Are there two accounts of Creation?

Question
Are there two accounts of creation? Gen 1-2
Answer
Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25 both refer to the same account of Creation. Genesis 1:1-2:3 is arranged chronologically and Genesis 2:4-25 is arranged topically.

Creation: One Account

Jesus himself refers back to the Creation account and never recounts a single problem with it (Matt 19:4-5). In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus tied the chronological and the topical accounts of creation together and used them to teach his audience: He said, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female" (quoting Gen 1:27), and said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (quoting Gen 2:24). Jesus accepted the Sabbath Day as a day of rest (Mark 2:27-28), a clear reference to Genesis 2:1-3. Jesus called Satan "the father of lies" (John 8:44), which is a clear reference to the lie he told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5. Moses wrote of Christ in Genesis 3:15 (the seed of the woman), and Jesus confirmed it in John 5:46-47. Clearly, Jesus saw both Genesis 1 and 2 describing the same Creation.

Life Example

When I was a Homicide Detective, I took an initial interview statement from individuals. It was a chronological account of the way things happened. After this I took a more topical statement, an exploded account, of various things that happened. In this second interview, I was looking for more content on specific items; describe the weapon, the perp, the car, the direction of the get away, etc. This approach assisted greatly in getting to the truth of what happened during the crime(s). It also helped to see if the witness was telling the truth or not. We use a common technique in conversation today. We may ask our child what they did today. They may say something like "nothing new;" went to school, played basketball, came home. We may naturally ask them to expand a little more on what they did when they came home.

Old Testament: Chronology and Topical Emphasis

Though the Old Testament has a chronological dominance, there are topical affinities as well. Dr. Richard Pratt, Jr. in, He Gave Us Stories, [1] gives numerous examples of both chronological and topical emphasis in the Old Testament. The next three Tables and their explanations are drawn from his book.

Old Testament writers had to select their material. Often these arose out of topical selections. For instance, Genesis 15:1-21 consists of two episodes: (1) God's promise to Abram of a son (Gen 15:1-6), and (2) God's promise to Abram of land (Gen 15:7-21). Though the episodes are chronological, Moses' primary interests become clear when we see the topical connections:

Gen 15:1-6
Comparison
Comparison
Gen 15:7-21
Gen 15:1 God promises Abram a reward God promises Abram land Gen 15:7
Gen 15:2-3 Abram requests confirmation of a son Abram requests confirmation of the land Gen 15:8
Gen 15:4 God confirms the promise of a seed God confirms the promise of land Gen 15:9-16
Gen 15:5 God demonstrate reliability by pointing to his stars God demonstrate reliability by passing through carnage Gen 15:17
Gen 15:6 Abram believes promise God reaffirms promise;
Abram is without doubts
Gen 15:18-21

By his topical comparison, Moses desires us to see that both hopes (seed and land) were certain, because of the reliability of God's promises.

At other times, topical events are governed by the arrangement of simultaneous events, such as in the stories of Judah (Gen 38:1-30) and Joseph (Gen 39:1-23):

Text
Chronology
Text
Topically
Gen 38:1 At that time ... Deceit, immorality -
"She is more righteous than I"
Gen 38:26
Gen 39:1 Now ... Honesty, morality -
"How then can I do this great
wickedness and sin against God?"
Gen 39:9

These episodes were simultaneous events. the last scene of chapter 37 develops the story until the time Joseph entered Potiphar's house. We pick up there after the story of Judah and Tamar, when Moses recalled that Joseph had been sold to Potiphar in Egypt (Gen 39:1). The story of Judah and Tamar (Gen 38:1-30) therefore, report an event that took place in Canaan near the time when Joseph was in Potiphar's house. So, there is a compare and contrast set up for us; the stories were juxtaposed to develop the theme of patriarchal morality. Judah fell into sin and suffered severely. Joseph remained pure and God rewarded his righteousness. So, a topical connection is vital to understanding why these chapters appear together.

At times, there is a total dischronological set of events, as in 2 Samuel 20-24:

Episode
Text
Description
Royal ?
One 2 Sam 21:1-14 David Intervenes Royal Intervention
Two 2 Sam 21:15-22 Accomplishments in Battle Royal Warfare
Three 2 Sam 22:1-51 David's Song of Praise Royal Words
Four 2 Sam 23:1-7 Oracle of David's Wisdom Royal Words
Five 2 Sam 23:8-39 Accomplishments in Battle Royal Warfare
Six 2 Sam 24:1-25 David Intervenes Royal Intervention

As one can see the events are not chronological, but topical. David's first intervention is closely connected to 2 Samuel 19. The second episode covers David's dealing with the Philistines; the third episode is dated by the text itself to David's deliverance from Saul; the fourth episode begins with "the last words of David;" the fifth section covers a broad range of dates; and the sixth episode probably occurred after the events of 2 Samuel 15-20.

