In the story of the burning bush, God tells Moses He is "I Am", a cryptic name if there ever was one. Does this name mean that God was the power behind all that existed, the source of all being? Others perhaps think that God indicated that He just was; He was not explicable in terms of human language. His name in this case was meant to convey mystery, which it certainly does.
One thing the Old Testament definitely implies is that mankind and God existed on different planes. They were separated by a vast gulf of capability, potential, knowledge, righteousness, whatever. God and man were depicted as no way alike. This picture exists despite the early Genesis proclamation that man was made in God's image and likeness. In that respect, the Old Testament story unfolds in a decidedly paradoxical way. Godlikeness is shed by man, in the account of the Fall, as casually and quickly as we might discard some junk mail. It's a strange story which does little to explain what really happened in the mind of Adam and Eve. Of course, the progressive development of mankind's understanding continues to unfold in the rest of the biblical account. The Fall is not the end, just the beginning.
As the Bible story develops we see a separation process, first between God and man and then between various groups of men. The story of the confounding of language is an early explanation of a major source of separation between different human cultural groups.
The Great I Am of Mose's day may be the fountainhead of all Being, but He seemingly does not call all men into any sort of union or oneness with Him or each other. God exists. Men exist because He exists, but men exist in isolation without regard for the existence of others. Old Testament life is not a function of connection but separation. Success and failure, happiness and grief are mine to achieve and experience without regard to others, at least beyond the immediate family or intimate group.
Such self- mindedness is still the common way to think because it is seems natural and even essential to our well being. Man has lived under this prevailing paradigm for thousands of years with little to challenge its eternal validity.
Occasionally in the Old Testament and pointedly in the teachings of Jesus and Paul, we see a completely new paradigm suggested. The appropriateness of self-mindedness is questioned. The reality of man's separation form God and each other is challenged. Unity and oneness are presented as an essential part of God's plan for man and of Jesus' message and role in that plan. This unity was and still is very mindboggling and even disturbing in many respects. The idea of casting aside the assumption of separateness presents the human ego with a real problem. The ego is the protector and maintainer of the self as preeminent. Unity and oneness run counter to all that the ego knows and loves. To embrace unity requires a suppression of the ego to some extent, a very difficult task.
Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan and in His prayer in John 17, Paul in his dialogue with the Athenians on Mars Hill, and Paul again in the letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 2), all point to a new unity. Going all the way back to the story of Cain and Abel we see the issue of separation. When Cain asked if he was to be his brother's keeper. God did not answer Cain at that time. Centuries later, Jesus provided the answer, in a very paradoxical fashion. In effect, the call to brotherhood by Jesus and Paul say- No, you are not your brother's keeper. You are your brother because we all are one! One with God and each other.
We live and die inalterably intertwined. The universality of death proves as much. Nothing unites mankind like the death experience or serves more powerfully to shred the illusion of independence and isolation. Just pay attention to how people embrace each other, even complete strangers, when death threatens. It is a view into a largely hidden reality, one which both Jesus and Paul recognized and taught. Unity and salvation are inseparable.