Why Are There Two Different Creation Accounts In Genesis?
There are many different perspectives regarding how we should understand the relationship between Genesis 1 and 2. Often the discussion centers around questions about apparent contradictions between them, the historical accuracy of the text, or whether they were written by a single author or two or more authors. These questions, in turn, are part of a more fundamental discussion about the reliability of Scripture, especially regarding what it tells us about the origin of the universe.
Critics point to Genesis 1 and 2 as evidence that the Bible can be dismissed as a purely human document that tells us nothing more than how ancient people understood the world. On the other side, many Christians have sought to defend the authority of the Bible by providing scientific evidence supporting the creation account, and demonstrating how the apparent differences between Genesis 1 and 2 can be resolved.
As a result, evangelicals have tended to focus almost exclusively on how the creation account can be demonstrated as historically and scientifically accurate. While these issues are not unimportant, they have distracted us from the central concerns these passages address, and we have overlooked the richness of what they have to tell us about our creator and ourselves.
For example, the repeated phrases in Genesis 1: “And God said…”; “and it was so…”; “and God called or named…”; “and God saw that it was good…”; “and God blessed…” focus on the sovereign authority of our creator. Creation came about by God’s command (cf. Ps. 33:6-11, 119:89-90, 148:1-6; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5), affirming that God has the power to accomplish whatever he decides to do (cf. Ps. 119:89-91, Isa. 14:24, 46:8-11; Eph. 1:11); he is also the creator of all things and it is he who establishes their identity and their proper place in the created order (cf. Col. 1:16-17). And what he has made is good, and blessed (Ps. 145:8-9, 15-16).
In turn, Genesis 2 tells us how God has privileged humanity by sharing with us his nature and authority. Just as God named all that he created, Adam is invited to share in God’s authority by naming his fellow creatures (Gen. 2:19-20). And the woman is created out of the man so that she is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (cf. Gen. 2:21-25). Though they are two separate persons, they are one substance, and their children, though separate, also share their substance so that the human family becomes a reflection, in flesh and blood, of the triune God. These are just a few of the theological riches that can be found in the creation narrative.
Are Genesis 1 and 2 a single account of creation or two separate accounts? Should they be understood literally or figuratively? Should we try to reconcile the creation narrative with modern science? These are questions we will no doubt continue to debate. What seems clear, though, is that God has inspired and preserved these accounts so that, through them, we might know him and know ourselves.
Pastor Jon EnrightFebruary 7, 2018