:10-14); their hearts are “stubborn and rebellious” (5:23-24).

The prophet gives his temple sermon in Jeremiah 7, what does he say? He calls the popular slogan, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,” deceptive because it covers over a false inner belief Their mouths say it, but their hearts do not believe it, and their actions, their estate, and their effect in the world does not reflect it. And therefore, those words are deceitful for you because they mean your judgment, not your blessing. But, he says, if you amend your ways and return to me, what with your whole heart again, another metonym for the whole shema. This is Mosaic, Deuteronomic language. If you returned to me with your whole heart, I will let you stay in this place. For Jeremiah, the restoration from exile is going to be marked by wholeness.

In perhaps one of the most well-known passages of Jeremiah, and a favorite of Bible verse embroiderers everywhere, is the Jer 29:13, where the Lord sets the conditions of the restoration from exile: “If you seek me, you will find me if you seek me with your whole heart.”  Again, this whole-hearted love pursuit seems to set the condition for the “finding of the Lord” in exile (and this closely echoes Deut 30:2; in which the restoration is similarly conditioned upon a remnant’s obedience to the Shema).

So, for Jeremiah, the exile is a result of Judah’s poor observance of the Shema and the restoration from exile will be is marked by the righteous remnant’s return to whole hearted love required by the Shema (Jer 24:7). In Leviticus 26and Deut- 30:1-2, the notion that restoration will come to an end when the people return to the Lord in repentance. Jeremiah articulates repentance as both a turning away from sin, and as a seeking the Lord with your whole heart.

As a matter of fact, this whole-hearted repentance is what we’re still waiting for as the Old Testament comes to a close. If we imagine redemptive history as a a play and the intermission is about to begin, we might see Nehemiah on his knees in a darkened room, maybe a spotlight on him alone, praying. And these are the last historical words of the Old Testament, Nehemiah praying “Lord, don’t forget about us.” The restoration project in 536 B.C was not a success, and so the people must await the true coming of the kingdom. . The curtain closes. The intermission begins.

New Testament

And as the curtain opens on the New Testament, depending on which gospel you’re reading, you come upon characters like John the Baptist performing a baptism of repentance to usher in the new eschatological day of the Lord. We should focus in on one aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Jesus is the true Israel. He’s the one who loves the Lord who’s God with all of his heart, self, and worldly effect, and now Israel is forgiven and brought into restoration by being united in him.

Matthew begins this retelling of Jesus’ life as Israelite history when Jesus comes out of Egypt following the Herodian persecution. Matthew connects Jesus to Israel by referring to him as God’s son in fulfillment of Hos 11:1 (Matt 2:15). If we go back to Hosea 11:1, we have to ask, about whom is the prophet talking? He is talking about Israel being restored from exile as if it is a new exodus[6] Matthew is citing this passage to indicate that this new exodus is taking place, with Jesus standing in for Israel. We should note that Jesus shortly after goes into the waters just Israel did (the Apostle Paul speaks of the Red Sea as baptism, 1 Cor 10:1-2). As he emerges, God marks him as “my son” (Matt 3:17).?  In its Matthean context, the language of “son” is covenantal language, again drawing attention to Jesus as True Israel, which is made clearer as continues Israel’s journey by stealing away to the wilderness for a period of forty days, where he succeeds in the trials that Israel failed in her own wilderness wandering.  As a result, he returns to the Land, entering from the east, just like Israel as she enters in Conquest. In Christ’s conquest found in Matthew, however, he arrives first in the northern kingdom bringing the light of restoration to those who went to darkness first (Isaiah 9:2). As True Israel retakes the Land, he announces, “the kingdom is at hand” (). Finally, we have the Israelite who has run the race. Finally, we have the Israelite who love the Lord, his God with all of his heart, with all of his self and with all of his worldly effects.

And as he is about to be betrayed, Jesus lifts up a prayer on behalf of those who are in him, who are united in him. So we turn to John, 17, the high priestly prayer. And there we find Jesus turn his interest to his people. He begins by praying for the disciples, by lifting up the disciples and praying for the suffering that awaits them as they will go out now and be proclaimers of the of the of the gospel. And then he turns his interest to another group. He says I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe because of their testimony. He has progressed from the apostles to the Christian church. He’s talking about us.

As he lifts up that prayer, he is actually expositing the shema of Deuteronomy 6.[7] Notice what he prays, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21). Notice that articulation of God’s oneness now being updated to account for the revelation of the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Richard Bauckham is one of the only New Testament commentators who I found who recognizes that this is a citation of the shema.[8] Jesus is clarifying his relationship to the Father in light of a common Old Testament creed. God is not now two, and yet, he is restating the ancient creed to account for the reality of the second person of the Trinity.

But notice what Jesus does there. He does something that Moses couldn’t do. Moses could merely assert that the Lord is our God and that the Lord is one. And only by imperatives could he require us Israel love the Lord God with the whole heart, soul, and strength. The prophet Jeremiah receives this command but points us to a new arrangement (Jer 31:31-34) one in which the law will be placed on your heart, that the Lord will put the law in your heart. What Moses commanded us to do, Jesus is now accomplishing the means by which it can take place. Notice what he’s doing, the second person of the Trinity and the first person of the Trinity are here in conversation. The Son asks the “Father make them one, let them be partakers of our communion. Let them be one as we are one.” What Moses could command, Jesus accomplishes.

