How does human history fit in with the Torah's timeline? (This is not about why the universe and Earth look so old.)

There is extensive evidence of a human population and human civilizations from well before 4000 BCE (i.e. 6000 years ago, there were more than two humans). Human fossils (that is to say Homo sapiens as opposed to other hominids that existed around and well before this time) and artifacts dating back as far as 200,000 years have been found in Africa, Eurasia, and Australia, and more recent artifacts and fossils (still tens of thousands of years old) have been found in the Americas. Egyptian pyramids (and proto-pyramids) were built both before and after the time of the Mabul (Noah's flood) (confirmed by carbon dating) as well as other Mesopotamian and Indus writing forms that are found to be both from before and after the time of the Mabul, as well as proto-Chinese characters that pose evidence of a single evolving culture that spans pre-Creation, pre-Flood, post-Flood, and modern day China. These are just some examples I've found when attempting to research early human history. I can edit this question with sources detailing as much evidence of this as is requested (Update: some of the evidence is at the bottom of this question post[*]), or I can reference you to Google to find encyclopedia articles and scholarly journals or the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program or something, or we can proceed with the assumption that this is in fact almost universally accepted as confirmed and consistant records of human history.

Anyway, I'm having a hard time reconciling this account of human civilization that, which extends well before Creation and continues steadily even through the time of the Mabul, with the Torah, which has Adam and Chava as the first humans and emphatically says that all the earth, the highest mountains, were covered, and all human life was wiped out besides those eight individuals on the ark. Here are the possibilities I can personally think of or that have been suggested to me with varying levels of support from authoritative sources, but none of them so far work for me:

  1. Archeologists and anthropologists (as well as geologists, physicists, cosmologists, biologists, geneticists, and any other line of empirical scientific knowledge that separately and consistently supports it) are part of a massive anti-religious conspiracy. However I think such a massive conspiracy theory is untenable and has not been demonstrated.

  2. Archeologists and anthropologists are all a victim of misinformation as during and before the Mabul, life on Earth was so different as to systematically confuse all methods of dating. However this also doesn't make sense to me, as a systematic alteration of evidence that still leaves all lines of evidence pointing in the same way is implausible, and it also is inconsistent with evidence of an old universe that is external to earth. And what's more, if you can only rely on dating from post-Mabul organic matter, then consider this: If the pyramids were exclusively of a post-Mabul society, you should find neither king lists about pre-flood kings of Egypt nor the C14 dating of organic matter found in or with the pyramids which date to before the flood. One way or another the pyramids are from before the flood (and civilization there and around the world continues like normal).

  3. Hashem wanted to make everything look completely natural so he made Earth with a history. However, while that might be in line with the premise of my question, that doesn't really do anything to reconcile the idea with what we know about the Torah and Judaism. It's also a little troubling because maybe Hashem would similarly want to make the Exodus from Egypt natural in reality but miraculous in text, and so we shouldn't necessarily expect there to be external evidence of that either. Worse, you cannot say this without painting Hashem as deceitful unless it can be clearly demonstrated from the intended meaning of Talmudic or similar sources that Adam wasn't the first man and that the Mabul didn't wipe out any civilizations. And to my knowledge that is not the case. The closest I've come to that was hearing a reference to 974 worlds or generations before ours, but that is insufficiently clear, and when I tried to dig deeper all I found was a Beraisa in Chagigah 14a about them being generations that were not created, but instead that their souls are the wicked among actual generations. And I have also seen reference to Zevachim 113 to say that there is precedent to say the flood was not completely global, but all it brings is a single opinion that makes the exception only for Eretz Yisrael and even then says that everyone there died. That is to say, even in this interpretation, which is just based on a textual inference (and doesn't reject the meaning), all cultures, and most evidence of most of the world, would still have been destroyed in the flood.

  4. As referenced in part of my discussion on theory #3 above, this Earth had hundreds of "worlds" living on it before hand and Hashem destroyed them all in preparation of this world. However, while I have heard this claim, I couldn't find anything to back up that such worlds were literally created in a sequential natural form that mirrors the observed natural formation of the solar system and life. The best I found (which is not to say it is good) is an article from Aish that takes the words of Rav Abahu and allows for a vague inference that they did exist on a previous version of this planet that was destroyed to the point it was formless yet still maintains a coherent line of archaeological evidence of human civilization. But that doesn't make much sense. Or perhaps Aish meant that in some early period of the sixth day there were (somehow and for some reason? I couldn't really follow what they were trying to say) precursors to humans without souls. I'm not sure that there's any basis or explanation for the practical distinction for that. (I'm also incredulous to the possibility that Hashem would in this way need to make so many living beings and people only to kill them in the process of making Earth, especially when only to recreate everything in six days anyway.) In any event it only could explain the difference between the first six days of creation with human history older than 6,000 years ago without addressing the events that followed like the Mabul.

  5. A suggestion by Dr. Gerald Schroeder, who says time, from the point of view of Earth, slowed down dramatically from the point of view of Hashem (who is assumed to have the same time perspective as background radiation), and it is in some particular way calculated that the first day of creation was exactly 8 billion years, the second day 4 billion, and so on. And that this supports an old age of the universe and the formation of the solar system and life over long periods of time. However as far as I can tell, from a perspective of physics, Schroeder is alone in this understanding, and as far as I can tell the same can be said of the Torah perspective. And it would go against the principle that the Torah is written in the language of man. And it contradicts the more recent improvements to the estimate of the age of the universe. Schroeder made his calculation around the turn of the century, a clear demonstration that he just was working backwards and has no actual basis. His calculation also contradicts the order and time that various aspects of the universe, solar system, and life developed. And as is the case with suggestion #4, this only addresses human history before 6,000 years ago, so this also fails to answer my question.

So as you can see I'm having trouble figuring this out. What is a good explanation to deal with human history as stated in the Torah and human history as implied by the physical evidence? Presumably such a reconciliation must exist, and though I've seen many suggestions, none really appear to hold water (no pun intended).

Update: It appears that the best answers have basically argued by changing what the Torah meant, saying it is in some way allegorical. So, yes, this would resolve the contradiction in theory, but I cannot accept those answers without addressing specific improvements: I require a citation from specific people that clearly say this, preferably older answers based on messorah and not answers that were forced to bend around a context of archeological evidence. I need you to demonstrate why your approach is acceptable, in the face of the apparent meaning and tradition, how you know that such a large reinterpretation is acceptable in light of some rishonim like the Rashba and Meiri explicitly not allowing this and even the Rambam being very tempered and suggesting you must believe that Adam was the first man (as discussed here). (If you reference people like Slifkin who bend Torah around science, go further and quote the relevant things they've said along with the older sources they're basing themselves on that allow for such bending.) I also need you to explain where the cutoff is (Are nations descended from those on the ark allegory too? At what point does the genealogy transition to fact?). And I do not require, but would appreciate, at least some kind of feasible theory to explain what the point of those allegories might possibly be.

[*] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_oldest_buildings_in_the_world#By_age for buildings predating the flood (anything older than c.2270 BCE). See http://archive.archaeology.org/9909/abstracts/pyramids.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10345875 re egyptian history extending before the flood confirmed by C14. See http://www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Jun/66806.htm re C14 dating early writing in China to c. 6400 BCE. Archeology indicates Elam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elam existed since 5000 BCE with written records from 3000 BCE. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11086110 discusses arrowheads that were 64,000 years old, found buried under ancient sediment. (This question takes for granted that sediment and the earth can be that old, as it would be a whole other thing to bring evidence of an old Earth.) See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v421/n6925/abs/nature01383.html for evidence of Indigenous Australians radiometrically dated to at least 20,000 BCE. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform with citations showing cuneiform in various forms from the Middle East dating well before the flood. It is clear that various archeological dating methods all show the same thing. I welcome anyone who finds this insufficient to do further research. Mainstream archeology unanimously agrees on this history, and the geological evidence (which would be another extensive set of references) also makes more sense in context of a (relatively) old human history. Unless there is a compelling argument for why all of archeology is wrong, I am not asking if these people existed before Creation and through the Mabul, I'm simply asking how can this be reconciled.

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    @AL I'm not sure it's inconsistent to consider the possibility that both radiometric dating is flawed (which I'm not arguing one way or the other) and that the universe was created "in progress". I'm not knowledgeable enough on the subject to say whether it's plausible that conditions 4000 years ago could belie assumptions that underpin radiometric dating, but if they do that's not per se due to some attempt by HaShem to make the universe look old. Who knows how or why conditions could have been different before the Flood. (This doesn't address non-radiometric dating analyses, of course).
    – Fred
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 22:32
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    @mezhang Still, that leaves too many problems to deal with. Such as human history extending even beyond 5000 BCE, indications (as per Ibn Ezra) that "evening and morning" mean that the "day" is a literal day from the movement of the sphere, and a lack of an explanation for using a perspective different from man's in the writing of that portion.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 4:30
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    Not a question but a statement. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 15:15
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    Alternatively, some of us simply do not accept the axioms of science as absolute truth.
    – yoel
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 20:05

12 Answers 12


R' Aryeh Kaplan z'l teaches as follows:

R' Nehunia ben Hakana brings in Sefer Temuna that there are larger shmita cycles of 7000 years each, of which we are now in the 6th, putting the age of the earth at 42,000 years old.

Midrash states that a "Divine day" is like 1000 years. Therefore a "Divine year" is 365,250 years.

R' Yitzchak of Acco - who investigated and authenticated the Zohar Hakadosh - held that the shmita cycles of Sefer Temuna were "Divine years", arriving at a figure of 15,340,500,000 years as the age of the universe. While actually a little longer than current scientific theories, this figure - reached about 800 years ago - is remarkably close.

Given this, we can extrapolate that Adam Harishon was distinct in some way from whatever beings preceded him.

As for the flood, are you assuming that our current geological knowledge is flawless? Maybe we just don't know what to look for as an aftereffect of a miraculous event.

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    Is one of those aftereffects the tossing of certain species from the ark to Australia and nowhere else, and the tossing of other species to Canada and nowhere else? Did God just forget to tell us that part of the story?
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:20
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    According to this theory, what happened to all the pseudo-humans who lived before Adam? Did the disappear when Adam was created? Did they last until the Flood?
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:29
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    I seriously doubt God held of Shmuel's Tekufa in calculating His years. He would have used something more precise.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:34
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    @AL With regards to geology, science also claims there were no 40 years in the desert because there would be evidence, but our tradition makes clear that there was no evidence on account of the various miracles. Science by its very nature does not take into account the possibility of miraculous variances in expected results. Likewise for archaeology, anthropology, and genetics. I don't need to say that diversity was miraculously added. I'm just saying science doesn't know what to look for, because the scientific method doesn't believe in miracles.
    – yoel
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 16:53
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    @yoel Please don't treat "science" as some massive piece of tradition with every tentative consensus being in the same playing field with the most firmly demonstrated laws. Archeologists not finding remains in a large desert confirming one event is very different from geologists, geneticists, and archeologists demonstrating that what we find is entirely inconsistent with the flood story. I'm confused why you think that miracles involved would suddenly make it as if the physical events associated with it appear to have never happened at all.
    – A L
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 18:35

It seems that according to Rav Saadiah Gaon as well as Rambam, an old earth is possible. As is the existence of human beings prior to the date Adam was created according to Torah.

Another approach is to look at people like Dr Schroder in Genesis and the Big-Bang who argue that as space-time expands from the point of view of a person standing one earth in 2013 the earth appears billions of years old, however, if you were standing and looking from the point of view of the big bang the universe would seem to be a mere 5773 (almost 4) years old.

ספר אמונות ודעות - מאמר שביעי - אות א

אומר תחלה, כי מן הידוע באמתות הדברים שכל דבר שנמצא במקרא הרי הוא כפשוטו, זולתי מה שאי אפשר לפרשו כפשוטו מחמת אחת מארבע סבות, או מפני שהחוש דוחה אותו, כעין אמרו ויקרא האדם שם אשתו חוה כי היא היתה אם כל חי, והרי רואים אנו השור והאריה שאינם ילודי אשה, לכן צריך שנדע שאין הדבר אמור אלא בבני אדם. או שהשכל דוחה אותו, כאמרו כי ה' אלהיך אש אכלה הוא אל קנא, והרי האש ברואה וזקוקה [לחומר] ופעמים נכבית, ואין השכל מקבל שיהא הוא כך, ולכן מוכרח שתהא מלה נסתרת בלשון שנקמתו כאש אכלה, וכמו שנאמר כי באש קנאתי תאכל כל הארץ.

