Two Creation Accounts?

It is a commonplace in historical-critical scholarship to assert that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 offer us two distinct (and usually, therefore, dependent on two different sources, J and E) creation accounts that contradict each other. The order of created things in Genesis 1 is light, firmament, separation of land and sea, plants, lights, fish, birds, land animals, humanity. In chapter 2, it is said, the order is very different: humanity, plants, land animals. Although this supposed discrepancy has been answered in the past by conservative scholars such as Keil and Delitzsch, the historical-critical scholars continue to cite this supposed discrepancy as if there were no answer to their claims.

It is my claim that there cannot be a discrepancy in the text, if it is read carefully, and without an assumption of contradiction. The exegesis of the text in Genesis 2 will show that the plants supposedly created after humanity are not all plants, but only cultivated plants. It is a relatively simple point. There are two reasons given in 2:5b for why the plants of 2:5a are not yet in existence. There was no rain, and there was no man to plow the ground. Now, the lack of rain could be reasonably used as a reason for why all plants were not yet in existence. The lack of a plowman, however, cannot be used as a reason for why all plants were not yet in existence. Wild plants thrive without any help from humans whatsoever. The plants of 2:5a, therefore, cannot be all plants. There has to be a more limited reference. If there is no plowman yet, then the plants of 2:5a have to be cultivated plants, farm plants, plants that need the human touch in order to thrive. So much for the plant issue.

The other issue of order has to do with the relative creation of humanity and the land animals. 2:19 seems to suggest that Adam was already in existence when God formed the land animals and brought them to Adam to see what he would call each creature. There is no need to interpret the text this way. Even though the word “formed” is a vayyiqtol (normal on-line narrative, normally denoting sequential action), the statement of forming could just as easily be a summation of days five and six as a statement of sequential order. The emphasis in the context is far more on the bringing and naming than on the forming. Furthermore, the forming of the creatures from the earth is an implicit contrast with the forming of the woman from the rib of the man. The text is saying that all the animals have the wrong origin to be Adam’s helper. Only someone who comes from his flesh and bone (2:23) will be the right helper.


  1. rfwhite said,

    June 5, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    Green Baggins: It looks to me that your observations are confirmed in detail by Mark D. Futato in his article, “Because It Had Rained: A Study of Gen 2:5-7 with Implications for Gen 2:4-25 and Gen 1:1-2:3 (Westminster Theological Journal 60 [1998] 1:2–21). With regard to 2:5b, he summarizes 2:5-7 as a statement describing two problems (no wild vegetation; no cultivated grain), two reasons (no rain; no cultivator), and two solutions (God provides rain clouds; God forms a cultivator). With regard to 2:19, Furtato argues that the interest of Moses’ narrative is the origin of the man’s helper. 2:19 (re)introduces the forming of the animals to raise the question of whether the man’s helper will originate from the animals that God had created. So, overall, 2:4-25 is an account that focuses on the garden’s planting and the placement of the man and the woman in it. In 2:4 Moses gives the heading of the 2:4–4:26 section. In 2:5-7 he provides the setting for 2:8-25. In 2:8 he gives a summary of God’s solutions to the two problems described in 2:5-7. In 2:9-25, he elaborates on the summary in 2:8, with 2:9-14 expanding on 2:8a (planting the garden) and 2:15-25 expanding on 2:8b (placing the man and the woman in the garden). In that light, there is no second creation account in 2:4-25.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    June 9, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Fowler, yes, you are detecting the thread of my influences. Futato is, in turn, dependent on Kline’s earlier article “Because It Had Not Rained,” in which Kline makes much the same point.

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