© 2019 by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner
Genesis Vs Evolution: How did Moses know?
Class 1: Is Genesis Another Bronze Age Myth?
Questioning the validity of Genesis
To most people, the story of Genesis poses an enigma. The Fundamentalists believe that the world was created by GOD 5779 years ago in just one week, yet Science says it was born 13.7 Billion years ago. Moses says it was made by GOD, yet Science says that life has evolved by natural selection and adaptation. . Can we reconcile these two apparently opposing narratives?
For most modern scholars the answer is simple- we cannot. What could Moses know, they argue, 3500 years ago? The famous author Karen Amstrong, in her History of God, counts Moses’ Genesis among other Bronze Age myth, told in his time.
In a recent survey, most ( 50.2% in one pole) college student said that they had left religion precisely because they could not believe in the story of Genesis, that contradicts Science. .
Can we reconcile the Bible with Science? So far, all attempts to do that have failed. In my high school, my teachers told us that we should leave the subject alone “since only great rabbis know the truth.” Other said that Genesis’ story is allegorically, or that the ‘animals’ mentioned are “Heavenly bodies.” Other tried to avoid the subject by saying that the Torah (Bible) was written only for moral messages rather then telling history. I think that theses approaches have failed and they are the reason why so many people question the validity of the Bible.
So most people today are caught in a dilemma. On one hand we all want to believe in the Bible, yet on the other hand we’ve also learned to trust Science. Hence the common approach to shy away from the conflict and simply ignore it. This turns out to be very destrructive, since the underlying doubt on the validity of Genesis brings people to doubt even its moral messages.
To the believer, the question of validity is amplified by the fact that Genesis story carries the name of GOD 32 times (during the six Days) – the most concentrated fashion in the entire Torah. So if Chapter One of Genesis is untrue, the very concept of GOD is at question!
So when we compare Genesis to Science, the stakes are high. if we have found Genesis untrue, we have opened the door for doubting the rest of Mose’ words. On the other hand, if we’ve found Mose’s Genesis compatible with Science, then we should stand in awe- who could tell him such a credible story about CREATION, 3500 years ago? .
In the following, let’s compare Moses’ Genesis to to other Bronze Age stories. Can we count Genesis among them?
Then we will compare Moses Genesis top the Scientific narrative about the history of Earth. Can these stories by matched?
2: Genesis in comparison to ancient myths
Karen Armstrong herself (in History of God) tells us the Bronze Age myths about CREATION told in Moses time. .
Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s home. The Egyptians in his time believed that the world was created when a male god named Rah (like in Rah-Amssess) impregnated a goddess named Nun (‘water’ or ‘darkness.’) Fearing that her embryo would one day rebel against his father, Rah slashed Nuns’ belly, killed his son and threw his testicles into the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Aka. The lamenting mother-goddess Nun then dived into the Sea, retrieved her sons’ testicles and resurrected him. From this resurrection the world was created.
We can of course empathize with the Egyptian story, imagine how they paraded in the streets each spring time to celebrate the resurrection. Yet we can never says that their fascinating story has anything to do with our Scientific knowledge. The Egyptian story is a wonderful myth, whereas our Scientific story is dry and factual. Moses, having grown in Pharaoh’s home, surely knew that story by heart.
The Greek in Moses time also told a similar story about CREATION. They said that a ‘male god’ named Uranus impregnated the “goddess of Earth” named Gaia. Fearing that her embryos – the famous Titans- would exit and rebel against their father, Uranus pushed them back into Gaia’s womb causing her much pains. So whenever the ground is shaking under your feet, it is the goddess Gaia twisting in labor pains.The youngest Titans Cronus then stood up against his father. He waited for their father to cohabit with Gaia, then cut off his sexual organ and threw it to the sea. The rest of the Titans then ran out hapilly from the womb and this is how the world flourish.
Again, like the Egyptian story, we may empathize with the Titans and even play football in their name. Yet one thing we can’t do- say that the story matches Science. No way!
Other ancient myths
Karen Amstrong goes on to tell us other stories told by other cultures in Moses time. The Indians, the Japanese, the Chinese, they all told mythical stories about CREATION, full of sexual perversions, rivalry, jealousy and killing. Moses, having grown in Pharaohs’ palace, must have known these myths, and yet he gives us a totally different account of CREATION.
3: How does Moses’ Genesis differ from all the Myths of His Time
Moses story is clean
First, Moses story is ‘clean’ of any Jealousy, killing, power struggle and sexual perversion. It is a factual story, a dry account of events Day by Day. It does not raise any emotion or passion in the reader, nor would anyone parade in the streets in its glory. By this alone Moses’ story differs drastically from all the myths told in his time.
Moses sees an order in CREATION
Secondly, unlike all the myths of his time, Moses’ Genesis recognizes an ORDER in Nature. Some elements and creatures came first, others followed. Thus, the Dry Land was first separated from the Sea, then the Vegetation appeared. The Fish came first then the Birds then the Crocodiles (Amphibians.) Only then, came Cattle-like, Beast-like creatures and then Adam. . .
For Pharaoh, and for all other nations in Moses time, nature was a mishmash of creatures born in no certain order. No one among Pharaoh’s wise men said that the fish came before the birds. The Egyptians in fact depicted their gods with faces of fish, birds, crocodiles, beasts and snakes with no conception of which creature had been born first. The same is true for the Greek, Babylonians, Persians or Japaneses in Moses time. . .
How then can any scholar count Moses’ Genesis among Bronze Age myths?
Who then told Moses the story?
Moses’ Genesis Compared to Science
Let’s compare now Moses’ Genesis to our Science
How old is the world?
Science says that the Universe exists 13.7 Billion years.
Moses seems to be saying that the world was created 5779 years ago, in six days. But in fact Moses never mentions any age for the Universe. The number 5779 years has been calculated backwards by extrapolation from Cain and Abel . The story of Genesis in Chapter One could therefore take any number of human years.
In fact, Kabbala (oral tradition written down in 12th century AD) has calculated the age of the world to be 13-15 Bilion years, quite close to what Science says. .
Here is their reasoning and calculations (told by Rabbi A. Kaplan in his book )
A Day of CREATION – the rabbis reasoned- can’t be our day. Since at the end of the First Day it says
“And it was evening, and it was morning, One Day.”
How can this be our day, when the sun and the Moon were seen regularly on Earth only later a the Fourth Day? Moreover, the words “One Day ” (rather then Day One) defines the length of a Day of CREATION. it is the time it took CREATION to advance from the Beginning to see in it Light and Darkness, Chaos and Order, Matter and Water, as is mentioned in the verses. It could have taken any number of human years.
Moreover, Kabbala has also calculated from Psalms the length of One Day. Most Psalms were composed by King David, yet one is attributed to Moses who writes-
“For a thousand of our years are like a one Day of yours” (Psalms 90)
Since there are about 350 days in a year, a “Year of CREATOR” equals 350.000 human years. Now another kabbala tradition says that 6000 “Heavenly Years” equal a Day of CREATION. Hence A Day of CREATION equals 6000×350.000=2.1 Billion human years. Thus six Days took 6 x 2.1=12.6 Billions human years – quite close to what Science says. In fact, another kabbala source has calculated the age of the world to be 15 Billions years. Note that not every Day was had the same length.
Thus the Six Days of CREATION CAN be seen as six stages, or six eras. You can’t do such a calculation with any of the mythical stories told in Moses time!
Next we’ll ask- CAN the rest of Moses’ Genesis be matched with Science? . .
END OF CLASS 15