#2. Does God create the skies and the earth, then plants, then animals, and then both male and female in his image OR does Yahweh first form man from the ground, then plants, then animals, and then lastly woman from man’s rib? (Gen 1:1-27 [P] vs Gen 2:4b-23 [J])
#3. Does God create the earth, the skies, and man on the same day OR not? (Gen 2:4b-7 [J] vs Gen 1:1-27 [P])
#4. Is earth initially created as fecund and fertile OR dry and barren? (Gen 1:9-10 [P] vs Gen 2:5 [J])
#5. Are both man and women created in the image of God OR is man formed from the ground, and women formed from man? (Gen 1:26-27 [P] vs Gen 2:7, 2:21-23 [J]; 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Tim 2:13)
#6. When is all the vegetation created: before the creation of the animals, and man and woman OR after the creation of man and before the creation of the animals and woman? (Gen 1:11-13, 1:29-30 [P] vs Gen 2:9-10 [J])
#7. Does God declare all vegetation and trees as food for the primordial pair OR does Yahweh command that one of the trees not be eaten from? (Gen 1:29-30 [P] vs Gen 2:17 [J])


The following entry is excerpted from Chapter 1, “Genesis’ Two Creation Accounts,” of  my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs,  pp. 1-63.

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 or molds—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 molds (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), while in the latter account man is molded (yatsar) from the ground first, then plants and animals, and then, woman is built from the man’s rib as a response to the man’s inability to find a corresponding partner among the animals that the creator deity also molded (yatsar) from the ground.

Wordplay and puns are also unique to this second creation account, and help accentuate this account’s anthropological orientation and the views of its author. For instance, we are told that from the ground (’adamah) Yahweh molds the man (’adam), but no other beast formed from the ground (’adamah) has a name, that is a corresponding essence, similar to the man’s; only woman does: “This now is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. Accordingly she shall be called woman (’ishah) because from man (’ish) she was taken” (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)). But in the second account, the creation of man and woman is presented separately; and through the use of wordplay their essences, that is the created stuff from which each one was made, is highlighted: man (’adam) comes from the ground (’adamah), woman (’ishah) from man (’ish). We will see below that these two distinct perspectives and messages reveal how each one of our authors variously viewed, and thus uniquely composed a narrative about, the nature and origins of man and woman.

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 thirty-five of its occurrences. The second account, in contrast, consistently refers to the deity by name, Yahweh.1 This is inline with the larger textual traditions from which these two creation accounts originated—the Priestly and Yahwist sources (see Introduction). In the Priestly textual tradition, 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 Yahwist tradition; it always uses the personal name Yahweh and contradictorily professes that the name Yahweh was known and invoked throughout the whole patriarchal era (#11). This is just one example of contradictory authorial agendas and theological perspectives between these two textual traditions. We will see lots more of this in forthcoming entries.

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 it. 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 molds 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), molds 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 garments of skin 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 in the Priestly source of which this creation account was 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. Where one attempts to give an orderly explanation of the creation of the then known world 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 solely focuses on 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, moreover, that is both male and female and created in the image and likeness of their 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 abyss enveloped in darkness, 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 and his culture—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 observed, 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.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 world—and all festivals and rituals governed by the movement of the celestial luminaries, which serve as signs for these “fixed times” (1:14). In fact, there is a heightened emphasis on creation and the ritual observance of specific god-created holy days in this creation account. On the contrary, the second creation account displays no concern for these priestly matters, and emphasizes its own narrative themes, a sort of anthropological theology interested in such questions as man’s relationship to his god, to the ground, woman, obedience, and his lot in life.

All these differences (in theme, style, vocabulary, theology, presentation of the deity, worldview, 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 endeavor which sought to preserve Israel’s sacred literature that these two creation accounts were placed side-by-side as they now appear in their current form.

Let us now take a closer look at each one of these creation accounts individually, being as honest as possible to the texts themselves, and that means attempting to understand them on their own terms and from within their own cultural contexts.

Genesis 1:1–2:3 on Its Own Terms and in Its Own Historical and Literary Context
Genesis 1:1-2:3’s depiction of the creation of the world was shaped by ancient Near Eastern cosmological perspectives and beliefs about the nature of the world and its origins. We saw this already in our discussion of Gen 1:1-2 (#1). This fact the text itself bears witness to regardless of the opinions and beliefs of readers living millennia after this text was written. In other words, a thorough, honest, and objective analysis of the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 on its own terms and as a product of its own cultural and literary world reveals rather convincingly that its creation narrative was shaped by cultural and subjective perspectives, biases, and beliefs about the nature of the world that were unique to the cultures and peoples of the ancient Near East. It is not, in other words, a description of creation from the perspective of a supernatural deity residing outside the cosmos, nor is it inspired by such a point of reference. These are not subjective claims that I am making; rather they are the claims that the text itself—our object of study—advances when one reads and understands it on its own terms and from within its own cultural context.

Below, I reproduce in part my textual analysis of Genesis 1:3-28 from my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate. Readers interested in a more detailed textual and cultural understanding of Genesis 1:1-2:3 should consult Chapter 1, “Genesis’ Two Creation Accounts,” (p. 1-42). My textual analysis of Genesis 2:4b-24 will also be reproduced below, where we will see specifically how this author’s beliefs and message about the creation and origin of man and woman radically contradict those of the author of Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:3-5—Day Is Light
Modern readers often express their perplexity at the fact that Genesis 1:3 presents the creation of light before the creation of the luminary that produces light, the sun, whose creation does not happen until day 4 (1:16). How can light be created or exist, it is often asked, before the sun was created?

The problem with this and similar questions is that they impose our knowledge about the cosmos, indeed an objective understanding about the workings of our solar system, onto this ancient text whose culture did not possess this type of knowledge. We know that the sun is the source of light for our solar system. But the ancient cultures and peoples that produced this creation account did not possess this knowledge and apparently held different ideas about the nature of their world. This fact the text itself bears witness to.

In other words, Genesis’ portrait of the creation of the world was not shaped by objective, scientific, or divinely-inspired knowledge about the world; rather, it was shaped by the perspectives, beliefs, and limited empirical understanding—or misunderstanding as the case may be—of the nature of the world and its workings as ancient man perceived it. Our goal should not be to impose modern truths onto this ancient document, nor attempt to harmonize the text with our modern scientific knowledge about the world. Rather, our task is to understand the text on its terms and as a product of its own unique cultural perspectives, and to be able to reproduce this understanding as faithfully and honestly as possible. In other words, we should allow the text to invite us into its ancient worldview and belief system, not impose ours onto the text.

Having said that, it would initially appear that the Israelite scribe who penned Genesis 1, and the larger cultural perspective from which he drew, did not see or understand the sun as the source of daylight. Indeed, as expressed in Genesis 1:15, the sun was understood as a light-emitting source, as was mistakenly the moon. But it appears that it was not seen as the source of daylight. The sun and the moon were created “to distinguish between the day and the night” not as the sources for day and night. This is a radically different idea from what we in fact know to be true. What was this author attempting to convey then?

There are basically three things that happen in Genesis 1:3–5. Following what our biblical author has presented so far in his composition of the creation of the world, we see that to this primeval state of darkness that spread out over an untamed watery abyss which covered a formless, vacuous piece of earth (1:2), light was added. “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’” Darkness need not have been created since it already existed. Second, the text informs us that God separates this newly created light from the primeval darkness, and lastly calls or identifies this light as “day,” and conversely darkness as “night.” “And there was evening and there was morning—one day.”

So over this watery untamed abyss of formless earth, alternating sequences of day and night now exist. This is significant because what the text presents the deity creating first is the day or daylight. In other words, the light that comes into existence is not called “the sun” but rather “day.” Day was essentially conceived of as light, as being composed of light. According to our ancient scribe, day by its very nature is light! Ancient peoples might have deduced this from the observation that even when the sun doesn’t appear or is hidden behind clouds, it is still daylight out. Thus, the separation and alternation between day and night, light and darkness, are set by an initial act of the creator deity and not by the sun. This is our author’s argument.

This idea is reinforced elsewhere in the text. There are only three places in Genesis 1 where God is presented creating something or calling it into existence and then immediately naming it. It’s instructive to look at these three occurrences together: (1) light is created and called “day”; (2) the firmament or domed expanse is created and called “the skies”; and (3) dry land is created or simply commanded to appear and is called “earth.” We notice that the name given to each of these elements expresses what it inherently or essentially is. What is earth? It is dry land. What is the sky? It is the domed expanse (raqi‘a) which God created to separate the waters below from those above. And finally, what is day? It is light. In other words our ancient author perceived day as essentially equivalent to light. So the source of day’s light, or daylight, was not seen as the sun, but rather it was conceived as the very essence of day itself, as God created it to be is our author’s point. This is very instructive for a proper understanding of how ancient Israelites viewed their world. Light, or more appropriately day, exists because God created it. The two are one and the same: as dry land is earth, and the domed expanse above is the sky, so too light is day.

The fact that this author presents the creation of day as the deity’s first creative act is not a coincidence. Certainly it immediately lends itself to the thematic and structural framework of what follows—five more days of creation and a seventh day of rest, where each day is a successive pattern of evening and morning. It must additionally be borne in mind that, contrary to our modern knowledge of the workings of the cosmos, the successive coming and going of evening and morning, night and day, were not defined by the appearance and disappearance of the sun; rather, as has already been demonstrated, and according to our author’s limited knowledge and culturally shaped beliefs, night and day, darkness and light, were separated and distinguished “elements” or spheres created by God himself. Thus as we previously saw in the case of Genesis 1:1-2 (#1), the author’s subjective and culturally defined perspectives and beliefs about the nature of his world are transferred to the god of his text, and this god is then presented creating the subjective world that our author perceived and experienced!

Second, the creation of day as God’s first act serves a larger purpose, one that has an immediate significance for this particular author and the priestly guild he represented.5 The fact that this author composed a creation account that revolved around days, that is, a creation account that embeds a calendar system directly into the creation of the world, is extremely significant. In essence, this priestly author has just presented us with an argument that declares that the calendar system, Sabbath, and Yahweh’s sacred festivals (i.e., “the fixed times” of 1:14) were all built into the very fabric of the cosmos by God at creation! The nonobservance of any of these god-created holy days, therefore, was inexcusable.6

Genesis 1:6-8—Life inside a Water Bubble
When ancient man looked up at the sky, what he perceived was akin to what he observed when looking out over the seas—an expanse of crystal-clear blue water. This observation was confirmed of course by the very fact that it rained. For where else did rain come from if not from the waters above the sky?

Similarly, when ancient Mediterranean peoples looked toward the horizon, what they saw was that the waters above eventually came into contact with the waters of the seas, that both the blue waters above and the blue waters below touched each other at the horizons. Thus, it was observed that the waters above, that is, the sky, had its starting point at the horizon where it came into contact with the waters below, and then arched far above like a dome and descended again to meet the waters below on the opposite horizon. According to these limited empirical observations then, ancient Mediterranean man, Israelites included, perceived their world as surrounded by two vast bodies of water, those above and those below, and that those waters which arched high above them like a dome were somehow held in place. This was the world which the ancient Israelites perceived and lived in. It was therefore only natural to ponder questions about its origin: How did the waters get above the sky and what holds them up there? How did they obtain their current domed shape? Where did they originate from? And what about the waters below? In short, how did this world come to be?

Genesis 1:6-8 was specifically written to answer these questions. In other words, what the god of this text is portrayed creating is the world as it was perceived and culturally defined by ancient Israelite scribes, the world which they saw from their limited empirical observations, not the world as it actually is! This fact the text itself bears witness to.

As we have already seen in our examination of Genesis 1:1-2 (#1) and 1:3-5, the same applies here: Genesis 1:6-8 is a subjective description and explanation from the viewpoint of its author and his culture of how the world as he perceived it, with its waters above and waters below, came into existence. It is a bottoms up approach. The author’s perspectives and culturally defined beliefs about the nature of his world are transferred to the god of his text who then creates the subjective world that this very author and his culture perceived and lived in. It is a creation account that matches its author’s culturally conditioned “truths” about the world. Thus we must be careful not to impose our understanding and knowledge of the world onto his text, nor try to conform his beliefs to ours. Rather we ought to strive to be honest to this ancient document and the beliefs and views of its author.

After creating daylight and separating it from primeval darkness, now night, our author then presents God taming and separating the primeval waters. “And God said, ‘Let there be a domed expanse (raqi‘a)7 in the center of the waters and let it separate the waters from the waters’” (Gen 1:6).

Once gain, the reason why the primordial waters needed to be separated is best explained by realizing that our author is working backwards, from what he perceives and has been culturally conditioned to believe about the nature of his world to the composition of a creation narrative that then explains the origins of the elements of his world as he perceived it through his culturally conditioned perspectives and beliefs. So Genesis 1:1-10 is not an account of the creation of the world in objective, scientific terms. Rather it is an account of the creation of a perception of the world as envisioned by ancient man. Since the ancient Israelites perceived and believed that there existed a vast body of water above the sky, held in check by the sky itself, our author therefore creates a narrative that explains the origin of these waters above the sky. In the end, the text legitimates the author’s culturally defined worldview by having God create it!

Thus in accord with his perceptions and beliefs about the world, our author presents God making (‘asah) this solid domed expanse (raqi‘a) in the middle of the primordial waters (mayim) in order to separate out the waters which are now above it from the waters now below it, effectively conforming to our Israelite scribe’s perception of his world. Finally, the text informs us: “And God called this domed expanse (raqi‘a) ‘skies’ (shamayim). And there was evening and there was morning—a second day” (Gen 1:8).

Since the Hebrew word for “skies” (shamayim) is composed of the letter shin plus the word for water, mayim—always in the plural, “waters”—it is quite possible that what came to be called the skies was a combination of the solid domed expanse or raqi‘a and the waters above it. For we are informed in v. 14 that the raqi‘a, where the luminaries are to be set, was part of the skies or shamayim: “let there be lights in the domed expanse of the skies.” And likewise in v. 20 we are informed that the birds are to fly in front of the domed expanse of the skies. If the skies are both the solid domed expanse and the waters above, which seems to be what is implied here, then the skies (shamayim) are nothing more than half of the untamed preexisting waters (mayim) and the crystalline-like domed expanse (raqi‘a), which now holds back these same waters.

Thus once again we observe that the creation account in Genesis 1 does not represent some scientific, objective, or divinely inspired account of the origins of the material world, but rather the creation of a world as perceived by ancient Israelites. It was precisely from these subjective, culturally conditioned beliefs that biblical scribes then proceeded to compose creation myths whose aim was to explain their observable world. In this instance, how did the waters above come to be formed and held in check? Genesis 1:1-8 responds by claiming that they were created through an act of separating them out from the initial watery abyss (tehom), and holding them above the sky through the creation of a solid
domed expanse.

Finally, and again, the argument that our ancient Israelite scribe was interested in presenting was not where matter originated. Threatened on all sides, above and below, by the primordial waters, the Israelite scribe painted a portrait not of a creator deity who creates matter out of nothing, but of a creator deity who creates ordered life by (continuously) subduing, taming, and controlling the primordial forces and elements that existed prior to his creative act, and which still exert their force in the world. It is a creation that is forever being re-created as it were, that is, forever keeping at bay the primordial waters above and below.

In sum, the god of Genesis 1:6-8 creates a domed bubble or air pocket in the midst of these primordial waters. According to the text, then, God creates a finite space in the midst of, and encased from all sides by, these primeval waters. This is not some outlandish theological claim that I am making. Rather, as a biblical scholar I’m reproducing the claims of the text—a text which reveals the culturally defined beliefs, attitudes, and worldview of the ancient people that penned it.

Genesis 1:9-10—The Creation of the Material Substance Earth, Not the Planet
We are so habituated by what the English word “earth” means to us in our scientific postmodern world that we seldom stop to ask if that’s the same meaning intended in the Hebrew word ’erets.

When we read Genesis 1:1, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we picture the origin of the atmosphere, space, solar systems, and galaxies. We think of the creation of the planet in our solar system named “Earth,” whose shape is an oblate spheroid or a rotationally symmetric ellipsoid. This mental picture is natural, because the English term “Earth” is the name of the planet in this solar system on which humans reside. But in Genesis 1 “earth” does not mean the planet Earth. Genesis reports the origin of the “heavens and earth” as such terms meant in the author’s time and within his worldview, which did not include a twenty-first century acquaintance with astronomy. What does “earth” mean in Genesis 1? The answer is provided in the text itself.8

It is rare to find such an accurately and succinctly put introduction to the textual problem at hand that I had to borrow this one to serve as my own introduction. This is quite shocking since it comes from a theologian in the Wesleyan tradition who has very different beliefs than myself. In fact it could be said we stand at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Nonetheless, this exemplifies something that I have repeatedly voiced here: that biblical scholarship proper is not about the reader’s beliefs or non-beliefs, not about finding our beliefs or scientific truths in these ancient documents, but about understanding and faithfully reproducing their beliefs. Dr. Winslow and I can agree on the point expressed above, because that the Hebrew ’erets did not and does not signify the planet Earth is a fact borne from reading the text on its own terms and in its own historical and literary contexts, regardless of the beliefs of its readers. This is what I have been advocating as the objective study of the Bible. It is the texts and the culturally conditioned beliefs expressed in them that are the object of our study—and not what later readers believe or are told to believe about these texts.

So then what does ’erets mean according to the ancient Israelite scribe that penned this text? What exactly does he portray God creating?

At the end of vv. 6-8 we are left with an image of two parted bodies of water, the waters above and the waters below, in the midst of which is a bowel-shaped pocket of air. This open space was created by the arched barrier (raqi‘a) which the creator deity made and set in place to keep the waters above from falling and rejoining the waters below (something that actually does happen in this writer’s flood narrative).9 This solid domed expanse is then called “the skies” (shamayim), so that in the end it is the sky itself which holds back the waters above, and these waters in return give the sky its blue color.

The text then turns to the waters below the skies. These waters are collected together and subdued to form “seas.” It is from this body of water that we are informed dry land (yabbashah) appears.

And God said, “Let the waters under the skies be gathered to one place and let the dry land be seen.” And it was so. And God called the dry land “earth” and he called the collection of waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:9–10)

There are several things to observe in these verses. First, we are informed that from the action of gathering the waters below the skies into tamed bodies of water, which are named “seas,” dry land can now emerge from the waters below and be seen. The Hebrew verb here is ra’ah, “to see,” and it is the same verb used in v. 10 when our author writes, “and God saw that it was good.” In v. 9, this verb appears in a passive imperative construction: “let be seen the dry land”—normally translated as “let the dry land appear.” The dry land, or earth proper (’erets), emerges from the collected waters below; it is commanded to appear, to become visible.

This narrative detail draws us back to v. 2, where yet to be created earth, that is dry land specifically, preexisted in a state of formlessness and desolation (tohu wabohu), itself immersed in the surging waters of the primeval deep (tehom). Again, it is best to understand “earth” in v. 2 as the material substance earth, which has as of yet not been formed, named, nor really created as dry habitable life-supporting land, earth proper. All this happens on day 3 in vv. 9-10. So, the preexisting formless and desolate material substance earth that was submerged in the watery deep of v. 2 only emerges as earth proper, that is, life-sustaining land, after the creator deity has subdued the primeval forces that threaten life—the untamed waters and darkness. This is yet another example of the creator god subduing the primeval elements rather than creating matter out of nothing. The waters recede and are tamed to expose, or create the conditions for, life-supporting dry earth—’erets proper.

Thus, far from presenting God creating Earth, a spherical planet orbiting a sun in one of many galaxies in infinite space (none of whose ideas existed to the author of this text), the text of Genesis 1 presents its god forming the substance earth, that is per our text dry, habitable, flat land which now rests on the waters below, and encasing it within a finite area of space, itself enclosed and defined by a solid domed expanse called the sky, which further functioned to hold back the primordial waters above it. In short, what the god of Genesis 1 creates is this:

Genesis 1

not this!

In other words, our author’s presentation and imagination of how God created the material stuff of his world were shaped by his own subjective and culturally defined perceptions and beliefs about his world. These beliefs were deduced from what ancient man (mis)perceived on an empirical level: for example, rain fell from water which existed above the sky; whereas natural springs, deltas, and flooding led to the belief that the earth “floated” on and was supported by waters that existed below the earth, that is, below the dry ground beneath one’s feet.10 These beliefs, which for all intents and purposes functioned as “truths” for our author and his culture, were then legitimated by presenting the creator deity creating the world as the author himself perceived it to be! In the end, what the god of Genesis 1:1-10 creates miraculously conforms to ancient Near Eastern man’s perceptions and beliefs about the world, and not what we today know the world, and the larger cosmos, to be.

Genesis 1:14-19—Yahweh’s Eternal Festivals and the Creation of the Luminaries
The domed expanse or raqi‘a that was made in vv. 6-8 to separate and hold back the waters above is now populated with the luminaries: sun, moon, and the stars—with no awareness of the individual distances of each luminary from the earth nor their actual size and place in the solar system. Here they are presented as three-dimensional buttons embedded within or upon this solid domed expanse, above which were the primordial waters above.

Let there be lights in the domed expanse of the skies to separate between the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for fixed times, and for days, and for years. (Gen 1:14)

Unlike modern man, ancient man constructed their calendars and measured the progression of time according to the celestial luminaries, predominantly the moon. The author of Genesis’ first creation account depicts this idea by having the creator deity specify that these luminaries were created for this specific purpose. Yet the most fascinating and certainly the most revealing element here in v. 14 is the claim that these luminaries function, in part, as celestial markers for mankind to identify specific “fixed times.” The Hebrew mo‘adim is often translated as “seasons.” But this translation does not capture the full semantic range implied in the word mo‘adim and completely misses, I would argue, this author’s subtle argument here.

A mo‘ed, the singular form, was not only a fixed or appointed time (i.e., a specific day set by the appearance or position of the moon), but it was equally a fixed meeting, congregation, or more significantly festival. So the author of this text is claiming that the god who created the habitable world also embedded into the very fabric of the sky luminaries for observing the festival dates, the mo‘adim, which mankind in general, but the Israelites specifically, were obliged to keep. Thus the luminaries were created in part so that mankind would know, observe, and keep Yahweh’s festivals, these mo‘adim.

What exactly are these “festival dates”? And why was this author interested in alluding to them in his creation account?

Out of the 160 times that the word mo‘ed appears in the Pentateuch, only 11 of them are from texts not written by the same priestly author who penned Genesis 1. This is no coincidence. The Aaronid priestly guild responsible for the composition of this once independent scroll, which scholars conveniently label the Priestly source,11 was inflexible about the observance of the cult and Yahweh’s mo‘adim. In fact, according to this priestly guild, and thus also the god of its text, the observance of the sacrificial cult, Yahweh’s festivals, and especially the Sabbath were all intimately woven into the very fabric of creation itself.12

These mo‘adim, “fixed times” or “festivals,” alluded to in Genesis 1:14 are specifically identified in Leviticus 23, a text penned by the very same author who wrote Genesis 1:1-2:3 (this goes for all of Leviticus)—our Aaronid priest.

And Yahweh spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them concerning Yahweh’s fixed times/festivals (mo‘adim) which you shall call holy assemblies: ‘These are my fixed times/festivals (mo‘adim).’” (Lev 23:1–2)

The chapter then continues by listing Yahweh’s “fixed times,” which were all conceived of as holy days to be observed eternally. These fixed times are fixed by the position of the moon:

• On the 14th day of the 1st new moon is Yahweh’s Passover—an “eternal law” according to this author and his Yahweh.
• On the 15th day of the 1st new moon is Yahweh’s Festival of Unleavened Bread—also an “eternal law.”
• On the day of the first harvest (this fixed time is not set by the moon) and 7 sabbatical weeks later on the 50th day is the Festival of Weeks, also proclaimed an “eternal law.”
• On the 1st day of the 7th new moon is the Horn Blast Holy Day.
• On the 10th day of the 7th new moon is the Day of Atonement/Purgation, also an “eternal law.”
• On the 15th day of the 7th new moon is the Festival of Booths, an “eternal law.”

These, then, are the “fixed times” (mo‘adim) to which Genesis 1:14 alludes. They refer to Yahweh’s festivals which were to be observed eternally on penalty of being excommunicated.

What this author has subtly done is to argue that there is no excuse for the nonobservance of these mo‘adim, of Yahweh’s festivals, given that the creator god himself created the luminaries so that mankind would know when these fixed times/festivals occurred and thus be able to observe them. In other words, according to the views and beliefs of the priest(s) who wrote Genesis 1:1-2:3, the inviolable obligation for all Israelites to observe Yahweh’s appointed holy days and festivals was directly woven into the very fabric of creation itself and indicated to mankind by way of the celestial luminaries which served as signs informing mankind when Yahweh’s fixed festivals were to be celebrated. There is no excuse for noncompliance. According to this author, and the god of his text, both the Torah (the book of Leviticus) and the world as the creator God created it bear witness to the eternal obligation of mankind to observe and keep Yahweh’s festivals.

It is easy to see how modern day Creationists, Fundamentalists, and Evangelicals who claim that they believe in the creation narrative of Genesis 1 are just being disingenuous toward this ancient text and the beliefs it expresses.13 The text does not validate nor support their claims. For the truth of the matter is that they do not in fact believe in the beliefs expressed in this text. A proper and correctly contextualized reading of the text itself convincingly demonstrates this point. Moreover, as we have seen with respect to the worldview expressed in Genesis 1:1-10, so too here: it is constructed on culturally shaped beliefs and perceptions about the world which were then transferred to the god of this text. This can be illustrated here in another way.

The fact that the moon is presented as “the lesser light” (1:16) when compared to the sun, “the greater light,” reflects subjective and culturally held perceptions and beliefs endemic to the ancient world. Since the sun’s light reflects off of the moon—a knowledge that our ancient biblical scribe did not possess—the moon was falsely perceived as producing its own light. This culturally conditioned “truth” was then transferred to the god of the priestly writer’s text so that our biblical scribe presents God’s creation of the moon as the creation of a light producing source, as he himself understood it! God now creates, not the moon per se, but how the moon was perceived by our biblical author and his culture. In other words, ancient texts do in fact represent the beliefs and perceptions of ancient peoples.

Genesis 1:20-28—Mankind, More than Just an Animal
Man is unlike any other animal of the earth. This truth was acknowledged and reflected upon by nearly every ancient culture. The Greek philosopher Plato proposed that man was divided between a lower animal part and an upper divine part, the immortal soul. He reasoned that man’s divine intellect and soul set him apart from the rest of the animals. Ancient Egyptians also accorded man with an immortal soul, which originated from the gods and returned to them upon death of the physical body. And creation myths from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia alike speak of the creation of man as part clay of the earth on the one hand, and part divine intelligence, divine blood, or divine breath on the other hand. Additionally, many of these same texts describe man as “the image of his creator god,” and kings and Pharaohs throughout the Levant, including those from Israel, were imagined to be the sons of their respective cultural deity. It is therefore not surprising that this fundamental “truth” about the nature of man, that he was somehow different from the animals and that a part of him at some essential level originated from the divine, was also to be expressed in Genesis 1.

This is in fact the message behind our author’s portrait of God’s creation of mankind “in his image.” But before we take a look at this, the creation of mankind must be seen in the framework our author intended his readers to see it—vis-à-vis the creation of the animals.

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with a swarm of living beings (nephesh hayah), and let fowl fly above the earth (’erets) in front of the domed expanse (raqi‘a) of the skies.” And God created (bara’) the great sea-serpents and all living beings (nephesh hayah) that swim with which the waters swarm by their kind, and every winged fowl by its kind. (Gen 1:20–21)

And God said: “Let the earth bring forth living beings (nephesh hayah) by their kind—beasts and reptiles—animals (hayat) of the earth by their kind.” And it was so. And God made (‘asah) the animals of the earth by their kind—the beasts by their kind and every reptile of the ground by its kind. (Gen 1:24–25)

The Hebrew nephesh denotes the life force that animates a living being or life in abstract terms—anything that has the breath of life in it: animals, humans, creatures. The adjective hayah basically means the same thing—living, alive. Thus “living beings” seems to best capture the intended sense here. This same phrase nephesh hayah also appears in the Yahwist creation account where, I will argue below, its use is significantly different from how it is used by the author of Genesis 1, and furthermore, when used to refer to both man (Gen 2:7) and the animals (Gen 2:19) violently contradicts the message of Genesis 1:24–27.

We must also strongly avoid and discourage the translation of nephesh as “soul.” The word “soul” especially conceived of as “immortal soul” is a concept of Greek philosophy and is unknown to the Hebrew Bible and its authors. The concept doesn’t emerge in Judaism until after Alexander the Great conquers the world at the end of the 4th century BCE, bringing with him Greek philosophical ideas into Judaism, and eventually into early Christianity. One clearly sees from its use in Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, and 30 that nephesh means life force, or that which has the breath of life in it, since “soul” is usually not a concept applied to fish, eels, worms, cattle, turkeys, bats, etc.

The point I wish to stress, no matter how one translates the expression nephesh hayah, is that it is never used in the creation of mankind, male and female, in Genesis 1:26–27. I am not saying that our author did not see mankind as a “living being”; of course he did. But I would argue that he consciously avoids using the expression in Genesis 1:26–27 because he is attempting to stress mankind’s utter difference from the nephesh hayah or the hayat (animals) of the earth.

And God said, “Let us make (‘asah) mankind (’adam) in our image and after our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the skies and over the beasts and over all the earth and over every reptile that crawls upon the earth.” And God created (bara’) mankind in his image; in the image of God he created (bara’) it; male and female he created (bara’) them. (Gen 1:26–27)

There are two important differences our author emphasizes in his presentation of God’s creation of the animals and of mankind, male and female.

First, the text stresses the inherent connection between the animals and the earth. This is emphasized by drawing our attention to God’s imperative that the earth should “bring forth” living creatures (nephesh hayah), and that the earth’s animals are somehow essentially connected to the earth. Then we are informed that the creator deity makes (‘asah) the animals of the earth (hayat ha’arets)—beasts and reptiles—by their kind. Mankind, in contrast, is not of the earth. The focal point in the narrative changes at this point.

From the perspective of the author of Genesis 1, and contradictory to the views of Genesis 2 (below), mankind is not to be envisioned as equal to or on a par with the animals of the earth. The earth does not “bring forth” mankind in this creation myth—again in contrast to the second creation account. Furthermore, and again contradictory to Genesis 2:18, the animals are not seen as man’s assistant helper (‘ezer) or counterpart (neged), but rather mankind is to rule over them. He is of a different essence than they—not so according to Genesis 2, as we shall momentarily see. In fact, I might be tempted to argue that according to the author of Genesis 1, mankind is not to be conceived of as an animal of the earth! This brings me to my second point.

The repeated refrain “by its kind” as a descriptive for the manner in which the fowl of the skies, the fish of the seas, and the animals of the earth are created or made is not only a rhetorical device. It serves a thematic purpose as well whose function is to highlight mankind’s utter difference to the animals, only this time with respect to the manner of how he/she is created. It is difficult to say what exactly our author intended by the expression “by its kind.” It would seem that the idea conveyed is that each life form was distinct, that a cow for example, or what a cow is, is distinctly defined “by its own kind.” At any event, the expression is used to convey how radically different this creation “by its kind” is to the creation of mankind. For unlike the living beings of the earth (hayat ha’arets), mankind is not created according to its own kind but rather in the image of the divine beings: “in our image and after our likeness.” That is to say, according to the author of this creation account, God made every living being of the earth—except that of mankind—according to its own kind. Mankind, however, was not created after its own kind, but rather in the image and likeness of God.

The ideas expressed by our author here are again not some divinely ordained and objective description of the origins of mankind. Rather, like everything else in this creation account, they are the expression of the views and beliefs of our author and his culture. It is our author who perceives mankind as radically different from the animals that populate the earth. And this difference causes him to compose a creation narrative wherein these differences are expressed. Unlike the living beings of the earth, each made according to their own kind, mankind, on the contrary, is created in the image and likeness of the divine beings! That seems to be our author’s message.

By way of concluding this section, I might encourage my readers to start thinking about how this later sixth-century BCE creation myth functioned in relationship to the earlier Yahwist account now preserved in Genesis 2:4b–3:24, which we will shortly look at. Following the work of my colleagues,14 it has been hypothesized that the Priestly writer was writing a creation narrative to replace or subvert the earlier eight-century BCE Yahwist creation account, but due to an unforeseen later editorial endeavor both accounts were preserved side-by-side. At any event, the point to mull over, to which we will return later, is that we can see the Priestly writer’s concerns here. For in the earlier Yahwist text, man, that is, the sole creation of Adam, is in no way distinguished from the animals of the earth. Even after he receives Yahweh’s breath, Adam is still made of the same essential material that the animals are made of, the ’adamah (the ground), and only still merely becomes what the animals themselves are referred to as—a nephesh hayah (Gen 2:7, 19). I would propose that this is just one of the specific concerns and disagreements that the Priestly writer had with this older tradition that he himself inherited. So what did he do? He rewrote it in accord with his own views and beliefs on the matter—rewriting mankind above and distinct from the animals of the earth, not equivalent to them!

Genesis 2:2-3—The Sabbath: Sacred Time Embedded in the Creation

And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested (shabat) on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all his work which God created and had made. (Gen 2:2–3)

On the seventh and last day of this creation account, our author not only presents the deity resting from his creative work, but more significantly consecrating and blessing the seventh day as holy. That is to say, the creator god creates and proclaims the last day of creation as a holy day of rest, a Sabbath—distinct from the previous six nonsacred or common days.

We should immediately notice that the 6th century Aaronid priest who composed this creation account has God make the seventh day, the day on which he rested from his work, holy. The Hebrew is a one word verb (qadash): “to consecrate,” “to sanctify,” or “to set apart as holy.” Although I have translated this verb as it commonly appears in the majority of English translations, “made (it) holy,” it might best be translated as “set (it) apart as holy” or “consecrated (it).” Indeed, the very fact that the text has the creator deity bless the seventh day and rest on it by extension “makes it holy.” The seventh day is holy specifically because God had rested on it and in that resting he “made” it holy.

We should also notice that although the creation of mankind is a climatic event in the Priestly writer’s creation account,15 it is not the climax of his narrative: the Sabbath is. The whole creation account moves toward and finds its resolution in the seventh day, which is additionally consecrated, blessed, and set apart as holy. In fact, the sole reason for having presented the process of creation in sequential days (day one, day two, day three, etc.) was to establish the fact that it was day seven that the creator deity set apart as holy. This was the initial framework upon which the priestly writer drafted his composition—a seven-day creation account that sanctified the Sabbath as a holy day of rest in its essence. It could not have been a one-day creation account as we find in the earlier Yahwist account (see below), or a three-day creation account. It needed to be a seven-day creation account that, from the perspective of the priests who composed this account, legitimated once and for all the sacredness of the seventh day, the creator God’s Sabbath, and thus also the absolute and unconditional eternal obligation—indeed an eternal covenant according to this same author (Exod 31:12-17)—to observe this day as holy, since the creator God established and consecrated it as holy in its essential nature when he rested from his creation. The creation narrative, in other words, was pre-designed to answer the why and the how of the seventh day’s holiness. The Sabbath now becomes, under the plume of this priest’s pen, an inherent part of the created world; the two are inseparable. The seventh day’s holiness is embedded right into the very fabric of creation itself! Thus, observing the Sabbath day as God himself did becomes not just a law to follow, but rather a god-created inherent structure of the world itself. Observing and keeping the Sabbath is therefore observing and keeping holy the inherent nature of the world as God created it and observed it himself! This is our priestly writer’s argument. This is his creationism.

Furthermore, as we saw with the creation of the luminaries for the purpose of being able to observe and thus keep Yahweh’s holy festivals, the same applies here: the Sabbath is to be observed precisely because the God of creation created the seventh day from the new moon and each consecutive seventh day until the next new moon as a holy, sacred day when he created the world. This is our author’s message. And it explains why the punishment for nonobservance was so severe. From the perspective of our author and his priestly guild, to blatantly neglect and not keep that which the creator God created at creation as a sacred, distinct, holy day was blasphemous pure and simply. The punishment? Swift and inviolable death.16

Thus according to the elite priestly guild that penned Genesis 1:1-2:3, the God of creation not only created the things of the visible world as it was perceived through the cultural lens of our ancient Israelite scribe, but he additionally created specific lunar dates and intervals of time as sacred and these holy days were embedded into his creation. That the seventh day was created and proclaimed as a consecrated holy day to be distinguished and observed on a weekly basis from the previous six non-sacred or common days was as much of an uncompromising fact inherent in the created world for our author as the skies or the sun above. Any violation of this created order, that is, what God himself created, was met with a swift death. Doing profane or common work on the Sabbath not only blasphemed the very day that the creator god created in its essence and nature as holy, but it also blasphemed the whole of creation, as well as the creator God himself who deemed and declared the seventh day holy to himself and to his people. That is what the priestly writer was getting at. One cannot neglect or breach an inherent, god-created law of the created world.

Modern so-called “readers” of these ancient texts, influenced by later interpretive frameworks, most notably those created centuries later by New Testament writers, regrettably miss our author’s point or simply toss it in the wastebin. The priests perceived their world and believed at an elemental and essential level that the seventh day from the new moon and each consecutive seventh day was categorically holy in its very nature, that God created it holy. This was a natural law, if you will, of the created world. This is why any and all non-observances were punishable by death. These, then, were the beliefs of the priests who penned Genesis 1:1-2:3. They are not ours, nor our culture’s beliefs. Neither does our way of life substantiate these beliefs in anyway. Creationists simply feign belief when they claim that they believe in and adhere to the priestly creation account of Genesis 1.

To put this in perspective, particularly for my Christian readers who have been influenced by interpretive frameworks and agendas created centuries after our priestly text was written, to say that one no longer needs to follow the Sabbath or that the Sabbath is now abolished would be analogous to claiming that we no longer need to obey the law of gravity! That the law of gravity has been rescinded. We are no longer obliged to follow it!

Of course this is a ridiculous thing to say. But this is precisely the point that the priestly writer was attempting to make: as we perceive the law of gravity to be an inherent part, even truth, about the nature of the world and all bodies in this world are subject to its law, so too this was how the priests who wrote the creation narrative in Genesis 1:1-2:3 perceived the Sabbath. For the priestly writer this holy day was essentially and inherently a part of the very fabric of the created world itself, just as the law of gravity is for us post-Newtonians. One cannot interpret it away, or abolish it, or say that it no longer needs to be observed—all interpretive agendas set by contradictory beliefs about the nature of the world held by later readers. Similarly, one cannot claim that the seas that the god of Genesis 1 created no longer need to be seas, or the sky no longer needs to hold back the waters above. One cannot change, in other words, the beliefs and perceptions of our ancient author, how he perceived his world. This is being disingenuous to this ancient text and the beliefs represented therein. Our goal, rather, is to enter into this ancient priest’s vision of his world and understand it—understand why he believed what he did and how he legitimated his beliefs. Being honest to his text and his beliefs, then, is realizing that they differ from our beliefs and scientific truths about the nature of the world.

In the end, then, ancient texts do in fact represent the views and beliefs of ancient peoples and cultures. I really shouldn’t have to argue for this. And learning about the literary conventions employed by the ancient scribes who wrote these texts, we also come to realize that their unique beliefs and worldviews were legitimated and presented as the beliefs and worldview of that particular culture’s deity. We see this throughout the literature of the ancient Near East, but especially in the biblical canon since it is in fact a collection of ancient texts spanning almost a thousand years. Even a close comparison of Genesis 1 and 2 reveals competing and contradictory mindsets and perceptions about the nature and origins of the world and of man and woman. And the differing beliefs and worldview that underlie the second creation myth were also presented and legitimated by placing them on Yahweh’s lips.

Genesis 2:4b–24 on Its Own Terms and in Its Own Historical and Literary Context
From the opening verses of the second creation account, or if my reader prefers right at Genesis 2:4b, we notice stark differences in the text’s tone, style, vocabulary, message, presentation, perspective, and thematic and theological emphases. More importantly, these differences should not be ignored or disingenuously interpreted away by imposing an exterior theological framework created centuries after these texts were written and by a readership that knew nothing about the authors of these texts, when they were written, why, for whom, etc. Rather these textual differences should be seen as a product of the text’s historical and literary context, and even embraced for what they are—the mark of a different scribal hand, a different textual tradition, a variant version of the same story.

Stories were as much a part of the ancient world as the television is for us today. People told and heard stories on a daily basis. It was part of their lifeblood. Stories defined a people’s identity, explained the origins of current political and religious institutions, and preserved traditional beliefs, worldviews, and customs.

Many stories in the ancient world enjoyed a long oral tradition before they were finally written down, and many of these same stories have their origin in older stories that were borrowed and modified from other or earlier peoples. Many of the stories now preserved in Genesis are modified versions of stories that existed in the cultures and traditions of Israel’s older contemporaries. Stories about the creation of the world, a cataclysmic universal flood, digging wells as land markers, the naming of important cultic sites, gods giving laws to their people, gods decreeing that their people build them temples and sanctuaries, and even stories about gods decreeing the possession of land to their people were all part of the cultural and literary matrix of the ancient Near East.17 In many cases alternative versions of these stories existed. A people living at one place and time might tell the story that they inherited from their forefathers or an earlier indigenous culture differently in order to suit the needs of their community or to better represent its changing views and beliefs.

The ancient Israelites were no exception. They told stories, retold stories, modified their stories, recited them at festivals, and eventually wrote them down, collected them, and codified them as scripture. The Bible as it has come down to us preserves numerous stories, and many of them are duplicates—that is, a traditional story that was told in one manner at one place and time, and told in a variant manner at another place and time. In the end, these different versions were written down by scribes and thenceforth became unalterable. Later, editors who collected Israel’s various stories preserved both versions of the story, even when, as we shall see, they contradicted one another, or a later story was written to replace an earlier version! In fact, doublets—two versions of the same story—have always served as good indicators for identifying the Bible’s different textual traditions or sources. Nearly all of the contradictory stories and even competing “histories” found in the Bible were created due to an editorial decision made by later scribes who deemed it important to preserve variant versions of ancient Israel’s stories.18

The two creation stories that open the book of Genesis are just that—variations on the same story. And these two versions of the creation story were written by two different scibes or guilds, to address different historical and/or religious concerns and perspectives, for two distinct historical audiences, and most likely influenced by two different versions of the creation story as it had already been told throughout the ancient Near East! We have already seen how the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 borrowed themes and perspectives shared throughout the cultures of the ancient Near Eastern world, and modified them to suit his own beliefs and agenda. Furthermore, the story that starts at Genesis 2:4b proceeds as if the first creation account never occurred. This story never acknowledges, alludes to, shares, or builds upon any of the narrative, thematic, theological, or linguistic elements found in the creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3. To the contrary, as we will see, this second creation account actually negates many of the themes and claims found in the first creation account, and frankly this is because it was written separately, by a different scribe, and centuries before the creation account now occupying Genesis 1:1-2:3 was written. Despite these two stories’ thematic and stylistic differences, they were preserved on a single scroll by scribes living centuries after they were written precisely because they represented variant sacred traditions.

Genesis 2:4b—Observing Thematic and Stylistic Differences
There are several differences that are immediately noticeable in the opening verse (Gen 2:4b) of this second creation account. A literal translation runs: “In the day that god Yahweh made earth and skies…”

We immediately notice that the creator deity is now specified by name, Yahweh.19 This feature is unique to both this creation account and the textual tradition to which it belongs, unceremoniously named the Yahwist. This source (J) earns its name because its author consistently uses the name of Israel’s deity, Yahweh, throughout his composition. Even though the divine name appears approximately 1,800 times in the Pentateuch alone, the other Pentateuchal sources (Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly) restrain from using the name Yahweh prior to its revelation to Moses in Exodus. Only the Yahwist text, in other words, affirms and acknowledges contrary to the other sources that the name Yahweh was known to, and frequently invoked by, the patriarchs prior to its revelation. It is for this reason that the Yahwist tradition does not narrate a revelation of the divine name. According to this tradition, it was known right from the first generation of mortals (Gen 4:26).

