Genesis’ Two Creation Accounts

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For a fully treatment of all the textual data revealing the fact that Genesis preserves two contradictory creation accounts, see Chapters 1 & 2 of my most recent book, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs. What follows in this and subsequent posts is an early version of this material.


My goals in the 13 posts that follow are threefold:

  1. To put forward the textual data that convincingly demonstrate the hand of two different authors for Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-3:24. I implore readers to listen to and understand their messages, beliefs, and views of the world—not impose ours or those of later readers onto theirs, or interpret them away when they don’t coincide with our knowledge about the world or the beliefs of later readers. Our goal is to enter into the world of the text, not impose ours or another author’s worldview onto these ancient texts in a vain attempt to explain the text from our perspective! We must let the text speak on its own terms!
  2. To demonstrate through the texts themselves that the depiction of the creation of the world and of mankind in both these accounts were conditioned and shaped by subjective and culturally formed beliefs and ideas about the nature of the world as perceived by ancient Near Eastern peoples, the Israelites included. They are not, in other words, divinely dictated, divinely inspired, or objective descriptions. This is not my subjective belief. Rather these are the claims that the texts make and reveal when read on their terms and from within their historical and literary contexts. In sum, our author’s culturally-conditioned beliefs, even “truths,” about the nature of the world that he experienced shaped the composition of his creation story so that the god of Genesis 1 is portrayed creating the very world that its author and culture perceived!—a moon that produced its own light, the creation of light separate from the sun, an earth (the Hebrew ‘eretz is never the planet Earth) that was flat and rested upon the waters below, an explanation of how this earth became surrounded by water above and below, and how the waters above were and are continuously kept in place by the sky which the creator deity specifically made for this purpose, an explanation of how sacred time was built right into the creation of the world and why the 7th day after each new moon and each consecutive 7th day became inherently sacred, etc. Again, our goal is to let the text invite us into its world with an aim to understand it, even become fascinated by it, not to impose ours or our understanding and experience of the world on it, and to interpret away his beliefs for the sake of safeguarding ours!
  3. To expose why Creationists’ and fundamentalists’ claims about Genesis 1 are in fact disingenuous and negligent of the very text they purport to believe in! It will be shown that they feign belief in this ancient text due to their ignorance about what the text actually says and does not say, the beliefs and messages of their authors, the historical and literary contexts of these texts, their audiences, and the larger cultural perspectives, beliefs, and worldviews of the ancient Near East that shaped these texts and the beliefs and views of their authors.

Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-3:24: An Overview

Ancient and modern readers alike have long recognized the differences between the seven-day creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and the garden of Eden account of Genesis 2:4b-3:24. Even on stylistic grounds noticeable in an English translation, the first creation account is lofty, formulaic, structured, heaven-centered, and awe-inspiring with its image of a transcendent and impersonal creator deity who brings creation and order into existence by the mere force of his word. The second creation account, on the other hand, is informal and fable-like in its presentation, anthropologically oriented, earth-centered, dramatic, and theologically more poignant with its etiological tale describing how man, crafted from the clay of the earth and prompted by a talking serpent, fell from the presence of its creator, and as a result human suffering and toil befell the lot of mankind.

But the most notable differences, indeed contradictions, lie in their presentation of the order of creation and the manner through which man and woman come into existence. For instance, the first account describes how God creates—the Hebrew verb used is bara’—plants on the third day (1:11), then animals on the fifth and sixth days (1:20-24), and lastly male and female together in the image and likeness of the creator god (1:27), thus displaying how mankind is vastly different from the animals. The repeated emphasis is on a god who creates (bara’) by pronouncing the thing into existence, separating it out, and then claiming the goodness in the created thing and by extension in the created order of the world.

We find none of these features in the second creation account. Rather, we are now informed that Yahweh (here the deity’s name is specified) first forms—the Hebrew verb is yatsar—man from the dust of the earth (2:7), then plants (2:9), and then so that the man should not be alone, Yahweh forms (yatsar) animals from the earth that are in essence similar to the man (2:18-19), but since man is unable to find a satisfactory companion among the animals, woman is built (banah) from the man’s rib (2:22). Thus in our first account plants and animals are created (bara’) before both male and female are created together in the image of the god(s), but in the latter account man is formed (yatsar) from the ground first, then plants and animals, and then, woman is built from the man’s rib.

Wordplay and puns are also unique to this second creation account, and help accentuate this account’s anthropological orientation. For instance, we are told that from the ground (’adamah) Yahweh forms the man (’adam), but no other beast formed from the ground (’adamah) has a name, a corresponding essence, similar to the man; only the woman does: “This one at last is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman (’ishah) because she was taken out of man (’ish)” (2:23). In the first account, male and female are created together in the image of the deity and his divine counsel (“let us make,” “in our image” (1:26)); while in the second account, the creation of man and woman is presented separately and through the use of wordplay their essences, the created stuff from which each one was made, is highlighted: man (’adam) comes from the ground (’adamah), woman (’ishah) from man (’ish).

One of the most prominent and distinguishable differences between these two creation accounts, especially in the Hebrew, is the manner in which each creation account depicts the creator god. Genesis 1:1-2:3 refers to the deity with the Hebrew word for god (elohim) in all 35 of its occurrences. The second account, Genesis 2:4b-3:24, refers to the deity as Yahweh1 in all of its 11 occurrences. This is inline with the larger textual traditions from which these two creation accounts originated. In the first creation account, the name Yahweh is not used nor is it known until it is revealed to Moses at Sinai (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:10; 48:3; Ex 6:2-3). Not so for the textual tradition of which this second account was its beginning; it always uses the personal name Yahweh and contradictorily professes that the name Yahweh was known and invoked throughout the whole patriarchal era (Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 15:7; etc.). See #11.

Along with the different terms for the creator god, both texts also portray their deity in strikingly different manners. In the first creation account God speaks things into existence. He is presented as majestic and utterly transcendent; he never interacts with his creation and stands completely outside of the cosmos. In the second creation account, by contrast, Yahweh is consistently portrayed in anthropomorphic terms and communicates and interacts directly with his creation (and often with himself in the form of interior monologues).2 Such anthropomorphism, that is presenting a deity in human terms, is visible throughout this creation account. Yahweh forms man from the dust of the earth, presumably with his hands (2:7),3 breathes into the man’s nostrils, plants a garden (2:8), takes and puts the man in the garden (2:15), commands the man (2:16), forms animals from the ground (2:19), builds a woman from the man’s rib (2:22), walks in the garden (3:8), calls and speaks to his creation (3:9, 13-14), makes skins of garments for the human pair (2:21), and lastly puts the human pair outside the garden (3:23). This type of anthropomorphism is never found in the first creation account’s portrait of God, and neither throughout the textual tradition of which this creation account is its opening statement. Rather it is a unique feature of the author of the second creation account.

