- Answering Unitarian Arguments #7: The Word Study Defense
- Answering Unitarian Arguments #6: The Shaliach Defense
- Answering Unitarian Arguments #5: The Argument from History
- Answering Unitarian Arguments #4: Argument from Scriptures that Describe Jesus as a Distinct Person or as a Human Being
- Answering Unitarian Arguments #3: The Argument from Scriptures Teaching One God
- Answering Unitarian Arguments #2: The Argument from Jewish Unitarianism
- Answering Unitarian Arguments #1: The Argument from Logic
One very popular argument is that the Jews were never Trinitarian, and would have immediately rejected the Trinity as being polytheistic. They were never expecting a God-man to be their Messiah, nor would they accept one. It is argued from Jewish theology and from a lack of controversy in the early church over the idea that Jesus is God that the Trinity and the Deity of Christ were not original to the Christian faith, and only came later when the church became influenced by paganism, Platonism, and/or Gnosticism, depending on who you’re listening to.
One very vocal leader of the Unitarian movement, Anthony Buzzard, makes the argument in his book, Jesus was not a Trinitarian, that the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one,” is a Unitarian Creed. He then goes through the passage in Mark 12 where Jesus is speaking with the Jewish scribe about the greatest commandment. Jesus answers that the greatest commandment is the Shema, and since he doesn’t qualify or expand on it to discuss the Trinity, we know that He was affirming the Unitarianism believed by the scribe in affirming the Shema. Thus, it is said, any departure from this Jewish Unitarianism is a departure from what Jesus Himself believed, and must be rejected.
Here, in the preceding paragraph, we have a specific example of the more general argument that the Jews were Unitarian and the earliest Christians show no evidence of trying to correct the Jewish understanding of God, so we must conclude that the Trinity cannot be what the earliest Christians believed, and so must be false.
I will come back to Buzzard’s argument later in this article, as we will see that the overall argument is flawed to begin with, and so Buzzards example of it suffers from the same flaws.
Were the Jews Unitarians?
Some Unitarians won’t like how I asked the question, as they would seek to define Unitarianism as a Christian term that maintains continuity with Jewish theology, but is not actually Jewish. They would include in the definition of Unitarianism the other distinctives of their theology, such as that Jesus is the solely human Messiah, and that the Holy Spirit is the impersonal presence and power of God that indwells all believers. However, others, like Buzzard, are comfortable using the term to apply to the Jews as well, since they believe that a continuity with the Jewish understanding of God, which by extension is Jesus’ understanding of God, is worth calling Jewish theology “Unitarian”.
To answer this question of whether the Jews were Unitarian, where should one look first for evidence? Interestingly, when one peruses the writings of Unitarian books and websites, one finds that this premise is more or less assumed. It is seldom, if ever, argued for. It is often just stated as if it should be considered self-evident. But it isn’t. It isn’t self-evident because it isn’t true.
So let’s look at the evidence to see how it is Jews thought about God at the time of Jesus. We do have their writings from the time just before Jesus and we can look to see what is there. This is a fascinating and deep study, so we won’t be able to be exhaustive, but we should get an idea of what was believed and discussed in Jesus’ day.
The Divine Second Yahweh Figure
It may come as a surprise to learn that, during the time scholars call the “second temple” period, which roughly matches up to the time between when the Old and New Testament were being written, the Jewish people were wrestling with a question of just how many figures there were in heaven. They believed in and worshipped only Yahweh, but there was a real question about whether there was another figure with Yahweh, but who also was Yahweh. For many people today, this seems odd, since we generally think that ancient Jews believed the same things about God that modern Jews believe. This thinking is understandable, but uninformed. It is easy to forget that there are two thousand years of history and interaction between Judaism and Christianity that have shaped theology. We see this clearly in Christianity, as a house-church paradigm evolved into a highly liturgical and hierarchical structure, followed, since the reformation, by a wide variety of expressions and differences in theology. Judaism has evolved as well, and one major change was that, while Jews only worshipped Yahweh, there were real questions about how many figures there were in heaven who were both distinct from and identified as Yahweh. This became known in Jewish rabbinical literature as “two powers” theology.
