Genesis 1 & 2 (trying again)

Jonathan Bailey jonathan.bailey at
Thu Dec 2 17:33:07 EST 1999

---------- Original Message ----------
>>I have to say that I completely fail to see how Genesis 2 can be called an
>account of 
>>creation of the world. 

>Why? It's quite similar in creation logic: the world was in a certain
>(unformed) state and God acts upon that state. The motivations seem very
>different from the "first" account, but I see no reason to overlook the
>creative activities.

Well, that's because a story about the creation of the world and a story about the 
creation of a garden do both contain creative features. I am not overlooking any 
creative features. I am simply not imagining congruence where there is none.

>>The account lacks any mention of astonomical bodies, speaks 
>>only of beautiful trees producing edible substances (thereby lacking
>mention of the 
>>vast majority of plant life), and completely fails to mention swarming
>things, creeping 
>>things, sea things, etc. in the account, restricting itself to fowls,
>cattle, and beasts of 
>>the field.

>The first account doesn't mention Venus or Mars, comets or asteroids, it
>doesn't mention flies or bees, jellyfish or elephants, in fact there are a
>lot of things it doesn't mention. It either didn't know about them or
>wasn't interested. This is also the case for the "second" account. You
>don't have any problems with the first account, why the second?

Actually it does mention a fairly complete cosmology when it mentions sun, moon, 
and stars. Remember, we are talking about a people that call bats birds and says 
rabbits chew their cud. Everything goes by external appearance, rather than analysing 
complex biological or astonomical processes. A rabbit chews its cud because it eats 
its food twice (when it eats its droppings) regardless of the fact that what a rabbit is 
doing has nothing to do with the complex digestive processes of true cud chewing 
animals. By this reckoning, planets and comets are aptly described as stars. 
Concerning the animals, I would just say that the variety of animals mentioned in the 
first account (land, sea, air, small, large, multitudinous, etc.) does build a more or less 
complete taxonomical system, while the system of the 2nd chapter does not really 
adequately cover any stretch of terrain.

>>Mentioning of the rivers seems to locate the story in a specific
>geographical area, 

>The known world.


>>the type of trees and animals seem to indicate to me that the story is
>relating the 
>>creation of the Garden of Eden. This supposition is STRONGLY reinforced by
>Gen 2:8. 
>>The sequence of events, creation of man, creation of garden (which did not
>meet all 
>>his needs), the creation of animals (which did not meet all his needs),
>and finally the 
>>creation of woman (who met all his needs) seem to tell me that, from a
>literary stand 
>>point, the theme of the account is the creation of woman, using the
>creation of the 
>>garden as plot device.

>The second account has different purposes in its writing from those of the
>first. The second is much more interested in sociology than the theology
>and cultus seen in the first.

Well, I agree that there are different purposes, though I cannot concur with your 
analysis, as I have not brought JEPD presuppositions into my analysis. To find out 
how I see it, read my other posts on this subject on the list.

>>This is opposed to the first chapter, which is the creation of man, using
>the creation 
>>of the universe as a plot device. 

>The plot device in the first account is the turning of the formless and
>empty world into a formed and filled world, the first three days forms the
>world and the second three fills the corresponding parts of the world.

>  1 light & dark       4 sun, moon, stars
>  2 sea & sky          5 fish and fowl
>  3 land               6 animals & humankind

>And day 7, the sabbath.

I am with you on this much. The sabbath is the end goal of the first account, and the 
seal of the completion of creation. My statement about man was more along the lines 
of how he is portrayed as the end of creation of life. I was speaking carelessly when I 
made the statement.

>>Or the 1st chapter can be what it most plainly seems 
>>to be, the creation of the world, which mentions the creation of man as a
>>element, and the 2nd chapter is thematically the creation of man and
>woman, given 
>>form through the creation of the garden.
>>Anyway, back to my opening sentence, I really fail to see that the 2nd
>chapter can be 
>>considered an account of the creation of the world, and am wondering what
>>this illustious fraternity of PhD laden Hebrew scholars think that Gen 2
>is an account 
>>of the creation of the world that has any place being compared to Gen 1 at

>(This is great tone.)

>If you mean by creation of the world, creatio ex nihilo, then neither
>account fits your expectations.

The second account is obviously not ex-nihilo, and while I agree that the 1st need no 
absolutely be interpreted as an ex-nihilo account, a plain and logical reading will lead 
you to such a conclusion. It does meet my expectations of an ex-nihilo account. If you 
think it is not, then can you show me an account that IS ex-nihilo?

>I fail to see any other possibility for the second account than an account
>of the creation. One of the things that seems to be constantly ignored is
>how the texts were used in those times. The texts were usually read from
>orally: people listened to the text one didn't do then what we do now, ie
>start from the beginning and go till you drop. At the same time one needs
>to take into consideration how the texts were developed: noone set out to
>write a Genesis as it is today. It developed over numerous revisions and
>copyings. That the first account was written later than the second is clear
>for a number of reasons. The first account was written with a Palestinian
>context, ie dry and barren, while the first account was written with clear
>reference to the Babylonian creation account -- note the importance of the
>watery chaos (flooding was very dangerous in Mesopotamia).

>>If my 
>>presumptions are correct, the culprit is the religionsgeschichtliche
>worldview, which 
>>causes scholars to believe that Gen 2 is a much older account of creation
>of the 
>>world than Gen 1, as it cannot be as highly evolved, because it completely
>fails as an 
>>account of the creation of the world. 

