Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is evolution / and old earth mentioned in Chagiga 13-14?

I don't think so.

In a comment on a recent parshablog post, SPACE wrote the following:
What's your take on: Talmud Chaggiga 13b-14a states that there were 974 generations before God created Adam.
My take on this is that I probably do not understand that cryptic gemara, but that I think that those who take it as Talmudic support for evolution or an old earth are quite possibly mistaken and overeager. As a sample, here :
A small minority of classical rabbis believed that the world is older, and that life as we know it today did not always exist. Rabbis who had this view based their conclusions on verses in the Talmud the midrash. For example:
  • Talmud Chaggiga 13b-14a states that there were 974 generations before God created Adam.
  • Some midrashim state that the "first week" of Creation lasted for extremely long periods of time. See Anafim on Rabbenu Bachya's Sefer Ikkarim 2:18; Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 9.
And this:
Around 974 generations before Adam, or some 25,000 years ago, man developed all the physical and mental capabilities that we possess today" (Kaplan 187). The difference between Adam, and his human ancestors, was that Adam was given a "divine soul."
The gemara in question:
ר (איוב כב, טז) אשר קומטו ולא עת נהר יוצק יסודם תניא אמר רבי שמעון החסיד אלו תשע מאות ושבעים וארבע דורות שקומטו להיבראות  קודם שנברא העולם ולא נבראו עמד הקב"ה ושתלן בכל דור ודור והן הן עזי פנים שבדור
"Who pressed forward before their time, whose foundation was poured out as a stream. (Iyov 22:16)" It is taught: R. Simeon the Pious said: These are the nine hundred and seventy four generations who pressed themselves forward to be created before the world was created, but were not created: the Holy One, blessed be He, arose and planted them in every generation, and it is they who are the insolent of each generation.
It sounds mystical and kabbalistic, and I'm sure the kabbalists have interpreted this to good end. Here is what Soncino has to say, and I think it is pretty convincing:
According to the Rabbinic interpretation of Ps. CV, 8, the Divine Plan originally envisaged the creation of a thousand generations prior to the giving of the Torah, but foreseeing their wickedness, God held back nine hundred and seventy-four generations, and gave the Torah at the end of twenty-six generations from Adam (cf. Gen. V, XI, Ex. VI, 16-20, and Seder ‘Olam Ch. 1). The translation here follows the text of MS. M. 2 (v. D.S. a.I. n. 20) viz. עצמן להיבראות (pi'el), שקיטמו, curr. edd.: להיבראות (pu'al) שקוטמו
According to this, there were no predecessors to humankind in 974 generations. There was some initial plan for 1000 generations, which was held back from coming into being. Therefore, there is no real indication from this gemara that the world is much older than would be indicated by a simple reading of Bereishit, or that there was an evolution of the species.

Unfortunately, oftentimes sources like this are cryptic, and cryptic sources are great for proving whatever it is one wants to prove.


Jr said...

If you are accepting random questions, can I ask you your take on the upper waters above the rakia?

I saw what shadal said by your provided link, but would like to hear your perspective.

SPACE said...

No, I don't support evolution. I simply thought, that this tohu va bohu, chaos, appears more often. Humans needs answers now and here, religion gives most of them. Science says: wait, we will answer this question after 20 years.
Also Holy Writ describes universe in mystic symbols. Give Bible to 1000 people, you will have 1000 opinions.
You maybe right, to everyone his own opinion.

joshwaxman said...

personally, i support evolution, even though i remain fairly unconvinced that this is what the Chumash or Chazal meant. what one does with such tension is another story.

SPACE said...

I doubt, that in modern days is possible to find truth. Look, what chazals have to say about themselves: R. Zera said in Raba b. Zimuna's name: If the earlier [scholars] were sons of angels, we are sons of men; and if the earlier [scholars] were sons of men, we are like asses, and not [even] like asses of R.Hanina b. Dosa and R. Phinehas b. Jair,[who performed miracles] but like other asses. Shabbath 112b

joshwaxman said...

but look what Chazal say about themselves, in terms of knowledge (rather than piety):

Said R. Papa to Abaye: How is it that for the former generations miracles were performed and for us miracles are not performed? It cannot be because of their [superiority in] study, because in the years of Rab Judah the whole of their studies was confined to Nezikin, and we study all six Orders, and when Rab Judah came in [the tractate] 'Ukzin [to the law], 'If a woman presses vegetables in a pot'3 (or, according to others, 'olives pressed with their leaves are clean'),4 he used to say, I see all the difficulties of Rab and Samuel here.5 and we have thirteen versions of Ukzin.6

Berachot 20a.

SPACE said...

Here's more "Man was originally formed with a tail like the lower animals, but this was afterward taken from him out of consideration for him." Genesis Rabba
Maybe they were hominids, because it is said about Adam, when he was created, he shone like Empire State Building.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin