the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
The Supreme Being, regarded as the Creator, Author, and First Cause of the universe, the Ruler of the world and of the affairs of men, the Supreme Judge and Father, tempering justice with mercy, working out His purposes through chosen agents—individuals as well as nations—and communicating His will through prophets and other appointed channels.
"God" is the rendering in the English versions of the Hebrew "El," "Eloah," and "Elohim." The existence of God is presupposed throughout the Bible, no attempt being anywhere made to demonstrate His reality. Philosophical skepticism belongs to a period of thought generally posterior to that covered by the Biblical books, Ecclesiastes and some of the Psalms (, , ) alone indicating in any degree in Biblical Israel a tendency toward see see ATHEISM. The controversies of the Earlier Prophets never treat of the fundamental problems of God's existence or non-existence; but their polemics are directed to prove that Israel, ready at all times to accept and worship one or the other god, is under the obligation to serve Yhwh and none other. Again, the manner of His worship is in dispute, but not His being. The following are the main Biblical teachings concerning God:
Relation to Nature.
God and the world are distinct. The processes of nature are caused by God. Nature declares the glory of God: it is His handiwork (Genesis 1; Psalms 8,; Isa. 25 et seq.). God is the Creator. As such, He is "in heaven above and upon the earth beneath" (Deuteronomy 4:39). His are the heavens, and His is the earth (Psalms 89:12 [A. V. 11]; compare Amos 4:13). He created the world by the word of His mouth (Psalms 33:6,9). Natural sequences are His work (Jeremiah 5:22,24; Psalms 74:15-17). He maintains the order of nature (Psalms 147:8-9,16-18; Nehemiah 9:6). He does not need the offerings of men, because "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Psalms 24:1,4,7-13; compare Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Micah 6:6-8).
Nothing is affirmed of His substantial nature. The phrase "spirit of God" ("ruaḥ Elohim") merely describes the divine energy, and is not to be taken as equivalent to the phrase "God is a spirit," viz., an assertion concerning His incorporeality (Zechariah 4:6; Numbers 14:22; Isa. 13). He can not, however, be likened to any thing (Exodus 20:4-5; Isa. 18) or to any person (Jeremiah 10:6-7). No form is seen when God speaks (Deuteronomy 4:15). He rules supreme as the King of the nations (Jeremiah 10:6-7). His will comes to pass (Isaiah 8:9,10; 55:10,11; Psalms 33:10-12, 68:2-4). He is one, and none shares with Him His power or rulership (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6, 46:10 [A. V. 9]). He is unchangeable, though he was the first and will be the last (Isaiah 41:4; Malachi 3:6). All that is, is perishable: God is everlasting (Isa. 7-8, 23-25; 51:12-13). Hence His help is always triumphant (Psalms 20:8-9, 44:4, 46:1-8). He is in all things, places, and times (Psalms 139:7-12). He is not, like man, subject to whim (Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 7:9). He is the Judge, searching the innermost parts of man's being, and knowing all his secrets (Jeremiah 16:17, 17:10, 23:24; Psalms 139:1-4). His knowledge is too high for man (Psalms 139:6,15,16). God's wisdom, however, is the source of human understanding (Psalms 36:10). He is "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6-7). But He can not hold the sinner guiltless (ib.). He manifests His supreme lordship in the events of history (Deuteronomy 32:8-12; Psalms 22:28,29; 78:2-7). He is the ever-ruling King (Jeremiah 10:10). He punishes the wicked (Nahum 1:2); He turns their way upside down (Psalms 1:6). Appearances to the contrary are illusive (Habakkuk 1:13, 2:2; Jeremiah 12:1-2; Psalms 10:13-14, 37:35-39, 52:3-9, 62:11-13, 92:7-8; Job 21:7-9, 27:8-11, 35:14).
Relation to Man.
The Biblical theodicy culminates in the thought that the end will show the futility and deceptive nature of the prosperity of the wicked (Psalms 77:17). The mightiest nations do not prevail against God (Jeremiah 18:7-10, 25:30-31; Psalms 7:8-9; 33:13,19). He judges the world in righteousness (Psalms 9:9,16; 76:9-10; 95:10-13). 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 may be said to be a succinct epitome of the Biblical doctrine concerning God's manifestations in nature and in history (compare 1 Samuel 2). Yet God does not delight in the death of the sinner: He desires his return from his evil ways (Ezekiel 18:21-22, 38:10-11). Fasting is not an adequate expression of repentance (Isaiah 58:3-8; compare Jonah 2:10; Joel 2:13; Zechariah 7:5). God hath demanded of man "to do justly, and to love mercy"(Micah 6:8); hence redress for wrongs done is the first step toward attaining God's forgiveness (Ezekiel 33:15), the "forsaking of one's evil ways" (Lamentations 3:37-40).
It is characteristic of the Biblical conception of God that He is with those of contrite heart (Isaiah 57:15). He loves the weak (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). He is the father (Isaiah 63:16, 64:7); and like a father He taketh pity on His children (Psalms 103:13; COMPASSION). Therefore, love is due to Him on the part of His children (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The demand to fear Him, in the light of the implications of the Hebrew original, is anything but in conflict with the insistence that the relations between God and man are marked by parental and filial love. The God of the Bible is not a despot, to be approached in fear. For "yir'ah" connotes an attitude in which confidence and love are included, while the recognition of superiority, not separation, is expressed (Nietzsche's "pathos of distance"). Reverence in the modern sense, not fear, is its approximate equivalent. They that confide in Him renew their strength (Isa. 30-31). God is holy (compare Isaiah 6:3); this phrase sums up the ultimate contents of the Bible conception of God (FEAR OF GOD).
Relation to Israel.
He is Israel's God. Not on account of any merits of its own (Deuteronomy 7:7-8, 9:4-7), but because of God's special designs, because the fathers loved Him (Deuteronomy 10:11-16), Israel was chosen by God (Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 4:20, 32:9; Isaiah 41:8-9, 43:21; Jeremiah 2:2, and often elsewhere). Hence, in Israel's experience are illustrated God's power, love, and compassion, as, in fact, it is Israel's sole destiny to be the witness to God (Isaiah 44:8). For Israel, therefore, God is a jealous God. He can not tolerate that Israel, appointed to be His portion (Deuteronomy 32:9), His servant (Isaiah 44:21), His people joined unto Him for His name and glory and ornament (Jeremiah 13:11, A. V., "for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory"), should worship other gods. Israel's task is to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 26:19). Israel itself does not fully recognize this. God sends prophets again and again to instruct and admonish His people (Jeremiah 7:25, 11:7, 35:15; Isaiah 29:13-14).
In Israel God's judgments are purposed to impress upon His people the duty placed upon it. Greater suffering He metes out to Israel (Leviticus 26:40; Deuteronomy 4:30-31; 8:5,19; 11:16-17; 32:15; Isaiah 1:19-20, 4:3-4, 42:24-43:1, 48:9-11; Jeremiah 2:19, 5:18-19; Amos 3:2), but He will not permit Israel to perish (Isaiah 41:10-14; 45:17; 51:7-8; 54:10,17; Jeremiah 31:36). And Israel, brought to faithfulness, will be instrumental in winning the whole earth to God (Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:9, 45:23, 65:25; Micah 4:1-4; Jeremiah 3:17; see MESSIAH).
God is Israel's lawgiver. His law is intended to make Israel holy. That Israel serve God, so as to win all people to the truth, is God's demand (Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 4:6). God's unity is indicated in the one sanctuary. But legalism and sacerdotalism are withal not the ultimate (Ps. 7-13; 1 Samuel 15:22: "to obey is better than sacrifice"; Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6: "I desired love [A. V. "mercy"] and not sacrifice").
Nor is the law a scheme of salvation. Nowhere in the Old Testament is the doctrine taught that God must be satisfied (see FALL OF MAN; see SIN (3)). Sin is impotent against God, and righteousness does not benefit Him (Job 35:6-8). God is omnipotent (Psalms 10:3-4). At one with Him, man is filled with joy and with a sense of serene security (Psalms 16:5-6,8-9; 27:1-4). Without this all else is sham (Psalms 49:7-13). Happy, therefore, the man who heeds God's instruction (Psalms 94:12; Proverbs 3:11-12). Sin never attains its aims (Psalms 34:22; Proverbs 11:19; 1 Samuel 24:14; Job 8:13-14, 15:20-31). It is thus that God documents His supremacy; but unto man (and Israel) He gives freedom to choose between life and death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). He is near to them that revere Him (Psalms 85:9-14). Though His ways are not man's ways, and His thoughts not man's thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), yet to this one certainty man may cleave; namely, that God's word will come to pass and His purposes will be carried out (ib. verses 9, 10, 11).
The God of the Bible is not a national God, though in the fate of one people are mirrored the universal facts of His kingship and fatherhood, and the truth is emphasized that not by might, nor by power, but by God's spirit are the destinies of the world and of man ordered (Zechariah 4:6; Malachi 1:11; Psalms 113, ). The God of the Bible is a person; e., a being self-conscious, with will and purpose, even though by searching man can not find Him out (Job 11:7; Psalms 94:7,8,9,10,11; Isa. 28; Psalms 145:3).
—In Post-Biblical Literature:
In the Apocrypha of Palestinian origin the Biblical teachings concerning God are virtually reaffirmed without material modifications. In some books anthropomorphic expressions are avoided altogether; in the others they are toned down. The "hand of God," for instance (Ecclus. [Sirach] 33:3), is in the parallel distich explained as "His might." The "eyes of God" symbolize His knowledge and providence (Baruch 2:17); the "voice of God" is synonymous with His will (ib. 2:22, 3:4).
In the Palestinian Apocrypha.
His unity, postulating Him as the absolute, omni-present, and therefore as the omniscient, eternal, and living God, is accentuated; while in His relations to the world and its inhabitants He is manifest as the Creator, Ruler, the perfectly righteous Judge, requiting evil and rewarding good, yet, in His mercy, forgiving sin. To Him all nature is subject, while He executes His designs according to His inscrutable wisdom. The history of former generations is cited in proof of the contention that they who confide in Him have never been disappointed (Ecclus. [Sirach] 2:10); for God is full of mercy, pardoning sins, and is the great Helper (ib. verse 11).
