[EDIT]: Short-form, less-ranty version: Many philosophers take omni-benevolence of god to be a required attribute. This is not apparent from the source material - so where does the idea stem from, if not the original source material? (Or, to use virmaior's phrasing, "Why does the philosophical account of God make omnibenevolence an attribute of God?")

[Looks to be shockingly similar to an earlier question]

So a while ago I was going through some of the thought experiments at philosophyexperiments.com. One of those experiments, titled Talking with God, goes through the standard Euthyphro Dilemma in a fun and amusing way.

Being an atheist, I answered honestly when asked if I believed a god existed or not. The quiz was amusingly offended by my lack of belief, and gave the following instruction for how to continue:

Okay, what this means is that you should assume all the questions that follow have this form: 'Is your archetypal God...', etc. In other words, you should figure out what sorts of characteristics you think are possessed by an archetypal "God", and then you should answer the questions that follow in terms of that concept of God. One thing you should bear in mind here is that you want your archetypal God to be logically possible, so you need to select a combination of attributes that are logically compatible with each other. Right, let's get on, I have other important stuff to do, prayers to ignore, that sort of thing.

The site then poses five questions before moving on: Is/Does God [sovereign/omnipotent/possess freedom of will/Intervene in the world/Omnibenevolent]?

To the last one - omnibenevolence - I said 'No' to without needing to deliberate on the question for very long at all. The archetypical god is capricious and cares little for human well-being (SEE: Every mythology ever created), and the deity described in the bible is no exception. The god of the old testament slaughters, tortures and encourages slavery. The 'redemption' in the second act when Jesus is introduced is clearly framed with 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill' and 'Do not expect me to bring peace but a sword'.

So, naturally, the 'god' giving the quiz takes issue with my choice:

Also, what's this business of thinking I'm not omnibenevolent? Admitedly there was that whole incident where I slaughtered those Israelites because they peered into my ark. But come on, they had it coming. Also I think I should mention that as great a philosopher as Leibniz once noted that "it is generally agreed that whatever God wills is good and just".
(Emphasis added)

So this rattled around in the back of my head, and it's been bugging me for a while now. What I'm wondering is: How did the Abrahamic concept of YHWH evolve from omnicidal maniac to an omnibenevolent deity? How did this god evolve from fear-and-obey-me to the source of all that is good and just?

  • 4
    This question appears to be a rant about religion and thus better suited to say christianity.stackexchange.com or judaism.stackexchange.com. Moreover, you're asking for some sort of history lesson centered on your assertion that the God in the OT is of the same kind as that in Norse myths...
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 20:12
  • Tried to avoid being rant-y, but maybe other places would be better, yeah. The thought/question came as a side effect from a philosophy exercise, so thought to ask here first. More simply stated perhaps: Reading the core book, 'omnibenevolence' is not an obvious trait, yet has been asserted as a trait by philosophers. Where did this idea/trait come from, if not the source material? ... Yeah, probably better suited for a forum dedicated to those religions, now that I rephrase it...
    – Dave B
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 20:22
  • Well, the miniature version of the question might be plausible here. The long-form version definitely seems out of place. Maybe "Why does the philosophical account of God make omnibenevolence an attribute of God?" but I believe that question has been asked and answered here before.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 20:29
  • I didn't find anything when I searched omnibenevolence - do you have a link? (Do I just suck at spelling 'Omnibenevolent'?)
    – Dave B
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 20:31
  • Here: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/10376/…
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


I am assuming by Abrahamic we are referring to a Judeo-Christian understanding of God and excluding the Islamic view since those two world views disagree as to the other's view on Abraham.

As to where the 'Omnibenevolence' of God comes from in the 'source texts' (read by me as: Old Testament), not trying to be snarky at all, but I would point you to most of the texts of the Old Testament. The Psalms in particular frequently refer to the Lord's goodness, and of his care for all that He has made.

One quick quote:

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. -Psalm 145:8-9

There are numerous places throughout the major Prophets which speak of God in the way you refer to. While there are many places of wrath in the OT, there are many places of love and compassion. One of the most central elements of Judeo-Christian theology centers around the 'Abrahamic blessing'. It is stated several times in Genesis, in particular is Chapter 22.

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” -Genesis 22:15-18

So one of God's ends in view when he blesses Abraham is, well, omnibenevolence as you put it.

I could go on, but honestly it is ALL over the OT. It is easy to get tripped up by the stereotypical "God of OT = Wrath, God of NT = Grace" paradigm, but that is simply incorrect. Some of the most beautiful statements of care, grace, love and compassion are in the Old Testament (Hosea in particular comes to mind, as well as the end of Isaiah).

So, I do not think it is absent from the OT at all, but enforced and re-enforced frequently throughout. It does take time and reading to see them at times (such as in Exodus & Leviticus) but I promise you they are there.

As to your edit, where you make the statement of a 'philosophical account of God' and its connection to omnibenevolence, if by philosophical account, you mean some very generalized and belief-system independent of the concept of God, I don't know that there is a necessary connection. Many philosophers came to a very aloof/estranged/uncaring cosmic deity that is far from omnibenevolent. But, that is utterly disconnected from the 'Abrahamic God' of Judeo-Christian theology.

Hope this helps.

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