Another immediately observable point of conflict between the opening statement of this second creation account and Genesis 1:1-2:3 is the time referent “in the day.” For in the first creation account, God does not create the earth and the skies on the same day. In fact, the first creation account tells us that the skies, the domed barrier or raqi‘a, was created on the second day, and earth, that is dry land, emerged from the waters below on the third day. Furthermore, contrary to the claims of Genesis 2:4b-7, man was not created on any of the days on which the earth and the skies were created. According to the first creation account, the days on which God created the earth (day 3) and the skies (day 2) come and go without the creation of man (day 6)!

Additionally, it would be incorrect to regard the temporal referent “in the day” in Genesis 2:4b as a general abstract statement, particularly if one falsely assumed similar authorship for these two creation accounts. For not only does this time referent, “in the day,” clash with the previous account’s symmetry and chronology, but more significantly the temporal referent of Gen 2:4b does not reflect the same precision and formulaic presentation of the chronology of creation so emphatically and carefully laid out throughout Genesis 1:1-2:3. This is because the same author did not write this verse!

In other words, the orderly, formulaic, and precise use of both language, themes, and the chronology of creation so ritualistically accentuated throughout the entirety of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is simply abandoned and negated—when erroneously assuming the same author—by the imprecise, incorrect, or even abstract temporal reference of verse 2:4b concerning which day(s) god Yahweh created “earth and skies.” Again, this is because verse 2:4b and the story that follows were penned by a different scribe! Contrary to the first creation account with its temporal precision, the second creation account merely commenced: “In the day that god Yahweh made earth and skies…”

Finally, according to this second creation account, earth, the skies, man, plants, animals, and lastly woman were all created on one day: “in the day that god Yahweh made earth and skies,” he also formed man, then apparently plants, animals, and lastly woman. This radically contradicts all of Genesis 1:1-2:3 on thematic, stylistic, and even theological grounds! The subsequent creation of each one of these life forms in the second creation account—man, plants, animals, and woman—is chronologically dissimilar and utterly contradictory to the presentation, order, and most importantly manner in which the creation of each one of these life forms were presented in the first creation account. In sum, these differences are not the mark of the same author, but rather a textual indication that another whole creation narrative begins here, one that furthermore commences by claiming, contrary to the narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:3, that neither man, vegetation, nor animals have yet been created! Genesis 2:4b therefore sets the scene, both thematically and stylistically, for a second creation account, one which commenced: “In the day that god Yahweh made earth and skies…”

Besides differences in the treatment of thematic material, Genesis 2:4b also reveals the hand of a different author on stylistic and linguistic grounds. The verb choice of 2:4b evidences the mindset of a different author. In this verse, the author chooses the general verb “to make,” in Hebrew ’asah. Although we find the verb ’asah also employed in the first creation account, and specifically in reference to the making of the solid domed barrier or sky, the verb of choice for the author of the first creation account in expressing God’s creative act is bara’, “to create.” In fact this is the verb this author consciously chooses for his opening verse: “In the beginning when God created (bara’) the skies and the earth…”

Its meaning, moreover, is quite different from that of ’asah, which simply means to make. Bara’ denotes a creative act which brings something into existence by means of separating or dividing it out. Thus in the first creation account, the creator deity creates (bara’) earth by separating it out from the waters below and converting it into dry habitable land, and the skies by separating the original primordial water mass into two. Thus, the use of the verb ’asah in Gen 2:4b not only marks a linguistic difference, but it also displays the mindset of a different author who conceived creation in different terms from those employed by the author of the first creation account. Simply put, the author of Genesis 1:1 would not have used—I would argue consciously avoided using—’asah for his opening statement. It would have been an ill-conceived choice for this author.

Conversely, the author of Genesis 2:4b-25 never uses the verb bara’! This especially holds true for this author’s presentation of the creation, or rather fabrication, of man. Again, this is not just a difference in verb choice, but a larger difference revealing how each one of our authors conceived and imagined the deity’s creative act. More on this below.

Another stylistic difference noticeable in the Hebrew of verse 2:4b which also evidences the mark of a different scribal hand is the absence of the Hebrew particle ’eth which is an untranslated particle used after a verb to mark a direct object in the accusative case. It is not translated in English since its purpose is just to indicate the direct object. Thus Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew is: bara’ ’elohim ’eth hashamayim we’eth ha’aretz—literally, “God created the skies and the earth.” The two ’eth’s are not translated; they serve merely to mark the direct object of the verb: “the skies” (ha shamayim) and “the earth” (ha ’aretz). But Genesis 2:4b is quite different.

Both the tone and style of the Hebrew of 2:4b is drastically different from its counterpart in verse 1:1. In the Hebrew of 2:4b not only is ’eth not employed, but neither is the demonstrative article ha, “the.” Here is the Hebrew of Genesis 2:4b: ‘asôt yahweh ’elohim ’eretz weshamayim—literally, “God Yahweh made earth and skies.” The conscious choice to avoid the use of ’eth in Genesis 2:4b, and the article ha, most likely reflects this author’s desire to express a more poetic, even archaic, style: ’eth is rarely used in poetry. Conversely, the author who penned Genesis 1:1 does not, and would not have, written his Hebrew in this manner, that is without using the direct object marker ’eth, and without the use of the demonstrative article, ha. There is also the added difference that the order is inverted between these two verses—“the skies and the earth” and “earth and skies”—which on its own might not mean anything, but together with the differences already reviewed above is a further indication of another author’s hand.

In sum, the Hebrew of Genesis 2:4b and in fact the Hebrew of all of the second creation account, evidences a more poetic style and tone, and has a more storyteller feeling to it. The Hebrew of Genesis 1:1-2:3, on the other hand, evidences the hand of an educated elite scribal guild. It is no surprise then to learn that the first creation account was written by a 6th century elite priestly guild at a time when Israel was a temple-state; while the second creation account was written by a secular scribe, a storyteller from the days of old. These different social groups are reflected in the style and tone of the Hebrew itself.

The textual data is overwhelming thus far and we’ve only looked at the first five words of Genesis 2:4b-3:24’s story! The data convincingly demonstrate, and will further corroborate, that this creation account, a second account, was written by a different author, whose Hebrew, vocabulary, portrait of Israel’s deity, and conception and ideas about the creation of the world and of mankind were all vastly different from, and in many cases contrary to, those of the author who penned the first creation account. People who try to harmonize these differences away are just not being honest to the texts and their individual authors, and more severely have placed their own beliefs about the texts above the texts themselves, what they themselves say, and the views and beliefs of their independent authors.

Genesis 2:5—Man and Rain: Prerequisites to the Creation of Plants
The differences so far illustrated in just the opening verse of the second creation account (Gen 2:4b) become more pronounced as we move through the narrative. Genesis 2:5-7, for example, evidences a dramatic shift in emphasis, thematic material, message, vocabulary, and style.

By way of introduction it might be said that the perspective adopted in these opening verses and indeed throughout this entire creation narrative is an agricultural one, focusing on man’s relationship to the ground and to the vegetation of that ground. Already in verses 5-7 there is a heightened emphasis on plants as agricultural produce, their fields, the rain required for growing that produce, and man for cultivating or tilling these fields and its vegetation. Man, in other words, is essentially defined in relation to the ground whence he was made, and specifically in relation to tilling the ground to produce his livelihood (2:5; 2:15; 3:23). By contrast, woman is essentially defined in relation to man, whence she was made!

The portrait of male and female—note the difference in vocabulary—created together in the image of God and thus distinct from the earth and the animals of the earth is not only absent from this second narrative but it was not even a conceivable idea to its author. His message and focus are radically different and lie elsewhere.

Thematically Genesis 2:5-6 not only brings us back to a point in the assembled PJ narrative prior to the creation of plants, animals, and man—which in and of itself contradicts the creation narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:3 in its entirety—but its opening setting specifically negates Genesis 1:9-10, 11-12, 29-30, and for that matter the entire conclusion of the first creation account. Just look at these verses and observe what is being presented thematically and how this is being presented stylistically and linguistically.

And God said: “Let the earth bring forth plants, vegetation (‘eseb) yielding seed, fruit trees producing fruit of its own kind whose seed is in it, upon the earth.” And it was so. And the earth brought forth plants, vegetation yielding seed of its own kind, and trees producing fruit whose seed was in it of its own kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 [P])

And God said: “Behold! I have given you all vegetation (‘eseb) yielding seed which is on the face of all the earth and all the trees in which there is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it will be for food.” (Gen 1:29 [P])

In the day that god Yahweh made earth and skies, and all produce of the field had not yet been in the earth and all vegetation (‘eseb) of the field had not yet grown, for god Yahweh had not caused it to rain upon the earth and no man yet existed to till the ground… (Gen 2:4b-5 [J])

When read one after the other, each creation account not only evidences noticeable differences in narrative quality, tone, and style but also in its thematic presentation of earth, the creation of plants and mankind, and most importantly the rationale behind that creation.

First, after having already created all of the earth’s plants, vegetation, and fruit producing trees, and decreeing them as food for all of mankind and the animals of the earth alike, the story that begins at Genesis 2:4b-5 proceeds as if none of these things have yet happened. In fact, the story and its author display no knowledge of the preceding narrative and of the fact that all of the earth’s vegetation had already been brought into existence according to this account—frankly because this first creation account had not yet been written! Rather verses 5-7, as with all of Genesis 2-3, were written independently of Genesis 1:1-2:3, and centuries earlier. This is the beginning of a new and radically different creation story, that furthermore is making contradictory claims about the earth and the creation of plants, man, the animals, and lastly woman.

Second, its focus is radically different as well. Unlike the first creation account, this story stresses a reason why god Yahweh has not yet created plants—because there is no water yet available, in the form of rain, to give the plants what they require in order for them to grow, and because man has not yet been created in order to till the ground so that the vegetation may produce food. These are revealing details and are completely absent in the first creation narrative. According to this narrative with its culturally conditioned agricultural perspective, Yahweh has not yet caused the earth to produce plants and vegetation (contra Gen 1:11-12, 29-30) because he has not yet created a means to water these plants and vegetation, nor the means through which their ground is to be tilled. What is implied in these opening verses is that Yahweh cannot create plants and vegetation yet because neither rain nor man have yet been created.

In other words, the author of this creation account is making a poignant agricultural statement: rain, or water in general, and man are needed for any vegetation to grow. Their existence serves as a prerequisite to the creation of plants! In this creation account’s perspective, we must of necessity move immediately from the creation of earth and skies (2:4b) to the creation of man (2:7), because according to this author’s view plants cannot be created prior to man. There are other implicit reasons for this as well (below).

Third, what is implied in all of this is that we have an earth that is in a very different state of existence than the earth created in Gen 1:9-10. In this second account the earth is dry, barren, and initially lacking moisture (but see v. 6). In the previous account it is inherently moist and fecund emerging as it does from the waters below. From the perspective of the author who penned the first creation account, earth emerges from the waters below, is inherently fecund, and immediately generates on God’s command plants, fruit-bearing trees, and all forms of seed-bearing vegetation! That’s radically different from what we have here in this account. Furthermore, there is no creation of man between the earth’s appearing (v. 9) and its generation of all the earth’s plants, trees, and vegetation each after its own kind (vv. 11-12) in the first creation account. Man is simply not seen as the prerequisite to the creation of plants in this creation account; it was written to accommodate a different perspective and purpose. Additionally, there is not a hint of interest in man’s relationship to the ground and its tilling, and in fact the first creation account goes out of its way to present man’s creation divorced from any relationship to the earth or its ground by presenting a portrait of him, and her, being created in God’s image and likeness.

Thus, contrary to the elite priestly scribe who penned Genesis 1:1-2:3 under the influence of the intellectual literary traditions of Mesopotamia, which were themselves shaped by the empirical observations of their geographical reality—a fertile earth resting upon the delta regions—the perspective represented by the author who penned Genesis 2:4b-25 was born from the hard realities of the Canaanite landscape, where its dry, hard ground needed the rains to fertilize its produce. This is illustrated in verse 6 with the mention of a mist which comes up from the earth. In this account, the earth doesn’t emerge from the waters below as in the first creation account, but is presented as dry and barren at its creation and needing to be moistured by the rains above or the mist and springs which bubble up from the earth below, which indeed did populate the Canaanite landscape. So our perspective, that is the author’s subjective perspective and cultural biases, have radically changed, and these changes cause us to have a radically different depiction of the creation of earth, plants, and as we will see, man and woman.

Stylistically, there are also a number of differences that clearly indicate the mark of a different scribe with a different writing style and emphasis. These differences highlight our author’s interests and even cultural perspectives and beliefs, and are already evident in verses 5-7. They may be categorized as: interest in etiologies, etymologies, wordplay and puns, a storyteller style of narration, more poetic sentence syntax and tone, and the use of new and/or different vocabulary. Specifically, and uniquely looking at verse 5 alone: the use of the word field (sadeh), which is not found in the first creation myth when speaking of the creation of the plants is used here to convey this author’s interest in the produce of the field, that is agriculture. It is a marked feature of this second creation account. All of the earth’s plants are referred to in relation to the field. It represents a secular, agricultural perspective and interest. Furthermore, the use of the term “field” foreshadows this author’s interest in man as an agent for tilling these fields and as essentially defined vis-à-vis these produce producing fields.

The use of the expression ba’aretz, “in the earth,” when referring to the creation or non-existence of the plants is unique here as well, and represents a different syntax and more poetic style than the more erudite and formulaic style employed by the author of the first creation account. By contrast, the first creation account repeatedly employs al ha’aretz, “upon the earth” when writing about the plants’ creation upon the earth. The use of the verb “to grow” (tsamach) is also unique to the second creation account and once again accentuates this author’s interest on the produce of the field, the rain, and the manpower required to grow it.

Finally, a new but most significant word is introduced in this second creation account when referring to the earth, ha ’adamah. This not only introduces this author’s first among many puns and etiologies, but it is employed here to once again accentuate this author’s central argument in his creation story—that man (’adam) is intricately attached to and essentially defined by the ground (’adamah), from which he was fashioned. It is an etiological tale meant to provide, in fanciful storyteller fashion, the origin of man and by extension man’s relationship to the produce of the field. Both thematically and otherwise this is a colossal difference from the claims of the author of Genesis 1:24-27.

All of these stylistic differences—and I’ve only noted them for verse 5 here—are unique and characteristic of the second creation account alone. Conversely, the expressions and vocabulary found in Genesis 1:11-12—“vegetation yielding seed,” “fruit trees producing fruit of its own kind,” “seed of its own kind,” and “trees producing fruit whose seed was in it”—are unique to this creation account alone, and reflect this author’s erudite and formulaic style and thematic interests.20 These differences should not be neglected or interpreted away in willy-nilly fashion. Rather they should be embraced and understood. We could continue along these lines noting many more stylistic and thematic differences throughout the remainder of Genesis 2.

In sum, we start to perceive that each creation myth was shaped by a variety of different factors. The first proceeds with a formulaic and ritualistic rigor, thematically and linguistically, presenting the creation of the then visible world in an order and fashion that is easily perceivable. Here in Genesis 2, on the other hand, the creation of man and then plants follows a rationale set by this author and his agriculturally oriented cultural worldview. Creation does not proceed on any spatially or temporally ordered grounds as our first account does, but rather on etiological and thematic grounds with an eye toward linguistic wordplay and etymologies. It’s a secular storyteller’s creation account, not that of an elite priestly guild!

Genesis 2:6-7—Yahweh Molds an Earthling
Man’s creation, its chronological placement in the narrative, the manner through which he is created and the reason why, the fact that only a man in the singular is created, and the elemental material from which he is created are all vastly different from man’s (and woman’s) creation as it was presented in the first creation account. And as we saw in the case of the first creation account, so too here: this account of man’s creation was shaped by the cultural concerns, worldview, and beliefs of its author.

Man’s relationship to the ground is the central and predominant theme in this second creation account and it is presented in several ways. Right down to the creation of his very bones, man is defined in relationship to and in the same terms as the ground! This is not only vastly different from the views and beliefs of our first author, but completely negates and contradicts them. From the perspective of the culture that shaped our present author’s attitudes and perceptions about man, the creation of man could not have been drafted in any other way than by presenting him as a creature of the soil, a thing of the earth, an earthling in a very literal sense. This is brought out in several different ways.

First, verse 5 already foreshadows the conclusion of this etiological tale explaining how it came about that man must procure his livelihood by working the ground by initially referring to the absence of man in relationship to the absence of the earth’s produce. In other words, before the creation of man himself, the author of this text has already subtly suggested that the ground, its produce, and man are all intimately connected together.

Second, unlike the author of our first creation account, this author utilizes a new and different vocabulary word for speaking about the earth or the ground—in Hebrew ’adamah. Obviously the introduction of this term fits this author’s purpose in presenting man (’adam) as a product of the earth (’adamah). By contrast, of the 97 times that the term ’adamah appears in the Pentateuch alone, only 4 of these are found in the Priestly source! Moreover this author, the priest who penned Genesis 1, only uses the term as part of one unique expression, which we do indeed find in this author’s creation account as well as this same author’s flood narrative—“every creeping thing of the ground (ha’ adamah)” (Gen 1:25, 7:8, 9:2; Lev 20:25). Thus not only does our second author, the Yahwist, introduce a new vocabulary word into his narrative for the purpose of defining man’s essence, but he also employs this term in a different sense than that used and understood by our first author. Again such differences should not be neglected; they are more than differences of word choice. They reflect differences in cultural perspectives, views, and even ideologies.

Third, in drastically different terms and imagination, cultural context and perspective, the author of this creation account portrays the man, Adam, being formed or molded (yatsar) from the ground (’adamah). Again, this is not just a difference in word choice, but a complete about-face in cultural and religious perceptions and ideas from those presented in the first creation narrative. Not only is man (and woman) not formed, molded, or crafted in the first creation account and presumably by Yahweh’s hands, but the verb yatsar is never found in anything that the author of the first creation account, the Priestly writer, has ever written! It is an older term and one that was frequently used in the prophetic literature to speak of Yahweh as a potter who fashioned man, the clay of the earth, with his hands like a potter forms objects on his wheel (Is 45:9, 64:8; Jer 18:4-6)21. So both the word and what the word denotes are utterly absent in the first creation account.

Lastly, the very fact that the author of this second creation account, and only this author, depicts man (’adam) being molded from the ground (’adamah) represents this author’s unique views and beliefs—that man was not only created from the ground, but his very essence or being, is defined both linguistically and substantively by the very same term and material as the ground! Man is in essence and in language of the ground. This is more than a simple pun on words for our author. Rather it helps to define man as intricately and essentially of the ground. It explains, in fanciful terms, the origin behind this author’s cultural truth—why man must procure his livelihood by working the ground (’adamah), and at that a cursed ground (Gen 2:5, 15; 3:17, 23). There is more to be said here in regards to man’s relationship to the animals, which are also of the ground (’adamah).

In conclusion, none of these themes, ideas, and culturally formed beliefs about man, and only man, are presented in the first creation account nor the mind of its author. They are unique to the second creation account and the aims and views of this author only. In fact, the author of the first creation account distances the creation of man and woman from the earth, the animals of the earth, and the manner in which the animals of the earth are created by using a set of different vocabulary to describe man and woman’s creation: instead of “by its kind” and “and let the earth bring forth nephesh hayah,” the expression “in the image and likeness of God” is used and man and woman’s creation is removed from the earth and the animals of the earth. By contrast, the author of the second creation narrative explicitly and purposefully presents the fashioning of man (’adam), and only man, in relationship to the earth (’adamah), and in relationship to the fashioning of the animals. In other words, the later Priestly writer’s presentation of the creation of man and woman together, male and female in the image and likeness of the gods, and apart from any etiological understanding of man only as a thing of the earth and defined in essence as of the earth, is an explicit attempt to rewrite this older Yahiwst creation story.

Finally, and again, contradictory to the first creation narrative, the author of the second account has a very specific reason for not presenting the creation of woman with that of man. And this has to do with this author’s interest on etiology, wordplay, and how he or his culture perceived the essential natures of man and woman separately. For the fact is, for this author, that the origin of woman, unlike that of man (and his animal companions), is not of the soil! As we shall see, contrary to the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3, this author was writing an etiological tale with the express goal of representing and explaining the unique origins of man and woman, separately!

Genesis 2:18-20—Man and the Animals from the Ground, Woman from Man
In radically contradictory fashion to the creation of man (and woman) in the first creation account, when all is said and done in the second creation account, the substance from which man is made and that which he essentially becomes are shockingly no different than what is said about every other animal in this creation narrative.

And god Yahweh molded (yatsar) the man (ha’adam), clay from the ground (ha ’adamah), and blew into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being (nephesh hayah). (Gen 2:7 [J])

And god Yahweh molded (yatsar) from the ground (ha’adamah) every animal of the field and every fowl of the skies and brought them to the man (ha’adam) to see what he would call them. And whatsoever the man called every living being (nephesh hayah), that was its name. (Gen 2:19 [J])

In Genesis 2:4b-25, and only in this creation account, the essential nature of man, in both language and substance, is defined no differently than that of the animals. Both are molded (yatsar) by Yahweh from the ground (ha ’adamah), and both are defined as living beings (nephesh hayah). Even after Yahweh blows into man’s nostrils the breath of life, he still merely becomes no more than that which the animals are also defined as: a nephesh hayah!

Of course, our author purposefully created this connection and has a specific reason for doing so, as we shall momentarily see. But presently it needs to be stressed just how radically different and contradictory this image of man’s creation is from the Priestly writer’s image of man and woman’s creation together in the image and likeness of God.

The author of the first creation account purposefully crafts the creation of man and woman in opposing terms and image to that of the animals of the earth. Only the animals of the earth, each created “by their kind,” are referred to as nephesh hayah in this creation account. This author’s aim was to suggest that man and woman, unlike the beasts of the earth, were made in the image of the god(s) and are consequentially more than mere nephesh hayah, living beings made after their own kind! By stark contrast, in the second account this label, “a living being” (nephesh hayah), is seen as man’s crowning definition! And furthermore it does not distinguish him from the animals who are also nephesh hayah! This is a shocking negation of the views and perspective of the Priestly creation account, whose aims were to emphatically distinguish mankind’s essential substance and mode of creation from that of the animals of the earth—not so for the Yahwist’s creation account.