Good and evil proceed from God, as do life and death (ib. 11:14). Yet sin is not caused by God, but by man's own choice (ib. 15:11 et seq.). God is omnipresent. Though He is on high, He takes heed of men's ways (ib. 16:17, 17:15-16). Mountains and the ocean are in His power (ib. verses 18 et seq.).
Being the Creator, He planned the eternal order of nature (ib. verses 26 et seq.). He also fashioned man (ib. 17:1 et seq.). Whatever strength man has is from Him (ib. verse 3). The eyes of men are enabled by Him to see "the majesty of His glory," andtheir ears to hear "His glorious voice" (ib. verse 13). He liveth in all eternity and judgeth all things. None may search out His wondrous might (ib. 18:1-2), or describe His grace (ib. verse 3). To Him naught may be added, and from Him nothing may be taken away (ib. verse 6, 42:21). Even the "holy ones" are not competent to relate the marvels of His works (ib. 42:17). He announces that which was and that which is to be and all hidden things (ib. verses 19-20). He is one from all eternity (ib. verse 21). He is the Living God (ib. verse 23). Among all the varieties of things He has created nothing without purpose (, ib. verse 24).
The "wisdom of God" is spoken of and exalted in the same strains as in the Biblical books (Proverbs 7, ). All wisdom is from God and is with Him forever (Ecclus. [Sirach.] 1:1). It came forth from the mouth of the Most High (ib. 24:3); but it was created before all things (ib. 1:4). It is subject to the will of Him who alone is "wise, and greatly to be feared," seated on His throne (ib. 1:8). God "poured it out over all His works" (ib. 1:7; comp. 24:31). However close this description of wisdom may come to a personification, it is plain that it is free from any element which might be construed as involving a departure from the Biblical position regarding God's absolute unity.
In Alexandrian Apocrypha.
It is in the Alexandrian Apocrypha that modifications of the Biblical doctrine appear; but even here are to be found books whose theology is a reiteration of the Biblical teachings. The so-called Third Book of the Maccabees, in the prayer of the high priest Simon, invokes "God as the King of the Heavens, the Ruler of all creatures, the most Holy, the sole Governor, the Omnipotent," declaring Him to be "a just ruler," and appeals to the events of past days in support of the faith in God's supremacy and in Israel's appointment to glorify Him (III Macc. 2:1-20) who is all-merciful and the maker of peace.
The third book of the "Oracula Sibyllina," also, reiterates with great emphasis and without equivocation the unity of God, who is alone in His superlative greatness. God is imperishable, everlasting, self-existent, alone subsisting from eternity to eternity. He alone really is: men are nothing. He, the omnipotent, is wholly invisible to the fleshly eye. Yet He dwells in the firmament (Sibyllines, 1:1,7-17,20,32; 2:1-3,17,36,46). From this heavenly abode He exercises His creative power, and rules over the universe. He sustains all that is. He is "all-nourishing," the "leader of the cosmos," the constant ruler of all things. He is the "supreme Knower" (ib. 1:3,4,5,8,15,17,35; 2:42). He is "the One God sending out rains, winds, earthquakes, lightnings, famines, pestilences, dismal sorrows, and so forth" (ib. 1:32-34). By these agencies He expresses His indignation at the doings of the wicked (ib. 2:19-20); while the good are rewarded beyond their deserts (ib. 2:1-8). God's indwelling in man (πᾶσι βροτοῖσιν ἐνών)"as the faculty of judgment" is also taught (ib. 1:18). This indwelling of God, which has been claimed as an indication of the book's leaning toward a modification of the transcendentalism of the Biblical idea of God, may perhaps rest on a faulty reading (comp. Drummond, "Philo Judæus," 1:173).
In the Septuagint, also, the treatment of anthropomorphic statements alone exhibits a progress beyond the earlier Biblical conceptions. For example, in Genesis 6:6-7 "it repented the Lord" is softened into "He took it to heart"; Exodus 24:9-10, "They [Moses, Aaron, and the others mentioned) saw the place where the God of Israel stood" is rendered "They saw the God of Israel"; Exodus 15:3, instead of "The Lord is a man of war," has "The Lord is one who crushes wars"; Joshua 4:24, "the power" for "the hand." In Isaiah 6:1, the "train of his [God's] robe" is changed into "his glory" (see Zeller, "Die Philosophie der Griechen," , part , 254). As the Targumim, so the Septuagint, on account of a more spiritualized conception of God, takes care to modify the earlier and grosser terminology; but even the phrase ὅ Θεὸς τῶν δυνάμεων (Isaiah 42:13) does not imply the recognition of powers self-existent though under the control of God. The doctrine of the unity of God is put forth as the central truth also in the Septuagint.
Nor is this theology toned down in other Hellenistic writings. While in style and method under the influence of Greek thought, the fragments of Demetrius, Pseudo-Artapanus, Pseudo-Phocylides, Ezekielus' tragedy on Exodus, and the so-called Fourth Book of Maccabees can not be said to put forth notions concerning God at variance with the Palestinian theology. The Wisdom of Solomon, the Letter of Aristeas, and the fragments of Aristobulus, however, do this. In the first of these three, Israel's God is pronounced to be the only God. He lives in solitary supremacy, responsible to Himself alone (Wisdom 12:12-14). He is (τόν ὅντα ib. 13:1). He is the "eternal light" (ib. 7:26). He is the Artificer (Τεχνίτης) who created or prepared (both verbs are used) the various things in nature (ib. 18:1-5). This uncertainty in the verb descriptive of God's part in creation suggests that the old Biblical conception of the Creator's functions is in this book attenuated to the bringing into order of formless primeval matter (comp. ib. 11:17). Matter is compared to a lump of wax which, originally devoid of attributes, owes its qualities to divine agency (Drummond, c. p. 188).
But, while the cosmos is an expression and the result of the greatness, power, and beauty of God, He remains transcendent above it. Nevertheless, He continues to administer all things (Wisdom 12:15,18; 15:1). It is His providence that acts as a pilot or rudder (ib. 14:3). In this is manifested His truth, justice, mercy, loving-kindness, and long-suffering (ib. 11:23; 12:15,18; 15:1). It is among His holy ones that His grace and mercy are conspicuous; but evil-doers are punished (3:9,10). The pious are those who dwell with wisdom (7:28). God possesses immediate knowledge of men's secrets, of their speech, feelings, and thoughts (ib. 1:6). He foreknows but does not foreordain the future. Necessity and right (ἀνάγκη and δίκη) are both postulated. The former blinds the judgment of the impious. If they continue in their impenitence, they will be overtaken by their punishment(ib. 1:15; 2:6-22; 3:2-17; 4:3-14; 12:2,10,20; and more especially 19:1-5). The avenging Right is, however, not hypostatized or personified to any great degree (ib. 1:8, 11:20, 14:31, 18:11). God is not the creator of evil (ib. 1:12-14); therefore in evil He is confronted with a tendency that He can not tolerate. Hence He or His is the avenging justice.
God is neither unknown nor unknowable. The external universe reveals Him. It implies the existence of a primal source greater than it (ib. 13:1-9); and, again, through wisdom and "the spirit" sent from on high, God is found by them who do not disobey Him (ib. 1:2-4, 9:13-17). Yet man can never attain unto perfect knowledge of the divine essence (see Gfrörer, cited by Drummond, c. p. 198). Notwithstanding God's transcendence, anthropopathic phraseology is introduced (Wisdom 4:18, "God shall laugh"; "His right hand" and "arm," 5:16; "His hand," 7:16, 10:20, 11:17, 19:8). This proves that the doctrine of intermediate agents is not fully developed in the book, though in its presentation of God's wisdom elements appear that root in this conception. Certainly the question had begun to force itself upon the writer's mind: How is it that God enthroned on high is yet omnipresent in the universe? Like the Stoics, the author assumes an all-penetrating divine principle which appears as the rational order of the cosmos and as the conscious reason in man. Hence God's spirit is all-pervasive (ib. 1:6-7). This spirit is, in a certain sense, distinct from God, an extension of the Divine Being, bringing God into relation with the phenomenal world. Still, this spirit is not a separate or subordinate person. "Wisdom" and this "spirit" are used interchangeably (ib. 9:17); "wisdom is a spirit that is" a lover of mankind (ib. 1:4-6); wisdom is "a vapor of the power of God," a reflection of eternal light (ib. 7:25-26).
"Wisdom" of God.
This wisdom has twenty-one attributes: it is "an understanding spirit, holy, alone in kind, manifold, subtile, freely moving, clear in utterance, unpolluted, distinct, unharmed, loving what is good, keen, unhindered, beneficent, loving toward man, steadfast, sure, free from care, all-powerful, all-surveying, and penetrating through all spirits that are quick of understanding, pure, most subtile" (ib. 7:22-24). Wisdom is a person, the "assessor" at God's throne (ib. 9:4); the chooser of God's works (ib. 8:3-4). She was with God when He made the cosmos (ib. 9:9). She is the artificer of all things (ib. 7:21). As all this is elsewhere predicated of God also, it is plain that this "wisdom" is regarded only as an instrument, not as a delegate of the Divine. The Wisdom of Solomon speaks also of the "Logos" (ib. 2:2-3, 9:1-2, 16:12, 18:14-16); and this, taken in connection with its peculiar conception of wisdom, makes the book an important link in the chain leading from the absolute God-conception of Palestinian Judaism to the theory of the mediating agency of the Word (Άόγος, "Memra") in Philo. The Aristeas Letter does not present as clear a modification of the God-conception (but see Eleazar's statement therein, "there is only one God and 'His power' is through all things"). Aristobulus, in the Orphic verses, teaches that God is invisible (verse 20), but that through the mind He may be beheld (verses 11, 12). Maker and Ruler of the world, He is Himself the beginning, middle, and end (verses 8, 34, 35, 39). But wisdom existed before heaven and earth; God is the "molder of the cosmos" (verse 8)—statements which, by no means clear enough to form the basis of a conclusion, yet suggest also in Aristobulus' theology a departure from the doctrine of God's transcendence and His immediate control of all as the Creator ex nihilo.
