George, you posted:
MBZ, I think you're on to something there!
Ah, I see...how many little evolutionary throwbacks do you have?
Well (MBZ says, putting his Serious Hat on now)...
I suppose that I'd define my personal views as theistic evolution. Now, if you ask how I jibe/square all that will my faith as an orthodox Jew, I reply as follows:
First, about a "literal reading" of the Tanakh. I don't think that any two people could agree on a "literal reading" of, say, Genesis (certainly mine, as an orthodox Jew and based on the original Hebrew, will probably differ in many particulars from that of a fundamentalist Protestant, based on the KJV); such a thing is inherently subjective and based on our own idiosyncrasies, psychological/emotional/spiritual baggage and personal it-seems-to-me's. Thus, we should be very leery of basing beliefs and/or arguments on a "literal reading" of the scriptures. Those who do insist on a strict, narrow, "literal" interpretation of this or that section of scripture are, I believe, forcing it into a literary and spiritual strait-jacket entirely of their own devising that does no justice to the scriptures.
So, that being said, how do I, the orthodox Jew, view the Torah? Well, of course, I believe that it (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) is the literal word of God as He revealed it to Moses our Teacher. We believe that the Torah can be understood/appreciated/interpreted on any of four general levels ranging from that which is most in accord with a close reading of the (original Hebrew!!!) text, to the metaphorical, to the most rarefied and esoteric (the grasp of which is waaay
beyond most of us). Who is to say which chapter and verse of Genesis is to be best understood or appreciated on which level? Moreover, our Sages say that the Torah is like a diamond with many facets, each with its own brilliance, each offering a different perspective from which to behold the wondrous jewel.
Lastly, I would humbly argue that we are grasping at trees & missing the forest. What is more important, (sterile?) debates over whether Genesis proves/supports or disproves/opposes this or that theory of creation or evolution, or whether the Flood "really happened" or discussing, studying and seeking to internalize its sublime moral, ethical and spiritual truths (such as befit the word of God)?
I heard a story that Karl Barth once gave a lecture on Genesis 3 at the University of Chicago. When it came time for the question and answer portion, a student spoke up and said "Dr. Barth, you don't really believe snakes could talk do you?" Barth replied, "I could care less whether or not snakes could talk. What I'm interested in is what the snake said."BRAVO FOR DR. BARTH!!!WELL SAID!!!
(Dr. Barth gets my point; or, rather, I get his!)
The Torah is not a cosmology/biology/geology/history text. It is God's loving instructions on how He wants us to lead our lives.
Above, I said that one of the levels which we can understand the Torah is the metaphorical. One of the books I have at home & love to reread from time-to-time is the late Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden
. In the chapter entitled, "Eden as Metaphor," Sagan notes that so far as is known, childbirth is generally painful in only one species, us. This is due to the size of the head. He notes that God pronounced, "In pain shall you bring forth children," to us after we had eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and gained the ability to discern between right and wrong, i.e. to make (uniquely human) abstract, moral judgements. This ability resides in the neo-cortex of our brains; it is our neo-cortices which make our brains so big (see http://www.brainsatwork.com/B2B/SB10.html
), which in turn causes human childbirth to be painful. Sagan says that the fossil record, so far as it was known at the time he wrote the book, shows an explosive growth in human cranial size (i.e. an explosive growth in the size of hominid neo-cortices). Thus, it would only be when our neo-cortices began to grow/expand so much, that childbirth became especially painful. Thus, when taken metaphorically, this particular aspect of Genesis jibes very nicely with the evolutionary/fossil record. (Sagan also says that the hostility God ordains between the snake's descendants & Eve's is a metaphor to the eras in which reptiles & mammals contended for the domination of the earth.)
Just some (kosher, of course!) food for thought.
MBZ (going to get some ice cream)