I was told in this answer to another question: "The Rambam did not take the '6 days' of Bereishis literally, as well as other details." The answer linked to Moreh Nevuchim (link) but I couldn't find on that page where he really said that it wasn't in six days. In fact, it was my understanding that Rambam and others did take Masay Bereishis as happeneing in six 24 hour days, although I don't know a specific source. What does Rambam say on the issue in Moreh Nevuchim and elsewhere?

  • sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp117.htm – sam Jul 18 '13 at 1:21
  • I think the original answer I referenced should have linked to sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp116.htm – A L Jul 18 '13 at 1:26
  • Rav Natan Slifkin wrote a book on this subject called the challenge of creation. – Robert S. Barnes Dec 24 '15 at 20:24
  • It doesn't take a whole book, he just has a few pages in the book discussing this specific question. – Robert S. Barnes Dec 24 '15 at 20:29
  • @RobertS.Barnes It sounds like you have the resource to add an answer, if you wish. The existing answer which basically says that it's unclear and possibly he wouldn't have been opposed to a non-literal reading could for sure enjoy the company of what you would have to say. – A L Dec 25 '15 at 0:06

In a broad sense the answer is no, the Rambam did not take the six days literally: “First, the account given in Scripture of the Creation is not, as is generally believed, intended to be in all its parts literal.” ( Guide for the Perplexed 2:29, Friedlander page 211).

Precisely what he did view is complicated by the fact that he believed the topic was esoteric and under normal circumstances prohibited to be committed to writing.

The Rambam's view, insofar as I can tell, did not necessarily preclude a literal six days or an interpretation that was "literal" in a very broad sense. His interpretation, as I can tell, seems to predicated on a number of key words not being understood as they would be taken on first impression but instead given a philosophical definition. In a sense I think you could make the case that the Rambam did not reject the plain meaning but what he viewed as an over simplistic reading.

Along these lines the Rambam defends the plain meaning against Aristotelian philosophy (2:17) prior to giving his own interpretation. And remember the Rambam explained that, “a mere argument in favour of a certain theory is not sufficient reason for rejecting the literal meaning of a Biblical text.” (Guide for the Perplexed II:25, Friedlander).

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  • In reference to your last paragraph, I think he meant that a philosophical argument is not sufficient to reject literal meaning. In reference to your first paragraph, all he says is that that some parts aren't literal, he didn't say the days aren't literal, and he didn't want Moreh Nevuchim to be interpreted beyond what it explicitly says. Again, if anyone knows what I'm talking about, I do recall that Rambam does say elsewhere (not in Moreh Nevuchim perhaps) that they were literal 24 hour days. – A L Jul 18 '13 at 1:31
  • I do not believe that their is any statement from the Rambam that directly relates to the six days being literal but as you note he said SOME parts are not, which is in part why I mentioned that it doesn't necessarily preclude a literal six days. Regarding the last paragraph I think one finds he does not view a philosophical argument as unable to do so theoretically, only practically. His point there is that just 'cause one can interpret non-literally doesn't itself give them license to do so. – Yirmeyahu Jul 18 '13 at 1:36
  • Moreh 2:30 is generally accepted as saying that the "days" are logical steps, not a chronological sequence at all. See aishdas.org/asp/the-rambam-on-time-during-creation – Micha Berger Oct 9 '15 at 9:50

The Rambam, in various places throughout his Mishneh Torah book, which is a book of Halacha's, clearly takes the creation account literally. Just one of the many examples of this came to mind right at the introduction (towards to end):

ועוד חיברו הלכות פסוקות בענין איסור והיתר וחיוב ופטור בדברים שהשעה צריכה להם כדי שיהיו קרובים למדע מי שאינו יכול לירד לעומקה של גמרא. וזו היא מלאכת ה' שעשו בה כל גאוני ישראל מיום שחוברה הגמרא ועד זמן זה שהיא שנה שמינית אחר מאה ואלף לחרבן הבית, והיא שנת ארבעת אלפים ותשע מאות ושלשים ושבע לבריאת עולם:

Also, [the Geonim] composed [texts recording] the decisions of Torah law regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden, when one is liable and when one is free of liability, with regard to subjects that were necessary at the time, so that they would be accessible to the grasp of a person who could not comprehend the depths of the Talmud.34 This is the work of God, which was performed by all the Geonim of Israel from the completion of the Talmud until the present date, 1108 years after the destruction of the Temple, 4937 years after the creation of the world.35

There are other sources in Kiddush Hachodesh where the Rambam mentions the date of him writing his book since creation, as well as another law (DON'T remember the exact source) where he says that one must date a document from the time of creation (I would really like to find that source I KNOW it's in Mishneh Torah somewhere but if someone can find it that would be great), and if the 6 days weren't literal, but it was really millions of years (Chas Veshalom), how can the Rambam state as a halacha that one should sign the date from the time of creation?

In Moreh Nevuchin doesn't at all say the 6 days aren't literal, only that some details aren't meant to be taken as face value, like Hashem physically speaking or other examples of Hashem being personified... but it in no way implies at all that the actual time of creation wasn't literal, Chas VeShalom.

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  • There is no halakha that one must date a document from creation! In fact Jews didn't date things from creation till relatively recently (note no one in Tanakh ever did). Even if there was such a rule it could easily be just dating from the end of the six days of creation not the beginning. Using the date doesn't mean you think six days took six days in our days. If you think you suddenly found new proof bc someone uses the date to date something, then you're really underestimating your competition! – Double AA Nov 19 '18 at 2:13
  • Show me that Jews didn’t date things from creation until recently. (Writing from Jerusalsm.) – Gregory Magarshak Dec 1 '18 at 17:08
  • In fact, dating things from creation would mean from day 6, as that was Rosh Hashana of the first year. – Adám Mar 25 '19 at 12:19

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