And so I declare, first of all, that it is a well known fact that every statement found in the Bible is to be understood in its literal sense except for those that cannot be so construed for one of the following four reasons. It may, for example, be rejected by the observation of the senses, such as the statement, “And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20), whereas we see that the ox and the lion are not the offspring of womankind. Hence we must conclude that the implication of the statement embraces human descendants only. *Or else the literal sense may be neglected by reason such as that of the statement,* “For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God” (Deut. 4:24). Now fire is something created and defective, for it is subject to extinction. Hence it is logically inadmissible that God resemble it. We must, therefore, impute to this statement the meaning that God’s punishment is like a consuming fire, in accordance with the remark made elsewhere in Scripture, “For all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy (Zeph. 3:8)

ספר מורה נבוכים - חלק ב פרק כה

דע כי אין בריחתנו מן המאמר בקדמות העולם מפני הכתובים אשר באו בתורה בהיות העולם מחודש - כי אין הכתובים המורים על חידוש העולם יותר מן הכתובים המורים על היות האלוה גשם; ולא שערי הפרוש סתומים בפנינו ולא נמנעים לנו בענין חידוש העולם, אבל היה אפשר לנו לפרשם, כמו שעשינו בהרחקת הגשמות; ואולי זה היה יותר קל הרבה, והיינו יכולים יותר לפרש הפסוקים ההם ולהעמיד קדמות העולם, כמו שפרשנו הכתובים והרחקנו היותו ית' גשם. ואמנם הביאונו שלא לעשות זה ושלא נאמינהו - שתי סיבות. האחת מהם - שהיות האלוה בלתי גוף התבאר במופת, ויתחיב בהכרח שיפורש כל מה שיחלוק על פשוטו המופת, ויודע שיש לו פרוש בהכרח; וקדמות העולם לא התבאר במופת, ואין צריך שיודחו הכתובים ויפורשו מפני הכרעת דעת שאפשר להכריע סותרו בפנים מן ההכרעות; וזה - סיבה אחת. והסיבה השנית - כי האמיננו שהאלוה בלתי גשם לא יסתור לנו דבר מיסודי התורה, ולא יכזיב מאמר כל נביא, ואין בו אלא מה שיחשבו הפתאים שבזה כנגד הכתוב - ואינו כנגדו, כמו שבארנו, אבל הוא כונת הכתוב! אבל אמונת הקדמות על הצד אשר יראה אותו אריסטו, שהוא על צד החיוב, ולא ישתנה טבע כלל ולא יצא דבר חוץ ממנהגו - הנה היא סותרת הדת מעיקרה, ומכזבת לכל אות בהכרח, ומבטלת כל מה שתיחל בו התורה או תפחיד ממנו - האלוהים, אלא יפורשו האותות גם כן, כמו שעשו בעלי התוך מן הישמעאלים ויצאו בזה למין מן ההזיה. אמנם אם יאמן הקדמות לפי הדעת השני אשר בארנונו - והוא דעת אפלטון - והוא, שהשמים גם כן הוים נפסדים - הדעת ההוא לא יסתור יסודי התורה ולא תמשך אחריו הכזבת האותות, אבל העברתם, ואפשר שיפורשו הכתובים על פיו, וימצאו לו דמיונות רבות בכתובתי ה'תורה' וזולתם, שאפשר להתלות בהם, וגם יהיו לראיה. אבל אין ההכרח מביא אותנו לזה, אלא אם התבאר הדעת ההוא במופת; אמנם כל עת שלא יתבאר במופת, לא זה הדעת ניטה אליו, ולא הדעת ההוא גם כן נביט אליו כלל, אבל נבין הכתובים כפשוטיהם, ונאמר, כי התורה הגידתנו ענין, לא יגיע כוחנו להשגתו, והאות מעיד על אמיתת טענותינו:

WE do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter, than we had in explaining the anthropomorphisms in the Bible when we rejected the idea that God is corporeal. For two reasons, however, we have not done so, and have not accepted the Eternity of the Universe. First, the Incorporeality of God has been demonstrated by proof: those passages in the Bible, which in their literal sense contain statements that can be refuted by proof, must and can be interpreted otherwise. But the Eternity of the Universe has not been proved; a mere argument in favour of a certain theory is not sufficient reason for rejecting the literal meaning of a Biblical text, and explaining it figuratively, when the opposite theory can be supported by an equally good argument. Secondly, our belief in the Incorporeality of God is not contrary to any of the fundamental principles of our religion: it is not contrary to the words of any prophet. Only ignorant people believe that it is contrary to the teaching of Scripture: but we have shown that this is not the case: on the contrary, Scripture teaches the Incorporeality of God. If we were to accept the Eternity of the Universe as taught by Aristotle, that everything in the Universe is the result of fixed laws, that Nature does not change, and that there is nothing supernatural, we should necessarily be in opposition to the foundation of our religion, we should disbelieve all miracles and signs, and certainly reject all hopes and fears derived from Scripture, unless the miracles are also explained figuratively. The Allegorists amongst the Mohammedans have done this, and have thereby arrived at absurd conclusions. If, however, we accepted the Eternity of the Universe in accordance with the second of the theories which we have expounded above (ch. xxiii.), and assumed, with Plato, that the heavens are like wise transient, we should not be in opposition to the fundamental principles of our religion: this theory would not imply the rejection of miracles, but, on the contrary, would admit them as possible. The Scriptural text might have been explained accordingly, and many expressions might have been found in the Bible and in other writings that would confirm and support this theory. But there is no necessity for this expedient, so long as the theory has not been proved. As there is no proof sufficient to convince us, this theory need not be taken into consideration, nor the other one: we take the text of the Bible literally, and say that it teaches us a truth which we cannot prove: and the miracles are evidence for the correctness of our view.

