What is the Relationship Between the Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?


(system) #1

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/what-is-the-relationship-between-the-creation-accounts-in-genesis-1-and-2

(Jay Johnson) #2

Well done, Richard. Thanks for a concise statement of the possible readings and the problems with each. Not easy to do in few words! I think it is particularly important to recognize, as you have, the internal structure of the final form of the book, which hangs upon the tôledôt heading. I particularly liked the characterization of Gen. 1 as call and Gen. 2 as response. This was new to me, and thought provoking. Thanks.

I have recently seen proponents of a recent Adam proposing that Genesis 1 tells the story of the creation of mankind through evolution, but Genesis 2 tells the story of the (much later) special creation of the man named Adam. This seems identical to the old “Gap Theory” of Genesis 1, which postulated a gap of time between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2, only this time, the gap is between Gen. 2:3 and 2:4. I was wondering if you have an opinion on this idea?


(J Richard Middleton) #3

Thanks, Jay.

The call-response model, linked to the toledoth headings, is the account of the relationship of Genesis 1 and 2ff. that I proposed initially over a decade ago in my book The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Brazos, 2005).

I myself don’t buy the distinction between Genesis 1 as the origin of humanity and Genesis 2 as the origin of “Adam” as a special creation. I’m not absolutely sure about the motivation for making this distinction, but it seems like an attempt to keep a traditional view of “Adam” by special pleading (an anthropological version of the attempt to “save the appearances” with regard to the cosmos, as in days gone by).

But I may be wrong about that.


(Phil) #4

I read somewhere that the Gen 1 and Gen 2 accounts came from different cultures, one a coastal culture and the second a desert culture. Any thoughts about that?
Enjoyed the article, good stuff.


(J Richard Middleton) #5

Well, Israel is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the desert, so both sorts of geographies could be drawn on.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

Genesis 1 seems more likely to come from a river culture. God causes the earth to produce vegetation after the waters recede, just as a farmer grows his crops when the flood water recedes.

My guess is that Genesis 2-3 is probably the original Hebrew creation story. There’s probably a common origin between Genesis 2-3 and the story of Pandora’s Box. Likely there is a Canaanite link somewhere, given the heavy reliance of Greek Mythology on Canaanite Mythology. The god Adonis is known to have a Semitic origin, for example.


(J Richard Middleton) #7

It does make sense to think that Genesis 1, where the earth starts covered with water, was not original to Israel, where desertification was more typically a problem.

Many biblical scholars (me included) have noted various parallels (and conflicts) between Genesis 1 and Mesopotamian creation theology, especially Enuma Elish, where water (the ocean) is seen as a threat and used to picture cosmic origins before land appeared. So I think that Genesis 1 seems to be written in response to a Mesopotamian picture of things.

Beyond that, however, it begins to get speculative.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

I’ll admit it was ‘my guess’. I find the use of the title ‘Elohim’ indicates a Post-Exilic origin for Genesis 1. Using a pluralistic term for a single god is has correspondences with the Akkadian term ‘Ilanu’.


(Jay Johnson) #9

Since you’re too polite, I’ll link it for you: The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1

This is one of those books that I feel like I’ve read, even though I haven’t, simply because so many other sources refer to it. If it’s any consolation, it just went to No. 1 with a bullet on my “want list”! haha.


(Lynn Munter) #10

I am still curious how well an interpretation of the “shrubs of the field” and “herbs of the field” as referring only to cultivated plants would stand up to scholars of the language. Anyone have a good link or two exploring the issue?


(Jay Johnson) #11

Mark Futato’s article Because it Had Rained: A Study of Genesis 2:5-7 With Implications for Genesis 2:4-25 and Genesis 1:1-2:3 does a pretty good job of it. A short excerpt:

"Verse 5a articulates the twofold problem: “No s´îah.-has´s´a-deh had yet appeared in the land, and no e-s´eb-has´s´a-deh had yet sprung up.” Some commentators make no attempt to specify the kinds of plants these two phrases have in view, but take them as general references to vegetation.

“Claus Westermann, on the other hand, has provided some specificity: s´îah. describes mainly but not exclusively shrubs or the wild shrubs of the steppe (Gen 21:15; Job 30:4, 7), and e-s´eb-has´s´a-deh plants that serve for food or domestic plants. But even greater specificity is attainable. The phrase, s´îah.-has´s´a-deh, refers to the wild vegetation that grows spontaneously after the onset of the rainy season, and e-s´eb-has´s´a-deh refers to cultivated grains.”


(Lynn Munter) #12

Thanks, @Jay313! That’s a really good article, and draws a pretty clear picture.

It does skip over a little exactly what ‘hassadeh’ (of the field) means, and how it affects the words it attaches to. I was wondering if it always or usually refers to human endeavor?


(Jay Johnson) #13

You have officially exceeded my pay grade! It probably would help if I knew the reason behind your question. I assume it has to do with cultivation of plants in Genesis 2 and the much later invention of agriculture. Is that where you’re going?

It’s slightly off topic to his blog post, but perhaps @JRM could lend his expertise.


(Mark Moore) #14

The first toledoth (which goes all the way to 2:6 which is sort of a summary of conditions on earth before God’s interventions described in the preceding account) is creation telling its story of God’s interactions with it in ordering creation. You can almost think of it as a song or poem with several voices, earth, the sky, the cosmos, and High Heaven. God is creating in two realms at once. As part of that account Genesis 1:27 describes the creation of man. Again, in two realms at once. He creates “the Man” in heaven, a copy on earth which is Adam (and by extension Eve) and men and women generally (who are not yet in the image of God, just the likeness).

Adam is the recorder of the account in chapter one, and both this account and his own together form what is called the “Book of Adam” (Gen. 5:1). This is why the name for God is more personal once Adam starts writing in the summary of creation’s testimony and in his own following account.

Think of chapter one as “the rise and fall of the roman empire” and chapter two as “the life and times of Julius Caesar.”

The animals formed for Adam, if you look at the Hebrew, is a much more limited set of creatures than that made in chapter one, probably related to domestication and agriculture.

Form more details, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XRLDYJB


(Jay Johnson) #15

Thanks, but Middleton’s analysis is more coherent. I’ll stick with that.


(J Richard Middleton) #16

I’ve taken a look at Futato’s article and his arguments for the meaning of these two categories of vegetation seem valid (though I haven’t done serious study of the terminology myself).

I would, however, qualify the absolute sounding statement he makes that “The word, s´îah, occurs only four times (Gen 2:5, 21:15; Job 30:4, 7).”

He is correct that the noun s´îah (meaning bush) occurs in only four places in the OT and suggests (from the context) naturally growing vegetation in the wilderness rather than cultivated plants.

But s´îah has another (more common) meaning in the OT, namely to muse, complain, meditate (a verb) and a meditation or complaint (a noun). So his statement needs nuancing.

As for what hassadeh means, it is literally “the field.” When attached to hayyah (living creature or animal) in Genesis 2-3 it means wild animal (field works here the way we distinguish field mouse from city mouse in the fable). So it would be logical to see s´îah hassadeh as a wild bush/plant.


(Mark Moore) #17

The link to his original post was small it did not even occur to me to click on it. I just thought you were asking a question. I just read his link. It is excellent and it seems we have a lot of the same ideas. I am interested in learning more about his work.


(Lynn Munter) #18

Interesting! So then would it make the other reference to wild grains? That seems counter to its other uses!


(J Richard Middleton) #19

Good question. I’d have to do some research on that. It is possible that the idea is that humanity cultivates wild grains and thus domesticates them. As far as I can tell the phrase eseb-hassadeh occurs only four times in the OT, twice in the Garden story (Gen 2:5; 3:18) and twice in the description of what was destroyed in the plague of hail on Egypt (Exod 9:22 and 25).


(Jay Johnson) #20

Ah. Whenever a topic shows up in discussion forum with the “dove” icon generated by the system, it is a discussion of the blog post. Sometimes these wander away from the OP, but the intent is to discuss the article.