Hosea 11:8 and God's unchanging nature


8 How shall I deal with thee, O Ephraim, shall I protect thee, O Israel? how shall I make thee as Adama, shall I set thee as Seboim? my heart is turned within me, my repentance is stirred up. (DRB)

Doesn’t this prove God to be changing, and therefore not eternal?


No, read the phrase after ‘my heart is turned within me’. Perhaps a more modern translation will make it clearer:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, Israel?

How can I treat you like Admah?

How can I make you like Zeboyim?

My heart is changed within me;

all my compassion is aroused.

God’s emotions do change. His ‘compassion’ was aroused. So He went from whatever emotion existed before to another emotion - ‘compassion’.

That’s all it says, don’t read too much into it.

If you read the whole bible, you will realise He is the same God the Father, nothing has changed.


Can ANY change, including a change of emotions, occur outside of time? For me, it is more a philosophical question than a religious one since the emotions of G-d are unlike those of humans although we catch a glimpse. The Bible speaks so that humans can understand and relate.


This is close to what my understanding is: “The Bible speaks so that humans can understand and relate.”

It is my understanding, from a Catholic source that God does not have emotions. God has attributes.

Emotions is what the inspired person writes about, because the writer is a human and describes God with human emotions.

Off the top of my head…some of the attributes are omnipotence (all powerful), Omniscient (all knowing),
All-Loving, All-Just, and I believe there are more but do not have time now to search.

To sum it up “God is a spirit, infinitely perfect.” God is Love.


Yes, I agree that G-d has attributes rather than emotions although not clearly defined attributes. In Judaism, sometimes we “define” G-d in terms of what He is NOT rather than what He is, since the latter is virtually impossible.


Outside of time? Where is that in the bible? I would say that sounds more like Plato than the bible. The closest the bible comes, is the telescoping of time. 2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

So God might experience time at a faster or slower rate; but he would still experience sequence. Without knowledge of sequence, logic and morality wouldn’t exist.

As for the notion that God has no emotion… The bible indicates that God has emotion, over and over again. We were made in God’s image. Emotion is critical to our humanity.


Although we are made in God’s image, (intellect and free will) we are human and God is a Spirit, infinitely perfect.

Yes, the human writers of Sacred Scripture are putting man’s emotions on God’s perfect attributes.

God is outside of time and knows our beginning and our end.

I’m sure others here can respond further.

God bless you,



As with anything of the sort regarding God, it is called an anthropomorphism.


Again. Anthropomorphism. We express what we observe of God in limited human terms because we are limited, and he is not.

God cannot have emotions, strictly speaking, as he is immutable and emotions are by definition movements, which are impossible with God.


People are saying God can’t have emotions or that he it is impossible. That sounds a bit like saying God is limited in some way. We have emotions. And emotions are good because God made them. God must understand emotion because he created them. Of course our emotions are often connected with our bodies and God does not have a body. Although,Jesus has one. So Jesus would definitely have experienced emotion.

But saying that God can’t have emotions because he is unchangeable and emotions involve change is a bit like saying God does not have thoughts because a thought may involve a change. It’s limiting God in some way in order to preserve the doctrine God’s imutability.

Rather than limiting God it might be better to say while God does not experience the emotions with a body that changes like we do, he is not limited to being less than us like some emotionless automaton or robot, but that his abilities are much greater than ours. He can think, he can experience joy, love, etc, to a much greater degree than we can.

Let’s face it God is a mystery beyond our comprehension. But what we don’t want to do is put some limit on him that turns him into some thing that we can not identify with. The bible describes God as having emotions for a reason. It’s not just people anthromorphizing him. Its how we as people relate to God. It’s how we enter into relationship with him. If we turn him into this unrelatable thing we in a sense make him inacessabe.


No, we don’t imply that God is limited because he has no emotions. In fact, it is in defense of his infinity and immutability that emotions are impossible with him. God cannot have emotions precisely because he is unlimited, not in spite of it. If he did, then that means there is change in the Godhead, which is impossible. It’s not limited to whether one has a body or not, but whether one is subject to change or not. God does not change, so he cannot have this movement we call emotion.

