Monday, October 19, 2009

Creation According to Ralbag

I will start this topic off with a quote from the Ralbag in his famous book "The Wars of the Lord." He says, "It is necessary that we explain the terms that the Torah uses in its discussion of creation before we explain the account of creation itself, for the understanding of the terms necessarily precedes the understanding of the full sentences."

I think this is often how people think that science contradicts the Bible. I mean, is it possible since G-D can do anything that science is entirely wrong? Yeah, I think it is possible, but why would G-D do that? Why wouldn't He just follow the laws of nature to create everything? What was the point of creating nature if He wasn't going to follow it as much as possible? This is the Ralbag's idea, that whenever possible we try to describe the events in the Bible as natural occurrences.

1)The Ralbag says that the term "earth" (eretz in hebrew) is equivocal. Meaning that it does not have just one simple meaning of the planet Earth. (I believe this is how the Rambam understands it as well)

2) The phrases of Tohu Ubohu (Unformed and void) means something much deeper than astonishingly empty. The Ralbag says that Tohu means the final form. He brings a description why, but for our purposes that is unimportant. What is important is what does "final form" mean. The way it seems to be described is similar to the form of a chair that a craftsman is making, before he even starts making it. Meaning, it is the thought before any act of creation. Just like a man who wants to make something first has to figure out what it is going to look like, that is what Tohu means, the form that a thought provides for an actual physical creation.

Bohu is the first physical matter of any creation. The Ralbag uses this description because the Universe was full of eternally existent matter. It was full of chaos and disorder before creation began and this is why the Ralbag explains Tohu and Bohu this way, because G-D eternally exists, providing the Tohu (The thought of how creation should be) and Bohu eternally exists (The physical matter). This is the Ralbag's idea and if you want to understand it further just ask me to explain more deeply. He holds of the idea that creation was the creation of something from something.

3)Also, the terms of "light" and "dark" are equivocal. The Ralbag brings several quotes throughout the Bible to prove this point.

4) The Term Ruach is also equivocal. He brings many pasukim to prove this point.

5) The term Rakia refers to anything that is beaten or flattened out, but sill retains its form. In our instance it looks like Rakia refers to the heavenly body.

6) The Ralbag also says that anything that does not remain in one state is referred to as water.

7) The Ralbag says, "The generation of the Universe by G-D occurred in no time. This is why our Rabbis maintain that the heavens and the earth were created simultaneously... It is therefore evident that the description of the creation as being completed in six days is not to be construed as implying that the first day precedes the second, for example, by one [whole] day [ie twenty four hour period]. Rather, they said, this is in order to show the priority amongst various created things...Now, the elements are prior to that which is generated from them according to material priority, and the compounds of the elements are also related to each other by this kind of priority. For example, the plant is prior to the animal.

8) An amazing idea here in the Ralbag is that G-D actually created the luminaries (the sun and moon) on the first day, but their relationship to the Earth was not solidified until the fourth day. Also, according to the Ralbag, "whatever can be generated naturally according to the natur given to it by G-D is such that its creation is not attributed directly to G-D in the marvelous account of creation; for He produces such things through nature. Hence, the generation of plants and animal through putrefaction and from species other than their own[ie hybrids] is not attributable to G-D."

The truth is that the Ralbag does an amazing job describing how creation came about and how everything he says is what the text says. However, I can not quote him word for word here, otherwise that would be a copyright violation. I suggest getting the english version of the Ralbags Wars of the Lord translated by Seymor Feldman. It is an eye opening book and will answer many doubts you have about Judaism vis-a-vis science. He helps explain the text and just the fundamental belief in Judaims. Also, his commentary on the Torah is quite enlightening.

Any questions that people ask through evolution, I think, can be answered by the Ralbag's interpretation, at least indirectly. So if anyone tells you that science contradicts the Bible, just go ahead and look it up in the Ralbag and most questions will be answered.

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