In addition to the varying portraits of the creator deity, there are other differences that set these two accounts apart. Although the subject matter is roughly similar, its treatment by each account is hardly the same and each account’s underlying emphasis, whether theological or otherwise, is scarcely compatible. Where one attempts to give an orderly explanation of the creation of the cosmos via the word of an all-powerful transcendent deity, and in short is heaven-centered, the other attempts to answer questions of an anthropological nature, is earth-centered, and emphasizes man’s creation, relationship, disobedience towards, and finally expulsion from a very personal and “human” deity, Yahweh. It might furthermore be said that the first creation myth, for reasons that will be explored below, moves from chaos to order, darkness to light, formlessness to form, within which there are repeated refrains where the god pronounces the inherit goodness in the created thing and, finally, blesses humanity—a humanity, that is both male and female, created in the image and likeness of its divine creator(s).

The second account, on the other hand, moves from an infertile, barren, and humanless landscape through the formation of man from this ground, his placement in a fertile and fecund garden, the formation of woman from the man’s rib, to finally their expulsion from the garden and (re)placement on a ground that has now become cursed (3:17, 4:11, 5:29). Unlike the former’s original state of creation which is represented as a surging watery mass enveloped in darkness (1:2), the latter’s original state of creation depicts a waterless earth with no rain nor vegetation (Gen 2:5); it represents the dry, arid land of the geography of Palestine. The toil required for man (’adam) to work this hard, dry soil (’adamah) is a prominent theme in this story. In other words, it is an etiological tale which attempts to provide a rationale for man’s current lot, as perceived by its author—namely, how it came to be that ’adam must procure his livelihood by working the ’adamah, and at that a cursed ground. Thus contrary to the majestic and celebatory first creation account with its affirmed goodness and blessing, the latter account is a dramatic narrative with crisis and resolution in the form of punishment and curse. As professor David Carr astutely observes, in the former, humanity is created in the image and likeness of God and this is declared “good,” while in the latter humanity is punished specifically for yearning to be like his god and this is deemed a transgression. “Gen 1:1-2:3 depicts an omnipotent God creating a godlike humanity. In contrast, Gen 2:4b-3:24 depicts a God who can both fail (Gen 2:19-20) and succeed (Gen 2:21-23). Humanity is not godlike but is created out of earth and punished for acts leading to humanity’s being like God (Gen 3:1-24).”4

Noteworthy also is the fact that the first creation account emphasizes themes whose purpose and importance may be labeled as liturgical or cultic in nature, such as the importance of the Sabbath (2:3)—thus linking the cultic observance of the Sabbath to the created order of the cosmos—and in general all festivals and rituals governed by the appointed times as dictated by the movement of the celestial luminaries, which serve as signs for the appointed times of such festivals (1:14). In fact, there is a heightened emphasis on ritual observances and the ordered creation of the cosmos in this creation account.

On the contrary, the second creation account displays no concern for these priestly matters, while on the other hand, emphasizes themes that are important to its own narrative, a sort of anthropological theology interested in such questions as man’s relationship to a personal deity, to the ground, obedience, theodicy, and his lot in life.

All these differences (in theme, style, vocabulary, theology, presentation of the deity, emphasis, and purpose) and specific contradictions in the order and manner of creation point, irrefutably, to the fact that these two creation accounts were penned by two different authors, for two different purposes, and most likely at two different time periods and for two different audiences. It was only due to a later scribal enterprise of preserving Israel’s sacred literature that these two accounts were placed side-by-side as they now appear in their current form.

But let’s take a closer look at each one of these creation accounts individually, our goal being to be as honest as possible to the texts themselves, and that means attempting to faithfully understand the beliefs and views of the authors of these texts, not ours nor what later readers thought or believed about them, or imposed upon these texts.

                                                                                                                                                                                Genesis 1:1-2

Footnotes    

  1. The divine name for Israel’s god, Yahweh (transliterated as yhwh), is rendered in the majority of English translations as LORD. This practice, which is misleading as well as misrepresentative of the Hebrew text, follows a late Judaic oral tradition of substituting the Hebrew adonai (lord) for yhwh in the reading of the Torah, since later Judaism—centuries after these texts were actually composed—conceived the name as sacred and unspeakable. Modern translation practices have regrettably chosen to follow this later oral tradition rather than the actual Hebrew text! Here, we will be as honest to the Hebrew texts as possible. Thus everywhere your English translation has LORD in small caps, the Hebrew manuscript has Yahweh, or more precisely yhwh.
  2. See Gen 2:18; 3:22; 6:3; 8:21-22; 11:6-7; 18:17-19, etc.
  3. Cf. image of Yahweh as a potter fashioning man with his hands (Is 64:7). See also Is 29:16 where yatsar is used to describe the act of forming man from clay, like a potter does.
  4. David Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis, 64.

42 thoughts on “Genesis’ Two Creation Accounts

  1. Laughs! let it not grieve you please Sir! alright? I’ve read the lengthy post on which I’m commenting on and it reveals nothing..at least I accept I’m inexperienced in the field but I’ve not been convinced by the data so far! what I’m driving at is this that taking two ancient texts with a known facts about them and studying doesn’t liken every slight indication to the observation drawn from the texts!! I’ll try to read and drop my comments alright? but I don’t take to it that there are two creation stories because being honest the data provided in the literature and the understanding of Language, it’s so glaring that there’s nothing as such my friend! thank you!

  2. First of all you need to understand, Theology has no place in me…
    So, relegating my comments or me to theology is just farcical..
    I’m trying to relate to you that the fact that you find a lyrical trend with ancient texts and how they are done doesn’t consign all of them to have been treated equally… this is where the goofs started..

    and please understand me, I have not said you called anything error or that you mentioned it in your texts.. I only called out a name for your movement.. ERRORS!!!
    then, I don’t assume.. This was the reason why I said you were not a Christian as your brief biography spelled.. it was based on assumptions. God doesn’t go that way and when you could no longer bear it you bashed out of it with a website like this..
    your assumptions are thus: since ancient texts are written dually(by different hands) therefore it must have been that the Genesis story was written by more than one author” and since you have not been able to meet up with the actual intent of the writer and his message hence, it must have been by the hands if two persons.. that’s an extreme assumption too.. you need to calm down ease yourself of these streamlined ideas you have clouded yourself with and read it gently asking God to teach you what it is truly!! I have tried to let you understand that this – what you assert is not true taking you through what it’s about actually but your frame of reference has just revolved about same entity!!

    No one can study God because he’s not a course.. to study him means you enquire to know what he’s about and why he does what he does and everything around him right? hmmmm… that’s sheer ignorance! have you seen a robot or a monkey trying to study human beings? for it to do so, it must have attained the same height of Wisdom as the human it’s attempting to study because its complexity of intellectual ability can not meet up! It is best to let God teach you himself if you have the capacity to bear him!!

    1. We’re not studying God here — I’m not a theologian. We’re studying a collection of ancient literature to which you bring a whole host of assumptions while knowing nothing about these texts. I repeat, if you’d like to have a conversation about the textual data that I’m claiming lead one to conclude that Gen 2-3 was penned by a different author than Gen 1, then read the posts I’ve already published and respond to the textual points made therein. Again, I think you’ll see that I have the author’s interest in mind—not the belief claims which modern readers impose upon these ancient texts.

    2. OK, so now I’ve actually read your comment and again you’re assuming all sorts of things once again, and that in particular does not bother me so much as the fact that you’re making these assumptions from ignorance—rather than taking a more intelligent approach and educating yourself.

      So first your assumption about me—“God doesn’t go that way and when you could no longer bear it you bashed out of it with a website like this..”—is totally bonkers. These are not only assumptions, but they reveal YOUR own attitudes, experiences, etc. First I don’t really talk about myself here other than my work as a biblical scholar; the focus are the texts, their authors, and their beliefs. And second none of what you’ve assumed about me is even an iota of truth! It represents you; none of that speaks to me, my past, nor my situation, ever! Rather, my plea, as it has been from the get go is: stop throwing assumptions out, about me, about these texts, about whatever else, and take up the task at hand—grappling with these ancient texts on their terms—not yours nor the terms of your assumptions!

      Second of your assumptions about me: “your assumptions are thus: since ancient texts are written dually(by different hands) therefore it must have been that the Genesis story was written by more than one author.” Again, nothing can be further from the truth! And it’s apparent you’re grasping for straws here. Why remain in the dark and throw darts at the board? The answers you seek are right in the text! Conversely, I don’t assume anything about these texts. They are rather my object of study. What they are—here I am repeating myself again, and again, to an audience that just fails to read and comprehend at a basic SAT level—comes from them. If I were an astrophysicist whose object of study was the moon, then what the compositional nature of the moon was AND WAS NOT, would not come from my assumptions about the moon or what other people have thought about the moon, but from the object of study itself, the moon! Same thing here. That Genesis 1 and 2-3 were written by two hands depends nothing on the reader, his/her beliefs or assumptions. The fact is borne out from the texts themselves. Studying the Hebrew, stylistic, linguistic, thematic, and ideological data of the text itself reveals its compositional nature to me. You, being a non-expert in this field of study, would be better to ask: hmm…. what are the actual textual data that reveal these two creation accounts were penned by different authors which scholars, that is experts in the field, have been claiming and confirming and verifying for over 300 years now, because they’ve been reading and studying the Hebrew text meticulously now and in its own contexts, and frankly scholars who all come from vast and divergent theological beliefs! The texts themselves tell us this> Another byproduct to your assumptions is that you’re also inadvertently neglecting the message of the texts and the unique beliefs and worldviews of these authors and placing yours above them. I talk about all of this in the conclusion to my book, granted on a much more sympathetic level—sympathetic to the beliefs that Christians hold about these texts, even though the texts themselves on their terms refute or challenge these traditionally reader-created beliefs.

      Again, rather than throwing out another fallacious assumption about me or the texts, try reading. If you you want to know how I approach these ancient texts without assumptions and without preformed beliefs, read:

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/being-honest-to-the-bible-texts-their-authors-and-their-beliefs/

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/being-honest-to-the-texts-of-the-bible/

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/being-honest-to-the-texts-of-the-bible-part-2b/

      Or I’ll set a challenge—buy my book Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate—subtitled for your pleasure—Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs, and read it, every word (only 130 pages, weekend reading). And if by the last word of the conclusion you’re not convinced that I have shown that the texts themselves, their textual data, their thematic, religious, and cultural emphases, have revealed and led you to see that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were penned by different authors who held competing views and beliefs about the nature of the world and of man and woman, then I’ll refund your money!

  3. you talk of ancient literary texts, In as much as there’s a lot of similarities in the trend noticed at the time.. you’re not honest enough with yourself let alone of the texts..
    you have failed to really even, apart from the ethical manner (relative to the belief system) of trying to understand the intents the writer tries to convey.. you fail to stand up to what you really posed is the center of your apologies!
    Either that you didn’t really get through the texts in the chapters of Gen. which you posted or that you have presented it away from what the texts really appear because of your seemly inclination to find error thus making it bias, a sort of!!
    Gen.2, let’s run through it like we would any other ordinary texts. I believe that’s where the problem is:
    Gen. 2 begins with the word “THUS”. “Thus” is a pronoun which is used to give a relationship to a formerly established fact! (means: hence, so, consequently e.t.c) So you’d see that this chapter of Gen.2 is consequent of the former one.. they are no different accounts or different informations, it must have been splitted into two chapters for easy comprehension… So, we see that it tries to give detailed explanation of what it deemed necessary to be, of the processes it took to arrive at them! your problem comes from why it is unchronological? well, you must understand the system of writing that was at the time.. there was no well defined rule for summary or the explanation of events.. it’s at the discretion of the writer!
    besides, Moses got that from deep revelation of God and he wrote as he was being showed or how he remembered.. we cannot say for sure what ensued at the point of writing but that he gave somewhat an exquisite(as to the layman’s ability) explanation of the beginning..
    You want something Logical, sth linear but you need to know spiritual matters are more logical than what you’d call logical and have enforced as analysis of the word of God!
    You’re bias to see some of the texts the way you see them which you call them honesty to the words in it..
    some of the texts may have what you’re looking for or has dubbed “contradictions”! but facts still remain that some of the scratches you make on the surface is contrary to linear knowledge of the belief system or what was attempted to convey by the writer’s ability!!
    The Bible is a different text from the others.
    There’s a deep revelation behind every of its sentences and you are not enabled to understand it except the Holy spirit of God teaches you! the Bible is not a text you read and conclude you have had knowledge of all it’s about! it doesn’t hold like every text you have read!
    So, some of your deductions are even dishonest to what you claim.. what should we call that?

    1. You’re still not reading the biblical text—above is AGAIN theologized rubbish meant to impose the reader’s assumptions about the text onto the text prior to reading the text on its terms and contexts—AND you’re not reading my posts where I have already spent the time to put forth the textual data with the sole and only goal of displaying these authors’ views, beliefs, messages. You, on the contrary, are clearly more interested in spouting your message. You seem to treat these texts as some sort of free-for-all with little interest in or study of the text itself, its author, and his beliefs, worldview, and message, since your comment is devoid of textually substantiated views and on the contrary laden with centuries-later subjective beliefs about the text.

      “THUS” please read carefully and thoroughly these posts and respond to specific textual data points.

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/genesis-24b-in-the-day-god-yahweh-made-earth-and-skies/

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/genesis-2-man-rain-creation-plants/

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/genesis-2-adam-adamah/

      http://contradictionsinthebible.com/genesis-2-man-from-ground-woman-man/

      Edit: And who said anything about “error”?—Well, you did. I certainty wouldn’t use such a term! Again such terms reveal your assumptions—assumptions about the text and about my approach to the texts. Both are in error! Drop the assumptions, and work with the text on the points discussed in the above cited posts.

  4. It is interesting to note that this style of writing continued on through the NT with the differences of the Gospels and as well the differences when reading the works attributed to Paul. I was listening to a lecture by Bart Ehrman called “How Jesus became God’, which pointed this out very clearly. All being written from oral views then set to writing, as the stories changed over the 70+ years of their compilation.

  5. Alright! Dr. Steven and your Co’s. to be polite and honest enough Sir with you and your apology.. I think I’d want to say, that the Bible, its concepts, messages and ideas are not of this human projections like science and organizations and bodies like you and of the same ethos!
    in like way, it’d be utter ignorance to try to get around it with your own wisdom!!
    texts and its concepts are relative to the originator of them..and you’d be taking rounds of guesses to try to understand what it’s driving at!
    we hear of NASA and their mysterious discoveries of alienated beings..there’ve been many news that these beings have some accentuated form of intelligence!
    they communicate themselves! or that’s far-fetched! let’s come home: our domestic animals and the wild ones.. they communicate but you don’t understand their languages.. would you say that since you’re not permeable to their languages that they don’t communicate?? I don’t think so! you’d be making mere guesses to say for sure that this is what they’re saying within themselves when you can’t either speak the language or know word for word what they’re saying per time though you could hear them make some sounds…that’s language but the communication you can’t know except from close-quarters long-standing observation only in a wholly conclusive manner but not by the sounds or that they the animals have themselves taught you word for word! this happens with our tribal languages across the world at large where we’re not familiar with them.!
    what I’m kicking at is that with human wisdom or senses you can’t say this is what is being said because it wasn’t written with human wisdom.. at times it was difficult to say that this is what is being related there even with the writers because this wisdom doesn’t come from here.. it’s not humanly originated, so you can’t humanly arrive by its messages all by yourself.. I’d love to say that the languages you get by your own human senses would relating something else to you as what is being said there different from its own original context or perspectives because you are a different person from whom it was originated..
    That said, there’s nothing as such of “two creation accounts” in the Bible! this too was as a result of your senses!!
    the senses of the fallen man limits & likens everything to what exists here because the nature of thus sense/wisdom is fallen too…
    The word “thus” that began it shows it’s a continuous statement not segregated as you claim!
    So, I’d like you to see the Gen.2 as an explanation of what happened in the CH. 1.. it attempts to explain the processes it took to become existent.. or how it was possible.. it doesn’t attempt to rename or repronounce what it already mentioned before.. it also tries to conclude or summarize the story of the creation and explain where it deemed relevant to do so!!
    then if the variation in the books of Moses concerning the Israelites ascerted to have been written by him, it was as a note of remembrance to every stage of the journey they reached. he didn’t consecutively reproduced them.. There were time spaces between those books… he’ was a human being and everything by a human being cannot be 100% all the time!! he was ageing too, same his memory! you’d agree that it was all you knew while you were much younger that you still know or every dream you dreamt while you were younger. he wasn’t God that you’d expect him to be above mistakes..
    in as much as it wasn’t an exact replica of what he first told them in your apologetic findings and texts.. the contexts were unchanged.. the messages they were attempting to convey was constant.. So, maybe since you have found yourself a job to be finding faults with the biblical texts in the name of its scholar, you’ll continue to make fool of yourself in the believe that you are being wise.. God’s inscriptions and messages are perfect revealing his truths!!
    and to add(you have never been a Christian by your words, you were a churchgoer one of those victims who tried to believe because they said it was so not because he saw it so!.) sorry to say such but it’s paramountly fact!!

    1. Gideon,

      I appreciate your enthusiasm and your contribution, but there is really nothing here in your comments that has any textual support, and in fact a strong case for the opposite can be made. Biblical scholars and lay persons alike have noted for over three centuries now differences in style, language, themes, theological emphasis and message, even ideology, and competing views and beliefs about sacrifice, the cult, the priesthood, and even about the conceptions of Israel’s god. It is the text of the Bible that bears witness to all of this. In other words, this has nothing to do with the subjective whims or interpretive frameworks imposed upon these ancient texts by modern readers. I am not engaged in that sort of activity, nor scholarship; rather, a corpus of ancient literature is my object of study and like any object of study what it is and conversely is not is not dependent on me, but on the observable data gleaned from our object of study and the conclusion they lead us to draw about the nature of these ancient texts. And it is the text itself that reveals that it is indeed a composite of two different, and contradictory, stories, messages, Hebrew style and vocabulary, worldviews, etc. The evidence can be found in the series of posts listed here.

      It looks, however, that you yourself are starting from subjective, reader-imposed assumptions about these texts—“the Bible, its concepts, messages and ideas are not of this human projections”; “your own wisdom”; “because it wasn’t written with human wisdom”, etc. Studying the biblical texts on their terms and from within their own historical and literary contexts would easily refute such ephemeral theologized claims. Indeed, one of the things I let the texts of Genesis 1 and 2 put out to its modern readers in my recently published, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, is that the texts themselves reveal that their messages and perception about the nature of the world and its origins were shaped by subjective and culturally shaped beliefs and experiences about the world that our ancient scribes had. The text informs us this, as does any literary work or even art work would. They are expressions of their authors and cultures. Again, this is not a subjective belief I hold; rather, this is what the texts themselves tells us when we enter into their worldview and on their terms.

      Additionally, I might remind you that while knowing nothing about the content of these texts, their authors and their messages, to who they were writing, why, to address what historical concerns, in relation to what other literary works, employing what types of literary conventions, etc. it is extremely disingenuous to the texts and their authors to make claims about their messages, while being ignorant about these things and ancient literature in general. It places you in a precarious situation and puts you at a gross disadvantage when saying anything about these ancient texts, and frankly presents any claims you make about this texts as a bit audacious. I advocate Being Honest to the Texts, Their Authors, and Their Beliefs—not ours about them!

      Take the time to read through the posts in this series. Their aim is to be honest to the texts of the Bible, their authors, and these authors’ messages—not to the beliefs and messages of these texts’ modern readers. This series of posts also puts forward some of the textual data (Hebrew linguistics, style, thematic and theological emphasis, competing worldviews, etc.) that are present in the texts and leads us to draw the irrefutable conclusion that Genesis 1 and 2 were penned by different authors who held different views about the nature of the world and its origins. And quite frankly this is what ancient literature did. For a fuller treatment of the textual data that reveals that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 were written by different scribes, with competing messages and even worldviews, and at different times periods, by different social groups, and to address different historical audiences, etc. can be found in my newly published Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate.

  6. You speak of science, it never even entered your minds that science itself is the betrayer of mankind. Our wisdom is foolishness to the Most High, and so it proves to be.

    The earth is flat and stationary under a solid firmament, stars are lights and planets simply do not exist, the sun and moon circle right above our heads, Genesis is absolutely correct.

    You all belong to the same pagan faith, science fiction, the Most High will have the last laugh.

  7. You may want to read chapter five of Jon D. Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence, which can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/Psalm104aten. In a nutshell, The Egyptian “The Hymn to Aten” influenced Psalm 104, which was in turn rewritten and demythologized in Genesis 1. See here for some parallels between Aten and Psalm 104:
    http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2013/04/psalm-104-the-great-hymn-to-the-aten-2.html

  8. How does all of that relate to what I said? If you weren’t talking about thermodynamic entropy a couple of comments ago, just say so.

  9. en·tro·py
    /ˈentrəpē/
    noun
    noun: entropy; plural noun: entropies; symbol: S
    1.Physics
    a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
    2. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
    “a marketplace where entropy reigns supreme”
    synonyms: deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse; disorder, chaos
    “life is a struggle against entropy”

    Robert, one does not need to be a trained physicist or rocket scientist to see the effects of entropy. I assume you believe in evolution, not like me that God created everything “ex nihilo”, right?

    Evolution is a bad theory that came out of a time when the industrial revolution was changing the planet. It was also a time when other bad theories, like the one of so called “higher criticism” originated. It was part of my college days back home in Colorado back in the early “70s. So I’m well aware of it.

    God created everything as per the first couple of chapters in the Bible. Moses wrote it down via revelation since no one, not even modern scientists were there or have a clue that is anything more than a religious belief with a so-called scientific stamp on it. Do you believe in global warming too? One thing you will learn if you are honest and follow science as it is called and practiced today, that what was dogma in the not too distant past, is now discarded because of the bane of technology that enables us today to “see” things that were only theoretical before. Theories go in the trash and new postulates are made and we are told once again, that this is “the real deal”. Fine, I really don’t care. God bless ’em, one and all. You too for that matter. I don’t claim to be anything but a faithful witness. God is the judge…

    1. Sabba, the goal of reading and understanding and in the end being honest to these ancient texts is to let them invite us into their worldview, not to interpret it away because it doesn’t conform to our beliefs and/or scientific knowledge. The goal is not to impose our beliefs and understanding onto these texts, but to let the texts speak their message, listen to it, understand it as a product of its historical and culturally conditioned context, and to even be fascinated by it. All you’re doing again is squeezing this text and its message and beliefs into your own self-fulfilling personal belief system. The abuse is appalling!

      If our author, conditioned by his cultural experience and perception of the world that he lived in, saw, perceived, experienced, and even accepted as “truth” that his world was surrounded by water—water above the sky, which gave it its blue color, and water below the earth upon which it rested. If he perceived and accepted as “truth” that the sky held back the waters above it, that the moon produced its own light, that the day itself was the source of daylight and not the sun, that human beings were essentially of the divine as opposed to the animals of the earth, and that the seventh day was consecrated and created holy by the creator deity at creation. . . then by all means leave him alone. Let him have his own beliefs. Are your beliefs so much more important to you that you have to steal, rob, deform, recast, and in the end efface his beliefs and worldview so that you can sleep at night? Or I must assume that you are completely ignorant about these texts, what they claim and do not claim, etc. Substantiated in the other 4 retorts I’ve posted to your all-personalized comments here.

      You have to stop treating these ancient documents as empty shells in which modern beliefs and viewpoints are whimsically inserted with no regard for nor knowledge about the very beliefs of the ancient scribes who penned these texts, their culturally shaped perspectives, and the historical and literary circumstances that produced these text. Our goal is to let these ancient texts invite us into their worldview, and to understand that world as objectively as possible—not to manipulate these ancient documents so that they conform to our beliefs, our perceptions, and our scientific knowledge about the world. In short, we have to start being honest to these ancient texts, to their authors, and to their beliefs and worldviews—not ours, nor those of readers who lived centuries after these texts were written! God-forbid we allow this author to believe what he believed. God-forbid that his 2,500 year old culturally-conditioned beliefs are different from ours. How pathetic!

      The real fact of the matter is that these beliefs about the nature of his world, these culturally-conditioned “truths” as it were, shaped the composition of the author of Genesis 1’s creation story so that the god of Genesis 1 is portrayed creating the very world that its author and culture perceived!—a moon that produced light, the creation of light separate from the sun, an explanation of how the earth emerged from the waters below and became surrounded by the waters above, and how these waters were kept in place by the sky which the creator deity specifically made for this purpose, an explanation of why the seventh day after each new moon and each consecutive seventh day were inherently sacred, and so forth.

      And as a final thumper. . . sorry, you don’t believe in this world! It is his worldview, not ours! This is not my subjective belief, it is a textual demonstration, which you continuously refuse to listen to!

  10. Entropy is a measure of the distribution of heat throughout a closed system. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the reason why when you open a window on a cold day heat flows out of the house rather than into it. The earth by itself is not a closed system thermodynamically. It is being supplied heat by the sun. If earth were really an anti-entropic anomaly how would it be possible for scientists to discover and formulate the laws of thermodynamics, including the second, while on earth?

    For your own sake, educate yourself about the natural sciences before discrediting yourself by talking about them.

  11. I had a physics teacher in high school who said, “Earth is an anti-entropic anomaly”. In other words, how did we come to pass given that everything over time tends not towards disorder? Evolution can’t happen. He was an honest guy.
    Before sin, everything went just fine. Everything we have and are was there in the first 2 chapters of Genesis. Then came the fall. Man no longer has eternity like before because any contact with God, who was there with him, was lost. Time sets in and given time, everything dies and returns to dust. Pretty simple.

  12. Are you making the claim that the second law of thermodynamics was not in force before the Fall? Because physics is something I do know about, and it’s hard to imagine what the world would be like without the second law.

  13. Oh, now, it was more of the same ole same ole. He had to get on the bandwagon and he wouldn’t. No biggun’ as far as I’m concerned. It just gave me a chance to say “hi”. “But there may not be a tactful way to challenge someone’s confidence that the Bible is a single, infallible book. Ultimately we all have our beliefs challenged or put down by other people from time to time. It’s part of life, and so it falls on us to decide whether we want to listen to the other person’s viewpoint or to run from the conversation.” Hear here!

    I’m going to bounce something off you, getting back to the context of this particular topic (Genesis 1, etc.). It deals with the idea of the prophecy of Christ as the promised seed. More on that later (work rangs).

    But I will say this to your assertion as follows: “So we can’t assume, for instance, that Adam and Eve were going to live forever without the aid of the tree of life, because the account doesn’t say that…” The account in question says that they would seal their fate. The tree of life for the defiled couple would put them beyond God’s sovereign reach. Not a good place, and the loving God kicked them out, the penalty of death that day was literally applied, and as I have said elsewhere, the law of entropy began…

    We/they are eternal beings. At one time, before time as we know it, YHVH walked with Us/them in fellowship, in eternity. Eternity remains. Our fellowship was lost and the coming Seed of the Woman not only will crush hasatan’s head but HAS ALREADY RESTORED FELLOWSHIP. So the positive aspect of knowing Him, like Adam knew his wife (and she conceived—Paul would explain this as “the relationship of Christ with the Church”) is restored…

    1. I’m going to bounce something off you, getting back to the context of this particular topic (Genesis 1, etc.). It deals with the idea of the prophecy of Christ

      Really? This is the abusive shit I’ve been talking about. These are your beliefs Sabba, and as such I have no qualms to pick against them. And these are certainly the beliefs of how later readers viewed this text, and that too is a conversation. How did that come about?. But these are not the beliefs of this author, nor for that matter his god! And that’s not a theological statement, but rather a textual statement; it is supported by the text! This is what I’ve been talking about. We are attempting to be honest to this text, on the terms of the text and its historical and literary context—not your terms or context, not the terms or contexts of later “Christian” readers with their Christian beliefs, and not the terms or context implied in by a later title, “the holy Bible”! You are bringing all this to the text. For where in Genesis 1 does the text support these beliefs? Absolutely and irrefutably nowhere. To deny this is to deny this author’s beliefs and impose yours as more important than his. You have failed to understand his beliefs and worldview! And that’s your M.O. It’s utterly disrespectful and dishonest to these texts! Again, read the text on its own terms!! There is nothing there in the text to support your claims! To do so, you have to abusively import your own beliefs, while neglecting the authors! My readers, even my Christian readers, perceive this! How would you feel if a Muslim came along and claimed that Genesis 1 prophesies Mohammad? This is the exact same shit that your pulling. None of these later reader-subjectively-imposed beliefs are in the texts! And excuse my tone, but I, and my readers, are frankly getting sick of your crap. Start your own blog, and post what you believe there! And again, I have nothing against your beliefs. What infuriates me is your incessant need to legitimate your beliefs at the expense of the many and varied beliefs of these authors. Here we are discussing the texts, as their authors originally intended and as they were understood in their original historical and literary contexts!

