Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 are a Single Narrative of Creation

This article is an extract from “The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1:1-11” by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati (pages 26-28).


One thing that confused Astruc and Wellhausen was the existence of a number of ‘doublets’.  Supposedly, Genesis 2:5-25 was a second creation account, which Documentarians believe is actually older than the ostensible first creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3), supposedly by the late P author(s).  They were unaware that recapitulation was a common literary style in the Ancient Near East.  As explained by Gleason Archer (1916-2004), Professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois:

“[The] technique of recapitulation was widely practiced in ancient Semitic literature.  The author would first introduce his account with a short statement summarising the whole transaction, and then he would follow it up with a more detailed and circumstantial account when dealing with matters of special importance”.

Thus Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a summary outline of the whole creation, in chronological order.  This culminates with man being created in God’s image and given dominion over creation.  Genesis 2:5-25 focuses on the creation of man and woman, expands on their order of creation and their marriage, how man’s authority over creation was emphasized with the naming of the animals, and preparation of their home and occupation.  So the difference in styles is due to the difference in subject matter, not different authors.  Herbert Carl Leupold (1891-1972), a conservative Lutheran who was Professor of Old Testament Exegesis in the Capital University Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, responds to the JEDP view:

“It is also asserted that the writer of this portion [Gen 2:4ff] uses a vocabulary different in many other noticeable aspects from that of the author of the first chapter.  It certainly cannot be denied that quite a number of different words occur in this chapter.  But the far simpler and very evident reason is not change of author but change of subject matter.  When a new subject is taken in hand, new words must needs be employed to describe it.  Self-evident as this is, we have never seen a critic face this argument squarely”.

E. J. Young (1907-1968), who was an Old Testament scholar at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, points out:

“There are different emphases in the two chapters….but the reason for these is obvious.  Chapter 1 continues the narrative of creation until the climax, namely, man made in the image and likeness of God.  To prepare the way for the account of the fall, chapter 2 gives certain added details about man’s original condition, which would have been incongruous and out of place in the grand, declarative march of chapter 1”.

Kenneth Matthews, Professor of Divinity and Old Testament at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, explains:

“Studies in the rhetorical features of 1:1-2:3 and 2:4-25 have shown that they are two complementary descriptions that present a congruent narrative, the second picking up on the skeletal telling of the former.  They possess a number of similarities in literary structure and content that recommend that they are the product of one hand.  Scholars are recognizing that chaps. 1 and 2 are not a repetition of the same matters that in places are at odds with one another, but rather chap. 2 is a thematic elaboration of the key features found in 1:1-2:3”

Kenneth Kitchen (b. 1932), one of Britain’s founding Egyptologists, says much the same, and is scathing of the Documentary Hypothesis:

“It is often claimed that Genesis 1 and 2 contain two different creation narratives.  In point of fact, however, the strictly complementary nature of the ‘two’ accounts is plain enough: Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the centre of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting.  There is no incompatible duplication here at all.  Failure to recognize the complementary nature of the subject-distinction between a skeleton outline of all creation on the one hand, and the concentration of detail on man and his immediate environment on the other, borders on obscurantism”.


Sarfati, Dr Jonathan, “The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1:1-11”, section on “Recapitulation” p. 26-28), published and copyright Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, Georgia, USA,

Sources as given by Dr Sarfati:

Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p.118, 1964.

Leupold H. C., Exposition of Genesis 1: 107, 1942.

Matthews notes: J. B. Doukhan has shown that 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-25 are each built on seven sections (The Genesis Creation Story: Its Literary Structure, 78-79, 1978).  “God said” occurring nine times in 1:3-31, is matched by the nine occasions of “Yahweh God did/said” in 2:7-22…

Matthews K.A. , The New American Commentary; Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol 1A0, pp. 188-189, 1996.

Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, pp. 116-117, 1966.