Re: Age of the Earth

Isaac A. Zlochower (zlochoia@ix.netcom.com)
Tue, 29 Jul 1997 21:37:35 -0700

Lazar asked for references in "modern Judaism" to the question of the age of
the earth. I don't know what he has in mind by "modern Judaism". If he
means scientifically trained people knowledgeable in Torah, then some
relevant books can be cited. The posthumously published book by Aryeh
Kaplan, "Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe", Ktav Pub.,
Hoboken NJ, 1993, chap. 1, deals with the subject in an interesting and
knowledgeable fashion. Two orthodox working physicists that have books on
the subject are Prof. Nathan Aviezer, "In the Beginning". Ktav, 1990, and
Dr. Gerald Schroeder, "Genesis and the Big Bang", Bantam Books, N.Y., 1990.
The book, "Challenge", Aryeh Carmel and Cyril Domb, eds, Assoc. of Orthodox
Jewish Scientists & Feldheim Pub., N.Y. has various articles and source
material on this subject.

The above books treat the subject seriously, and, certainly, do not take the
point of view expressed in this forum that the age of the earth is a
non-issue. The idea that G-D created the earth with layers of fossilized
bones and extensively decayed radioactive elements is rejected by Kaplan as
follows: "One problem with this approach [creating the world with a
"prehistory"] is that it makes the Creator appear to have perpetrated a
fraud. If it is heresy to believe that the world is more than 6000 years
old, why would G-D have created the world in such manner that an honest
observer would be lead to a false opinion?...Furthermore, the argument is
arbitrary. If G-D could have created a universe with a history 6000 years
ago, then He also could have done so 5 minutes ago. There is no question
but that an omniscient G-D could have created us with all our memories, as
well as with records and histories going back thousands of years... But
there is an even more serious problem. Nowhere in Torah literature is there
even the barest hint of such an approach. If not for scientific
discoveries, no one would have even thought about presenting such an
argument. Thus, it is both expost facto [after the fact] and without basis
in the Torah." In contrast, Kaplan does find reference in the Torah
literature to a truly ancient earth (Isaac of Acco, an early Kabbalist).

I, for one, see no basis or need to try to discount or discredit the
scientific data which argue for a truly ancient earth and universe. There is
no inherent conflict between that view and the Torah text, providing we
don't insist on treating the creation "days" as 24 hour periods. The only
potential sticking point is the seventh "day". If its an era, why is it
relevant to celebrate every seventh day as Shabbat? Perhaps we should look
at it as celebrating the era of man. G-D deliberately ceased direct
intervention in the world sometime in this era - at the end of the Biblical
period. It is now up to us to help prepare the world for its destined end,
and there isn't much time left. That is why we must be reminded of our
unfinished task every seventh day.

Yitzchok Zlochower