Doesn't Genesis One Contradict Genesis Two?
by Rich Deem


Multiple Authors in Genesis?

Are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 written by multiple authors, thus producing contradictions? A careful study of the text shows that Genesis 2 is merely a more detailed account of the short Genesis 1 narrative describing the creation of human beings.

Rich Deem

Genesis chapters one and two describe the creation of the universe, the earth, and life on the earth. Some have said that these accounts are purely mythology. One of the reasons for this perception is because of the apparent contradiction between chapters one and two in the creation accounts. Chapter one describes the creation of plants followed by the creation of animals then humans. Chapter two seems to describe the creation of humans followed by the creation of plants then animals. If this assessment is true, it would seem that there is a contradiction between the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2.

Genesis one

Genesis one, the first chapter of the Bible, begins with the creation of the "heavens and earth"1 - a phrase that describes the entire universe. The Genesis one account is notable for being sequential, since the events are listed numerically by the day in which they occurred. Where does this creation take place? Locations mentioned include the heavens (the Hebrew termshamayim can refer to the atmosphere, interstellar space, or God's abode),2 earth (the Hebrew term erets can refer to the entire planet, a people group, or a local piece of geography),3 Sun, moon, and stars.4 How do we know the Hebrew term erets refers to the entire planet as opposed to local geography? Verse 2 describes the "surface of the deep,"5 which describes the primordial ocean.6 Subsequent verses indicate that there was no land until God caused it to appear from the midst of the waters.7 These facts, in the absence of specific place names, suggests that Genesis one describes creation on a global scale.

Besides describing the formation of land and seas, Genesis one describes the creation of plants and animals. The account begins with the creation on plants. Following this is the creation of birds, large sea creatures and swarming sea life. On the final "day," God creates the large grazing mammals and carnivores, along with small scurrying mammals. Creation culminates with the creation of mankind - the last creatures God creates. For a more detailed explanation, see The Literal Interpretation of the Genesis One Creation Account and Day-Age Genesis One Interpretation.

Genesis two

Contrary to what many "scholars" have reported, Genesis two is not a retelling of Genesis one. How can we determine this to be true? First, we should examine the overall context. Genesis two is considerably different in regard to the emphasis of the content. Genesis one dedicates 4 verses (13%) to the creation of humans, beginning with verse 26. However, Genesis two dedicates 19 verses (76%) to the creation of humans, beginning with verse 7. Actually, since there are no real chapter breaks in the original Hebrew manuscripts, the story of the creation of humans continues throughout chapter 3 (another 24 verses). Obviously, the emphasis of the two "versions" is quite different. Part of the problem understanding this passage is because of the poor choice of English words in the common translations. The Hebrew word erets can be translated as "earth" (meaning global) or "land" (referring to a local geographical area). In the Old Testament, erets almost always refers to local geography and not the planet as a whole. We need to examine the context to determine whether erets refers to the entire earth or only a portion of it.

In contrast to Genesis one, there are no indications that the text is referring to global creation. In fact, Genesis 2 begins with God planting a garden8 in a place called Eden, whose location is described in the text that follows. In all, there are three other place names mentioned along with four rivers (verses 10-14). The second place name is Havilah, which is thought to be near the Caspian Sea.9 The third is Cush, which is thought to be a location in Southern Egypt or Ethiopia.10 The fourth is Assyria, which constitutes modern Iraq and Iran.11 Of the four rivers described in the text, only two are definitively identifiable. The Tigris12 and Euphrates13 Rivers run though Iraq and Iran. All the events of Genesis 2 occur in Eden, which is bounded by the three other locations, putting it within the Mesopotamian flood plain.

The narrative continues with descriptions of creation events. Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate it. God brought to Adam the animals He had already created for him to name.14 Since a suitable companion was not found for Adam, God created Eve.15 The narrative concludes with the initiation of the first marriage.16 All the creation descriptions in Genesis two can be attributed to the preparation of a place in which the first humans would live. Therefore, Genesis two further develops the account of mankind's creation at the end of the sixth day.

