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.
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.