0

On Bava Basra 58a it says (from Sefaria):

כי מטא למערתא דאדם הראשון יצתה בת קול ואמרה נסתכלת בדמות דיוקני בדיוקני עצמה אל תסתכל הא בעינא לציוני מערתא כמדת החיצונה כך מדת הפנימית ולמ"ד שני בתים זו למעלה מזו כמדת עליונה כך מדת התחתונה‏

When he arrived at the cave of Adam the first man, who is buried in the same area, a Divine Voice emerged and said: You gazed upon the likeness of My image, i.e., Abraham, who is similar to the image of Adam the first man. Do not gaze upon My image itself, i.e., Adam the first man, about whom the verse states that he was formed in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27). Rabbi Bena’a said: But I need to mark the cave. The voice said to him: As the measurements of the dimensions of the outer cave where Abraham is buried, so are the measurements of the dimensions of the inner cave, where Adam is buried. The Gemara notes: And according to the one who says that the Cave of Machpelah consists of two chambers, this one above that one, not two adjacent chambers, the voice said: As the measurements of the dimensions of the upper cave where Abraham is buried, so are the measurements of the dimensions of the lower cave. Therefore, there is no need to measure it.

Does this imply that G-d has a physical image?

Note: I saw this listed as a source for Rashi on Genesis 1:27.

See also: Rosh Hashanah 24b (and the parallel in Meseches Avodah Zorah)

  • 1
    What do you mean by "does it imply?"? Do you mean "does the simple literal translation describe a physical form?"? Do you mean "is this evidence that the Talmudic author believed in a corporeal god?"? Something else? – Alex Jul 31 '18 at 5:29
  • What do you mean by "physical image", please elaborate? – Al Berko Jul 31 '18 at 13:27
2

Depending on what you mean by "imply", yes, the Talmudic passage does imply that God has a physical form/image.

The simple reading of the passage is that God has an image/form. If not for the fact that there is a philosophical/theological issue with a corporeal God we would not reinterpret the passage.

Rambam, the greatest champion of incorporeality, admits that there are verses which at face value seem to be describing God in a corporeal manner, and goes so far as to say that it is harder to reinterpret those verses towards incorporeality than to reinterpret the verses in Genesis towards an eternal (non-created) universe:

Guide for the Perplexed 2:25

WE do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter, than we had in explaining the anthropomorphisms in the Bible when we rejected the idea that God is corporeal. For two reasons, however, we have not done so, and have not accepted the Eternity of the Universe. First, the Incorporeality of God has been demonstrated by proof: those passages in the Bible, which in their literal sense contain statements that can be refuted by proof, must and can be interpreted otherwise. But the Eternity of the Universe has not been proved; a mere argument in favour of a certain theory is not sufficient reason for rejecting the literal meaning of a Biblical text, and explaining it figuratively, when the opposite theory can be supported by an equally good argument. (Friedlander translation)

Moreover, Ra'avad explicitly states that many individuals greater than Rambam believed in (some form of) corporeality based on the verses and aggadot which misled them:

Hilchot Teshuvah 3:7

ולמה קרא לזה מין וכמה גדולים וטובים ממנו הלכו בזו המחשבה לפי מה שראו במקראות ויותר ממה שראו בדברי האגדות המשבשות את הדעות

This Talmudic passage would be a prime example of one of the aggadot that could mislead someone into believing in corporeality.

This is all assuming that "imply" just meant "what is the simple meaning of the passage?", and therefore we could say that even though corporeality is incorrect it is still implied by the Talmud. However, R. Isaiah of Trani (The Younger) goes a step further and argues that some of the Talmudic Sages actually did believe in corporeality.

Riaz Kuntres Harayos Sanhedrin 90a

וכמה היו מחכמי התלמוד הקדושים שמהם תצא תורה לישראל שלא נתנו לבם להתבונן בענין האלהות אלא הבינו המקראות כפשוטם ולפי תומם חשבו כי הקדוש ברוך הוא בעל גוף ותמונה

In that sense, then, we can say that this Talmudic passage fully implies corporeality – it's not just a mistaken conclusion that can be derived from the passage but it might actually be what the Talmudic author meant.

Regardless, it doesn't mean that it is true. As Meiri wrote about something else, we do not determine our theology based on aggadot:

Meiri Shabbat 55a:

אין עיקרי האמונות תלויות בראיות של פשוטי מקראות ואגדות וכבר ידעת שאין משיבין באגדה

0
  1. G-d cannot possibly have "physical image" (I don't know what you mean by physical, though) (based on Rambam's Yesodey Hatora Ch.1):. The idea of an image comes from our human inability to grasp infinity, but only limited details of it. As G-d does not "consist of details" but is one, we can not possibly comprehend it.

  2. Explaining the Gemmora: Knowing G-d can be done in many ways. We're familiar with hearing or reading his word, but there are other, non-verbal means, for example as seeing Him or His image. That's why Moses said, "הראני נא את כבודך" (Shm. 33,18). Seriously, after knowing all the Torah (supposedly) what did Moses lack? He knew that by seeing G-d's "image" he could achieve levels of understanding impossible by learning (see Meforshim in place).

  3. If you remember G-d's answer to Moses, He didn't agree to show His "fuller image" but only a fraction "אחורי") explaining that a human cannot withstand such experience (similarly Midrashic sources say Hevel "הציץ בשכינה" and had to die and the two sons of Aharon).

  4. As Adam was created in G-d's image far more than every one of us ("ואם ראשונים בני אנשים - אנו כחמורים" Shabbos 112b), seeing him could simply damage R' Bnaa (as with Moses), or alternatively, sentence him to death and the Echo tried to warn him about that.

  • I'm not sure this answers the question. You argue that God cannot have a physical image, but that doesn't necessarily address whether the Gemara implies that He does. – Alex Jul 31 '18 at 16:56
  • No, the G. does not imply G-d has image - דיוקן is more like a resemblance, not image. I also explained why the Bas Kol warned him not to look at Adam - nothing to do with עבודה זרה. – Al Berko Jul 31 '18 at 19:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .