My Intro to Biblical Literature professor has been kicking my Sunday-school-kid mentality in the butt since the first day of class.
To give us a “basic foundation,” before diving into the main material, he began by teaching about Genesis, and I will never think about the creation of the world the same way ever again.
Now I’m going to give you a taste of what I’ve been feeding on for the past month.
At times I’m very skeptical, at times I’m very trusting of information. Apparently with the Bible, I’ve let myself trust a little too much…in such a way that I’ve never completely realized, much less questioned, the fact that there are literally two wholly different creation accounts: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
Genesis 1 is probably the most well-known version: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” And it goes on in a structured, poetic form to list the order of each creation God commanded into being in a chronology of six days: light, sky, land and plants, heavenly bodies (sun, moon, etc.), aquatic animals and birds, and finally land animals and humans. In the process of creating mankind, God notes how he decided to make them in his own image and give them rule over the animals and earth, and finishes saying all that he made was “good.” On the seventh day, the Sabbath, or the day of rest, was given.
The Genesis 1 story carries over a bit into Genesis 2, but then another story begins, which is not a connected continuation of the first story, but rather a completely different perspective. Told in a narrative style, it begins talking about how nothing was on the earth except for streams the LORD God caused to carry water up from the ground. And then the LORD God made man. Out of dust and his own breath. Then the LORD God made the garden Eden, along with every amazing plant and tree ever, giving it to the man to grow food in. Then some rivers are mentioned, and then the LORD God formed all the animals to give to the man to name and help keep him company…before realizing the man was still kinda lonely, so then the LORD God made the man fall asleep, took out a rib, and made the woman. After the man got over losing a rib, he finds himself very pleased with his new beautiful friend.
Compare the two stories. Honestly, the only similarities I see between these two accounts is the idea that God created the world and everything in it, and that’s it. Everything else is different: the order, the time frame, the means…even God’s personality is different between the two–in the first story, doesn’t he seem more distant, powerful, and perfect? Whereas in the second, doesn’t he seem more down-to-earth, hands-on, even trial-and-error-ish? Oh, and not to mention, there is no Sabbath mentioned in the second account…
So then, it seems rather probable that two different people wrote two Genesis, no? I mean, each separate account has a different name for the creator; in the first, he is called “God,” which was translated from elohim, and the second called him “LORD God,” which was translated from yhwh (the meaning behind those names are a another story…). But is that okay?
What should the believer’s response be? Is our faith jeopardized by two seemingly contradictory creation accounts? Are they indeed contradictory? Or are they simply two varying perspectives of a vast God? Can a faith have two “different” beginnings?
End of Part One.