In later rabbinical literature, this theology becomes a heretical view, right around the second century, after Christianity had been around for some time. But before that, it was acceptable among Jews to hold that there is a second Yahweh figure expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Jewish community entertained many speculations about the identity of this figure. The places in the Hebrew Scriptures where this second figure appear are too many for the purpose of this article, but I will look at just two, followed by some other Jewish texts that demonstrate how they were looking at these and other biblical texts.
First, let’s consider a scene in the life of Gideon, where he is called to go out and fight for Israel. I will skip some of the dialog, as it doesn’t pertain to the question we are addressing.
11 The angel of Yahweh came and sat under the oak that was at Ophrah … 12 The angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said to him, “Yahweh is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon said to him (the angel), “Excuse me, my lord. If Yahweh is with us, why then has all this happened to us? … But now Yahweh has forsaken us; he has given us into the palm of Midian.” 14 And Yahweh turned to him and said…15 He (Gideon) said to him (Yahweh? the Angel?), … 16 And Yahweh said to him, “But I will be with you, … 17 And he said to him (Yahweh? The Angel?), “Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, show me a sign that you are speaking with me. 18 Please, do not depart from here until I come back to you and bring out my gift and set it out before you (Gideon’s offering).” And he (Who?) said, “I will stay until you return.”
19 And Gideon went and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; he put meat in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and he brought them to him under the oak and presented them. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes and put them on this rock; pour the broth over it.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of Yahweh reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and he touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire went up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes (The Angel accepts the offering). And the angel of Yahweh went from his sight. 22 And Gideon realized that he was the angel of Yahweh; and Gideon said, “Oh, my lord Yahweh! For now I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face.” (Gideon thinks he will die from seeing the Angel?) 23 And Yahweh said (Yahweh is still there) to him, “Peace be with you. Do not fear; you will not die.” 24 And Gideon built there an altar to Yahweh, and he called it “Yahweh is peace.” To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Now, there are other passages as well where the Angel is called “God” or “Yahweh”, but this one is a powerful testimony of the two powers theology at work. It is perfectly clear that, in this passage, the Angel of Yahweh is a separate figure from Yahweh. The Angel speaks of Yahweh in third person. The Angel leaves and Yahweh is still there. But there are facts about the scene that indicate that the Angel is not just a created spiritual being. First, the Angel accepts the offering by touching it with His staff and fire consumes it. Accepting offerings is not something we ever have created beings doing. Offerings are made to Yahweh alone. Second, when the Angel leaves, we have a scene that is common in the Old Testament when someone sees God. Gideon fears he will die because he saw the Angel. There is no passage that says to see an angel means you will die, but it is all over the Scriptures that if you see God, you will die. However, Gideon is afraid he will die from seeing the Angel of Yahweh, and even calls Him the Angel in his fear. This shows that, for Gideon, this Angel was not just some created being. This was Yahweh in physical form, and for him, the title “Angel of Yahweh” was not a title for a lesser being.
The second passage we will look at is in Daniel 7, at the famous scene with the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man.
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
9 “I continued watching until thrones were placed and an Ancient of Days sat; his clothing was like white snow and the hair of his head was like pure wool and his throne was a flame of fire and its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued forth and flowed from his presence; thousands upon thousands served him and ten thousand upon ten thousand stood before him. The judge sat, and the books were opened…
13 “I continued watching in the visions of the night, and look, with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man was coming, and he came to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all the peoples, the nations, and languages would serve him; his dominion is a dominion without end that will not cease, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
This is a rich passage, but we clearly see God, the Ancient of Days, sitting on His throne and then a second figure, the son of man, presented before Him. What made this passage one of the foremost two powers passages was that it says the son of man is coming “with the clouds”. There are a handful of passages in the Old Testament that speak of one who rides the clouds, or comes on the clouds of heaven, etc. Every one of those passages applies this description only to Yahweh. No created being is ever said to ride the clouds. So the fact that an unambiguously separate and human-like figure is here described this way was something that could not be ignored, as we will see. The other things that should be noticed are what is given by the Ancient of Days to the son of man. The dominion is over all the nations, His Kingdom will not cease or be destroyed. This language is parallel to the covenant given to David about the Messiah who would be the eternal King of Israel. So here we have a connection of a second figure described in a way reserved for Yahweh himself, but also given the messianic descriptions of the coming Davidic King.
