#1a. Does God create the heavens and the earth, then plants, then animals, and then both male and female in his image OR does Yahweh form man from the ground first, then plants, then animals, and then woman last from man’s rib? (Gen 1:1-2:3 [P] vs Gen 2:4b-23 [J])
#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])
#1c. Is both man and women created in the image of God OR is man formed from the ground and is a “living being” like other animals, and women formed from man? (Gen 1:27 [P] vs Gen 2:7, 2:21-23 [J]; 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Tim 2:13)
#1d. When is all the vegetation created: after the animals, man, and woman are created OR before the animals and woman are created? (Gen 1:29 [P] vs Gen 2:9 [J])
#1e. Does God declare all the vegetation and trees as food for the primordial pair OR does Yahweh command that one of the trees not be eaten from? (Gen 1:29 [P] vs Gen 2:17 [J])

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UPDATE: My interest in the Priestly and Yahwist creation accounts—Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 respectively—has resulted in a book, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, which is NOW available! So if you’re interested in Genesis 1 and 2; in the textual data that convincingly—yes I’m sure of it; the text is quite convincing—demonstrate that Genesis’ two creation accounts were penned by two different authors who held contradictory worldviews, beliefs, and messages; in learning why Creationists’ claims about creation are not supported by Genesis 1 and/or 2; or in the Priestly source in general, its author, and his beliefs and message, then this is the book you’ve been waiting for! On sale now at publishers website. . . coming soon to amazon.

Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate


Ancient and modern readers alike have long recognized the stark differences between the seven-day creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and the latter garden of Eden account of Genesis 2:4b-3:24. Even on stylistic grounds noticeable in an English translation, the first creation account, penned by the Priestly writer,  is lofty, formulaic, structured, heaven-centered, and awe-inspiring with its image of an utterly transcendent and impersonal creator deity who brings creation and order into existence by the mere force of his word. The second creation account, from the pen of the Yahwist, on the other hand, is informal and fable-like in its presentation, is earth-centered, is presented as a narrative dialogue, and is theologically more poignant with its etiological tale describing how man, crafted from the clay of the earth by a very personal and “human” deity, 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 perhaps the most obvious differences, indeed contradictions, lie in their presentation of the order of creation and the manner in which the created world comes into existence. For instance, after the creation of the heavens and the earth, the first account then proceeds to describe how God creates—the Hebrew word used is bara’—plants on the third day (1:11), then animals on the fifth and sixth days (1:20, 1:24), and lastly male and female together in his own image (1:27). The repeated emphasis is on a god who creates (bara’) by pronouncing the thing into existence and then claiming the goodness in the created thing and by extension in the created order of the cosmos. In the second creation account, however, we are informed that now Yahweh (here the deity’s name is specified) first forms—the Hebrew word is yeser—man from the dust of the earth (2:7), then plants (2:9), and then, so that the man should not be alone and that he should have a corresponding aid, Yahweh forms (yeser) animals from the earth (2:18-19), and finally since man is unable to find a satisfactory companion which corresponds to him 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 in the image of the god(s), but in the latter account man is formed (yeser) from the ground first, then plants and animals, and then, woman is built from the man’s rib.

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

One of the most prominent and distinguishable differences between these two creation accounts, especially in the Hebrew, is the manner in which each creation account depicts the creator god. Genesis 1:1-2:3 refers to the deity with the Hebrew word for god (elohim) in all of its thirty-five occurrences. The second account, Genesis 2:4b-3:24, always refers to the deity as Yahweh1 in all of its eleven occurrences, and as we have already seen is the Yahwist’s hallmark. The addition of the word “god” (elohim) after the name Yahweh in all of the eleven occurrences in the second creation story, yielding “god Yahweh” in the text’s current form (2:4, 5,7, 8, etc.), is the result of an editorial process that apparently attempted to soften the transition from the first account’s elohim to the second account’s Yahweh by inserting into the text of the second creation account the word elohim after Yahweh.2 In support of this view, it should be mentioned that this double identification, “god Yahweh,” is only found in these eleven occurrences, and nowhere else in the Pentateuch.3 This is significant considering that the name Yahweh appears roughly 1,800 times throughout the Pentateuch alone.