 In fact, none of the first creation account’s themes—indeed arguments—are present in the second creation narrative, and on the contrary a set of opposite themes and arguments are made with reference to the creation of man, the animals, and lastly woman. It would do us well to listen to this author’s specific arguments and point of view, rather than subordinating them to the claims of the first creation account and thereby neglecting them all together. Thus, whereas the first creation myth presents the creation of man and woman in different terms and image to the creation of the animals of the earth, the second creation account, by contrast, purposefully designates man, and only man, and the animals no differently—a nephesh hayah formed of the ’adamah. Furthermore, man and the animals are depicted on the same plane: the animals are each presented as potentially suitable companions for the man. They are seen as man’s assistant helper (‘ezer) or counterpart (neged) in this and only this creation account.

Why then did the author of this creation myth present man and the animals in similar terms and essences, that is made of the same stuff? What was his message? And why didn’t he include woman at this point in his narrative?

It should readily be perceivable now that the Yahwist was quite the talented storyteller, and for the most part his stories, or those he himself inherited, were crafted to convey specific messages. We have already explored the rationale behind his presentation of man as substantively molded from the ground (Gen 2:6-7). This not only provided the Yahwist storyteller with a nice pun on words, ’adam from ’adamah, but also explained from his cultural perspective why man is intrinsically attached to working the ground in order to procure his livelihood. Thus the Yahwist’s stories have an etiological purpose, that is they explain the origins of current customs, worldviews, and beliefs.

The story about how god Yahweh fashioned animals from the ground, the same essence from which man was made, is also an etiological tale, whose conclusion is to be found in the story of the creation of woman and the material from which she was made. It is a fanciful story explaining how man finally ended up with a woman as his life’s companion and not an animal!

Genesis 2:18 specifically claims that god Yahweh molded the animals from the ground so that the man would not be alone, and so that he would have a counterpart (neged), a helper (‘ezer), that corresponded to his own being. Since man in both essence and name is of the ground, ’adam from ’adamah, it was only natural that a suitable counterpart for man be sought from the same essence. Thus Yahweh fashions the animals too from the ’adamah with the sole purpose of bringing them to the man so that he might recognize his own essence as it were among these potential suitors. We might again pause and note that this etiological story outright contradicts not only the order of the creation of the animals in the first creation account, but more significantly the manner and the reason for their creation as well! This narrative detail our author consciously created in order to construct a narrative explaining why man’s life-partner is not found among the animals of the same essence as himself, but rather in another being, not yet created—woman. This story ends by claiming that Yahweh could not fashion from the ground a fit companion for man. He must now fashion man’s companion not from the ’adamah, the substance from which man was created, but from man himself!

And god Yahweh caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man (ha’adam) and he slept. And he took one of his ribs and closed up flesh in its place. And god Yahweh built the rib which was taken from the man into a woman (’ishah) and brought her to the man. And the man said: “This now is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. Accordingly she shall be called ‘woman’ (’ishah) because from man (’ish) she was taken. (Gen 2:21-24 [J])

The point behind the creation and naming of the animals in this second account is to give an account of woman’s creation, who contrary to the animals, is the perfect fit/companion for man. There is additionally not only wordplay going on in this account, but also the presentation of a culturally formed perspective that accentuates the essences from which man, animals, and woman were all created, and therefore how each one’s being defines them and their relationship to each other: man is essentially tied to and defined by the ground whence he was molded, ’adam from ’adamah, and woman is essentially tied to and defined in relation to man whence she was “built,” ’ishah from ’ish!

This was a consciously constructed narrative on this author’s part and it is a radically different cultural perspective and worldview than that presented in Gen 1:27, where male and female are both created together in the likeness and image of the divine. It may even be argued that the later 6th century BCE Priestly writer who wrote what is now the first creation account vehemently disagreed with this earlier portrait which essentially defined man as of the earth and woman as of man. So what did this educated priest do? He rewrote it. The message of the first creation account and its author is that man and women are essentially defined by the fact that they are both images and likenesses of the divine! These are radically contradictory and competing creation accounts of man and woman. Anyone seeking to harmonize these two different messages dilutes each one and neglects each author’s unique perspectives and beliefs, valuing their own modern beliefs above the individual and competing beliefs and perspectives of these two authors.

Finally, both accounts of the creation of man and woman serve as an etiological story explaining the origins of matrimony. This is more apparent in the second creation account. Why does man eventually marry woman? Our text responds by saying that it is because woman was substantially and essentially made from man’s flesh. “On account of this a man (’ish) shall leave his father and his mother and adhere to his woman/wife (’ishah), and they shall become one flesh”—that is, as they originally were and still are! The first creation account gives a radically different answer. It is because God created humanity (’adam) as both male (zakar) and female (neqebah) together!

As further textual support, the Priestly creation account of Genesis 1 exhibits a number of unique linguistic features and vocabulary choices that are only found in the Priestly source.

The Seven-Day Creation Account and the Rest of the Priestly Source: Stylistic and Thematic Parallels
The creation account now preserved in Genesis 1:1-2:3 shares numerous stylistic, thematic, and religious characteristics with the rest of the Priestly corpus. Many of these features are unique hallmarks of the Priestly writer and his guild and are found nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It’s time we looked at some of these features.22

On stylistic grounds, Genesis 1:1-2:3 displays the hand of a well-educated and meticulous writer. This is immediately apparent in this writer’s ritualistic attention to detailed expressions, language, and specific vocabulary that, as we shall see, are only found in the Priestly source. But even more impressionable is his repetitive and orderly style, which displays the mind of an individual who thinks in ritualistic terms: everything must have its proper place, order, and purpose. This pedantic and repetitive style comes across in this author’s interest in organization, genealogies, chronologies, and other stylistic features such as his use of chiasmas and redundant noun-verb combinations, such as those already present in Genesis 1: “swarming-creatures swarming” (sherets sharats), “flying-creatures flying” (‘oph ‘uph), “creeping-creatures creeping” (remes ramas), and “seed-sowing seed” (zara‘ zera‘). None of these stylistic features are found in the Yahwist creation account.

Additionally, this author’s use of formulaic repetitions, spatial and temporal organization patterns, lists, and genealogies are readily apparent in other passages penned by this same author. Take a close look at the ritualistically detailed and repetitive style employed in Exodus 25-31 and 35-40, or Leviticus 1-7, 11, 13-15, 18, 23, or Numbers 1-4, 7, 26, 28-29, 31, and 33. All of these passages were penned by the same priestly guild and its particular style is not found any where else in the Pentateuch. This is not the secular storyteller style of the Yahwist, filled with word puns, folklore etiologies, and place name etymologies. This is the style of an educated elite legalist, a priest. Furthermore, in every place where we find this style employed, we also find the same themes, religious concerns, ideology, and cultic worldview of the Priestly guild responsible for writing these and similar passages. In other words, it’s not just the style, the name of Israel’s god, or the specific religious beliefs and concerns that have enabled scholars to identify the Priestly source, but rather it is the convergence of all of these features together, over and over in dozens and dozens of passages throughout the Pentateuch.23

More specifically, there are a number of words and expressions found in Genesis 1:1-2:3 that only occur in the Priestly source. The Hebrew verb “to separate” or “to divide,” for example, which appears five times in the Priestly writer’s creation account, is found a total of seventeen times in the Priestly corpus, and conversely only five times in other non-P Pentateuchal sources. This word choice is significant in this corpus of literature since the primary task of the priests was to distinguish and divide between the pure and the impure, the sacred and profane, in matters of the cult, human activities, objects, bodily emissions, and even spatial and temporal borders. It reflects this priestly guild’s unique set of beliefs and worldview. Certain things by their very natures are to be kept separate.24

The word for dry land (yabbashah) is an identifiable Priestly marker. It is not only used in Genesis 1:9-10, but also in this priestly writer’s version of the crossing of the Sea of Reeds story—yes, there are two once separate versions—in Exodus 14 (see #120-122)25. This is revealing because the same story as recited by the earlier Yahwist uses the Hebrew harabah which also means “dry ground” in both his version of the Flood story and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds story. In other words, while J consistently uses harabah for “dry ground,” P uses yabbashah.

The noun miqweh, a “collection” (1:10), is unique to the Priestly source occurring once in Genesis and in only two other passages in the Pentateuch, both penned by P.

The Hebrew word translated as “by their kind,” which appears ten times in the Priestly creation account alone, appears another twenty times in the Pentateuch, sixteen of which are found in other P passages. Notably, the term finds itself employed in P’s dietary laws in Leviticus 11, and in only P’s version of the Flood narrative.26 More significantly we also only find in this author’s creation account and flood narrative the lengthier and uniquely P expressions “every creeping thing of the ground by their kind” (Gen 1:25; 6:20; 7:14), “the animals (of the earth) by their kind,” “the beasts by their kind,” and “birds by their kind.” These expressions are found nowhere else in the Bible, only in the Priestly source.

The Hebrew word for “lights” or “luminaries” in Genesis 1, ma’or, as opposed to the more frequent ’or, is a term unique to P and occurs fifteen times in the Pentateuch, all of them in passages identified as penned by P.

Raqi‘a, the “domed expanse,” is unique to P and other post-exilic texts, as with the expression tohu wabohu (# 1).

Out of the one hundred and sixty times that the word mo‘ed appears in the Pentateuch, only eleven of them are from non-P texts.

The noun sherets, “a swarm” or “swarming/creeping creatures,” employed once in Genesis (1:20) is found fourteen more times in the Pentateuch, thirteen of which come from P. And the longer expression employing the verb, “creeping-creatures creeping” (sherets sharats), is only found four other times, all of which come from other P passages: P’s flood (7:21) and P’s dietary laws (Lev 11:41–44).

Likewise for the noun remes, “creeping-creature.” It occurs three times in Genesis 1 and seven other places in the Pentateuch, all of them from P. Its verb form, ramas, occurs four times in Genesis 1 and ten other times in the Pentateuch, nine of which are from P. Moreover, the combined expression remes ramas is a unique Priestly innovation. It occurs once in Genesis (1:26) and four other times, all of which come from P. And as noted above, “every creeping-creature that creeps upon the earth” is an expression unique to P, occurring only here in Genesis, in P’s flood narrative, and in P’s dietary laws.

The word for serpent, tannin, occurs five times in the Pentateuch, four of which are from P. Significantly, P’s version of turning Moses’ rod into a serpent uses the same term, tannin (Exod 7:9–10), while the earlier Elohist version of the same story, now stitched together with the P text, uses the Hebrew nahash, “snake,” in the same context (Exod 4:3). See #92.

The word for “image” which appears three times in Genesis 1:26-27 only occurs three other places in the Pentateuch, all of which were penned by the same author. Additionally, the specific expression “created in the image of God” is unique to P, occurring here in Genesis 1:27 and in one other place, Genesis 9:6.

The expression “male and female” as opposed to “man and woman,” is also unique to the Priestly literature. In addition to appearing once in Genesis 1:27, it appears ten other times in the Pentateuch, nine of which come from P. On the contrary, the Yahwist tradition prefers to use “man and woman” in similar contexts, especially when referring to the animals being collected in the flood story (#14-18). That is, while J uses “man and woman,” P uses “male and female” exclusively and consistently.

The expression “be fruitful and multiply” occurs twelve times in the Pentateuch, all of them from P.

The verb “to subdue” is also unique to the Priestly literature and other post-exilic texts. And the verb “to have dominion over” occurs seven times in the Pentateuch, all from P.

The expression “bearing/sowing seed” (zara‘ zera‘) is also unique to P. It appears four times in Genesis 1 and only three other times, all of which are from P (Lev 11:37; 26:16; Num 5:28). In fact this redundant use of a verb and its noun—seed-sowing seed—is typical of the Priestly writer’s style as we have seen elsewhere.

The term used for “food” (’oklah) in Genesis 1:29 is not only unique to the Priestly literature, appearing seven times in the Pentateuch, all from P; but it is also distinguishable from J’s use of the word for “food”—ma’akal (Gen 2:9).

The verb “to consecrate” or “to make holy” obviously shares a unique place in any literature written by ancient priests. Out of the total seventy-five times this verb is used in the Pentateuch, sixty-three of them come from P.

And the Hebrew for “work,” mela’kah, is employed sixty-five times in the Pentateuch, fifty-six of which are found in other P passages.

These unique expressions and word choices reflect much more than just differences in style and language from the other Pentateuchal sources. Rather they reveal this author’s unique mindset, religious beliefs, education and social standing, and even ideology. Furthermore, the Priestly writer’s unique style and language is accompanied by a unique set of religious beliefs and themes only found in the Priestly source, some of which are already visible in Genesis 1:1-2:3.

The most prominent of these religious themes is undeniably this author’s uncompromising views about the Sabbath and its observance. All of the Pentateuch’s Sabbath laws, including the account of its consecration as a holy day by the creator deity at creation, were penned by the Priestly writer. For this author and the priestly guild he represented, the Sabbath was unconditionally part of the covenantal obligations of Yahweh’s people, which was intricately connected to the cult and firmly grounded in the creation of the world. And it was this same author who composed a creation narrative illustrating why nonobservance was punishable by death (Exod 31:12–17; 35:2; Num 15:32–36)—because God himself created the seventh day as holy at the world’s creation and even observed the Sabbath himself. Any nonobservance, therefore, was an affront to God and his creation.27

The Priestly writer’s adamant stance toward Sabbath observance rested on a much more profound and sacred view of the world. One quickly notices in this author’s creation account the repeated emphasis on those things by which means time is measured and kept, the importance of which is only revealed later in the Priestly literature. For instance, P’s creation account opens with the creation of light so that day can be measured, calculated, and separated from evening, and in fact so that the whole narrative progresses chronologically day by day leading to its climax in the seventh-day Sabbath observance. We are additionally informed that the luminaries and the sun and the moon were created “to divide the day and the night,” and more importantly to serve “as signs and for the fixed times, and for the days and years.” As we saw above, the expression “fixed times” or “appointed festivals” is unique to the Priestly literature. These festival times, fixed by the movement of the moon, are specifically enumerated in Leviticus 23. They are Yahweh’s “holy assemblies,” many of which are decreed as eternal laws.

Another thematic feature found in Genesis 1:1-2:3 that is shared with the rest of the Priestly literature is this author’s illustration that order and goodness come through an act of separating the primeval elements of the world and keeping them separated. The primeval waters are kept at bay through the creator deity’s creation of the sky—the solid domed expanse that keeps the waters above, above. Likewise the primeval waters below are also separated off and tamed through the creation of seas. This establishment of boundaries so that life may flourish is duplicated in the cult, where the central responsibility of the Aaronid priests was to distinguish between the pure and the impure, and to keep these spheres separate, or to reestablish their borders when breached. In terms of the legislation in the book of Leviticus, where the verb “to separate” is most pronounced, this act of separation entailed separating impure deeds, bodies, and even spaces from pure deeds, bodies, and spaces. Only through separating the pure from the impure could the boundaries and borders established at creation be maintained. This was the worldview that these priests lived in and endorsed.

We have now seen that being honest to the texts of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-24, their historical and literary contexts, and the beliefs and views expressed therein has revealed that these two creation narratives were penned by different authors—an elite educated priest of the 6th century BCE and a secular storyteller of an earlier century. Furthermore, both of these authors perceived and experienced their world, its nature, and its origin in radically different ways and thus produced radically different creation narratives. This conclusion, moreover, neither depends on the reader’s persuasions nor beliefs. It is drawn from an honest and objective reading of the texts and the beliefs and worldviews expressed therein. Neither is this conclusion influenced or prejudiced by later reader-oriented theological interpretive frameworks that dictate beforehand what these texts allegedly are and how they ought to be read. Rather, these conclusions were uniquely drawn from the texts, what they themselves reveal about their own compositional natures and the beliefs and worldviews of their authors. This is studying the texts objectively, on their terms, and independent of the subjective views and beliefs of later readers. In sum, the texts of Genesis1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-24 themselves reveal that the depiction of the origins of the world and of man and woman in both accounts were shaped by different and even contradictory cultural perspectives and beliefs about the nature of the world and of man and woman.

Each text also discloses that these differing authorial and cultural beliefs were legitimated by presenting them as the beliefs and views of the god of each one of these compositions. In other words, one of the literary techniques employed by ancient scribes was to place their beliefs, perceptions of the world, and even ideologies on the lips of God in the texts that they themselves composed. The god of their texts, in other words, is a literary creation. This observation is also drawn from being honest to what the texts themselves reveal about their own compositional nature and the literary conventions employed by ancient scribes in composing their texts.

The Redacted PJ Text
That the opening chapter of the Pentateuch is from the Priestly source is not a coincidence. Rather it is a carefully implemented interpretive decision on the part of the Priestly redactor. Since the Priestly text was written after the Yahwist, many critics see the Priestly source and its strategically placed passages as an attempt to correct, readjust, or impose a new interpretive framework onto the older Yahwist narrative. By placing P’s creation account before J’s, the redactor makes a theological assertion that God created a good cosmos and a morally upright and divine-like humanity. It is only later that J’s less-than-perfect image of the human race with its disobedient and violent nature emerges.

A further case can be made. There are good grounds for arguing that P’s creation account with its optimistic view of a godlike humanity, blessed and good, was intended as a refutation of or correction to J’s dismal portrait of a increasingly violent humanity (see forthcoming entires). In this case, the Priestly writer would have been involved in a program of reconceptualizing Israel’s prehistory in response to the concerns, ideas, and beliefs of his own cultural era and specific socio-historical setting. Thus, the Priestly writer might correctly be seen as writing a new creation of humanity that was meant to ‘correct’ and replace the older Yahwist tradition. Why? So that the primeval creation narrative offered up a poignant message of hope and goodness to the exilic community it was drafted for, and answered their needs and concerns (see #1), while on the other hand expressed the views and beliefs of the Priestly guild that penned this account.

The later editorial combination of these two textual traditions, however, produced something unforeseen to both authors. In the redacted PJ text as it now stands, the Yahwist account completely negates the main theological message of the Priestly writer—namely, that God made both male and female in his likeness and divorced from the creation of the animals of the earth. In other words, the Priestly creation text was written to replace and correct the image of man given in the Yahwist version. But because of a later redactional process that brought these two contradictory statements together, in an irony of sorts it is now the Yahwist text that has subverted the message of the Priestly writer. And this happens on numerous other occasions as we shall see.

Finally, what ever unique intentions, meanings, and purposes the J and P authors individually had in creating their creation accounts, they are gone. The combined PJ creation narrative now introduces unforeseen interpretive questions and meanings that neither the author of J nor P intended, one of which is the tendency among modern uninformed readers to harmonize these two accounts. This actually does disservice to both the J and P authors and their individual texts with their different meanings and purposes. It places the modern reader’s concerns and beliefs above those of the authors of these two once independent creation accounts. Unfortunately this will be a repeated observation that we will make throughout this book’s forthcoming entries.


  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. The image of Yahweh as a potter fashioning man with his hands (Is 64:8). 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: Historical and Literary Approaches, 64. “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).”
  5. See Chapter 2, “The Seven-Day Creation Account and the Priestly Writer,” in my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, p. 64-101.
  6. See Chapter 3, “Creation and Sacred Time,” ibid, p. 102-116.
  7. My translation of raqi‘a as “a solid domed expanse” may seem alarming at first, but it is the clearest image available for expressing what the Hebrew invokes. The verb form of raqi‘a means “to beat out” or “to hammer out” and is attested with respect to hammering out metal plates or bowls (e.g., Exod 39:3; Jer 10:9), thus a domed or concaved shape. More specifically the verb raqa‘ is used in Job 37:18 to speak of Yahweh “hammering out thinly the firmament, hard like the reflective surface of poured metal.” And Psalm 19 further supports the idea that the raqi‘a was seen as a manifestation of Yahweh’s handiwork or craftsmanship (19:1). We should further note that both Genesis 1:6–8’s use of raqi‘a and Job 37:18’s use of raqa‘ conceptualize the sky as a hard or solid thinly hammered out metallic-like domed surface, likened to the reflective substance of poured metal. Other references to the domed shaped raqi‘a or sky occur in Isa 40:22 and Job 22:14, as well as Deut 4:32 and Prov 8:27–28 which both envision the skies touching the earth on each end. In addition to these, there are other biblical passages that also attempt to describe this raqi‘a. In Ezekiel 1:22, for example, the raqi‘a is described “like the sight of awe-inspiring crystal” or perhaps ice, and is strong enough to support Yahweh’s throne which rests upon it (Ezek 10:1; Exod 24:10). Likewise in Exodus 24:10 this raqi‘a is described “like a smooth-paved work of sapphire, and like the substance of the skies in regard to brightness.” And in Job 37:18, as we have already noted, it is spoken of as looking like a poured metallic mirror of some sort. All of these textual traditions support the view that the Israelites conceptualized the sky—that is the raqi‘a of Genesis 1—as a solid crystal or metallic-like domed expanse of a sapphire hue, no doubt reflecting the color of the waters above which this solid crystalline domed expanse supported. Additionally, the primeval waters are depicted as occupying the space above this raqi‘a or sky elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., Ps 148:4), and it was because of this solid barrier’s openings that the waters above pour down and flood the earth in the Priestly writer’s flood narrative (see Gen 7:11; 8:2). Indeed, rain, snow, and hail were all believed to be kept in storehouses above the raqi‘a which had “windows” to allow them in. And the birds of Gen 1:20 are said to fly in front of the raqi‘a in the open air, not in this solid domed expanse. (Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, p. 22-23)
  8. Karen Strand Winslow, “Understanding Earth,” http://biologos.org/blog/understanding-earth, lines 1–10.
  9. This culturally conditioned cosmological perspective of the world is also found in this author’s flood story. Contrary to the Yahwist version of the flood story, where it rains for forty days and forty nights (Gen 7:4, 12), in the Priestly version the domed barrier which holds back the waters above is loosened to let those waters retake their original chaotic and untamed position (Gen 7:11; 8:2). It is a true undoing of creation from this author’s perspective. See Contradictions #14-18.
  10. This is a shared cosmological perspective that is evidenced across the ancient world. The Greek god Poseidon, for example, gets his epithet “the earth-shaker” precisely because ancient man rationalized that earthquakes were caused by the violent shifting of the waters that the earth rested upon.
  11. See Chapter 2, “The Seven-Day Creation Account and the Priestly Writer,” in my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, p. 64-101.
  12. See Chapter 3, “Creation and Sacred Time,” ibid, p. 102-116.
  13. For a fuller analysis and more textual support to this claim see my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs.
  14. See especially Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis.
  15. Again see Chapter 2, “The Seven-Day Creation Account and the Priestly Writer,” from my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate.
  16. See Exod 31:12-17; 35:1-2; Num 15:32-36—all from the pen of the same author.
  17. See, for example: Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation (1951); Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East: Volume I. An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (1958); Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (1963); Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (1973); Coogan, Stories from Ancient Canaan (1978); Lance, The Old Testament and the Archaeologist (1981); Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (1990); Lemche, Prelude to Israel’s Past: Background and Beginnings of Israelite History and Identity (1996); Thompson, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (1999); Matthews & Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East (2006); Wright, Inventing God’s Law: How the Covenant Code of the Bible Used and Revised the Laws of Hammurabi (2009).
  18. These contradictory stories and competing histories are the topic of my forthcoming, 1001 Stories that Biblical Scribes Told Differently.
  19. See above, fn. 1.
  20. For more of the first creation account’s unique features and vocabulary see below, and also Chapter 2, “The Seven-Day Creation Account and the Priestly Writer,” in my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate.
  21. The idea of a creator deity fashioning man from the clay of the earth is a prominent theme in the literature of the ancient Near Eastern world. It is present in Canaanite literature, Akkadian, Egyptian, and of course Hebrew literature.
  22. Excerpted from my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, p. 71-76.
  23. See Friedman’s discussion of this in his Introduction to Bible with Sources Revealed.
  24. See my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, p. 92-96.
  25. Besides the Priestly and Yahwist versions of the Flood now stitched together in Genesis 6–9 (see #14-15), the Sea of Reeds tradition in Exodus 14 is another classic example of a later editorial combination of the once independent Yahwist and Priestly sources. Read the original Yahwist version where Yahweh drys the sea-bed by blowing back the sea all night with his breath in verses 19b, 20b, 21b, 24, 25b, 27b, 30-31; and the more commonly known Priestly version of Moses parting the sea with his rod in these verses: 21a, 21c-23, 26-27a, 28-29 (Friedman, Bible with Sources Revealed, 143-144). You’ll notice that both stories are continuous whole narratives on their own, each of which employs their own set of unique words and images. See Contradiction #120-122.
  26. The other four places where this term is found are in the similar dietary code in Deut 14.
  27. For a thought-provoking discussion of these ideas see Chapter 3, “Creation and Sacred Time,” in my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, pp. 102-116.

35 thoughts on “#2. Does God create the skies and the earth, then plants, then animals, and then both male and female in his image OR does Yahweh first form man from the ground, then plants, then animals, and then lastly woman from man’s rib? (Gen 1:1-27 [P] vs Gen 2:4b-23 [J])
#3. Does God create the earth, the skies, and man on the same day OR not? (Gen 2:4b-7 [J] vs Gen 1:1-27 [P])
#4. Is earth initially created as fecund and fertile OR dry and barren? (Gen 1:9-10 [P] vs Gen 2:5 [J])
#5. Are both man and women created in the image of God OR is man formed from the ground, and women formed from man? (Gen 1:26-27 [P] vs Gen 2:7, 2:21-23 [J]; 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Tim 2:13)
#6. When is all the vegetation created: before the creation of the animals, and man and woman OR after the creation of man and before the creation of the animals and woman? (Gen 1:11-13, 1:29-30 [P] vs Gen 2:9-10 [J])
#7. Does God declare all vegetation and trees as food for the primordial pair OR does Yahweh command that one of the trees not be eaten from? (Gen 1:29-30 [P] vs Gen 2:17 [J])

  1. I know you didn’t say there were contradictions, I was just informing you that there are no contradictions within this account of creation. There is likely different sources that helped this account, oral stories or written records and revelation from God helped compile this account. The Jews believe that Genesis along with Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy were written by Moses who got his information from God and stories passed down. It is unlikely that Genesis 1 & 2 were written by separate authors (see the article here: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=1131 For more information, Google “Genesis 2:4 contradict” and look at the top articles).

  2. I never said there was a ‘contradiction.’ I stated there were a possibility of different sources, which carries with it the possibility of multiple authors. It comes down to the intent of the author/authors. The intent of stating that we are not here by chance, and that God is the starting point of all things regardless of which one it is. A lot of people hold to a single author, typically Moses, as the writer of most if not all of Genesis. But, Genesis makes no such claims.

  3. @Fredrick, both accounts are correct. Differences do not necessarily mean contradiction.

    #1a’s explanation is simple: God made plants on day 4, flying creatures and swimming creatures on day 5, and walking creatures and people on day 6. He planted a garden specifically for Adam, then made Eve. Genesis 2 tells us how God made them. Genesis 1 tells us what God made and when.

    #1b: I am not a Hebrew expert, but that may have been a mistranslation (showing the error on our part). Does the Hebrew word for day used here really mean day, or is there a possible better translation that makes sense?

    #1c: Simply, both. God made man out of the dust of the earth in His image, then made woman from man’s rib in His image.

    #1d: As I said earlier, God made plants on day 4, then planted a garden for Adam after He made him.

    #1e: God declares that all vegetation is food for man except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That tree is His alone.

  4. I’ve known of the two different Genesis accounts and some of the differences in the two accounts, and the possibility of two different sources. But, this was very informative.

  5. Seeing Kate E raising her “points” is very amusing. She’s totally out of her league and not even discussing the issues on the same level. The final paragraph she wrote takes the cake – it’s basically telling Dr DiMattei that he is an idiot for not coming to the same conclusion as her. The emporor’s new clothes anyone?

    Anyway, perhaps the most dangerous thing is that she actually believes she’s right. Sigh…

    I guess Dunning-Kruger effect is in spades now.

  6. Kate E, I know you’re addressing Dr. DiMattei, but I just thought I would make one small interjection — the exercise in which this site is engaging is to take the text on its own terms, without inserting beliefs based on texts which were written hundreds of years later. It’s worth the time to read Dr. DiMattei’s long comment of Dec. 22, 2013, where he explains the approach he is taking. It’s very different from the approach that former fundamentalists like myself were raised to use, so at first it was a foreign concept to me, and it took time before I could put aside my skepticism and see the evidence in the texts for the Source hypothesis.

  7. It is common in the Bible to see two different views of the same event. The book of Revelation rotates between a heavenly and earthly view of its prophecies and as you indicated Genesis 1 is “heaven-centered”, and Genesis 2 is “earth-centered”. While these different vantage points make it appear that Genesis 1 & 2 contradict each other, in fact together they compose a magnificently detailed account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. If these chapters are composed by different authors it only lends credibility to the creation account in keeping with 2 Cor. 13:1 where it indicates “at the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established”.
    Here is my rebuttal to the items you indicate as contradictions:
    1a In Genesis 1:12 we can see the creation of three different types of plants – grass (deshe) and trees which grow without tending and seed (eseb) which requires watering and tending. This is where the Genesis 2:5 account comes in where it says “no plant of the field had yet sprouted” it is telling us that the seeds have been created and planted but not sprouted and the reason is given as “God had not sent rain upon the earth”, because he was waiting to create man so he could “cultivate the ground”. With this in mind we can see that the creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2 do not contradict each other, but provide an amazingly detailed, multidimensional, perspective of creation.
    1b In Genesis 1 it is quite obvious that the heavens and earth were created over 6 days (yom) because of the added detail “there was evening and there was morning”. In Genesis 2:4 where it says “in the day (beyom) that the LORD God made earth and heaven” we see a different form of the word – not yom but beyom. The Hebrew word beyom is most often translated as “in the day” not representing a defined number of days and in many cases representing a day the reoccurs like the Sabbath for example (Exodus 35:3). I see this as representing the multiple creation days and clearly not meaning “one day” otherwise the Hebrew word yom would have been used. The NIV and NLT Bible translations exclude the wording “in the day” replacing it with “when” likely to avoid this type of confusion.
    1c It is important to understand that the fact that mankind are created in the image of God AND from the dust/ground are not mutually exclusive concepts. It was when Yahweh “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” that “man became a living soul” Genesis 2:7. Likewise woman being created from the side of man AND in the image of God are not mutually exclusive concepts. The purpose of this was for compatibility because when they “join together” they “become one flesh” Genesis 2:24.
    1d See 1a.
    1e In Genesis 1:29 God said “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you”. In Genesis 2:9 we see that the trees of life and the knowledge of good and evil are excluded from those indicated as “good for food”. Let use mushrooms as an analogy – some mushrooms are good for eating and some are poisonous and should not be eaten. I don’t see these two accounts as contradictory but different perspectives on the same account.

    In the body of your article there are other problems with your understanding of scripture:
    1. What you view as Yahweh’s personification through “interior monologue” (aka talking to yourself) is actually Yahweh talking to Jesus who was the first of his creation (Col 1:15), and worked beside him as a master worker (Proverbs 8: 22 to 31). This dialogue also occurred in Genesis 1 potentially in every instance where “God said” but definitely in verse 26 where he said “Let us make man in our image”.

    2. Your understanding of salvation is unscriptural because you ignore the foundation of truth – that mankind is fallen and can only be redeemed by God. You place your hope in the “ritual observances” that you draw from the priestly accounts in scripture, completely ignoring the fact that salvation cannot be achieve through the law or its ritual observances like feasts and the Sabbath. In Romans 7 Paul teaches us how we are “discharged from the law” v6 in comparing being bound to the law with being bound to a spouse in marriage v 1 to 3. He says in verse 3 “if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man”. What he says in verse 4 tells me that we are either bound to the law which includes feasts, circumcision etc., OR we are bound to Christ because it is adulterous to have both. He also states in verse 5 that the fruit of the law is death, and in verse 6 that “we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter”. There are other scriptures that contain a similar theme. In Acts 15 Peter calls circumcision and the Law of Moses v5 “a yoke” v10, and in verse 11 says “we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus”. Paul calls it “a yoke of slavery” in Galatians 5:1. It is critical to not be enslaved again because as it states in Galatians 4:30 “the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman”, and John says in John 8:35 “the bondservant abideth not in the house for ever: the son abideth forever”. Don’t let sin “be your master because you are not under the law but under grace” Romans 6:14.
    3. Your belief system is what I would classify as New Age. You view man as central, divine, and Godlike, but to hold to this belief system you are forced to deny a large majority of scripture showing mankind as fallen and needing redemption. You place your faith in priests to “recreate goodness” and cultic rituals to “reestablish/maintain cosmic order”. It is only through Yahweh and his son Jesus that order will be restored after the final war – Gog and Magog of Revelation 20:8. Until then we are instructed in Ephesians 6 to “put on the full armor of God” v11, the truth and righteousness v14, the gospel v15, faith v16, salvation and the word of God v17, with prayer v18. Those that receive the “seal of the living God” Rev 7:2 will not be harmed v3. Those that are sealed will be those “who grieve and lament over all the detestable things which are done” Ezek. 9:4. Everyone else will suffer the wrath of God. There are two choices – the narrow road to salvation OR the broad road to destruction. Make your choice wisely.
    I have to say, Dr. Dimattei, for all your worldly education you can’t discern even the simplest matters of scripture. This fact solidifies my belief because as it says in Proverbs 28:5 “those who seek the LORD understand it fully” and in Proverbs 1:7 “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”. I can see that what Jesus says in Luke 11: 9 & 10 is true – “ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened”. We are warned not to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7, Isaiah 5:21, Romans 12:16) because “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” 1 Cor. 1:26 and “overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense” Isaiah 44:25.

  8. wandered in here from /r/academicbiblical. this series looks very entertaining; it’s nice to see an academic actually explaining the critical views of the bible. i think our views align very closely on a great many topics discussed in these posts, and these comments. i have some notes, though…

    in the title line,

    #1b. Does God create the earth and the heavens on the same day OR not? (Gen 2:4b [J] vs Gen 1:6-9 [P])

    i feel like this is an over-literal reading of a rather clear hebrew idiom, בְּיוֹם. i do not think this should be understood as referring to a literal day at all. for instance, later in the same chapter,

    וּמֵעֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע–לֹא תֹאכַל, מִמֶּנּוּ: כִּי, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ–מוֹת תָּמוּת

    here, it’s clearly implying a causal relationship, relating two events temporally, but not within the same arbitrary 24-hour span. “in the day of-[infinitive construct]” clearly means “when-[that action]”. note how the NJPS translates this verse, “…as soon as you eat…” i think it’s very wrong for people conflate this specific idiom with thinking that any usage of “day” can be non-literal, or mean anything they want it to. the duration here is clearly defined by the rest of the phrase, the infinitive construct that follows: “your eating”. or in the case above, “yahweh [elohim] making earth and heaven”, however long that took.

    and as you state above, there’s good reason to think that P was largely re-writing J, and as such, there are missing portions of J’s creation narrative, which you’ve described, i believe, in the very next post of this blog: yahweh slaying rahab/leviathan is probably in that missing section. i suspect that no particular time frame was given there, and the 7-days thing is an invention by P, for ritualistic reasons.

    You claim that God “brought him [Adam] the animals He had previously made.” Shame on you.

    you may be being too hard on laodeciapress here. there are definitely translations that actually say that, and for reasons you’ve already outlined: genesis 2-3 seems to have been re-framed in the mode of “additional details” to genesis 1 through redaction. and some translations, notable the NIV, take this a step further and “fix” some details in the process. i too think this is deplorable and incredibly dishonest. but if you’re a fundamentalist and all you’ve ever read is the NIV, it’s kind of understandable why you’d be under this impression. not everyone can read hebrew, and many people pick translations simply based on what their church uses, what their friends like, or what seems the easiest to read.

    First, there is no definite article in the Hebrew, no “the.”

    nor are there the vowel points for it, as with another preposition on the front, the definite article is relegated to vowel points. nor are there the vowel points in many other instances of prepositional prefixes where we’d insert the word “the” for the sake of translation. reading without vowel points, this wouldn’t matter… but then we touch on a point i think you’ve glossed over. this is actually yet another layer of redaction. the vowel points were added in the middle ages, not by the original authors. and what follows is an instance where they don’t make and sense:

    bere’shit bara’ elohim

    now, i’m sure you’re aware of this, but i think it bears spelling out here. if you’re going to defend the (correct) standpoint that בְּרֵאשִׁית is a complex preposition/construct, you should probably either use the correct vowels in your transliteration, or explain that the text contains incorrect vowels.

    the text says בָּרָא, which would be a perfect verb, translated as past tense. this renders a nonsense phrase, “in beginning of created god…” beginning of what? a noun should follow, not a perfect verb. look at the nearly identical contructions of complex preposition, infinitive construct, subject, to form a subordinate clause a few chapters later, also by P,

    בְּיוֹם, בְּרֹא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם

    note the vowels, “bero”. consonants don’t change, just the points. this structure is actually fairly common; it also begins the other creation account:

    בְּיוֹם, עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים–אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם

    complex preposition, infinitive construct, subject, object, making a subordinate clause. the masoretes likely changed the vowels in genesis 1:1 because they could get away with it, and because it made the reader understand that they should read the text the other way, as an independent clause; it’s own statement. this vowel change is probably why so many translations render it this way, and why it became tradition. so it’s another instance where redaction and translation has interfered with the original works; read without vowels, this problem doesn’t exist. you simply infer from the construct state that it’s a construct.

  9. Dear all,

    I have currently had some renewed interest in Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-25 and am writing about these two creation accounts for another project. As a result, I would like to make a huge addition to this post, and thus have started a series of new posts on Genesis’ 2 creation accounts here. Please come join in the discussion and see if we can further hammer our differences out, while most importantly being honest to the texts and the beliefs of their authors.

  10. Kevin, that’s an interesting point, but you have to keep in mind that you are giving an English translation of a Latin translation which was (mostly) based on the ancient Hebrew texts. So, yes, a few English translations use the pluperfect “had planted” in 2:8, and the ablative absolute “having formed” in 2:19, but if we go back to the Hebrew, we don’t find support for those:

    http://biblehub.com/hebrew/vaiyitta_5193.htm — the same word used for Noah planting a vineyard and Abraham planting the tamarisk tree is used for God planting the Garden of Eden in 2:8, and the basic past tense is what makes sense in the Noah and Abraham verses, so why would it be rendered in pluperfect in 2:8? That being said, I don’t see a contradiction in God planting the Garden of Eden after forming man if Eden’s planting was separate from the creation of plants in a prior day.

    http://biblehub.com/hebrew/vaiyitzer_3335.htm — the same tense used for creating the animals in 2:19 is used in 2:7 for creating man, and it’s basic past tense; both were simply “formed” at that time; they had not been formed prior to that time

    http://biblehub.com/hebrew/yatzar_3335.htm — this word, by way of contrast, does support a pluperfect rendering of “had formed” when referring to man in 2:8, following on from his creation in 2:7

  11. There is a lot of commentary on this page, so apologies if I have missed anything.

    With regard to question #1 at the top of the page, in Genesis 2:8 the Vulgate uses the pluperfect (“Plantaverat autem Dominus Deus paradisum voluptatis a principio”), and in 2:19 the ablative absolute (“Formatis igitur Dominus Deus de humo cunctis animantibus terræ”).

    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.

  12. Hi Robert,

    “Of interest to me is the epistemological dimensions of the debate. The dynamics are replicated in creation vs. evolution debates, old earth-young earth debates, etc. Both sides claim to ‘know’ (when actually they just ‘believe’ since the subject matter is technically unknowable).”

    The dynamics may be similar, but the two sides are not on equal epistemological footing as you seem to suggest. One side typically pretends to know things it doesn’t know and the other works with available evidence to construct something commensurate with our experience of reality. I’m curious what definition of knowledge you’re working from that leads you to think that subject matter that encompasses things like the age of the earth and the diversity of life are “technically unknowable” and I’m wondering what you think is knowable under that definition.

    Beyond that discussion, I see quite a bit of difference between the hypotheses of textual critics and the facts of science. It is a fact that species evolve and it is a fact that the earth is much older than 6,000 years. These things are verifiable in that they can be shown with relative certainty to correspond to our experience of reality. On the other hand, the Documentary Hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis. I don’t believe Dr DiMattei has treated it as anything other than that.

    “What I find interesting is that whenever Christian-based arguments are presented, the other side, including the author of this website, quickly resort to credentials-based responses.”

    I’d like specific examples for this claim. If you’re referring to a couple of early comments on this particular blog entry, I would invite you to read the other comments that followed. The comment in which Dr DiMattei presented his credentials was an instance when his credentials were specifically called into question and no “Christian-based arguments” were given. Please note that when actual arguments were presented by a commenter, Dr. DiMattei responded with textual counter-arguments. What I find interesting is how you managed to completely overlook this.

    “I humbly suggest you desist in this course, because it is not effective and can convince only those naïve enough to have faith in credentials. (And why would you want to create a following of such people? What does it prove?) My own doctoral work taught me one salient fact: there is so much that I don’t know.”

    I find it amusing that you attempted to call someone out on an argument from authority and in your faux humility managed to drop a reference to your own doctoral work. There’s nothing humble in your suggestion. Rather there is a quite a bit of pretentiousness.

    “Beyond that, from an epistemological point of view, documentary ideas are not facts, but merely beliefs, because scholarly debate continues. If they were facts, there could be no debate, but only acquiescence in the face of evidence.”

    I disagree. There remains quite a bit of debate in the face of evidence, but many believers like you do not let the facts stand in the way of claiming to know things they don’t know. While many of the documentary ideas are not facts, they are built upon quite a few facts that many believers still refuse to acknowledge. One of those facts in particular that Dr. DiMattei is building on is that the Bible contains many contradictions.

    “Archaeology, as you know, has never unearthed a single scrap of the J, E, P, or D documents, so it is, from that point of view, still reasonable to consider the Pentateuch as a whole.”

    I disagree. It is not reasonable to consider the Pentateuch as a whole if you mean to suggest that one has any evidence-based foundation upon which to assume that its contents come from the pen of a single author, especially if that author is supposed to be the legendary Moses character contained in those same documents. Your argument from silence is not enough to rescue this view as there is ample evidence within the text itself to overturn it. Some people simply will not face the facts.

    “You ask the provocative question–why is Yahweh first mentioned in Chapter 2? Documentarians assume this points to multiple authorship, which is a logical possibility.”

    Indeed. But it’s not the only line of evidence for this possibility. It is but one line of evidence among several.

    “Since we cannot know for sure, however, we can consider other possibilities.”

    Sure we can consider other possibilities, on their own merits. What textual evidence do you have to support your ad hoc solutions to the multiple continuity problems associated with the creation stories of Genesis 1&2? Your “one person” argument has the problem of the plural personal pronoun of 3:22 to overcome. Additionally, your “matters of covenants” argument has to conveniently ignore 6:18 & 9:8-17 when Elohim and not Yahweh is used in a rather explicit “matter of covenant”. Lest you attempt to special plead the Noaic Covenant, Exodus 2:24 evokes the Abrahamic covenant under the Elohim name as well.

    “I always found it curious that documentarians assume multiple authorship based on God’s names, when in one passage, like Genesis 9:26-27, both Elohim and Yahweh Elohim are used. Are we to infer that one author wrote the first verse and another the second? Clearly not!”

    I had reason to suspect, based on your earlier statement about evolution and the age of the earth that you understand very little about geology or biology. This statement leads me suspect that you understand very little about the Documentary Hypothesis as well, unless you are usually in the habit of constructing straw men. I do hope you will continue to consult websites like this one and question your beliefs as you claim to. If you are indeed a critical thinker, as you claim to be, I hope you will be able to apply those critical thinking skills to your own belief system. I suspect, however, that you already think you have.

    1. Hymenaeus,

      It’s nice to see your contribution here, and as always a well written, erudite, and elegantly put response. I do enjoy reading your comments, and I’d have to agree with you on the points you’ve raised against Robert. However, nomenclature aside, I am quite convinced based on the textual evidence alone that the biblical text as we have it is a compilation of different sources. So I’d go beyond simply stating that we’re still talking about a hypothesis; we’re talking about facts supported by textual data. Whether these sources were whole literary documents, homogeneous and single-authored texts prior to their redaction—which was what Wellhausen originally proposed in the Documentary Hypothesis—is barely held by any critic today, including myself. The continual use of “the Documentary Hypothesis” as a label—since indeed it was a hypothesis when it first appeared in 1883—does a great deal of disservice to modern biblical scholarship and our knowledge about the compositional history of the biblical texts today.

