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According to Jewish sources, the image of time as an entity or continuum (manifold time) was absent in ancient Judaism; reality and change were viewed as processes [Stern, 2007]. There are many major events in Jewish history that retain enormous cultural significance but are not used as temporal zeros (i.e. significant events used as starting points in a historical record). These include the Exodus from Egypt dating to around 1300 BCE, the destruction of the First Temple of Solomon by the Babylonians in 587 BCE, the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, and the more recent Holocaust. If any event were to be used as a temporal zero, it would probably be the creation of the world, calculated as 5751 BCE.


This religion is emphatically based on a linear image of time: God made the world in six days, Christ was born about 4 BCE and the day will come when the world ends. Bishop Ussher took this image so seriously that he analysed the Bible and concluded that:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. This beginning of time, according to our chronology, happened at the start of the evening preceding the 23rd day of October in the year of the Julian calendar, 710 (i.e., 4004 BCE)

[Ussher, 1658]


Like the Christians, Islamic theologians adopted the idea that time is linear. They went further in emphasizing its irreversibility and the value of not wasting it. Therefore, life should be structured around the most important activities. In Islam the most important activity is religious duty, so this leads to the regular, five-times-a-day prayer observation characteristic of that religion.

Islam developed an image of time that reverberates to this day. In the eleventh century CE, the Islamic polymath Avicenna [980-1037] doubted the existence of physical time, suggesting that time exists only in the mind due to memory and expectation. This is in accordance with our discussion earlier of the function of the temporal and frontal lobes.

The enduring legacy of the very influential Islamic scholar Algazel [10581111], discussed in Chapter 3, is the view in Islam that causality is synonymous with the will of Allah.

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