Along with the different terms for the creator god in each account, both texts also portray their deity in strikingly different manners. In the Priestly account, for example, God speaks things into existence. He is presented as utterly transcendent; he never interacts with his creation and stands completely outside of the cosmos. By contrast, in the Yahwist account 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).4 Such anthropomorphism, that is presenting a deity in human terms, is readily visible throughout Genesis 2:4b-3:24. Yahweh forms man from the dust of the earth, presumably with his hands (2:7),5 breaths into the man’s nostrils, plants a garden (2:8), takes and puts the man in the garden (2:15), commands the man (2:16), forms animals from the ground (2:19), builds a woman from the man’s rib (2:22), walks in the garden (3:8), calls and speaks to his creation (3:9, 13-14), makes skins of garments for the human pair (2:21), and lastly puts the human pair outside the garden (3:23). This type of anthropomorphism is never found in the first creation account’s portrait of God, nor in the Priestly source in general. It is unique to the Yahwist.

In addition to the varying portraits of the creator deity, the god’s lofty and grandiose transcendence or his stark and churlish anthropomorphism, there are other differences that set these two accounts apart. Although the subject matter is roughly parallel, its treatment by each account is hardly the same and each account’s underlying emphasis, whether theological or otherwise, is scarcely compatible. Where one attempts to give an orderly explanation of the creation of the cosmos via the word of an all-powerful transcendent deity, and, in short, is heaven-centered, the other attempts to answer questions of an anthropological nature, is earth-centered, and emphasizes man’s creation, relationship, disobedience towards, and finally expulsion from a very personal and “human” deity, Yahweh. It might furthermore be said that the first creation myth, for reasons that will be explored below, moves from chaos to order, within which there are repeated refrains where the god pronounces the created thing’s goodness and, finally, blesses humanity—a humanity, moreover, created in the image and likeness of its divine creator(s). The second account, on the other hand, moves from an infertile, barren, and humanless landscape through the formation of man from this ground and his placement in a fertile and fecund garden to, finally, his expulsion from that 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 watery chaos, the latter’s original state of creation is depicted as a waterless waste with no rain nor vegetation (Gen 2:5); it represents the dry, arid land of the geography of Palestine, which is mostly irrigated through its various underground springs that swell up from the ground to make the soil fertile, like the one mentioned in Genesis 2:6. The toil required for man (’adam) to work this hard, dry soil (’adamah) is a prominent theme in this story. It is an etiological tale which provides a rationale for man’s current lot—how it came to be that ’adam must procure his livelihood by working the ’adamah, and at that a cursed ground. As we will see in numerous future entries, this anthropological theology of man toiling the cursed ground from which he was formed is part and parcel to retrojecting the author’s geography onto these archaic narratives. That is to say, the author’s own perspective and experience of life as defined by his social and political world is retrojected into the past in the formation of a creation myth that then explains how and why man, as perceived from within the cultural perspective of our author, must toil the cursed ground for his livelihood. Thus contrary to the first creation’s account of celebration, affirmed goodness, and blessing, the latter account is a dramatic narrative with crisis and resolution in the form of punishment and curse.

In fact, in the redacted PJE text as it now stands, the Yahwist account completely negates the main theological message of the Priestly account—that God made both male and female in his likeness and that this is inherently good. As professor David Carr has astutely observed, in the former, humanity is created in the image and likeness of God and this is “good,” while in the latter humanity is punished specifically for yearning to be like his god and this is deemed a transgression. “Gen 1:1-2:3 depicts an omnipotent God creating a godlike humanity. In contrast, Gen 2:4b-3:24 depicts a God who can both fail (Gen 2:19-20) and succeed (Gen 2:21-23). Humanity is not godlike but is created out of earth and punished for acts leading to humanity’s being like God (Gen 3:1-24).”6 The implication that Carr deduces from this, as well as other strongly supportive data, is that the P creation text with its emphasis on order and goodness was written to replace and correct the image of man given in the Yahwist version. But because of the redactional process that eventually brought these two contradictory statements together, in an irony of sorts it is the Yahwist text that has now subverted the message of the Priestly writer. And this happens on numerous other occasions as well.

