Jewish views on evolution includes a continuum of views about evolution, creationism, and the origin of life. Today, many Jews accept the science of evolutionary theory and do not see it as incompatible with traditional Judaism, thus endorsing theistic evolution.
The vast majority of classical Rabbis believed that God created the world close to 6,000 years ago, and created Adam and Eve from clay. This view is based on a chronology developed in a midrash, Seder Olam[disambiguation needed], which was based on a literal reading of the Book of Genesis. It is attributed to the TannaYose ben Halafta, and covers history from the creation of the universe to the construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Although a literal approach is not always used when interpreting the Torah, there is a split over which parts are literal.
Most modern rabbis  believe that the world is older, and that life as we know it today did not always exist. They believe such a view is needed to accept scientific theories, such as the theory of evolution. Rabbis who had this view based their conclusions on verses in the Talmud or in the midrash. For example:
In his commentary on the Torah, Rabbi Bahya ben Asher (11th century, Spain) concludes that there were many time systems occurring in the universe long before the spans of history that man is familiar with. Based on the Kabbalah he calculates that the Earth is billions of years old.
Some medieval philosophical rationalists, such as Maimonides and Gersonides held that not every statement in Genesis is meant literally. In this view, one was obligated to understand Torah in a way that was compatible with the findings of science. Indeed, Maimonides, one of the great Rabbis of the Middle Ages, wrote that if science and Torah were misaligned, it was either because science was not understood or the Torah was misinterpreted. Maimonides argued that if science proved a point that did not contradict any fundamentals of faith, then the finding should be accepted and scripture should be interpreted accordingly. For example, in discussing Aristotle's view that the universe had existed literally forever, he argued that there was no convincing rational proof one way or the other, so that he (Maimonides) was free to accept, and therefore did accept, the Biblical view that the universe had come into being at a definite time; but that had Aristotle's case been convincing on scientific grounds he would have been able to reinterpret Genesis accordingly. With regard to Genesis, Maimonides stated that "the account given in scripture is not, as is generally believed, intended to be in all its parts literal." Later in the same paragraph, he specifically states that this applies to the text from the beginning to the account of the sixth day of creation.
Nahmanides, often critical of the rationalist views of Maimonides, pointed out (in his commentary to Genesis) several non-sequiturs stemming from a literal translation of the Bible's account of Creation, and stated that the account actually symbolically refers to spiritual concepts. He quoted the Mishnah in Tractate Hagigah which states that the actual meaning of the Creation account, mystical in nature, was traditionally transmitted from teachers to advanced scholars in a private setting. Many classic Kabbalistic sources mention Shmitot - cosmic cycles of creation, similar to the Indian concept of yugas. Nahmanides' disciple, Rabbi Isaac of Akko, a prominent Kabbalist of 13th-century, held that the Universe is about 15 billion years old. According to the tradition of Shmitot, Genesis talks openly only about the current epoch, while the information about the previous cosmic cycles is hidden in the esoteric reading of the text.
A literal interpretation of the biblical Creation story among classic rabbinic commentators is uncommon. Thus Bible commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra (11th Century) wrote,
If there appears something in the Torah which contradicts reason…then here one should seek for the solution in a figurative interpretation…the narrative of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for instance, can only be understood in a figurative sense.
One of several notable exceptions may be the Tosafist commentary on Tractate Rosh Hashanah, where there seems to be an allusion to the age of creation according to a literal reading of Genesis. The non-literal approach is accepted by many as a possible approach within Modern Orthodox Judaism and some segments of Haredi Judaism.
Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh, an ItalianKabbalist, wrote that were evolution to become a mainstay of scientific theory, it would not contradict the Torah as long as one understood it as having been guided by God.
