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There is a fundamental dispute about how to render the very first word in the Torah, and by extension, the first few pesukim, with wide ranging implication. 

Rashi and his grandson Rashbam interpret it as "At the beginning of God's creating heaven and earth (end of verse 1) and the earth was desolate and empty . . ". 

Ramban and Radak read it as the more familiar "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth". 

Rashi & Rashbam's reading seem to suggest a previously existing and unfinished shamayim and aretz which are now the subject of Gods finishing touches during the 6 days.

(Rashbam's language is explicitly הן זמן מרובה הן זמן מועט regarding how long it was around for prior to בראשית)

This seems to be a valid observation and would allow for the Torah to jive with any and all scientific claims regarding the age of the universe.

I've not seen anyone else make this point and am wondering if folks think it is legit and if anyone has already made this observation.

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  • There are commentators on this pasuk that suggest the water that was "in the void" before water was created, was there from a previous creation , and the creation talked about in the Torah is solely concerning our cycle of creation. This is derived from the begging question of where did the water come from if it wasn't yet created...
    – Shababnik
    Commented Jan 14 at 5:44
  • Though the Torah itself lists all the generations from the beginning — Adam. So, I don't think you can read anything other than the 5k+ year tally into that.
    – Shababnik
    Commented Jan 14 at 6:07
  • @Shababnik In this reading the generational listing would be from the more developed world of Bereishis not the preexisting primitive one
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 14 at 13:47
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    This has occurred to me as well, but it doesn't really help all that much. The evidence for an old universe includes things like the age of stars, life and other things explicitly created during the 6 days. At the very least a lot of reinterpretation would be still be needed.
    – AKA
    Commented Jan 14 at 14:34
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    @AKA Interesting point
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 14 at 14:41

1 Answer 1

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In the כתבי ארי it is explained that the story of אדם הראשון does not happen in our world but rather happens in the world of אצילות. This would generally imply that the creation story is not talking about the physical world.

I find this point particularly enlightening especially because it comes from someone in the 1500s who was not whatsoever in the mindset of apologetics.

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  • Source for this arizal? Also your answer doesn't show how hat the arizal said is proof of the created universe being older than tradition says it is
    – Dude
    Commented Jan 15 at 11:17
  • I have it here in פרק יח דעת ותבונה which brings from שער מאמרי רשבי which quotes the topic from the זוהר and provides additional discussion on it
    – zunior
    Commented Jan 15 at 21:15
  • Yes however once it is explained that אדם was not from our world the rest is almost implicit because the creation story isnt talking about our world
    – zunior
    Commented Jan 15 at 21:16
  • Nothing you have said is implicit
    – Dude
    Commented Jan 16 at 3:56

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