Noteworthy also is the fact that the first creation account emphasizes themes whose purpose and importance may be labeled as liturgical or cultic in nature, such as the importance of the Sabbath (2:3)—thus linking the cultic observance of the Sabbath to the created order of the cosmos—and in general all festivals and rituals governed by the appointed times as dictated by the movement of the celestial luminaries, which serve as signs for the appointed times of such festivals (1:14). In fact, there is a heightened emphasis between ritual observances and the ordered creation of the cosmos in this creation account. The second creation account displays no concern for these priestly matters, while on the other hand, emphasizing themes that are important to its own narrative, a sort of anthropological theology interested in such questions as man’s relationship to a personal deity, to the ground, obedience, theodicy, and man’s lot in life. Indeed, all these differences (in theme, style, vocabulary, theology, presentation of the deity, emphasis, and purpose) and specific contradictions in the order and manner of creation point, irrefutably, toward the fact that these two creation accounts were penned by two different authors. In other words, what accounts for these differences and contradictions is the very fact that these two creation accounts were penned by two different authors, and most likely in two different time periods and for two different purposes and two different audiences.

The first creation account is from the Priestly source and it readily displays this writer’s beliefs and worldview. The most obvious is the Sabbath observance. This is not only built into the cosmic order, but it is an expression of God’s presence in the weekly revolutions of this cosmic order. It is also an expression of God’s sanctity and blessing: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen 2:3). Gen 1:14 seems to push this idea further by suggesting that the regulation of the cosmic order serves to establish a ritual calendar whose sole purpose is to provide “signs for appointed times”—that is days for the observance of cultic festivals and holy days such as the Sabbath. In other words, it is a cosmos created for ritual observances! The act of separation that occurs repeatedly throughout this creation account (Gen 1:4, 6, 7, 14, 18) also expresses Priestly ritual concerns and practices. In the book of Leviticus for example, also written by the Priestly writer, separating the clean from the unclean, whether in diet, the cult, or ethical matters, is part of keeping ritual purity, sanctification, and cosmic order. Everything was prescribed at creation to have its own place. This focus on ritual and order is even inherent in the rhetorical form of the Priestly creation account with its repetitive and formulaic structure.

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. It not only sets the interpretive framework for the next four books, but it introduces the central conviction inherent in the Priestly writer’s worldview, namely that the cultic system is woven directly into the fabric of creation itself. Ideas of ritual, order, blessing, the presence of God, and the observance of holy days are among the most visible aspects of the Priestly writer’s craft in this opening creation account. Thus the Priestly creation account establishes the importance of ritual as part of that which was inherent in the cosmos’ creation itself. In fact, the rituals of the cult themselves reestablish cosmic order; that is to say, officiating the cult and festival observances is part and parcel to maintaining cosmic order. It might further be concluded that in the Priestly creation account God is cast in the role of a priest who bestows blessings, ordains the ritual observance of the Sabbath, and in general safeguards the sanctification of the created world. Both the deity’s presence and sanctification is reestablished and reenacted through cultic and ritual observances. This is no coincidence. That God is imagined and presented in the role of its author, a priest, should not surprise us. Texts are the expressions of their authors. We will see more of this as we proceed through the Priestly writer’s composition. The role of the cult, its sacrifices, its rituals for separating the pure and the impure, its observances of the Sabbath and other festivals all function to reestablish the original sanctity inherent in the creation of the cosmos. It also functions to highlight the role of the cult and the priests for the audience to whom this was written. It subtly legitimates a worldview where priests are at the apex, and like the deity himself they too re-create the goodness of the established order through officiating ritual and cultic observances and bestowing blessings. These connections will become more pronounced in the book Exodus, where the establishment of the cult on the New Year’s day is presented, and in the book of Leviticus, where cultic and ritual legislation are set forth.

