Biblical Creation: two Creation stories in the Bible?

Given that creationism vs. evolution is all the rage, I have a question for Biblical literalists - which creation story should I believe in literally? The first, contained in Genesis 1, or the second, contained in Genesis 2?

They are by no means compatible …

While I would agree that they are separate myths that have been placed together to explain creation in different ways, your statement will find a great deal of opposition from people who believe that they are perfectly compatible and I suspect that you will find this thread moving in a direction you had not intended.

Two theories-

The Gen 1 account of God creating humanity on Day 6 is the part of the General Creation account. The Gen 2 account of God creating Adam & Eve go into the specific details of what happened on Day 6. Most Christians I’ve known have held to this & I lean to it.

Alternately- Gen 1-Day 6 records the Creation of General Humanity, Gen 2 records the Creation of Adamic (God-ensouled) humanity, either seperately from General Humanity or out of General Humanity. I might be open to this but it has the problem of downplaying Day Six Humanity’s relationship with God plus the idea of General Humanity & Adamic Humanity lends itself easily to racist theory.

Why do you say that? Can you be more specific?

Sure, there are plenty of examples.

In Genesis 1.27, God creates humankind in the image of himself on the 6th day of creation:

“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

So, the story is clear: God created both men and women, in the image of God, all on the 6th day.

But wait! In Genesis 2.4 - 2.7, God creates heaven and earth in one day, and on that day he makes man, out of dust, and breathes life into his nostrils. That man was Adam. He was alone, so God made the animals for him (Genesis 2.18) - no doubt forgetting that he had already made some of these animals before he made man, on the 5th day of creation (Genesis 1.20) - and then, finding Adam was still lonely, he put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs, and made a woman - Genesis 2.22 - forgetting that woman had already been made, in the image of God, at the same time as man - see above.

So, when and out of what was woman created - Genesis 1 says, at the same time as man on the 6th day of creation; Genesis 2 says, man was made first, out of dust, and then woman was made, out of Adam’s rib.

Now, the problem only arises if you are supposed to take these stories literally - if so, which story has the true account?

Well, they aren’t compatible if they are taken to be factual historical accounts, which a fair number of Christians still try to do.

The first creation story is found in Genesis 1:1-2:3 (the “six days of creation” story); the second is found in Genesis 2:4-2:25 (the story of “Adam and Eve”, with that particular narrative strand continuing on in later chapters through the fall of man and expulsion from the Garden of Eden).

Fundamentally, the two stories simply have nothing to do with one another. They differ in every particular. As far as direct contradictions go, Genesis 1:11-13 puts the creation of vegetation on the third day, while Genesis 1:26-31 puts the creation of humans on the sixth day. However, as part the second creation story, Genesis 2:4-7 states that:

In other words, when a human is first created, no plant life exists anywhere on Earth, which directly contradicts the order of events in the first creation story.

The first creation story puts the creation of sea life and birds on the fifth day; land animals are created on the sixth day, before humans, culminating finally in the creation of humans at the end of the sixth day. The second creation story seems to imply that land animals and birds were created after humans. The New International Version translation linked to above translates the Hebrew verb tenses in a way which some argue eliminates this contradiction: verse 2:19 says “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (emphasis added). However, in the King James Version translation of the second creation story, 2:19 is translated as “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof”; this seems to show God creating the non-human animals for the first time here, after the creation of Adam but before the creation of Eve, and not before the creation of humans, both male and female, as the first creation story has it. (Most versions of 2:19 seem to agree with the KJV rather than the NIV translation.)

The problem with either explaination is that there are a lot of things “out of sequence” - not just the making of man & women.

For example, Genesis 1 is clear that certain animals were created the day before humanity - birds and fish, for example, were created on day 5. Yet Genesis 2 is quite specific - Adam was made first, and then God made “…every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man …”.

How can God make birds on day 5 and humanity on day 6 – and also make Man first, and then make birds and beasts for him?

A contradiction - both stories cannot be true; the second cannot be a “detailed” look at the first.

In fact, it almost seems that the two versions were written specifically to be as contradictory as possible.

There are at lest four interwoven narrative strands in the Pentateuch. Not all of these strands are found in the creationist story, but the two that are are the “Yahwist” narrative (also called “J”) and the Priestly version §. We know from both linguistic and stylistic analysis of the text that these are two different stories, written at different times by different people and set side by side as one story. The contradictions were not that important to those who edited these into a singular narrative because they were not Biblical literalists. What mattered to them was that God created everything, everything else, to paraphrase Rabbi Hillel, was just commentary. Here is a link which shows the breakdown of J and P as they pertain to the two creation stories.

A very interesting link, Diogenes.

I know next to nothing about the four different sources (though I have vaguely heard about the theory before). It does make a lot of sense, though.

I suspect that the stories were originally different creation traditions - maybe one from the north (Israel) and one from the south (Judah/Priestly)? - which were added together by the redactor, so as not to offend anyone.

