Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kalam Cosmological proof of God repudiated by Theology

UPDATED THRU 3/23/2016

(Sources unless stated are at bottom of post)

A common formulation of the Argument:

Premise 1) Everything that began to exist has a cause for its existence.

Premise 2) The universe began to exist.


 3) Therefore, the universe had a cause for its existence.

This argument can be refuted or repudiated for logical reasons, scientific reasons and theology.

This post will mainly discuss the theology.

The Kalam is used by some Theologians and Apologetics to ‘prove’ the Bible story of Genesis 1:1,2 is true.

I.E. The Universe was created ex-nihilo, (out of nothing) and by God. 

Here is one translation from the Jewish Publication Society's 1917 edition of the Hebrew Bible in English

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.  

Let see what the Rambam says -

The Guide for the Perplexed by
Moses Maimonides translated from the Original Arabic Text M. Friedlander, Phd Second Edition, Revised Throughout (Eighth Impression)  Second edition published 1904

Page 199 
"We do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation ; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being ; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of
the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter, than we had in explaining the anthropomorphisms in the Bible when we rejected the idea that God is corporeal."

{ETA 2/16/2014 -2/17/2014  - Rambam 'interprets'  Tenach passages that suggest God's corporeality as not meaning or suggesting God is corporeal.

The Rambam quote is used to show that the Tenach verses regarding creation can be 'interpreted' to mean 'Eternal' if needed. 2) The Rambam quote does not mean the Rambam believes the Universe is Eternal. 3) The Rambam quote in my blog can be deleted without changing one iota of this blog post. 4) In the same chapter of the quote  Rambam has a Plato Eternal and an Aristotle Eternal.  He appears to be saying the former would somehow be compatible with the Tenach, while not the second.


JPS on page 12 has this translation:

1 When God began to create heaven and earth 
2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind ...

{JPS also offers an alternate translation 

1 In the beginning God created  heaven and the earth.}

The translation “1 When...” suggests the notion as follows:

On page 13 JPS comments “In the Midrash, Bar Kappara upholds the troubling notion that the Torah shows God created the world out of preexistent material. But other Rabbis worry acknowledging this would cause people to liken God to a king who had built his palace on a garbage dump, thus arrogantly impugning His majesty (Gen Rab 1.5). In the ancient Near East, however, to say a deity had subdued chaos is to give him the highest praise.”

{ETA 7/20/2014 Page 1538 Regarding Job 26:10 "Here as in Gen.1.1-3; Ps  104.6-9; Prov 8.27, creation is described as God's making order out of an already existing chaos, which consisted of a watery abyss."}

{ETA 3/23/2016 From the book Note to the New Translation of the Torah - Harry Orlinsky Editor 1969

Beginning Page 49 Translates  “When God began to create...” Regarding genesis 1-3 The book provides cogent reasons why the verse should not be translated “In the Beginning God created...”, some of which include Rashi’s reasons.  It finally concludes “The Hebrew text tells us nothing about ‘creation out of nothing’ (creation ex nihilo) or about the beginning of time.”}

 World renowned Bible Scholar Friedman translates and explains as follows:

1 In the beginning of god’s creating the skies and the earth
2 When the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face oft he deep...

He says: The Torah’s Hebrew means the earth had already existed in a shapeless condition prior to creation. Based on current  understanding of Biblical Hebrew tenses the “Creation of matter in the Torah is not out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) as many have claimed”.  

{ETA 3/23/2016 Understanding Genesis by Nahum Sarna 1966

He translates Gen 1:1 “ When God began to create the Heaven and Earth..”

Beginning Page 2 Regarding Genesis Creation stories:

“It is obvious” none of the stories are based on human memory, nor are they modern science accounts of the physical world’s origin or nature. The stories are Non Scientific. It is a naive and futile exercise to attempt to reconcile Bible creation stories and modern science.  Any “correspondences” discovered or ingeniously established are nothing more than coincidence.  

The book also provide many points of contact with ancient near east mythology with Genesis creation. stories. Beginning page 39 The  Flood story - The Torah used very ancient traditions adapted for it’s own purpose. }

The Anchor Bible - Genesis E.A, Speiser 1964 translates and explains as follows:

Page 3 

1 When God set about to create heaven and earth
2 the world being then a formless waste, with darkness over the seas....

Page 10 - the bible creation story is closely related to traditional mesopotamian beliefs and it may be safely posited the Babylonians did not take over these views from the Hebrews. He argues  the genesis account goes back to Babylonian prototypes.  