Many biblical scholars and attentive readers have noticed that the Priestly account of creation is not a creatio ex nihilo (a creation out of nothing). Before creation commences we are told that the earth was formless and void (tohu wabohu). We are also informed that the waters and the deep were present (1:2). Careful attention to these narrative details allows us to see more clearly the Priestly writer’s worldview and what exactly he hoped to convey through his creation account, and to whom!

That the Priestly writer has God create an ordered and habitable world from an unformed void or waste (tohu wabohu) is significant:7 the image conveys that God can create a good and blessed cosmos from an initial condition of darkness, void, and waste. It is at core a message of hope, that even in the most dire of circumstances and conditions, goodness, order, and even holiness can be created. But we can learn more about this initial pre-creation state of tohu wabohu from other biblical passages that also speak of this. For example, foreseeing the imminent doom of Judah by the Babylonians and the coming desolation of the lands and the turning of fruitful fields into wildernesses, Jeremiah professes: “I looked on the earth and behold, it was void and waste (tohu wabohu), and to the heavens, and they had no light (Jer 4:23). The prophet uses the image of the reversal of creation to depict the harsh realities of the Babylonian destruction of the land of Judah and its people in 587 BC. In fact, references to Judah specifically, and the earth in general, as a tohu wabohu, a wasteland, a barren and sterile wilderness, are typical exilic descriptions of the aftermath of the Babylonian destruction as they laid siege to the land and utterly destroyed and burnt everything they encountered, from cities to fields. Yet also particular to this 6th century BC exilic literature is the theme of return and recreation, that Yahweh will bring his people back to their land and once again turn it from a wasteland (tohu wabohu) into a fertile and habitable land. Isaiah 45:18, for example, states that Yahweh has “formed the earth and made it; he established it. He created it not a wasteland (tohu), but he formed it to be habited.” In its historical context, tohu refers to the desolation of the land of Judah in the aftermath of the Babylonian destruction and exile of 587 BC. Yet the allusion to (re)creation is also apparent here. It is a message of hope to the exilic community that Yahweh will turn Judah in the aftermath of this Babylonian destruction back into a habitable land. As in Genesis 1:2, an initial condition of a wasteland (tohu) is created into a habitable world. The passage continues: “I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness. I did not say to the children of Jacob, ‘Seek me in desolation (tohu)’” (45:19). Here the reference is to the Israelites in their exiled captivity in Babylon. In other words, these 6th century BC texts use tohu to speak of the wasteland, desolation, and darkness of the exilic condition, and the aftermath of the Babylonian destruction of Judah. What was brought about was tohu, a state of decreation. But these prophetic passages also express hope that this was not Yahweh’s intention—to have the exiles sitting in tohu. They express hope that Yahweh will (re)create a habitable world from this current condition of tohu, and bring his people out of tohu. They are in short, narratives of (re)creation designed to address the specific historical catastrophe brought about by the Babylonian destruction of 587 BC. The point I’m trying to make is that this specific vocabulary and imagery is unique to the exilic literature of the 6th century BC and reflects these authors’ reality, or at least how they perceived their reality—as a desolation, a wasteland. Since this word (tohu) and what it conveys is only found in the exilic literature of the 6th century BC, could the Priestly writer also be expressing the same idea in his creation account and to the same audience for the same purpose as these exilic texts? The tohu wabohu of the Priestly creation account would seem to serve two purposes then: it describes the state of desolation and waste wrought by the Babylonian aftermath of 587 BC, and on the cosmic level the waste and void that existed prior to creation. If this is so, then the Priestly creation account, like the Isaiah passage above, is a message of hope for the exiles. It is an expression of the very hopes and reality of an exilic community and how this community perceived its own condition. In other words, the Priestly creation account is very much representative of its 6th century BC date of composition and the worldview shared by the exilic community. It is an expression of hope, and faith, that God has created, and will recreate, the world a habitable place from an original state of void and wilderness. It reaffirms to this exilic community, the goodness and holiness in the created order of the world despite their current plight living in tohu!