Rabbi Israel Lipschitz of Danzig (19th century) gave a famous lecture on Torah and paleontology, which is printed in the Yachin u-Boaz edition of the Mishnah, after Massechet Sanhedrin. He writes that Kabbalistic texts teach that the world has gone through many cycles of history, each lasting for many tens of thousands of years. He links these teachings to findings about geology from European, American and Asian geologists, and from findings from paleontologists. He discusses the wooly mammoth discovered in 1807 Siberia, Russia, and the remains of several then-famous dinosaur skeletons recently unearthed. Finding no contradiction between this and Jewish teachings, he states "From all this, we can see that all the Kabbalists have told us for so many centuries about the fourfold destruction and renewal of the Earth has found its clearest possible confirmation in our time."
When scientists first developed the theory of evolution, this idea was seized upon by Rabbis such as Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the Netziv, who saw Kabbalah as a way to resolve the differences between traditional readings of the Bible and modern day scientific findings. He proposed that the ancient fossils of dinosaurs were the remains of beings that perished in the previous "worlds" described in midrash and in some Kabbalistic texts. This was the view held by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934–1983).
Samson Raphael Hirsch
In the late 1880s, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an influential leader in the early opposition to non-Orthodox forms of Judaism, wrote that while he did not endorse the idea of common descent (that all life developed from one common organism), even if science ever did prove the factuality of Evolution, it would not pose a threat to Orthodox Judaism's beliefs. He posited that belief in Evolution could instead cause one to be more reverent of God by understanding His wonders (a master plan for the universe).This will never change, not even if the latest scientific notion that the genesis of all the multitudes of organic forms on earth can be traced back to one single, most primitive, primeval form of life should ever appear to be anything more than what it is today, a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact. Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, Jewish thought, unlike the reasoning of the high priest of that notion, would nonetheless never summon us to revere a still extant representative of this primal form as the supposed ancestor of us all. Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of "adaptation and heredity" in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures. (Collected Writings, vol. 7 pp. 263-264)
By the early to mid-1900s, the majority of Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism came to accept the existence of evolution as a scientific fact. They interpreted Genesis and related Jewish teachings in light of this fact.
The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has "maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis." Prominent Orthodox rabbis who have affirmed that the world is older, and that life has evolved over time include Israel Lipschitz, Sholom Mordechai Schwadron (the MaHaRSHaM) (1835–1911), Zvi Hirsch Chajes (1805–1855) and Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935). These rabbis proposed their own versions of theistic evolution, in which the world is older, and that life does evolve over time in accord with natural law, painting natural law as the process by which God drives the world.
There is, in parallel, a discussion on this subject by scientists in the Orthodox Jewish community. One of the most prominent is Gerald Schroeder, an MIT trained physicist. He has written a number of articles and popular books attempting to reconcile Jewish theology with modern scientific findings that the world is billions of years old and that life has evolved over time. His work has received approbations from a number of Orthodox rabbinic authorities. Other physicists writing on this topic include Alvin Radkowsky, Nathan Aviezer, Herman Branover, Cyril Domb, Aryeh Kaplan and Yehuda (Leo) Levi.
Various popular works, citing an array of classical, Orthodox views, attempt to reconcile traditional Jewish texts with modern scientific findings concerning evolution, the age of the earth and the age of the Universe; these include:
Conservative Judaism embraces science as a way to learn about God's creation, and like Orthodox and Reform Judaism, has not found the theory of evolution a challenge to traditional Jewish theology. The Conservative Jewish movement has not yet developed one official response to the subject, but a broad array of views has converged. Conservative Jews teach that God created the universe and is responsible for the creation of life within it, but proclaims no mandatory teachings about how this occurs.
Many Conservative Rabbis embrace the term theistic evolution, and reject the term intelligent design. Conservative rabbis who use the term intelligent design in their sermons often distinguish their views from the Christian use of the term. Like most in the scientific community, they understand "intelligent design" to be a technique by Christians to insert religion into public schools, as admitted in the Intelligent design movement's "wedge strategy".
