God Cannot Be Physical

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: I'm confused. You say that we should not come up with our own definitions of God. Yet, you say it is impossible for God to become physical. Isn't that limiting God? Where are the scripture verses that support your assertion that God can never become physical?

Mesora: Man cannot perceive that which is imperceptible, I refer to God. This is why one cannot come up with "definitions" of God. As Maimonides teaches, what we know of God is always in the negative. We cannot know what He is, we can only know what He is not, i.e. He is not physical, He is not emotional, He is not governed by anything, including time, he is not affected by anything, including His creations' actions.

Following are a few arguments refuting the notion that God can be physical:

1) "Limit" is not a negative. God being limited, in that He never becomes physical, is a perfection. For example, a human judge who can never make a mistake, limited to being right, is more perfect than a judge who can make mistakes. Being limited to perfection, is perfection. Being right is clearly a good. Being physical is definitely an evil, as it subjects the one physical to all sorts of damage, decay, destruction and death. Being physical is worlds apart from being metaphysical.

2) How can that which is not physical 'become' physical? This is an impossibility. Something which exists already in a metaphysical state, means that this is its nature. As God already exists in His perfection as non-physical, this metaphysical state is His very definition. It is as if you suggest that water can become dry. Then it would not be water. But even this impossibility is more plausible than God's transition into corporeality, as water is already matter. Change in moisture is more plausible than change in God. God cannot become physical, then He would not be God. An important point for those who ascribe to the notion of the Trinity.

3) Another absurdity from your premise is as follows: God is the Creator. To become physical means He is now the 'created'. These two are mutually exclusive. Equally impossible is that something physical can become God. Since it is already a created being, by definition, it cannot be the Creator.

4) Change implies imperfection. Something changes either to become more or less perfect. If we say God changes, (which opposes the verse in Malachi, "I am God, I do not change...") we are suggesting that He is either imperfect now, and is moving towards perfection, or He is perfect now, and is moving away from perfection. In either case, we suggest a moment where God is imperfect.

5) God cannot be controlled by the very laws He created. Becoming physical means he is governed by laws of the physical.

6) I quote Maimonides' third principle:

    "Principle III. The Denial of Corporeality in Connection with G-d
    This is to accept that this Oneness that we have mentioned above (2) is not a body and has no strength in the body, and has no shape or image or relationship to a body or parts thereof. This is why the Sages of blessed memory said with regards to heaven there is no sitting, nor standing, no awakeness, nor tiredness. This is all to say that He does not partake of any physical actions or qualities. And if He were to be a body then He would be like any other body and would not be God. And all that is written in the holy books regarding descriptions of God, they are all anthropomorphic. Thus said our great Rabbis of blessed memory The Torah spoke in man's language (i.e. using our terms so that we'd have some understanding). And the Rabbis have already spoken at length on this issue. This is the third pillar and is attested to by the verse "For you saw no image" meaning that you did not see an image or any form when you stood at Sinai because as we have just said He has no body nor power of the body."



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