Given that the torah's account of creation clearly seems to state that man was created independently from the animals, and likewise, the animals, plants, were created from the ground, would someone who believes in darwinian evolution be an apikores? I am not asking how to reconcile the two but rather what halachic status would apply to someone who refuses to regard the literal reading of the Biblical text as a possibility.

Genesis 1-2 "Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind...Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind, cattle and creeping things and the beasts...And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground"

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    As @Shalom pointed out, the accepted answer in his link perfectly answers your question here: R' Hirsch clearly states that evolution (even modern science doesn't "accept" fully Darwin's theory) merely underscores how miraculous and incredible the creation is - that such variation and life can sprout from the "dust" itself! If anything, it fits the meaning of the possuk even better! Midrash states that the animals were "made from rakak (mud)..." – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 18 '15 at 12:28
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    I don't see this as a duplicate of the question that it is closed for. They are focusing on very different aspects, even if the two are related. – Y     e     z Feb 9 '16 at 0:56
  • @shalom I dont see how that answer answers this question. All it says is that the idea that creation took place over a long time with one stage evolving into the next, would have to be reckoned with, were it to be proven. It does not address the distinct (but related issue) of interpreting the sequence of creation. Something R. Hirsch did not mention. – mevaqesh Feb 9 '16 at 23:25

The Rambam actually says something which is somewhat the opposite - you could be an apikorus for refusing to accept that the literal interpretation is not what the Torah means.

The Rambam's third principle of faith is believing that Hashem does not have a body. The Rambam in Moreh Nevochim 2:25 actually says that he would have had an easier time reinterpreting the account of Bereishis to align with Aristotle's view of the eternity of existence than he did with reinterpreting all of the references to G-d's having a body to be in line with G-d's incorporeality. It is a principle of faith to not read these verses according to the simplest way to read them.

In fact, the Rambam there writes that he does not feel that reinterpreting these verses to align with Aristotle's view would be a problem with reading the verses, and his rejection of Aristotle's view is not because of the text of Bereishis. It would have been a valid way to read it, if not for the fact that the Rambam has other, very significant, issues with the doctrine that is behind it.

So not reading something according to its literal reading is certainly not an independent reason to be considered a heretic. And the Rambam would have been willing to reinterpret these very same verses, albeit for a different purpose.


At least with respect to sequence of events, Rashi held that the reader is forced to take the Torah's account of Creation non-literally:

על כרחך לא לימד המקרא סדר המוקדמים והמאוחרים כלום

Perforce, you must admit that Scripture did not teach us anything about the sequence of the earlier and the later [acts of creation].

(end of his long comment on Gen. 1:1)

So, at least with respect to this aspect of the Torah's account, if Rashi held that someone who "refuses to regard the literal reading of the Biblical text as a possibility" is a heretic, then he'd have to hold that he himself was a heretic. So, he probably didn't hold that.

  • Doesn't Rashi just mean that the Scriptural term "Bereishis" doesn't mean "in the beginning"? He doesn't seem to reject the six days being in order. – AKA Apr 23 '18 at 12:33
  • @AKA for the purpose of this answer, all that's necessary is to demonstrate that Rashi says we must interpret aspects of the Creation account other than hyper-literally. – Isaac Moses Apr 23 '18 at 12:55
  • OK... But he doesn't mean that either- he just means that the word "Bereishis" doesn't mean "in-the-beginning" such that it would be teaching [by the word "beginning"] "the sequence of the earlier and the later [acts of creation]". Instead it means "in-the-beginning-of". He's not implying anything about hyper-literalism here. In fact, he's already pointed out the his translation fits better "literally" than "in-the-beginning". – AKA Apr 24 '18 at 13:24
  • ... Just realised that you're translating "hamikra" as Scripture, If you're right about that then your answer is correct. I don't think you are correct though- it means "the verse [in question]". That's all he needs to say to answer his timing issue. – AKA Apr 24 '18 at 13:27
  • @AKA I see what you mean. At minimum, we can get from this Rashi that the order we're all taught in grade school, starting with Heaven and Earth, is impeachable without being a heretic. Add to this Rashi on 1:14, which I quoted in the answer linked from this one but lazily didn't copy over (yet), which adds more complication to the notion that the order presented in the Torah needs to be taken literally. – Isaac Moses Apr 24 '18 at 13:35

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