>Jay D. Homnick, in an article published in The Jewish Press discusses the biblical and Talmudic views of Creation. In his article Homnick deals with how the Talmud views and interprets God’s act of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. He also discusses the reluctance some people today have dealing with people such as Darwin and Dawkins and “their contention that the processes of natural development could have occurred without being set in motion and/or guided by a supreme Creator.”
In his article, Homnick also discusses how the Bible and the Talmud deals with the issue of prehistoric man. Interpreting passages such as Psalm 105:8 and 1 Chronicles 16:15, the Talmud says that there were 974 generations of prehistoric man that existed before Adam.
The following is an excerpt of Homnick’s article:
As startling as this approach must have been to the assumed orthodoxies in other religions and secular systems, nothing can compare in bombshell status to the biblically hinted, and Talmudically expounded, notion of prehistoric man.
The Talmud in Shabbos (88b) indicates there were 974 generations of prehistoric man. In Chagiga (13b) the Talmud sounds more like those generations were never actualized. The Midrash Rabba (Genesis 28) says they were wiped out.
While it remains somewhat unclear exactly what these 974 generations represent, this seems to be a matter of prime importance that is stressed in two verses (Psalms 105:8, Chronicles I 16:15). These verses point out that the Torah was given to the thousandth generation, which is explained by the Midrash to mean the 974 prehistoric generations plus the 26 from Adam until Moses.
Apparently, this highlights the high level of Torah – that it took a thousand stages in the creation of man, stages designated as “generations,” before man could receive such exalted wisdom.
The Jews traveled through history for millennia studying the Talmud and Midrash, comfortable with a unique concept of prehistoric man, a concept that gave that creature (or idea) a 974:26 edge in pre-biblical generations.
If geology and archaeology have indeed yielded specimens that are indisputably prehistoric men (I am not expert enough to be certain of this), they are substantiating one of the most mysterious parts of the Jewish intellectual tradition.
Personally, I do not believe that Psalm 105:8 is talking about prehistoric man. What amazes me is that many years before Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species and Richard Dawkins published his book The God Delusion, Jewish scholars were talking about prehistoric creatures that existed before Adam. What is also amazing is that they did not see the idea of the existence of pre-Adamic man as a threat to their faith.
Is there a lesson in the Talmud for twenty-first century Christians?
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary