The Jewish View of God
"The world owes to Israel the idea of the one God of righteousness and holiness. This is how God became known to mankind."
A summary of what Jews believe about God
- God exists
- There is only one God
There are no other gods
God can't be subdivided into different persons (unlike the Christian view of God)
Jews should worship only the one God
God is Transcendent:
--- God is above and beyond all earthly things.
God doesn't have a body
--- Which means that God is neither female nor male.
God created the universe without help
God is omnipresent:
--- God is everywhere, all the time
God is omnipotent:
--- God can do anything at all
God is beyond time:
--- God has always existed
--- God will always exist
God is just, but God is also merciful
--- God punishes the bad
--- God rewards the good
--- God is forgiving towards those who mess things up
God is personal and accessible.
--- God is interested in each individual
--- God listens to each individual
--- God sometimes speaks to individuals, but in unexpected ways.
* The Jews brought new ideas about God
The Jewish idea of God is particularly important to the world because it was the Jews who developed two new ideas about God:
- There is only one God
- God chooses to behave in a way that is both just and fair.
Before Judaism, people believed in lots of gods, and those gods behaved no better than human beings with supernatural powers.
The Jews found themselves with a God who was ethical and good.
* But how do Jews know this about God?
They don’t know it, they believe it, which is different.
However many religious people often talk about God in a way that sounds as if they know about God in the same way that they know what they had for breakfast.
For instance, religious people often say they are quite certain about God—by which they mean that they have an inner certainty.
And many people have experiences that they believe were times when they were in touch with God.
The best evidence for what God is like comes from what the Bible says, and from particular individual’s experiences of God.
* God in the Bible
Quite early in his relationship with the Jews, God makes it clear that he will not let them encounter his real likeness in the way that they encounter each other.
The result is that the Jews have work out what God is like from what he says and what he does.
The story is in Exodus 33 and follows the story of the 10 commandments, and the Golden Calf.
Moses has spent much time talking with God, and the two of them are clearly quite close…
‘The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.’
But after getting the 10 commandments Moses wants to see God, so that he can know what he is really like. God says no…
"you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."
Then the LORD said,
"There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."
* Two sides of God
Jews combine two different sounding ideas of God in their beliefs:
- God is an all-powerful being who is quite beyond human ability to understand or imagine.
- God is right here with us, caring about each individual as a parent does their child.
A great deal of Jewish study deals with the creative power of two apparently incompatible ideas of God.