      So I would argue that, correctly, the “Source hypothesis” is more than a hypothesis today. It passes as fact, and the overwhelming evidence is our present understanding of how ancient scrolls were composed and by whom in the ancient Near East, where subsequent generations of scribes merely appended material to early, and often contradictory, material. Or, we could always state the factually obvious in reference to the Bible itself. For it’s table of contents clearly reveals that the Bible is a composite text, a book composed from a variety of different “books.” Indeed, the Bible is actually no book at all, but rather a collection, later canon, of a number of ancient scrolls and codices—in short, a text composed out of other texts.

      Additionally, many of the biblical writers themselves reference the sources, now lost to history, that they themselves used: “the scroll of the wars of Yahweh” (Num 21:14); “the scroll of Jashar” which was used as a source for the author of Joshua 10:13; “the scroll of the genealogy of Adam” (Gen 5:1); The authors of the books—scrolls—of Kings frequently reference a couple of their sources, “the chronicles of the kings of Israel” and “the chronicles of the kings of Judah” (1 Kings 14:19, 14:29, 15:7, 15:23, etc.), and the author of the books of Chronicles, which is a later, and, divergent historical narrative covering the same period depicted in the books of Samuel and Kings, not only uses these books as sources, but mentions others as well: “the chronicles of David” (1 Chr 27:24), “the chronicles of Samuel the seer” (1 Chr 29:29), “the scroll of Gad” (1 Chr 29:29), “the scroll of Jehu” (2 Chr 20:34), etc. That the biblical writers—or perhaps seen in this perspective, transmitters of tradition—used sources is evident from the biblical texts themselves, and these are merely but a few of the sources that we know of. We now know that the various authors of the biblical scrolls used a variety of other sources, textual traditions, oral stories, and political archives to compose their writings.

      Thus, the Bible itself informs us that it is a collection of a vast array of traditions, archival material, cultic law, liturgy, political and religious propaganda, historical narrative, etiological stories, poetry, personal correspondences, etc.—all of which went through complex processes of transmission, collection, editing, and finally canonization. Of course any anthology of texts of this dimension will evidence variant traditions, variant and changing religious and cultic laws to suit an ever-changing audience, competing theological and political perspectives, and divergent views on monarchy, prophecy, the priesthood, and even Israel’s deity.

      I know you are well aware of this; at this point my rant has moved well beyond a conversation with you specifically. I’ve really been speaking for the benefit of my less informed readers. As you yourself point out and I have frequently stated as well, the real problem in engaging fundamentalists in a critical examination and conversation about the biblical texts is that: 1) they continuously refuse to actually engage themselves with the texts on the texts’ terms and contexts; and 2) legitimate their growing ignorance about the texts, their authors, the varying religious and political climates that gave birth to these texts and their belief systems, etc. by inferring, as the above commentator does, that there is no knowledge about these texts, even when the authors themselves explicitly and convincingly state otherwise. The real debate is between communities and individuals that assert beliefs about the biblical texts and the texts themselves, what they are actually saying, and not saying, themselves! I guess, I have moved here and am really responding to Robert.


      While I appreciate your contribution, many of your remarks are just not founded on solid epistemological grounds—pun intended. That is, you simply lack the knowledge to discuss and discern the topic at hand, i.e., what biblical scholarship is and what the biblical text itself is, i.e., what the text itself tells us it is! I may be guilty of reproducing some of Hymenaeus’ comments above, but I felt obliged to chime in anyway.

      “Of interest to me is the epistemological dimensions of the debate. The dynamics are replicated in creation vs. evolution debates, old earth-young earth debates, etc. Both sides claim to ‘know’ (when actually they just ‘believe’ since the subject matter is technically unknowable).”

      You are actually incorrect here on a number of epistemological grounds. Belief is usually the stance taken by, well, believers. Scholars do not. If I were a Shakespearean scholar, for example, I might certainly be interested in what Shakespeare’s beliefs were when he wrote his highly anti-Semitic Merchant of Venice and what cultural beliefs and literary influences shaped his own beliefs. What message and to whom did he ultimately have in writing this work? might be a suitable question for a scholar. Similarly, these and similar questions are the very questions of scholarship, working in any literary field. My beliefs are not part of the methodological training involved with pursuing a PhD. As a Shakespearean or Biblical scholar, I would not be writing about my beliefs (I don’t need a PhD to do that, and that’s not what obtaining a Doctorate is all about). On another note, I have published many articles on Paul, whose central goal was to present to the best of my objective ability Paul’s beliefs, his interpretive approach to Scripture, and how these were shaped by his own historical context and why—my PhD dissertation. On a personal level I do not believe in what Paul believes, nor do I subscribe to his mode of interpretation. As a scholar, my aims are to present Paul and his thinking as a product of his historical and literary world, not to present my beliefs about this. Thus, the portrait of Paul put forward in my published articles is one drawn from the textual, historical, and literary data, not from my beliefs. Certainly other scholars my disagree about the conclusions I draw from the data. To bring my point home, the image I objectively put forward of Paul and his OT hermeneutic is one that is continuously referenced by modern day theologians, much against what my own personal desires might be. I have received many emails from modern day theologians that have thanked me for putting forth the image of Paul that I did for I’m told that it aids in the modern church’s use of Paul to interpret Scripture—contrary to my personal wishes! Indeed, the image of Paul in the 1st century that I put forward and how the church uses that today are too radically different things, as these theologians forget.

      In any case, my goal as a biblical scholar is to be as objective as possible, and as honest as possible to the texts and their authors, NOT to readers living centuries later who labeled these texts “the Holy Book” and those who later imposed theological interpretive frameworks such as “divine authorship” onto this now “sacred canon” of texts. Certainly I’m interested in how and why these emerged, but this question is centuries away from the actual texts and the original purposes that their authors had in composing them, their own original beliefs and culturally shaped religious and political convictions. That’s what I study, and studying the biblical texts with this in mind, reveals that the 70+ different authors of these texts written over 1,000 years had divergent beliefs, viewpoints, images of God, views on monarchy, faith, Hebrew syntax and vocabulary, etc. To deny and neglect this—what you are indeed doing—is to deny and neglect the very messages and belief systems, and their representative authors, of these texts, and to favor a centuries-later interpretive subjective reader-oriented framework instead. That is why the real challenge for my fundamentalist readers is not between me and them, for my goal is to reproduce to the best of my learned ability, the beliefs, views, worlds of these different authors from within their own historical, religious, and political worlds. Rather the real challenge, and this is a real challenge, is between what the texts themselves say on their own terms and from within their own historical contexts AND later externally imposed interpretive frameworks forged centuries after these texts were written and from no knowledge about these texts, all of which have become extremely authoritative now—in fact I would say the interpretive framework, either that which goes by the name “the Bible” or conventionally Christian interpretive grids placed over the OT are more authoritative than the actual texts they purport to interpret! Indeed the primary function of an interpretive tradition is to set itself up as a mouthpiece for the text! But earnest and objective examination of the texts themselves has revealed and continues to reveal that these interpretive traditions do not represent the beliefs, divergent and many, of these texts, but rather, as I’m assure you can even recognize, the beliefs, agendas, and views of their readers! This is what the objective scholarship of the Bible has revealed—in other words, studying the Bible’s text on their own terms, listening to their unique messages, etc. has revealed this.

      To correct your second epistemological error, we actually do know quite a bit about the biblical text, its complex compositional history, its elaborate and multifarious historical and literary contexts, how texts were produced, disseminated, and for whom they were written in the ancient world, etc. In fact, there is not only over 300 years of serious critical scholarship done on the biblical texts, many of them providing nice learned critical apparatuses and commentaries to many new Bible translations, but many archaeological discoveries of other literary corpus have shed immeasurable light on the compositional history of the biblical text and how it was copied, expanded upon, and interpreted by its many divergent readers. Besides the literature unearthed in the 19th century from Summer, Babylon, Moab, Canaan, Egypt, many of which have parallel themes and compositional techniques found in biblical literature, we now possess the Palestinian recension, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Babylonian recension from which our VERSION of the biblical text derives. There are many differences between these versions, and often we see where scribes have actually modified, expanded, and yes even contradicted the texts that they themselves were copying! The idea that Scripture was unalterable is also a late idea, late interpretive framework imposed upon these texts. We now know that the scribes who either produced this literature or copied it did not perceive it in this manner! We even possess textual evidence of where a scribe added material in his source as he copied it into a new text because he left editorial marks, one of which is commonly referred to as the resumptive repetition. When a scribe inserts material in his base text, he repeats the textual material that was before his insertion after it as well, to show that he inserted material therein. See the insertion of Ex 24:2-8 for example, and the resumptive repetition found in verses 1 and 9.

      So you’ve actually misdefined the parameters of the whole debate because you lack knowledge about the object of the debate and erroneously think there is no knowledge about it out there. For someone who’s interested in epistemological issues, you’ve certainly shown yourself to be epistemologically lacking in this topic. Rather, the literary evidence accumulated over the last few centuries strongly supports the fact that: like the human species—to reproduce Hymenaeus’ comment on your comment—the biblical texts also evolved! How do we know? The biblical text itself informs us of this as well as the larger literary context of the ancient Near East. If you’re sincerly interested in learning, see these fine works as a starter: Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel (2001); Schniedewind, How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel (2004); Van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (2007); The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (2011); and Baden, The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis (2012).

      True, scholars still debate about documentary issues and the validity of the Documentary Hypothesis as Wellhausen put forward more than a century ago. But all biblical scholars are unanimous on the fact that the Bible was composed and redacted from earlier once independent sources, and that these sources were themselves subject to modifications, alterations, and even competing and contradictory viewpoints and ideologies. How are we to conceive of these sources?—whole literary products, fragments, variant stories told at cultic shrines, oral traditions, etc.–is certainly debatable. But no biblical scholar would deny what the biblical texts themselves have revealed; they are composite!

      Lastly, “documentarians” do not assume that the use of Yahweh in Gen 2 denotes a separate source. This is merely one piece of data out of literally hundreds and hundreds. The, yes, fact that the creation account of Gen 2 was written by another author is revealed through the texts’ Hebrew, its different vocabulary, themes, styles, and messages, here and everywhere else the “alleged” Yahwist and Priestly source is found. All of this data converges, and that as Friedman has pointed out is the single strongest evidence of separate, independent sources with differing vocab, theologies, styles, etc. See his brief Introduction in his The Bible with Sources Revealed: A New View into the Five Books of Moses (2003). Additionally read my post; you might learn something about the text, learn what the text itself is revealing, here and in thousands of other places. The argument is substantiated by the Hebrew text. Or again see this scholarly completely textual assessment, Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches (1996). Educate yourself or remain ignorant of these issues, That is your choice, but do not falsely accuse the rest of the world of being ignorant or that we posses no knowledge of this topic. Certainly there’s room for debate and disagreement about how we interpret the textual data, but to deny it is just pure folly. And to interpret it away and impose later subject/reader-oriented perceptions onto the text is abusive to the texts themselves.

      Here’s a case in point:

      “I always found it curious that documentarians assume multiple authorship based on God’s names, when in one passage, like Genesis 9:26-27, both Elohim and Yahweh Elohim are used. Are we to infer that one author wrote the first verse and another the second? Clearly not! Rather, it seems to indicate that Shem receives the covenant blessing related to the pre-Incarnate Christ, while Japheth receives general blessing.”

      First, as discussed extensively above, “documentarians” do not assume multiple authorship based on a name change; this is already old scholarship—the 18th century. Perhaps you believe that biblical scholarship hasn’t progressed since the 18th century!

      Second, based on your erroneous assessment of both biblical scholarship and the text, you force yourself to draw a conclusion that no biblical scholar would agree with—namely that because 9:26 uses the name Yahweh and verse 27 uses elohim that these two verses—NB: verses did not exist until the Middle Ages—were penned by two different authors. Scholars don’t make such frivolous conclusions on narrowly construed data. When scholars do come to a conclusion about different textual sources, such as Genesis 6:22’s use of Yahweh and the next verse’s use of elohim as indeed indicative of the convergence of 2 once separate sources, it is not based on one data point, but many. See contradictions in the Flood narratives, solely the by product of a redactional activity that brought together two once independent versions of this story.

      Third, your own reading of this passage reveals your own reader-oriented and subjective belief-based methodological procedure which is both abusive and negligent of the very text itself. Would you mind showing me and my readers, as well as the author who penned these verses, where the reference to Christ and his blessing is? You can’t because this is not in the text. Rather these are your beliefs about the texts, erroneous and predicated on later abusive interpretive and theological frameworks. The text on its own terms and in its own historical and literary context—something that biblical scholars study—is apparently of no interest to you. You’re not even on any firm epistemological ground since you’ve already confessed that you know nothing about the text and its author, but you have the audacity to proclaim something about it, which in the end you are really only parroting the words of a centuries-later interpretive tradition that also forged its beliefs on lack of knowledge about the texts. Ignorance breeds audacity I suppose. You’ve reduced the text, in other words, to the musings and theological fancifulness of readers living millennium after these texts were written. Our goal is to understand the texts, the hows and whys of the author who penned them, not readers living millennium later who had agendas, beliefs, and worldviews of their own.

      In the end, your entire position is predicated upon having no knowledge at all about the texts themselves, and thinking that those of us you do possess textually-based knowledge about these texts, because we have devoted our lives to studying these texts, each on their own terms and in their own historical and literary contexts (additional knowledge areas required), are in fact in the same boat as you, expressing beliefs about the text. You are far from the truth of the matter.

      Lastly, I encourage you to carry forward this debate, but specifically over a specific biblical text or passage—so not over nor about theology, your beliefs, my beliefs, later beliefs about the texts, etc.—but the biblical text itself. Contradictions #120-122 concerns themselves with the story of the crossing of the Red Sea is a good meeting ground. The whole post, rather lengthy, starts with the assumption that the text IS a unified whole, one document, one text, one author. The post then leads the reader through a close examination of the passage itself, its vocabulary, themes, style, etc., which in the end reveals that it is actually a composite of two once separate crossing of the Red Sea stories. This is biblical scholarship; our claims are drawn from the texts themselves, not on one occasion, not on a dozen occasions, not even on a hundred different occasions, but literally thousands and thousands of occasions. This is the knowledge—not belief—that is out there if you’re earnestly interested in learning about these texts, not through the interpretive assumptions that you’ve imposed on them, but on the terms of the texts themselves and the authors that penned them. Give the crossing of the Red Sea story a hearing—or shall I say give their stories a hearing!

  13. Enjoying the website and debate. Truth in advertising: I’m a born-again believer in Christ and Bible teacher, and I believe in Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and literal interpretation. Having said that, I’m also a critical thinker and constantly questioning my own beliefs, which is why I consult websites (and books) like this.

    Of interest to me is the epistemological dimensions of the debate. The dynamics are replicated in creation vs. evolution debates, old earth-young earth debates, etc. Both sides claim to ‘know’ (when actually they just ‘believe’ since the subject matter is technically unknowable). One side proceeds from faith in Christ and close study of the canon of Scripture. The other proceeds from a long tradition of textual criticism developed from the 17th century. What I find interesting is that whenever Christian-based arguments are presented, the other side, including the author of this website, quickly resort to credentials-based responses. The basis of this is: I’m smarter than you, better educated, and part of a community that you do not belong to. This is an epistemological dead-end. I humbly suggest you desist in this course, because it is not effective and can convince only those naïve enough to have faith in credentials. (And why would you want to create a following of such people? What does it prove?) My own doctoral work taught me one salient fact: there is so much that I don’t know.

    Beyond that, from an epistemological point of view, documentary ideas are not facts, but merely beliefs, because scholarly debate continues. If they were facts, there could be no debate, but only acquiescence in the face of evidence. Archaeology, as you know, has never unearthed a single scrap of the J, E, P, or D documents, so it is, from that point of view, still reasonable to consider the Pentateuch as a whole.

    In any case, I want to add one comment, hoping I’m not repeating something already stated. You ask the provocative question–why is Yahweh first mentioned in Chapter 2? Documentarians assume this points to multiple authorship, which is a logical possibility. Since we cannot know for sure, however, we can consider other possibilities. My belief is that Yahweh is specifically mentioned because in that narrative, God is presenting himself in one person, rather than in the plurality described by elohim. Specifically, I believe that the name Yahweh Elohim is a technical term describing the pre-Incarnate Christ. Typically this term is used when matters of covenants are presented in the Scripture. I always found it curious that documentarians assume multiple authorship based on God’s names, when in one passage, like Genesis 9:26-27, both Elohim and Yahweh Elohim are used. Are we to infer that one author wrote the first verse and another the second? Clearly not! Rather, it seems to indicate that Shem receives the covenant blessing related to the pre-Incarnate Christ, while Japheth receives general blessing.

    Anyway, fascinating website!

  14. “The one exception is Ex 9:30. But Friedman (ibid) is suspicious of this occurrence since in the Septuagint the Greek equivalent of elohim (theos) is absent.↵ –

    I would point out that the LXX is not the only ancient witness to the absence of “Yahweh elohim” in Exodus 9:30. The Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) and Dead Sea Scrolls text (DSS 4QExod c) lack it also, having instead “Lord GOD,” Adonai Yahweh. See *The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible*, page 39, footnote 75.

  15. Laodeciapress,

    I could’ve almost anticipated your response. Instead of dealing with the text, in typical presuppositionalist fashion, you’re now going to employ the tu quoque fallacy and charge everyone with employing circularity and use that to justify your question-begging. While claiming empiricists share a gap of unproven beliefs, you then want to drive a truckload of your own unnecessary assumptions through that gap. Why? So you can put forward your appeal to consequence argument that without the inerrant infallible and inspired 66 books of the Protestant Bible (in their original autographs which we no longer have, of course) we can’t have objective truth (whatever that means). We can’t possibly make sense of the world without the Triune God of Reformed Protestantism giving us the ground for logic, induction and morality, right?

    I’m sorry, but empiricism doesn’t require nearly as much unwarranted assumption as you Reformed types seem to think. Reformed epistemology has so many internal inconsistencies it has to be the biggest house of cards on the epistemological market today. Do you know where most of those internal inconsistencies that form the basis for any number of reductio ad absurdum arguments capable of bringing that house of cards down come from? They are propositions that are contained in the very book your philosophical paper tiger seeks to protect.

    Color me unimpressed by your appeal to TAG. I’ve been down that road. I’ve read Bahnsen, Clark and Van Til. I read your blog post’s attempt to condense their arguments. None of them would be impressed it either, by they way. There are plenty of solid critiques of TAG all over the web if you’re truly curious. Since this isn’t a philosophy blog I’m not going to further litter it with engagements over irrelevant sophistry and I’m not going to reinvent the wheel either. Do yourself a favor and go do some research on the objections that have been raised to things like TAG and Presuppositional apologetic approaches even among other Christians. Maybe then you’ll see just how weak that approach is. Maybe then you’ll be able to deal honestly with the text of the Bible and stop making ridiculous excuses for it.

  16. When people have invested their entire life to a false belief system and are dependent on a delusion that makes them feel all better that they will gain a salvation, there is no amount of proof that will make them conclude that they are mistaken. They have the cult mentality that will not allow them to see outside of their ideology until a major event happens in their life that will shake their foundation and they are forced to look outside for answers. (similar events often pull people into cults) Until such an event, reasoning with such individuals will prove futile and a total waste of time, it will often strengthen their faith because they feel persecuted. Archeology, biology, history,etc don’t matter when their bias overwrites anything you throw at them. To some of these Christians mankind is 6000 years, to others the earth is 6000 years and no prove will shake their faith because that’s their interpretation of the bible and the bible is inherent and inspired of God because that’s what they’ve learned to believe from another like minded “scholar.”

  17. HymenaeusAlexander and KW,

    You two are indeed on to something here :P

    My starting point throughout this discussion has been that God exists and that He has revealed Himself through His infallible and inerrant Word in the Bible. There are no contradictions throughout the Bible because it is God’s Word and He does not contradict Himself. Simple (and circular) as that!

    However, I would point out that everyone’s reasoning eventually breaks down into a circular argument by necessity. Validating one’s own reasoning by their reasoning would be one example. Another example would be the unsubstantiated claim that any name of God found in a text that shouldn’t have it (in the source criticism theory) was a later addition by a redactor. Assuming a redactor to prove the theory of redactors.

    Circular arguments are not invalid – the premises do indeed follow from the conclusion. The proper question for a circular argument is if it is sound/true.

    Only Christian Theism (including the idea that the collection of books in the Bible as God’s revealed Word) is able to provide the necessary preconditions for intelligibility in the human experience and is thus the only rational and logical worldview. Please check out my post here for more details : http://laodeciapress.com/2013/04/16/a-transcendental-argument-for-the-existence-of-god-against-the-atheist-unbeliever-as-related-to-human-reason/

    This whole idea of source criticism breaks down first due to it’s obvious denial of the inspiration of the text which leads to philosophical absurdity (again, see the post above). Secondly, this theory provides ‘contradictions’ that are not actually contradictions. Third, historical manuscript evidence is devoid, in fact against, support for this theory.

    1. Laodeciapress,

      This will be your last comment here, since you utterly fail to grasp the point of our conversation and have repeatedly and explicitly chosen to deny any priority or importance to the texts! For as you’ve repeatedly and boastfully stated, your starting point is NOT the text, but later interpretive traditions and beliefs about the texts.

      Our starting point is the text, on its own terms and in its own historical and literary contexts NOT those of a later readership. That is the position from which you start, as you’ve clearly vocalized now. In fact, your starting point puts a muzzle on the texts, and only lets them come into play if they conform to your starting premises and assumptions, which were forged by readers living centuries after these texts were written. And most shockingly of all you neither know nor care to know why this interpretive framework was imposed, when, and prompted by what historical circumstances.

      I have tried to engage you over a conversation about the texts, but you have preferred to start with your subjective reader-oriented premises as you’ve clearly indicated. The texts themselves have tried to draw you into a conversation, but you’ve denied them any say since what is most important is your starting theological premises, as you yourself have boasted. The Texts are secondary, even irrelevant. What is important to you is what’s been claimed about the texts centuries later. You have no knowledge of these texts, their authors, to whom they wrote and why, nor their historical and literary worlds, which in and of itself is not particularly problematic. But you arrogantly insist to understand these texts while not possessing any of this knowledge.

      All your points above are misguided, inaccurate, and based on good-feeling theologizing and lots of ignorance, and NOT the texts. 1) Authors and texts existed centuries before the interpretive grid that claimed divine inspiration for these texts. You seriously have to educate yourself here. Source-criticism is an attempt to listen to the texts and to get back to these authors and texts before they were co-opted as part of this later interpretive framework. 2) source-criticism doesn’t provide contradictions, the texts do, the authors do, but again this is all nothing to you, as you’ve clearly stated. 3) the Bible is the manuscript that proves it was written by various authors over various centuries and who had various and competing theologies, ideologies, belief systems, etc. but spouting childish none-sense from an ignorant position you claim an authority in these matters, while nevertheless also claiming, as you’ve said, that what is most important to you is later theologizing about the texts and NOT the texts. This all smacks of arrogance, ignorance, and contempt for the actual texts AND their histories.

      The circularity in your methodology arises from the fact that you both start and end your bloated premise-laden remarks with later interpretive prejudices and assumptions, NOT the text, as you yourself have claimed many times now. You have never engaged with the texts on their own terms, nor do you have any desire to do so, as you yourself have also claimed repeatedly now. I’m not sure how old you were when you first read a text of the Bible, but I can assure you that before you even picked up the text, before you even opened the cover, before you knew anything about the texts, it was already prescribed to you how to read and understand the texts and what they are and meant, regardless of possessing any knowledge about the text itself, its authors, audiences, when they were written, etc. We all were! The label “Bible”—a 3rd century AD creation—automatically prejudices the texts book-ended within its covers. We are never beckoned to hear the independent voices of the texts because culturally and traditionally one is pre-programmed to start from the later, imposed, interpretive framework. You still harbor this subjective reader-created interpretive framework as your starting point and therefore deny any existence to the texts themselves apart from this later reader-oriented interpretive grid. And worst of all, you don’t posses the intellectual ability, and we’re not asking for much here, to think about this, nor the desire to realize any of this. So sure that the centuries-later readers have got it right, you’ve already denied the authors themselves.

      HymenaeusAlexander brought up some excellent TEXTUAL points, put forth a conversation at the objective level, i.e., our object of study being the texts themselves, and detailed how these textual points were variously and often whimsically interpreted and reinterpreted in the early Christian period, but you lacked the intellectual maturity, honesty, humility, and bravery, indeed lacked all the Christian virtues, to engage with the texts or the textual points raised by HymenaeusAlexander. Instead you treat this all as some child’s game, a tit-for-tat sparing match, where lacking any knowledge about the texts nor desire to learn about them—-we all know your starting point is not the texts—-you nevertheless arrogantly claim to be able to profess truths about them.

      This site is not dedicated to making theological arguments, arguing whether god exists or not, expressing our subjective beliefs or non-beliefs, and certainly not how these texts were countlessly interpreted and reinterpreted by later readers—all of which are your starting points! Rather, this site is devoted to the texts themselves, on their own terms. You have had repeated opportunities to engage in a conversation about the texts on their own terms, encouraged to read post that encourage us to think about the text, the assumptions we as a culture may prematurely harbor about the texts, the history of the word “Bible” and how these texts were viewed before that label (all laid out in What is the Bible?), but you have repeatedly voiced your lack of interest in learning about these things, as well as your inability to conceptualize these things. Rather, defending your starting theological givens is more important to you than defending the texts, their authors, their beliefs, worldviews, etc.

      I have expressed repeatedly that my goal here, as an expert (PhD), scholar, and someone who has devoted his life to these texts 24/7—learning their languages, reading and rereading the texts in their original language, learning about the reasons why they were written, the historical and literary worlds that produced them, the history of how the text and ideas about the text were formed, reading other ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman literature, etc., etc.—is to represent to the best of my ability the beliefs, worldviews, historical circumstances of these texts, their authors and their intended audiences. Not yours, not mine, but theirs. That does not mean I get it right all of the time, of course, but most of the time I’m just codifying and organizing the work of my peers and the knowledge they’ve amassed over the last 300 years! You on the other hand, making slight of all these matters—knowledge, the texts, the texts’ historical and literary contexts, the text’s own styles, vocabulary, etc.—treat these things with a childish contempt and a misplaced arrogance. For you have now clearly indicated your intention, and it’s a theological one NOT a textual one. In fact, your theological premise is abusive towards the texts and muzzles the messages of the very texts themselves. In your hands they become mere vehicles to promulgate you initial starting premises. As you yourself have stated: it all revolves around your theological inflexible “givens.” The texts need to be massaged to fit those givens! That’s what you continue to say and do.

      I’m not going to let this site deteriorate into theological debates based on theological speculation and subjective whims. If you can’t set these aside, which you clearly can’t, then nothing I nor the texts, nor God himself could say is going to redirect you from your subjective premises to the objective texts themselves.

  18. HymenaeusAlexander said it better than I could! The circular reasoning he lays out was what I was attempting to describe. There’s no “in” there, either — a weak point that allows you to break the cycle and make someone change their perspective. It’s an impregnable mental defense that serves to maintain the beliefs one feels a need to believe.

    Meanwhile, there are lots more rewarding discussions we could be having in reaction to the actual points being posted on this site, like the recent comments by Ryan Hofer and I on “Conflicting portraits of Israel’s deity” ;-) That’s why I hate to see the Doctor’s time wasted in a debate that’s futile, at least for the participants :-)

  19. Dr DiMattei,

    You’re wasting your time on this guy. He’s approaching the text from the standpoint that any “inquiry must rest on the fact that the entire Bible is reliable, true, and without contradiction.” He will never see a contradiction because he’s decided there can never be a contradiction.

    His position can be summarized with this syllogism:
    1) The Bible never makes contradictions
    2) All alleged contradictions can be harmonized
    3) Since the Bible never makes contradictions, all harmonizations are inherently more probable than the idea that there are contradictions
    4) All harmonizations stand
    5) Therefore, there are no contradictions in the Bible.

    There is no way to argue him out of this as it’s completely circular. If you’ve been to his blog you’ve seen that he won’t even admit that the accounts of the death of Judas in Matthew 27 and Acts 1 are contradictory when both clearly provide completely different answers to questions like how Judas died, who bought the field, what prophecy it fulfilled and how it got its name. People that can’t see the obvious problems there are never going to appreciate the nuances you’re pointing out in many of the contradictions you bring up on this blog. He believes the Bible is a magic book that can never be wrong even when it looks like it is.

    As you pointed out he shows he has no understanding of ancient historiography when he mentions that “Mosaic authorship is altogether assumed not only by Jewish culture, but also by the Lord Jesus Himself” as though that has any relevance for restricting approaches to textual criticism. Furthermore, he still thinks he has successfully described how Genesis 1-3 is “consistent and non-contradictory” and thinks that just suggesting that a single author can use different names for God answers the textual issues raised by this. He repeats his “greenery” argument and ignores the other problems like animals being formed out of the ground after man.


    The fact is that Genesis 1-3 is not easily seen as a consistent, non-contradictory message when one is willing to take off the inerrantist goggles if but for a brief moment and consider the possibility that some of your basic assumptions might just be really wrong.

    On the sixth day in chapter 1 Elohim addresses mankind, male and female, charges them to reproduce, rule the earth and all that’s in it and then gives them every seed-bearing plant and every tree that has fruit with seed in it as food. There is nothing about tending a garden or making an exception for any particular tree. That this proclamation is made to both male and female would seem to indicate that it should be placed chronologically after chapter 2 verse 23 when Yahweh makes the woman from the rib of the man, if we are to take the passages literally and harmonize them as you suggest. One problem is that the commands about the garden and which fruit not to eat of along with other events like the man naming every living animal of the field and every bird of the air had to all take place before both the man and the woman could be addressed together in 1:28-29 and all on the sixth day.

    Just to make this clear, let’s recap the events combining the accounts from both chapters. On the sixth day God makes land animals and in his final act of creation, God makes Adam from the dust. God plants a garden/orchard and puts Adam in it. God gives Adam the instructions in 2:17 not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then God brings “every living beast of the field and bird of the air” to Adam to see what he would name them. After that’s done, God makes Adam fall asleep and forms Eve from his rib. Then he tells both of them to multiply, rule the earth, etc. He tells them they can eat from every tree that has fruit with seed in it for food and makes no mention with Eve present of an exception that could potentially negatively alter the entire universe and damn countless numbers of their children to unimaginable torture for all eternity. All of this happens in one single day. One day.

    Naming all the land animals in a single day is quite a feat, as this would presumably include all now-extinct species as well as currently existing ones. Currently there are 10,000 known species of birds, 5,490 known species of mammals and 9,084 known species of reptiles. For argument’s sake we’ll leave off all amphibians and every species of land-based invertebrate, which would number well over 1 million known species (including over 400,000 known species of beetle). The numbers I have included thus far, of course, don’t include the rather numerous and still growing list of now-extinct species of mammals, birds, reptiles and all of the more than 527 distinct genera(not species) of dinosaurs that have since been discovered.

    Some, like Creation Ministries International have attempted to deal with the problem by using an undefined system of taxonomy and arbitrarily slashing the number to 2,500 “proto-species” and positing that if Adam named one “proto-species” every five seconds with a five minute break every hour he could have accomplished the task in under four hours. Think about that. The claim is that the hours-old Adam has the astounding mental and linguistic capacity to take a mere five seconds, construct a unique verbal utterance and assign it to something he’s never seen before and understands virtually nothing about; he’s able to do this thousands of times over without name repetition or slowing down due to either physical or mental fatigue. Do you really think that solves the problem? Are you satisfied with that explanation? I’ll bet you are, because you have to be. You’ve staked your faith on it.

    How about Genesis 2:11-14? There are four rivers mentioned in this passage, dividing from the river that flowed from Eden: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates. At least two of these rivers are known to exist today, the Tigris and Euphrates. This is a problem if one posits a global (or even a vast localized) flood that would’ve supposedly covered the earth with layers of sediment and produced the fossil record seen today. Such a catastrophic event would’ve utterly destroyed these rivers. Creationist websites like Answers in Genesis freely admit this. Their solution is that the survivors of the flood named the Tigris and Euphrates rivers we now know after the antediluvian ones mentioned here, but they’re actually different rivers.

    The problem with this solution is that verse 14 specifically identifies which Tigris River it is that the writer is referring to saying, “it runs along the east side of Assyria.” Assyria was so-named either after Noah’s grandson Asshur (Gen. 10:22) [or was it a city of the same name founded by Nimrod (Gen. 10:11)?], meaning Assyria wouldn’t have existed until after the Flood. In light of this, the renaming solution proposed by AiG becomes silly as one now has to posit an additional pre-flood Assyrian civilization, which really complicates the explanation. It’s obvious the author or redactor of this passage intended for his audience to identify this as the same river. If not, mentioning it runs along the east side of Assyria becomes pointless and confusing for any reader, especially an ancient Israelite audience. What the heck was Moses thinking?

    Furthermore, verse 13 mentions Kush, not referring to Ethiopia (which would be really problematic), but rather the area of the Kassites in northeastern Babylon, presenting a similar problem to the identification of the Tigris. This is further evidence that the author of this passage clearly wants the reader to identify the geography of Eden with the area around Mesopotamia. Either he’s not aware of the Flood story to come in subsequent chapters or he, much like the writer of the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh epics, doesn’t understand enough about geology to realize that a flood of the magnitude described therein would drastically alter the landscape of the region making all of these geographic features unidentifiable to people in the aftermath.

    Do you know what happens to many of these problems in the text when you apply source criticism? They disappear and the original accounts become much more coherent.

    Just one more thing. If you want to chalk up the Protoevangelium to “progressive revelation” that’s fine, but the fact is that no New Testament author provides such an interpretation of this passage, not even Paul. The natural reading of the text simply gives an explanation for why snakes and people relate to one another the way they do and nothing more. People will have an aversion to snakes and will hit them on the head and snakes will bite people on their feet. The idea of hostility between snakes and humans would have been quite meaningful to Ancient Israelites and this has been and remains the common Jewish understanding of the passage.

    Much is made of the word “seed” being used here in reference to the woman as though it means something other than simply a collective singular of generic descendants and instead refers to the virgin birth of Christ. Nothing is special about the notion of “seed of a woman” being used as a plural collective noun describing a woman’s descendants with this construction. It’s used regarding Hagar in Genesis 16:10; it’s used for Rebekah in Genesis 24:60; it’s used in Leviticus 22:13 to describe the absence of offspring for a generic woman; it’s used by Eli in 1 Samuel 2:20 in his blessing upon Hannah who later had three sons and two daughters in a rather natural manner.

    The grammatical structure of the passage does not at all suggest the allegorical interpretation put forward by some that this is really about Satan and Christ. First of all, Yahweh is speaking to the serpent, not the woman. Second, even though striking the serpent on the head would potentially be a death blow, striking the man on the heel and injecting venom would be as well, as most venomous snakebites would’ve been fatal. Third, if the serpent’s defeat were being portrayed, why is does the supposed description of his death come first? If he has been crushed by the woman’s seed already, how can the serpent still bruise his heel? I’m sure you’ll conjure up some explanation, however. You have 2,000 years of guesswork you can mine.

    The possible New Testament allusions to this passage in Luke 10:19 and Romans 16:20 don’t refer singularly to Christ, but rather to his followers and are more likely merely allusions to Psalm 91:13. It turns out that early church interpreters like Irenaeus, using the Septuagint’s Greek translation of the passage employing the masculine singular pronoun and the verb for “crushed” rather than “bruised,” were the first to make direct reference to this passage as some kind of messianic prophecy referring specifically to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Birth. Since then, it has been subjected to a much greater degree of over-interpretation. Are you really going to regard these interpretations from people like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and those many years past the days of Jesus and his apostles as authoritative “progressive revelation?” Unless you’re a Catholic, I doubt it.

    You will never make an honest inquiry into these matters until you are ready to lay aside your starting point that the Bible is always reliable, true, and without contradiction. When you begin with this assumption you will end with it. Every time.

  20. Unfortunately, I think this is a classic case of “never the twain shall meet”. Laodeciapress has faith in God and that the Bible is God’s Word. Based on that faith, it’s entirely possible to come up with explanations for more or less all of the contradictions you’ve posted, Dr. DiMattei. I know because I was taught similar rationalizations myself. I’ve been restraining myself from looking up the explanations in my religious literature for each of your posted contradictions and putting them in comments on your posts because (1) I don’t have the essential belief in God that I used to, so I don’t have anything riding on believing one side or the other anymore, and (2) I don’t want to give you too hard of a time, alongside all the other objectors you’ve had visiting your blog :-)

    By saying that all these contradictions can be explained away, I don’t mean to denigrate your efforts in any way in writing up these contradictions, because you have many readers who are appreciating them and learning from them, myself included.

    But someone really has to FIRST be willing to acknowledge that *maybe* the Bible isn’t the inerrant word of God, before he can learn from this material. I can say this confidently because I stuck to a complex system of rationalized beliefs for years as an adult and could not be convinced by any amount of contrary evidence. What changed for me personally had more to do with losing faith in what I’d been taught from the doctrinal angle, not consideration of science; but once my faith situation changed I became more open to hearing scientific evidence.

    That’s why I think that it’s not really possible to win an argument like this. One can only present one’s own point of view and knowledge so many times before it begins to feel like a case of diminishing returns, right?

  21. Hi Steven,

    Quite the lengthy response. The common theme you seem to repeat upon is that I am somehow doing injustice to the text and the original author by ‘imposing’ my 21st century viewpoint. Of course, I disagree. I claim that the Bible as a whole (Law, Psalms, Prophets, and New Testament) are all written by a variety of individuals, yet are God-breathed and can also be considered as written by the Holy Spirit.

    Regarding the Pentateuch in particular, there is no question that the Mosaic authorship is altogether assumed not only by Jewish culture, but also by the Lord Jesus Himself. True justice to the text would require letting the consistent message written by Moses while also being God-breathed by the Holy Spirit speak it’s truth.

    I have described how Genesis 1-3 is easily seen as a consistent, non-contradictory message. One comment of yours I found interesting in your response is regarding the use of Yahweh in Genesis 2. For some reason you seem to think that a single author is unable to use different names for the same God? Especially interesting due to the fact that both Yahweh and Elohim are used in chapter 2.

    You reject that Genesis 2 is referring to day 6 in detail, but your cited reason is the order of creation. I don’t know what I can do except repeat myself: the greenery referred to in verse 5 is clearly different than what was referred to in chapter 1 (2:5 is talking about cultivated plants), and Genesis 2 is referring to God planting the garden of Eden and bringing the animals to be named and cites the past action of God forming the plants/animals.

    You continually accuse me of doing injustice to the text by not regarding historical and cultural context. Of course, I consider both of these aspects to be extremely important when preforming exegesis on Biblical texts. Unfortunately, it is you who feels the need to ‘chop-up’ the texts, impose a theory without historical manuscript evidence, assume knowledge of what these writers would have been thinking, and create the illusion of contradiction. Apparently any view that respects the text as God’s consistent revelation cannot be considered.

    Regarding the whole idea of reading back into the text (ex. God’s promise of a Saviour in Genesis 3), God certainly is progressive in His revelation and some things that may have been unclear have been made clear especially in the revelation of His Son. Jesus Himself claims that Moses wrote of Him.

    I’ll be going through the other alleged contradictions you provided. I hope in the future you can take less time with meaningless, accusational rhetoric and more time in dealing with what the text actually says.

    1. No Laodeciapress, you’ve just proven, demonstrated, and exemplified my point. “I claim that the Bible as a whole (Law, Psalms, Prophets, and New Testament) are all written by a variety of individuals, yet are God-breathed and can also be considered as written by the Holy Spirit” is a later theological construct created by a later readership. That is fact, and can be roughly pinpointed as to when it emerges, and why, in history. Furthermore you preface this, correctly, as “your claim,” “your belief”—it is a subjective evaluation determined by these texts’ centuries-later readers. What I am doing here is an objective evaluation of the texts on their own terms and in their own historical and literary worlds. You seem to fail to grasp that. You have, and continue to, value the views, beliefs, and traditions which were created by readers living centuries after these texts were written over and above those of the authors of these texts. In fact, you display a total lack of desire to know, and neglect of, the actual authors who penned these texts, why they penned them, to whom, how they were assembled, and why later tradition deemed them the unalterable words of a god. Again, the proper post to think—basically that’s what I’m trying to get you to do, while most importantly keeping the integrity of the texts, not what’s been said about them generations later—about this issue is What is the Bible?

      No again—“True justice to the text would require letting the consistent message written by Moses while also being God-breathed by the Holy Spirit speak it’s truth.”—you continually demonstrate the very point I’m trying to get you to see, and then once seen, there’s the place for the conversation. You yourself are continuously claiming that one ought to read the text through a later tradition, carved and shaped by centuries-later readers who themselves were prompted to believe what they did due to their own historical circumstances, which I doubt you know anything about. No, here we pay attention to the text in its own historical and literary context! So, with regard to the Pentateuch, nowhere does it claim to have been written by Moses, and at almost every turn of the page it vehemently screams of a post-Mosaic date by centuries! How the Bible reveled itself not to be composed by Moses. But you’ve never listened to the text, and you continuously prove this by stating clearly your interpretive prejudices regardless, and in complete neglect, of what the texts say and do not say. Your living in the Dark ages, holding dearly to Dark-age beliefs. Are we supposed to turn off our brains, and follow you? Are humans and human knowledge not allowed to evolve in your world? Are you that blatantly childish and immature in your thought processes? Sorry, but this is getting ridiculous. The authors themselves would not be able to get you to respect their own texts, being so convinced that their centuries-later readers got it right.

      No, you have not proven textually that Genesis 1-3 is continuous. In fact nothing you have said is based on any textual data. A textual argument starts from the text, its vocabulary, style, tone, theme, theological message, etc., NOT from what’s been said about it by later readers nor through a centuries-later interpretive agenda. Second the differences between Genesis 1 and 2 are not the difference in the use of a name! You just keep displaying your real ignorance about these texts. Have you ever read them? And on their own terms! Again, lest you think this is some kind of game, the goal of studying the biblical texts is to understand them from the author’s perspective, to as best as possible represent the author’s views. Again, you have indicated that this is impossible for you to do since you have firmly stated your agenda—read these texts through a later interpretive framework. The theological staples and ideas expressed through this centuries-later interpretive lens did not exist for many of the Bible’s authors. How can I make such a claim? Because I study these authors and their texts, with the goal of being honest to them, regardless of what their later readers have claimed. That’s a subjective understanding of the texts, not an objective understanding. Read: How to Study the Bible Objectively and Scientifically.

      No, Genesis 2 clearly states from the lips of Yahweh himself that there was no vegetation “on the earth!” And even if your fanciful exegesis which reflects your own interests rather than those of the author is adopted, you still haven’t listened to the text, you still haven’t contended with the text’s contradictions in both content, style, vocabulary, theme, historical context, theology, etc. Ah, but then you do note a difference in vocabulary, bravo! Are you suggesting then that this difference supports the idea that Genesis 2 and 1 were written by different authors? Of course not, because that query doesn’t fit into your predefined definition of these texts. One textual difference marks similarity and continuity to you, but another marks difference. All your evaluations are based on subjective opinions. Our goal, rather, is to listen to the texts; you’ve already explicitly stated that your goal is to read them through later interpretive agendas. There’s our difference. Are you for the authors or their centuries-later readers?

      No, I continuously accuse you of doing injustice to the texts because you’re not heeding their words, vocabulary, style, themes, theological emphasis, etc. Instead you read them through centuries-later interpretive frameworks that would have repulsed many of these authors themselves. How can I make such an audacious claim? Because I know many of these authors by carefully, honestly, and earnestly studying their texts, understanding the world they wrote in and reacted to, and why they wrote and believed what they did in the first place. You should carefully read Leviticus comparatively with Deuteronomy, or Kings against Chronicles, etc.