  14. I don’t think I or anyone else ran off Terry. He didn’t like what he was reading here so he said he was leaving; I asked him to stay. I think I was rather polite, to be honest. But there may not be a tactful way to challenge someone’s confidence that the Bible is a single, infallible book. Ultimately we all have our beliefs challenged or put down by other people from time to time. It’s part of life, and so it falls on us to decide whether we want to listen to the other person’s viewpoint or to run from the conversation. That’s all I was getting at when I asked him to learn to read the account the way that is stated here. I felt, based on his comment, that he hadn’t read the post carefully since he didn’t really respond to its points.

  15. Man! KW, you are mean, mean, mean. Running off folks like Terry! “If you can learn to read the creation accounts the way they are explained here, you will learn a tremendous amount”. Terry zez, “… no way” with his ix-nay. Allah y’all (not you so much—you’re just a little “pushy”) need to learn some manners, and find a way to live with the other side of the ‘bible scholar’ isle. Just MHO ya know (no?). (;~))

  16. Terry, your point about man being created in the image of God is from the *first* creation account. We don’t know a lot about the humans that were created there — not even their names — but certainly the writer seemed to have a higher opinion of humankind than the writer of the second account, which uses different terminology and depicts the key figures as much more limited and fallible.

    My comments on Adam and Eve are referring to the second creation account; although these humans are not named either, the Eden account seems contiguous with it, and they are named there. The God in *this* story is not stated to be omniscient. You are reading that attribute into the text based on your idea of what God has to be. The account itself tells us that God couldn’t find Adam and Eve until they came out of hiding. Does that sound like an all-knowing God to you?

    Of course the fundamentalist explanation will be that God was behaving in a rhetorical manner and didn’t actually lose track of his humans. That’s simply another example of reading something into the account, however. Likewise you are sticking to the much later interpretation of God’s statement about the serpent and the woman’s seed without respecting the actual account, which simply says that humans and snakes would have a contentious relationship, as indeed we do (well, we who spend time outdoors like ancient man did).

    I couldn’t understand your point about Gen. 3:21, nor your second- and third-to-last sentences; sorry, but the grammar is too fragmentary. Anyway, I hope you don’t “delete” yourself from this site. If you can learn to read the creation accounts the way they are explained here, you will learn a tremendous amount. The readings given on this page are self-explanatory and depict two intelligible creation accounts; these simple, literal readings do not depend upon a healthy heaping of later theological developments in order for them to be read coherently.

  17. KW, Why wouldn’t Gen 1:26 maybe support the implication man WAS created immortal, and lost that upon his fall? There God said “let us make man in our image & in our likeness. God IS immortal. Why couldn’t being in His image & likeness imply man had the same immortality originally? Not as confident as you seem to be that man’s original state was not one of immortality. That very idea may very well be what is stated here, and could be consistent with why the life spans of early man was recorded…rather lofty by our standards of today (commonly over 900 years). By Abraham’s time had been reduced to 175 years.
    Regarding the idea Jesus having to die for man’s sin being a first century concept? That may have been the first time man (Paul) stated that idea. However, God throughout the O/T claimed He knew the beginning from the end…implying omnipotence. He would, therefore known from the beginning man would sin, and a redeemer (His Son) would be needed. And, The concept of the death (of His Son) as sacrifice for sin was evident upon God’s statement to the serpent, the woman’s seed (Christ) would bruise the serpent’s head, and the serpent would bruise Christ’s heel. Also implied in Gen 3:21 when God made garments of skin for A/E to wear.
    On other subjects covered on this site comments use human assumption to “prove” points (e.g. Abram’s birthplace Ur, or Haran), when that assumption isn’t closely related to biblical passages. Now such an assumption that doesn’t “fit the mold”, but what I see is rather reasonable is questioned?
    Don’t bother restricting my ability to get on this site. I’m checking the box to be deleted from it.

  18. Sabba, the proposal that this site is founded on is just as simple as it is radical (to the viewpoint of a Christian). The proposal is that we read the text and don’t insert anything into it from later theological inventions. We don’t get to assume that we know what the author really meant unless we are applying historical knowledge of the context in which he was writing.

    So we can’t assume, for instance, that Adam and Eve were going to live forever without the aid of the tree of life, because the account doesn’t say that; it says that they would live forever *with* the aid of that tree, and therefore they had to be evicted from the Garden. There is no mention, among God’s specific curses, of making humans “imperfect” or “mortal”. This is very telling, as far as the way the ancient Jews looked at the world. It was only later, when Christians became uncomfortable with the idea of a perfect God creating “imperfect” things, that it was decided that Adam and Eve were not created to naturally age and die, but were originally “perfect” until they sinned. Where does the Bible say that Adam was ever perfect, from Genesis to Revelation? Rather, the Eden account implies that men and women were like the other animals that God created — they would eventually die, but for the fact that, as God’s most special creation, he gave them the tree of life to sustain them. They sinned, and the tree was taken away from them. It’s as simple as that; no need to bring spiritual interpretations into it at all.

    Everything you’ve written, I’m afraid, is eisegetical. You are claiming special knowledge that comes from outside scripture and you are applying writings that come from centuries later, and sometimes competing schools of thought, to earlier accounts. The ransom sacrifice by Jesus, for instance, has zero connection to what is written in Genesis. It wasn’t until much later that a connection was made, probably by Christians, between the snake in Eden and Satan. The Christian concept of Satan himself, as Dr. DiMattei has discussed here at some length, did not even exist in the theology of the time. The snake was simply a talking animal, a trickster god, as found in various other ancient myths.

    Likewise, the idea that Jesus had to die as a substitute for Adam was stated by Paul in the first century, but the Genesis account does not talk about such a thing, nor is there any hint that God even has a son. God merely says that Eve’s children (humanity) and snakes will be enemies because of this ugly incident in their past which led to both parties being cursed. This enmity would be manifested by the now-legless snake biting people in their heels, and people responding by stomping on the snake’s head. There’s no reason for a symbolic interpretation of this text because the literal interpretation makes sufficient sense.

  19. KW

    without taking the time to wade through even your comments at this time, much less everyone else’s, I’ll give you my take.

    Up until eating from the “bad” tree, they both walked with YHVH Eloheem, in eternity. Eternity past, in the sense that it was before us living today, and we’re looking ahead to eternity that we will experience “first hand” in the future. They were, after the Fall, looking back at eternity they once had. In the past. But it was eternitynevertheless.

