Dear Yoram Bogacz,
I recently received via e-mail your monumental review of [Dr.] Schroeder’s book, “Genesis and the Big Bang,” and I want to congratulate you on your magnificent piece, which I read in detail with great pleasure.
However, perhaps you will permit me one critical comment. On pp. 34-36, where you discuss Rambam’s Guide 2:25, I take the liberty of differing with you. You wrote on pp. 34, 36 that “Maimonides argued that an eternal universe is incompatible with core Torah beliefs, and therefore cannot be accepted…when it comes to the creation of the universe, we are not at liberty to interpret the verses figuratively.”
However, this conclusion is based on a faulty translation of the key passage in the Rambam. Your translation is (p. 36): “if we were to accept Aristotle’s notion that that the universe has always existed, that would completely uproot the Torah”. The correct translation is: “if we were to accept the eternity of the universe according to the view of Aristotle, namely, that there was never any change from the laws of nature [meaning that no miracle ever occurred – NA], that would completely uproot the Torah”.
Thus, Rambam wrote that an eternal universe according to the Aristotilean view is incompatible with core Torah beliefs. Then, in the immediately following paragraph (that you have not quoted), Rambam goes on to say that an eternal universe according to the Platonic view is perfectly compatible with Torah views. The problem is NOT whether or not the world was created, but rather Aristotle’s view that miracles never happened. The latter is against the core Torah beliefs, but the former is not.
The Rambam then writes that he does not believe that the universe is eternal (although this position is perfectly consistent with core Torah beliefs) because this position has not been proved. In the absence of convincing arguments to the contrary, one should accept the literal meaning of the Torah verses, which assert that the world began with an act of creation, as is written explicitly in Genesis.
My congratulations again on your review,
Dear Professor Aviezer,
Thank you for your kind words.
I agree with your reading of Rambam, but it does not affect the point I was making: Rambam rejected Aristotelian eternity not because the verses could have been interpreted otherwise, but because it contradicts fundamentals of Torah.
Nonetheless, I intend to insert a footnote pointing out that Aristotelian vs. Platonic eternity is not the issue. The point is that Dr. Schroeder’s claim that Rambam wrote Conflicts between science and religion result from misinterpretations of the Bible has no basis in reality.
Sincerely and כל טוב,
Professor Aviezer wrote:
I totally agree with you!