Four Interpretations of the Genesis Creation Story
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- Students will learn how Judaism allows a variety of interpretations of the beginning of Genesis. It will explore topics like religion, philosophy, science, and mysticism.
- No prerequisites.
- Interest in Biblical Interpretation.
Jewish tradition has never read scripture in a literal manner. On the contrary, Jewish tradition has always allowed multiple interpretations of every verse in the Bible. In this course we will look at the four classical methods of interpretation found in Jewish tradition - the simple, the rabbinical, the philosophical, and the mystical. How does each of these interpretations fit in with how modern science understands the beginning of the universe? Finally, as we study these four approaches to interpretation, we will learn about the powerful idea from kabbalah that we live in four worlds, each encased in another, like Russian nested dolls.
- Anyone interested in questions about the Bible and science, or in exploring the wisdom of Judaism.
- People interested in religion, philosophy, or science.
We will introduce the topic, explaining the four different methods Jewish tradition uses to interpret scripture. They are p'shat -the simple meaning, d'rash, -the rabbinical meaning, remez - the philosophical meaning, and sod, -the mystical meaning. As we go through the course, we will look at these in greater detail.
The students will look at the Hebrew of the first verse of Genesis and an English translation of each word. It will be explained in a simple way so that even those who do not read Hebrew can understand.
What did the text mean to whoever wrote it? A careful look at the grammar of the first verse in Genesis will take us far from the usual understanding. It is the story of the movement from chaos to order. Finally, we will introduce the first of the kabbalistic four worlds, olam haasiya or the world of making.
How did the rabbis of the classical rabbinic period, from the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans to the completion of the Talmud, understand the text. We will look at the rabbinic method of interpretation. Finally, we will introduce the second of the kabbalistic four worlds, olam hayitzira or he world of formation.
The Middle Ages were the great years of Jewish philosophy, led by such thinkers as Saadia, Maimonides, and Nachmanides. They introduced a new idea - creatio ex nihilo or creation from nothing. Finally, we will introduce the third of the kabbalistic four worlds, olam haberiya or the world of creation.
The Jewish mystical tradition (kabbalah) adds a radically different view of the creation story. We introduce the idea of pan-psychism, that mind permeates the universe. Finally, we will introduce the fourth of the kabbalistic four worlds, olam haatzilut or the world of emanation.