Philo is the philosopher who boldly, though not always consistently, attempts to harmonize the supramundane existence and majesty of the one God with His being the Creator and Governor of all. Reverting to the Old Testament idiom, according to which "by the word of Yhwh were the heavens made" (Psalms 33  6)—which passage is also at the root of the Targumic use of MEMRA, (ANTHROPOMORPHISM)—and on the whole but not consistently assuming that matter was uncreated (see CREATION), he introduces the Logos as the mediating agent between God on high and the phenomenal world.
Philo is also the first Jewish writer who undertakes to prove the existence of God. His arguments are of two kinds: those drawn from nature, and those supplied by the intuitions of the soul. Man's mind, also invisible, occupies in him the same position as does that of God in the universe ("De Opificio Mundi," § 23). From this one arrives at a knowledge of God. The mind is the sovereign of the body. The cosmos must also have a king who holds it together and governs it justly, and who is the Supreme ("De Abrahamo," § 16; "De Migratione Abrahami," § 33). From a ship man forms the idea of a ship-builder. Similarly, from the cosmos he must conceive the notion of the Father and Creator, the great and excellent and all-knowing artist ("De Monarchia," 1:4; "De Præmiis et Pœnis," § 7). For a first and an efficient cause man must look outside of the material universe, which fails in the points of eternity and efficiency ("De Confusione Linguarum," §§ 21, 25; "De Somniis," 1:33). This cause is mind. But man has the gift of immortal thoughts ("De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiatur," § 24): these culminate in the apprehension of God; they press beyond the limits of the entire phenomenal world to the Unbegotten ("De Plantatione Noe," § 5). This intuition of God was the especial prerogative of the Prophets, of Abraham, and of Jacob.
The essence of God is unknown to man, whose conceptions are colored through the medium of his own nature. Anthropopathisms and anthropomorphisms are wicked. God is incorporeal. He is without any irrational affections of the soul. God is a free, self-determining mind. His benevolence is due not to any incapacity of His for evil, but to His free preference for the good (ib. § 20).
Man's personality lifts him above the rest of the creatures. In analogy therewith, Philo gives God the attributes of personality, which are not restrictive, but the very reverse (Drummond, "Philo Judæus," 2:15). Efficiency is the property of God;susceptibility, that of the begotten ("De Cherubim," § 24). God, therefore, is not only the First Cause, but He is the still efficient ground of all that is and comes to pass. He never pauses in His creative activity ("De Allegoriis Legum," 1:3). The feebleness of the human mind precludes the possibility of man's knowing God as He is in Himself (ib. 3:73). God is without qualities (ib. 1:13). God is transcendent. He contains, but is not contained (περιέχων οὐ περιεχόμενος); yet He is also within the universe. He is omnipresent (comp. "De Confusione Linguarum," § 27, "De Posteritate Caini," § 5); still He is above the conditions of space and time ("De Posteritate Caini," § 5; "Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis," § 6). He is complete in Himself, and contains within His own being the sum of all conceivable good ("De Mutatione Nominum," § 4). He is perfect; He is omniscient ("De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiatur," § 42); He is omnipotent; He is free from evil and, therefore, can not be its source ("De Profugis," § 15); He is without passion as the most perfectly reasonable being, as the efficient and not the susceptible. God cares for the world and its parts (see PROVIDENCE (2)) ("De Opificio Mundi," § 61). He is the "Archon of the great city," "the pilot managing the universe with saving care" ("De Decem Oraculis," § 12).
It is in the development of his theory of the divine powers that Philo injects into his theology elements not altogether in concordance with antecedent Jewish thought. These intelligible and invisible powers, though subject to God, partake of His mystery and greatness. They are immaterial. They are uncircumscribed and infinite, independent of time, and unbegotten ("Quod Deus Sit Immutabilis," § 17). They are "most holy" ("Fragmenta," 2:655), incapable of error ("De Confusione Linguarum," § 23). Among these powers, through which God works His ends, is the Logos. "God is the most generic Thing; and His Logos is second" ("De Allegoriis Legum," 2:21). "This Logos is the divine seal of the entire cosmos" ("De Somniis," 2:6). It is the archetypal idea with which all things were stamped ("De Mutatione Nominum," § 23). It is the law of and in all things, which is not corruptible ("De Ebrietate," § 35). It is the bond of the universe, filling a function analogous to that of the soul in man ("Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § 48). It is God's son (see Logos; see Philo).
Vacillating though it was, the theory of the divine powers and the Logos, as elaborated by Philo, certainly introduced views into the theology of Judaism of far-reaching consequences in the development of the God-idea if not of the Synagogue at least of the Church. The absolute unity and transcendence of God were modified materially, though the Biblical notion of the likeness of man to God was in the system developed in a manner adopted again by the modern Jewish theologians (see below). Talmudic and medieval Judaism were only indirectly affected by this bold attempt to save the transmundane and supramundane implications of the God-concept and still find an explanation for the immanence of the divine in man and in the world. The Pharisaic Psalms of Solomon, for instance, echo without the least equivocation the theological constructions of the Biblical books (see 2:15-18,32-37); and the other apocalyptic writings (Enoch; Book of Jubilees; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs) present no essentially new points of view or even any augmentations.
—In Talmudic Literature:
The Hellenistic modifications of the Biblical God-concept were further developed in the propositions of the heretical sects, such as the Minim or Gnostics, and of the Judæo-Christians and Christians. To controvert their departures from the fundamental positions of Judaism, the Palestinian synagogue, as did all later Judaism with the exception of the cabalists (CABALA), laid all the greater stress on the unity of God, and took all the greater precaution to purge the concept from any and all human and terrestrial similarities. The Shema' (Deuteronomy 6:4 et seq.) was invested with the importance of a confession of faith. Recited twice daily (Ber. 1:1), the concluding word "eḥad" was given especial prominence, emphatic and prolonged enunciation being recommended ("kol ha-ma'arik be-eḥad"; Ber. 19a). Audible enunciation was required for the whole sentence (Sifre, Deut. 31: "Mi-kan amru: ha-ḳore et shema' welohishmia' le-ozno lo yaẓa"). Upon Israel especially devolved the duty of proclaiming God's unity ("leyaḥed shemo beyoter"). The repetition of "Yhwh" in the verse is held to indicate that God is one both in the affairs of this world and in those of the world to come (Yalḳ., Deut. 833). "The Eternal is Israel's portion" (Lamentations 3:24, Hebr.) demonstrates Israel's duty in the Shema' to proclaim God's unity and imperishability over against the sun-, moon-, and star-worship of the heathen (Lam. R. 3:24; comp. Deut. R. , end). The "eḥad" is also taken in the sense of "meyuḥad," e., unique, unlike any other being (Meg. 28). Two powers ("reshuyot"), therefore, can not be assumed, as Deuteronomy 32:39 proves (Tan., Yitro; Jellinek,"B. H." 1:110); and the opening sentence of the Decalogue confirms this (Mek., Yitro,; comp. Yalḳ., Ex. 286). In the historical events, though God's manifestations are varied and differ according to the occasion, one and the same God appears: at the Red Sea, a warrior; at Sinai, the author of the Decalogue; in the days of Daniel, an old, benignant man (Yalḳ. c.). God has neither father, nor son, nor brother (Deut. R. ).
Pains are taken to refute the arguments based on the grammatical plurals employed in Biblical texts when referring to God. "Elohim" does not designate a plurality of deities. The very context shows this, as the verbs in the predicate are in the singular. The phrase "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26) is proved by the subsequent statement, "so God created man in his own image" (ib. verse 27), to refer to one God only (Yer. Ber.; Gen. R. , ). Nor, according to R. Gamaliel, is the use of both "bara" and "yaẓar," to connote God's creative action, evidence of the existence of two distinct divine powers (Gen. R. ). The reason why in the beginning one man only was fashioned was to disprove the contention of those that believe in more than one personality in God (Sanh. 38a). God had neither associate nor helper (Sanh. 38b; Yer.Shab. 6:8d; Eccl. R. 4:8). The ever-recurrent principle throughout haggadic theological speculations is that there is only one "Reshut" ("Reshut aḥat hu" = "personality").
From this emphasis upon the unity and immutability of God, Weber, among others (see his "Jüdische Theologic," p. 153, Leipsic, 1897), has drawn the inference that the Jewish God was apprehended as the Absolute, persisting in and for Himself alone—supramundane and therefore extramundane also. Between Him and the world and man there is no affinity and no bond of union. This view, however, neglects to take into account the thousand and one observations and interpretations of the Rabbis in which the very reverse doctrine is put forth. The bond between this one God—supreme, and in no way similar to man—and His creatures is very close (comp. the discussion of the effect of the Shema' taken from Yer. Ber. in Yalḳ., Deut. 836). It is not that subsisting between a despot and his abject, helpless slaves, but that between a loving father and his children. The passages bearing on the point do not support Weber's arbitrary construction that the implications of the names "Elohim" as "middat hadin" (justice) and "Yhwh" as "middat ha-raḥamim" (mercy) merely convey the notion of a supreme despot who capriciously may or may not permit mercy to temper revengeful justice (Weber, c.). In the rabbinical as in the Biblical conception of God, His paternal pity and love are never obscured (see COMPASSION).
Nor is it true, as Weber puts it and many after him have repeated, that the Jewish conception of God lacks that "self-communicating love which . . . presupposes its own immanence in the other" Weber, c.). R. Johanan's parable of the king and his son certainly demonstrates the very reverse. "A king's son was made to carry a beam. The king, upon seeing this, commanded that the beam be laid on his own shoulders. So does God invite sinners to lay their sins upon Him" (Midr. Teh. to Psalms 22:6). The anti-Pauline point of the parable is patent. The convenient restriction of the term "abinu sheba-shamayim" (our father which art in heaven) to mean, when used in a Jewish prayer, "the father of the nation," while when found in a supposedly non-Jewish prayer (see Lord's Prayer) it is interpreted to express the filial relation of every human soul to the Father, rests on no proof. The Rabbis denationalized and individualized their conception of God as clearly as did the Jewish compilers of the Gospels. "God used the phrase 'I am Yhwh, thy God' advisedly because He was the God of every individual man, woman, or child" (thy God, not your God) (Yalḳ., Deut. 286).
