Con­tra­dic­to­ry Accounts of the Cre­ation in Gen­e­sis 1 and Gen­e­sis 2

Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi

This is not a new obser­va­tion. It has been long accept­ed by schol­ars that the cre­ation accounts in Gen­e­sis 1 and Gen­e­sis 2 are redact­ed by dif­fer­ent authors. Con­sid­er the following :

All you have to do to see that the Old Tes­ta­ment as we know it did not come straight from the pen of its sev­er­al authors, is to look at the first three chap­ters of Gen­e­sis. There you will find two quite dis­tinct accounts of the cre­ation of man. The account in the first chap­ter is star­tling dif­fer­ent from the account in the sec­ond and third.[1]

And we are fur­ther told that

There is no doubt that these two sto­ries of the cre­ation of man which have been set down togeth­er in the open­ing chap­ters of Gen­e­sis belong to very dif­fer­ent peri­ods. The sec­ond is by far the more prim­i­tive one, and between the writ­ings of the two nar­ra­tives about as much time elapsed, as has elapsed between the day of Christo­pher Colum­bus and our own. The dis­par­i­ty is obvi­ous from the char­ac­ter of the sto­ries them­selves : you can detect it in read­ing them along­side each oth­er in an Eng­lish Bible. If you were read­ing them in Hebrew you would be struck by the fact that through­out the first account, the word used for God” is from Elo­him”, while in the sec­ond the name assigned is that of Yah­weh”.

The use of the term Elo­him” goes fur­ther back, how­ev­er, than the date of the pas­sages in Gen­e­sis in which it is used. A study of var­i­ous pas­sages in the Hebrew Bible shows that there must have been orig­i­nal­ly two doc­u­ments, of which the author of the more prim­i­tive one used the name Yah­weh in refer­ring to God, while the author of the oth­er used the name Elo­him. Schol­ars call the first doc­u­ment J, from Jahveh” (“Yah­weh”), and the sec­ond doc­u­ment E, from Elohim”.[2]

Karen Arm­strong fur­ther informs us that though the above crit­i­cal method of dis­cern­ing the sources came under harsh criticism,

[…]nobody has yet come up with a more sat­is­fac­to­ry the­o­ry which explains why there are two quite dif­fer­ent accounts of key bib­li­cal events, such as the Cre­ation and the Flood, and why the Bible some­times con­tra­dict itself.[3]

Now let us refer to the cre­ation account as record­ed in Gen­e­sis 1 :

    1. In the begin­ning God cre­at­ed the heav­en and the earth.

    2. And the earth was with­out form, and void ; and dark­ness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spir­it of God moved upon the face of the waters.

    3. And God said, Let there be light : and there was light.

    4. And God saw the light, that it was good : and God divid­ed the light from the darkness.

    5. And God called the light Day, and the dark­ness he called Night. And the evening and the morn­ing were the first day.

    6. And God said, Let there be a fir­ma­ment in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

    7. And God made the fir­ma­ment, and divid­ed the waters which were under the fir­ma­ment from the waters which were above the fir­ma­ment : and it was so.

    8. And God called the fir­ma­ment Heav­en. And the evening and the morn­ing were the sec­ond day.

    9. And God said, Let the waters under the Heav­en be gath­ered togeth­er unto one place, and let the dry land appear : and it was so.

    10. And God called the dry land Earth ; and the gath­er­ing togeth­er of the waters called he Seas : and God saw that it was good.

    11. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yield­ing seed, and the fruit tree yield­ing fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth : and it was so.

    12. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yield­ing seed after his kind, and the tree yield­ing fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind : and God saw that it was good.

    13. And the evening and the morn­ing were the third day.

    14. And God said, Let there be lights in the fir­ma­ment of the heav­en to divide the day from the night ; and let them be for signs, and for sea­sons, and for days, and years :

    15. And let them be for lights in the fir­ma­ment of the heav­en to give light upon the earth : and it was so.

    16. And God made two great lights ; the greater light to rule the day, and the less­er light to rule the night : he made the stars also.

    17. And God set them in the fir­ma­ment of the heav­en to give light upon the earth,

    18. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the dark­ness : and God saw that it was good.

    19. And the evening and the morn­ing were the fourth day.

    20. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abun­dant­ly the mov­ing crea­ture that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open fir­ma­ment of heaven.

    21. And God cre­at­ed great whales, and every liv­ing crea­ture that moveth, which the waters brought forth abun­dant­ly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind : and God saw that it was good.

    22. And God blessed them, say­ing, Be fruit­ful, and mul­ti­ply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl mul­ti­ply in the earth.

