According to a recent article in Biblical Archaeology Review, the Shema‘ Yisrael on this Jewish amulet discovered near Carnuntum is one of the earliest monotheistic readings of Deuteronomy.
The Shema‘ Yisrael from Deuteronomy 6:4 (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”) is Judaism’s holiest confession. Today, we understand the passage as a monotheistic declaration. However, in the Second Temple period, the Shema‘ Yisrael text in Deuteronomy would have been read “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lordalone.” The Shema‘ Yisrael was originally a monolatric statement; it stated that Israel had an exclusive relationship with its God, but it did not deny the existence of other national deities for other peoples.
When did Deuteronomy’s Shema‘ Yisrael become a monotheistic statement? When did Jews begin to recognize their deity as the only deity existing in the universe? In theMay/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Armin Lange and Esther Eshel discuss the discovery of a Jewish amulet near the city of Carnuntum that “marks an early pinnacle of this monotheistic interpretation of theShema‘ Yisrael in Deuteronomy 6:4.”
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