Response to Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder
In 1990 Bantam Books published a 212 page book entitled Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery of Harmony Between Modern Science and the Bible. The author, Gerald L. Schroeder holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from MIT and professes orthodox Judaism. Genesis and the Big Bang has received considerable attention from the Christian community since Pat Robertson began interviewing Schroeder on his television program.
The scientific content of Genesis and the Big Bang reflects scholarly integrity, as does that of Schroeder’s more recent books, The Science of God and The Hidden Face of God. In Genesis and the Big Bang Schroeder quotes from a number of Jewish theologians and philosophers of the middle ages and earlier to document that Bible scholars living about a thousand years ago recognized that the Tanakh (the Old Testament) taught the fundamentals of big bang cosmology. These fundamentals included the continuous expansion of the universe from an actual beginning of matter, energy, space, and time. As Schroeder points out, no one can claim that modern-day Christians and Jews are force-fit reading big bang cosmology into the biblical texts based on hind sight. Jewish theologians had discerned the big bang from the Old Testament more than seven hundred years before any scientist had discovered these cosmic features. Consequently, the Bible is on record as having accurately predicted major future scientific discoveries about the universe.
Much of Genesis and the Big Bang is devoted to an attempt to reconcile the young-earth interpretation of the Genesis 1 creation days as six consecutive 24-hour periods (a total of 144 hours) with scientific measurements of the universe and Earth showing that they are billions of years old. Schroeder uses the idea that the perceived flow of time for an event in a continuously expanding universe will vary with the observer’s perspective of that event. For example, because of Einstein theory of special relativity, a supernova eruption in a very distant galaxy will appear to take longer to reach maximum brightness since that galaxy relative to us, as a result of the expansion of the universe, is moving away from us at a significant fraction of the velocity of light.
What seems billions of years for us, then could be just 144 hours for God. In this way Schroeder can believe the creation days of Genesis 1 are six consecutive 24-hour periods without throwing out science, which shows us a billions-of-years-old universe and Earth.
Our view is that Genesis 1:2 establishes the frame of reference for the creation events: “The Spirit of God was brooding (or hovering) over the surface of the waters.” In other words, God’s time and space frame in describing creation is the earth’s surface, a frame in common with all readers of the account.
We see no need to appeal to some kind of divine clock running at a rate much different from Earth-bound clocks to reconcile the Genesis 1 time frame for creation with the scientific record. The Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis 1 is yôm. Yôm has four different literal definitions: part of the daylight hours, all of the daylight hours, a 24-hour period, and a long but finite period of time. The young-earth creationist choice of 24-hours, while literal, is not consistent with the more than two dozen other biblical creation accounts. The interpretation of Genesis 1 as describing six consecutive long periods of time during which God transforms the earth and creates upon it three radically different kinds of life (purely physical, physical and soulish, and physical, soulish, and spiritual) not only is literal but also consistent with all the other biblical creation accounts and the scientific record as well.
If one seeks Jewish support for a day-age interpretation of Genesis 1, Nathan Aviezer, another Jewish physicist, offers it in a book entitled In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1990). Aviezer acknowledges that the six creation days of Genesis 1 must refer to long time periods and cites rabbinic sources in support of this interpretation including Maimonides and Nachimanides from the middle ages. Unlike Schroeder, however, Aviezer is much more willing to appeal to evolutionary processes to explain the appearances of the differences kinds of life.
Article by Dr. Miguel Endara and Dr. Hugh Ross
Dr. Miguel Endara
Dr. Miguel Endara earned a PhD in Philosophy from Saint Louis University in 2002, and currently teaches philosophy at Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, CA) and at Los Angeles Pierce College (Woodland Hills, CA).