The 3rd principle of faith of Maimonides states:

"ג] אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה, שֶׁהַבּורֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמו אֵינו גוּף, וְלא יַשּיגוּהוּ מַשּיגֵי הַגּוּף, וְאֵין לו שׁוּם דִּמְיון כְּלָל."

"I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, has no body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that there can be no (physical) comparison to Him whatsoever."

On one hand, the parallel sources in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah Chapter 1 seem to reflect such a conclusion, but the Moreh 3:28 seems to suggest otherwise.

Is attributing emotions to God a violation of the 3rd principle of faith of Maimonides?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for bringing your question here! I hope you get helpful answers. In the mean time, I hope you'll check out some of our other content, perhaps starting in the rambam tag. Finally, I suggest that you edit your profile and give yourself a name! – Isaac Moses Oct 5 at 16:09
  • The emotions attributed to Hashem are a human way of explaining how it may appear to us. That is why you will often seen the term kivyachol, which means as we see it as human beings. – sabbahillel Oct 5 at 17:36
  • I edited the question a bit and added the 3rd principle. Please add the exact sources you're referring to facilitate the answers. – Al Berko Oct 7 at 10:05

I assume your reference to Guide for the Perplexed 3:28 is to the last part where he writes:

Consider what we said of the opinions [implied in the laws]; in some cases the law contains a truth which is itself the only object of that law, as e.g., the truth of the Unity, Eternity, and Incorporeality of God; in other cases, that truth is only the means of securing the removal of injustice, or the acquisition of good morals; such is the belief that God is angry with those who oppress their fellow-men, as it is said, "Mine anger will be kindled, and I will slay," etc. (Exod. xxii. 23); or the belief that God hears the crying of the oppressed and vexed, to deliver them out of the hands of the oppressor and tyrant, as it is written, "And it shall come to pass, when he will cry unto me, that I will hear, for I am gracious" (Exod. xxii. 25). (Friedlander translation)

While on the face of it, this may seem like ascribing emotions to God, we have to look how Maimonides explains God's emotions earlier. From Guide for the Perplexed 1:54:

Whenever any one of His actions is perceived by us, we ascribe to God that emotion which is the source of the act when performed by ourselves, and call Him by an epithet which is formed from the verb expressing that emotion. We see, e.g., how well He provides for the life of the embryo of living beings; how He endows with certain faculties both the embryo itself and those who have to rear it after its birth, in order that it may be protected from death and destruction, guarded against all harm, and assisted in the performance of all that is required [for its development]. Similar acts, when performed by us, are due to a certain emotion and tenderness called mercy and pity. God is, therefore, said to be merciful: e.g., "Like as a father is merciful to his children, so the Lord is merciful to them that fear Him" (Ps. ciii. 13); "And I will spare them, as a man spareth (yaḥamol) his own son that serveth him" (Mal. iii. 17). Such instances do not imply that God is influenced by a feeling of mercy, but that acts similar to those which a father performs for his son, out of pity, mercy and real affection, emanate from God solely for the benefit of His pious men, and are by no means the result of any impression or change--[produced in God].--When we give something to a person who has no claim upon us, we perform an act of grace; e.g., "Grant them graciously unto us" (Judges xxi. 22). [The same term is used in reference to God, e.g.] "which God hath graciously given" (Gen. xxxiii. 5); "Because God hath dealt graciously with me" (ib. 11). Instances of this kind are numerous. God creates and guides beings who have no claim upon Him to be created and guided by Him; He is therefore called gracious (ḥannun)--His actions towards mankind also include great calamities, which overtake individuals and bring death to them, or affect whole families and even entire regions, spread death, destroy generation after generation, and spare nothing whatsoever. Hence there occur inundations, earthquakes, destructive storms, expeditions of one nation against the other for the sake of destroying it with the sword and blotting out its memory, and many other evils of the same kind. Whenever such evils are caused by us to any person, they originate in great anger, violent jealousy, or a desire for revenge. God is therefore called, because of these acts, "jealous," "revengeful," "wrathful," and "keeping anger" (Nah. i. 2) that is to say, He performs acts similar to those which, when performed by us, originate in certain psychical dispositions, in jealousy, desire for retaliation, revenge, or anger: they are in accordance with the guilt of those who are to be punished, and not the result of any emotion: for He is above all defect! The same is the case with all divine acts: though resembling those acts which emanate from our passions and psychical dispositions, they are not due to anything superadded to His essence. (Friedlander translation)

Here Maimonides tells us that whenever we speak of God's emotions we do not actually mean that God has emotions. We are simply referring to how God's actions would be described if performed by a human being. I.e. God is called merciful, not because he has the emotion of mercy, but because had a human being done the same actions they would have stemmed from mercy. Likewise we God is called angry not because he actually has the emotion of anger, but because a human being doing the same actions would be acting out of anger.

  • I was focusing more on the first half, where it writes, " Scripture further demands belief in certain truths, the belief in which is indispensable in regulating our social relations: such is the belief that God is angry with those who disobey Him, for it leads us to the fear and dread of disobedience [to the will of God]. " (Friedlander Translation). Doesn't this show that a person is supposed to relate to God actually being "angry?" I know that He isn't actually angry, but isn't the Rambam prescribing that nevertheless one is supposed to maintain such an attitude? – user18070 Oct 5 at 16:53
  • @user18070 It's the same point. It is not actually an emotion, but the underlying idea that God reacts to disobedience is necessary. – Alex Oct 5 at 17:04
  • But wouldn't the idea of even God "reacting" be problematic according to the Rambam? – user18070 Oct 5 at 17:24
  • @user18070 In what sense? – Alex Oct 5 at 18:57
  • I have to learn more about the Rambam's philosophy, I believe I misspoke. Thank you for answering my questions. – user18070 Oct 5 at 19:31

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