Perceived Contradiction: The age of the universe according to science vs. age of the universe according to Torah.
The Big Bang Theory has gained immense credibility since 1965. Before that most leading astronomers and astrophysicists thought it was impossible for the universe to have an age since it was considered infinite [no beginning…no finite age]. Since then, according to our most accurate measurements, the scientific community estimates that the total age of the universe is a little less than 14 billion years. This would seem to laugh in the face of the 5774 years from the Torah. However, we need to understand what that 5774 actually means.
5774 years is not the age of the universe, according to the Torah: it’s the time from the creation of “The Adam” (humanity/’neshama’) till present day: basically, it’s the years of humanity. There were even homo-sapiens in existence before Adam, but, according to Torah, it is Adam who is the first homo-sapien with a ‘human soul.’ Thus, when Adam is instilled with the soul of humanity, the clock of humanity begins and it has been 5774 years since that moment. This number does not account for all the time before the creation of Adam, who according to Genesis, is born half-way through the sixth day.
With all that said, we have the 5774 years that occur after the creation of Adam and 5.5 days before him. So how in the world can 5.5 days account for nearly 14 billion years that’s been measured by the scientific community? It’s a matter of perspective.
Ways of looking at Time: The way science and Torah perceive the passage of time is completely different but they are two sides of the same coin. Science looks backward in time (using instruments like Hubble, etc. to detect light from the distant past). From the present and looking back, the age of the universe appears to be around 14 billion years. Torah takes a different perspective—it starts at the beginning of time and goes forward.
If you look at Genesis, in description of the days, the Torah has a very specific syntax. Days 2-6, are described as “second,” “third,” etc. However, this is not the case for the first day. Instead of “first”, a relative descriptor that would imply the text was written after it had occurred, it’s “day one.”
Imagine you’re a newborn baby that has the ability to write immediately after being born and you start your autobiography at birth. How would you describe that first day of your life while you’re literally living it—the first day or day one? There is no second, third or fourth day to you at this point, so how can you call it ‘the first’ day? No other day exist relative to it. It’s day one. This wouldn’t be all that significant if you went on to write day two, day three, etc. However, the language of the Torah intentionally switches from Day One to the “Second Day.” All events that are described from there are relative to that day one—the beginning of time.
This means that the beginning of Torah is describing the beginning of time and going forward from there. From there, all other days are descendants of/relative to that “day one”: second day, third day, fourth day, and so on. It’s important to keep this in mind when comparing the measurements of time: science is present back to big bang, and Torah is big bang to the present.
The beginning of time and the expansion of the universe: The big bang is technically not the beginning of time. It is not until matter forms that time takes hold. The formation of matter occurs very quickly after the big bang and thus time begins. At this point the universe is incredibly small and begins a process of rapid expansion. Based off scientific data (specifically the temperature of the universe now vs. the estimated temperature at the formation of matter), astronomers have concluded that the universe is now 900 billion times larger than it was at the time of the formation of matter. This stretching of space is key to understanding the scientific age of the universe and how it relates to genesis because it directly affects how we perceive time when looking into the past.
Imagine you and a friend are present at the time of the formation of matter and are riding spaceships that are traveling at the speed of light. You are the first to lift off and your friend follows you exactly one second later. Both of you are traveling to Earth. During your travel at light speed, the universe doubles in size. To the people on Earth, looking back in time, you would arrive 2 seconds earlier than your friend. To your friend, moving forward with time, he is still only one second behind you. Let’s say the universe doubles in size twice during your journey: people on earth would perceive that you arrived 4 seconds earlier than your friend, but, to your friend, you are still only one second ahead of him. If the universe doubles in the size 3 times: the people of earth would perceive that you arrived 8 seconds before your friend, but from his point of view, you are still only one second ahead of him. So with enough doubling of size of the universe (to the point where it is now 900 billion times larger than it was at the formation of matter) you can imagine that a relatively short amount of time looking forward (Torah), can look like a truly immense amount of time looking back (science).
If we are able to correct for this expansion of the universe that directly warps the perception of time when looking back, we would be able to estimate the amount of time past if we were experiencing it from the beginning onward. If you take the age of the universe as determined by science (looking back) and multiply it by the ratio of universal expansion, we would get the amount of time that actually passed if we were experiencing things at the beginning of time and moving forward. Again, this expansion/stretching of the universe is only affecting the passage of time when we try to measure it retrospectively. The Torah is not written as looking back, it is telling the story of creation and of the universe as it is HAPPENING (not a record of what HAPPENED).
Take our 14 billion years and multiple it by ratio of the size of the universe from the beginning of time till the creation of Adam (approx. 1/900 billion [unit-less, since it’s a ratio of sizes]), you get 0.015 yrs. 0.015 yrs x (365 days/1 yr) = 5.5 days…the biblical amount of the time that passed from the beginning of time till the creation of Adam. So from the perspective of someone/something that was there at the beginning of time, all creation up to the point of humanity took only 5.5 days, but for an observer from the present looking back in time where time is warped by a space that is 900 billion times larger, that amount of time is stretched out to a little less than 14 billion years.
For more information Ssee Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Genesis and the Big Bang. Science of God
Chevre Northern Exposure June 1-8 2014