OT Proofs for God’s Perfect Goodness Part I

Once again the answer is too long for one post:

The previous chapter, using both philosophical and theological methods, showed God to be perfect. The aforementioned chapter also pointed out the attribute of perfection intertwined with all of God’s attributes, making perfection God’s essence. Restating the definition of essence used in this dissertation, “Essence is the trait contained in and through a substance that without that trait the substance would cease to exist as it currently does. Essence effects all the attributes of the substance. Essence is not an accident but is an essential part of the substance.”

This chapter will detail the premise that God’s essence is perfection using Old Testament passages. Leibniz proclaims, “God is an absolutely perfect being.”[1] Moses professes, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Therefore there are certain properties which exist as part of an absolutely perfect being. One of those is goodness. The way mankind knows what is good is by reflecting on a standard. The standard for good is God. Therefore it is important to have an understanding of perfect goodness. Mark Murphy states:

What is this perfect goodness, a particular perfection exhibited by any absolutely perfect being? In recent work in philosophical theology — understandably, primarily in contexts in which the problem of evil is at issue — perfect goodness is understood as a practical excellence, an excellence concerned with desire, character traits, and action. A perfectly good being has the best desires that a being can have, and exhibits the best traits of character, and acts in an unsurpassably excellent way.[2]

God is this perfect being. Also, two required attributes for a perfect being is omniscience and omnipotence.

Omniscience is required, so the position or opinions that produce perfect goodness do not change over time. A member of mankind is not a perfect being. They make decisions based on information the person possesses. Should the individual acquire additional information, it would require the individual to reaccess their position. By the perfect being possessing the attribute of omniscience he has all information and would never have to reaccess his position thereby making the perfect being immutable.

God’s knowledge or the depth thereof is inexhaustible, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:8, 9). Murphy declares, “Thus we see that perfect goodness is often included in lists of the perfections exhibited by an absolutely perfect being: that being would not only be omniscient and omnipotent, but would also be perfectly good.”[3]

The first step is to examine what the Old Testament Scriptures mean when using the words perfect and good. The word perfect appears nineteen times in eighteen verses found in the Old Testament. There are eight Hebrew words translated into the word perfect. These eight words link to two consonant roots. Robert W. Yarbrough defines the two-word groups, “Two word-groups in the Hebrew Old Testament are translated ‘perfect’ or ‘perfection’: tāmam and cālal. The former connotes wholeness, soundness, integrity, and often takes on ethical significance; the latter connotes completeness, perfection, and can carry the aesthetic sense of comeliness or beauty.”[4]

The tāmam word group consists of two words, תָּמִים (tā·mîm) and תָּמַם (tā·mǎm). The multiple definitions of tamin are: without defect, blameless or innocent, about or having no known physical defect, not having any known moral defect, entire including the whole object, right, and full.[5] The multiple definitions of tamam are: complete bring an event to a successful completion, be blameless, completely to make complete, cease end or stop, pass, and prepare.[6]

The cālal word group includes several derivatives. The multiple definitions are: all, perfect, most gorgeously, and perfection.[7] This word group moves toward the idea of perfect beauty. The word group cālal also includes the idea to complete a task or to crown one with a crown.[8] Arland J. Hultgren details the Scriptures definitions for perfect:

In the Bible, God is described as perfect with regard to knowledge, justice, fidelity, and promise keeping (Job 37:16; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalms18:30); God’s law is also perfect (Psalms 19:7). Human beings are sometimes described as (or urged to become) perfect with regard to observance of the law (Psalms 119:1) or with regard to upright and blameless behavior (Genesis 6:9; Deuteronomy 18:13; Proverbs 2:21), which does not imply that they would be “perfect” in other aspects (i.e., they might be “godly” in behavior without becoming gods).[9]

The word good appears over four-hundred times in the Old Testament. When collocation tests[10] are performed using the parameter, Good AND God, the occurrence drops down to two-hundred occurrences in ninety-one verses. There are four separate Hebrew words that are translated as good. All four of the words find their origin in the same root, טוֹב. Andrew Bowling states, “This root refers to ‘good’ or ‘goodness’ in its broadest senses. Five general areas of meaning can be noted: 1) practical, economic, or material good, 2) abstract goodness such as desirability, pleasantness, and beauty, 3) quality or expense, 4) moral goodness, and 5) technical philosophical good.”[11]

When tob appears along with God or used by God, it carries the same weight and meaning as tamin (perfect, without blame or guilt, innocent). J. I. Packer admonishes, “The acknowledgment of God as good is the foundation of all biblical thinking about moral goodness. ‘Good’ in Scripture is not an abstract quality, nor is it a secular human ideal; ‘good’ means first and foremost what God is, then what he does, creates, commands and gives, and finally what he approves in the lives of his creatures.”[12]

Restating tob is the most common word in the Old Testament for good, W. L. Walker itemizes the many uses of good in the Old Testament:

In the OT the commonest word is ṭōbh, occurring very frequently and trd in a great variety of ways. Of the different shades of meaning, which frequently run into each other, the following may be distinguished: (a) Possessing desirable qualities, beneficial, agreeable, e.g. “good for food” (Genesis 2:9); “We will do thee good” (Numbers 10:29); “Who will show us any good?” (Psalms 4:6); “good tidings of good” (Isaiah 52:7). (b) Moral excellence, piety: “to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22); “that which is right and good” (Deuteronomy 6:18a; 1 Samuel 12:23); “good and bad” (1 King 3:9, RV “evil”); “Depart from evil and do good” (Psalms 37:27); “a good man” (Proverbs 12:2); cf Isaiah 5:20; Micah 6:8, etc. (c) Kind, benevolent: “The men were very good unto us” (1 Samuel 25:15); “Give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good” (1 Chronicles 16:34); “the good Jehovah” (2 Chronicles 30:18); “God is good to Israel” (Psalms 73:1); “Jehovah is good to all” (Psalms 145:9), etc. (d) Serviceable, adequate, sufficient: “saw the light that it was good” (Genesis 1:4; so vs 10, 12 etc.); “not good that the man should be alone” (2:18); in the frequent phrase, “if it seem good” (1 Chronicles 13:2; Esther 5:4, etc.), sometimes rendered, “if it please” (Nehemiah 2:5, 7; Est 1:19, etc.). (e) Not small or deficient (full, complete): “a good old age” (Genesis 15:15; 25:8): “a good dowry” (30:20); “good ears,” “years,’ “kine” (41:24, 26, 35); “good understanding” (1 Samuel 25:3); “good trees”—“land” (2 Kings 3:19, 25), etc. (f) Not blemished, fair, honorable: “tender and good” (Genesis 18:7); “good kids” (27:9); “good report” (1 Samuel 2:24; cf 2 King 20:3; Jeremiah 24:2); and the renderings “fair” (Genesis 26:7, etc.), “beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2), “pleasant” (2 Kings 2:19), etc. (g) Pleasure giving, happy: “glad of heart” (1 Kings 8:66; Esther 5:9); sometimes in AV and RV trd “merry” (Judges 16:25; 1 Samuel 25:36; 2 Samuel 13:28; Proverbs 15:15, RV “cheerful”), etc.[13]

[1] Leibniz, Leibniz: Discourse on Metaphysics Correspondence with Arnauld and Monadology, p. 3.

[2] Mark Murphy, “Perfect Goodness,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/spr2014/entries/perfect-goodness/> (accessed May 15, 2017).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Robert W. Yarbrough, “Perfect, Perfection,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1996), p. 598.

[5] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), DBL #9459.

[6] Ibid., DBL #9462.

[7] John N. Oswalt, “985 כָלַל,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), p. 441.

[8] Wilhelm Genenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), p. 400.

[9] Arland J. Hultgren and Mark Allan Powell, “Perfect, Perfection,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, in The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), p. 772.

[10] These collocation tests were performed using tools available through Logos Bible Software 7.0 SR-, Copyright 2000-2016 Faithlife Corporation Bellingham, Washington.

[11] Andrew Bowling, “793 טוֹב,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), p. 345.

[12] J. I. Packer, “Good,” in New Bible Dictionary ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 424.

[13] W. L. Walker, “Good,” ed. James Orr et al., in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), p. 1277.


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