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    I think that what you are saying is that it is impossible to read the first 2+ chapters of breishit as literal if you also wish to consider science to be factually describing history. I agree with you. Rambam IS saying that you can read the first 3 chapter of breishit as allegorical. He says it explicitly, he only feels that Aristotle failed to make a convicing case. If modern astrophysicists did make a convincing case then Rambam would have read breishit as allegorical. Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 19:00
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    We will probably have to be moved to a discussion and not questions and answers but I will respond in part here: I think that machzikei daat rejects assertions by saying that the tone of Rambam or Saadiah Gaon are hyperbolic or exagerating. It is an fine opinion.In the end there are 3 options: except that there are sections of the torah which are allegorical, accept that science is wrong, attempt to make the 2 match. In this case option 3 is impossible and 2 is unpalletable in my mind one is the best answer and fits nicely with legitimate understandings of early texts Commented Jul 26, 2013 at 19:13
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    To me, not reinterpreting pssukim makes Hashem mire deceitful. Giving us minds and senses to interact with his world and then expecting us to ignore or senses and torn of our mind in order to be faithful to him Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 13:28
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    A) they didn't see dibra torah blashon havai etc. B) why would I have to explain that? Do I also have took explain why they thought the world was flat? Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 21:24
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    Just taking this approach where you have to drastically reinterpret descriptions of events to match reality, a problem is that then what does it teach on the pshat level? A lie if anything. Who would make the case that the first 11 chapters are meant to be devoid of any pshat meaning if not absolutely forced to?
    – A L
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 4:04

The question seems to be bothered by the issue that archeological records show that people were around much more than 6000 years ago while the genealogy in the Bible would place Adam, the first man, more recently.

There are many ways of addressing this. Just as the six days can be explained as not literally being six days, one can explain that the first man existed much more than 6000 years ago. One can also say that Adam the person wasn't actually the father of all mankind (but of a significant group in the area). Rishonim such as the Rambam already discussed the story of Adam as an allegory, so this isn't such a critical issue.

The archeological record may show some evidence for a large flood, but not one that wiped out all of civilization and animals on the entire planet. But the flood story can be understood as being a regional flood and one may not need to interpret every detail of the story literally.

Some people have explained that the Torah is focused on theological issues, and may not be trying to give an exact description of pre-history. Others have expanded the concept of “dibbera Torah ki-leshon benei adam" to explain why the Torah may have presented early stories in a non-scientific manner.

Update: See also some of these articles from Tradition:

See also books on this topic, e.g. The Challenge of Creation, by Natan Slifkin.

Update 2: The Rambam did not take the "6 days" of Bereishis literally, as well as other details. See More Nevuchim II:30. (C.f. Wikipedia, though it needs some editing and citations.) Also, I don't see what's wrong with re-interpreting something based on archeology. What matters is whether it's a reasonable (or plausible) interpretation, not what motivated it. See the Ramban on the Rainbow (Bereishis 9:12) where he re-interprets a phrase based on the Greeks' explanation of rainbows as a natural phenomena. (He then realizes that this reading actually fits quite well with the text!)

More can be said about these specific issues, but יש לו סוד, and the basic idea is to realize the goal of the Torah is to teach the Mitzvoth and certain hashkafic principles. The simple literal meaning of Bereishis is not there to give an fully-detailed historical account of the development of the world from the first moment until Avraham.

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    Can you please cite where Rambam said this? I don't have Tradition to look it up. I'm curious how he says Adam was allegorical when the Torah says he was God's first creation of Man, his family, how long he lived, etc. I'm also interested how the he understands the Torah speaking of Adam's children as being "the first to do xyz" which implies that there was not another unmentioned civilization. Can you cite who says the flood should be taken as regional (must have been a small region to leave pyramids and cuneiform) and why it was then necessary to keep countless animals on an ark for a year?
    – A L
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 4:45
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    @ArielK Thank you. The More Nevuchim link is fascinating, but I'm having trouble finding where he says that the 6 days didn't take 144 hours. Can you quote the corresponding line? I would also appreciate if you could more clearly explain your implied link between a known possibility that specific phrases could be understood in another light and the proposed freedom to completely reinterpret the first 11 chapters of Genesis as something of a quasi-metaphor.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 3:48
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    @ArielK Upon further research I believe Rambam actually does take the 6 days as literal 24 hour days, and in the intro to Moreh Nevuchim he says not to extrapolate or interpret what he says. So nay for the freedom to reinterpreted Bereishis as is convenient. I'm looking for a better answer.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 23:28
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    (In fact, the Rambam writes he would have been willing to re-interpret Bereishis to allow for a universe that always existed, just that Aristotle's proofs weren't convincing.)
    – Ariel K
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 2:23
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    @ArielK The Rambam seems to also factor in how well an idea can fit in to the pesukim. He writes that if Aristotle's ideas were compatible with fundamental tenets of Judaism and if his ideas were proven correct (both of which are not the case), it might then be possible to wrangle the verses in the Torah accordingly. By contrast, the Rambam writes that Plato's idea doesn't undermine tenets of Judaism, and furthermore, verses could readily be reinterpreted to fit this view. So perhaps you are essentially correct, but the Rambam also seems to consider ease of interpretation of the verses.
    – Fred
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 21:03

First, there is a ubiquitous practice in the Tanakh of casting new meanings into existing phenomena (see http://etzion.org.il/en/parashat-vayetze-assigning-names and http://etzion.org.il/en/shabbat-sukkot-what-are-sukkot-and-why-do-we-live-them).

One famous example is the meaning of the name Babel given in Genesis 11,9:

עַל־כֵּ֞ן קָרָ֤א שְׁמָהּ֙ בָּבֶ֔ל כִּי־שָׁ֛ם בָּלַ֥ל יְהֹוָ֖ה שְׂפַ֣ת כׇּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ 
Therefore was the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth

It was very common knowledge, especially in those times, that Bab-El meant "Gate to God" (anyone today with a basic acquaintance with aramaic can easily verify the meaning). But what the Torah is doing is recasting the meaning as if to say: what they thought was the "gate to god" was nothing other than confusion. This is in no way deceit, this is like the case where the victor gets to write the history books and pass on his narrative to future generations.