    23. And the evening and the morn­ing were the fifth day.

    24. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the liv­ing crea­ture after his kind, cat­tle, and creep­ing thing, and beast of the earth after his kind : and it was so.

    25. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cat­tle after their kind, and every thing that creep­eth upon the earth after his kind : and God saw that it was good.

    26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our like­ness : and let them have domin­ion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cat­tle, and over all the earth, and over every creep­ing thing that creep­eth upon the earth.

    27. So God cre­at­ed man in his own image, in the image of God cre­at­ed he him ; male and female cre­at­ed he them.

    28. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruit­ful, and mul­ti­ply, and replen­ish the earth, and sub­due it : and have domin­ion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every liv­ing thing that moveth upon the earth.

    29. And God said, Behold, I have giv­en you every herb bear­ing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yield­ing seed ; to you it shall be for meat.

    30. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creep­eth upon the earth, where­in there is life, I have giv­en every green herb for meat : and it was so.

    31. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morn­ing were the sixth day.

Com­pare the above with the cre­ation account as per record­ed in Gen­e­sis 2, as follows :

    1. Thus the heav­ens and the earth were fin­ished, and all the host of them.

    2. And on the sev­enth day God end­ed his work which he had made ; and he rest­ed on the sev­enth day from all his work which he had made.

    3. And God blessed the sev­enth day, and sanc­ti­fied it : because that in it he had rest­ed from all his work which God cre­at­ed and made.

    4. These are the gen­er­a­tions of the heav­ens and of the earth when they were cre­at­ed, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

    5. And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew : for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

    6. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

    7. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nos­trils the breath of life ; and man became a liv­ing soul.

    8. And the Lord God plant­ed a gar­den east­ward in Eden ; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

    9. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleas­ant to the sight, and good for food ; the tree of life also in the midst of the gar­den, and the tree of knowl­edge of good and evil.

    10. And a riv­er went out of Eden to water the gar­den ; and from thence it was part­ed, and became into four heads.

    11. The name of the first is Pison : that is it which com­pas­seth the whole land of Hav­i­lah, where there is gold ;

    12. And the gold of that land is good : there is bdel­li­um and the onyx stone.

    13. And the name of the sec­ond riv­er is Gihon : the same is it that com­pas­seth the whole land of Ethiopia.

    14. And the name of the third riv­er is Hid­dekel : that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyr­ia. And the fourth riv­er is Euphrates.

    15. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the gar­den of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

    16. And the Lord God com­mand­ed the man, say­ing, Of every tree of the gar­den thou mayest freely eat :

    17. But of the tree of the knowl­edge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it : for in the day that thou eat­est there­of thou shalt sure­ly die.

    18. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone ; I will make him an help meet for him.

    19. 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.

    20. And Adam gave names to all cat­tle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field ; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

    21. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept : and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof ;

    22. And the rib, which the Lord God had tak­en from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

    23. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh : she shall be called Woman, because she was tak­en out of Man.

    24. There­fore shall a man leave his father and his moth­er, and shall cleave unto his wife : and they shall be one flesh.

    25. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. 

Upon com­par­i­sions with these two accounts, we notice the fol­low­ing differences :

  • Gen­e­sis Chap­ter 1 sets forth six days of Cre­ation, but Chap­ter 2 speaks of the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” 
  • Was the fruit trees cre­at­ed before or after men ? Gen­e­sis Chap­ter 1 states that the fruit trees were cre­at­ed before man, but Chap­ter 2 indi­cates that the fruit trees were cre­at­ed after man. 
  • Was the fowl cre­at­ed out of the waters or the ground ? Gen­e­sis 1:20 says that the fowl were cre­at­ed out of the waters, but Gen­e­sis 2:19 states that the fowl were cre­at­ed out of the ground. 
  • Where do we get light ? Gen­e­sis 1:2 – 3 asserts that God cre­at­ed light and divid­ed it from dark­ness on the first day, but Gen­e­sis 1:14 – 19 says that the sun, moon, and stars were not made until the fourth day. 
  • Was man cre­at­ed before or after the ani­mals ? Gen­e­sis 1:25 – 26 states that man was cre­at­ed after the oth­er ani­mals but in Gen­e­sis 2:18 – 19 man was cre­at­ed before the oth­er animals.

In light of these glar­ing con­tra­dic­to­ry dif­fer­ences, how can we say that the Bible is from God ?

Ref­er­ences

[1] Ged­des Mac­Gre­gor, The Bible in the Mak­ing, pp. 23 – 24

[2] ibid.

[3] Karen Arm­strong, A His­to­ry of God : The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam, p. 12Endmark

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