Philosophers often describe God as “perfect being”—a being that possesses all possible perfections, so that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent, among other qualities. This way of understanding God’s nature is the source of much of contemporary theological discourse. Moreover, something like it has become quite widespread among lay people as well. However, there are a number of reasons to question whether this long-standing conception of God’s nature is appropriate as a basis for Jewish theology, and indeed, for religious belief more generally. This paper seeks to highlight some of the issues that should move philosophers, theologians, and scholars of the Bible and Talmud to reexamine whether this notion of divine perfection is in fact consistent with Judaism’s foundational texts, and whether it needs to be revised or replaced by one that is better suited to Jewish thought.
Jewish and Christian Essays on the God of the Bible and Talmud
Edited by Yoram Hazony and Dru Johnson
Philosophers have often described theism as the belief in the existence of a “perfect being”—a being that is said to possess all possible perfections, so that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent, among other qualities. But such a theology is difficult to reconcile with the God we find in the Bible and Talmud. The Question of God’s Perfection brings together leading scholars from the Jewish and Christian traditions to critically examine the theology of perfect being in light of the Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic sources. Contributors are James A. Diamond, Lenn E. Goodman, Edward C. Halper, Yoram Hazony, Dru Johnson, Brian Leftow, Berel Dov Lerner, Alan L. Mittleman, Heather C. Ohaneson, Randy Ramal, Eleonore Stump, Alex Sztuden, and Joshua I. Weinstein.