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Is there a biblical basis for the Thirteen Principles of Faith?

Is there a biblical basis for the Thirteen Principles of Faith?

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The following is a list of the Thirteen Principles, as penned by Maimonides,1 along with their biblical sources:

1. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Creator and Guide of all created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.

Source: "I am G‑d your G‑d"2Exodus 20:2.

2. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is One and Alone; that there is no oneness in any way like Him; and that He alone is our G‑d—was, is and will be.

Source: "Hear O Israel, G‑d is our G‑d, G‑d is One"—Deuteronomy 6:4.

3. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is incorporeal; that He is free from all anthropomorphic properties; and that He has no likeness at all.

Source: "You did not see any image on the day that G‑d spoke to you at Horeb [Sinai]."—Deuteronomy 4:15.

4. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the first and the last.

Source: "[The heavens] are the abode for the G‑d who precedes all"—Deuteronomy 33:27.3

5. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the only one to whom it is proper to pray, and that it is inappropriate to pray to anyone else.

Source: "Lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven . . . and be drawn away to prostrate yourselves before them and worship them"—Deuteronomy 4:19

6. I believe with complete faith that all the words of the prophets are true.

Source: "G‑d will raise up a prophet from among you… and you shall hearken to him"—Deuteronomy 18:15.

7. I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace unto him, was true; and that he was the father of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him.

Source: "G‑d would speak to Moses face to face"—Exodus 33:11; "Mouth to mouth, I speak to him"—Numbers 12:8.4

8. I believe with complete faith that the whole Torah which we now possess was given to Moses, our teacher, peace unto him.

Source: "With this you shall know that G‑d sent me to do all these deeds, for I did not devise them myself"—Numbers 16:28.

9. I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will be no other Torah given by the Creator, blessed be His name.

Source: "You shall not add to it, not subtract from it"—Deuteronomy 13:1.5

10. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, knows all the deeds and thoughts of human beings, as it is said, "It is He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who perceives all their actions."

Source (in addition to Psalms 33:15 quoted in the actual text): "Who is great in counsel and mighty in carrying it out, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of mankind"—Jeremiah 32:19; "G‑d saw that the evil of man on earth was very great"—Genesis 6:5.

11. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, rewards those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who transgress His commandments.

Source: "And G‑d said to Moses: 'Whoever has sinned against Me, him I will erase from My book!'"—Exodus 32:33.6

12. I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.

Source: "G‑d will restore your fortunes, have mercy on you, and gather you"—Deuteronomy 30:3.

13. I believe with complete faith that there will be resurrection of the dead at the time when it will be the will of the Creator, blessed be His name and exalted be His remembrance forever and ever.

Source: "Many who sleep in the dust shall awaken, some to everlasting life, and some to ever lasting shame and reproach"—Daniel 12:2.

I hope this has helped!

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov

Footnotes
1.

The text of the Principles below is based on Maimonides' elucidation of these Principles (in his preface to his commentary on the chapter Chelek of tractate Sanhedrin). In many circles this text is recited at the conclusion of the daily morning prayers.
Some of the biblical sources below are referenced by Maimonides himself. For some of the principles (5, 6, 12 and 13) he doesn't provide the biblical source, as such they are based on my conjecture. (For some, Maimonides provides multiple sources; I have sufficed with citing one or two of them.)

2.

Maimonides explains (in his Laws of the Foundations of the Torah) how belief in G‑d, an imperative expressed in this verse, necessarily implies that He is the "Creator and Guide of all created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things."

3.

In Maimonides' work, this principle does not include the idea that G‑d is also "the last." Nevertheless, this idea, which was added to the universally accepted liturgical text of the Principles, is based on numerous verses in the Torah, including Isaiah 44:6: "So said G‑d, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts, 'I am first and I am last...'"

4.

See the context of this verse in Numbers, where G‑d explains how Moses is greater than all other prophets. See also Deuteronomy 34:10: "And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses."

5.

In Maimonides' work, this principle does not include the idea that G‑d will never give another Torah, rather it is limited to the belief that we can never add or subtract from the Torah.