Now my take on the flood story is this: It is well known that there a was a flood myth going around in the pre-Judean world. many versions went something like "The Gods wanted to sleep, but the people made noise, so the Gods decided to kill all humans in a flood"

What the Torah is doing is recasting the popular flood story in a moral narrative. Not some arbitrary massacre of weak humans by selfish powerful gods, but rather justice to an immoral world and God's promise not to let mankind fall to that low-point ever again.

So it may be that there was some historical flood event (well before 4000 BCE) that may have been a basis for the pre-Judean flood myths, but the main thing that the Torah is doing here is rewriting "history" with a moral narrative.

So in effect I dont care if the flood event really happened or not. Where do I cut the line?

There is a clear divide between the parashas of Genesis-Noah to the rest of the the book of Genesis. The Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook calls the pair of parashas Genesis-Noah as "pre-history". These parashas set the setting of the world in which the story of Abraham and the nation of Israel happens. You dont need to believe in a historical flood event rather in the setting which the flood story puts us in of a world that was trying to rebuild itself from a moral lowpoint in which Abraham appears and starts to act.

Setting aside a literal belief in scriptures, if a flood event actually happened or not has no affect on my world a Jew. But if there really was an Abraham or not certainly does. It has ramification on who I am and who the nation of Israel is. Therefore it is justifiable that the Torah use non-factual stories for succinctly setting the (real) moral stage for the real history of Abraham-Isaac-and Israel.

  • A person, of course, can believe what he wants. But if the truth is that there was no Great Flood, then the entire Torah is in question. Creation, the exodus, the revelation at Sinai - everything is in question. God Himself could be allegorical. These "stories" are presented as actual events with dates, with actual people with lineages. There is no indication in the text the flood was allegorical. Believe what you want, but pretending it doesn't affect anything is disingenuous.
    – user34203
    Commented Mar 12 at 17:06


Something happened between Gen 1:1 (the creation of the heavens and the earth) and Gen 1:2 (the starting point for the restoration of the same heavens and earth over six days). That is, between these two verses there was an indefinite period of time perhaps spanning several hundreds of thousands (or millions) of years. Within this interval something evil had occurred in the heavens and earth. Therefore the six days of creation were six days of restoration work ending with the final day of rest, or Sabbath.

Observations of the Masoretic Text

The Masoretes lived in the Tenth Century, and they analyzed, organized, and codified the Hebrew Bible according to rabbinic teaching and tradition. In this regard they made several notes and observations in the Hebrew Bible. For example, within the margin of the first verses of the Torah appears the distinctive reference to Jeremiah 4:23.

Please click on the image to enlarge, or view the source document online.

This image is a depiction of the Masoretic Text of Genesis 1:2, which highlights the margin note indicating the correlation of this verse with Jeremiah 4:23.

The Masoretes connected Genesis 1:2 with Jeremiah 4:23, which spoke of the desecration and destruction stemming from the Babylonian invasion; the images in Jeremiah included divine judgment resulting in the desolation of the heavens and earth.

Please note that the Masoretes associated like-texts with like-texts, and like-words with like-words, and so they never mixed meanings in these associations. For example, the Hebrew verb יַצִּיב occurs in Joshua 6:26, and the Aramaic adjective יַצִּיב occurs in Dan 2:8. While both words are spelled and pointed in exactly the same way, the Masoretes discriminated that they are in fact two different words by ascribing the ל̇ (one instance) to the word in Joshua 6:26 with an indirect reference to Dan 2:8, where no such comment appears. In other words, since both words have different meanings they were not associated by the Masoretes with the symbol ב̇ ("two instances") just because they happened to be spelled and pointed in exactly the same way.

Thus the reference to Jer 4:23 in the margin of Genesis 1:2 suggests that something evil occurred between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2, which warranted the six-day restoration account ending with the Day of Rest. In other words, the heavens and earth were created at one and the same time (Gen 1:1), but both were darkened and desecrated by some unknown event, which could have spanned hundreds of thousands (or perhaps millions) of years. The situation required six days of work that ended with the Sabbath Day of Rest. The Talmud also alludes to something broken in this regard as well.

Observations of the Talmud

The first paragraph (Parashah) of the Hebrew Bible is comprised of five verses (Gen 1:1-5), and the second is comprised of three verses (Gen 1:6-8). The Mishnah within the Babylonian Talmud indicates that there is a logical division within Gen 1:1-5; however, the Gemarah (or commentary on the Mishnah) does not clarify where or how or why that division occurs. That is, the rabbis were not sure whether the division was between verses 1-2 and verses 3-5, or between verses 1-3 and verses 4-5 (or perhaps some other overlapping division such as verses 1-3 and verses 3-5), since Halakha demanded that verses of Torah be read and understood in sets of three verses.

b. Megilah 22a

Shall the reader read two from one and three from the other?

Then only two verses are left [to the end of the second paragraph]! - He replied: On this point I have not heard [any pronouncement], but I have learnt the rule in a somewhat similar case, as we have learnt: 'On Sundays, [the ma'amad read the paragraph] "In the beginning" and "let there be a firmament", and to this a gloss was added, "In the beginning" is read by two and "let there be a firmament" by one', and we were somewhat perplexed by this.

For that [the paragraph] 'let there be a firmament' can be read by one we understand, since it has three verses, but how can 'In the beginning, be read by two, seeing that it has only five verses, and it has been taught, 'He who reads in the Torah should not read less than three verses'? (emphasis added)

The same conundrum appears in the following passage as well.

b. Taanith 27b

It has been taught: Two persons read [the section] 'In the beginning', and one 'Let there be a firmament'.

I can understand one person reading, 'Let there be a firmament', as it contains three verses, but how can two persons read, 'In the beginning', seeing that it contains only five verses?

Has it not been taught: He who reads the Law should not read less than three verses? - Rab answered: [The third verse] is repeated.

Samuel said: It is divided into two.

Rab who says that the third verse is repeated why does he not agree that it is divided? - He is of the opinion that any verse which Moses did not divide, we may not divide.

And as for Samuel who says that it is divided, may it then be divided?

. . .

