Even In The 13th Century, Some Jews Believed The Earth To Be 15 Billion Years Old

Modern religious Creationists of both Haredi Jewish and, especially, Christian fundamentalists persuasion (the Young Earth Creationism types) would have us believe that the earth and universe is about 5,500 years old (and no greater than 10,000 years). Modern scientists tell us that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the universe is about 13.8 billion years old. Now, jump back 700 years to the 13th century, wherein Isaac ben Samuel of Acre and other Orthodox Jewish kabbalists concluded that the earth is actually 49,000 years old and that the universe is 15 billion years old. What?! Did you just ask? Would you like to know how they arrived at this conclusion?

“Rabbi Tanhuma said: In its due time the universe was created. It was not appropriate to be create before then, but it was created in its time, as it is said ‘He made everything beautiful in its time.’ Rabbi Abbahu said: From this we learn that the Holy One, blessed be He, kept on constructing lands and destroying them until he constructed the present one and said, ‘This pleases Me, the others did not.’ Rabbi Eleazar said: This is a door which is opened to the depths, as it says, ‘And God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good.’” – Kohelet Rabbah 3:14, written in the 7th Century C.E./A.D. (Hmmm, so no Jurassic or Cretaceous period for us, then? Shucks.)

Anyone who says that Jewish religious tradition is at odds with modern scientific studies is woefully ignorant of Jewish religious tradition. Most Jews accept the theory of evolution and do not see it in contradiction to our mythic accounts of creation. Sure there are those modern sects of traditional Judaism (the ultra-fundamentalists, like the Haredi) that have taken a Christian-like literalist interpretive approach to Jewish “biblical” texts, but they are actually not in-line historically with Jewish contemplations on the relationship between Jewish religious myths and the (pre-)scientific age objective-made observations of the world around us. Jewish religious thinkers and community leaders had already begun to come to the conclusion centuries before the rise of modern science that the myths of Torah (the Jewish Bible) had hidden times frames by which to reveal the “true” age of things and the order of their developments. And, some of these conclusions and imagined beliefs are quite creative! It is no wonder, then, that so many breakthrough scientists have been Jewish. But, on to the question above. How did the 13th century Jewish kabbalists come to the conclusion that the earth is 49,000 years old and that the universe is 15 billion years old? Are you curious to know?

The 13th century’s Sefer HaTemunah’s take on the Sabbatical cycles and the age of the universe

One of the main concepts in Sefer HaTemunah is that of the connection of the Sabbatical year (Hebrew: Shmita) with sephirot and the creation of more than one world. The author of Sefer HaTemunah believed that worlds are created and destroyed, supporting this theory with a quote from the Midrash, “God created universes and destroys them.”[1] The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) states that “Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate”.[5] Sefer HaTemunah asserts that this 7000-year cycle is equivalent to one Sabbatical cyle. Because there are seven such cycles per Jubilee, the author concludes that the world will exist for 49,000 years.[1]

According to some sources, the author of Sefer HaTemunah believed that the world was currently in the second Sabbatical cycle, corresponding to Gevurah (Severity), which occurs between the cycles Chesed (Kindness) and Tiferet (Adornment).[6] Sefer HaTemunah offers a description of the final Shmita, Malkuth (Kingdom), as “distinctly utopian” in character. This may explain why the book was widely embraced by Kabbalists.[7]
According to Kaplan[8] the Sabbatical cycles in Sefer HaTemunah can be used as a basis for calculating the age of the universe. While Sefer HaTemunah sees the world as existing in the second cycle, others[9] say it is in the seventh cycle.[1] If so, Adam was created when the universe was 42,000 years old, and six worlds were created and destroyed before the creation of Adam.[1] This thesis was laid out by Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel of Acre, a 13th-century Kabbalist, who said that when calculating the age of the universe, one must use divine years rather than physical years.
“ I, the insignificant Yitzchak of Akko, have seen fit to write a great mystery that should be kept very well hidden. One of God’s days is a thousand years, as it says, “For a thousand years are in Your eyes as a fleeting yesterday.” Since one of our years is 365 ¼ days, a year on High is 365,250 our years.[10] ”

Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko then goes on to explain a value of 49,000 years, but does not proceed with the multiplication, nor the reduction of 49,0000 to 42,000, which is Kaplan’s own interpretation. Kaplan calculates the age of the universe to be 15,340,500,000 years old.[1][11] His reasoning was as follows: as the Midrash states, “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday” (Psalm 90:4); a physical year contains 365 ¼ days, which, if multiplied by 1000 would give the length of a divine year as 365,250 physical years; if we are living in the last, 7th Sabbatical cycle, that would mean that the creation as it described in the Bible happened 42,000 divine years ago; to convert this figure to physical years it should be multiplied by 365,250; this gives the result 15,340,500,000 years.[1]

