Genesis 1 & 2: Different Accounts of Creation

A Literal Reading of the Creation Story?  Which One?

Excerpt from “Deliver Us From Evolution?” by Aaron R. Yilmaz, Copyright by Aaron R. Yilmaz, All rights reserved, Sehnsucht Publishing.

How many times is “sin” mentioned in the creation story?  In the story of Adam and Eve?  The story of the fall of man?  Many would be surprised to learn that sin is not explicitly mentioned once in the fall of man story (though it is implicitly).  Sin is not mentioned by name until Genesis 4:7, in reference to Cain and Abel.  Careful readers of Genesis will notice something that has puzzled believers for millennia: Genesis 1-2:3 appears to present one version of creation, whereas Genesis 2:4-25 seems to present a second, slightly different version.  Hereafter I will refer to the first account as Genesis 1, and the second account simply as Genesis 2.  Genesis 1 is the account most of us are familiar with and is the battleground where most of the creation versus evolution controversy takes place.

In Genesis 1, creation takes place over a period of six days.  As a quick Sunday School refresher, day one is light, day two is firmament, day three is dry land and plants, day four is “lights in the sky”, day five is flying and swimming creatures (note how God says, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures”), day six is land animals and people (male and female), and finally the seventh day is when God rested.  Alternatively, Genesis 2 suggests that all creation took place in one day.

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown.  For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground (Genesis 2:4-6, NKJV).  [Emphasis added].

According to Genesis 2, not only does creation occur all in one day, but the order of events is significantly different. In this account, man (Adam) is created, then the garden with trees and rivers is created (plant life); thirdly, land animals are created, and lastly, woman is created.  This contrasts sharply with Genesis 1, in which the order of these events is plants (day three), sea and flying animals (day five), and then land animals along with male and female humans (day six).  Furthermore, Genesis 1:20 seems to imply that the “waters” brought forth fowl (birds), whereas Genesis 2:19 says birds are formed out of the ground.

The overall structure of the two accounts is diverse as well.  In Genesis 1, God is portrayed as a God who is transcendent over creation and is speaking, blessing, dividing, and naming.  In the Genesis 2 account, God is portrayed in an anthropomorphic way and is described as being more active in creation – forming, breathing, building, planting, and putting Adam to sleep.  Moreover, the Genesis 1 account portrays creation as “good” and humans as ones given to dominion over creation.  Genesis 2 casts man as a caretaker and servant and places prohibitions on what he can and cannot do (i.e. avoiding the tree of knowledge of good and evil).

Even if we found a solution to explain away the differences in the two accounts (and many Christians have provided somewhat unsatisfying explanations that require a great deal of theological and semantical gymnastics), we are still left with some puzzling questions: How is light created on day one, but the sun and moon are not created until day four (Genesis 1:14-19)?  How could there be day and night if the moon and the sun did not yet exist?  Better yet, how are plants created on day three, but the sun is not created until a full day later?  And lest anyone think that the “framework” of Genesis meshes neatly with the fossil record (by providing an explanation of sequences of life forms appearing in the fossil record without invoking evolution), the fossil record suggests otherwise.  Flowering plants (plants that bear fruit and seeds) show up in the fossil record well after the first birds, and land mammals are present before birds.  This is in direct opposition to the order presented in Genesis 1.

The overall point I am trying to  make here is that even if you wanted to hold to a 100% literal reading of Genesis, you would have to embrace a good deal of things that at least on the surface appear to stand in contrast to each other.  When one tries to explain how Genesis 1 does not differ from Genesis 2, one is forced to read into the text things which simply are not there.  Or, one must try and force an awkward harmony by providing a lengthy explanation of what the text “really means”, or what would be a “better translation” of the original text.

Can we call a spade a spade? Let’s be honest for a minute and admit that Genesis is not as clear-cut and straightforward as we would like it to be.  It’s not as simple as, “Well the Bible says it, so I believe it”.  If you are a thinking person, then you naturally have questions when you read the Bible.  Let us push away from the kids’ table for a second and join the adults.  We must move from the “milk” to the “meat” and do the hard and uncomfortable work of reconciling the real world (God’s revealed truth) with God’s revealed Word.  God is not afraid of our questions; He can handle them, and He is not threatened by them.  If we truly believe that there is a God, and that He is the God of the Bible, then let us throw off the shackles of philosophical inhibition and ask the tough questions!

The only reason we have to fear honestly and openly investigating the evidence for evolution is if we believe, in the darkest corner of our hearts, that there might not be a God, or that He would be “dethroned” if evolution were found to be true.  As it turns out, God is not threatened by evolution, but we have been beguiled by extremists on both sides, who would have us choose between two narrow options, when in reality other possibilities exist.