Note the chiastic pattern and the emphasis of the two middle sections on "Royal Words" (see below). A chiastic pattern is a unique repetition pattern for clarification and / or emphasis. See "What are Biblical Chiasms?" below.

  • A. Royal Intervention (2 Sam 21:1-14)
    • B. Royal Warfare (2 Sam 21:15-22)
      • C. Royal Words (2 Sam 22:1-51)
      • C'. Royal Words (2 Sam 23:1-7)
    • B'. Royal Warfare (2 Sam 23:8-39)
  • A'. Royal Intervention (2 Sam 24:1-25)

The New Testament is similar; some is chronological and some topical. For instance, Matthew 8 and 9 are arranged topically - not chronologically. The Book of Revelation is not a chronological listing of events, rather it is more topical; a recapitulation (see below).

Creation: One Account and Its Importance

Now that we have briefly discussed chronology and typology in the Old Testament, we are prepared to look back to Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4-25. They speak of one event; one chronologically (Gen 1:1-2:3) and the other topically (Gen 2:4-25). We understand that this a part of the Hebrew mindset and a common way of writing and teaching in early Israel, and even today.

Repetition in Scripture is an important facet of faith and truth (Deut 19:15; cf. John 8:17-18). The Bible refers to Creation numerous times (Gen 5:1, 2; 6:6, 7; 7:4, 9:6; Exod 4:11; 20:9, 10, 11; 31:15, 16, 17; Num 16:22; 27:16; Deut 4:32; 32:6, 15, 18; 1 Sam 2:8; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron 16:26; 2 Chron 2:12; Neh 9:6; Job 4:17; 9:8, 9, 10; 10:3, 8, 9, 11, 12; 12:9, 10; 26:7, 8, 10, 13, 14; 28:26; 31:15; 32:22; 33:4, 6; 34:19; 35:10; 33:6; 37:16, 18; 38:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 19, 21, 33, 36; 40:15, 19; Psa 8:3, 5, 6; 19:1, 4; 24:1, 2; 33:6, 7, 8, 9, 11; 65:6; 74:16, 17; 78:69; 86:9; 89:11, 12, 47; 90:2; 94:9; 95:4, 5, 6, 7; 96:5; 100:3; 102:18, 25; 103:22; 104:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 24, 26, 30; 111:4; 115:15; 119:73, 90, 91; 119:152; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 136:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13; 139:14, 16; 146:6; 148:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; 149:2; Prov 3:19; 8:26, 27, 28, 29; 14:31; 16:4; 17:5; 20:12; 22:2; 30:4; Eccl 3:11; 7:29; 11:5; 12:1, 6; Isa 17:7; 22:11; 27:11; 29:16; 37:16, 26; 40:26, 28; 42:5; 43:1, 7, 10, 15, 21; 44:2, 21, 24; 45:7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 18; 48:7, 13; 49:1, 5; 51:13, 16; 54:5; 57:16; 64:8; 65:17, 18; 66:2; Jer 1:5; 5:22; 10:11, 12, 16; 14:22; 16:18; 27:5; 31:35; 32:17; 33:2; 51:15, 19; Hos 8:14; Amos 4:13; 5:8; 9:6; Jonah 1:9; Zech 12:1; Mal 2:10; Matt 13:35; 19:4, 5; Mark 10:6; 13:19; John 1:1, 2, 3, 10; 17:24; Acts 4:24; 7:50; 14:15; 17:24, 25, 26, 28, 29; Rom 1:20, 23, 25; 4:17; 8:19, 20, 21, 22; 9:20; 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; 11:9, 12; 12:18, 24; 15:38, 45, 47; 2 Cor 5:17, 18; Eph 2:10; 3:9; 4:24; Col 1:15, 16, 17; 3:10; 1 Tim 2:13; 4:3, 4; 6:13; Heb 1:2, 10; 2:10; 3:4; 11:3; 12:9; Jas 3:9; 1 Pet 4:19; 2 Pet 2:1; 3:4; Rev 3:14; 4:11; 10:6; 14:7; cf. see the other related words in Gen 14:19, 22; Psa 118:24; Isa 40:22; Ezek 28:13, 15; Matt 25:34; Eph 1:4; Heb 4:3, 4; Heb 9:26; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8; 17:8).

As is clearly seen, segments of the Creation story are repeated over and over again, by many Biblical writers. Genesis 1 and 2 tell the truth concerning Creation. If the inspired writers (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21) had no problem with God's Creation, than neither should we.

An attack upon Biblical Creation is an attack upon God himself and all of Scripture; its inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, authority, necessity, sufficiently, and clarity (or perspicuity), etc. Such an attack, demands a serious well-studied reply from the believer!

Reference:

[1] Pratt, Jr. Richard. He Gave Us Stories, P & R Publishing, 1993.

Related Topics:

What are Biblical Chiasms?
Recapitulation: Interpreting the Book of Revelation?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).