The Yahwist creation account, on the other hand, expresses the very opposite, and portrays a dismal portrait of man and his precarious relationship to his creator. Furthermore, without even taking notice of the Priestly writer’s themes and message, the Yahwist’s creation account serves to explain the current lot of mankind, cursed to work the field. In fact this dismal picture gets increasingly worse as the Yahwist text continues with the murder of Abel by his own brother. 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 JE 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. In this case, the Priestly writer would be involved in a program of reconceptualizing Israel’s prehistory in response to the concerns, ideas, and beliefs of a particular elite priestly guild in a specified socio-historical setting. Indeed, contrary to the redactor that brought these two creation myths together, the Priestly writer, since he is later than the Yahwist, might correctly be seen as writing a new creation of humanity that was meant to subvert, correct, and even replace the older tradition preserved in what we now call the Yahwist source (Gen 2:4b-25). Why? So that the primeval creation narrative offered up a poignant message to the exilic community it was drafted for, and answered their needs and concerns, while nevertheless expressing the views and beliefs of the Priestly guild that penned the account. 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 reader’s importance above those of the authors.

Appendix: Genesis’ creation accounts and their Near Eastern predecessors

It needs to be mentioned that not only is the biblical text as it has come down to us a composite of older, and divergent, oral and textual traditions, but even the Priestly (P) and the Yawhist (J) accounts of creation display the influences of older Near Eastern literary traditions. For example, scholars have long noted the similarities between P’s seven-day creation account and the Babylonian creation account Enuma elish. For example, both Genesis 1:1-2:3 and the Enuma elish share a similar order in the creation of the cosmos. Like P’s creation myth, its Mesopotamian predecessor also speaks of: first the separation of the primeval watery chaos, then the creation of light, the creation of a firmament, the dry land, the luminaries, man, and then the rest and celebration of the god(s). Like P (1:26) there is also the presence of a divine counsel. There can be little doubt that the author of P used and reshaped the Mesopotamian sources that were available to him in creating the creation myth of Genesis 1:1-2:3. It should be recalled that the Priestly writers were influenced by Babylonian cultural ideas since they were presently living in captivity in Babylon when these texts were being drafted.

J’s creation account exhibits Canaanite literary influences as well. Largely thanks to the discovery of a vast Canaanite literary corpus at Urgarit in modern-day Syria, we know quite a lot about Israel’s ethnic predecessors, the Canaanites. This corpus of literature also speaks about a mythic Eden-like paradise free from toil, disease, and warfare. We are also informed of other mythic accounts where a creator deity creates man from clay. Both the Babylonian god Marduk creates man from a mixture of clay and Tiamat’s divine blood, perhaps to be compared to Yahweh’s molding of man from a mixture of clay and his divine breath, and the Egyptian god Khnum fashions man out of clay on his potter’s wheel. The idea of a tree of life is also central to many Sumerian myths, and a late Persian creation myth recounts the story of Mashyoi and Mashya, the first human pair fashioned by the god Ahura Mazada out of a plant and his divine breath, who were also commanded to obey the god’s laws under consequence of divine penalty. There can be little doubt that both our biblical authors were influenced by earlier sources from which they, or an already existing Israelite tradition, borrowed and reshaped in composing their individual creation accounts. Lastly, since the theme of exile—being cast out of the garden of Eden for disobedience—is so central to J’s creation account, many commentators have sought a date of composition, or a date for this myth’s final redaction, in the exilic period, when the survivors of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem were resettled in Babylon in 587–539 BC. In this scenario, then, the Yahwist creation account also serves as an ominous prognosis for the exiles current state of existence: banned from Eden/Jerusalem,8 landless and exiled. In support of this late date, commentators have noted how the story of the Garden of Eden is silently absent from pre-exilic literature, and only surfaces in other exilic texts.9

