Was the Universe Created 5783 Years Ago?
(Note: This article was written at the beginning of the Jewish year 5783.)
Was the Universe Created 5783 Years Ago?
Apparently, not according to the Rambam.
The Rambam does not seem to state anywhere a specific age to the Universe. It seems that according to the Rambam, those who claim the Universe was created at a specific time, such as 5783 years ago, are actually positing the existence of time before Creation, which the Rambam considered to be a heretical idea. According to the Rambam, the Universe was certainly created by Hashem in the finite past, and it did not exist forever, but we cannot say that it was created at any particular time. We must believe that the Universe had a beginning, but we cannot really state when the Universe was created. The Rambam discusses the nature of time and the nature of the Universe in the second section of his great Torah philosophy book "Moreh Nevuchim" (The Guide to the Perplexed), written in the 12th century CE. The viewpoint of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim is that time itself and the matter and energy of the Universe were created ex-nihilo (from absolutely nothing) by Hashem.
The Rambam's viewpoint implies that the current day "Orthodox fundamentalist" belief in a Universe created at a specific time (such as 5783 years ago) may actually be "heresy", because it invokes the existence of time before creation of the Universe, implying an eternal Universe. We cannot state a specific time that the Universe was created, as this would contradict the Torah by positing Aristotle's concept of the eternity of the Universe!
"The first opinion is that of all who believe in the Torah (teaching) of Moshe Rabbeinu. It is that the entire world, that is everything which exists other than God, was brought by God into existence after absolute nothingness...The correct position, in accordance with our opinion, is that time was created ex-nihilo along with all other objects and their accidental properties. Therefore, God’s creation of the world did not take place at any specific time, for time itself is included in the creation. Reflect upon this deeply in order that you will not bring upon yourself counter arguments which you will not be able to answer. Any positing of time before creation requires belief in the eternity of the world. For time itself is an accidental property (mikreh) and must therefore be a property of some other object. As a consequence, (for the world to have been created at a specific time) something must have existed before the world which we know of now. One must therefore free oneself from this viewpoint (i.e. that time was not created)." (Moreh Nevuchim II:13)
The Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim II:25 that a belief in a finite age of the Universe allows the Torah and miracles to become possible. In contrast to the Torah viewpoint, an eternal Universe or eternal Multiverse, as taught by Aristotle, philosophers, and/or certain modern Multiverse scientists, would be controlled only by scientific law, without the possibility of any Torah, any prophecy, or any miracles. This is because a Torah, prophecy, and miracles require the Creator's free will, which does not exist in an eternal Universe/Multiverse.
Modern science is consistent with the Rambam to a large extent on this. I have seen in a modern astrophysics textbook that time itself began (at the "Big Bang" singularity) so that we cannot state when the Universe began.
In a modern astrophysics textbook, it states an idea that is quite consistent with what Rambam wrote in the 12th Century CE! “it (the Big Bang) couldn't have occurred at a particular time, because time itself was created at the moment the Big Bang occurred.” (“Astrophysics is Easy”, p. 273)
The scientific evidence in modern times of a finite age of the Universe has profound implications for the existence of a Creator. Any beginning in time to the Universe and a beginning to the Laws of Nature requires a non-physical supernatural Creator who exists and operates outside the Laws of Nature.