      No, again you’re misinformed and spouting inaccuracies about the text. There is manuscript evidence and that is the Bible itself. Read how the Bible itself reveals it’s a composite text. See today’s contradiction, #105. It is a good example. You continue to toot your theology and beliefs—and nothing of the text. We’re not talking theology here, but about the texts. When you make a claim about God—and it must be nice to be in a position to do that with such surety—and revelation through the biblical texts you are making a claim, legitimating and substantiating that claim, crafted of later readers!! You have continuously validated my accusations against you. For you yourself have repeated and variously expressed that you read, understand, and see these texts through the eyes, beliefs, and perceptions of their later writers/readers. That is my point. What the Bible is to you is what it was deemed by a later reading community. What the Bible is to me is what their texts were deemed each on their own terms and by their own authors BEFORE there ever was the idea of a Bible, before there ever was an idea of unalterable scripture, before there ever was the idea that these texts were penned by God himself. Read What is the Bible? and we’ll continue the conversation there.

  22. 1) Alleged contradiction in the creation story

    Genesis 1 is a chronological description of the events and Genesis 2 is a specific description on day 6. You will notice that 2:5 refers to ‘shrub of the field’ and ‘plant of the field’ (both not mentioned in Genesis 1). These must have been plants that came with human cultivation as the end of verse 5 implies. Interestingly, regarding verse 6, there are lots of theories about the absence of rain before the flood and a water canopy existing over the earth. This, along with less time for accumulation of mutations, may in part explain the long lives of ancient peoples. But I digress….

    On day 6 God made man, planted the garden, brought him the animals He had previously made (for example, verse 19 refers to the previous action), and eventually made woman. Taking both stories together as written by Moses while at the same time being ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim 3:16), we can see the general overview in Genesis 1 followed by the specific description of day 6 in Genesis 2.

    2) Differences in theme

    You seem to base most of your argument on the thematic differences between the two sections. I would disagree. Genesis 1 has a very high view of man, especially in regards to his being made in the image of God. However, Genesis 2 continues with this assumption especially evident in God’s perseverance in finding a helper for him and in the statement that they were naked and unashamed. Genesis 3 discusses the fall of man, yet still ends with God’s promise for a Saviour (3:15) and the very first animal sacrifice (3:21). These important points do not seem to fit with your preconceived assumption of what these alleged writers must have been thinking. If one takes these chapters of Genesis, and indeed the Bible as a whole, as a cohesive unit written by man through inspiration of God, one is able to see the consistency of the Word throughout many centuries. It is astounding.

    3) Other comments

    I found it strange that you mentioned that Genesis 1 does not have a creation out of nothing. Have you checked the first verse?

    I also find it strange that you argue against interpreting through a framework of later generations. Source criticism of the Pentateuch more than qualifies as a ‘framework of later generations’. Clearly the other Biblical writers from a wide variety of generations did not share this point of view.

    1. Laodeciapress,

      All your arguments listed above are not with me, but with the texts. Every point that you’ve stated above does not refute me, but what the texts themselves actually say and don’t say. For whatever reason, you’re not reading, listening, nor being honest to the text, what it’s saying, why it’s saying what it does, to whom it is speaking, and in the context of what historical and literary worldview, values, and beliefs. Instead, you’re trying to squeeze the text to fit your own preconceived notions, beliefs, and interpretive (mis)conceptions. The meaning of these texts no longer resides with their authors and their original audiences (both of which you know nothing about); you’ve robbed them of that. Rather, what is of importance, apparently, is what these ancient texts, divorced from their authors and historical and literary worlds, mean to readers living 3,000 years later and under vastly different worldviews, cultural values, and belief systems. This will not do. Here, I will defend these texts and their authors. Futile as it may be. You might have realized this if you 1) were more honest to the texts than to what’s been said about them by readers living centuries later and armed with their own agendas, worldviews, and beliefs; and 2) read my post, which attempts to bring to light, and defend, these authors and their texts by looking at them on their own terms and in their own historical AND literary worlds.

      Textual counterpoint #1: The texts speak back. Genesis 2 is NOT, as you claim “a specific description of day 6.” Nowhere does the text claim such an absurdity, explicitly or implicitly. Your being dishonest to the text, negligent of what the texts says and doesn’t say (and that’s setting aside why it says what it says). This is outright abusive toward the text. I won’t have any of that. Here the text must be allowed to speak, on its own terms and in its own historical and literary contexts. There is no TEXTUAL argument you can levy to support your acrimonious abuse. Rather, your claim, contrary to what the text claims, reveals your own presuppositions, beliefs, and culturally inherited erroneous ideas about the text (I’d suggest What is the Bible?).

      The text of Genesis 1:6 clearly says that God (elohim) created plants: “Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees…” The text of Genesis 2:5-7 states that Yahweh—now the deity’s name is used, why? how come? Do you bother yourself with these questions? And don’t attempt to answer them with theologizing speculation or pudding-stuffed faith statements. They must be answered on the text’s terms, the historical circumstances that produced these texts, to whom, the literary worlds within which these texts expressed themselves, their linguistic, geopolitical, and cultural worlds, etc. If you don’t know these things, and how could you unless you’ve studied them, then you don’t have the knowledge to answer the why? and how come? I do, but a man shall not boast—Yahweh formed (yeser) the adam from the adamah before there was any vegetation, period! “When all produce of the field had not yet been in the earth, and all vegetation of the field had not yet grown.” This contradicts Genesis 1:6 in both content and style, where it is claimed that “the earth brought forth plants, vegetation,” etc. before man is created. This is not my opinion, not some trick, but rather it is a textual observation period. What one does with this piece of textual data is another question. I have said nothing about why and what are its ramifications, etc. Although that is something I clearly aim to address in many of the posts. Thus, Genesis 1 states that elohim bara’ plants, and bara’ animals, and finally elohim bara’ the adam, bara’ it in his image, bara’ it male and female. Genesis 2 states that Yahweh yeser (‘formed from’) the adam from adamah, AND THEN yeser plants, animals, and then Yahweh bana (literally ‘built’) ishah from ish.

      Your attempt to do away with these difference is more flagrant than you think. You’ve denied, and tossed away any message that the author of Genesis 2 was trying to express on its own terms and in its own historical and literary context, and likewise you’ve tossed out the door any meaning that the author/text of Genesis 1 was attempting to make on its own terms and in its own historical and literary context. These things (texts, authors, meaning) you’ve treated contemptuously, and I might add arrogantly, thinking that you can dictate what the text is and what it means having no knowledge of the text on its own terms, the historical circumstances that produced these texts, to whom, the literary worlds within which this text expressed itself, its linguistic, geopolitical, and cultural worlds, etc. It is apparent that what the text means in and of itself before there ever was the creation of the “Bible” is of no avail to you. You’ve never considered it! The text’s meaning is only relevant in that it can be forced, as you clearly have done above, to support your own beliefs. Why don’t you let the text say what it says, be honest to the text, educate yourself on ancient Near Eastern culture, and the historical and literary worlds within which this and other texts were produced? If what the text says in its own historical and literary context does not agree with what you believe or what you’ve been informed it’s supposed to say, then there’s the important questions for our culture. There’s were the discussion ought to be occurring. But we will never get there if people like yourself continue to value your own cherished beliefs—and I understand this. I’m not attacking faith per se; but abusiveness toward and ignorance of the biblical texts—rather than the individual texts, authors, the historical circumstances that produced these texts, to whom, the literary worlds within which this text expressed itself, its linguistic, geopolitical, and cultural worlds, etc. These I will defend.

      Textual counterpoint #2: The text strikes back! You claim that God “brought him [Adam] the animals He had previously made.” Shame on you. Again, I understand what you’re doing, and even why. But I’m going to keep imploring you to be more honest and respectful of the text. Nowhere does the text claim such a thing. Genesis 1:21, 25 says that elohim bara’ the animals before he bara’ man. But Genesis 2:19 says, after Yahweh yeser man, that Yahweh yeser the animals from the adamah (just like adam and that’s why he searches for his essence in them; they are both formed from the adamah – this is the Yahwist’s pun and theological musing, but alas you’ll have none of that because the text was been stolen from the Yahwist and his historical and literary world to be now used, abused, and manhandled by its 21st century readers and for their own petty and arrogant purposes). Really? Your claims are nowhere supported by the text, and by extension their authors, audiences, and historical and literary worlds. You need to ask introspectively of yourself why can’t you let the text say what it’s saying? Why can’t you let the authors, and if the biblical text itself reveals and claims explicitly in other places (About Contradictions) that it is multi-authored, speak for itself? What do you think is at stake? Is whatever is at stake more important—obviously it is— than the texts themselves in and on their own terms?

      Textual countercoup #3: The text responds WTF? Nowhere does Genesis 3 nor Genesis 3:15 specifically state as you claim “God’s promise for a Saviour.” Again, I’m imploring you, these authors are imploring you, to be more careful, more respectful of the texts, and more educated and inquisitive in general. You’re blatantly imposing later theological and soteriolgical ideas onto these texts, and exposing once more the plain simple fact of the matter—that these texts are nothing to you, and you know nothing of them, apart from your own personal presuppositions, theologies and learned or cultural patterns of behavior. Not only is this blatantly imposing 1st c. AD Christian soteriological ideas onto these 8th c. BC texts (what? You think religion, beliefs, and values don’t change?), and thus defaming them; their sole purpose now is what later readers such as yourself have conjured them to be regardless of their authors, their original audiences, their original purpose of composition, the historical and literary worlds that produced them—all of no concern to the modern Christian reader who arrogantly claims that these texts, their meaning, and their contexts are now “mine, mine, mine!” You’ve robbed them of any meaning that they originally had and claimed that a centuries-later meaning is the meaning that they were intended to have. The Bible itself is a compilation of texts that do exactly this very thing! Wait til we get to Deuteronomy.

      When the author of the book of Deuteronomy sits down to write his text, he has Moses renarrate the story of Israel’s past from the revelation at Sinai to the current narrative setting on the plains of Moab. Renarrate because this “history” was already narrated in earlier textual traditions which served as the Deuteronomist’s sources. These earlier texts now make up parts of the books of Exodus and Numbers, and scholars have identified them as belonging to the Elohist and Yahwist. In other words, stories from the older Elohist and Yahwist traditions, which are now preserved in the books of Exodus and Numbers, were used as sources for the Deuteronomist’s composition. Yet, on every single renarration of these stories, of this “history,” the Deuteronomist’s Moses radically alters them—indeed outright contradicts them—claiming to say and do things he never said and did, and narrating things that never happened, or happened in a manner completely opposite of what he claims. And this the author does with full consciousness that he is altering the very tradition he inherited and authorizing his new reading by having Moses as his mouthpiece! How do we know this? Because the Bible tells us so. A later editor has preserved both versions of these stories, both versions of “history.” [This is my chapter 2. Maybe I should offer it up as a freebie for discussion here. It clearly displays how the Torah’s texts interact with one another and how the elite guilds that wrote these texts used them to legitimate their views over and against another priestly elite group that was also writing texts to legitimate their views and respond to their own historical needs and concerns. Unknown to these authors, centuries later for a variety of other reasons these texts were collected together and codified as scripture, and only then became unalterable. How do we know all this? The Bible tells us so, the manuscripts at Qumran confirm this, the different recessions expose this further, the archaeological data corroborates this, etc., etc.]. This is the very data of studying the Bible closely and their texts in and on their own terms. The conversation needs to move away from disputing what the Bible actually does say to having a conversation about what this means about how we perceive and interact with these texts and with the Bible.

      Moreover, you’ve once again highjacked the text and its authors out of their own historical and literary worlds, even ignorant of the very fact that you did this. Do you know what Old Testament soteriology is? When the Hebrew Bible, no let’s confine ourselves to Moses’ words, when the Pentateuch speaks of salvation, how does it speak of it? The idea that you’re imposing—a soteriology that only gets created in the 2nd c. BC, adopted and shaped by the early Christian movement, and both of which were specifically forged from the specific historical issues that arose at this time period (Do you know what they are? You see, in reiterating what you’ve been taught to pontificate, you gravely err, speak from an unfathomable ignorance, not your fault understandably, and are actually disrespectful and ingenuous to the Bible’s texts) … this soteriology is foreign to the Pentateuch and its authors. What blasphemous folly. Knowing nothing of these texts in and on their own terms, nothing of who wrote them, to whom, why, prompted by what historical circumstances, and framed through what cultural and literary tropes, you nevertheless have the audacity to pontificate on what these texts are or mean? Do you do this in all other aspects of your life? Knowing nothing about brain surgery you foil the Doctor? Knowing nothing about quantum physics you disprove the scientists? Knowing nothing about architecture you petition to dismantle buildings built incorrectly cause you’ve said so? Knowing nothing about the world Plato grew up in and its historical and literary matrix, you denounce the world’s top Platonic scholars for their folly? In short, I don’t care if you don’t or won’t educate yourself. But abusing, misusing, lying about, misrepresenting the texts – that’s what I care about.

      Again, I clearly see what’s going on here. I understand that your beliefs, belief system, etc., are important and furnish meaning for your life. I get that. I really do. And that’s truly a conversation I’d love to be having—how narratives inform and define our reality. But I cannot tolerate abusing the texts, which you’ve clearly displayed in the above, and following, examples. The texts clearly present contradictions in both content and theme. If you wish to ignore that, then again you’ve only proven that understanding the text on its own terms, why and how it says what it does as a product of its own historical and literary worlds, who wrote them, to whom, and in dialogue with what other texts or to respond to what historical concerns, etc., are not important to you.

      Textual counterpoint #4. If you can’t read me the text queries, how can you make claims about what I say? Your claim—“I found it strange that you mentioned that Genesis 1 does not have a creation out of nothing. Have you checked the first verse?”—once again is not with me, but with the text. And furthermore this particular error shows 1) your ignorance of the text (sorry to be so short with you); and 2) the persuasiveness that a centuries-later interpretive tradition, carved from its own historical concerns, has on you—and that is precisely my point.

      I can read the opening verse in Hebrew. Can you? If you could, you wouldn’t have made such an erroneous statement. Rather than advocating for the Hebrew text, it would seem that you’ve become an advocate for perspectives, theological grids, and interpretive frameworks forged centuries later by people who knew less than we do today about these texts, their authors, and their original historical and literary contexts. Do we still live in the Dark ages?

      All Hebraist and close readers of the text have acknowledged that Genesis 1 is not a creation ex nihilo— that too is a later mis-interpretive tradition. This is what fascinates me the most: How later interpretive traditions get formed and how they become authoritative. In fact, these later interpretive traditions and frameworks become MORE authoritative than the texts they purport to interpret and represent. You’re a walking caricature of this phenomenon. The Bible is chock-full of these textual phenomena, the last of which is the imposition of the label “the Book” onto these ancient texts. It is the texts, always the texts on their own terms, and before there ever was an interpretive framework called “the Bible” that is our focus here.

      So, bere’shit is the word that opens the Priestly creation account. It is a prepositional phrase: the be is the preposition and re’shit its noun. First, there is no definite article in the Hebrew, no “the.” Its omission is likely no error since it is attested in the oldest manuscripts. Second bere’shit literally translates to “in beginning (of).” Third, the meaning and sense of the first three words of the verse bere’shit bara’ elohim are not equal to its typical English rendering “In the beginning, God created.” This is actually now reflected in many newer translations. Rather what the Hebrew expresses is more like “when at first God created,” or “in the beginning of when God created” or less literally “when God began to create.”

      But more than this verse, there are others which also clearly grate against the claims of later interpretive traditions. [This is largely what I’m doing here: pinning the individual texts against how they are mis-construed in centuries-later interpretive frameworks, the one in particular is the one that goes by the name “the Book”]. I wrote extensively about the Priestly writer’s use of the expression tohu wabohu, an expression that only finds itself used in other 6th c. BC literature, and together with the reference to the existence of ‘the deep’ also speak against creatio ex nihilo—which again is a later theological idea imposed onto the texts. (So too is the idea that God is omniscient and omnipotent. These were foreign ideas to our biblical writers, our earliest ones, and the Yahwist himself clearly has no conception of such later theological constructs. This is not my argument; this is what the text says. See Conflicting portraits of Israel’s god. Again, it was later interpretive traditions that brought with them Greek philosophical ideas of God that transformed the Yahwist’s Yahweh into a philosophical God). But apparently you didn’t even read the post which discusses this AND attempts to represent as honestly as possible the author’s own ideas, in his own historical and literary world. Not yours, not mine. It’s the authors who need to be defended from their millions and millions of subsequent readers who have, perhaps for good reasons, placed these texts in ever new and changing interpretive frameworks and have transferred meaning from the authors of these texts to their billions and billions of readers. I fight for the authors here, not their readers.

      Lastly, source criticism is not a later interpretive framework. This displays you’re ignorance about what biblical studies is and what an interpretive framework, such as “the Bible” is. The Bible, which literally means “Book,” is a term that imposes onto this collection of ancient texts ideas of narrative homogeneity, single authorship, unified storyline, etc. This framework was created centuries later and under specific historical circumstances. It prescribes how one ought to read its contents—as a Book. And this prescription is imposed and enforced through the authority that the name “Bible” has already assumed upon its readers regardless of its contents, i.e., the individual voices of the texts, authors, audience, and the historical and literary worlds that produced them. See What is the Bible? and What is Studying the Bible.

      Biblical historians such as myself try to get back to what the texts meant before this label was imposed, what they meant on their own terms, and in their own historical contexts. It was the Bible itself that started us on this journey. The Bible’s table of contents tells us quite outright that it is a composite text. Many of the authors of these once separate compositions also refer explicitly to sources that they used, and which no longer exist (Read about that here). Lastly, the Bible’s texts also inform us of varying styles, theologies, themes, duplicate stories, and yes contradictions, etc. We are even able to see where an editor inserted material from another source because the editor tells other editors that he did this by repeating the text that came before the insert after it as well. We even can spot these differences sometimes by comparing the manuscripts of Qumran or the LXX with the codex Leningrad, our version. Scholars with a better command of Hebrew than myself have even written about places where we not only see a shift in theological emphasis, style, or vocabulary, but grammar structure too. All of this is not imposing a later interpretive framework, but a sincere and honest—to the texts!—attempt to peel back the imposed interpretive layers and get to the once individual texts and attempt to understand them on their own terms and in their own historical and literary worlds. Sure there is room for disagreement and scholarly debate here. But you seem to immediately attack something that is out to defend the biblical texts, their authors, etc., but not—and here’s where there’s room for discussion—the Bible or what is implied by that term. The discussion, if you were keen enough to grasp it, that what much of this scholarship does, what much of what studying the biblical text itself does, is to pin these once independent texts whose voices are no longer heard against the voice that is heard and always heard, the homogeneous voice implied in the title “the Bible.” The 300 year period of the Bible revealing to its astute readers its own composite nature has been written about extensively: How the Bible reveals its own composite nature. It’s the Bible itself that is showing us this, just like observing Nature and nature’s phenomenon led us away from superstitious beliefs about the causes of thunder, drought, rain, hurricanes, etc. to understanding Nature on her own terms and in her own language. In the end it is up to you if you want to, are able to, hear the voices of these once individual texts, see the textual data, rally behind these texts’ authors with their multiple messages, meanings, theologies, and even ideologies. However, the centuries-later single voice imposed by the term “Bible” has erased from history these texts’ original messages, authors, historical concerns, beliefs, and worldviews. The choice is: try to be honest to the biblical texts, their authors, messages, competing theologies, historical and literary worlds, etc.—all of which requires an immense amount of study and reading—or to its centuries-later readers who knew nothing of these things and who, through their own necessity, imposed their own agendas, beliefs, and label “the Book” onto this collection of ancient texts.

  23. See now, I like this one better (I commented on #7 before, as it was the first one I read). While I disagree with the substance of the contradiction, (and addressed it in my own blog when covering this section) I do enjoy reading about the varied Hebrew forms and how they show contrast between chapters 1&2. (My own Hebrew is far from expert-level.)

    Whether or not one buys that there is a contradiction in facts here, you’ve made an excellent and thorough case for substantive contradictions in style, which at the very least should be thought-provoking. To tell you the truth, while I’ve been aware of the JEPD redactionist theory of Biblical authorship for some time, I’ve never found it that interesting. You present it very well, though, and make me want to read more. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of your writing.

  24. SOLUTION: To the unschooled in scripture, these arguments sound convincing. However, there are no real contradictions here, just differences that can be explained. Rather than taking the time to rebut each point, or expose the obvious fallacies, I’ll just link to established answers to these conundrums which help people confirm their biases.

    1. You’re way, way off here. I have a PhD in biblical studies, read Hebrew and Greek, know the biblical literature extensively, know the literature of the biblical writers’ contemporaries, that is both the large corpus of ancient Near Eastern texts and Greco-Roman literature, I’ve studied ancient literature in other guises, on and on…. I don’t need to validate my credentials; your tax dollars already have!

      Now certainly I realize the sensitivity of the topic, perhaps much more than you yourself; but neglecting what the biblical writers are saying each on their own terms is not only disingenuous to these texts, their authors, the audiences they wrote for (it wasn’t you/us), and it places greater emphasis on the reader and his needs rather than the texts. Read some of the preliminary material I’ve posted: What is the Bible? or Studying the Bible objectively.Having said that, there is a place where me and you can have a constructive conversation in objective terms, and terms focused on the texts (that’s what this site is about), and not our preconceived notions. I’ll leave it as this question: Are the biblical texts to be read and understood on their own terms, and what I mean by that is understanding why, when, and to whom the author wrote, trying to understand the best we can why he said what he did, to whom, and in what historical and literary contexts. OR, are we to read and understand these one separate texts through the interpretive framework imposed by later generations of readers (centuries later!) — this interpretive framework goes by the name of “the Bible.” (What is the Bible?). Here is where the conversation needs to go.

  25. Wow!!! Heard about your commitment from Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist) on Facebook and came here to check it out. I’m going to learn a lot throughout the year. Thank you for doing this for everyone. I was not brought up religious and didn’t really realize until lately how many people took the Bible literally. Blows my mind. Hopefully, some of those literal people will read your writings and think.

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