Now we come to question at hand. How did the Jews of Jesus’ day speak about God in light of passages like this? It’s one thing for a modern Trinitarian Christian to point out how some passages seem to affirm truths consistent with the Trinity. It is a completely different thing to see Jewish writers, from before Jesus ever came and in the earliest days of the Church, wrestling with passages like this and saying the same things. They weren’t defending the Trinity. They were trying to work out their view of God in light of the Scriptures they had. I’m going to look here at several ways in which they tried to figure out who this second Yahweh figure was.
One way some approached this was to say that this or that man from Scripture was in view and had somehow been folded into God and was now the second Yahweh figure. Some say Adam, or Enoch, or Moses, etc. was in that place. Let’s look at one passage about Moses.
Ezekiel the Tragedian 68 On Sinai’s peak I (Moses) saw what seemed a throne 69 so great in size it touched the clouds of heaven…73 I made approach and stood before the throne 74 He handed over the scepter and he bade 75 me mount the throne, and gave me the crown, 76 then he himself withdrew from off the throne. 77I gazed upon the whole earth round about, 78 things under it, and high above the skies. 79 Then at my feet the multitude of stars 80 fell down, and I their number reckoned up.
So here God puts Moses on His throne, and the stars (a common metaphor for heavenly beings) fell down before him and Moses numbers them, something the Scriptures ascribe to God (Psa. 147:4). Remember, this is a Jewish text. This isn’t some pagan writer looking to multiply Gods. This is written by someone who believes that there is only one Yahweh, but looking for an identity for the second figure found in the Scriptures.
Of course, since one of the most prominent titles of the second power is the Angel of Yahweh, there are many during the second temple period who speculate that perhaps one of the angels mentioned in Scripture is the second power. Another example is that they actually come up a name for the angel that isn’t found in Scripture, “Yahoel”, or “Yah’el”. Some readers will recognize the two most prominent words in the Hebrew Scriptures used as God’s name, “Yahweh”, and “Elohim” are combined here. Then this angel is said to be the one who is with God, but also is God. Let’s look at an example.
Apocalypse of Abraham X I heard the voice of the Holy One speaking: “Go, Yahoel, and by means of my ineffable Name raise me yonder man…And the angel came, whom He had sent to me, in the likeness of a man, and grasped me by my right hand, and set me up upon my feet, and said to me, “…I have been sent to thee to strengthen thee and bless thee in the name of God—who loveth thee—the Creator of the celestial and terrestrial. Be fearless and hasten to Him. I am called Yahoel by Him who moveth that which existeth with me on the seventh expanse upon the firmament, a power in virtue of the ineffable Name that is dwelling in me…”
Here we see that God’s name is dwelling in Yahoel, and that he is definitely seen as a separate figure from God. This alone is telling, as it is reminiscent of Exodus 20 where the Angel that goes before the people of Israel is said to have the Name of God “in him”. But this story goes on in what it says about Yahoel.
Apocalypse of Abraham XVII And I recited, and he also himself with me recited the song:
Eternal, mighty, Holy, El,
Thou who art self-originated,
Uncreate, immaculate, immortal,
Eli, that is, My God— Eternal, mighty holy Sabaoth,
very glorious El, El, El, El, Yahoel!
Thou art He whom my soul hath loved!
Here we see that this angel that accompanies Abraham is also equated with the supreme God, El. What is interesting about this text is that it isn’t shy about saying things that are difficult for us to picture. If you look closely, the song that is sung here in section 17 is sung by Abraham and Yahoel. So he sings to himself? It appears that way. Yahoel is certainly a being distinct from God, but then in the song, is equated with God.
Philo, Aramaic Targums, and the Word of the Lord
One popular area of study for historians of the Christian faith is to examine the first centuries of Christianity. When that is done, one of the things that becomes apparent is that a lot of the writing we have centers around Logos theology. In other words, the early Church spent a lot of time wrestling with how Jesus was the Logos, or Word, as found in John 1:1. What is also well known, but not always discussed, is that this wrestling with the Word didn’t start with the early Church. Before John ever penned his Gospel, Jewish theologians were talking about the Word in a couple of ways. Most prominent among these is Philo, a Jew who wrote in Greek and discussed the Logos as God’s “viceroy”(Dreams 1:241), as the power by which God “made and ordered all things” (Confusion 137), as “God” (Dreams 229), the “second God” (Questions on Genesis 2, 62), and he talks about there being “two Gods” (Dreams 227) in the Jewish thought of his day. “Two Gods” was synonymous with two powers.