In 1993, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote that the Big Bang occurred “approximately 15 billion years ago”, calling this “the same conclusion” as the 13th century kabbalists.[1] According to a 2013 estimate by ESA’s Planck project, the age of the universe is 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years.[12] Kaplan also relates to Sefer HaTemunah the idea that Torah teachings are compatible with other areas of modern science. According to Kaplan, Orthodox Jews often challenge the findings of paleontology and geology as conflicting with Torah concepts. But in an “extremely controversial” essay, Israel Lipschitz drew on the writings of Abraham ibn Ezra, Nahmanides, and Bahya ibn Paquda to argue the opposite conclusion: “See how the teachings of our Torah have been vindicated by modern discoveries.” Lipschitz wrote that fossils of mammoths and dinosaurs represent previous Sabbatical cycles in which humans and other beings lived in universes before Adam, and that the Himalayas were formed in a great upheaval, one of the upheavals mentioned in Sefer HaTemunah.[1]

Sourced from World Heritage Encyclopedia™ licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

To read the full article and cited references – http://worldheritage.org/article/WHEBN0028009518/Sefer%20HaTemunah

#Creationism #Midrash #KoholetRabbah #SeferHaTemunah #Genesis #youngearth #creationscience #intelligentdesign #evolution

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Joseph T Farkasdi

I am a writer, a husband, a father, a working servant, a complex individual who very few will probably understand! I am actively involved in raising the awareness of social injustice in this world caused by religious idealism and intolerance and the rise of an economic destroying corporatocracy. Take a moment to explore and learn more about me. Thanks!

3 thoughts on “Even In The 13th Century, Some Jews Believed The Earth To Be 15 Billion Years Old”

  1. “Shepherds and farmers throughout history showed affection for their animals and have taken great care of them, just as many slaveholders felt affection and concern for their slaves. It was no accident that kings and prophets styled themselves as shepherds and likened the way they and the gods cared for their people to a shepherd’s care for his flock. Yet from the viewpoint of the herd, rather than that of the shepherd, it’s hard to avoid the impression that for the vast majority … is little consolation for the suffering the individual endures. This discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering is perhaps the most important lesson we can draw from…” human innovation and progress.

    Professor Harari’s observation about the move from the Agricultural age to the Industrial age in relation to the health and welfare of the animals we’ve “domesticated” and mass imprisoned within our industries is just as applicable an observation to what we’ve done for the majority of humans within our human societies, hence the obvious connection you probably made when reading this quote from his book. It’s worth seriously contemplating upon in this time of reactionary upheaval to the changes occurring as we move towards a more compassionate, interdependent, and progressive global society.

    “Quote” taken from Yuval Noah Harari’s book ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’. A book that should be required reading in every school, public and private, within this nation.

    #Sapiens #DivineIntervention #Industry #Slavery #GlobalCitizen

  2. Do you think Science is a Belief System? Are you someone who believes the following statements to be true?: “In order to understand science you have to believe in science (lend trust to it). Initial belief leads to the ability to understand.” – Phil W -&- “The scientific method assumes what causes the effect that is observed. This is a fallacy known as asserting the consequent.” – Jas P

    For those having difficulty understanding how science works, here is a simple explanation: Science does *not* begin with a belief. In science, we start with an *observation*. An observation leads to an *idea*. To test the validity of an idea, we must *experiment*. When we have *evidence* that the idea is sound, we have a reason to believe in it. But, this universe we are a part of does not require our belief in any of it, only our observation of it. This is self-evident, regardless how many human imagined verbal fictions we share about it.

    One does not need to believe in the scientific law of gravity, in order to understand the very real effects of gravity. What science provides is a rational understanding, as best that we presently understand it, for those willing to learn from what science is discovering.

    The beauty of the scientific method is that you can admit when you get the theory wrong, modify it or discard it entirely, and press on with testing for further discoveries. In religion, including religions posing as science, this is not an option. The ideology is presented, so it must right (for it is an absolute), thus all evidence accepted must validate this ideology – and, as with many of them, regardless how much more evidence there is available that clearly refutes it. This is the difference between real science and pseudoscience.

    Statements, such as the ones quoted above, are simply ideological attacks upon legitimate science that is commonly presented by those who devoutly believe in “alternative” science, more commonly known as pseudoscience. For example, the assertion that the scientific method “assumes” what causes a specific effect, thus the scientific method is a “fallacious” approach to obtaining demonstrable truths (number 2 in the list above).

    The scientific method observes and studies the reality we all find ourselves in, proposes “theory” on all kinds of fundamental aspects of how reality can be (what makes it be and how it works), the theories (assumptions, according to pseudoscience supporters) are tested in repeated peer-review research until either validated with clearly demonstrable evidence or invalidate and theory is discarded. By the nature of rational science, legitimate science never actually “proves” anything, because there is always another opportunity to disprove common held scientific beliefs as needing modification (improvement in understanding) or as being a misunderstanding of the nature of reality.

    In other words, in science there is always room for better understanding, there are no absolutes, because nature does not provide absolutes (“absolutes” are the realm of human-created fictive imagination, such as the absolutes of ideologies or theologies). And, if new understanding changes older understanding (ex., the  world is actually round, and not flat as stipulated in the ancient mythic creation texts, and the world is demonstrably older than is accounted for within the legendary times lines of human written myths), then the scientific understanding of our reality must change to match this improved understanding of reality and how it works. Hence, why the scientific method has been the most productive world changer in all of human history.

    Now, I appreciate that people are willing to challenge science in an effort to better understand the scientific method approach to understanding our reality. But, it is a disservice to others less informed on the methodologies of science to misteach the basics of what science is, what its purpose is, and what the exploration of science is actually achieving. For those who do this and so passionately attack the validity of science on these modern computing devices, I must ask out of curiosity:

    Do you not find it just a bit out of touch with reality to say that science is fundamentally fallacious in its approach, while typing this onto a device that now exists specifically because of the scientific method in which you denounce? Thankfully, nature does *not* require us to believe in it, only to observe it (a fundamental discovery of physics). Likewise, nature does not require scientists to prove nature’s self-evident truths to science non-believers (or alternative science believers). The universe that we are a part of is self-proving, whether we believe in it or not, and it speaks for itself as we test it in order to better understand it.

    #Science #ScientificMethod #Pseudoscience #Scientism #Creationism

    Photo: Some men just want to watch the world learn. Bill Nye (the Science Guy), Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fred Rogers, Carl Sagan, Bob Ross

  3. “Most of us today carry about 3 percent of Neanderthal genes in our genome, but when our hybridization with Neanderthals was still taking place 32,000 years ago, there were first-generation hybrids who were 50 percent Neanderthal in their genes,… But religions haven’t incorporated that fact. If there was a god that created humans in his or her or its image as distinct from animals, when and where did that god draw that arbitrary distinction between human and animals? Was it when we became just 25 percent Neanderthal in our genes, or when we got down to 12 percent, or 6 percent, or now 3 percent?” – Jared Diamond … Hmmm, any answers? Here’s another one:

    “Most stars that we’ve searched have proved to have planets, so we have to assume that planets are the overwhelming rule, not the exception. If there are at least one trillion stars in the universe, and if most of them have planets, of which 0.3 percent could support life as we know it, that means that there are about three billion planets capable of supporting life… Probably some of those planets have only living creatures less intelligent than us humans, and probably some of those planets have living creatures more intelligent than us humans. That makes it extremely unlikely that if there is a God, he, she, or it is more interested in us than in all the other more intelligent life forms that surely exist on other planets. This is another fact that needs to be taken seriously if one wants to reconcile religion with science.” – Jared Diamond

    If you want to make believers out of non-believers, then you must converse with a bit more than what is provided in a book of myths and laws or is based on individual/group belief. Is that possible without, first, changing the myths of the religion?

    #evolution #creationism #sapiens #neanderthal #god #inhisimage

    Science & Religion in the Rough
    Why human evolution and the multitude of extrasolar planets complicate the idea that we are special
    Evolution is often mislabeled as a theory, but evolution of course is a well-established fact just as the earth’s revolution around the sun is not a theory but a well-established fact. We’ve had compelling evidence for more than a century that our modern human species gradually evolved from now-extinct species that anyone would agree were animals. So we can’t make a sharp distinction between humans and animals.
    The human evolutionary line separated from the line leading to modern gorillas about seven million years ago, and then separated from the line leading to modern chimpanzees about six million years ago. Gradually, over the course of the last six or seven million years, various species of the human evolutionary line evolved to be more similar to us modern humans, and less dismissible as animals. But there was never a sharp break in time between humans and animals.
    For most of this last six million years, there have been multiple co-existing human species, some more like us modern humans, and some more like so-called animals. It’s only in the last 32,000 years since the extinction of the Neanderthals that the human evolutionary line has consisted of only one species, namely us. There has also always been geographic variation within various human species, just as there is geographic variation within most animal species. Hence, at any given time during the emergence of modern Homo sapiens over the last 200,000 years, there were populations more like us moderns, and other populations less like us moderns and more like animals.

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