Hi everyone, this is my fist time posting, so pleas forgive any mistakes. The question may be controversial, feel free to move, but I really need a straight answer to the question, not a debate. Hoping some Hebrew scholars are around to answer.
On to my question…
What is the most popular/ most accepted view of Genesis 1-11 (the story of the Creation) among Hebrew scholars, and the Jewish faith in general? I am Christian, but have always been of the opinion that evolution and the Big Bang are totally compatible with the Biblical account, it does not need to be taken completely literally, i.e. six days may refer to 6 perionds of time, length unspecified.
I have recently heard, and read, that most (some say all) serious scholars of Hebrew argue that there is no way the original texts of the Creation can be interpreted any other way than literally. In other words, the language does not lend itself to a figurative or allegorical interpretation, and the earth was, according to these texts, created in six 24 hour days, not six periods of time (length unspecified). The name of an Oxford scholar of Hebrew, Professor James Barr, is most often cited as a expert.
My question is simple. Is there anyone with knowledge of the Hebrew language, that can tell me wether this is true, or just propaganda? As I said, I don’t want to debate the issue, I would just like the plain facts.
This is a classic example of “two Jews, three opinions.” For centuries, Jews have debated how to interpret the creation story. There is no one consensus view, and never has been. You could say generally that Orthodox Jews are most likely to take a literal view of Genesis, while Conservative and Reform Jews are most likely to take an allegorical view, but even within those movements there are varying opinions.
The Jewish Virtual Library has a good overview of the debate over the centuries. Note that way back in the 12th century, different rabbinical scholars held different opinions.
Any scholar who claims that there is one definitive way to interpret the Book of Genesis, or that Jews interpret it in only one way, is not correct.
One point worth making is that Barr, who was a reputable scholar who held the Regius chair at Oxford, is quoted by YEC supporters, fundamentalists or inerrantists as having supported their positions. In point of fact, his scholarly analysis was directed at showing that the original writer(s) held the view they attribute to Barr himself… (I’ve developed a rule of thumb on this: If he is cited as “James Barr Regius Professor…” without internal punctuation, the writer is engaged in copy-and-paste in support of a fundy-style position. Although adopting this as a filter may not be totally fair, it occurs so commonly in poorly presented and erroneous arguments that it serves as a useful rule of thumb.
There are two creation stories in Genesis which contradict each other so I’m not sure how they can be taken literally. For example, in the first story Adam and Eve are essentially the last creation, while in the second, Adam is created before the animals and Eve after.
I know you said you just wanted facts, not a debate, so I will give you just a fact: There is absolutely no way to reconcile evolution with a story that asserts that grass and fruit trees were growing on the earth before the sun existed.
There are some who will interpret the 6 days of creation as not being literal “days” (after all, our definition of “day” is defined by the sun, and the sun wasn’t created until the fourth “day”). That is not entirely outside the realm of normative Jewish thought.
The main thing that can’t really be finessed is that humanity has only existed for 5,770 years. The Biblical genaeologies do not seem to be readable in a figurative way.
Rabbi Natan Slifkin, the “Zoo Rabbi” has suggested that the “Adam” that was said to be the start of the Biblical genaeologies 5770 years ago in Genesis chapter 5 is not the same as the “Adam” who is the progenitor of the human race and whose tales are related in Genesis chapters 1:26 - 4. This has generated some controversy in the Orthodox Jewish world. I have personally corresponded with him to ask some questions about this theory, but I cannot honestly say that his answers satisfy me on a theological level.