The rationale for such unity is love, or rather so that the world might see that you have loved me and love them (John 17:26). Just as in Deuteronomy 6, the oneness of the Lord requires   oneness of the people. Now we find also that that is to bring about a form of love and response not only of humans to the Lord, but the divine love of the Father for his people. In this Deuteronomic logic, this Mosaic eschatological theme of wholeness is fulfilled in Christ. It is accomplished in Christ’s intercession for us here, but also in him going to the cross and taking upon himself our sins that we might be, as it were, receiving our judgment in him and we might receive his blessing, his reward, by our union with him.

Moses establishes this eschatological trajectory, this notion of wholeness that we are called to. In the manner of the law/gospel distinction, what we are called to it in the Law, is accomplished in Christ and applied to us.  grounds upon which it can take place until Christ comes and accomplishes his work on the cross. So let me posit this then. If it’s true the Son asked of the Father, “let them be partakers, let them be one as you and I are one.” Will the father forsake the Son? Will he reject the requests that he’s made?

The wholeness that we are called to in Moses, that Israel regularly failed in throughout redemptive history, that Christ has accomplished for us so that we might be counted as part of the true vine, as part of Israel. That wholeness that we’ve been called to is now ours in Christ, and yet we are also called in our sanctification now to repent unto our wholeness. Our repentance must have a direction. Repentance is not just a turning away from sin, it’s not just a self-loathing. It cannot just be a sort of recognition of how terrible things are. It isa repentance towards something. It’s towards the wholeness that we have in Christ. Now, of course, that journey is measured in lifetimes, not in days or weeks. There will be moments when you see wholeness accomplished in your life overnight. In some struggle, trial, doubt, you find wholeness. You may experience it. You may hear stories of people in their conversions see lifelong besetting sins conquered in the course of a few hours. You’ll see other people who are long-suffering, faithful saints who will die never having found relief from a temptation that dogged them their whole lives. See, wholeness is a journey that we are all on. But it’s a positive direction that we yearn towards. While it is also something that has been given to us by our union with Christ.

In John 17, Jesus does not explicitly mention the role of the Spirit. It does come later, not only in Christ’s teaching about the Spirit, but in the fact that he has to ascend to the Father because he has to send the Advocate. It is the Spirit that gives us our wholeness that unifies us. The unifying power of the Spirit that is, as Paul calls it, the Spirit of Christ. And we are unified in him, not merely sharing the same spiritual DNA as we do with one another because we are sharing the same spirit, but because we share the same Lord. We’re united in our allegiance to the Lord that makes us whole. Not only as individuals, but as a group.

One last point: this passage flips our understanding of typical Old Testament–New   Testament relationships. Typically it is the Old Testament that teaches from a the corporate perspective and the New Testament that has more of an individualistic teaching. But in this case, it’s the Old Testament that has the individualistic teaching. Deuteronomy speaks to the individual: write it on your hands, put on your hands and frontlets, talk about with your children. The wholeness of the shema is very individualistic. Yet Christ takes the call to wholeness in his reiteration of it in his prayer, and he applies it corporately that we as a group would be one joined together in the Spirit of Christ, which is a Spirit of wholeness.

We ought not make too much of the corporate/individual distinction, because of the fluid nature between the two throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the Psalter. The corporate concern of Jesus is significant in the way pervades the whole of his prayer in John 17. Here he speaks of all of his church as one, perhaps as his bride, the beautiful whole that is offered to him as his inheritance. We should be encouraged to know that our Savior on the night he was betrayed thought of all of us and prayed for our wholehearted love.

[1] Richard B. Hays. Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), p. 4.

[2] S.A. Kaufman, “The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law.” Maarav 1/2 (1978-79): 105-108. J. Walton is also helpful in the structure of the book (“An Exposition of the Spirit of the Law,” Grace Theological Journal 8.2 (1987): 213-25; A. Hill and J. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009) 169; J. Lundbom, Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013) 77-78; Walton, “The Decalogue Structure of the Deuteronomic Law,” Interpreting Deuteronomy: Issues and Approaches (eds. D. G. Firth and P.S. Johnston; Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2012), 93-117).

[3] See also L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, “לֵב,” The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (vol. 1; Leiden: Brill, 2001) 513-515. This basic meaning of “inner part” or “center” is common to other Semitic languages (“libbu,The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago [vol. 9; eds. A.L Oppenheim, E. Reiner, R.D. Biggs; Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 1973], 169-172; J. Hoftijzer and K Jongeling “lbb,” Dictionary of Northwest Semitic Inscriptions [Part 1; Leiden: Brill, 1995], 563).

[4] M. Sokoloff, “נכסין,” A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (2nd ed.; Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University, 2002), 351; Sokoloff. “ממוֹן,” 311.

[5] L. Costaz, “anynq,” Dictionnaire Syriaque-Francais (3rd ed.; Beirut: Dar El-Machreq, 2002), 322.

[6] Familial language such as son and child (as is husband and wife) has precedent in the Old Testament references to covenantal relations (Exod. 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; Hos 11:1; Ezekiel 16). See also Frank M. Cross, “Kinship and Covenant in Ancient Israel,” in From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University, 1998), 3-21. See also G.E. Wright, “The Terminology of the Old Testament Religion and Its Significance,” JNES 1 (1942), 404-414; J.W. McKAy, “Man’s Love for God in Deuteronomy and the Father/Teacher—Son/Pupil Relationship,” VT (22 (1972), 426-35.

[7] There are other such echoes of Deut 6:4-5 in the New Testament, such as 1 Cor 8:6 and Eph 4:4-7.

[8] Richard Bauckham, the Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015), 24