If I was part of a different religion (or didn’t hold to one), I’d likely say one of the following things:
- “I told you this faith is a primitive folklore that you people took way too seriously”.
- “Sounds to me the editor couldn’t decide on one so he included both.”
- “Wait, I thought you said this text was inspired, why are there two conflicting accounts? Is God confused? Is there a such thing as inspiration?”
There are probably other things we can say here but that’s an adequate start.
So why the two creation accounts and what we do with some of the conflicting points?
The differences between the two accounts include:
- 1:1-2:3 is a stand alone passage. 2:4-4:26 is apart of a larger narrative that includes creation, the first generations of humanity, the fall, Cain and Abel, etc.
- Timelines – Ch. 1 gives creation in 6 days. Ch. 2 suggests one day.
- Order of events – Ch. 1 has plants, trees, animals, birds then humans. Ch. 2 cites humans first.
- Name and plurality of God – Ch. 1 – Elohim (God) – plural form. Ch. 2 YHWH Elohim (LORD God) – singular form
- God’s action in creation in different Hebrew words that have actual different meanings.
o “bara” 1:1, 21, 27, 2:4 – “to create” – divine creation out of nothing.
o “asa” – 1:24, 26, 31, 2:4, 18 “to do” – to make (out of something)
o “yasar” – 2:7, 8, 19 – “to form, shape or fashion” – like a potter would
The similarities include:
- Both proclaim God is the agent of creation.
- Both tell of creation of life in animals, birds, sea life, and human.
- Both give responsibility to humans.
Be fruitful and multiply
Fill the earth and govern it
Reign over the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, animals scurrying the ground.
- Both have creation has God’s intent.
- Both insist that Creation is very good.
So back to our question, why the 2 accounts?
I am not sure anyone on this side of eternity can perfectly answer that but here are a couple of thoughts. However I find that these two accounts together offers more of a complete portrait of God’s grandeur. Gen 1 offers an overall cosmic picture. Gen 2 concentrates more on humanity – God’s relationship to people. Other scholars and writers have noted the literary features the text provides in the similarities and differences.
Second, when considering the audience in the ancient world, the complimentary passages allows them to see a a relational, monotheistic God. This was a new concept to the ancient world whose gods were pantheistic and devalued the sacredness of human life. A loving God that created humanity in his own image was groundbreaking.
These two chapters do not undermine inspiration but in my mind, acts consistently with it. As many have often said, the Genesis account is not a science book, it is a revelation from a benevolent God that desires to be in communion with us.
And so the two accounts help us to see how God sees us. This is part of creation, part of God’s revelation. God places humanity at the highest place, we are his centerpiece and the Genesis narrative helps us understand this eternal truth.