Page 13 Biblical writers repeat Babylonian formulation on sentence one, and Speiser elaborately justifies his translation.
{ UPDATE 2/18/2014 Page 53 Reading the Old Testament - by Barry Bandstra 1995 offers 2 translations of Genesis 1:1-23

Ex-Nihilo Genesis1:1  In the begining Elohim created heaven and earth

Creation from an existing material Genesis 1:1 When Elohim began to create heaven and earth 

Bandstra then says "The second option seems more consistent with the rest of the account and is the one we follow here" }
{Update 2/26/2014 Page 3 in Robert Alter's  book Genesis (1996) his translation of Genesis 1:1-2 as follows

When God began to create heaven and earth , and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep..

So we see Alter's translation follows creation from an existing material, and not ex-nihilo}

{ETA 3/8/2014 From the book Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Creation - Translated and annotated by Michael Linetsky 1988 

Genesis 1:1 uses the hebrew word BARA (bet - resh-aleph) typicaly translated as create. On page 4 note 16  Regarding the word BARA  "Ibn Ezra is merely out to show that this word is generally applied to creation from existent material and that there is no evidence in scripture that would show it to mean creation ex-nihilo.";  And on page 4, Genesis1:27 the same word BARA is used in relation to the creation of man, which the Torah teaches was from preexisting matter.}  

{ETA 3/8/2014 And from the book Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation by Norbert Samuelson 1994 on page 137 "Basing himself exclusively on the grammar of the terms within the Hebrew scriptures, Ibn Ezra rejects the claim that "BARA" must mean bringing something into existence out of nothing"}

{ETA 5/30/2014 Ramban interprets Ibn Ezra's opinion as on the first day ONLY LIGHT was created: " the beginning of creation of heaven and dry land there was no habitable place on earth; rather it was unformed and void and covered with water and G-d said, let there be light. According to Abraham Ibn Ezra opinion only light was created on the first day." In contrast Ramban holds there was creation Ex-Nihilo, creation out of nothing. Page 22 Ramban on Genesis by Rabbi Chavel 1999}

{ETA 9/28/2104 Page 42 The Oxford Bible Commentary 2001 "[Genesis] 1:2 refers to the situation before God's creation action began. There is no question here of a creation Ex-Nihilo, 'a creation out of nothing'. The Earth (haares) already existed, but it was a formless void (tohu wabohu) - not a kind of non existence but something empty and formless, without light and covered by the water of the deep (tehom). There are echoes here of Near- Eastern cosmologies." }
{ETA 12/13/2014 The book Jewish Philosophy by Aaron Hughes 2005, writes Gersonidis holds the world was created from a pre-existent and formless body. And from the Book History of Jewish Philosophy Volume II 1997 Editors Frank and Leaman page  363 "Gersonides disagreed with Maimonides claims, both that creation of the world was indemonstrable and that the world was created Ex-Nihilo."and on Page 381 "For Gersonides , one cosmological theory is true - creation out of Eternal matter..." }
ETA 12/27/2014 - Rashi explains Genesis as follows:

The plain meaning is "At the beginning of the Creation of heaven and earth when the earth was without form and void and there was darkness, God said let there be light."

We see Rashi reads translates Genesis like many, (probably most)  modern academic scholars.


Given that the Torah probably means no creation ex-nihilo, the  Kalam argument would actually disprove the Torah.

Theologians and Apologetics seem to be  left with two choices. Repudiate the Kalam. Or argue against all the Bible scholarly evidence for no creation ex-nihilo per the Torah and say the Torah really means creation ex-nihilo. 

There are creation myths from around the world that support creation ex-nihilo or creation from some prior substance and so which ever option the  Torah really meant proves nothing.

Even if we accept the premises, and assume the logic of the Kalam is sound, we can only  infer the universe has a cause, not that god or gods or alien beings are the cause. Nor can we infer the cause is some version of a Judaeo-Islamic-Christian god. The cause may be a monster. Consider life on earth operates on the concept of mutual consumption, and in common parlance the survival of the fittest. Also the earth with all it’s natural disasters and difficult conditions is a very inhospitable and dangerous place for living things.

 The cause may have been a quantum fluctuation or quantum tunneling or some other natural phenomenon.  Perhaps as scientists resolve the science in the very early universe the cause may become apparent.

Related posts are my 

Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated    6/11/14, includes Laws of nature from God ?

Proof of God from Big Bang  9/8/13

Genesis and the Big Bang  9/10/13 Some discrepancies between Genesis and modern cosmology  and why they are irreconcilable in intellectually honest manner.



Friedman - Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation 2001 by Richard E, Friedman

JPS  - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

No comments: