Reading Modern Science into Genesis

Contemporary approaches to reconciling discrepancies.

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Schroeder's argument that physics and biblical scholarship are methodologically compatible is weakened, however, by his approach to Jewish texts. He reads the Bible through the lens of the rabbis, medieval commentators and kabbalah, assuming that their homiletical and midrashic perspectives are identical to the plain meaning of the original text.

However, it is difficult to characterize this approach as scientific when it ignores academic bible critics' linguistic and archaeological contributions. In other words, Schroeder's commitment to scientific methodology has a clear limit: he does not apply it to the study of Torah.

Schroeder's attitude to religion itself is no less ambiguous. One of his arguments is that whereas once the facts about the universe's origins could only be accessed via revelation, modern physics has given us the tools to confirm these facts. While medieval thinkers like Nahmanides reached their insights by means of faith, modern Jews are only able to grasp the truth of the Torah through recourse to science. If so, the true Genesis narrative has only been available to us since the Big Bang theory was substantiated in the 1960s.

By implying that the Torah's deep insights cannot be accessed unless we have already discovered them by scientific means, Schroeder may, ironically, undermine his own position, making the Torah redundant as an independent source of truth.

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Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.