After years of agonizing over the literal days of creation in Genesis, I decided to spend time researching this problem at the London School of Jewish Studies in Hendon, England. After all, I thought, why shouldn’t I go to the natural Jewish vine for some answers? (Of course, one should be cautious to distinguish between real exegesis of the Word of God, which must always overrule the ‘traditions of men’ [Mark 7:13], and we’ll see some examples. Although not covered here, it applies especially to modern Judaic revisionism of the Messianic passages after the rise of Christianity.1)
On my arrival, a Yeshiva (religious study group) was in process among the Orthodox students. But I was shown to the library where a bearded Rabbi pulled out the best conservative commentaries on the days of creation, along with the Talmud. This is the code of Jewish oral tradition interpreting the Torah or the Law of Moses, completed in the 5th century AD.2
Eager to study, I took notes from these learned works, which had been compiled by some of the most eminent scholars in Judaism. It was a strange experience being surrounded by Orthodox Jews meticulously scrutinizing ancient books. After days of careful study of the conservative Rabbinical scholars, I had my answer: the days of Genesis were literal.
I turned to Rabbi Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra’s commentary on Genesis. This scholar (c. 1089–1167) from medieval Spain is highly regarded in traditional Rabbinical circles, and his commentary was highly commended by Maimonides (1135–1204). Maimonides (a.k.a. Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or the acronym Rambam) has been considered the key figure in Judaism since the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.
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