In the quaint presentation of their views on God's providence, the haggadists strike this note as well: "God chooses His own. Him whose deeds He is pleased with, He brings near unto Himself" (Midr. Shemuel,; Num. R. ). "God is busy making marriages." (see DEISM; Lev. R. ,; Pesiḳ. 11b; Midr. Shemuel; Tan., Bemidbar, ed. Buber, 18). "God builds ladders for some to ascend [become rich], for others to descend [become poor]" (Tan., Maṭṭot and Ki Tissa, ed. Buber, and passages quoted in the foregoing sentence). "God does not provide for Israel alone, but for all lands: He does not guard Israel alone, but all men" (Sifre, Deut. 40). "None will wound as much as a finger here below unless this is the divine decree concerning him from above" (Ḥul. 7b). These passages, which might easily be indefinitely multiplied, are illustrative of the thought running through haggadic theology; and they amply demonstrate the fallacy of the view denying to the God-concept of rabbinical Judaism individualistic and denationalized elements.
In the Targumim.
The care with which anthropomorphisms are avoided in the Targumim is not due to dogmatic zeal in emphasizing the transcendental character of the Godhead, but to the endeavor not to use phraseology which might in the least degree create the presumption of God's corporeality. Hence the introduction of the particle "ke-'illu" (as it were) in the paraphrasing of passages that might suggest similarity between God and man's sensuous nature (Yer. Targ. to Genesis 18:8); the suppression altogether of verbs connoting physical action ("God descended," Genesis 11:5, becomes "God revealed Himself"); the recourse to "ḳodam" (before), to guard against the humanizing of the Godhead. The see MEMRA ("Word"; "Logos") and the SHEKINAH, the divine effulgent indwelling of God (NAMES OF GOD), are not expedients to bridge the chasm between the extramundane and supramundane God and the world of things and man, as Weber claims; they are not hypostases which by being introduced into the theology of the rabbinical Synagogue do violence to the strenuous emphasis on God's unity by which it is characterized; but they owe their introduction into the phraseology of the Targumim and Midrashim respectively to this anxiety to find and use terms distinctively indicative of God's superlative sublimity and exaltedness, above and differentiated from any terrestrial or human similitude. These two terms prove, if anything, the apprehension on the part of the haggadists of God's relations to the world as the one supreme, all-directing, omnipresent, and all-pervading Essence, the all-abiding, everactive and activizing Principle, unfolding Himself in time and space.
Equally one-sided is the view according to which the rabbinical conception of God is rigidly and narrowly legal or nomistic. Weber (c.) and many after him have in connection with this even employed the term "Judaized conception of God." In proof of the contention, after Bartolocci, Eisenmenger, and Bodenschatz, rabbinical passages have been adduced in which God is represented as "studying the Law" ('Ab. Zarah 3b; Yalḳ., Isa. 316; or, more particularly, the section concerning the red heifer, Num. R. , parashah "Parah Adummah"); as "teaching children" (Yalḳ., Isa. c.); as "weeping over the destruction of the Temple" (Yer. Ḥag. 1:5b; Yalḳ., Lam. 1000); as "roaring like a lion" and "playing with the see Leviathan" (Yalḳ., Isa. c.); as "no longer on His throne, but having only 'arba' ammot shel halakah,' the four ells of the halakah in the world for His own" (Ber. 11a); as "being under the ban, 'ḥerem'" (Pirḳe R. El. ); as "being Levitically unclean, owing to His havingburied Moses" (Sanh. 39a); as "praying" (Yalḳ., Ps. 873; Ber. 7a); as "laying tefillin and wearing a ṭallit" (Ber. 6a; R. H. 17b); as "blowing the shofar"; as "having a vow released according to the provisions of the Law" (Numbers 30:2 et seq.; Ex. R.; Lev. R. ); and as "rising before a hoary head" (Lev. R. ). Upon examination, all these passages are seen to be homiletical extravagances, academic exercises, and mere displays of skill and versatility in the art of interpreting Biblical texts ("Schulweisheit"), and therefore of no greater importance as reflecting the religious consciousness of either their authors or the people at large than other extravagances marked as such by the prefacing of "kibbe-yakol" (if it is permitted to say so; "sit venia verbo"), or "ilmale miḳra katub e efshar le-omro" ('Er. 22a; Yer. Ber. 9d; Lev. R. ).
The Law of God.
The exaltation of the Torah is said to have been both the purpose and the instrument of creation: it is preexistent (Gen. R. ), the "daughter" of Yhwh (Tan., Ki Tissa, 28; ib. Peḳude, 4), and its study even engages God (B. M. 86a). Differentiated from the "kabod" of God, it was given to man on earth, while the "splendor" (, also ) has its abode in the higher regions (Midr. Teh. to Ps. xc. 17, 91:9). It is praised as the one panacea, healing the whole of man ('Er. 54a). This idea is not, as has been claimed by Weber and after him by others, evidence either of the nomistic character of the "Judaized" conception of God or of the absolute transcendence of God. In the first place, the term "Torah" in most of the passages adduced in proof does not connote the Law (Pentateuch). For it "religion" might be with greater exactness substituted (see Bacher, "Die Aelteste Terminologie der Jüdischen Schriftauslegung," s. ). In the second, if not a restatement of the doctrine of wisdom ("ḥokmah"; see above), these ecstasies concerning the Torah have a marked anti-Pauline character. The Torah is the "sam ḥayyim" (life-[salvation-] giving drug; Sifre, Deut. § 45; Ḳid. 30b; Yoma 72b; Lev. R. ).
The following haggadic observations will illustrate the views formulated above:
God's omnipresence (with reference to Jeremiah 23:24) is illustrated by two mirrors, the one convex, the other concave, magnifying and contracting respectively the image of the beholder (Gen. R. ). God's "mercy" will always assert itself if man repents (Pesiḳ. 164a). God's "justice" often intentionally refuses to take account of man's misdeeds (Gen. R.; Lev. R. ). God requites men according to their own measure ("middah ke-neged middah"; Sanh. 90a, b; Tosef., Soṭah,; Yer. Soṭah 17a, b); but the measure of good always exceeds that of evil and punishment ("middat ṭobah merubbah mi-middah pur'aniyyot"; Mek., Beshallaḥ, 10:49a). God forgives the sins of a whole community on account of the true repentance of even one man (Yoma 86b). "Ṭob" (the good) is God's main attribute (Yer. Ḥag. 77c; Eccl. R. 7:8; Ruth R. 3:16; comp. Matthew 19:17). The anthropomorphic representation of God as suffering pain with men merely illustrates His goodness (Sanh. 6:5). God fills the world; but the world does not fill or exhaust Him (Gen. R.; Yalḳ., Hab. 563). God's "hand" is extended underneath the wings of the beings that carry the throne, to receive and take to Himself the sinners that return, and to save them from punishment (Pes. 119a). Man is in the clutches of anger; but God masters wrath (Gen. R.; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 94:1). God removes the "stumbling-block" (sin) (Pesiḳ. 165a; Yalḳ., Hosea, 532).
God knows all. He is like an architect who, having built a palace, knows all the hiding-places therein, and from whom, therefore, the owner can not secrete anything (Gen. R. ). God is the architect of the world (Gen. R. ); the "Torah" is the plan. God's signetring is truth, (the Alpha and Omega of the New Testament; Gen. R. lxxxi; Shab. 55a; Yoma 69b; Sanh. 64a; Yer. Tan. 18a; Deut. R. ). All that confess "two God-heads" will ultimately come to grief (Deut. R. ). In a vast number of haggadic disquisitions on God, attention is called to the difference between the action of man and that of God, generally prefaced by "Come and see that 'shelo ke-middat basar wedam middat ha-Ḳodesh baruk hu'" (not like the motive and conduct of flesh and blood is God's manner). For instance, man selling a precious article will part with it in sorrow; not so God. He gave His Torah to Israel and rejoiced thereat (Ber. 5a). In others, again, God is likened to a king; and from this comparison conclusions are drawn (Gen. R. and innumerable similar parables).
Sometimes attention is called to the difference between God and an earthly monarch. "When a king is praised, his ministers are praised with him, because they help him carry the burden of his government. Not so when God is praised. He alone is exalted, as He alone created the world" (Yalḳ., Deut. 835; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 86:10; Gen. R. 1:3). God exalteth Himself above those that exalt themselves ("mitga'ah hu 'al ha-mitga'im; Ḥag. 13b; Mek., Beshallaḥ, 35b). In His hand is everything except the fear of Him (Ber. 33b; Meg. 25a; Niddah 16b).
Among the descriptive attributes, "mighty," "great," and "fearful" are mentioned. After Moses had formulated these (Deuteronomy 10:17), and the last had been omitted by Jeremiah (32:18) and the first by Daniel (9:4), in view of the apparent victory of the heathen the "men of the Great Synagogue" (Nehemiah 9:32) reinstituted the mention of all three, knowing that God's might consisted in showing indulgent long-suffering to the evil-minded, and that His "fearfulness" was demonstrated in Israel's wonderful survival. Hence their name "Great Synagogue" for having restored the crown of the divine attributes (Yoma 69b; Yer. Ber. 11c; Meg. 74c). These attributes may not be arbitrarily augmented; however many attributes man might use, he could not adequately express God's greatness (Ber. 33b; AGNOSTICISM); but man is bound to praise the Creator with his every breath (Gen. R. ).
Stress is laid in the Talmudic theology on the resurrection of the dead. God is "meḥayyeh hametim," the one who restores the dead to life. The key to the resurrection is one of the three (or four) keys not given, save in very rare cases, to any one else, but is in the hands of God alone (Ta'an. 2a, b; Gen. R.; see ESCHATOLOGY).
God and Israel.
Israel is God's people. This relation to Him can not be dissolved by Israel (Num. R. ). This is expressed in the definition of God's name as "ehyeh asher ehyeh." The individual has the liberty to profess God or not; but the community, if refractory, is coerced to acknowledge Him (Ex. R. 3:14). As a king might fasten the key of his jewelcasketby a chain lest it be lost, so God linked His name with Israel lest the people should disappear (Yer. Ta'an. 65d). Israel's love for God, evidenced when in the desert, became a great treasure of divine grace, stored up for the days of Israel's troubles (Midr. Teh. to Psalms 36:11). Upon Israel's fidelity to God even the earth's fertility is dependent (Lev. R. ). God's punishments are therefore very severe for disloyal Israel, though in His grace He provides the cure always before the blow (Meg. 13b). As a father prefers himself to discipline his son rather than to have another beat him, so God Himself is Israel's judge (Midr. Teh. to Psalms 78:41). God is toward Israel, however, like that king who, incensed at his son's conduct, swore to hurl a stone at him. In order not to break his oath, but being anxious not to destroy his child, he broke the stone into pieces, which one after another he threw at him (ib. to Psalms 6:4; comp. Lev. R. ). Israel's disloyalty to God involves in its consequences even the other peoples (after Haggai 1:10; Midr. Teh. to Psalms 4:8; comp. Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27; Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." 1:146).
The prayer-book of the Synagogue is the precipitate of the teachings concerning God held by the Rabbis. An analysis of its contents reveals that God was adored as the Creator, the Preserver of the world ("Yoẓer Or," the first benediction before the Shema'). He is the Great, the Mighty, the Fearful, the Highest, the Loving, the All-Sustaining, Reviving the Dead (in the see Shemoneh 'Esreh), the King, Helper, Deliverer, the Support of the Weak, the Healer of the Sick. He sets free the captives, faithful even to them that sleep in the dust. He is holy. Knowledge and understanding are from Him, a manifestation of His grace ("Attah Ḥonen la-Adam"; Meg. 17b; the "Birkat Ḥokmah," Ber. 33). He forgives sin ("Ha-Marbeh li-Saloaḥ"). In His mercy He sends relief to those that suffer ("Birkat ha-Ḥolim"; 'Ab Zarah, 8a; comp. Meg. 17b). To Israel He continually shows His love and abundant grace ("Ahabah Rabbah" and "Ahabat 'Olam," the second benediction before the Shema'; Ber. 11b). Man's physical perfection is God's work ("Asher Yaẓar"; Ber. 60b). In the prayer "Modim" (the "Hoda'ah" [Meg. 18; Ber. 29, 34; Shab. 24; Soṭah 68b; Sifre, Deut. 949]; ARTICLES OF FAITH), God's immutability is accentuated, as well as His providential care of the life and soul of every man. He is "ha-ṭob," the good one whose mercies are boundless; while in the version given in the Siddur of Rab Amram and the Maḥzor of Rome the statement is added that "God has not abandoned Israel." God is also hailed as the maker of peace. The thought of God's unity, it is needless to remark, dominates throughout. The "'Alenu," with which, according to the Kol Bo (§§ 11 and 77; Ṭur Oraḥ Ḥayyim, § 133), every service must conclude, is a résumé of the implications of Israel's conception of God. He is the Lord of the universe; the Creator. Israel by His grace was called to know Him as the King of Kings, the Holy One. He alone is God. It concludes with the fervent prayer for the coming of the day when idolatry shall be no more, but God shall be acknowledged as the one and only God.
Motekallamin and Motazilites.
—In Philosophical Literature:
The rise of Karaism marks an epoch in Jewish philosophical thought concerning God. The ensuing controversies induced Jewish Rabbinite thinkers to turn their attention to the speculative problems involved in the Jewish conception of God. Mohammedan theology, under the influence of Greek philosophy, which came to it by way of Syria through the Christian Nestorians, had developed various schools, among them the Motekallamin or schoolmen, occupying a middle position between the orthodox believers in the dogmas of the Koran and the Free-thinkers or Philosophers. According to Shahrastani (ed. Cureton, German transl. by Haarbrücker), they were the defenders of the fundamental truths of the Koran. They did not appeal solely to the wording of the book, but formulated a rational system, that of the Kalam (hence their name, = Hebrew "Medabberim" = "loquentes"), in which through speculation the positions of the Koran were demonstrated as logically and intellectually necessary.
An offshoot from the Motekallamin were the Motazilites, who differed from the former in their doctrines concerning the divine attributes. Designating themselves as the proclaimers of the unity of God, they contended that the divine attributes were in no way to be regarded as essential; they thus emphasized God's absolute unity, which was regarded by them even as numerical. Over and against them the see ASH'ARIYA urged deterministic views in opposition to the ascription of freedom to man, and pleaded for the reality of the divine attributes. These three schools were in so far orthodox as they all regarded the Koran as the source of truth and did not intend to abandon its fundamental authority. The Philosophers alone, though in externals observant of the religious ritual, ventured to take their stand on points other than those fixed by the text of the Koran; and they did not care whether their conclusions agreed with or differed from the positions of current theology.
Jewish philosophers in the Middle Ages (900-1300) display, on the whole, the methods and intentions of these orthodox Mohammedan schools. The same problems engage their interest. The attributes of God—His unity, His prescience, the freedom of human action—are the perplexities which they attempt to solve. That the teachings of the Bible and the theology of the Synagogue are true, they assume at the very outset. It is their ambition to show that these fundamental truths are rational, in conformity with the postulates of reason. Aristotelians for the most part, they virtually adopt the propositions of Al-Kindi, Alfarabi, and Al-Ghazali, as far as they are adherents of the Kalam; while those who are not resort to the Neoplatonic elements contained in Arabic Aristotelianism to sharpen their weapons. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Roshd (AVERROES), also, must be remembered among the tutors of the Jewish Aristotelians.
The first of the Jewish writers to treat of the Jewish faith from the philosophical point of view was SAADIA, the great anti-Karaite (see his controversies with Anan, Nahawandi, Ibn Sakawai, andBen Jeroham), in his famous work "Kitab al-Amanat wal-I'tiḳadat" (Hebrew, "Sefer Emunot we-De'ot"). He shows his familiarity with the positions of the Motazilites as well as with Greek philosophy and even with Christian theology. His purpose in composing the treatise was to set forth the harmony between the revealed truths of Judaism and the reason of man. In its controversial chapters he attacks the theology of Christianity with greater vehemence than that of Islam (see Geiger, "Wiss. Zeit. Jüd. Theol." 1:192). His philosophical point of view has rightly been characterized as eclectic, though strongly influenced by Aristotelianism. He prefaces his presentation of the God-concept with a discussion of the theory of human knowledge, which latter, according to him, proceeds from the perception of the grossly sensual elements common to men and animals. But when a man perceives an object, merely the accidents come to his vision.
"Sefer Emunot we-De'ot."
By comparison, however, he learns to know the quantity of bodies, thus forming the notion of space; while through the observation of motion he arrives at the perception of time ("Sefer Emunot we-De'ot," ed. Amsterdam, ). In this way man, through continued reflection, attains to ever finer and higher degrees of knowledge, discovering the relation of cause to effect. Many men, says Saadia, reject the existence of God on the ground that the knowledge of Him is too subtle and too abstract. But this is easily met by the assertion of the graduation of knowledge, which in its ascent always reaches finer degrees, and develops into the faculty of apprehending the less concrete and more abstract.
The final cause some philosophers have held to be material, an atom. But in going one degree higher, and in assuming the existence of a creator, man must know him as the highest; that is to say, God is the noblest but also the most subtile goal of speculative reflection. Many represent God as corporeal, because they do not push their ascending knowledge far enough beyond the corporeal to the abstract and incorporeal. The Creator being the originator of all bodies, He of necessity must be apprehended as supramundane, supercorporeal. Those that ascribe to God motion and rest, wrath and goodness, also apperceive Him as corporeal. The correct conception culminates in the representation of God as free from all accidents (ib.). If this conception be too abstract, and is to be replaced by one more material and concrete, reflection is forced to recede. The final cause must be, by the very postulates of reason, an abstract being. God-perception is thus the rise from the sensual to the supersensual and highest limits of thought.
But the Creator has revealed Himself to His Prophets as the One, the Living, the Almighty, the All-Wise, the Incomparable. It is the philosopher's part to investigate the reality of these attributes, and to justify them before the tribunal of reason (ib. 2:24b, 25a). The unity of God includes His being absolutely one, as well as His uniqueness, and is necessarily postulated by the reflection that He is the Creator of all. For if He were not one. He would be many; and multiplicity is characteristic of corporeality. Therefore, as the highest thinking rejects His corporeality, He must be one. Again, human reason postulates one creator, since for creation a creator is indispensable; but, as one creator satisfies all the implications of this concept, reason has no call to assume two or more. If there were more than one creator, proof would have to be adduced for the existence of every one; but such proof could not be taken from creation, to account for which one creator suffices. That Scripture uses two names for God is merely due to linguistic idiomatic peculiarities, as "Jerubbaal" is also named "Gideon."
The Living God.
God is living because He, the Creator of the world, can not be thought of as without life (e., self-consciousness and knowledge of His deeds). His omnipotence is self-evident, since He is the Creator of the all: since creation is perfectly adjusted to its ends, God must be all-wise. These three attributes human reason discovers "at one stroke" ("pit'om," "beli maḥshabah," "mebi'ah aḥat"; ib. 2:26a). Human speech, however, is so constituted as not to be able to express the three in one word. God's being is simple, not complex, every single attribute connoting Him in His entirety. Abstract and subtle though God is, He is not inactive. The illustration of this is the soul and its directive function over the body. Knowledge is still more subtile than the soul; and the same is again exemplified in the four elements. Water percolates through earth; light dominates water; the sphere of fire surrounds all other spheres and through its motion regulates the position of the planets in the universe. The motion of the spheres is caused by the command of the Creator, who, more subtile than any of the elements, is more powerful than aught else.