Conservative Judaism strongly supports the use of science as the proper way to learn about the physical world in which we live, and thus encourages its adherents to find a way to understand evolution in a way that does not contradict the findings of scientific research. The tension between accepting God's role in the world and the findings of science, however, is not resolved, and a wide array of views exists. Some mainstream examples of Conservative Jewish thought are as follows:
Rabbi Michael Schwab writes:...the Jewish view on the first set of questions is much closer to the picture painted by adherents to intelligent design than to those who are strict Darwinians. Judaism, as a religion, and certainly Conservative Judaism, sees creation as a purposeful process directed by God, however each individual defines the Divine. This is clearly in consonance with the theory of Intelligent Design. What Darwin sees as random, we see as the miraculous and natural unfolding of God’s subtle and beautiful plan....However, as unlikely as it may seem, this does not mean for one moment that Judaism’s view rejects wholesale the veracity of Darwin’s theory. In fact, I believe that it is easy to incorporate Darwin and Intelligent design into a meaningful conception of how we humans came into being...We have frameworks built into our system to integrate the findings of science into our religious and theological beliefs. That is because we believe that the natural world, and the way it works, was created by God and therefore its workings must be consistent with our religious beliefs....One of the most well known ways our tradition has been able to hold onto both the scientific theory of evolution as well as the concept of a purposeful creation was by reading the creation story in Genesis in a more allegorical sense. One famous medieval commentary proclaims that the days of creation, as outlined in the book of Bereshit, could be seen as representative of the stages of creation and not literal 24 hour periods. Thus each Biblical day could have accounted for thousands or even millions of years. In that way the progression according to both evolution and the Torah remains essentially the same: first the elements were created, then the waters, the plants, the animals, and finally us. Therefore, Genesis and Darwin can both be right in a factual analysis even while we acknowledge that our attitudes towards these shared facts are shaped much more strongly by the Torah – we agree how the process unfolded but disagree that it was random.Parshat Noah -- November 4, 2005, How Did We Get Here? Michael Schwab
Rabbi Lawrence Troster is a critic of positions such as this. He holds that much of Judaism (and other religions) have not successfully created a theology which allows for the role of God in the world and yet is also fully compatible with modern day evolutionary theory. Troster maintains that the solution to resolving the tension between classical theology and modern science can be found in process theology, such as in the writings of Hans Jonas, whose view of an evolving God within process philosophy contains no inherent contradictions between theism and scientific naturalism.Lecture God after Darwin: Evolution and the Order of Creation October 21, 2004, Lishmah, New York City, Larry Troster
In a paper on Judaism and environmentalism, Troster writes:Jonas is the only Jewish philosopher who has fully integrated philosophy, science, theology and environmental ethics. He maintained that humans have a special place in Creation, manifest in the concept that humans are created in the image of God. His philosophy is very similar to that of Alfred North Whitehead, who believed that God is not static but dynamic, in a continual process of becoming as the universe evolves.From Apologetics to New Spirituality: Trends in Jewish Environmental Theology, Lawrence Troster
Whilst the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements have stated that they feel there is not a conflict between evolutionary theory and the teachings of Judaism, some Haredi rabbis have remained staunchly opposed to certain teachings in evolutionary theory. In contrast with the literalist biblical interpretation of some Christian creationists, they express an openness to multiple interpretations of Genesis, through Jewish oral tradition and Jewish mysticism. They have also expressed an openness to evolutionary theory in biology, except where they perceive that it is in conflict with the Torah's account of creation.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, a highly revered American Haredi Rabbi of the Lithuanian Yeshivah Tradition, who was also highly respected in Hasidic communities such as Satmar, was strongly opposed to the theory of evolution, and wrote strong polemics against evolution in several of his books, as well as speaking about this subject often in his popular lectures, taking a Creationist position. Several selections from his books on this subject were collected in a pamphlet he published in 1995 called "The Universe Testifies".