Conclusion Top of page

Genesis 1 is the account of the creation of the universe and life on planet earth as it happened in chronological sequence. Genesis 2 is simply an expanded explanation of the events that occurred at the end of the sixth creation day - when God created human beings. Genesis one provides virtually no details about the creation of human beings (other than the idea that humans were created in the image of God). For a book that is dedicated to the relationship between humans and God, four verses seems like a rather poor explanation for the creation of God's preeminent creature. This is because Genesis one was never intended to stand apart from Genesis 2 and 3. Genesis 2 describes God's preparation of a specific location on earth (Eden) for habitation by the first human beings. Part of the confusion results from our English translations, which use the term "earth" when the Hebrew would better be translated "land." Read a modified NIV translation of the Genesis 2 account to see how the text should read.

References Top of page

  1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
  2. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    shamayim shamayim (Strong's H8064)
    1. heaven, heavens, sky
      1. visible heavens, sky
        1. as abode of the stars
        2. as the visible universe, the sky, atmosphere, etc.
      2. Heaven (as the abode of God)
    Part of Speech: noun masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root meaning to be lofty
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 2407a
  3. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    erets erets (Strong's H776)
    1. land, earth
      1. earth
        1. whole earth (as opposed to a part)
        2. earth (as opposed to heaven)
        3. earth (inhabitants)
      2. land
        1. country, territory
        2. district, region
        3. tribal territory
        4. piece of ground
        5. land of Canaan, Israel
        6. inhabitants of land
        7. Sheol, land without return, (under) world
        8. city (-state)
      3. ground, surface of the earth
        1. ground
        2. soil
      4. (in phrases)
        1. people of the land
        2. space or distance of country (in measurements of distance)
        3. level or plain country
        4. land of the living
        5. end(s) of the earth
      5. (almost wholly late in usage)
        1. lands, countries
          1. often in contrast to Canaan
    Part of Speech: noun feminine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root probably meaning to be firm
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 167
  4. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. (Genesis 1:16)
  5. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
  6. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    tehôm tehom/tehom (Strong's H8415)
    1. deep, depths, deep places, abyss, the deep, sea
      1. deep (of subterranean waters)
      2. deep, sea, abysses (of sea)
      3. primeval ocean, deep
      4. deep, depth (of river)
      5. abyss, the grave
    Part of Speech: noun feminine or masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H1949
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 2495a
  7. Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. (Genesis 1:9)
  8. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:7-9)
  9. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    Havilah = "circle"
    chăvîylâh Havilah (Strong's H2341)
    1. a part of Eden through which flowed the river Pison (Araxes); was probably the Grecian Colchis, in the northeast corner of Asia Minor, near the Caspian Sea (noun proper locative)
    2. a district in Arabia of the Ishmaelites named from the 2nd son of Cush; probably the district of Kualan, in the northwestern part of Yemen (noun proper locative)
    3. a son of Cush (noun proper masculine)
    4. a son of Joktan (noun proper masculine)
    Part of Speech: see above in Definition
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably from H2342
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 622
  10. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    Cush = "black"
    kûsh Cush (Strong's H3568)
    1. a Benjamite mentioned only in the title of Ps 7 (noun proper masculine)
    2. the son of Ham and grandson of Noah and the progenitor of the southernmost peoples located in Africa (noun proper masculine)
    3. the peoples descended from Cush (noun proper masculine)
    4. the land occupied by the descendants of Cush located around the southern parts of the Nile (Ethiopia) (noun proper locative)
    Part of Speech: see above in Definition
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably of foreign origin
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 969
  11. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    Asshur or Assyria = "a step"
    ashshûr Asshur or Assyria/Asshur or Assyria (Strong's H804)
    1. the second son of Shem, eponymous ancestor of the Assyrians (noun proper masculine)
    2. the people of Assyria (noun proper masculine)
    3. the nation, Assyria (noun proper locative)
    4. the land, Assyria or Asshur (noun proper locative)
    Part of Speech: see above in Definition
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: apparently from H833 (in the sense of successful)
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 176
  12. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    Hiddekel = "rapid"
    chiddeqel Tigris River (Strong's H2313)
    1. one of the rivers of Eden which coursed east toward Assyria; better known as the Tigris (the LXX equivalent)
    Part of Speech: noun proper masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably of foreign origin
  13. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    Euphrates = "fruitfulness"
    perâth Eiphrates River (Strong's H6578)
    1. the largest and longest river of western Asia; rises from two chief sources in the Armenian mountains and flows into the Persian Gulf
    Part of Speech: noun proper masculine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root meaning to break forth
  14. 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; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)
  15. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. (Genesis 1:20-22)
  16. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24-25)
Last Modified August 14, 2009


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