An objection was raised: [A section of] six verses is read by two, but [a section of] five verses by one; should, however, the first person have read three verses then the second person reads the [remaining] two and one verse from the following section; some say, he reads three verses [from the following section] because we do not read from a [new] section less than three verses.

Now in accordance with the view of him who says that it should be repeated, let then [the third verse of the first section] be repeated; and in accordance with the view of him who says that it should be divided, let the verse be divided? - There the position is different because he has plenty of verses at his disposal.

The rabbis were not in agreement as to how or why the verses of the first paragraph of the Torah were not divisible by three. In other words, something was missing.


This missing piece is the "space" between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2, and this "space" is an indefinite span of time (perhaps hundreds or millions of years), when the heavens and earth were desecrated and became dark. The "salvation" of the Heavens and earth required six days of restoration work, which ended with the Sabbath Day of Rest.

The same echo of "salvation" from Egypt required the work of the Almighty to save the Israelites, and the end of this work too was Sabbath Rest.

Deut 5:15 (Mechon-Mambre)
15 And thou shalt remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (emphasis added)

This "salvation" from the slavery of Egypt (for freedom into the Promised Land) had echoed the redemption or "salvation" of the heavens and earth, which were freed from darkness and emptiness. In both cases Sabbath Rest stems from divine work in salvation.

  • Wow, I'm impressed. Well thank you for the answer. I think this answer might actually be better posted to a different question that asks about the age of the universe/earth, as this does not explain how human civilization would have proceeded like normal through Noah's flood. It also isn't clear what your idea of the six days of restoration work is exactly, would it have meant anything about human civilization? I also have some quibbles about the right inferences to draw from your observations, but that's besides the point. Thanks again.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 23:57
  • Also, if you do re-post this answer to another question, I think it could benefit too from some support for how your idea fits into Jewish philosophy and traditional doctrines relating to creation and if this is entirely your innovation or if you are basing your interpretations on any traditional or other sources. But again, I'm afraid this answer is not applicable to my question.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 0:11
  • @AL - The reason that I answered (or tried to answer) your question was due to your many questions concerning archaeological discoveries that had pointed to an era that would have had to exist before the creation account as described in the Book of Genesis.
    – Joseph
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 0:35
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    I understand that, Joseph, and appreciate it. But my question is about archeology of human history spanning pre-creation, post-creation, and pre- and post-flood. Basically, continual human history appears to contradict the Torah and Judaism. An explanation that might work for part of that but doesn't address all of it isn't an answer to my question of a continuum. Maybe you have part 1, but the answer isn't yet an answer without parts 2 and 3.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 1:09
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    @AL - well, the view described above provides for two floods. One before Gen 1:2, and the one that occurred with Noah in Gen 7. In this regard, flora and fauna (to include dinosaurs and other forms of animal life) appeared to have existed on the earth between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2.
    – Joseph
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 2:23

Civilization -- Schroeder has suggested those were smaller units of relatives; what gets the Torah's interest 6000 years ago is more sophistication -- writing, clay, cloth. (Take it or leave it, but that's Schroeder's suggestion.) Essentially, redefine your bar for "civilization."

Flood -- the Torah says "everything in the land died." Yet the Talmud has one opinion that it excluded Israel. Ergo, the definition of "flood everywhere" is a bit squishy. Many rabbis have thus suggested that "everywhere" = "everywhere in the civilization being discussed here", or "everywhere that you could think of at the time this story was told" or the like. Lengthy debate about this here: https://www.aishdas.org/avodah/getindex.cgi?section=L#LIMITED%20MABUL


First of all, carbon-dating isn't all that accurate. There are a number of considerations which can affect the apparent age of a substance. For example, if temperatures 4000 years ago were warmer than we think, things might seem older than they really are. Furthermore, the massive amount of boiling water moving around in the flood could have caused major to changes to everything buried in the ground, again affecting the carbon ratio.

When archaeologists calculate try to determine how old a civilization is, they often make extensive use of records kept by those civilizations. However, there is no guarantee of their accuracy. If a king wanted everyone to think he ruled for 100 years, he could have the scribes write that, and future generations would never find out that he only ruled for 5 years.

In general, historians, archaeologists, and scientists have only limited data about what happened thousands of years ago. So they make plausible guesses to connect the pieces of evidence that they find. There's very little certainty, so they settle for "highly likely". While this often leads them to reach correct facts, occasionally they end up with statements that contradict the Torah. They could easily revise their theories to fit with the Torah (their evidence would still work), but few of them believe that the Torah is completely true, so they don't bother.

  • The question doesn't discuss stars. Why do you? Isn't this not an answer because it's claiming a giant conspiracy of ancient record keepers? How do you deal with his question from the pyramids? Your claims about carbon dating do not answer it. This answer seems more like handwaving than a detailed argument.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 17:13
  • It's not a giant conspiracy of record keepers, it's simply that accuracy may have been prized less back then. Real scientific, precise history with rigorous research is relatively recent. The linked article provides a lot of information about carbon-dating accuracy problems; I can try to find more free online scientific sources if you'd like.
    – Ypnypn
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 18:17
  • "massive amount of boiling water moving around in the flood"?!? Huh? Never heard of it being hot, just that there was a lot of it...
    – Gary
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 1:41
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    Its exactly these considerations that scientists make that render your conspiracy theory implausible. If you were to show that an error of (lets say) 5% in the carbon dating method would yield an error in X number of years, and show why, then your conspiracy theory would lend credence. Merely stating that there are known inaccuracies does not render a theory defunct (!), it merely puts an error bar on a figure.
    – bondonk
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 7:02
  • The source for the massive amount of BOILING water moving around in the flood is the Gemara in Zevachim 113 'וברותחין נידונו' - they were punished with boiling [water]. Commented May 3, 2023 at 3:46

some things are not reconcilable at the present time and with our present knowledge. I think this is one of them.

Main thing is to decide whether the torah is of divine origin. One who studies the torah in-depth will see that its depth and wisdom is infinite. Beyond the ability of a man's finite mind to invent. One can see the same marks of infinite wisdom in studying nature, hence he can deduce that the One who created the Universe is also the One who wrote the torah.

Then you won't be bothered by the need to reconcile everything with the torah.

