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

(Lynn Munter) #21

I’ve been looking through Strong’s concordance for how “field” is used. It is mostly fields people plant or own or pasture animals or do battle on, or the food-producing open lands around a city, but there can also be hunting in the field. Beasts of the field definitely refers to wild animals AFAICT. There are also some references to trees of the field, which may refer to trees planted by people?

I hadn’t really thought about it before that even though Gen 2 opens with the lack of cultivated grains, it’s all just trees in the garden and it’s not till they get kicked out that they start to live off grains instead of fruit.

(Don Huebner) #22

Nowhere does Dr. Middleton ask what is the most fundamental question: Why are there two creations stories in early Genesis instead of just one? Without asking and, at least posing a reasonable answer to that question, there can be no meaningful discussion as to the relationship between the two creation versions. Source criticism, along with redactional criticism offer potential answers - but I would be curious what Professor Middleton has to say about this.

(J Richard Middleton) #23

This question depends on what you mean by “why?”

Is this a question about the historical circumstances of how there came to be two creation stories and then why they were combined (i.e., the motivation in the mind of the editor)? That’s a question that I really can’t answer. One can speculate that they came from different circles in Israel and had legitimacy at a certain time for different groups of Israelites. Then they were combined later in order to provide a unified origin account for all Israel. That’s plausible but purely speculative.

However, the question I did try to answer is the canonical question of how to read them together (which could be phrased as the question of why they were put together–namely, to communicate a fuller canonical picture of God’s intent for the flourishing of the cosmos and humanity).

I would add that I don’t think it logically follows that one can’t answer the canonical question I did without first answering the historical/redactional question.

(George Brooks) #24


This is a clear case where established schools of Evangelical theology do not want to answer this question. To answer the question is to acknowledge the question. A studied air of silence is by far preferred.

(Don Huebner) #25

Most of the essay by Prof. Middleton discusses the differences between the two narratives, and it is only in the last portion where he briefly discusses their theological commonality. So, I think my question is an obvious one to ask. As a PhD engineer (UCLA, Howard Hughes Doctoral Fellow), I long ago learned the importance of perceiving and asking the right questions. Unfortunately, I have observed that the vast majority of humanities scholars never learned or practice this. It turns out that the two creation stories offer a number of such intriguing questions whose answers can provide significant insight into how the combination of the two should be interpreted.

(Larry Bunce) #26

I found a good discussion on Genesis 1 vs 2 on a Catholic website. It brings up the genre issues that we have heard on BioLogos, although the author obviously believes that humans did not evolve from lower forms of animals.


(Denn Studd) #27

Thinking about this problem reminded me about the idea that the only way to understand Gen:1 to read it in Hebrew. I don’t do Hebrew unfortunately, but my understanding is that the story in Gen; 1 was written later than the one beginning Gen 2:4. My conclusion is based on the idea that the first story shares some similarities to the documents found at Ugarit, suggesting that it was adopted by Israel after Solomon’s death and added to the book of Genesis after the exile.
The first story reveals that Planet Earth was flat, and formed on a preexisting sea.
EL was, at the time of the exile, a Canaanite god with a wife and son [Ba’al], along with a divine council.
Many other texts appear to support rather than deny this idea. It therefore makes sense that the second story stands alone and is not a continuation of the first.
The flat earth idea was traditional Hebrew belief at the time and remained so until long after the time of Christ, while Paul speaks of three heavens.
John Walton turns Genesis one upside down suggesting that the first story relates to the construction of the temple, which is also interesting, and leaves the second story standing on its own as being of Judah, not Israel.

(George Brooks) #28


What do you think of the idea that the Genesis scribes seemed to want to dove-tail the two chapters together … as though to “suggest” that one chapter relates to the other … but with enough clues left in the two chapters so that “those who have eyes” would still see that they are separate stories?

(Denn Studd) #29

The language and name for God are obvious and well known differences, so is the idea that the animals were created after Adam, whereas in Genesis 1, they were created before.
The use of the plural “let us make man in our image” seems to support a Canaanite belief that was discovered at Ugarit in the 1920s.
People tend to be wary of any suggestion of plurality but we only know what the priests and/or scribes believed from the Bible.
Dr Mike Heiser has written profusely about the Divine Council, relating it to Psalm 82(?), translating from the Hebrew “bene elohim”. Dr Heiser is a gifted translator, fluent in at least ten ancient Middle-Eastern languages. My knowledge is minimal, but my interest is in fully understanding Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 as it was written, not from a modern perspective.

(George Brooks) #30


Well, now you have me quite intrigued. You are the first I’ve ever heard from about this Ugarit discovery that you say “seems to support” a Canaanite belief. Can you provide some details? A citation would be superlative… but I’ll gratefully receive whatever you can provide on this matter.

The Persian creation story was passed on to the West by, I believe (?), Plato which described the original state of humanity as dual-gendered spheroid humanoids. And that the reason men and women have such a longing to seek and obtain the company of another (regardless of the companion being the same gender or not) is because humans as we know them today are the result of a judgment against humans - - dividing them from their other side!

It seems that Kabbalah is rather “taken” with this kind of story … since I’ve read some esoteric materials where the writer “dances around this topic” without ever explicitly stating the idea that the divine and the human realm were once the same in their androgene natures!

I look forward to your response, Denn!

(George Brooks) #31

You’ve read about the bilingual text at the Karatepe anatolian site?

It’s quite fascinating. It’s written in both Phoenician Aleph-Bet lettering, and in Luwian cuneiform. In the Semitic text, the reference is made to “EL the Creator” - - and the equivalent portion of the Luwian cuneiform uses the cuneiform equivalent to “Ea” (the Akkadian version of Sumerian Enki).

It makes for quite a neat parallel! EL, in the oldest of the texts, lives inside a Mountain, which is marked by various features quite closely associated with Ea’s subterranean enclosure … with the distracting difference that Ea is not usually placed in a literal “expansion” of the Earth which a mountain represents… though inside the Apsu there is a “mound” that elevates the God above the water level (much like Osiris dwells on an underground mount, surrounded by waters, in the same way that the Egypt itself - - an out-doors edition of the Apsu - - emerges from the sacred waters of the Nile).

Just to be tidy, I will offer the reminder that the EL/Ea equivalence is not very different from what we see in the Jewish Bible: EL is equivalent to Yahweh, and is not intended to be seen as a different deity at all.

Fascinating !

Other links:


(Denn Studd) #32

Hi. Thanx; I’d not met this one, and it is of particular interest if EL is a god on his own. The Canaanite rendering is based on translation of the texts from the “high priest’s house” in Ugarit, northwestern Syria; Ugarit was one of those places like Qmran, found by a shepherd about 1927, and excavated during the next 60 yrs. The texts are readily available on Google and Wikipedia.
The Ba’al epic stories were discovered there, too, revealing much that had not been known prior to the discovery.
At least one writer, I can’t remember who, had suggested that EL was a mountain god who was worshipped at Petra, in an ancient temple just outside the more well-known site and that Moses might have met with a high priest there, before going on to Egypt for the Exodus.
A small site surrounded by stone seats is rarely seen by most visitors, apparently.
I have only recently begun to look at Hittite history, and not from the point of the Creation stories, so I will look at the site that you recommended.

(George Brooks) #33


But isn’t the point of the Phoenician/Luwian bi-lingual that EL is NOT a completely different God.

When the Akkadians finally possessed that which they had coveted - - the entire Sumerian civilization - -
some divine biographies were co-opted to better fit the Semite sensibilities of the victors.

Enki and Ea were not two gods… they were the same deity … but re-named to more accurately reflect the true nature of Enki. The Sumerians “almost had it right”… but needed to have a few adjustments made!

In Roman mythology, JUPITER becomes the name of the head God of the Olympians. Clearly this divine
name is set apart from Zeus of the Greeks, right? Well, not so fast … When accents and dialects are taken
into consideration, Jupiter is more the Roman “interpretation” of Zeu-Pater! Zeus as Father or Patriarch of the Olympians, whether he is the “father” of all the Gods is not quite the point.

EL, then, seems to be the Phoenician take on the great ANE deity “Ea”. The Phoenicians had a generic word for God = EL… and the God-of-Gods might as well be called “THE EL”. Certainly Ea is no Marduk, but perhaps the Phoenicians preferred their God’s name to be a little vague… so when an Assyrian or Babylonian general showed up … and wanted to see the local MARDUK statue … they could say “Well, you understand of course, we call him something else. We just call Marduk GOD!”

Was this intentional subterfuge, or just “translation”? Herodotus and other classical writers constantly replaced local deity names with the names the Greek readers would recognize.

So… is “EL” a unique God? I think the point of the bi-lingual was to say, “Our God is Like Ea!”

