The Wikipedia page titled Jewish views on evolution states the following about the Netziv.

When scientists first developed the theory of evolution, this idea was seized upon by rabbis such as Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the Netziv, who saw Kabbalah as a way to resolve the differences between traditional readings of the Bible and modern day scientific findings. He proposed that the ancient fossils of dinosaurs were the remains of beings that perished in the previous "worlds" described in midrash and in some Kabbalistic texts. This was the view held by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934–1983).

Does anyone know where the Netziv wrote this?

  • Tangentially, in Eli Friedwald's new book, he mentions a scholar called Naftali Halevi who embraced Darwinism and was rejected by most of the generation's rabbis
    – Asher
    May 20, 2020 at 18:36
  • This sounds very much like the Tiferes Yisrael's opinion (which came out slightly before The Origin of the Species); I wonder if they got the wrong rabbi.
    – Shalom
    Jul 30, 2023 at 6:28
  • @Shalom That's a very valid point.
    – user6591
    Jul 30, 2023 at 14:52

2 Answers 2


I believe it is referring to Ha'amek Davar to Bereishit 7:23, although note that he ultimately rejects this view and believes that the fossils are of antediluvian creatures belonging to our "world", rather than from previous "worlds".

  • 1
    Seems accurate. And seems Wiki is once again inaccurate and misleading. Thanks. I'll just wait to see if anyone else has any sources before accepting.
    – user6591
    May 20, 2020 at 13:23

I have seen a letter written from Naftali Halevi (From the Netzivs generation) about this very point. Based on that view the gedolim of the day put him in cherem. I think (not one hundred percent) that the Netziv was amongst these gedolim

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .