Creation is defined as “The act of bringing something into existence. In religion, this refers to the creation of the world by God” (BBC, 2009). Creation narratives, of any religion, are some of the most fundamental and signature ideas of that religion. They are each religion’s grasp of the nature of the world, how we, as humans, and the entire universe, came to be, and could even be interpreted as giving meaning and ideas to the nature of G-d, or gods in the case of Hinduism. Hinduism and Judaism are among the oldest, most ancient religions in the whole world. Judaism formed in the middle east approximately 3500 years ago, (BBC, 2009). Hinduism, on the other hand, is dated to the Indian Vedic Era, and even perhaps pre-Vedic Era, and is dated to be approximately 4000 years old (Hall, 2018). This makes Hinduism a slightly older religion. However, some historians and scholars argue that Hinduism did not have a single starting point, and there was no one person who ‘founded’ the religion or single event which started off the religion. Judaism is argued to have either started by one individual, Abraham, or the revelation to the congregation of Israel of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Rather, Hinduism developed as a collection of beliefs and traditions that slowly evolved into what we would consider a religion. In fact, the term ‘Hindu’ comes from the Persian word ‘Sindhu’, which referred to the Indus River, and the area of what is now India – so the word Hindu has only been used as a word for the area, and only in recent centuries been associated with the set of beliefs we consider part of the religion (Knapp, 2018). One can already see differences in Judaism and Hinduism, as they formed in different manners. When examined and analysed, differences can be seen in the creation narratives of both religions, but interestingly, despite such different places and times of origin, similarities can be seen between the religions. To both religions, the creation narratives are the ways that humans, thousands of years ago before they could scientifically observe the origin of the universe, understood and explained the vast, chaotic uncertainty of the universe and its origin.
In Judaism, the world as we know it was created in six days by G-d, with the seventh day being allocated as a day of rest for G-d. According to the Torah, G-d created the world by speaking words, such as ‘Let there be light’. The creation, in Judaism, according to the Torah, goes as follows: on the first day, G-d created light, on the second day, G-d created the skies and named it Heaven, on the third day, G-d created the bodies of water of the Earth, put them in certain places to create land, and created plants to inhabit the land and water, which could produce its own seeds for reproduction. On the fourth day G-d created the sun, moon, and stars, and set times for days, weeks, months, seasons and years. On the fifth day G-d created fish for the seas and birds for the skies, and on the sixth day G-d created all the animals of the land, and from the mud He put his divine soul into it and granted him high mental abilities and the ability to speak, and this was the human. G-d put all the power over nature and other creatures into the human. G-d then used the seventh day as a rest day and blessed it (Isaacs, 1948).
In the perspective of the Hindus, creation is an infinite cycle of universes, all created and sourced by Lord Brahma, maintained and preserved by Lord Vishnu and destroyed by Lord Shiva. It is necessary for the universe to be destroyed and reborn, as some things in the world become evil and harmful, and so change is necessary for the creation of new things (BBC, 2014). It is also said that Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are aspects of Lord Brahma, who is the ultimate creator. Time is not a straight line, but an eternal cycle of universes being created, existing, and then being destroyed. It is a constant cycle of death and life, with no true beginning and no true end (BBC, 2014). This cycle of reincarnation is a common belief in Hinduism, as it applies to life as well as the nature of the universe.
Already, comparisons can be made about the nature and essence of time and creation in Hinduism and Judaism. In Judaism, creation is a fixed point in creation, and there was simply nothing before this, but chaos and nothingness. According to Judaism, the universe was created 5778 years ago (Maimonides, 1178). This shows that in Judaism, 5778 years ago, at the beginning of the year 0, the universe was created by G-d, and this was at a fixed point in time that happened once, and will not occur again. In Judaism, time is a straight line with the start being the creation of the world, and we are at a point on that line, at the year 5778. This can be contrasted to the Hindu view of time and creation. Subhamoy Das says:
“Most of us are accustomed to living life according to linear beliefs and patterns of existence. We believe everything has a beginning, middle and an end. But Hinduism has little to do with the linear nature of history, the linear concept of time or the linear pattern of life.”
The Hindu point of view is that time is eternal and non-linear. Creation wasn’t a fixed point in time, like in Judaism. In Hinduism, there are no fixed points in time, but rather a constant cycle of events, reincarnating into themselves, repeating over and over again. Death and rebirth are constant processes. The universe mirrors human life – birth, existence, death, rebirth. The universe goes through a constant cycle of this. This can be contrasted with Judaism, as in Hinduism, there is no concept of the ‘beginning’ of the universe. It is just infinite. In Judaism, there is an explicit concept of beginning, as the first words of the Torah are ‘In the Beginning’, and the name of the first book is ‘???????????’, meaning ‘In the beginning’. This shows that in Judaism, there is a clear concept of chronological structure to the universe, and there was a fixed creation. The fact that the first book is named ‘In the Beginning’, and that they are the first words of the Torah, shows that the concept of chronology is fundamental to Judaism. Furthermore, some Vedas mention that there are four epochs, or yugas, to each universe, before it is reborn. The four yugas are as follows: The Satya Yuga, which is the highest plane of existence. It lasts for around 1,728,000 human years, death only occurs when one wills it and it is known as the ‘Golden Age’. The next yuga is the Treta Yuga. It lasts 1,296,000 human years, lifespans are 10,000 years, and it is known as the ‘Silver Age’. Next is the Dvapara Yuga, which lasts 864,000 human years, lifespans are 1000 years, and it is known as the Bronze Age. Finally, it is the Kali Yuga – the yuga we, today, are currently in. It lasts around 432,000 human years, lifespans are around 100 years, and it is known as the Iron Age. (Morales, 1997) After all four yugas, the cycle restarts again, for eternity. There are some parallels between this and Judaism. Some Rabbis view it as metaphorical, but in the ancient times of the Torah, many people lived to be many hundreds of years old. For example, Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, lived to be 969 years old (“And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.” (Bereshit, 5:27)). Although not the same numbers, one can see that in earlier times, prior to our current existence, humans lived far longer than today in both religions. This comparison is interesting, as although in different ways and contexts, both religions share the idea of humans living longer in earlier periods. Perhaps this shows that to both religions, modern humans are not as enlightened, spiritual, and close to G-d as they previously had been.
Hindus have a multitude of different stories to explain creation, however, they believe that one can never truly know the power of Lord Brahma the creator, and all His divine secrets, and so one can never understand how the universe truly came into existence. One of the Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism, even states that the universe’s origins are unknown even to the gods, and that humans and gods are just inhabitants of the universe. This can be seen in the Hymn of Creation, from the Rig Veda:
“Who knows from whence this great creation sprang?
He from whom all this great creation came.
Whether his will created or was mute,
The Most High seer that is in highest heaven,
He knows it – or perchance even He knows not.”
In Hinduism, creation is an abstract concept, and so the true nature of creation is unknown. The Hindus have many different narratives concerning the origin of the universe, for example, one of the stories says that the universe was originally like a giant egg, and when Brahma created the universe, he cracked the egg open and existence is the yolk of the egg (BBC, 2014). There are many other stories, like this one, that try to explain the exact nature of creation. This contrasts Judaism, as in Judaism, it is known that G-d created the world in six stages (or days), and the nature of creation is explicitly mentioned at the very start of the Torah. In Judaism, there is one certain, concrete way that G-d created the universe, and it is accepted as the way it happened. In Hinduism however, it is not so certain, and some even say that not even Lord Brahma knows entirely how the universe was created. This is a direct contrast to Judaism. Hindu sees creation as nonconcrete. This shows that to Hindus, the universe has great secrets that no being knows, and that the gods are below the universe. It is the universe itself that is above everything, and unlike anything humans could understand. The gods are indeed very powerful, as they are gods, but they are still housed within the universe. In Judaism however, G-d is the supreme being and definite creator of the entire universe, and He is above it. As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says:
“As Creator of the universe, God’s existence cannot depend on any of His handiwork. God must be distinct from the world.”
Therefore, in Judaism, G-d is completely above the universe and is like an outsider to it. He is different to anything that can be imagined, and we are contained within the universe, away from G-d. This is different to Hinduism, as to Hindus, it is the universe that is above everything, including the gods, but in Judaism, it is G-d that is above everything, including the universe.
To conclude, the topic of creation is very different in Judaism to Hinduism, for instance in Hinduism, the universe is infinite in time, and time is cyclical – the universe constantly goes through the four yugas, as explored previously. In Judaism on the other hand, creation was one fixed point in time, and time is a linear concept, with a beginning, middle, and end. Despite the fundamental differences, some similarities can be drawn between Judaism and Hinduism. For example, both religions feature longer human lifespans in earlier periods of time, showing that the concept of periods of higher states of enlightenment, and periods of more closeness with G-d and spirituality, are shared between religions. Both religions were created in very different places, with very different people, under very different circumstances, therefore it is obvious that there would be many differences in ideas and concepts, but then it is fascinating to see the similarities. Judaism and Hinduism both feature different and similar stories of creation and different and similar ways of understanding the origin of the universe we live in.
BBC, 2009. Judaism at a Glance. Online Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/ataglance/glance.shtmlAccessed 21 January 2018.
BBC, 2014. Hinduism: beliefs about creation and evolution. Online Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/environment/hinduismbeliefsrev1.shtmlAccessed 21 January 2018.
Das, S., 2017. The Concept of Time in Hinduism. Online Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-concept-of-time-1770059Accessed 21 January 2018.
Hall, R., 2018. How OLD Are the Religions?. Online Available at: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/religion101/2012/10/how-old-are-the-religions.htmlAccessed 21 January 2018.
Isaacs, J., 1948. Creation of the World. Online Available at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/246605/jewish/Creation-of-the-World.htmAccessed 21 January 2018.
Kaplan, R. A., 2005. The Handbook of Jewish Thought. s.l.:Maznaim Publishing.
Knapp, S., 2018. ABOUT THE NAME “HINDU”. Online Available at: https://www.stephen-knapp.com/about_the_name_Hindu.htmAccessed 21 January 2018.
Maimonides, 1178. Mishneh Torah, 11:6. s.l.:s.n.
Morales, J., 1997. THE HINDU THEORY ON WORLD CYCLES. Online Available at: http://baharna.com/karma/yuga.htmAccessed 01 January 2018.
Rig Veda, Hymn of Creation, 10:129.
Torah, Bereshit, 5:27