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Rebbe of the worldwide movement of Lubavticher or ChabadHasidism, was avidly opposed to evolution, and his following remains largely committed to that position, though individual Chabad Hasidim may hold different views.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel, writes a weekly column that is widely syndicated in the Jewish press. As an opponent of Darwinian evolutionary theory, Shafran is careful to distinguish the Jewish perspective from that of Christian fundamentalism. He writes, "An unfortunate side-effect of our affirmation of purpose in creation at a time of controversy is the assumption made by some that we believing Jews share some other groups’ broader skepticism of science. But while Torah-faithful Jews reject the blind worship of science, we do not regard science as an enemy." Quite the contrary, Shafran remarks, Judaism seeks to learn as much as possible from God's creation.
Shafran also rejects the literalism of Christian fundamentalism. He writes, "Nor is 'Biblical literalism' a Jewish approach. Many are the p’sukim (verses) that do not mean what a simple reading would yield." To Shafran, the Jewish oral tradition is the key to the true meaning of the Torah's words. "There are multiple levels of deeper meanings inaccessible to most of us. The words of Breishis (Genesis, AshkenaziHebrew) and the Midrashim thereon hide infinitely more than they reveal. It is clear that the Torah describes the creation of the universe as the willful act of HaKodosh Boruch Hu (the Holy One), and describes creation as having unfolded in stages. But details are hardly provided."
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895–1986), an Orthodoxposek who was known for his opposition to evolution, was one of the most famed Orthodox rabbis and decisors of Jewish Law for the ultra-Orthodox community. Rabbi Feinstein ruled that the reading of an evolutionary textbook is unequivocally forbidden, because belief in evolutionary history is tantamount to apikorsus (Hebrew, heresy). If a textbook was indispensable for other purposes, Feinstein directed that those pages containing references to evolution be torn out and discarded.
Rabbi Shafran's comments on intelligent design illustrate the distinction that Feinstein was making, that there is an essential difference between animals and humans that evolution does not uphold.
There is simply no philosophically sound way of holding simultaneously in one’s head both the conviction that we are mere evolved animals and the conviction that we are something qualitatively different. And no way to avoid the fact that when schoolchildren are taught biology, if they are taught to embrace the one, they are being taught to shun the other."
Torah MiTzion is a religious Zionist movement in Israel that promotes Torah study together with service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In a commentary printed in the organization's weekly newsletter, a writer states that study of evolution itself does not present a conflict with Jewish Law:
If biology is so prized a discipline, then so must be evolution — a central pillar of the life sciences. It is indisputable that organisms adapt to the environment via natural selection, as is evident for instance, by the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antiretroviral-resistantHIV. Further indisputable is the fact that the same DNA which encodes the blueprint for simple organisms also encodes the blueprint for higher organisms (including human beings) with exquisitely minor variations, demonstrating that evolution need not be limited to microbes. Hence, one might expect on the basis of the foregoing that Halacha would welcome the study of evolution with open arms.
Torah MiTzion resolves this conflict between Feinstein's responsa on evolution and the observations of science by distinguishing between "evolution that we can observe" and "evolutionary history." Its resolution of the matter allows for the study of evolution as a science, but forbids its use to "extrapolate backwards in time" to speculate on matters of creation:
Evolution that we can observe and measure with our senses is certainly part of the science curriculum that ought to be encouraged. But to extrapolate backwards in time on the basis of circumstantial evidence to so absurd an extent as to supplant the account of the creation of life given by the Torah with that of unverifiable human speculation is not a question of science but rather a revision of history.
