Genesis: One Story or Two?

In my previous post, Genesis: Fact or Fiction, I explained that Christians believe Genesis to be factual history.  The reason I gave was because the Author and Perfecter of the Christian Faith, Jesus Christ, believed Genesis to be factual history.  There were a few comments about this topic.  One person in particular thought Genesis did not “make an inch of sense.”  His objections should be answered clearly.

Before I deal with the objections that were raised, we should be clear about the implications of the way Jesus viewed Genesis.  There are some huge problems with the Christian Faith if Jesus was wrong, if we cannot trust the statements Jesus made or if Jesus was correct and we simply ignore Him.  If we cannot trust the Bible to be an accurate reflection of Jesus’ life and teachings then Christianity becomes ungrounded and useless.  If we trust the Bible to be accurate but then go on to say or act as if Jesus simply ‘misunderstood things’ then we deny the Deity of Christ and this leads to even bigger problems.  If we believe the Bible is an accurate record of Jesus’ life and teachings, Jesus was correct about Genesis and we choose to ignore Him then can we even properly be called Christians?  Perhaps some people would like to say, “Yes.” but the implications of simply ignoring the teachings of Jesus are pretty huge.  Which of His teachings can we choose to ignore without endangering our salvation?

Now, on to the first objection.

Here is what was posted by the person with the problem:

“This post is going to be quite long but you did ask for it. First of all which Genesis? There are actually 2 stories. The most common one is the first chapter, but the second chapter also describes creation and it contradicts the first one.

I am shocked to find anyone still trotting out this old, totally disproved objection to the Genesis accounts.  To be clear, in Genesis 2:4 we find the first ‘toledoth statement’ in the Bible.  These are the words “This is the account of…”  Each time Moses used these words in Genesis the perspective of the story changed.  So the Creation account in Genesis One was told from God’s perspective and with a focus on God’s activity.  The Creation account is retold in Genesis Two from Adam’s perspective and with a focus on Adam’s activities.  Other toledoth statements happen at Genesis 5:1, 6:9 and as each new patriarch is introduced.  So the account in Genesis Two does not contradict the account in Genesis One – it simply tells it again from a different perspective.  This naturally requires leaving out some details and adding in others.  However, nothing which is left out is contradictory and nothing which is added in contradicts the other account.

Genesis Two cannot be seen as a ‘different’ account of the Creation because too many things are left out.  For example, Genesis Two says nothing about light being created nor does it mention the creation of the sun, moon and stars.  If Genesis Two were an account which was intended to stand on its own then these things would have been included.

Finally, referring back to the statement made by Jesus, we can again see how His view does not leave us the option of believing these are two different views.  Jesus quoted first Genesis 1:27 and then He quoted Genesis 2:24.  If Jesus knew one of the accounts was not correct then He would not have quoted both of them as if they were equally accurate.  To do so would have been intentionally deceitful and Jesus, being God, does not deceive people.

So, in summary, the first objection fails to produce any evidence of  actual contradictions in the text and also fails to address the way Jesus viewed Genesis.

The other objections will be dealt with in upcoming posts.  To read them first, have a look at Genesis: Fact or Fiction and read the comments section.

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2 thoughts on “Genesis: One Story or Two?

Add yours

    1. Both of these contradictions are very easy to resolve and are only apparent contradictions.

      First, it is perfectly acceptable to speak of making things in a list without requiring that they be done simultaneously. For example, I am building a canoe in my garage (true story!). After a day’s work my wife said, “What did you do today?” I replied, “I made two seats, seat frames and two breasthooks.” This is perfectly acceptable and means I made them at the same time. Yet “at the same time” plainly means one after another during a period of time. Likewise, I had to build two sawhorses for my canoe. My wife asked me if I made them. I can say “Yes I made them” without implying I made them simultaneously. Grammar does not require the simultaneous creation of male and female. This is an apparent contradiction based on a very strange reading of this passage. Indeed, if you accept the resolution of the “two different” accounts problem then the contradiction makes no sense. Genesis One is a “summary” of Creation from God’s perspective and with God as the major focus. In Genesis 2:4 the focus changes to Adam and so the account of Adam begins with a more detailed explanation of his creation. This is perfectly plausible and was common in other ancient literature.

      The second contradiction is resolved by a better understanding of Hebrew grammar. Verb tenses are determined by their context and the context in this verse, bearing in mind what has gone before, demands the following reading of Genesis 2:19:

      “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground…” This is a more accurate translation of the Hebrew text. This is the translation used by the NIV and the ESV. Even if the other translation was used it still does not cause a contradiction. The reason for this is because the text does not say “Then…” Rather, it says He formed the animals but does not say when He did so.

      If the assumption is that the Bible is generally untrustworthy then one can go looking for contradictions all week long. It is far better to recognise the general reliability of the Bible and then work out how to harmonise the more difficult parts. The modern person who claims to have found numerous contradictions stands in opposition to nearly two thousand years of history. Learned men for centuries have acknowledged the general reliability of the Bible.

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