There are several passages or verses that are often cited to try to discredit or refute the idea of the Trinity, and one of the most common is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, which declares “Hear O Israel- the Lord our God, the Lord is one!”

You may be told that this is completely refutes the idea that the Lord God could be three-in-one, because His word clearly says He is one. On the face of it, this may sound convincing.

However, this argument is not only inaccurate, it also doesn’t make sense. If you read all of Deuteronomy 6 to put this verse into its proper context, it is about the centrality of God and the importance of clinging to His commandments above all else. The idea that God would have dropped into the middle of this an argument against the doctrine of the Trinity (an idea that was not even known about at the time that the Israelites were wandering in the desert) just doesn’t make sense. There are plenty of long passages where God explicitly lays out important teachings about His nature and attributes (see Isaiah 40-48 as a perfect example), so to say that this one verse is God directly refuting the Trinity doctrine is absurd. Especially when you realise that it’s in the middle of a declaration of the importance of obedience to God

There is also an argument that is used by Christians which may be accurate, but we should also be aware that it may not. That argument is that where Deuteronomy 6:4 says the Lord is “ONE”, the Hebrew word that is used (echad) doesn’t always just mean “one single” or “one alone”. It must be said that it generally is used to speak of one individual person, or thing. But it can also be used as “one” when referring to a collected unity of people or things. The most popular example is from Genesis 2:24 which says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Clearly, they are still separate people, but in this verse it speaks of them becoming unified, becoming one while remaining two. Another example can be found in Genesis 11:6 where we read “Behold, they are one (echad) people….”. Again, the people are obviously all still separate and yet they are being referred to as a unity.

We may want to take this idea (that “echad” can speak of a unity of people or things being ‘one’) and then out of this claim that it is a proof of the idea of the Trinity (because it speaks of God being a unity of several combined in one), but we should be cautious about doing so. In order to keep balanced and fair, it is worth repeating my argument from earlier- Deuteronomy 6 is primarily about the centrality of God and the importance of faithful obedience to Him. To argue that God would have dropped in the middle of this an argument either for or against the doctrine of the Trinity just doesn’t make sense. The word ‘echad’ can be understood in several ways. Some commentators have argued that it would make more sense to translate Deuteronomy 6:4 as something like “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is God alone!” or “Yahweh our God is unique!”

So although it is tempting to say that “Echad” actually proves the trinity, it may be a step too far. However, we can certainly say that it allows for the possibility of a plurality of persons making up one God- so the argument that Deuteronomy 6:4 refutes the teaching of the Trinity is far from secure, and we could argue that it definitely leaves the possibility of the Trinity open.