Stephen E. Jones

Projects: A harmony of the order of creation events in Genesis 1 and 2

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It is often claimed by sceptics (and even some who claim to be Christians) that Genesis 1 and 2 contain "two different and ... conflicting stories of creation." This is false as Genesis 2 is not even a story of creation, in the general sense of Genesis 1, and it therefore presupposes and is intended to be complementary to, Genesis 1:

"Doesn't Genesis 2 present a different creation order than Genesis 1? Genesis 2 does not present a creation account at all but presupposes the completion of God's work of creation as set forth in chapter 1. The first three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry the narrative of chapter 1 to its final and logical conclusion, using the same vocabulary and style as employed in the previous chapter. It sets forth the completion of the whole primal work of creation and the special sanctity conferred on the seventh day as a symbol and memorial of God's creative work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole sequence that has just been surveyed by saying, `These are the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made heaven and earth.' Having finished the overall survey of the subject, the author then develops in detail one important feature that has already been mentioned: the creation of man. Kenneth Kitchen says, `Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the center of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting. Failure to recognize the complementary nature of the subject-distinction between a skeleton outline of all creation on the one hand, and the concentration in detail on man and his immediate environment on the other, borders on obscurantism' (Ancient Orient, p. 117). ... From the survey of the first fifteen verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite apparent that this was never intended to be a general creation narrative. Search all the cosmogonies of the ancient civilizations of the Near East, and you will never find among them a single creation account that omits all mention of the formatn of sun, moon, and stars or ocean or seas- none of which are referred to in Genesis 2. It is therefore quite obvious that Genesis 1 is the only creation account to be found in the Hebrew Scripture and that it is already presupposed as the background of Genesis 2. ... The structure of Genesis 2 stands in clear contrast to every creation account known to comparative literature. It was never intended to be a creation account at all, except insofar as it related the circumstances of man's creation as a child of God, fashioned in His image, infused with His breath of life, and brought into an intimate personal relationship with the Lord Himself. Quite clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the foundation of chapter 1 and represents no different tradition than the first chapter or discrepant account of the order of creation." (Archer G.L., "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1982, pp.68-69)
Moreover, Genesis 2 is not intended to be chronological:
"It should be noted that there are no contradictions between [Genesis] chapters 1 and 2. ... According to chapter 2 the order of creation is said to be man (v. 7), vegegetation (v. 9), animals (v. 19), woman (v. 21f.). But in answer to this it should be noted that the order of statement is not chronological. Can we seriously think that the writer in intended us to understand that God formed man (v. 7) before there was any place to put him? To insist upon a chronological order in chapter 2 is to place a construction upon the writer's words that was never intended. In reality, chapter 2 declare nothing regarding the relative priority of man and vegetation. Nor does chapter 2 teach the creation of man before the animals. Here again, the chronological order is not stressed. The chapter has described the formation of Eden and the placing of man in the garden. It now speaks more particularly of man's condition, showing his need of a help meet for himself, and that such a help meet was not found among the animals. Verse 1 may rightly be paraphrased, `and the LORD GOD having formed out of the ground every beast of the field, and every fowl of heaven, brought them unto the man.'" (Young E.J., "An Introduction to the Old Testament," [1949], Tyndale Press: London, 1958, reprint, p.55)
See also my harmony below of the order of creation events in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 demonstrates. The key to understanding the order of Genesis 2 is its use of "flashbacks" (as per my emphases).

OrderCreation eventGenesis 1Genesis 2
1.heavens and earth1:1. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."2:4b. "When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens."
2.water1:9. "And God said, `Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so."2:6. "but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-."
3.plants1:11-12. "Then God said, `Let the land produce vegetation ... The land produced vegetation ..."2:8. "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed."
4.animals1:20,24. "And God said, `Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.' ... And God said, `Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds' ..."2:19. "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them."
5.man & woman1:26-27. "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image ... So God created man in his own image ... male and female he created them."2:7,22. "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. ... Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man."

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Copyright © 2005, by Stephen E. Jones. All rights reserved. This page and its contents may be used for non-commercial purposes only.
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Created: 7 October, 2005. Updated: 8 October, 2005.

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