Also, apart from Philo, there were Jewish Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Targums that were around before Jesus, and anyone who spoke Aramaic would have read these. The Targums are interesting in that they are not straight translations, but the scribes were rather free with their theology and inserted things into the Targums because of this. Very prominent throughout is to insert the Aramaic word for “word”, or “memra”, into various texts where it does not appear in the Hebrew. So, where the original Hebrew might just say “God” did something, the Targum might say that “the Word of the Lord” did something, or that “God did something through His Word”. Let’s look at some examples.
Hebrew: God created man
Targum: The Word of the Lord created man
Hebrew: And God said, “This is the sign that I set for the covenant between me and you.”
Targum: And the Lord said, “This is the sign that I set for the covenant between my Word and you.”
Hebrew: If God will be with me…then the Lord will be my God.
Targum: If the Word of the Lord will be with me…then the Word of the Lord will be my God.
Hebrew: And I will meet with you there
Targum: And I will appoint my Word for you there
Hebrew: I the Lord have spoken
Targum: I the Lord decreed through my Word
Here, we have a very small sampling of instances where the targums insert “memra”. As you can see, there is some variety to just how the wording is expressed. In Genesis 1:27, it is the narration that is changed, and “Word of the Lord” simply replaces “God” in the verse. This is very common, and we see it also in Genesis 28 where Jacob is speaking, and He even says, “the Word of the Lord will be my God”, clearly affirming that the writer of the targum believed that the Word of the Lord was God. However, we also have the other examples, where the Word is not added to simply as a replacement, but as a second figure. Genesis 9:12 has God speaking, and setting the sign of the covenant with Abraham but in the targum, God says it is between “my Word” and you, when the original Hebrew says “me”. Where the Hebrew only has one figure in view, the targum inserts another, and, since it is replacing God himself, it is not just impersonal speech or a plan. Remember, the writer of the targum is looking right at a Hebrew text and replacing a pronoun, “me”, that refers to God, with a reference to the Word. To suggest that the writer is taking a clear reference to God Himself and changing it to just an impersonal plan or speech stretches credulity.
One Unitarian leader, John Schoenheit, recently gave a talk about John 1:1 and the Logos that made the claim that any reference to the Word as a person was just personification, and to be taken metaphorically. He even made reference to the targums doing this. The problem, as we can see here, is that the original texts the targums are translating are not metaphorical. They are talking about God, and the targums are inserting “memra” into the texts where it was already a real person, God, in that text. It is quite a claim to say that the writers of the targums were de-personalizing passages about God by inserting the Word. Rather, it is clear that they saw the Word of the Lord as a Person, and that Person was God, though in a complex way.
Why do this? Space does not permit, but if you read carefully some passages in the Old Testament that talk about the “word of Yahweh”, they do contain clues that this is not just spoken words, but Yahweh Himself being described using that title. (See Genesis 15, 1 Samuel 3, Jeremiah 1)
So here we see, in just the ways that the scribes chose to insert the Word into these texts, that they believed that the Word was God, but also that the Word was distinct in some way from another who was God. It is widely believed that Jesus and the disciples spoke Aramaic. We can’t know for sure, but it is almost certain that they were familiar with these texts and, consequently, with two powers theology, since these texts take the things drawn from the texts in the Hebrew Scriptures and multiply them all over the text.
An Eternal Messiah
One last text I want to address is found in the book of Enoch, (or 1 Enoch, for the scholars). I preface this citation with this: Enoch was not an obscure text. Probably as much or more than any other text outside of Scripture itself, Enoch was widely read and studied and discussed. It is quoted by Peter and Jude in the New Testament, and in the early Church, there were many advocates for its inclusion in the canon of Scripture. Ultimately, it did not gain universal acceptance and so was not considered inspired by God, but it had huge influence over the thoughts and theology of second temple Judaism and early Christianity.
As it turns out, Enoch contains a discussion of the Son of Man and Ancient of Days as found in Daniel 7. Chapters 48-49 pick up on all the language we discussed from Daniel, and expound on what the Messiah would be like. Enoch simply cannot be ignored if we are looking for what Jewish people in Jesus’ day would have been looking for in terms of the Messiah. Here are some of the very relevant portions.
