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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 12.3:
Does modern science (e.g., "big bang" theory, evolution, the age of the world) contradict traditional readings of the Torah?

Answer:

Probably, but science is getting better all the time and one can expect agreement eventually...

Seriously, there are numerous neo-traditional readings that put new interpretations on various commentaries and are allegedly compatible with Orthodoxy.

Judaism has a long tradition of not interpreting the creation narative of Genesis 1 literally. Rambam [Maimonides], for example, warns at the beginning of his Mishneh Torah that the literal reading of the opening of Bereshis [Genesis] is for the masses. [The non-literal reading he had in mind was
metaphysical, not scientific. See The Guide for the Perplexed.] Both literalism and non-literalism have a long history, yielding a variety of resolutions of the problem of creation and science. Here are some solutions:

There are some Orthodox Jews who believe that Creation occurred over 5700 years ago and that it took precisely six days. However, today many Orthodox Jews believe that it is an open question as to how long each of those "days" and "years" were, relative to today's time intervals (considering that time itself is one of G-d's creations). One can find an array of Orthodox views on the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and views on evolution, in "Challenge: Torah Views on Science and Its Problems" edited by Aryeh Carmell and Cyril Domb, and in Gerald Schroeder's "Genesis and the Big Bang". These works attempt to reconcile traditional Jewish texts with modern scientific findings concerning evolution, the age of the earth and the age of the Universe. Prominent Orthodox rabbis who affirm the veracity of scientific findings in these areas include Aryeh Kaplan, Israel Lipschitz, Sholom Mordechai Schwadron (the MaHaRSHaM), Zvi H. Chajes, and Abraham Isaac Kook.

Remember, the current scientific perspective is simply our best understanding of what G-d did. Two hundred years ago, that best understanding was different than it is today, and two hundred years from now, it will be different again. In effect, we believe in the Torah, and we use science as the current "best bet" (but certainly don't take it as seriously as we take the Torah).

A rabbi in the Los Angeles area mused that perhaps the year count is based on the end of creation, when mankind had achieved intelligence. Certainly all of man's recorded history fits within the almost six thousand years. The time before "year 1" can be considered before the system was in multiuser mode :-).

What about Dinosaurs, you ask. Well, there are midrashic sources that certainly hint at the possibility of dinosaurs (or, at least, of some critters that were parts of earlier "creations," in the tradition that G-d created Universes before our own).

You should also consult the section in the general part of the Reading Lists on Science and Judaism. There you will find books that explore the relationship of Judaism and science.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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