6.

Maimonides doesn't cite a verse to support the concept of reward for good deeds, but this theme is expressed many times throughout the Torah, specifically in the book of Deuteronomy.

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov is co-director, along with his wife Chanie, of Chabad of Northwest Indiana, and a member of Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous October 29, 2015

Is not a set of imperatives used to authenticate identity the very definition of religion? Is there to be no debate on these principles without being labeled a hereyic, and if not how can this insistence avoid the brand of dogma. Is it possible to hold to these principles through a symbolic interpretation, rather than a literal one ... Lending them to a more forgiving, less dogmatic, and ultimately more spiritual and insightful application? It seems to me that allowing symbolic interpretations can alleviate all these presumed dichotomies. Reply

Anonymous Accord, NY April 11, 2011

Thirteen Principles of Faith Thank you so very much for sharing such infinite wisdom from G-d. I am blessed to be of Jewish faith. I have absolutely no problem in adopting these principles. The bilble is a blueprint for us to adhere to. Thank G-d he writes to us so that we can appreciate his wisdom! And there are no words to describe His infinitness, His mnipressence, His favor, and His blessings everyday. Thank you for the biblical references. I have blind faith. G-d lives within my heart, soul and being! Faith is like the wind you don't see it and yet you believe. I know the exists though I can feel it. Reply

Anonymous London October 15, 2010

Dogma My source for questioning this is a passage in the Talmud (Sanhedrin) that refers to G-d convening a heavenly court to decide whether or not He should create mankind. Arguments were given for (eg that mankind will also do good deeds of kindness) and against (eg mankind would deny the truth). There was deadlock. The Talmud says that G-d took truth and threw it to the ground and proceeded to create man.

Covenantal Judaism concerned itself with relationships and interactions (the fulfilment of good deeds) and not with existential truths.

Finally, I suggest we look at the source of one of these principles, the Book of Daniel, which we find in Ketubim (Writings NOT in the Book of Prophets). Daniel was NOT considered a Prophet in the accepted definition. To base one of these fundamental principles of Judaism on the Book of Daniel (a Babylonian - where the belief of the resurrection of the dead had existed for over a thousand years) is somewhat odd? Reply

Mendel Von Schpier New York, NY October 13, 2010

'DOGMA' 'Dogma' is used here as a weak argument to defend ones ignorance of the truth. Fortunately the author of this article has clearly cited Torah references to substantiate the Truth of the Thirteen Principles. 'Anonymous' fails to provide such citations and thus the reference to 'dogma' remains anecdotal at best. Reply

Anonymous October 11, 2010

Belief v knowledge 'Absolute conviction '- or in other words DOGMA.

Pre Rambam the basis of Judaism was PRACTICE (the keeping of the 613 mtizvot) - as evidenced by the beautiful Midrash that refers to the Israelites replying at the foot of Mt Sinai - 'we shall DO and we'll listen'. Conviction was not the prime motivator for Judaism. There was no straitjacket of Dogma.

Was Rambam the first to introduce Dogma (absolute conviction) into Judaism as a pre-requisite to Judaism? We know that he was greatly preocupied with the pressure (from the Inquisition) on Jews in Medieval Spain to convert to Christianity. The inquisition could clearly identify Jews by what they practiced - but it couldn't read their minds (ie what they believed in). Rambam concluded that if Jews couldn't be free to practice (ie the 'doing') their religion (for fear of the Inquisition) then at least Jews could retain their Judaism by introducing Dogma - the 13 principles. It was a high risk strategy in desperate times. Reply

Dr. Avraham ben Rafael Schapera October 10, 2010

Belief vs Knowledge Judaism goes beyond 'belief' - Judaism is absolute knowledge of these 'principles'.
To translate the text as 'beliefs' is to minimize the conviction with which Jews adhere to this knowledge. Reply

Anonymous August 4, 2010

RAMBAM Following through the idea that Judaism is not a religion of 'faith' what is the Halachik position if a Jew rejects all 13 principles of faith but continues to practice halacha?

Are they both mutually exclusive to a lesser or greater extent? Is there a Halachic sanction if you do not believe in the 13 principles? Reply

danny July 31, 2010

so why not 400? surely there are a lot more than 13 if that is the justification for them. there is a 14th principle of faith. "i believe with perfect faith that it is commanded to place a mezuzah on our doorposts". so why those 13? i think that is the actual question that was asked. why am i not a believer in judaism if i am skeptical about the resurrection but nothing else? Reply

Herschel Hartz Rockville, MD August 23, 2009

I don't understand something... I have a simple question -

if the Rambam got his 13 principles from posukim, why was it necessary to have the Rambam give us this new innovation of these 13 principles? Read the Torah and you'll find those principles! Why the necessity to write 13 principles? Reply

Joseph Naylor Hampshire, PEI Canada August 12, 2009

The question is: is there a biblical basis for "I believe with complete faith"? Judaism is not a "faith" in the sense that our gentile friends understand the word. To approach the issues raised in the “thirteen principles” as matters of “faith” merely presupposes that one knows and understands what one has “faith in”. The biblical/torah way is instead a process of obtaining knowledge through our encounters with the Highest, and study and practice of what has been learnt.

To confuse religion in general and Judaism in particular with “faith” reduces (Heaven forbid) Torah to opinion and arbitrary “belief” (lack of knowledge). Then, when Jews instinctively and rightly reject the approach of “faith”, they too often have confused “religion” (halakhah) with faith, and end up rejecting Judaism, too. Reply

Neiil Harris Chicago, IL August 6, 2009

Thanks This was very helpful, as I just started learning the 13 Principles w/my 9 yr old son. Thanks. Reply

Levi W. July 30, 2009

Dear Surek Being skeptical but observant is greater than being a firm believer yet non-observant.

Obviously the ideal would be to believe AND practice, but it remains a constant challenge for many. Reply

Surak Somewhere July 29, 2009

Refining Danny's question Levi's reply is too easy. Of course lack of belief doesn't change one's status as a Jew. However, I was told I was a heretic because of my beliefs, which are as follows. Principles 1-5, 10, and maybe 11 are consequences of rational theology. The remaining principles may be true, but I can't say I know them to be objective facts.

Also, the citations given don't always prove the corresponding principles - not for #12 and #13 (we may be restored and gathered without Moshi'ach; awakening many sleepers doesn't imply awakening all). #6 is circular reasoning. #9 calls into question the fence-making program of the Tal'mud, and the enormous number of stringencies not required by Torah.

I have a friend who is fervent about the 13 principles, but has no mezuzah and drives on Shabath. I am skeptical but shomer mitz'voth.

To be shomer mitz'voth is considered to be barely acceptable behavior in the Orthodox world. Would Moshe Rabeinu be considered Orthodox if he joined us this week? Reply

Carrie Ben-Yisrael July 29, 2009

Question I noticed that all but the last principle has a reference found in Torah. The 13th has a reference only from the prophets ... why is that? Reply

Levi W. July 28, 2009

To Danny 1) Is there a 14th principle you would have liked to see included?
2) Nobody said if you don't believe in it you aren't Jewish. Even if you don't believe in the entire Torah, if you were born a Jew, you will always be one.
3) Even if you don't accept these as "principles" you cannot deny that they are sourced in the Torah (as listed above), so please don't call them "man made." Reply

danny london July 27, 2009

i asked it i was the person who asked the question and the question was not answered. i asked where does the bible say that THESE specific 13 are THE principles of faith. why not another 14th? what gave rambam the authority to become a spokesman for G-D and furthermore, what gives us the authority to say someone is not a jew simply for not adhering to a man made percept? Reply

alexdvorkin San Francisco July 27, 2009

Wow Thank you for this explanation, it truly is amazing! Reply

Dr.Shoshannah Brombacher Brooklyn, NY July 26, 2009

Thank you, this is very helpful to have it all together. People often ask me such questions, since I made several calligraphies with the 13 ikkarim. Reply

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