Comparing the two accounts of the Creation in Genesis

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See also Creation Texts.

Are there two accounts?

The evidence on this page leans towards the answer "yes" - two distinct accounts. For the view that there are not two distinct accounts of the creation in the early chapters of Genesis, see Are there two accounts of the Creation in Genesis?

Scholarly and traditional Jewish perspectives

Traditional Jewish approach: harmonisation

The creation of Adam and Eve.

Whereas Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 presented a majestic God-centered scenario of creation, 2:4-25 presents a very different but equally profound story of origins. This second account of creation is centered more on human beings and familiar human experiences, and even its deity is conceived in more anthropomorphic terms. Source critics attribute the two accounts to different documents (P and J, respectively) later combined into the Torah we now have. The classical Jewish tradition tends to harmonize the discrepancies by intertwining the stories, using the details of one to fill in the details of the other. Even on the source-critical reading, however, the contrast and interaction of the two creation accounts offer a richer understanding of the relationship of God to humankind than we would have if the accounts were read in isolation from each other.

Genesis 2:4: The Jewish textual tradition places a major break between 2:3 and 2:4, rather than in the middle of v. 4, where many modern interpreters put it, and for good reason. If the latter verse, or even its first half (2:4a), is read with 1:1–2:3, then several of the multiples of seven in 1:1-2:3, of which we gave a sample above (see intro. to 1:1–2:3), disappear. Most likely, 2:4a is an editorial linkage between the two accounts of creation.

Prof. Marc Zvi Brettler

Differing Conceptions of the Divine Creator" (2013) by Marc Zvi Brettler at

Other scholarly perspectives

Professor Meir Bar-Ilan

Free summary from Prof. Meir Bar-Ilan's page on the Six Differences
Text: Genesis 1:1-2:3 Genesis 2:4-3:24
God is called: Elohim (God) Yahaweh-Elohim (Lord God)
Aim: To glorify God, the sole protagonist. Man takes up 20% of the text. To explain the world, and human destiny. Man takes up 80% of the text.
Time/space: Time is marked out and governs the world; the lights are for reckoning time. Space is marked out for a garden, with a location, four rivers, and lands, and man is expelled from his realm.
The Power of the Word: Speech is the divine tool. Names are given, blessings are spoken. God makes with his hands. Man names animals and imposes his supremacy by speech.
Order and Law: Days, lights and stars are ordered; law is clear though unnamed. No order is implied, and the only law is transgressed, resulting in chaos.
The Role of Numbers: More number words, numbers have significance, especially 7. Only six number words, less emphasis on science and order.
Sermon versus Story: Tight structure; 20% of the text is formulaic. A speech, preached by a priest or a prophet. Narrative: a story showing the craft of a narrator.

The Bible Project: Creation as God's Temple

  • The Bible Project has a video here outlining an interpretation of the two accounts as views of the Creation as God's temple.

Pete Enns

  • Pete Enns: Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University
Free summary of Israel's Two Creation Stories
Text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a Genesis 2:4b-3:24
How long did it take? six days plus sabbath "in the day"
the scene pre-existent chaos a land with streams
order of events habitable space made, then filled, humankind made the man made before plants; garden made; man put in it; woman made
literary style repetitive, poetic, patterned narrative with dialog and conflict
view of God transcendent, sovereign active, conversing, walking in the garden
Names of God Elohim Yahweh Elohim
method of creating the word spoken a potter, breathing life, planting a garden
creation of humanity adam male and female created en masse one man made from the ground, then a woman
status of humanity royal, with dominion over all servants or priests, tending God's garden sanctuary
scope universal limited geographically

Christadelphian perspectives

A. Different and contrasting

Brother Wilfred Lambert

Two creation accounts

That there are two accounts of creation in Genesis is clear to any open-minded reader. Genesis 1:1–2:3 offers a narrative of acts of creation by God spread over six days, followed by a day of rest, at which point God’s creative work, it is stressed, was finished. The acts of creation are achieved by God’s command, in effect: ‘Let it be done’ and so ‘it was done’. There is a solemnity to the expression of creation in this account, the very antithesis of many pagan accounts of creation, as perceived by a pagan writer of the later first century or early second century AD, who composed a treatise On the Sublime (in literature). The name of Longinus, or Dionysius (or: Dionysius Longinus) is attached to the work, but nothing is known of the author outside what is clear from its content. Discussing his theme he wrote:

‘Thus the Jewish lawgiver also, no ordinary man, when he rightly conceived of the power of the divinity, at the very beginning of the laws, expressed it: ‘God said – What did God say? – Let there be light, and there was light. Let there be earth, and there was earth.’ (Longinus, On the Sublime, 9.9)

Whoever the author was, he begins his masterly work of literary criticism by asserting the need for his own work because of the inadequacy of a previous work on this very subject by one Cecilius, who taught in Rome at the time of the birth of Christ, and was an adherent of the Jewish religion. Very probably ‘Longinus’ got to know the Septuagint version of the Old Testament from Cecilius, and though he was far from satisfied with Cecilius’ literary criticism he sensed the grandeur of Genesis 1, which he quotes from memory. One can but regret that some Christian writers on this chapter have made the account a peg on which to hang their own ideas. It has been argued that ‘God said’ and ‘it was done’ implies creation out of nothing, when in fact these words only state the occurrence of creation at God’s command, not anything of the mechanism employed.