The P account has another potential similarity with its earlier Mesopotamian counterpart, namely its function as a liturgical text. The Enuma elsih recounts Marduk’s rise to his position as supreme god among the other gods. In fact the text is more political than it first seems: it legitimates, explaining how and why, Marduk, the god of Babylon, and by extension the Babylonian empire itself, has come to have sovereignty over all the created world. It was a text that was recited, possibly even performing the re-enactment of Marduk’s victory over the primeval chaotic waters, at the great New Year Festival which was celebrated throughout the Babylonian empire, and whose prominent purpose was to celebrate, and legitimate through such propagandistic texts, the enthronement of the king as Marduk’s divine representative on earth. It was a seven day celebration. This Mesopotamian background together with the strophic arrangement with repeated refrain, “and God saw that it was good,” of P’s six-day creation account has led some commentators to speculate that the P creation account was likewise used for liturgical purposes at the New Year festival celebrating the enthronement of Yahweh as king. This political celebration would have therefore been a celebration of order out of chaos, or annually as the celebration of the re-establishment of order. Like the Enuma elish, the Priestly creation account might have also served a political legitimating role in pronouncing Israel’s god as sovereign ruler over the created world. Furthermore, as mentioned above, there may even have been a cultic element to this festival, namely the re-enactment of the act of separation which shares affinities with both the ordering of the cosmos and the re-establishment of cultic boundaries of pure and impure.10 Some commentators have sought a historical setting for the composition of P’s creation account in the post-exilic period, where issues of re-establishing and preserving political and religious order, proclaiming the god of Israel as sovereign, and ritual observances of the cult and Sabbath would have been concerns for the post-exilic community returning to the land of Judah. The different occasions for the Priestly and the Yahwist creation accounts would certainly provide a reason for why both these creation myths were preserved: one had a liturgical purpose celebrating the sovereignty of the creator god’s viceregent on earth, man, who was created in his image and likeness. The other expressed the staples of Israelite theology—torah, sin, exile—and the relationship between Israel and their god, Yahweh.

Footnotes    

  1. The divine name for Israel’s god, Yahweh (transliterated as yhwh), is rendered in the majority of English translations as LORD. This practice, which is misleading as well as misrepresentative of the Hebrew text, follows a late Judaic oral practice 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. Richard Friedman, The Bible with Sources Revealed, 35.
  3. 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.
  4. See Gen 2:18; 3:22; 6:3; 8:21-22; 11:6-7; 18:17-19, etc.
  5. Cf. image of Yahweh as a potter fashioning man with his hands (Is 64:7).
  6. David Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis, 64.
  7. This expands on the observations of Mark Smith, The Priestly Vision of Genesis, 57-59.
  8. E.g., Ezek 28.
  9. See for example: Isa 51:3; Ezek 28:13, 31:16-18, 36:35; Joel 2:3.
  10. See the many cases of breached ritual boundaries and the reestablishment of pure and impure demarcations throughout Leviticus, the central P text.

35 thoughts on “#1a. Does God create the heavens and the earth, then plants, then animals, and then both male and female in his image OR does Yahweh form man from the ground first, then plants, then animals, and then woman last from man’s rib? (Gen 1:1-2:3 [P] vs Gen 2:4b-23 [J])
#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])
#1c. Is both man and women created in the image of God OR is man formed from the ground and is a “living being” like other animals, and women formed from man? (Gen 1:27 [P] vs Gen 2:7, 2:21-23 [J]; 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Tim 2:13)
#1d. When is all the vegetation created: after the animals, man, and woman are created OR before the animals and woman are created? (Gen 1:29 [P] vs Gen 2:9 [J])
#1e. Does God declare all the vegetation and trees as food for the primordial pair OR does Yahweh command that one of the trees not be eaten from? (Gen 1:29 [P] vs Gen 2:17 [J])

  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.

      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.

    Laodeciapress,

    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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