Enoch 48: 2 And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Spirits,
And his name the Ancient of Days.
3 Yea, before the sun and the signs were created,
Before the stars of the heaven were made,
His name was named before the Lord of Spirits.
4 He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall,
And he shall be the light of the Gentiles (see Luke 2:32),
And the hope of those who are troubled of heart.
5 All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him,
And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits.
6 And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him,
Before the creation of the world and for evermore…
10 And on the day of their affliction there shall be rest on the earth,
And before them they shall fall and not rise again:
And there shall be no one to take them with his hands and raise them:
For they have denied the Lord of Spirits and His Messiah.
The name of the Lord of Spirits be blessed.
49: 2 For he is mighty in all the secrets of righteousness,
And unrighteousness shall disappear as a shadow,
And have no continuance;
Because the Elect One standeth before the Lord of Spirits,
And his glory is for ever and ever,
And his might unto all generations.
Here we see clearly that the author of this book sees the Son of Man from Daniel 7 as the Messiah. He sets up the scene from Daniel 7 as the day that He is named and it is “in the presence” of the Lord of Spirits, God. Then in verse 2, the author says that the day that this Son of Man was before Him to be named took place before the creation of the sun or the stars in heaven. So the author of Enoch, writing long before the New Testament was written, gives us a retelling of Daniel 7 that identifies the Son of Man, not only as a second figure with divine titles and attributes, but also as the Messiah. Notice in 49:2 that the Messiah/Son of Man has a glory that is an everlasting glory. He is not just a man and He is worshipped by the stars (angelic beings). Clearly, this very influential book did not see the Messiah simply as a special human being with a miraculous conception. This is the eternal second power in heaven.
So, here in these many examples, and there are far, far more I could cite, we can see that the beliefs of the ancient Jews were different from those of modern Jews, shaped has they were by millennia of contact with Christians. This is something that is recognized in current Jewish scholarship as well. In his book Two Powers in Heaven, Jewish scholar Alan Segal traces this theology through the texts it is found in and concludes that it was an accepted belief in ancient Judaism, and was declared a heresy by about the start of the second century A.D., after about a hundred years of Christians claiming Jesus was this second power come in the flesh. At that point, it began to be considered a heresy in Judaism.
Another Jewish Scholar, Benjamin Sommer, makes the argument in his book, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, that the Scriptures follow a theme common in the ancient near east of believing that one thing a god can do is to have a body or more than one body, and can go from one to many bodies at will. He also argues that this is seen in the Old Testament and that there is evidence that sometimes, if a god has more than one body, that the second body is not just being controlled like a puppet by one mind, but that it has its own mind and relates back to first body as a separate individual. He sees this happening in Scripture as well, and concludes that this is the Jewish backdrop out of which the Christians developed the Trinity. He believes from the evidence he has examined that, actually, there is no significant theological difference between ancient Judaism and Christianity. He also points out, as others have, that if you look at Kabbalistic Judaism, there are from 10 up to 100 separate sephirot, or emanations of God that function in some ways like the three Persons of the Trinity.
Addressing the Unitarian Argument
So, having established that there was a common belief among ancient Jews that the one God was, in some sense, multipersonal, how do we address the challenge from Unitarians that the Trinity violates Jewish monotheism? The simplest thing to do is to ask the Unitarian to cite support for their claim. Remember, we are talking about a Unitarian argument from the Unitarianism of the Jews. Simply ask what they are appealing to to establish that their Unitarian view of God was believed by the Jews of Jesus’ day. Most probably have never encountered the evidence presented above. I have read some Unitarians that seem to have familiarity with this data, but do not take it seriously, or try to reinterpret it to fit their view. They may be able to take an example and try to fit it into their theology, but they will be hard-pressed to prove that the two powers theology examined here was simply absent at the time of Jesus. They may cite texts that endorse the idea that there is only one God, and we would agree. The Jews who wrote the things we’ve examined here believed in one God, too. They just saw that within that belief that there is just one God is a complexity they needed to discuss, and wrote about it. It just so happens that what they were discussing is just what we would expect if the Trinity is true, but wasn’t completely revealed before Jesus’ first advent.