As stated above, the wording of Genesis 2:2–3 makes plain that creation by God finished at that point. Chapters 2:4–3:24 is a narrative entirely different in style and content and in no way presupposes what now precedes it. The account of the Garden of Eden, of Adam and Eve, of the fall and of the expulsion from the Garden, is entirely different in style from the earlier account: more picturesque, reading like a story. The names of God used in the two narratives are also different. The first uses exclusively ‘God’ (Hebrew Elohim), while the second uses ‘LORD God’ (Yahweh Elohim) in its narrative, and ‘God’ (Elohim) only in the dialogue between the serpent and Eve in 3:1–5. The most natural explanation of these facts is that the two accounts were composed by different authors, and have been combined by the inspired author of Genesis. The ancients were not inhibited by our sense of literary rights, and freely incorporated in their works anything of great value from earlier works with or without making changes. A comparison of the later Chronicles with Samuel–Kings, and of the first three Gospels with each other, illustrates this phenomenon.

— Wilfred Lambert, Creation A Christadelphian Study—Understanding Genesis chapters 1-3, pub. L Boddy, 1998
Full text of the the study is here.

Brother Rick Brower

"Genesis 1 intentionally differs from several other creation stories in the Bible, as a result of its unique, spiritual task."

See a longer extract from his book The Enigma of Creation at Creation Texts.

Brother Ken Gilmore

The differences between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are not trivial, with the former asserting creation occurred in six days while the latter declares it happened on one day. Other differences include the order of creation, with the latter declaring Adam was created first, then the garden, land animals, and finally Eve. This order is markedly different to that of Genesis 1 which . . . notes that many humans were created.
. . . What we have here are two different accounts of creation from two different traditions, which later were edited into a literary unit. . . .

Brother Roger Evans

"The . . .  value of the second Creation account lies . . .  in the fundamental truths it teaches about the nature of our relationship to God."

See discussion here.

An anonymous Sutherland member

". . . if the man was formed on the sixth day of a literal week, was Eden then planted, all the trees mature and in fruit, including the two miraculous trees, was man then given his job of tilling and keeping the garden, did his need for help become apparent, was he then caused to observe “all” the animals without success, but naming them all, and then did God cause him to fall into a deep sleep and literally form a woman from his rib, then wake him up and introduce his new wife to him – all before sunset? "

B. Harmonised and historical

Brother Peter Heavyside

  • Jesus' reading establishes unequivocally that both Genesis 1 and 2 took place during the same timeframe, "the beginning".
  • Jesus' reading confirms that the formation of Adam and then the making of Eve out of his side, as recorded in Genesis 2, is another portrayal of the creation of male and female of man in Genesis 1:26-27.
  • Jesus regarded both Genesis 1 and 2 and the events described in these chapters as historically true across the entire span of their record, including at the level of detailed and specific events.

Given the perspective presented by this reading, Genesis 1 and 2 are records of the same creation; they are integral and in harmony because they are a single story of God's creative works. We have also seen from Jesus' reading that the way the record is laid out in Genesis 1-2 functions to show the man responding to God's revelation in fellowship with his God in the creation of the woman. This, of course, sets the scene for God's expectations of his people working with him in fellowship and having our minds exercised on matters we learn from him — all to progress and establish God's purpose in the earth.

These conclusions are not intended to dismiss ... observations about narrative differences between Genesis 1 and 2. Rather, they illustrate that any reading of these narrative differences needs to be directed at discovering scripture's didactic purposes in them. Furthermore, Jesus' reading requires a handling of these chapters that treats them as historical and as integral chapters that are in harmony. ... Jesus' reading requires that we handle Genesis 1-2 within a harmonised and historical framework, and this is on the authority of the one who said he spoke only those things he learned from his father because of which, in part, he was raised from the dead, the grave not being able to hold him.

Heavyside, P, Genesis 1–2: a harmonised and historical reading, self-published 2018 pp27-28

C. Harmonised, hidden historicity

Bro David P. Levin

Although early Genesis does represent an historical reality, I do not think that forcing the text into some scientific or historical model, or vice versa, is a fruitful pursuit.

Genesis 1 and 2 fit together as a well-designed whole. Chapter 2 is a detailed account of the sixth day—not, as many claim, an independent creation account.

— Bro David P. Levin, The Creation Text, pp.ii, 141

D. Not two accounts at all

For the view that there are not two distinct accounts of the creation in the early chapters of Genesis, see Are there two accounts of the Creation in Genesis?