Is God ‘Perfect Being’?
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.
So, is God perfect? There are a number of reasons to question whether this longstanding 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.
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