    Ecclesiastes, from the perspective that comes “after the Garden”, says that God has set eternity in our hearts but in such a way that we will not be able to find it, the work which He has done from the beginning and unto the end. Another way to translate that is , “eternity in our hearts without which we would not be able to know what He has done…” 3:11

    Anyway, they sinned, and death would be soon. At least from the perspective of eternity. Within that very same day. But from eternity’s perspective, from God’s “a day is with the Lord as with us a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Peter and Solomon both said that. OT/NT

    So Adam only lives 9 hundred and some odd years, not enough to qualify for a day. Time began with the Fall. Before that it was eternity with God. Now they are outside the Garden and will die that day. They have to leave the place of Paradise because of sin. No sin with God. Not in eternity, past present future—it is all the same with Him. So if Adam and Eve, who had not eaten from the Tree of Eternal Life (up till that point, they didn’t need to. Because for one thing, they had it already. Before the disobedience they were living in eternity and in fellowship with God. But now, expelled from God who is sinless and demands the same, IF THEY HAD EATEN OF THE TREE OF ETERNAL LIFE, BEING IN A STATE OF SIN AND NO LONGER ABLE TO BE WITH GOD AS A RESULT—THEN EATING FROM THAT PARTICULAR TREE WOULD HAVE SEALED THEIR FATE FOR ALL ETERNITY. NEVER TO BE WITH GOD. THAT IS WHAT HELL IS . NO PRESENCE OF GOD. Forever.

    That is why God the Father and God the Son talked to each other. Genesis 3: 22. Eloheem is El in the plural. They did not want mankind to live forever in a state of irreparable separation and eternal death. In other words, if they sealed their eternity while still in the Garden but with a death sentence and to being ushered out, then even Jesus’ future substitutionary sacrifice would not be able to reconcile them. By being cast out, they went with the promise of a future hope. Jesus, the seed that would crush the serpent’s head (ha! satan!) would be “bruised for our iniquities, broken for our sins and transgression, the chastisement resulting in our peace would be put on Him, and by His stripes we would be healed, etc. Isaiah 53

    Just so you won’t think that I play fair, one thing that we have from our original parents is the fact that we ARE ETERNAL BEINGS. No, our bodies will die, of course. But that is not the real “US”. That real “US” with a body to live forever will be our future lot in life. The question is, where will we spend that life? With or without HIM?

    Match point. Your serve.

  20. Hi mehmet, I know you weren’t talking to me, but I would like to point you to this comment simply because I already responded to this question myself once before and nobody saw fit to reply to me at the time: http://contradictionsinthebible.com/god-creates-the-heavens-and-the-earth/#comment-2156. If that section link doesn’t work, go to that page and search for “Kevin”, then see my response below his comment. (It seems that you’ve precisely reproduced Kevin’s comment after your introductory question, and I’m not sure if that means you’re a spambot, but even if you might be, I’ll respond to you anyway for the benefit of future readers :-)

    After reading my answer there, keep in mind that, out of the translations on BibleHub, only the NIV and the Douay use “had planted” in 2:8. All other translations including KJV use “planted”. So either someone just happened to pick up their Douay and didn’t know this, or they’re intentionally picking a rendering that agrees with their pre-existing beliefs.

    As for the rendering in 2:19 of “having formed” or “had formed”, which moves back the creation of animals to before this point, this verse has its own section in the Wikipedia article on the NIV for being such a notorious translation choice: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=New_International_Version&oldid=651984956#Translation_philosophy. So the same goes for any other translation, like Douay, which uses this rendering.

  21. hi dr steven some apologists are trying to reconcile the contradictions their answers are below how do you respond them ?
    The Douai renders these as follows:
    “And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed.”
    “And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam”

    I read these as consistent with the order plants, then animals, then man, as rendered in chapter 1.

  22. meekrobe – I don’t particularly like Cassuto’s explanations here, or elsewhere. They are too ad-hoc for me, meant to resolve contradictions that are easily resolved by invoking divergent traditions. Cassuto, himself, while being a staunch defender of a single (divinely inspired) author admits as much by saying:

    “It appears that there were current among the Israelites in regard to the names of Esau’s wives, and likewise with reference to the other topics that similarly recur in contradictory versions, two divergent traditions; but the Torah did not wish to reject one in favor of the other, and therefore found room for both in its text, leaving it to the reader to chose one of the versions or to find a way of reconciling them as he deemed fit.” (the Documentary Hypothesis, end of Ch 5)

    It seems more reasonable to assume divergent traditions here than a somewhat tortured explanation. Furthermore, eseb is used in Genesis 1:11, granted with the compound noun “deshe eseb.”

    וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב

    This is in direct contradiction to Genesis 2:5, which says “all eseb” not just “cultivated eseb.”

    וְכָל-עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה, טֶרֶם יִצְמָח

    Furthermore the explanation for not having plants in 2:5 is not only because Adam doesn’t exist, it is also because there is no water. There is no reason to believe that wheat, barley and thorns need water to grow but trees and grasses do not. Genesis 2:6 resolves the no-water part.

    In general I try to avoid ad-hoc explanations, or ones that require tons of caveats to fit into the text. I think several versions of the Documentary Hypothesis fall into this trap as well. In many cases, all we can say is that there were likely multiple traditions represented here.

  23. Has anyone taken a look at Umberto Cassuto’s explanation for the difference of order in the creation accounts?

    Cassuto notes that creation 2 only mentions that a certain variety of plants were missing (siah/esebh), not all plant life. Why? Because man had not yet been cast out of Eden and forced to work the ground as punishment. By the end of the story these plants are introduced “thorns and thistles [siah] it shall bring forth to you […],” and esebh (wheat/barley) for agriculture.

  24. I understand that’s how the text is usually read, but I just don’t feel that the words referring to the act of eating from the tree imply that the tree was not already being eaten from. It’s not indicated one way or another whether they already have eaten from it. The only clear statement from God is that Adam and Eve would live forever if they ate from the tree in the future (whether once, or perpetually). I sense no urgency in his tone when he decides to bar them from the garden.

    If there is urgency here, then let me ask, where is it in the wording? Alternately, if urgency is assumed because God immediately bars them from the garden, how would a *lack* of urgency have been indicated in the other case? What else could God possibly say or do in the time between A&E’s sin, and his eviction of them from the garden? I’m curious how else the story could have been told. It’s succinct, to be sure, but let’s not confuse terseness with urgency.

    My suggested reading would not only avoid the natural question of why A&E did not eat from the tree at any time before this, but also why the tree was not mentioned earlier when God said that only one tree could not be eaten from — because the tree of life *was* for them to eat from, as long as they were under God’s blessing. Alternately one could choose to believe that the story is very poorly conceived, or perhaps corrupted.

    In that case I would expect someone to be able to explain how this story made sense to the storyteller or final redactor. How were Adam and Eve able to live forever *without* eating from the tree (keeping in mind that there is no mention in the account of their falling from a perfect state of deathlessness, which is a later Christian conception)? And what was the tree of life *for*, in that case? What purpose did it serve in the story? Finally, why does God not mention, as part of his compound curse against A&E, that they will no longer live forever because of their sin, unless it is the case that being separated from the tree of life will be the cause of their eventual decline and death since they cannot keep eating from it?

    (It’s a further assumption of most modern readers that Adam and Eve were newly-created, when the account does not indicate how much time passed while they “continued to be naked” (2:25) before they sinned. The ancient audience to this story could well have had the impression that A&E were in the garden for quite a while, partaking of the tree of life during that time to extend their lives.)

