Does God Have a Body?

This sheet on Deuteronomy 4 was written by Dena Trugman for 929 and can also be found here

Everyone knows that God doesn’t have a body.


After all, revered scholars like Maimonides emphatically assert that in no way, shape or form (pun intended) does God have a body. In his Mishneh Torah (1:8), Maimonides writes the following commentary on our chapter of Deuteronomy:

“Behold, it is clearly indicated in the Torah and in the Prophets that the Holy One, blessed is He! is Incorporeal for it is said: "That the Lord, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath" (Deut. 4.39); a corporeal being is incapable of being in two places simultaneously; and it is also said: "For ye saw no manner of form" (Ibid.–15).”

The problem for Maimonides is that it is a slippery slope from believing that God has a body to idol worship, which we definitely don’t want.

However, just a few verses earlier in Deuteronomy 4:12, we read, “The Lord spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape—nothing but a voice.” We don’t have to look far to find other examples of God described in very human ways. In Deuteronomy 5 (and elsewhere) Moses famously enjoins the Israelites, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai, your God, took you out of there with a strong hand and an extended arm.”

We can even go all the way back to creation, when God repeats the fact that humans will be created in God’s image no less than four times in the span of two verses: “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…. And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him” (Genesis 1:26-27).

Okay, we get it. It seems pretty clear that the God of the Bible has a body. As scholar Yohanan Muffs puts it, “this being of total non-dependence is portrayed in the Bible as having qualities that can only be described as human” (The Personhood of God, 55).

What would it mean for us to believe in a God that has a body? If we accept that God spoke to the people at Sinai, then there is a pretty good chance that God also listened to them.

Perhaps God is just one big, Divine ear, waiting to hear our prayers.

Dena Trugman is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College.

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