We find other examples of the usage of "one" as a cardinal number in Isaiah:
"seven women [the group] shall take hold of one man [the unit]" (Isaiah 4:1)
" . . . ten acres [the group] shall yield one bath [the unit of measure]" (Isaiah 5:10).
"One" used as an Ordinal Number
"One" is also used in Scripture as an ordinal number. An ordinal number denotes order, succession or degree. Ordinal numbers are expressed as "first, second, third," as opposed to "one, two, three." We find many examples in the Old Testament of this usage of "one." In the first chapter of Genesis we read,
"And God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first [Hebrew echad] day" (verses 3-5).
The word "first" is the same Hebrew word that is elsewhere translated "one." In this verse it is translated "first" and is used as an adjective to qualify the noun "day." The meaning of "day" in Genesis 1:5 is limited or qualified by the adjective "first"; it is the first day of seven days. "First" is an ordinal number which positions this day in relationship to six others; it is the first day or day one in a series of seven. It is thus the first of a unit of seven days.
Another Old Testament example of the word "one" as an ordinal number is found in Isaiah 41:4:
"Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord [Jehovah], the first, and with the last; I am He."
A similar example of "one" as an ordinal number is found in Isaiah 48:12:
"Hearken unto Me, O Jacob and Israel, My called; I am He; I am the first, I also am the last."
And again in Isaiah 44:6:
"Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of hosts; 'I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God.' "
When God states, " . . . beside Me there is no God," He is revealing that He is the only God! Here God Himself defines what He means by the statement, "I am the first, and I am the last."
The above statement is also found in the New Testament in reference to the glorified Jesus Christ:
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, 'Fear not; I am the First and the Last' " (Revelation 1:17).
Another example of the ordinal use of "one" in the New Testament is found in Matthew 28:1:
"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
The Greek word translated "first" in Matthew 28:1 is the feminine mia. The word "day" in this verse is not found in the Greek text. A more accurate translation is "the first of the weeks." This day that was dawning was the day of the Wave Sheaf, the day from which seven sabbaths or weeks were numbered to Pentecost; it was the beginning of the first week of seven weeks.
"First" is an ordinal number which positions this week in relationship to six others; it is the first week or week one in a series of seven.
"In the end of [Greek opse ge, meaning "after the close of"] the sabbath [Greek sabbaton, sabbaths (plural)], as it began to dawn toward the first of the week [Greek mia sabbaton, the first of sabbaths or weeks], came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre" (Matthew 28:1).
The account in the Gospel of Mark also uses "one" as an ordinal number. Mark confirms that this day was the "first of the weeks." In Mark 16:2 we read,
"And very early [Greek proi] in the morning the first day ["day" is not in the Greek text] of the week [Greek sabbaton, sabbaths or weeks] they come to the tomb, having risen the sun [Greek anateilantos ton helios]" (Berry, The Interlinear Greek- English New Testament)
Luke's account also confirms that this was the "first of the weeks," which began the seven weeks leading to Pentecost.
"Now [But] upon the first day [the word "day" is not in the Greek text] of the week [Greek sabbaton, sabbaths or weeks; the expression "first of the weeks" designates the Day of the Wave Sheaf], very early in the morning [Greek orthros bathus, at deep or early dawn], they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared" (Luke 24:1).
John records of these events,
"The first [Greek mia] day [not in the Greek text] of the week [Greek sabbaton, weeks or sabbaths] comes Mary Magdalene early [Greek proi] when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulchre" (John 20:1).
John records that as Mary Magdalene approached the tomb of Jesus it was yet dark, but the darkness was beginning to be tempered by the first glint of light at daybreak (Greek proi). Bullinger equates Greek proi with 3 to 4 A.M., a period of time well before sunrise! John's testimony affirms that by the first light, the stone had already been rolled back by the angel. Jesus had been resurrected before sunrise.
All four Gospel writers agree in their use of "one" as an ordinal number to pinpoint the Day of the Wave Sheaf as the day immediately following the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We have studied Scriptural examples of the use of "one" as both a cardinal number and an ordinal number. Now that we have examined the quantitative use of "one" in Scripture, let us take a close look at Scriptural examples of the qualitative use of "one." In qualitative usage, "one" may be used either to show unity or to designate attributes or characteristics. Let us first examine the Scriptural use of "one" as an expression of unity.
"One" used as a Physical Union of Individuals
A good example of the use of "one" to express unity is found in Genesis 2:24:
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
None of our universal, human experiences concerning the marriage of a man and a woman would ever lead us to proclaim that once married, the flesh of two separate humans becomes a single fleshly unit! The obvious meaning of this Scripture is that man and woman become "one unit" of two fleshly beings now called a family! This example illustrates that the word "one" in Scripture can mean a union or combination of two separate individuals--a compound unity.
Although philosophers do not go so far as to claim a single fleshly unity, they do empty this clear Scriptural statement of its obvious, contextual meaning by claiming that it is nothing more than an allegory. Philosophers use this literary device as a pretext to interpret a noun naming a person (such as Adam, Eve, father, mother, man, woman, husband, wife) as a noun naming a concept (such as love, sacrifice, humility, courage, dignity, strength, hate). Real persons are mythologized and treated as mere symbols of ideas. Applying this rule of allegory, the Scriptural account of Adam and Eve becoming "one flesh" (two humans acting as one in a state of marriage) is viewed as a personified idea! The names of real persons thus become vacuous.
The apostle Paul warned against those who use this literary technique to mythologize Scripture. In his epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote,
"Neither give heed to fables (muthos) and endless genealogies" (1Timothy 1:4).
Paul shows in his epistle to Titus that these fables were of Jewish origin (Titus 1:14). These Jewish mythologies transformed the history of the Old Testament into fables through the process of allegorization. Philo was the most infamous of those Jews who were guilty of allegorizing Scripture. The "endless genealogies" that Paul warns against were not family histories but gnostic divinities, which developed as a result of vain philosophical speculations about the nature of the godhead, councils of angels and angelic hierarchies of elohim (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 154). These rabbinic / gnostic speculations were similar to speculations currently being promoted in many churches of God.
We must be on guard against the influence of philosophers and others who allegorize the words of God and deny the truth of Scripture. The account of the creation of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis is NOT an allegory! It is the TRUE STORY of the beginning of the human race, revealed by the Creator Himself.
The account of Adam and Eve in the second chapter of Genesis illustrates the Scriptural usage of "one" to designate a physical union of two individuals. A second example in the book of Genesis reveals that "one" may also designate a physical union of many individuals. In Genesis 34:16 we read,
"Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people."
The two peoples would exchange their daughters in marriage and, as a result, would become one unified people. Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, would eventually share the same bloodline.
"One" used as a Spiritual Union of Individuals
In addition to showing physical unity, "one" is also used in Scripture to show spiritual unity. In this usage, "one" refers to a spiritual union that is composed of individual members. One example of this Scriptural usage of "one" is the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ, which is composed of many individual members. We who are joined to Christ through the indwelling of the same Spirit that fills Him become members of His body, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians .
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body , whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many" (1Corinthians 12:12-14).
The Greek word translated "one" in this passage is hen, which means "one in essence." This Greek word makes it clear that Paul is speaking of spiritual unity, not physical unity. The spiritual body of Christ is "one" not because its individual members are physically assembled in one congregation, or are enrolled in one church organization, but because all its members are united by the "one Spirit" of God.
Paul emphasizes that the Spirit of God, although dwelling in many individuals who are separate entities, is "one Spirit." Paul's inspired words show that the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of Jesus Christ are the same Spirit. Paul tells us that it is Jesus Christ Who apportions the Spirit for various services or ministries, not through a hierarchical ministry but directly to individual Christians as it pleases Him. Paul also declares that it is the Father Who energizes the work of the Spirit in individuals. Notice Paul's words at the beginning of this same chapter:
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God [Greek Theos, the Father] calleth Jesus accursed [Greek anathama]: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord [Greek Kurios, the Son], but by the Holy Ghost [linking the Spirit with Theos, the Father]. Now there are diversities [Greek diaireses] of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations [Greek diakonia, services], but the same Lord [Greek Kurios, the Son]. And there are diversities of operations [Greek energema], but it is the same God [Greek Theos, the Father] which worketh all in all.
