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This is a genuine question. I'm curious because I read somewhere that even the most religious Orthodox Jews accept the Darwinian theory of evolution, and that even they don't believe dinosaurs lived in the same time period as humans. Is this true? If so, how do they explain the fact that the calculations of the Jewish calendar are the same as the calculations used by young earth creationists to argue that the universe is 6,000 years old? If religious Orthodox Jews don't believe that the universe is 5,778 years old, then what do they mean when they say that we are in the year 5,778? On the other hand, if religious Orthodox Jews do believe that the universe is 5,778 years old, then how can evolution be true since it requires billions of years to take place?

My question is NOT "Do Jews believe in evolution?" or "Do Jews believe in young earth creationism?" or "Do Jews believe in the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans?"

Rather, my question is more specifically about how evolutionist Jews reconcile their Jewish calendar (which seems to imply that the universe is 5,778 years old) with the Darwinian theory of evolution.

marked as duplicate by DonielF, robev, mbloch, Joel K, Danny Schoemann Aug 19 '18 at 12:00

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First of all, any calendar starts from an arbitrary zero point. Thus, the calendar that we follow begins from the time given in Bereishis as the creation of Adam. That is, Adam was created on Rosh hashanah (new year's day) of year "0", "1", or "2" (depending on how the previous year is counted). The calendar is then built up using the years shown in the Torah (the flood in 1656, Abraham born in 1948, Exodus in 2448, etc.). This then leads to the date of 5778 in secular year 2018 (conversion factor of 3760). It has nothing to do with the age of the universe.

I give a summary of the dates involved at How old is the Earth?

I also explain how the Hebrew calendar years match the secular years at Rabbi Leibtag shiurim: The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Parts 1 - 3.

Another point, is that the apparent age of the universe has nothing to do with the actual age of the universe, as creation would start with the universe apparently as old as the scientific physical evidence would show. That is trees (as stated in the Torah) were created bearing fuit and so would appear to be as old as needed. Herds of animals were created with an appropriate mixture of ages. See my explanation in Breishis - Creationism and Evolutionism.

  • +1 for your source summarising Seder Olam Rabbah – Kazi bácsi Aug 17 '18 at 14:22
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The short answer is that most Orthodox Jews either:

  • Don't accept evolution.
  • Accept it but assume that the calendar only starts counting from Adam, not from the true beginning of the world.
  • Think there is some reconciliation that we're not aware of.
  • Think the calendar does not accurately reflect the age of the world.
  • Don't know/care enough to be bothered by this.
  • Have some other variation similar to some of the above.
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    For those who assume that the calendar only starts counting from Adam - does this mean they believe that the human species is only 5,778 years old? Or do they believe that humans lived before Adam? – 7MessRobHackOpen Aug 16 '18 at 20:55
  • @SevanHacopian Could be either one. – Alex Aug 16 '18 at 20:56
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    @SevanHacopian Yes. As on many issues. – Alex Aug 16 '18 at 20:59
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    @SevanHacopian And to be honest, it's not a topic that triggers us as much as it does Christians. – ezra Aug 16 '18 at 22:20
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    @mbloch I think that's covered in my examples. Essentially, they are only counting the last 5778 years. Whatever happened prior to that, however it happened, and how long it took is not relevant to the calendar because the calendar only started after all that already took place. – Alex Aug 17 '18 at 14:10
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To continue and emphasize Alex's points:

Judaism is all about learning and observing G-d's commandments. It is true that our sources discuss various philosophical and scientific facts, but all those are just like a dessert for the main course of the Jewish Law, in other words, to make it a little bit more fun to study.

Those discussions have no practical implementation in the Jewish Law whatsoever, therefore the Orthodox Jews can have any personal opinions on them.

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    I don't know. Some say Darwinian evolution is kofer in maaseh bereishis. According to them, someone who believes in it gets all the laws of a kofer. Sounds pretty practical to me. – robev Aug 17 '18 at 17:53
  • @robev +1, but I still don't know how practical it is as we don't judge people's attitudes nowadays. But if some Rabbi will openly demonstrate his support of the theory I'll be surprised. – Al Berko Aug 18 '18 at 18:30

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