Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Corporeality of G-d

I've been thinking about the idea of corporeality of G-d (or lack thereof). It seems that there were a substantial set of rabbis who believed in some form of divine corporeality. The Rambam called them heretics, but I am not sure whether other rabbis (especially in Ashkenaz) were as harsh to condemn this belief wholesale.

It is interesting to me because I believe that the school of belief that G-d is incorporeal seems to have arrived at this assumption through reasoning and logic, though in many ways the more literal reading of the Tanach would certainly leave the door open for a corporeal Deity. In other words, G-d seems to walk through the garden of Eden, G-d speaks from a cloud, G-d descends down to Mt Sinai, etc... Yet, the rationalist side argued that by definition, G-d cannot be corporeal. But this really seems to be applying our own ideas about what G-d can and cannot be to the text. In many ways this leads to the crux of the matter, which is: is the human mind capable of discerning whether a particular system of logic is 'bulletproof' and therefore leads to an indisputably 'true' conclusion?

Those of us in computer science and mathematics related fields know how far away we are from being able to conclusively logically prove anything non-trivial. As the famous computer scientist Donald Knuth wrote in a memo, "Beware of bugs in the above code. I've only proven it correct, not tested it!"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It isn't the rationalist side per se that decided that God isn't corporeal. It was the philosophical school. Philosophy = thinking really hard about stuff.

February 20, 2007 6:04 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


Granted I was using terms loosely, but I think that what you're calling the 'philosophical school' was fairly rationalist in its methods. What I mean by rationalist, perhaps using the term imprecisely, is that they were using reason and logic to arrive at their conclusions.

February 20, 2007 7:14 AM  

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