It doesn't answer the question the way you wanted, but I think it's the best we can do until things will be clearer in the future be'H

see also Rabbi Kook's response to evolution available here

among his points, he states:

Even to the ancients, it was well known that there were many periods that preceded our counting of nearly six thousand years for the current era. According to the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 3:7), "God built worlds and destroyed them," before He created the universe as we know it. Even more astonishing, the Zohar (Vayikra 10a) states that there existed other species of human beings besides the 'Adam' who is mentioned in the Torah.


  • 2
    I'm not sure that "don't worry about it" counts as an answer.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 11:52
  • @TRiG thats not what i wrote. God made the world in such a way that free will is possible. so there must exist some loopholes to explain the world from a naturalist perspective. hence, one needs to look at all the evidence and weigh which side is more correct from the big picture
    – ray
    Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 18:43
  • Why all the fuss and muss on this question? A Divinely-originated myth is still a myth. Why was it given as a myth, and not scientifically provable statements? G-d knows!
    – Gary
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 2:35
  • 1
    See the part of my question that already references this idea of worlds being built and destroyed. You didn't elaborate, it doesn't work for me, and it doesn't answer the flood issue. Also you seem to be implying that your second paragraph is such a strong proof of Judaism that you shouldn't mind the irreconcilable flood story. It's not, it's the kind of proof Muslims constantly spout, and you did nothing to defend it. In any event, it doesn't answer this question.
    – A L
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 23:22
  • "One who studies the torah in-depth will see that its depth and wisdom is infinite." How would you know something has infinite wisdom unless you actually derive infinite wisdom (which is impossible)? It seems like you are just repeating others' dogmatic assertions.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 0:48

According to the bible, god told Adam not to eat from the tree of life, which seems to have happened on Adam's first day. It would be hard to say that god instructed, and then punished a baby.

Hence you must conclude that according to the bible, Adam was created a full-grown man, if so we can say god created a full-grown world, one with a history to humanity, with fossils, and evolution and what-not. Perhaps we will discover causes for deaths of pre-bible humans, however the world was still created 5774 years ago.

This is my own theory, I have not seen this written anywhere, or heard this from anyone. But it seems perfectly logical to me.

  • 2
    This mainly addresses the "age of the universe" problem which really isn't my focus, and it doesn't address the problems as they relate to the flood.
    – A L
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:11
  • @AL yes it does, but it also addresses the history of the universe, including human civilization. Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:12
  • In your estimation then, did Adam's first day come full with memories about a childhood? Could he even be expected to believe that his first day was his first day?
    – A L
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:14
  • 2
    @ShmuelBrin the rebbes answers are nice, however they dont mean there cant be another way of explaining things. Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 5:15
  • 3
    This is called last thursdayism. Last Thursdayism is the idea that the whole world are build last Thursday, just that it comes with history. The idea is so ridiculous but cannot be disproved. So saying that God created the world in 6 days 4k years ago with "history" will be as ridiculous as last Thursdayism.
    – user4951
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 3:01

The answer is clear that the world was created 5,783 years ago. When a person wants aged wine or anything else aged, he has to wait for it to age. Hashem however can create aged wine right away. It's not any harder than creating something new. We can't create anything. We can only use what we have and develop it. Since there are advantages to aged things, it would actually be weird if Hashem would NOT have created anything to be in an aged state on the day of it's creation. Because it's not any harder for Hashem to create aged things. Also, see https://dafyomi.co.il/zevachim/insites/zv-dt-113.htm Last two paragraphs of the article.

SEFER HA'CHINUCH Mitzvah #132 says that Hashem hides his miracles somewhat, because of the "greatness of the Master, and the lowliness of the receiver." It appears that the Sefer ha'Chinuch means that Hash-m does not want to make His miracles obvious and revealed to all either because of the unworthiness of man, or because doing so would make man more accountable for his actions. (See CHAYEI OLAM 1:19, and YOSHEV OHALIM, Parshas Tzav).

Based on this concept, it is understandable why Hash-m allowed the most powerful person or people to survive the Mabul. The fact that someone survived would give people the opportunity to doubt that perhaps Hash-m is not all-powerful. Although such a notion is obviously ridiculous, as the Mabul was foretold in a prophecy and caused unprecedented and unrepeated destruction, the fact that someone survived the Mabul provides sufficient grounds for the disbeliever to deny Hash-m's omnipotence, just as the wind at the Yam Suf and the fire brought by the Kohanim to the Mizbe'ach provide opportunity for the disbeliever to deny Hash-m's omnipotence. This makes people less responsible for their sins and, as the Chayei Olam writes, allows Hash-m to apply His attribute of Erech Apayim, letting the world survive without being punished for its sins. (See also Insights to Nidah 61:2.) (Y. MONTROSE) The same can be said for why the world was created aged. And with a history. Although it makes more sense that Hashem made recent things look old, rather than carbon 'evidence' of fiction things that never happened. Even if there is something flawed with the carbon dating system, the fact is that many people claim to believe in it. So you have to come on to a reason why Hashem would make it look like this to us. Because even if we are stupid, the fact is that this is how it looks to us.

  • This is an answer for a related question, but it does not answer my question. My question is specifically not about why the earth looks old. My question is about the evidence for continual human civilization predating the time of the creation and continuing past the time of the flood, which shouldn’t be accountable by anything about the earth being created with age.
    – A L
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 23:12
  • My answer is that all the 'evidence' for civilization at times that there could not have been, is the carbon dating system. Since the system is wrong, there is no evidence. Either the world was created with a fictional history like you suggested in option 3, or more likely Hashem made things age quicker than they would have naturally. Hashem can and does do miracles all the time. We just usually don't see them. He didn't go to sleep after creation. Like we say in Shemoneh Esrei נסיך שבכל יום. Commented May 2, 2023 at 2:52

You seem to pose several questions at the end which I will attempt to answer first

To rephrase your question as I see it: Why are most institutions not teaching a non-literal reading of the bible?

Answer: Creation is taught as fable to make it easier to understand for children. This is true of many midrashim as well. The fact that many (most?) people don't revisit their understand in adulthood may be more an indictment of how the Jewish education encourages and prepares students to be intellectually curious than a problem with how specific subject material is taught.

Regarding your overall question: I have heard from Rav Moshe Stav, and educator at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh that the story of creation and the flood is described in the gemarah as K'vod Elokim haster davar (Proverbs 25:2) - meaning, as he put it, that the events as recorded should not be taken at their simple face value reading.

Moreover Rav Kook (Igrot HaRaayah no. 134) makes a very astute comment regarding matters in the torah which seem to be contravened by scientific discovery (his context was dealing with the theory of evolution)

Concerning opinions which are derived from recent scientific investigations which on the whole contradict the straight forward meaning (pshat) of the words of the Torah:

“In my opinion … even though these theories are not necessarily true, we are not at all obligated to deny them and stand against them. This is because it is not at all (stress mine-HH) the point of the Torah to inform us of simple facts and occurrences of the past. The main point (‘ikar) is the inner content (tokh). … For us it is of no consequence whether in fact there ever existed in this world a golden age (i.e. the Garden of Eden – HH) in which mankind lived in spiritual and physical bliss or [not]… and thus when we have no vested interest we can judge [these new theories ] fairly.”

The particular understanding of creation which I support is that of Rabbi Matis Weinberg, who did not cite earlier sources. Essentially, he contends that Adam was the first homo sapien imbued with divine spirit. Meaning that from a technical perspective Adam had a mother and father, and that there were plenty of other people around when he was born (yes he had a navel). Maaseh Bereshis is then describing theological ideas couched in metaphor.

To editorialize a bit, even as a child I was taught that the purpose of the Torah is teach proper theological belief and action, not to serve as a historical document. Perhaps not enough people take that statement to heart early on in their education.

  • 1
    Rashi's point that the Torah's purpose isn't to relate history is predicated on the problem that the Torah is relating historical information. If you "take to heart" that the Torah isn't historical then you have missed his point.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 15:21
  • 2
    @Yirmeyahu I am not stating that there is not historically accurate information found in the torah, rather the the purpose of the document is other than to convey 100% historically accurate information at all times. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 15:30
  • 2
    Thank you for addressing the question of education. But it's not just about children, it's basically universally expressed as being history, not fable, to anyone other than those who make the effort to investigate the issue. Secondly, can you quote where the gemara says that Parshas Noach isn't history? Everything I've seen in the gemara tries to explain the details as very real.
    – A L
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 18:51
  • 3
    @ShmuelBrin the question is does it really matter? Iyov is part of tanach even though there is an opinion that the actual historical events never took place. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 13:21
  • 2
    this seems to be the opinion of Rav Kook as well. I will edit my answer to reflect this. morethodoxy.org/2013/09/16/… Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 16:19

One way to reconciling Biblical history with archaeological and historical evidence which seems to disprove it is to simply throw the Bible out as a text created by man, not by God. Though this is not a useful answer for everyone, Judaism has an important religious principle, developed by many important philosophers and scholars, such as Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, and Spinoza, that the Torah speaks in the language of man (dibra tora ki'lshon bnei adam).

There is a long tradition of the concept of accommodation, that is to say that the Torah was written in such a way as that those who received it would understand it. Maimonides writes about the reasoning for sacrifices in this manner, that they existed because that is what the ancient Israelites expected to have from a religion. Spinoza has a different take on this, that the Torah is written in the language of "children" (in this he looks down upon the Biblical text and wants to say that for people living in the modern age it is no longer necessary or applicable). [NB: For a much more in-depth discussion of the notion of accommodation and how it came to be used in both Judaism and Christianity, see Amos Funkenstein, Theology and the Scientific Imagination.]

However one wants to take the notion of accommodation, it is very applicable to the Bible and can be useful to understand how it came into being and to reconcile the Biblical histories with the evidence. For example, one can talk about the flood story as a story that transcends cultures. It most likely did not happen in the exact manner that the Bible tells us, but in the ancient near east, flooding rivers were a yearly occurrence. In fact, a year without a flood was a worse disaster than if there was a massive one. My point is, the story of the flood can be seen as coming out of the ancient Israelites' cultural context in the ancient near east and Abraham's origins in Mesopotamia, which the Bible attests.

As for other historical elements such as the Exodus (for which there is no archaeological evidence) or the counting of years anno mundi (from the origin of the world) it is much more difficult. Ultimately one needs to decide if it is necessary to completely correlate Biblical history with secular history. If the whole thing is an allegory or metaphor, it may still have valuable moral or cultural importance.

  • 5
    This explanation is that of Reform Judaism and not exactly what I was hoping for. To say the Torah relates lies just so people "get it" is a stretch. Do you suppose that when the Torah says that God rejected Cain's sacrifice but accepted Hevel's sacrifice that this story was written just so the Jews would be happy? But sacrifices are to return in the Third Temple even though the notion of animal sacrifice is looked upon as barbaric. And many commandments clearly contradict what was normal for people of the time. Even the Pesach lamb sacrifice went against the Egyptian culture they came from.
    – A L
    Commented May 4, 2013 at 0:40
  • 3
    @AL It's not such a stretch. Did you want it to say "In the beginning, 13.7 billion years ago, the scalar inflation field expanded by 47 orders of magnitude, then began cooling adiabatically into a quark-gluon plasma"? How would the desert Jews have interpreted that?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 1:16
  • 4
    @DoubleAA That sentence is unnecessarily complicated. You can also say "In the beginning many many years ago there was a big fire which sent ashes everywhere and those ashes rained down and became the world." The desert Jews could understand that, and it's not inaccurate (it's just not complete). But Hashem did not say that.
    – Ariel
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 2:19
  • 4
    @Ariel Once we're not aiming at precision, I'll leave it up to the Big Guy to decide what's the best simplification for us. Remember that knowing exactly how matter made shift X or developed attribute Y historically is not really useful for humans today except perhaps in its allegorical meaning. (And yes, that last sentence is true even if you take the beginning of Genesis very literally.)
    – Double AA
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 2:22
  • 1
    @DoubleAA BTW that sentence is not precise either - it doesn't say where the "scalar inflation field" came from - or even what it is (naming something is not the same as knowing what it is). But anyway saying that God left out details that we don't need of how the world came to be is not the same as saying God included inaccurate details.
    – Ariel
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 2:28

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