Now, I do want to address Buzzard’s argument in light of these things. Did Jesus’ affirmation of the Shema in Mark 12 mean that He was a Unitarian? Buzzard assumes so, but as we’ve seen, what the scribe understood about the Shema might have been very different from what Jews or Unitarians today typically think. I believe there are many holes in Buzzard’s argument, from how the Shema should be understood in context, as well as how he applies it against the Trinity. What I want to focus on here are two things from Jesus’ conversation with the scribe. First, what is the main point of the conversation? And second, is it possible that the Shema was believed by Jews of Jesus’ day, while also affirming some kind of two powers theology?
If you read Buzzard’s book or any other Unitarian’s discussion of this passage, you will find that they focus on two things almost exclusively. First, Jesus affirmed the Shema which states that God is one (and so presumably not three in any other sense), and as a result the scribe praises Jesus’ answer. Second, Jesus tells the scribe he is not far from the kingdom of God, thereby affirming the scribe’s Unitarianism. Is that really what’s happening? What is the main point of the conversation in this passage? Let’s take a look.
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them debating. When he saw that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart and from your whole soul and from your whole mind and from your whole strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “That is true, Teacher. You have said correctly that he is one and there is no other except him. 33 And to love him from your whole heart and from your whole understanding and from your whole strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And Jesus, when he saw that he had answered thoughtfully, said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to put a question to him any longer.
A careful reading of the passage shows that there is much more under discussion than the oneness of God. Indeed it is discussed, but notice it is never discussed in isolation. It is discussed as part of the whole Shema, which, for the Jews was not just Deuteronomy 6:4, but also verse 5, which Jesus quotes here. The scribe then acknowledges verse 4, with the statement that there is no other besides Him, which affirms that they worship only one God. Then he gives a very strong endorsement and expression of the second half of the Shema, the command to love God with our whole being. If we’re honest, it is more likely the second half of the Shema, the part about loving God, that is the main point of the conversation. One piece of evidence that this is the case is that this scene has a parallel in Matthew. Let’s look at that one.
34 Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled at the same place. 35 And one of them, a legal expert, put a question to him to test him: 36 “Teacher, which commandment is greatest in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
So Matthew, the Gospel writer that scholars almost unanimously say was speaking most directly to the Jews, with all of his references to fulfilled prophecy, describes this scene without any reference to Deuteronomy 6:4 at all. The entire conversation, if you read it in this Gospel, is focused on the part of the Shema about loving God. Now, of course, since Mark does include the longer conversation, I believe that it really took place that way, but if you listen to Buzzard talk about this scene, you would think that the whole point of it being in the Bible is to support Unitarianism. Why, then, would the key text be omitted in Matthew, and emphasized less than the second part in Mark? Perhaps it is because the emphasis Buzzard and his group want to make is not the emphasis of Scripture. Of course God is unique, as the Shema says, but the question we’re addressing is what God is like. Is He just one Person or many? This question simply isn’t answered by Deuteronomy 6:4 or Mark 12.
This gives us a direction to go in answering the second question I posed above. Did Jews of Jesus’ day and before affirm the Shema while also postulating answers to questions about the second power? To answer this, we again look at Philo.
Cherubim 27-28 While God is indeed One, his highest and chief Powers are two, even Goodness and Sovereignty…and in the midst between the two, there is a third which unites them, the Logos, for it is through the Logos that God is both ruler and good. Of these two powers, Sovereignty and Goodness, the cherubim are the symbols, as fiery sword is the symbol of the Logos. Cherubim 27-28
Of course, I am not suggesting that Philo understood the Trinity, as it had not been revealed in his day. However, it is undeniable that he saw God as complex, theorizing about how this complexity actually was, but here we see that He saw no contradiction between discussing God as complex, even using terms like “second God” to refer to the Logos, and affirming the Shema. So, while there are major differences in the theology expressed by Philo and Christian Trinitarian theology, what is common is the belief that God is, in some sense, personally complex. God is one. God is unique. But God is not Unitarian. It is Buzzard, not the Trinitarian, that imposes a foreign theology on the Jews of Jesus’ day, while the Trinity is just a further, clearer revelation that fills in some (but not all) of the gaps in ancient Jewish understanding of what their God is like.