In 2004-2005, three popular books by Rabbi Natan Slifkin (sometimes pronounced Nosson Slifkin) were banned by a group of Haredi rabbinic authorities on the grounds that they were heretical. Known to his admirers as the "Zoo Rabbi," Nosson Slifkin was the author of The Torah Universe, a series of books on science and religion that were widely read in Orthodox communities until they were suddenly banned. "The books written by Nosson Slifkin present a great stumbling block to the reader," the ban declared. "They are full of heresy, twist and misrepresent the words of our sages and ridicule the foundations of our emunah (faith)." The ban, which prohibited Jews from reading, owning, or distributing Slifkin's books, prompted a widespread backlash in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Jennie Rothenberg, reporting on this ban in the secular Jewish journal, Moment, asserted that the incident represents a major breaking point within ultra-Orthodox society. Rothenberg interviewed several rabbis who wished to remain anonymous. According to one of them, "Over the past 15 years, the rabbis of Bnai Brak and the more open American ultra-Orthodox rabbis have been split on a number of important policy decisions. The Slifkin ban is a huge break. It’s a kind of power struggle, and those who didn’t sign the ban are outraged right now. I’m talking about rabbis with long white beards who are furious about it." Slifkin’s views, according to this rabbi, are shared by countless figures within the ultra-Orthodox community. "He’s saying out loud what a lot of people have been talking about quietly all along. To those people, he’s a kind of figurehead." 
Several Modern Orthodox Jewish scientists have interpreted creation in light of both modern scientific findings and rabbinical interpretations of Genesis. Each of these scientists have claimed that modern science actually confirms a literal interpretation of Torah. All of them accept the scientific evidence that the age of the Earth and the age of the universe are on a scale of billions of years, and all of them acknowledge that the diversity of species on Earth can be explained through an evolutionary framework. However, each of them interprets certain aspects of evolution or the emergence of modern humans as a divine process, rather than a natural one. Thus, each of them accepts an evolutionary paradigm, while rejecting some aspects of Darwinism. Shai Cherry writes, "While twentieth century Jewish theologians have tended to compartmentalize science and the Torah, our Modern Orthodox physicists synthesized them.
Shai Cherry, Professor of Jewish Thought at Vanderbilt University, remarks that these Modern Orthodox scientists have rejected the approach taken by Jewish theologians. Theologians have tended to use later writings, such as Midrash and Kabbalah, to reconcile modern science with Genesis. The Orthodox scientists, by comparison, have largely ignored Jewish theology, in favor of a fundamentalist and literalist interpretation of Genesis. Yet in their writings, each of them seeks to reconcile science with Genesis. Cherry speculates, "They were targeting an American Jewish community that privileges science over Torah as a source of scientific knowledge. If Genesis could be shown to have anticipated Darwin or Einstein, then the Bible would regain an aura of truth that it had been losing since the advent of biblical criticism and modern science."
According to Cherry, the books of Aviezar, Schroeder, and Landa have each sought to strengthen Orthodox Jewry in a time of mounting secularization. Aviezar and Schroeder sought to prove that Genesis anticipates the findings of modern science, and thus increase its status. By contrast, Landa sought to remove a barrier to Orthodox commitment, by proving to secular Jews that Orthodox Judaism and modern science are compatible. At the same time, he sought to persuade students in his own Orthodox community that the study of science is not incompatible with commitment to Orthodoxy.
Nathan Robertson a researcher in Biophysics has also released a book titled "The First Six Days" which reconciles the scientific theory of the beginnings of the universe and life with the biblical account of creation. Rabbinical sources are cited from Nachmanides (Ramban) and Rashi along with kabbilistic interpretations of Genesis. Nathan reconciles darwinian evolution with the biblical account and states that at deeper levels of understanding of the biblical text and of scientific theory, the two worlds overlap. "As one studies Science to deeper levels and also tries to study Bereshis to deeper levels, both principles begin to converge on each other."
The movement for intelligent design claims that an intelligent creator is responsible for the origin of life and of humankind, and rejects evolution. Jewish theologians, organizations, and activists have maintained that intelligent design is not valid science but that it is a religious concept. Although some have expressed support for a theistic interpretation of evolution, they have generally rejected the tenets of the intelligent design movement. To Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, intelligent design is "their attempt to confirm what they already believe." Jewish organizations in the United States have been steadfast in their opposition to the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, charging that to do so would violate the separation of church and state.