The Abrahamic God is described as omniscient (all knowing) in both Christianity and Islam but there are many verses that seem to contradict this “fact”.
First let’s examine the claims of omniscience in the Old and New Testament as well as the Qur’an
The claims of God’s Omniscience
There are a number of claims of God’s Omniscience. Some of these are quite direct, whilst others are more metaphorical. Some state that God knows more than any human can teach whilst others outright state that he knows everything.
Omniscience in the Old Testament
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).
“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).
“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).
“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).
“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4-5). [this one also references his omnipotence but we shall save that for another day]
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:16).
“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).
Omniscience in the New Testament
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
“Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).
Omniscience in the Qu’ran
“Whether you divulge a thing or keep it hidden, surely Allah is Ever All-Knowing of all things” (Surat Al-‘Aĥzāb 33/54)
“Say: Do you instruct Allah about your religion? But Allah knows all that is in the heavens and on the earth; Allah is Knowing of all things” Holy Qur’an (49:16)
“Read! In the name of your Lord Who created. Created man of a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Bountiful, who taught man what he knew not…” Holy Qur’an (96:1-5)
And Allah would not let a people stray after He has guided them until He makes clear to them what they should avoid. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 9:115)
Unquestionably, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. Already He knows that upon which you stand and knows the Day when they will be returned to Him and He will inform them of what they have done. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 24:64)
[…] Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 4:32)
[…] And Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 4:176)
[…] Indeed, Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 8:75)
[…] And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 23:35)
Allah extends provision for whom He wills of His servants and restricts for him. Indeed Allah is, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 29:62)
Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 33:40)
And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise. (Qur’an 48:4)
No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (Qur’an 64:11)
Whether you reveal a thing or conceal it, indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing. (Qur’an 33:51)
[…] And Allah knows what is in your hearts. And ever is Allah Knowing and Forbearing. (Qur’an 33:51)
And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you might turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (Qur’an 2:115)
He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. (Qur’an 59:22)
He is Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, the Grand, the Exalted. (Qur’an 13:9)
So know, O Muhammad, that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place. (Qur’an 47:19)
And it is He who takes your souls by night and knows what you have committed by day. Then He revives you therein that a specified term may be fulfilled. Then to Him will be your return; then He will inform you about what you used to do. (Qur’an 6:60)
And do not trust except those who follow your religion.” Say, “Indeed, the true guidance is the guidance of Allah. Do you fear lest someone be given knowledge like you were given or that they would thereby argue with you before your Lord?” Say, “Indeed, all bounty is in the hand of Allah – He grants it to whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Wise.” (Qur’an 3:73)
An Explanation of the scriptures used in this article
The examples below are going to be largely based on the bible scriptures. There are a few reasons for this.
- The stories are similar between the two books
- The Qur’an stories are clearly based on the Bible stories
- The Qur’an seems to skim past some of the stories and there are a few quotes that seem to reference the “truth of gods word in the bible”
“I believe in the Book (of the People of the Book) which Allah has sent down…” (Qur’an, 42:15)
“And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary confirming the Law that had come before him. We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law.” (Qur’an, 5:46)
“Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein” (Qur’an, 5:47)
“To thee (Muhammad) We sent the scripture (Qur’an) in truth confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety.” (Qur’an, 5:48)
Adam, Eve and Original Sin
In the story of the fall (Genesis 3) Adam and Eve eat the apple from the tree of knowledge. Before this they have no real concept of what is good or evil and no idea what consequences truly await them for disobeying.
God also created Lucifer, the angel that fell and plays the serpent that convinces Eve to eat the apple thus committing original sin.
So lets look at this:
- God creates Lucifer who rebels against god
- God creates Adam and Eve with no concept of good and evil and no understanding of consequences
- God knows exactly what Lucifer, Adam and Eve are going to do but creates them that way anyway
Further to this when Adam realises he is naked after eating the apple of knowledge he hides from God in the garden and he asks this:
Genisis 3: 11 NIV
11And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
- Did god really not know that they had eaten?
- Did god not know that the serpent was talking to eve?
- Why did god not stop this from happening?
God then curses both man and woman (Gen 3: 14-20)
Now the strange thing here is that in both the bible and Qur’an there are verses saying that we do not suffer the sins of our fathers/sons:
“…No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another…” (Qur’an 6:164)
“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)
Deuteronomy is clearly rejecting the original sin story however seeing as the Qur’an is essentially an adaptation and addition to the bible, someone noticed this flaw and added in verses about how Adam repented for his sins. Some Christians assume he did, because it doesn’t say he didn’t. This is about as sensible as assuming Luke Skywalker is God, because it doesn’t say he isn’t.
To summarise original sin we have to consider either; god did not know Lucifer, Adam and Eve would disobey him, which is why he “had” to punish them or “original sin” was actually part of Gods plan all along and he wanted Adam and Eve to be cursed to live life as mortal, and wanted all the evil to be released on the world.
If we are to accept gods omniscience then we have to accept that God wanted original sin and evil in the world, and it therefore doesn’t make sense he would regret any of this.
Regret: how can God regret his actions when he knows everything that will happen?