And when the Jewish scribes got hold of some EL literature … would it be that much of a surprise if
the Jewish scribes intended to say: “Your God EL is like YAH!”

Whether or not you agree or suspect that Semite Yah and Akkadian Ea are the same deity… I’m sure it would matter little to the Jewish scribes seeking to expand the Yah / Yahweh franchise. "Whomever you thought you were worshipping … He is Yahweh!"

Does Paul of Tarsus do anything less? When confronted by the Pagan worship of the Unknown God … does he not say:

Act 17:22-23
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.”

And then Paul’s speech turns earnest! “[The deity ] whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”

Act 17:24, 26
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; … and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…”

Act 17:28, 30
"For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring… And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent!"

(PETERC) #34

Middleton argues there are contradictions between Genesis 1 & 2, but are there? I tend to view 1 as a high-level overview of God creating, and 2 as giving more details, relating to a specific geographical area. Middleton says for example that in 1 water covered the earth, and in 2 the land is already established and water came later. But that isnt what the text says. Rather in 1 water covered the whole earth, just as scientists have recently discovered, but that is not the same as rain. It was the oceans and seas.

He also maintains that 2 says plants and animals were created after man. No it doesnt! It specifically says ‘shrubs’ had not appeared due to a lack of rain in this area, ie dry and arid, and noone was around to grow them - clearly pointing to agriculture, not the establishment of rain forests! One also needs to be careful in understanding the Hebrew translated ‘earth’. At least the NIV inserts a footnote for some verses showing ‘land’ as an alternative, and I would say correct translation. The same applies to the story of Noah’s flood, not the entire earth but a local area. Commentators have long known that the ancients often referred to the ‘whole world’ to mean the world they knew (which was limited)(see Luke) or the ‘earth’ to mean local land or ground. It’s a shame some still insist on a very specific understanding of the Hebrew which leads to wrong conclusions.

Animals were also created before man in 2 - " Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; " Note the past tense. God had already created them.

Regardless of your views on Genesis, let’s not assert contradictions where there are none!

(George Brooks) #35


If you were to submit a high-concept literary work to an editor with as many inconsistencies between 2 chapters as Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, the Editor would accuse you of writing while intoxicated… and instruct you to fix the mess.

The inconsistencies are small … but they seem to be there on purpose… to let “those who have eyes to see” see what else the writer(s) of Genesis had in mind.

For example, the humans in Genesis 1 (aka, pre-Adamites), provide an explanation for who Cain marries… or any of the first 3, or 5 generations of Adam/Eve’s offspring!

There is a million ways to write a unified story. Genesis 1 leading up to Genesis 2 is a great example of how NOT to do it!!!

(PETERC) #36

Again, where are the ‘inconsistencies’? I see you have come down a notch from Middleton’s ‘contradictions’.

(Arnold J. Bur) #37

I choose to believe that the first six days are different from the eighth day. As you mentioned, God rested. God did not stop creating. Was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil on a barren planet with a Garden on it? Or was the entire planet a Garden? If so, where were Adam and Eve kicked out to? Outer Space? Therefore, God created a planet and universe. Then He rested and made a Garden in the East of Eden, a city that was already there. He created “beasts of the earth” on the fifth day but made “beasts of the field” for the Garden. Would you put an elephant in a Garden? Or squirrels, rabbits and deer?

I have more on this subject at www.andgodsaidkaboom.weebly.com

(Don Huebner) #38

Alas, one needs to ask the most fundamental questions: why are there two different creation narratives at all? Who wrote them and when? Why are they so different? Why do they have different theodicies? A progressive revelation view seems to provide the best answers.

(George Brooks) #39


And what is the progressive view of revelation that gives us two different chapters in a book that is supoosed to have been written in a single “go”?

(Don Huebner) #40

The key is ‘supposed to have been in a single “go”’. Genesis doesn’t claim to have been written by a single author at a single time, and only the most conservative evangelicals insist on this. Progressive revelation allows God to provide His appropriate revelation for different times - in this case, Gen. 2 for the time of the single monarchy, and Gen. 1 for exilic/post-exilic times. The redactor put them together a bit later. The interesting thing is how the complementary combination speaks to us today - providing a type of revelation for our times.

if one insists on a single authorship at a single time, one has the worse problem of explaining, among other things, the issue of dual theodicies - as pointed out by Gary Rendsburg of Rutgers.