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal [for the edifying of others in the Body of Christ, not for self-aggrandizement]. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues [languages]; to another the interpretation of tongues [languages]: but all these worketh that one [Greek hen, one in essence] and the selfsame Spirit [an emphatic statement meaning "one and the same"], dividing to every man severally as He will [the one Spirit of God is individually apportioned as God Himself chooses]" (1Corinthians 12:1-11).
Paul states that the Holy Spirit is divided or apportioned among individual Christians in various spiritual gifts. The fact that spiritual gifts are selectively given to individual Christians shows that this dividing or apportioning of the Spirit is deliberate and willful. It is the "grace of forethought." The selective distribution of the differing gifts of the Spirit by the Father and the Son shows action on the part of God that is of the intellect. These actions point to personal Beings Who are not only aware of Themselves as individuals but are aware of Christians as individuals!
Paul tells us that while individual Christians are given different gifts and "differences of administrations," or differing services to fulfill, they are "one" because they are all serving the SAME Lord. Earlier in this same epistle, Paul likens himself and Apollos to laborers in a garden to illustrate the spiritual unity of the servants of God. Paul writes,
"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers [Greek diakonos, servants] by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God That giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one [Greek hen, one in essence; i.e., they serve the same Master] : and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building" (1Corinthians 3:5-9).
Paul makes it clear that although we receive differing gifts and render different services through the Spirit of God, we are all spiritually "one" in Jesus Christ. As a human body is composed of many members with different functions, so is the one spiritual Body of Christ.
"For as we have many members in one [Greek hen, one in essence] body, and all members have not the same office [Greek praxis, practices or deeds] : so we, being many, are one [Greek hen, one in essence] body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:4-5).
The Greek word hen, translated "one" in verse 5, is referring to the spiritual unity of all true Christians as individual members of the body of Christ. In His epistle to the Ephesians, Paul shows that the "one body" of true believers is composed of both Israelites and Gentiles. Paul explains to the Gentile Ephesian Christians that, although they were excluded from the promises of God given to Israel under the Old Covenant, they have become heirs of the promise of grace through Jesus Christ. It is His blood, the blood of the New Covenant, which reconciles both Gentile and Israelite to God, making them "one body" -- the new spiritual Israel of God.
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh [to God the Father] by the blood of Christ [the atonement for both Israelite and Gentile].
"For He [Jesus Christ] is our peace, who hath made both [Gentile and Israelite] one [Greek hen, one in essence; i.e., spiritually united under grace], and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [by ending the Old Covenant and establishing the New] between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances [the sacrifices and rituals demanded by the Old Covenant]; for to make in Himself of twain [Gentile and Israelite] one new man [a "new creation"--the spiritually begotten Christian], so making peace; and that He [Jesus Christ] might reconcile both [Israelite and Gentile] unto God [Greek Theos, the Father] in one body [the new spiritual Israel] by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby [the penalty for sin]: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him [Jesus Christ] we both [Israelite and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:11-18).
Later in his epistle, Paul urges the Ephesian Christians to maintain their spiritual unity as "one body." Paul writes,
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [Paul now amplifies what he means by "the unity of the Spirit."]
"There is one [Greek hen, one in essence] body [the one true spiritual body of Christ--the "new Israel of God," composed of both Israelites and Gentiles], and one [Greek hen, one in essence] Spirit [the Spirit of God the Father and Jesus Christ], even as ye are called in one hope [the resurrection to immortality]; one [Greek heis, one and the same] Lord [only one true Kurios / Christos], one faith [only one true relationship with Him], one baptism [only one true baptism into His death and resurrection], one [Greek heis - one and the same], God and Father of all [Greek Theos / Pater], who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Paul's description of the unity of the Spirit again shows that individual Christians, whether Israelite or Gentile, are spiritually united as "one." The "one body" of true believers is united by "one Spirit" and worships "one Lord" and "one God and Father" according to "one faith."