Still, Saadia concedes that no attribute may in strict construction be ascribed to God (ib. 2:28b). God has also created the concept attribute; and created things can not belong to the essence of the Creator. Man may only predicate God's existence ("yeshut"). Biblical expressions are metaphorical. The errors concerning God are set forth in ten categories. Some have thought God to be a substance; some have ascribed to Him quantity; others quiddity (ποιόν in Aristotle); others have assigned to Him relations and dependency (πρός τι). The Eternal can not be in relation to or dependent upon anything created. He was before creation was. God is in no space (ποῦ in Aristotle). He is timeless (ποτέ). God can not be said to possess (ἔχειν): all is His. He lacks nothing. Possession, however, includes lack as its negative. God is incorporeal; therefore, He can not be apprehended as conditioned by status (κεῖσϑαι). Nor does God work (ποιεῖν). In the common sense of the term, work implies motion; and motion, in the subject, can not be in God. His will suffices to achieve His purposes; and, moreover, in work matter is an element, and place and time are factors—all considerations inapplicable to God.
Nor does God suffer (πάσχειν). Even God's seeing is not analogous to human sight, which is an effect by some exterior object. Saadia controverts trinitarianism more especially, as well as DUALISM. Heis most emphatic in rejecting the corporeality of God, His incarnation, involved in the Christian doctrine. For his views concerning creation see Jew. Encyc. 4:339, s. CREATION.
But according to Saadia, man is the ultimate object of creation ("Emunot we-De'ot," 4:45a). How is human freedom reconcilable with God's omnipotence and omniscience? That the will of man is free Saadia can not doubt. It is the doctrine of Scripture and of tradition, confirmed by human experience and postulated by reason. Without it how could God punish evil-doers? But if God does not will the evil, how may it exist and be found in this world of reality? All things terrestrial are adjusted with a view to man; they are by divine precept for the sake of man declared to be good or evil; and it is thus man that lends them their character. God's omniscience Saadia declares to be not necessarily causal. If man sins, God may know it beforehand; but He is not the cause of the sinful disposition or act.
Solomon ibn Gabirol.
Ibn Gabirol's theology is more profound than that of Saadia. In his "Meḳor Ḥayyim," he shows himself to be a follower of Plotinus, an adherent of the doctrine of emanation; yet, notwithstanding this pantheistic assumption, he recognizes the domination of a supreme omnipotent will, a free, personal God. He views the cognition of the final cause as the end and goal of all knowledge. "Being" includes: (1) form and matter; (2) primal substance, the cause (God); and (3) will, the mediator between the other two. Between God the Absolute and the world of phenomena, mediating agents are assumed. Like (God) can not communicate with unlike (the world); but mediating beings having something of both may bring them into relation. God is on the uppermost rung of the ladder of being; He is the beginning and cause of all. But the substance of the corporeal world is the lowest and last of all things created. The first is essentially different from the last; otherwise, the first might be the last, and vice versa. God is absolute unity; the corporeal world, absolute multiplicity and variety. Motion of the world is in time; and time is included in and is less than eternity. The Absolute is above eternity; it is infinitude. Hence there must be a mediating something between the supereternal and the subeternal. Man is the microcosm ("'olam ha-ḳaṭon"), a reflection of the macrocosm. The mind ("sekel") does not immediately connect itself with the body, but through the lower energies of the soul. In like manner in the macrocosm the highest simple substance may only join itself to the substance of the categories through the mediation of spiritual substances. Like only begets like. Hence, the first Creator could have produced simple substances only, not the sensual visible world which is totally unlike Him.
Between the First Cause and the world Gabirol places five mediators ("emẓa'ot"): (1) God's will ("ha-raẓon"); (2) general matter and form: (3)the universal mind ("sekel ha-kelali"); (4) the three world-souls ("nefashot"), vegetative, animal, and thinking souls; and (5) nature ("ha-ṭeba'"), the mover of the corporeal world.
The Divine Will.
The divine will has a considerable part in this system. It is the divine power which creates form, calls forth matter, and binds them together. It pervades all, from the highest to the lowest, just as the soul pervades the body ("Meḳor Ḥayyim," 5:60). God may be apprehended as will and as knowledge; the former operating in secret, invisibly; the latter realizing itself openly. From will emanates form, but from the oversubstance matter. Will, again, is nothing else than the totality comprehending all forms in indivisible unity. Matter without form is void of reality; it is non-existent; form is the element which confers existence on the non-existent. Matter without form is never actual ("be-fo'al"), but only potential ("be-koaḥ"). Form appears in the moment of creation, and the creative power is will; therefore, the will is the producer of form.
Upon this metaphysical corner-stone Ibn Gabirol bases his theological positions, which may be summed up as follows:
God is absolute unity. Form and matter are ideas in Him. Attributes, in strict construction, may not be predicated of Him; will and wisdom are identical with His being. Only through the things which have emanated from God may man learn and comprehend aught of God. Between God and the world is a chasm bridged only by mediatorial beings. The first of these is will or the creative word. It is the divine power activated and energized at a definite point of time. Creation is an act of the divine will. Through processes of successive emanations, the absolute One evolves multiplicity. Love and yearning for the first fountain whence issued this stream of widening emanations are in all beings the beginning of motion. They are yearning for divine perfection and omnipotence.
Ibn Gabirol may rightly be styled the Jewish speculative exponent of a system bordering on theosophy, certainly approaching obscurity and the mystic elimination of individuality in favor of an all-encompassing all-Divinity (pantheism). His system is, however, only a side-track from the main line of Jewish theological thought.
Baḥya ibn Paḳuda.
Baḥya ben Joseph ibn Paḳuda, in the treatise introducing his exposition of the "Duties of the Heart" ("Ḥobot ha-Lebabot," chapter "Ha-Yiḥud"), reverts in the main to the method of Saadia. According to Baḥya, only the prophet and the wise can serve God in truth. All others revere in God something utterly out of consonance with the exalted, sublime conception of God (ib. § 2). It is therefore every one's duty to arrive at a proper conception of God's unity by means of speculative reflection, and to be thus enabled to differentiate true unity ("eḥad ha-emet") from pseudo-unity ("eḥad ha-'ober"). In consequence Baḥya develops the following seven demonstrative arguments in support of God's unity:
- The universe is like a pyramid sloping upward from a very broad base toward the apex; or it resembles an infinite series of numbers, of which the first is one, and the last comprises so many figures as to baffle all efforts to form a conception of it. The individual beings in the world are numerically infinite; when these individuals are classified in groups according to species, etc., the number of these groups becomes smaller. Thus by proceeding in his classifications to always more comprehensivegroups, man reduces the number ever more and more until he arrives at the number five, e., four elements plus motion. These, again, are really two only: matter and form. Their common principle, more comprehensive than either, must thus be smaller than two, e., One.
- The harmony and concordance prevailing in creation necessitate the apprehension of the world as the work of one artist and creator.
- Without a creator there could be no creation. Thus reason and logic compel the assumption of a creator; but to assume more than one creator is irrational and illogical.
Proofs of Unity.
- If one believes in the existence of more than one God, one of two alternatives is suggested: (a) One God was potent enough to create the all; why, then, other gods? They are superfluous. (b) One God alone had not the power; then God was limited in power, and a being so limited is not God, but presupposes another being through which He Himself was called into existence.
- The unity of God is involved in the very conception of Him. If there were more gods than one, this dilemma would be presented: (a) These many gods are of one essence; then, according to the law of absolute identity, they are identical and therefore only one. Or (b) these gods are differentiated by differences of essential qualities: then they are not gods; for God, to be God, must be absolute and simple (non-composite) being.
- God connotes being without accidence, e., qualities not involved in being. Plurality is quantity, and, therefore, accidence. Hence plurality may not be predicated of God.
- Inversely, the concept unity posits the unity of God. Unity, according to Euclid, is that through which a thing becomes numerically one. Unity, therefore, precedes the number one. Two gods would thus postulate before the number one the existence of unity. In all these demonstrations Baḥya follows the evidential argumentations of the Arabic schoolmen, the Motekallamin. In reference to God's attributes, Baḥya is of those who contend that attributes predicated of God connote in truth only negatives (excluding their opposites), never positives, (ib. § 10).
This view is shared also by Judah ha-Levi, the author of the "Cuzari," probably the most popular exposition of the contents of Israel's religion, though, as Grätz rightly remarks ("Geschichte," 6:157), little calculated to influence thinkers. He regards Creation as an act of divine will ("Cuzari," 2:50). God is eternal; but the world is not. He ranges the divine attributes into three classes: (1) practical, (2) relative, and (3) negative. The practical are those predicated of God on the ground of deeds which, though not immediately, yet perhaps through the intervention of natural secondary causes, were wrought by God. God is in this sense recognized as gracious, full of compassion, jealous, and avenging.
Relative attributes are those that arise from the relations of man, the worshiper, to God, the one worshiped. God is holy, sublime, and to be praised; but though man in this wise expresses his thoughts concerning God, God's essence is not thereby described and is not taken out of His unity ("me-aḥaduto").
The third class seemingly express positive qualities, but in reality negative their contraries. God is living. This does not mean that He moves and feels, but that He is not unmoved or without life. Life and death belong to the corporeal world. God is beyond this distinction. This applies also to His unity; it excludes merely the notion that He is more than one. His unity, however, transcends the unity of human conceptual construction. Man's "one" is one of many, a part of a whole. In this sense God can not be called "One." Even so, in strict accuracy, God may not be termed "the first." He is without beginning. And this is also true of the designation of God as "the last." Anthropopathic expressions are used; but they result from the human ward impression of His works. "God's will" is a term connoting the cause of all lying beyond the sphere of the visible things. Concerning Ha-Levi's interpretation of the names of God NAMES OF GOD.
