Age of the World

Question

The Torah says the world is less than 6000 years old. Science says it is billions. Scientific and archaeological evidence show human civilization dating back nearly 30,000 years! Anyone with a reasonable mind, even someone with full faith in the accuracy of the Torah, finds this hard to ignore. How can these discrepancies be explained, and what does the average rabbi say about this?

6 months

Answers

  1. A short question that requires a long answer. I highly recommend a book by Dr. Gerald Schroeder, called Genesis and the Big Bang. It should be available at any reasonably good bookstore ( i.e. not necessarily at a Jewish bookstore). Dr. Schroeder is a highly qualified scientist and an Orthodox Jew. He synthesizes the Biblical and Talmudic tradition with modern science. Another book that I suggest is The Seven Days of Creation by Dr. Natan Aviezer. From a purely scientific perspective I suggest the book, Evolution: Theory in Crisis, by Michael Denton. I am also adding a number of sources that discuss the issue from a Jewish perspective below.

    1. Genesis 1:1, Commentary of Nachmanides, ad loc. (13th Century)

    In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. The deeds of creation are hidden and deep and cannot be understood from the text, only from tradition person to person going back to Moses, our teacher

    2. Ethics of the Fathers 5:1 (170 CE); Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah 21b (500 CE)

    Mishnah: The world was created with ten statements.

    Gemara: But when you count them there are only nine statements!? Bereshit (In the beginning) is also a statement.

    3. Gaon of Vilna, Aderet Eliyahu, Genesis 1:1 (19th Century); Maharal of Prague (17th Century)

    The statement of Bereshit was the creation of time, which is a dimension of the physical world.

    4. Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, Nefesh Hachaim, (19th Century)

    One of the names of G-d is Hamakom, [the place] because as the Midrash says, “He is the place of the world, the world is not His place.” This concept is based on the idea that the physical world would not exist if not for G-d willing it exist at every moment – therefore the Holy One Blessed Be He is the “place” of the world. “Place” meaning the framework of reality in which something exists. G-d, therefore, being called “the place” means that it is He that provides the possibility of existence to all of creation.

    5. Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 2:30 (13th Century)

    Time, dimension and the laws of nature were created during the six days of creation. Time, by definition, is a continuum that must have a past, present and future. Therefore when G-d created the first moment of time, He also created a past together with the present.

    6. Maharal of Prague, Be’er Hagolah, Fourth Be’er

    And so with the creation of the world, all creatures were formed before the creation of the human and in the creation of this world there was certainly creation of less complete worlds preceding it, and that is what is stated [in the Midrash] that, “G-d created worlds and destroyed them” before creating this present world.

    7. Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time

    The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order which may or may not be divinely inspired.

    8. Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years, Science and Religion

    …science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. Without the belief in the uniformity of nature, no theoretical formula of universal character could be established.

    I also suggest you read “Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe: A Kabbalistic View ” By Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, published by Ktav Publishing House.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team