Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Yerushalmi RH 8a states unambiguously that Hashem knows the future...

...statement of R' Levi at the top of the amud. Would seem clearly against the Ralbag that Hashem does not know the future definitively.


  1. And also against the Raavad in Hilchos Teshuva.

  2. Um, if HaShem exists outside of time and space because He created all of it, how could anyone think He doesn't know the future? For Him, it's already happened.

  3. Books 2 to 4 focus on the relation between God and the world. The general problem is whether God's knowledge is limited to necessary states of affairs or extends to the domain of contingency as well. If the former, then God could not be said to have knowledge of humans, and so divine providence would not be efficacious. But if God does know contingents—in particular, future contingent events—then it would appear that human freedom is curtailed by God's prior knowledge of human actions. The problem of the apparent conflict between divine omniscience and human freedom was discussed by many medieval philosophers. Gersonides does not follow the majority opinion on this issue: rather than claim that God does know particulars and that this knowledge somehow does not affect human freedom, Gersonides argues that God knows particulars only in a certain sense. In an apparent attempt to mediate between the view of Aristotle, who said that God does not know particulars, and that of Maimonides, who said that he does, Gersonides holds that God knows particulars only insofar as they are ordered. That is, God knows that certain states of affairs are particular, but he does not know in what their particularity consists. God knows individual persons, for example, only through knowing the species humanity.

    Whereas Maimonides claimed that God's knowledge does not render the objects of his knowledge necessary, Gersonides maintains that divine knowledge precludes contingency. To retain the domain of contingency, he adopts the one option open to him: namely, that God does not have prior knowledge of future contingents. According to Gersonides, God knows that certain states of affairs may or may not be actualized. But insofar as they are contingent states, he does not know which of the alternatives will be the case. For if God did know future contingents prior to their actualization, there could be no contingency in the world.

    In book 2, in an attempt to explain how prophecies are possible in a system which denies the possibility of knowledge of future contingents, Gersonides claims that the prophet does not receive knowledge of particular future events; rather his knowledge is of a general form, and he must instantiate this knowledge with particular facts. What distinguishes prophets from ordinary persons is that the former are more attuned to receive these universal messages and are in a position to apply them to particular circumstances.

    A further dilemma surrounds the doctrine of divine providence. If God does not have knowledge of future contingents, how can he be said to bestow providence on his creatures? This problem is discussed by Gersonides both in his commentary on Job and in book 4 of Milhamot. In both texts he argues that providence is general in nature; it primarily appertains to species and only incidentally to particulars of the species. God, for example, does not know the particular individual Levi ben Gerson and does not bestow particular providence on him. Rather, inasmuch as Levi ben Gerson is a member of the species humanity and the species philosopher, he is in a position to receive the providential care accorded to those groups.


  4. Garnel - the Raavad says that He deliberately prevents Himself from knowing what people will do, so that His foreknowledge doesn't force their bechira.

  5. At least the Ralbag, Raavad, Ohr Hachaim, et al, are consistent with Heisenberg.

  6. At least the Ralbag, Raavad, Ohr Hachaim, et al, are consistent with Heisenberg.

  7. Hacham adif mi-navi. The wise person is more prescient than the prophet. They each have "knowledge," but of different sorts. Using the one word "knowledge" is simply not helpful when comparing different modes and scopes of knowledge. Kal va-homer when talking about God's "knowledge." Can the term "foreknowledge" apply to intelligence and vision of a different order, not contingent on time? Or is the issue really one that befuddles our (limited) human knowledge but is actually NOT a categorical problem?

  8. A philosophical argument between two rabbis! Wow!

    The real problem here is that you think that because some rabbi that lived 2000 years ago that we know close to nothing about made a philosophical statement, that is absolute Truth and no one can ever argue with that.

    Well guess what. Rambam, Ralbag, and others didn't treat the mishna and gemara as dogma (especially for matter of philosophy).

    1. One need not treat Chazal as dogma. One should treat their word with a certain reverence.