In discussing the question of God's providential government and man's freedom Ha-Levi first controverts see FATALISM; and he does this by showing that even the fatalist believes in possibilities. Human will, says he, is the secondary cause between man and the purpose to be accomplished. God is the First Cause: how then can there be room for human freedom? But will is a secondary cause, and is not under compulsion on the part of the first cause. The freedom of choice is thus that of man. God's omnipotence is not impugned thereby. Finally, all points back to God as the first cause of this freedom. In this freedom is involved God's omnipotence. Otherwise it might fail to be available. The knowledge of God is not a cause. God's prescience is not causal in reference to man's doings. God knows what man will do; still it is not He that causes man's action. To sum up his positions, Judah ha-Levi posits: (a) The existence of a first cause, e., a wise Creator always working under purpose, whose work is perfect. It is due to man's lack of understanding that this perfection is not seen by him in all things. (b) There are secondary causes, not independent, however, but instrumentalities. (c) God gave matter its adequate form. (d) There are degrees in creation. The sentient beings occupy higher positions than those without feelings. Man is the highest. Israel as the confessor of the one God outranks the polytheistic heathen. (e) Man is free to choose between good and evil, and is responsible for his choice.
Abraham ibn Daud.
Abraham ibn Daud, in his "Emunah Ramah," virtually traverses the same ground as his predecessors; but in reference to God's prescience he takes a very free attitude (ib. p. 96). He distinguishes two kinds of possibilities: (1) The subjective, where the uncertainty lies in the subject himself. This subjective possibility is not in God. (2) The objective, planned and willed by God Himself. While under the first is the ignorance of one livingin one place concerning the doings of those in another, under the second falls the possibility of man's being good or bad. God knows beforehand of this possibility, but not of the actual choice. The later author RaLBaG advances the same theory in his "Milḥamot ha-Shem" (3:2). Ibn Daud also argues against the ascription of positive attributes to God ("Emunah Ramah," 2:3).
Moses ben Maimon's "Moreh Nebukim" ("Dalalat al-Ḥa'irin") is the most important contribution to Jewish philosophical thought on God. According to him, philosophy recognizes the existence and perfection of God. God's existence is proved by the world, the effect whence he draws the inference of God's existence, the cause. The whole universe is only one individual, the parts of which are interdependent. The sublunar world is dependent upon the forces proceeding from the spheres, so that the universe is a macrocosm ("Moreh," 2:1), and thus the effect of one cause.
Two gods or causes can not be assumed, for they would have to be distinct in their community: but God is absolute; therefore He can not be composite. The corporeal alone is numerical. God as incorporeal can not be multiple ("Yad," Yesode ha-Torah, 1:7). But may God be said to be one? Unity is accidence, as is multiplicity. "God is one" connotes a negative, e., God is not many ("Moreh," 1:57). Of God it is possible only to say that He is, but not what He is (ib.; "hayuto bi-lebad lo mahuto"; in Arabic "anniyyah" = ὅτι ἔστι [quoddiàas]). All attributes have a negative implication, even existence. God's knowledge is absolute (ib. 3:19). God's knowledge is never new knowledge. There is nothing that He does not know. In His knowledge He comprehends all, even infinitude (ib. 3:20). God's knowledge is not analogous to man's. Evil is merely negation or privation (ib. 3:8). God is not its author; for God sends only the positive. All that is, save God, is only of possible existence; but God is the necessarily existent (ib. 1:57). In Him there is no distinction between essence ("'eẓem") and existence ("ha-meẓi'ut"), which distinction is in all other existing things. For this reason God is incorporeal, one, exalted above space and time, and most perfect (ib. , Preface, 18, 21, 23, 24).
By the successors of Maimonides, Albo, Ralbag (LEVI BEN GERSHON), and Crescas, no important modifications were introduced. Albo contends that only God may be designated as one, even numerical oneness being not exclusive connotation of unity ("'Iḳḳarim," 2:9,10; comp. Ibn Ẓaddiḳ, "'Olam Ḳaṭon," p. 49: "eḥad ha-mispar eno ka-eḥad ha-elahut"). He, too, emphasizes God's incorporeality, unity, timelessness, perfection, etc. ("'Iḳḳarim," 2:6).
Crescas pleads for the recognition of positive attributes in God. He concedes that the unity of God can not be demonstrated by speculation, but that it rests on the "Shema'" alone. It may be noticed that Aaron ben Elijah ("'Eẓ ha-Ḥayyim," ch. ) also argues in favor of positive attributes, though he regards them in the light of homonyms.
The precipitate of these philosophical speculations may be said to have been the creed of Maimonides (ARTICLES OF FAITH). It confesses that God is the Creator, Governor of all. He alone "does, has been and will be doing." God is One; but His unity has no analogy. He alone is God, who was, is, and will be. He is incorporeal. In corporeal things there is no similitude to Him. He is the first and the last. Stress is also laid on the thought that none shares divinity with Him. This creed is virtually contained in the see Adon 'Olam and the YIGDAL.
The cabalists (CABALA) were not so careful as Maimonides and others to refrain from anthropomorphic and anthropopathic extravagances and ascriptions (see SHI'UR ḲOMAH). Nevertheless their efforts to make of the incorporeality of God a dogma met with opposition in orthodox circles. Against Maimonides ("Yad," Teshubah, 3:7), denying to the believers in God's corporeality a share in the world to come, see ABRAHAM BEN DAVID OF POSQUIÈRES raised a fervent protest. Moses Taku is another protestant ("Oẓar Neḥmad," 3:25; comp. Abraham Maimuni, "Milḥamot," p. 25).
- Schmiedl, Studien über Jüdische Religionsphilosophie, Vienna, 1869;
- P. J. Muller, De Godsleer der Middeleeuwsche Joden, Groningen, 1898;
- D. Kaufmann, Attributenlehre, Leipsic, 1880;
- Guttmann, Die Religionsphilosophie des Saadia;
- idem, Die Religionsphilosophie Abraham Ibn Dauds;
- M. Joël, Zur Gesch. der Jüdischen Religionsphilosophie, Leipsic, 1872;
- Munk, Mélanges.
—The Modern View:
On the whole, the modern Jewish view reproduces that of the Biblical books, save that the anthropomorphic and anthropopathic terminology is recognized as due to the insufficiency of human language to express the super-human. The influence of modern philosophers (Kant and Hegel) upon some sections of Jewish thought has been considerable. The intellectual elements in the so-called demonstrations of God's existence and the weakness of the argument have been fully recognized. The Maimonidean position, that man can not know God in Himself (), has in consequence been strengthened (AGNOSTICISM). The human heart (the practical reason in the Kantian sense) is the first source of knowledge of God (see Samuel Hirsch, "Catechismus," s. "Die Lehre"). The experience of man and the history of Israel bear witness to God's existence, who is apprehended by man as the Living, Personal, Eternal, All-Sustaining, the Source of all life, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the Father of all, the Righteous Judge, in His mercy forgiving sins, embracing all in His love. He is both transcendental and immanent. Every human soul shares to a certain degree in the essence of the divine. In thus positing the divinity of the human soul, Judaism bridges the chasm between the transcendental and the immanent elements of its conception of God. Pantheism is rejected as one-sided; and so is the view, falsely imputed to Judaism, which has found its expression in the absolute God of Islam.
The implications of the Jewish God-idea may be described as "pan-monotheism," or "ethical monotheism." In this conception of God, Israel is called to the duty, which confers no prerogatives not also within the reach of others, of illustrating in life the godliness of the truly human, through its own"holiness"; and of leading men to the knowledge of the one eternal, holy God (see DEISM; see EVOLUTION).
- Samuel Hirsch, Die Religionsphilosophie der Juden, Leipsic, 1843;
- Formstecher, Die Religion des Geistes;
- also Catechism;
- Rülf, Der Einheitsgedanke.
Biblical historiography presents the theory that God revealed Himself successively to Adam, Noah, Abraham and his descendants, and finally to Moses. Monotheism was thus made known to the human race in general and to Israel in particular from the very beginning. Not ignorance but perverseness led to the recognition of other gods, necessitating the sending of the Prophets to reemphasize the teachings of Moses and the facts of the earlier revelation. Contrary to this view, the modern critical school regards monotheism as the final outcome of a long process of religious evolution, basing its hypothesis upon certain data discovered in the Biblical books as well as upon the analogy presented by Israel's historical development to that of other Semitic groups, notably, in certain stages thereof, of the Arabs (Wellhausen, "Skizzen und Vorarbeiten," 3:164; Nöldeke, in "Z. D. M. G." 1887, p. 719).
Polytheistic Leanings of the Semites.
The primitive religion of Israel and the God-concept therein attained reflected the common primitive Semitic religious ideas, which, though modified in Biblical times, and even largely eliminated, have left their traces in the theological doctrines of the Israel of later days. Renan's theory, formulated in his "Precis et Système Comparé des Langues Semitiques" (1859), ascribing to the Semites a monotheistic instinct, has been abandoned because it was found to be in conflict with facts. As far as epigraphic material, traditions, and folk-lore throw light on the question, the Semites are shown to be of polytheistic leanings. Astral in character, primitive Semitic religion deified the sun, the moon, and the other heavenly bodies. The storm-clouds, the thunder-storms, and the forces of nature making for fertility or the reverse were viewed as deities. As long as the Semites were shepherds, the sun and the other celestial phenomena connected with the day were regarded as malevolent and destructive; while the moon and stars, which lit up the night—the time when the grass of the pasture was revived—were looked upon as benevolent. In the conception of Yhwh found in the poetry of the Bible, speaking the language of former mythology and theology, the element is still dominant which, associating Him with the devastating cloud or the withering, consuming fire, virtually accentuates His destructive, fearful nature (Wellhausen, c. 3:77,170; Baethgen, "Beiträge zur Semitischen Religionsgeschichte," p. 9, Berlin, 1888; Smend, "Lehrbuch der Alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte," p. 19, Leipsic, 1893).