    I can’t prove this, obviously, nor do I have any particular motive for suggesting this besides the simple fact that this is how the account reads for me. I do suspect, though, that the Jews of 2000 years ago read it this way, including the writer of Revelation, who envisioned that the new Jerusalem would have “trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Rev. 22:2)

    These trees of life do not seem to promise the instantaneous granting of eternal life as soon as someone bites into their fruit, but rather their continued fruitage indicates to me that the “nations” are continually (“each month”) partaking of the fruit to extend their lives, as they live under God’s blessing. Of course, Revelation’s imagery could have merely represented a later interpretation of the Eden account; it’s left to the modern reader to ask whether the Jews of the first century C.E. would be likely to understand their own myths better than the majority of modern readers.

  25. KWAccording to this alternative way of looking at it, the tree of life was already being eaten from on a regular basis, and the purpose of barring A&E from the Garden was so that they could not *keep* eating from it.

    That’s not the meaning of 3:22, which indicates that eating the fruit–not periodically eating the fruit–allowed man to live forever. Asserting that the tree’s fruit just extended life until the next time it was eaten seems incongruent with Yahweh’s sense of urgency in guarding against access to it for fear that man would live forever like the gods.

  26. Are we to believe that Adam and Eve never ate from the tree of life, even though it was “in the midst of the garden” and had never been forbidden as food? It looks like the tree of life is a later addition to the text.

    With so little to go on in the text itself, I find it interesting that everyone assumes that the tree of life would instantly confer eternal life to the eater. Why couldn’t the following just as easily be the case?

    Alternate reading: The purpose of the tree was to sustain the lives of Adam and Eve indefinitely. Infinite, absolute concepts like eternal life, perfection, and omnipotent gods had not been invented yet, so the idea in the storyteller’s mind was not that Adam and Eve were created to naturally live forever, but rather that it was the eating from this tree which prevented them from following the natural course of all life, aging and dying.

    According to this alternative way of looking at it, the tree of life was already being eaten from on a regular basis, and the purpose of barring A&E from the Garden was so that they could not *keep* eating from it.

  27. >I’m inclined to see this as harmonious with what this author (J) expresses at Gen 4:26—that it wasn’t until the birth of Cain that the name Yahweh was known to the characters of this story. Cf. contradiction #11.

    I also see this as problematic, since 4:26 is with regard to the birth of Enosh, not Cain who is born in 4:1 and clearly named with the invocation of Yahweh. Nor can it be really argued that the Cain-Abel story is an insertion in the text since it also looks like clear J material. Nevertheless, the “then they began to call in the name of Yahweh” in 4:26 looks badly out of place.

  28. #1d. Does God declare all the vegetation and trees as food for the primordial pair OR does Yahweh command that one of the trees not be eaten from? (Gen 1:29 [P] vs Gen 2:17 [J])

    Even within the J narrative, I think that a case can be made for another contradiction: Is only one tree forbidden as food (Genesis 2:16-17), or was a second tree also prohibited (Genesis 3:22-24)?

    Genesis 2:16-17:
    16And Yahweh God commanded the man, ‘ You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’

    Genesis 3:22-24:
    22 Then Yahweh God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— 23therefore Yahweh God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

    Prior to 3:22-24, the only mention of the tree of life is in 2:9, and there it’s almost as an aside: “…the tree of life also in the midst of the garden…” Are we to believe that Adam and Eve never ate from the tree of life, even though it was “in the midst of the garden” and had never been forbidden as food? It looks like the tree of life is a later addition to the text.

  29. I agree that Elohim is best translated here as “god” and Yahweh is best translated as a proper name, such as Zeus or Anubis. Nevertheless, your statement “that the second creation account always refers to the deity by his proper name, Yahweh” is still incorrect as attested by Genesis 3:5 where the deity is referred to *solely* by Elohim without mention of Yahweh. It is far more proper to say that the first creation account, Genesis 1:1-2:4a avoids the use of the personal name of the deity Yahweh, while the second account uses it freely. That statement is in line with the basic premises of the Documentary Hypothesis as well, which is, as you know, that the name of Yahweh was not used by P and E before it was revealed to Moses. This is different than the statement that J exclusively uses Yahweh, which is not supported by the text, either here in Genesis 3, or elsewhere. You’re trying to make the second statement and it’s incorrect.

    If you want to go into more detail about the specific choice of names in the second (J) account you need to do a lot more work, including explaining why the idiosyncratic Yahweh Elohim is used here and nowhere else in the Pentateuch, and why 3:5 uses Elohim alone.

    I’ll also note that Elohim is a bit of a pathological word having multiple meanings, sometimes plural and sometimes singular. It is a somewhat unique word in the Hebrew text, and that characteristic has been exploited both by Biblical scholars and apologists to their own ends. In 3:5 it’s used with two clearly separate meanings, the first is singular, the second plural.

    1. I’d still maintain that this is a moot point. Yahweh is the deity referenced here, and my assertion that “the second creation account always refers to the deity by his proper name, Yahweh” is still salvageable and correct with this slight understanding, or amendment: “the second creation account, its author, always refers to the deity by his proper name, Yahweh.” For this is indeed what I meant. Those verses where the deity is mentioned (elohim) without using the name Yahweh (3:3, 5) are verses of the dialogue between the snake and the woman. In fact, this is actually an interesting point: the author refrains from having his characters refer to (know?), the deity by name. In other words, only our author consistently refers to the deity by his proper name, Yahweh. I’m inclined to see this as harmonious with what this author (J) expresses at Gen 4:26—that it wasn’t until the birth of Cain that the name Yahweh was known to the characters of this story. Cf. contradiction #11.

  30. If you want anyone to read your book that doesn’t already agree with you, you might want to title it something a little less strident. Just a suggestion.

    >The second account, Genesis 2:4b-3:24, always refers to the deity as Yahweh in all of its 11 occurrences.

    This is, of course, incorrect. The name of the deity in 2:4b-3:24 is Yahweh Elohim, and in one case, Elohim alone, in 3:5.

    כִּי, יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים, כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְכֶם מִמֶּנּוּ, וְנִפְקְחוּ עֵינֵיכֶם; וִהְיִיתֶם, כֵּאלֹהִים, יֹדְעֵי, טוֹב וָרָע.

    (referring of course to the first instance of the word Elohim in 3:5).

    While I understand that the current Documentary Hypothesis consensus is that Elohim was added by a redactor to smooth over the transition, this needs to be motivated. Also 3:5 needs to be explained. Regardless, a blanket statement that doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny, should probably be avoided, lest one throw your critiques of apologists right back at you.

    1. Aaron, thanks for the Hebrew text. However, the Hebrew elohim is not a name; it is a noun. One might argue that ‘el is a proper name, El, but that’s another story (#27). The secondary literature usually gets this incorrect too by claiming that there are 2 different names in each one of these creation accounts. That is incorrect. There is only one name, and it appears uniquely in the second creation myth, or if one prefers, starting at Gen 2:4b. So the statement that the second creation account always refers to the deity by his proper name, Yahweh, is indeed correct. I would translate yhwh elohim as “god Yahweh.” I have forthcoming posts dedicated to specific close readings of the Hebrew. More about god Yahweh coming. Tomorrow, however, I’ll talk about Genesis 1:1-2—a rather long discussion at that.

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