Genesis 6: 5-7 NIV
5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”
If god is all knowing and can see all of our paths before we even choose to set foot on them, then regardless of “free will” God knew that this would happen.
Either god didn’t know what we are going to do, which is why he regretted making humans, and is therefore not omniscient or he did know what we were going to do, and made us any way, making his regret false. Further to this you could argue that if he knew one day the “evil” deed humans were going to do was going to make him commit genocide, but he still made us the way he did anyway, he may have actually wanted to commit genocide.
In this instance either God is not omniscient or he created us the way we are just so he could commit genocide and the verse is flawed about his regret.
Within the Qur’an; the story and many other adaptations of the Jewish stories, is skimmed over. The stories have been reworked to make Allah seem less fallible than they do within the bible. In this, the flood story, Allah seems quite smug having wiped out man. This leans more towards the approach that Allah is a psychopath.
Doesn’t it seem odd to you that an all knowing God had to keep changing the stories though?
If God is omniscient he knew Lucifer was going to betray him and that Adam and Eve would eat the apple bringing original Sin in to the world. If this is true, and he did it any way, it is safe to assume he wanted this to happen.
Due to original sin, and the curse god put on man, man committed evil acts and then god wiped us out. Knowing this would happen, but doing it any way must mean that god wanted to commit genocide.
- If God IS omniscient then doing what is described is not the acts of someone who is all loving. This means god is not omnibenevolent and fails in one of the qualities of the Abrahamic God.
- The alternative is that god is not omniscient and therefore fails in one of the qualities of the Abrahamic God
Either way it looks like at least one of the criteria for the Abrahamic God has failed.
Contradictions and errors in the bible and Qur’an
If God is all knowing why would his holy books be so filled with flaws?
Not only are there contradictions in the bible, but there are historical and scientific inaccuracies in the bible and Qur’an. There is no evidence for a lot of the claims and even Qur’an apologists have started to admit that the “scientific miracles” in the Qur’an have become a bit of an embarrassment: The Hamza Tzortzis handbrake u-turn on scientific miracles in quran.
I am not going to go in to detail with these in this section as we have other articles that detail them, but feel free to read them and come back.
Interpretations of the Bible and Qur’an
Why would an all knowing God leave so much open for interpretation? With so many vague and metaphorical passages there is not only separation between religions, but within each religion there are tonnes of denominations. The image below pictures some of the major splits, but there are many more than this.
So wouldn’t an all knowing god ensure that his word was clear and direct so that everyone would agree with what it said? Wouldn’t an omniscient god do away with ambiguity completely?
If God designed us, then why do we have tail bones, male nipples, goosebumps, and wisdom teeth still? If man was made first, why do we start as female in the womb? Why would an all knowing god put so many questions up for his existence?
If God loves us, and wants us to believe in him, then surely he would know that anyone who can think for themselves would see these as evidence for evolution over creation?
Why did god make all his “true believer” fundamentalists so seemingly stupid? If you are a logical and intelligent person you will gravitate to those who are also logical and intelligent. If you are sensible you will make sure you verify everything people say with evidence and you won’t search for confirmation bias.
When you see those fundies rejecting evidenced science for their “beliefs” and they have nothing to back it up, as well as trouble stringing sentences together, it only goes to push the critical thinker further away.
Summary of God’s Omniscience
This article has displayed a number of quotes from the Bible and Qur’an which claim God to be all knowing, or omniscient.
It has also displayed passages which showed God either to be not omniscient or not all loving, thus showing that god cannot be as described in the Bible/Qur’an.
It also went on to display other issues such as contradictions and errors in the holy texts, the divisive nature of religion, issues with biology in the form of recessive traits, and a mild poke at the “true believers” or fundamentalists lack of logic.
- An all knowing God would know the evidence I need to be convinced of His existence. (Inclusive of accurate holy books)
- An all powerful God would have the ability to provide me that evidence. (But hasn’t)
- And all loving God would want to provide me with sad evidence. (and as he hasn’t he fails on at least one of the criteria)
As none of the three criteria are complete, I can only conclude that God fails on at least one of the three main characteristics he is said to have.
I’m Joe. I write under the name Davidian, not only because it is a Machine Head song I enjoy but because it was a game character I used to role-play that was always looking to better himself.
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Comments on “Is God Omniscient (All Knowing)?”
According to catholics, ad far as I know Adam and Eve were not punished for aquiring the knowledge of good and evil, but for trying to hide the action after knowing it was wrong.
Hi Donald, I’d heard that too. It is not exactly clear in the scripture however.
Regardless, wouldn’t an all knowing God know what they would do from the start? And once they had gained the knowledge, and knew shame for the first time, perhaps be a little understanding and explain that being honest is better instead of cursing Adam, Eve and and all their descendants?
Why would God have to test anyone if he already knows what they are going to do?
Well, it just made the whole punishment story a little less absurd. Maybe this was too much for a bronze age myth, also, they needed an excuse to explain why people was not in Eden anymore.
In my opinion the whole concept of omniscence is flawed:
does a god know what he will do in the future? Can he then change his own mind?
Any set of possibile answers negates “all-knowing”, “all-mighty”, or both attributes.
Throwing in the “all-loving” attribute would mess the things even more.
The concept of god was in my opinion based on an exagerrated concept of father/king and degenerated during the centuries adding attributes to make him look more and more powerful
I agree, the all knowing, all powerful and all loving concepts of the Abrahamic God are all flawed concepts that cannot be true. Especially when compared to a number of items in the bible.
You also raise a good point… if this God Character was “all knowing” it would sort of negate his own free will (or illusion of it) wouldn’t it? As you say, if he knew everything he was going to do he would always do what he knew what he was going to do… similarly it negates the humans free will because the God Character will always know what they are going to do.
If God truly knew everything, he wouldn’t need to “test” anyone. And if he was truly all powerful, he wouldn’t need to have created us so flawed. And if he was all loving, would he really have committed mass genocide?
The God concept comes from humans assigning agency to things. It was a survival trait. Rustling in the bushes… could be wind or it could be a lion. The people that always assumed agency in this instance survived, where as those that ignored it got eaten. And thus we have the birth of superstition, which evolved in to religion.
Some people read to find the answers, some people read to search support for the answers they believe in.
I am just a person and not in any way qualified to speak of the things only God Himself understand and know.
Indeed for thousands of years the omniscience and love of God are the two of His qualities that baffled humans as to how can these two be reconciled together relative to what pain and struggles humanity is now experiencing.
Because of the very vast difference in knowledge and capabilities. We have no hope of fully understanding God.
Allow me to talk about something we can grasp.
How can we understand omniscience and the chance to choose (will)?
Let me illustrate.
There is a game called tic-tac-toe where two players alternate in drawing either an X or an O in a three by three squares and the first one to make a straight 3 X’s or 3 O’s wins the game.
In this very simple game, anyone can find that there is a method of always winning. Let us say that if you know that method, you have omniscience regarding the play of that game, that no one will ever win against you. The question is why can you get to the point that whatever an opponent do in that game, you can know what to do to eventually win no matter what? The answer is because of the game’s rules. The game’s rules of tic-tac-toe are simple and as long as you and your opponent follow those game rules, you can do your (omniscient)counter move and win.
Now think of that simple game as human life. The person who knows everything about the game is God, who is omniscient, the main difference here is that the rules in place always execute as they should be (physical laws). And then while playing, God made additional rule; a verbal(moral law) to see if humanity will voluntarily obey His moral law. Saying in effect that if humans will obey the moral law God will let humans live indifinitely(winning) and if they choose to disobey those moral law, then the life which God gave, will be taken back (losing=death).
Can we win? Yes we can win and live if we obey, only if we obey. Because the person who knows how to always win, knows how to make us win too. At the moment we disobey God, He declared that we will lose (suffer and die).
So while God knows the beginning and the end, He gave the first human pair the chance to choose to obey or not. God knows what will happen if we obey and God knows what will happen if we disobey. Why can God know everything about everything when there are so much variables? Because God has also put rules in place, rules we cannot escape no matter what we believe, no matter what we know, no matter what we do. Those rules are the physical laws. Whenever we make a choice, all the physical laws in place acts the way they are designed to act producing the same results everytime. (scientific experimentations prove that fact)
God can therefore put a choice before us, giving us the chance to choose and letting us experience the result of that choice. God still knows the beginning of that choice and the end of that choice(omniscience).
Angels (like satans once were) and humans were given choices, even though God knows what ends lie on those choices. What is wrong with being given the chance to choose like that?
When God asked Adam and Eve about where they are and what they did, does that really mean He did not know? He was giving them another chance to choose whether to be repentant and voluntarily declare those things and yet again they chose the other way.
But then again, I also very well know, I can only explain so little to the minds that are made up, I can only guide someone to the well of drinking water, actually drinking the water would also be a choice.
God bless those who trust in Him.
What you describe here is… God essentially knew that God was going to create people in a way that led him to not only destroy the world with a flood but also burn people that don’t listen to him for all eternity.
Before he even created his game of tic-tac-toe (to use the metaphor) he knew every outcome ever.
He could have created tic-tac-toe with an extra row and column, or an additional dimension of depth (human characteristics/perception etc) but he created humans and angels (well, lucifer) as flawed beings that he would “have” to punish.
Why create such a faulty game?
If God IS omniscient and omnipotent, then he isn’t loving to humans at all.
// So while God knows the beginning and the end, He gave the first human pair the chance to choose to obey or not. God knows what will happen if we obey and God knows what will happen if we disobey. //
If God is all knowing he knows from the start every move a human makes before the human is even born.
The “Test” he puts on humans is perverse.
If he is All Knowing, he knows every move we will ever make. He will know we will disappoint him. He will know we will end up in Hell. Yet we were still created this way?
Does this mean he created us just to throw us in Hell?
What kind of sick and twisted ideal is this?
An All Knowing God would know how to create humans that didn’t disappoint him.
An All Powerful God would be able to create humans that didn’t disappoint him.
A loving God would create humans as such… in fact a loving god would not bother with such horrible things a Hell and disease.
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