The intense tribal consciousness of the Semites, however, wielded from a very early period a decisive influence in the direction of associating with each tribe, sept, or clan a definite god, which the tribe or clan recognized as its own, to the exclusion of others. For the tribe thought itself descended from its god, which it met and entertained at the sacrificial meal. With this god it maintained the blood covenant. Spencer's theory, that ancestral animism is the first link in the chain of religious evolution, can not be supported by the data of Semitic religions. Ancestral animism as in vogue among the Semites, and the "cult of the dead" (see Witch of ENDOR) in Israel point rather to individual private conception than to a tribal institution. In the development of the Israelitish God-idea it was not a determining factor (Goldziher, "Le Culte des Ancêtres et des Morts chez les Arabes," in "Revue de l'Histoire des Religions," 10:332; Oort, in "Theologisch Tijdschrift," 1881, p. 350; Stade, "Geschichte des Volkes Israel," 1:387).
Characteristic, however, of the Semitic religions is the designation of the tribal or clan deity as "adon" (lord), "melek" (king), "ba'al" (owner, fructifier). The meaning of "el," which is the common Semitic term, is not certain. It has been held to connote strength (in which case God would = "the strong"), leadership ("the first"), and brilliancy (Sprenger, in his "Das Leben und die Lehre des Mohammad," in which God ="sun"). It has also been connected with "elah," the sacred tree (Ed. Meyer, in Roscher's "Ausführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie," s. "El"; and Smend, c. p. 26, note 1). Equally puzzling is the use of the plural "Elohim" in Hebrew ( in Phenician; comp. Ethiopic "amlak"). The interpretation that it is a "pluralis majestatis" with the value of an abstract idea ("the Godhead"), assumes too high a degree of grammatical and philosophical reflection and intention to be applicable to primitive conditions. Traces of an original polytheism might be embodied in it, were it not for the fact that the religion of Israel is the outgrowth of tribal and national monolatry rather than of polytheism.
Each tribe in Israel had its tribal god (see, for instance, see DAN; GAD; ASHER). Nevertheless from a very remote period these tribes recognized their affinity to one another by the fact that above their own tribal god they acknowledged allegiance to Yhwh. This Yhwh was the Lord, the Master, the Ruler. His will was regarded as supreme. He revealed Himself in fire or lightning.
In Exodus 6:2 Yhwh is identified with El-Shaddai, the god of the Patriarchs. What the latter name means is still in doubt (see Nöldeke in "Z. D. M. G." 1886, p. 735; 1888, p. 480). Modern authorities have argued from the statement in Exodus that Yhwh was not known among the Hebrews before Moses, and have therefore insisted that the name at least, if not the god, was of foreign origin. Delitzsch's alleged discovery of the name "Yhwh" on Babylonian tablets has yet to be verified. Moses is held to have identified a Midianite-Kenite deity with the patriarchal El-Shaddai. However this may have been, the fact remains that from the time of the Exodus onward Israel regarded itself as the people of Yhwh, whose seat was Sinai, where he manifested Himself amidst thunder and lightning in His unapproachable majesty, and whence He went forth to aid His people (Judges 5:4; Deuteronomy 33:2). Itwas Yhwh who had brought judgment on the gods of Egypt, and by this act of His superior power had renewed the covenant relation which the fathers of old had maintained with Him.
From the very outset the character of Yhwh must have been of an order conducive to the subsequent development of monotheistic and ethical connotations associated with the name and the idea. In this connection it is noteworthy that the notion of sex, so pernicious in other Semitic cults, was from the outset inoperative in the worship of Yhwh. As Israel's God, He could not but be jealous and intolerant of other gods beside Him, to whom Israel would pay honor and render homage. Enthroned in the midst of fire, He was unapproachable ("ḳodesh"); the sacrificial elements in His cult were of a correspondingly simple, pastoral nature. The jealousy of Yhwh was germinal of His unity; and the simplicity and austerity of His original desert worship form the basis of the moralization of the later theology.
Change of Social Conditions.
With the invasion of the land, Israel changed from a pastoral into an agricultural people. The shepherd cult of the desert god came into contact and conflict with the agricultural deities and cults of the Canaanites. Yhwh was partly worshiped under Canaanitish forms, and partly replaced by the Canaanitish deities (Baalim, etc.). But Yhwh would not relinquish His claim on Israel. He remained the judge and lawgiver and ruler and king of the people He had brought out from Egypt. The Nazarites and the Prophets arose in Israel, emphasizing by their life and habits as well as by their enthusiastic and indignant protest the contrast of Israel with the peoples of the land, and of its religion with theirs (comp. the Yhwh of ELIJAH; He is "Ha-Elohim"). With Canaanitish cults were connected immoralities as well as social injustice. By contrast with these the moral nature of Yhwh came to be accentuated.
During the first centuries of Israel's occupation of Palestine the stress in religious life was laid on Israel's fidelity to Yhwh, who was Israel's only God, and whose service was to be different from that offered unto the Baalim. The question of God's unity was not in the center of dispute. Yhwh was Israel's only God. Other peoples might have other gods, but Israel's God had always shown His superiority over these. Nor was umbrage taken at this time at the representations of Yhwh by figures, though simplicity still remained the dominant note in His cult. A mere stone or rock served for an altar (Judges 6:20, 13:10; 1 Samuel 6:14); and natural pillars (holy trees," maẓebot") were more frequent than artificial ones (see Smend, c. pp. 40 et seq.). The EPHOD was perhaps the only original oracular implement of the Yhwh cult. Teraphim belonged apparently to domestic worship, and were tolerated under the ascendency of the Yhwh national religion. "Massekah" was forbidden (Exodus 34:17), but not "pesel"; hence idols seem not to have been objected to so long as Yhwh's exclusive supremacy was not called into doubt. The Ark was regarded as the visible assurance of Yhwh's presence among His people. Human sacrifices, affected in the Canaanitish Moloch cult, were especially abhorred; and the lascivious rites, drunkenness, and unchastity demanded by the Baalim and their consorts were declared to be abominations in the sight of Yhwh.
The God of the Prophets.
These conceptions of God, which, by comparison with those entertained by other peoples, were of an exalted character, even in these early centuries, were enlarged, deepened, refined, and spiritualized by the Prophets in proportion as historical events, both internal and external, induced a widening of their mental horizon and a deepening of their moral perceptions. First among these is Amos. He speaks as the messenger of the God who rules all nations, but who, having known Israel alone among them, will punish His people all the more severely. Assyria will accomplish God's primitive purpose. In Amos' theology the first step is taken beyond national henotheism. Monotheism begins through him to find its vocabulary. This God, who will punish Israel as He does the other nations, can not condone social injustice or religious (sexual) degradation (Amos 4). The ethical implications of Yhwh's religion are thus placed in the foreground. Hosea introduces the thought of love as the cardinal feature in the relations of Israel and God. He spiritualizes the function of Israel as the exponent of divine purposes. Yhwh punishes; but His love is bound ultimately to awaken a responsive love by which infidelity will be eliminated and overcome.
Isaiah lays stress on God's holiness: the "ḳodesh," unapproachable God, is now "ḳadosh," holy (see Baudissin, "Der Begriff der Heiligkeit im Alten Testament," in "Studien zur Semitischen Religionsgesch."). It is Israel's duty as God's people to be cleansed from sin by eschewing evil and by learning to do good. Only by striving after this, and not by playing at diplomacy, can the "wrath of God" be stayed and Jerusalem be saved. The remnant indeed will survive. Isaiah's conception of God thus again marks an advance beyond that of his predecessors. God will ultimately rule as the arbiter among the nations. Peace will be established, and beasts as well as men will cease to shed blood.
Jeremiah and his contemporaries, however, draw near the summit of monotheistic interpretations of the Divine. The cultus is centralized; Deuteronomic humanitarianism is recognized as the kernel of the God-idea. Israel and Palestine are kept apart from the rest of the world. Yhwh ceases to be localized. Much greater emphasis than was insisted on even by Isaiah is now laid on the moral as distinct from the sacrificial involutions of the God-idea.
The prophets of the Exile continue to clarify the God-concept of Israel. For them God is One; He is Universal. He is Creator of the All. He can not be represented by image. The broken heart is His abiding-place. Weak Israel is His servant ("'ebed"). He desires the return of the sinner. His intentions come to pass, though man's thoughts can not grasp them.
After the Exile a double tendency in the conceptions of God is easily established. First, He is Israel's Lawgiver; Israel shall be holy. Secondly,He is all mankind's Father. In the Psalms the latter note predominates. Though the post-exilic congregation is under the domination of national sacerdotalism (represented by P), in the Wisdom literature the universal and ethical implications of Israel's God-belief came to the forefront. In the later books of the Biblical canon the effort is clearly traceable to remove from God all human attributes and passions (ANTHROPOMORPHISM and Anthropopathism). The critical school admits in the final result what the traditional view assumes as the starting-point. The God whom Israel, through the events of its history, under the teachings of its men of genius, the Prophets, finally learned to proclaim, is One, the Ruler and Creator of all, the Judge who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity, whose witness Israel is, whose true service is love and justice, whose purposes come and have come to pass.
- Kuenen, The Religion of Israel (Eng. transl. of Godsdienst van Israel, Haarlem, 1869-70);
- idem, National Religions and Universal Religion (Hibbert Lectures, 1882);
- Knappert, The Religion of Israel;
- Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten, Bonn, 1875;
- Wilhelm Vatke, Die Religion des A. T. Berlin, 1835;
- Ewald, Die Lehre der Bibel von Gott, Göttingen, 1871-76;
- Wellhausen, Prolegomenazur Gesch. Israels, 3d ed., 1886;
- idem, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, -, 1882-1903;
- Baudissin, Studien zur Semitischen Religionsgesch. Leipsic, 1876, 1878;
- W. Robertson Smith, Rel. of Sem. Edinburgh, 1885;
- Ed. König, Grundprobleme der Alttest. Religionsgesch. 1885;
- idem, Der Offenbarungsbegriff, etc.;
- Friedrich Baethgen, Beiträge zur Semit. Religionsgesch. Berlin, 1888;
- Smend, Lehrbuch der Alttestamentlichen Religionsgesch. 1893;
- Budde, Vorlesungen über die Vorexilische Religion Israels, 1901;
- Kayser-Dillmann, Alt. Test. Theologie.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Elohim'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​e/elohim.html. 1901.