Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote that the universe may indeed be 16 billion years old, as postulated by scientists. Is Rabbi Kaplan a heretic?
Rav Avraham, the son of the Rambam, wrote that the Talmudic Sages were imperfect in science. The Rambam himself disagreed with certain scientific statements in the Talmud, including the cosmological view expressed therein. Dr. Stern, are the Rambam and his son heretics?
I don’t know why Dr. Stern feels he must uphold the inerrancy of the Talmud; we have no such dogma. Regardless of his motives, I suggest that Dr. Stern open his eyes to the truth: there are scientific errors in the Talmud, and many great rabbis have been unafraid to acknowledge this fact.
Far Rockaway, NY
Truth Or Heresy?
In his letter to the editor, Dr. Stern reports being scandalized when he “recently heard someone proclaim that ‘scientific statements’ found in the Talmud are not to be accepted as truth because the rabbis of the Talmud were limited by the knowledge of the times in which they lived.”
I too have heard similar rumblings of heresy. Just recently I saw the following remarks made by an alleged Jewish authority and author of several popular books. He wrote, “Do not ask of me to show that everything they [Chazal] have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathematics were imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were men of knowledge in these fields or because they heard these dicta from the men of knowledge who lived in those times.”
The author, a certain Moses ben-Maimon (Guide, III:14, Pines translation), also known as the Rambam, clearly shows no shame in proposing that the scientific knowledge of Chazal was based on a mundane understanding of science in their own times.
Moreover, what he is suggesting – and it would be hard to read it any other way – is that if the Sages had lived in a later period they would have been informed and knowledgeable about current scientific endeavors, and their teachings would have reflected the most up-to-date knowledge in those fields. Have you ever heard a more disgraceful opinion?