This only makes the Incarnation even more precious, because, as you say, God now experiences emotion in the humanity of the Son. But that emotion is part of the Son’s human nature, not his divine. God, as God, because he is immutable, cannot have emotions. To insist that God has emotions is to deny his immutability, and his immutability is a dogma of the faith, denial of which, of course, is the H- word.


I wish people would not use fear tactics to get someone to accept what they are saying, People sometimes here think they are a church authority. And throw around the h word whenever someone doesn’t agree completely with what they are saying. It actually drives me away instead of bringing me to your point of view. But, perhaps that is what you want to do? I never said God is exactly like us in our emotions. I said whatever he has is far better. He is not limited like a robot is who can not think or feel. The fact is that God does do something. While his nature does not change. It doesn’t stop him from being able to act and be cause of change. How do you explain God’s thoughts? If we take immutabiity to the extreme than how could God even think?

Again, the bible describes God as portraying emotions for a reason. And its not just so intellectuals can ignore it.

At one point the universe did not exist. And then God did something. And the universe came into existence. God doing something implies change. He made a decision and acted on it. So I think you can take immutability too far.

Ultimate, no one knows God’s mind except the Holy Spirit and that is in the holy scripture itself. Which is the highest authority in the church.

To say that God has no emotion is a philosophical position. It is not an infallible position unless you know the mind of God.


Just saying that God does not have human emotions, or is not limited by them, does not say what God does have. He could have something greater that we can not comprehend. That is what I am saying. If God can act and do things without changing his nature or violating the doctrine of immutability then he may also experience things like a sense of well being, or pleasure from his children like a father. He may experience great joy when the prodigal son comes home, and throw a great feast. This is how we relate to God through the Scripture, often with our mind and our emotions. If the Scripture can say God takes delight in his people in Psalm 149, surely I can say the same thing.


Excellent explanation. Thank you!


God does not have emotions - He’s a purely spiritual being, and emotions pertain to the sensitive appetite, which implies a body. Moreover, as others have said, God cannot change, nor does He have parts or the like. Whatever exists in us as emotions must exist in God as His essence, (things like pity exist as mercy, anger exists as justice in correcting faults, happiness (in the emotion) exists as beatitude, love (emotion) exists as charity etc.), since God is all the perfections of His essence - they are really identical to one another.

This is what is called an anthropomorphism: metaphorically applying human attributes or actions to God. It does not mean that God actually does this, but that there is a certain similarity between a man acting this way and what God does and is. It’s like when the Scriptures say God’s arm, they don’t mean to say that God has an arm; it’s just a metaphor for Divine power.

I hope this was helpful,
Benedicat Deus,


Oh no, it’s infallible. Emotions imply a composite nature, potentiality, mutability, all of which is absolutely incompatible the definition of Lateran IV (1215) on God’s simplicity (think about it: God is own Essence, the Essence is His Existence, so God’s existence would have to be identical with His emotions, which by definition come from outside). Scripture uses this language as a metaphor, that is, not to be taken in the strictly literal sense. The Holy Spirit speaking through St. James tells us that God is without any shadow of alteration or change (Jas. 1:17). As I stated above, what exists in us as emotions exist in God as His essence.

As to the objection that at one point the universe did not exist and then it did exist. God did not “do something” at a specific point like a man does. He has willed from all eternity to create the world at a specific period in time. It’s hard for us complex creatures to conceive such simplicity.

So, no it is at least proximate to a dogma of the faith (sententia fidei proxima) that God has no emotions.

I hope this was helpful,
Benedicat Deus,


Aquinas is very good on passions/emotions in God. Aquinas is never “light” reading, but when it’s an truth I really care about - am trying to grasp an understanding of it - he’s the one I go to. It requires my time and mental work :slight_smile: , but it’s always been worth it.
(Chapter 89 and subsequent - as far as you want to read.)


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.