The only problem this creates is for those who believe in a “literal” creation story - that is, Creationists. How can one be a “literal Creationist” when there are two contradictory accounts you are supposed to take literally?

For more on the theory of multiple authors, see Who wrote the Bible? Part I

In terms of the link that Diogenes gives, please remember that no one knows for sure. No one knows for sure that there were multiple authors, and, if there were, no one knows for sure which author wrote which sentences.

Dex, I think the issue here is that there are differing styles of narrative throughout the Torah, and while your point of lack of certain knowledge is well taken (and the traditionalist ascription of the whole thing, less the death of Moses, to his authorship, adds a fillip of questionability to it), the theory that those four distinct styles result from four different traditions has a lot of merit in it. I think the consensus is that there were probably not four different men, J, E, P, and D, who wrote specific sections of the Torah, but that four distinct narrative traditions were brought together to constitute the Torah manuscript we have today – presumably with compilers and editors redacting the traditional narratives into a single document.

No, it didn’t say that God created woman “at the same time as man.” It says that He created woman on the same day. There’s a difference. Genesis 2:4-7 doesn’t say how much time elapsed between the creation of Adam and that of Eve, so the latter could very well have happened on the same day.

As for Genesis 2:18, it does not say exactly WHEN Yahweh created the animals. In fact, the Hebrew verb used was “yatsar,” which can be translated in the pluperfect tense to mean “had formed” – that is, God had already formed the animals (i.e. He did so previously, prior to creating Adam), and only then brought the animals to Adam for naming.

Again, see my previous posting. It’s only a problem if you render “yatsar” as “formed,” when it can just as easily be rendered as the pluperfect “had formed” (i.e. denoting an event which had occured prior to the creation of Adam).

Not speaking Hebrew puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. :wink:

I can merely quote from my “New Revised Standard Version”:

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man …”

It seems in context indisputable that in Genesis 2, man was created first, and then the animals and birds.

The suggested term “had formed” makes very little sense in context - replace the term, and you will see:

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God had formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man …”

The term “then” which starts this section, and “will” - implying determination to do something - also have to be replaced - because they clearly implies that the sequence is:

  1. man created;

  2. God then realizes man needs partners, says he will make said partners; and then

  3. Animals created to be named by man.

Again, maybe the Hebrew version is entirely different. :wink: The various English translations will have to be completely re-written if that is the case - because, as it stands, Genesis quite clearly and most unambiguously reads as if the above sequence was correct.

I find it hard to believe that generations of the best translators in the world could have missed this, if in fact the Hebrew version says something totally different. :stuck_out_tongue:

Genesis 2:19-20 says that “…the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field” (using your preferred rendering of the verb tense). It’s only after Adam has given names to every kind of domestic animal, bird, and wild animal that God puts Adam to sleep and makes Eve from his rib. That strikes me as an awfully long day, and Adam must have been a pretty fast talker.

And you also have not addressed the discrepancy between the first creation story putting the creation of plants on Day 3 (before the creation of humans on Day 6), and the second creation story’s statement that “no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up” when God created Adam.

Ah, but Adam was only obliged to name the “kinds,” not the individual species – God trotted a bunch of rodents past him, and he called out “mouse, mouse, mouse, rat, mouse, hamster,” (snatches it up and puts it in a wheel to run a little generator – Adam was no dummy!) “mouse, rat, mouse, mouse…” (We won’t describe, out of respect for a fellow poster, his naming of waterfowl. :))

And I could quote from the NIV, which does use the pluperfect tense.

Human beings, even brilliant ones, will make errors. Moreover, the burden of proof rests on those who claim that a contradiction DOES exist. One might find it implausible that the translators committed this subtle error, but that does not prove one’s case. It does not constitute proof that a contradiction does indeed exist.

As Polycarp says, he only gave names to the kinds of animals. It does not say that he named every single animal, or even every single species. Indeed, the concept of “species” – in the modern, taxonomical sense – was doubtlessly unknown at the time.

No discrepancy here. You’re omitted the immediate context of that statement. Here’s what the New King James translation says,

The context of your quote shows that it was referring to the creation of the hevens and the earth. In other words, it was the heavens and the earth which were created before the plants, not Adam. Note, in fact, that verses 4 and 5 constitute a single sentence, as evidenced by the comma separating them.

Please do quote the passage from the NIV version, for comparison. In every single version I have seen, it is obvious what the sequence is - first man, then God’s statement of intent, and finally, creation of animals.

As for “burden of proof”, surely that must be on the person arguing for a strained or implausable meaning of the text, when an objective reading without preconceptions or a particular axe to grind indicates a clear interpretation.

There are two stages in interpretation: (1) figuring out what the text actually says; and (2) what this implies.

At stage (1), I say the text actually says the sequence of events is as described above. At stage (2), I say this contradicts Genesis 1.

You seem to work the other way: if a meaning (however unlikely) can be assigned to the work which makes the work consistent, it is to be preferred over one which does not - even if the plain meaning must be massaged or mangled in the process. In other words, you are working backwards from the result you want, and interpreting the text so as to get it.