God in the Bible

The Bible does not have a single conception of God.

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The polemic against worshipping God in a visible form is closely con­nected to the polemic against worshipping a multiplicity of gods. If there is any theological principle that is asserted repeatedly and consis­tently in the Bible, it is the unity of God. The slogan "the Lord is one" (Adonai echad), proclaimed in the first line of the Sh'ma (Deuteronomy 6:4), is repeated by the prophet Zechariah in his vision of a day when "the Lord shall be king of all the world, when the Lord shall be one and his name one" (Zechariah 14:0). This unity is not only numerical, meaning that God is singular and not, as some falsely claim, dual or plural. It also means that God is unique: because he is the one true God he is different in kind from all other gods men worship.

Another frequently stressed attribute of God is his eternity. He has always existed, and he always will exist, he is the First and the Last (Isaiah 44:6, cf. Psalm 90:2, 146:10). As we might say, he is outside time. He is also outside space. He is beyond the world and yet he is everywhere within it.

"Where could I go to escape from your spirit:

Where could I flee from your presence?

If I were to soar into the sky you would be there.

If I were to sink into the underworld you would be there.

If I rose on wings of dawn, made my home on the furthermost seashore, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand hold me."

(Psalm 139:7 10)

Reprinted with permission from An Introduction to Judaism, published by Cambridge University Press.

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Nicholas Lange

Nicholas de Lange is a rabbi, author, and translator. He is a reader in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University.