Insight 5 - Genesis and the Age of the Universe
The gap between verse one of chapter one of Genesis and the ensuing verses could explain the age of the universe and the fossil record
Science, until quite recently, regarded the universe as having always existed, and so there was no need to postulate its creation. That fundamental position changed with the Big Bang theory; now it is generally accepted that the universe had a beginning and is, in fact, about 13.8 billion years old. There also appears to be evidence of the earth’s great age, and evidence too of creatures living on earth for a much longer period than the approximately 6 000 years which Genesis appears to account for since the start of Adam’s life.
The Torah, many have pointed out, is often written cryptically, leaving gaps. The record of Moses’ birth is an example of this. We are told of his parents, of their marriage and of his birth, and only later do we hear of his elder sister and brother.
There is possibly a gap too between verse one of Genesis and the rest of the account of the making of our world. Verse one records the creation of the heavens and the earth – thus, clearly, the universe and everything in it. The subsequent verses are consistent with this. So, for example, verse two speaks of God’s spirit or wind over the waters, and so water must have been created already.
There is a Midrash that states there were previous creations and destructions before God made our present world. The gap between verse one and the rest of the record of our world in Genesis could account for the 13.8 billion-year history of the universe science claims to have discovered, and also for the fossil record and the apparent great age of the earth. Perhaps our globe was, during previous creations and destructions, part of another galaxy and served by a different sun, and perhaps the verses following verse one recount, in terms understandable to simple man, the earth’s insertion into our galaxy and the recreation on it of life in all its forms.
I have asked a number of rabbis to try to find authority for the gap I postulate, but they have not reported any success to me in this regard. I myself have found some support in our literature. See the remarks of Rabbi Israel Lipschitz, who lived from 1782-1860 and was the author of the Tif’eret Yisrael, in an address reproduced in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe: A Kabbalistic View, on page 113 and further, and especially on page 116. See too, generally, chapter one of Rabbi Dovid Brown’s Mysteries of the Creation, and especially on pages 51-54 and 71, and David Medved’s Hidden Light Science Secrets of the Bible, where he quotes, on page three, a conversation with Professor Joseph Bodenheimer of the Jerusalem College of Technology.
See, too, Rabbi Yosef Bitton’s Awesome Creation, where, on page 79, he postulates the events in verse one having occurred before the first day “in an undefined past, outside the time-frame of the six days of Creation, thus rendering the debate on the age of the universe irrelevant”, and on page 209, where he states that the sun and the moon were placed in position on the fourth day having been created before the first.
Reading the biblical text carefully, and assisted by Bitton and modern science, we can postulate the following:
All of the physical reality of the universe, subject possibly to what is stated below under "5th Day" regarding the word "create", was created 13.8 billion years ago - verse 1;
the fossil record accumulated during ensuing creations and destructions;
Day 1 - God brought the then darkened world into light - verses 2 - 5;
"Day 1" is a literal translation of the Hebrew text; "one", a cardinal number, must be contrasted with the ordinal numbers 2nd - 6th following it; in Chapter 2 verse 2 the text speaks of the 7th day; clearly the ordinal numbers 2nd - 7th are ordinal because they follow Day 1 and each other; the fact that the text does not speak of a first day supports the construction that the first day occurred billions of years ago;
2nd Day - He made the sky or the atmosphere - verses 6 - 8;
3rd Day - He made dry land appear and made vegetation - verses 9 - 13;
4th Day - He placed the sun and moon and the stars in their positions relative to the earth - verses 14 - 19 (there is no express pluperfect in Hebrew; "made" in verse 16 in the context of the whole means "had made");
5th Day - He made the sea creatures and the birds - verses 20 - 23;
the text uses the word "create" indicating that the sea creatures and the birds were an entirely new creation, or the word "create" in its context meant "made" - the meaning of words can change in different contexts - see the sixth paragraph of Insight 12 below;
6th Day - He made the animals and man - verses 24 - 31;
in verse 20 God uses the word "make" in regard to man, and in verse 27 the word "create", possibly indicating that man's physical being was made from the "dust of the earth" (Chapter 2 verse 7), whilst his spiritual soul emanated from non-physicality and was therefore not merely a product of the physicality created in verse 1.
Verses 6-7 reveal a remarkable fact. They state that God divided between the waters under the firmament or atmosphere and the waters above it. No human being, when those verses were written, and only God, could have known of waters above the firmament or atmosphere. Modern science tells us there are. See Preston Dykes and Felicia Chou, “The Solar System Is Awash in Water,” NASA, April 7,2015, https//:www.nasa.gov/jpl/the-solar-system-and-beyond-is-awash-in-water.
Podcast ChaiFM - Insight 5 - 1st Discussion
Podcast ChaiFM - Insight 5 - 2nd Discussion