>The logic is not correct. The reason why the second account is seen as
>older is the vision of God it contains. God physically forms man out of the
>clay. It's a very sleaves-rolled-up creation, whereas the first account
>shows that all that is necessary for God is to say and it is (though there
>are a few examples that indicate that divine fiat was imposed on the text).

OK. So what you are saying is that scholars to not see what I consider to be the very 
obvious fact that chapter 2 is a complete failure to describe the creation of the world. 
Doesn't suprise me. (Don't get offended. I am just poking fun.)

>>But isn't the fact that Gen 2 seems to be a 
>>primitive failure of an account of the creation of the world also evidence
>that it is not 
>>an account of the creation of the world?
>>My next question is, even if the accounts are two separate accounts pieced
>>(as I believe), does that dictate that they both be considered contending
>>contradictory accounts of the creation of the entire world?

>It's very normal, given the construction of the biblical texts, that there
>come to be "contending" or "contradictory" accounts of things. How many of
>each animal did Noah bring into the ark? Who killed Goliath, David or
>Elhanan? (Look at how Chr obscured the problem by making Elhanan kill
>Goliath's brother!) Who was the king who the patriarch tricked into
>thinking his wife was his sister, pharaoh or Abimelek? Who was the
>patriarch, Abraham or Isaac?

Well, the old "are there contradictions in the bible" question is not something I want to 
get into here. We are all familiar with the opposing positions that on one hand, the 
Word of God keeps its mysteries hidden in the form of strange textual forms, and in 
fact there are only "apparent" contradictions, and on the other hand that any apparent 
difficulty in the text must be interpreted as a contradiction created by foolish 
redaction. So I won't get into rebutting the many examples, but I cannot resist 
mentioning the Noah's Ark example. The other examples that you give me force you to 
buy into my interpretation in order to solve the contradiction, but with the noah 
example, it is obvious to anyone who reads the text that God commanded Noah to 
bring 2 of every animal and 7 of the clean animals. Apparently Noah was expected to 
perform offerings and the like. I cannot see how any interpretation could lead one to 
believe that there is a contradiction here unless one simply had the need to find 
contradictions in the text.

>>Fundamentally speaking, I would like to know what causes modern
>scholarship to 
>>reject the plainest and most logical conclusion that Genesis 2 is an
>account of the 
>>creation of Eden taking place sometime during or after the events of the
>last parts of 
>>chapter 1-2:4? 

>Because it is neither plain nor more logical. You would like God to have
>created everything in the first account then go on to recreated things
>specifically for the garden of Eden. The second account cannot be taken
>literally: it is richly emblematic. It later wants you to understand that
>all human beings were the children of Adam (and Eve), yet the first account
>has the creation of humankind (in God's image) as the last act of creation.
>(Either they all came from Adam or they were all created on day 6.) But you
>seem to want God to created human beings and animals on day 6 and then go
>on to specially create them again for the garden of Eden.

Both accounts are emblematic. Now if reality is also emblematic, which it is, in my 
experience and which it can be, if it is created by an intelligent being, then a true story 
can be emblematic. But I am not arguing the truth of the accounts here. I am arguing 
that they are literarily complementary and that they are not both accounts of the 
creation of the world. I find nothing illegal about 2 incidences of special creation in the 
bible. I don't see where the problem with God miraculously creating a populated 
garden after he has miraculously created the world.

>>Am I right about it being the suppositions about various stages of 
>>evolution of early Canaanite religion? If so, from where does this view
>get its staying 
>>power? It certainly has the strength to stifle any other analytical venues
>that modern 
>>scholarship could produce, and has indeed become a sacrosant monolith among 


Sorry about the tone. Please try not to overlook the question, though.

>>For me, the logical thematic development of Genesis 2 did not even become
>>until I had discarded the notion that Gen 2 is a creation account. Only
>after doing this 
>>was I able to see the account as an account of the creation of woman, and/or 
>>mankind, and/or paradise was I able to view the story with any kind of
>respect, for 
>>these tasks it accomplishes with beautiful organization. 

>To get here you sublimate the creativity in Gen2. What you say doesn't have
>any reflection on Gen2 as a creation account. Ignoring the fact that it is
>a creation account -- we get the four rivers of the world, the garden, all
>the plants and animals , and naturally humankind. The bits you don't get
>are basically the cosmological bits. Neither account talks of creation of
>mountains and valleys, islands, etc., but they never wanted to. How does
>the fact that Gen2 is a creation account impinge on the sociological
>content that you note? How does the first creation impinge on the fact that
>it institutes the sabbath? No creation account I know of was written only
>to be an account of a creation. They are usually attempts to deal with the
>world that is, with aetiology -- how it came to be.

You get four rivers, not necessarily the whole world. Where does your conjecture that 
that was the known world come from? What evidence do you base that on? Yuo 
most certainly do not get all the plants and animals. You get pretty and edible plants, 
and some large domesticatable animals. Where are the fish? Even the Palestinians 
fished. Chapter 2 is obviously a complete failure to explain the existence of the world.

>>As an account of the world is 
>>it indeed a primitive rambling of the creation of a few random subjects
>and oddly 
>>described phenomenon. 

>I read this to mean that you don't appreciate the interests in creation
>shown in the second account.

I think it is a wonderful story of the creation of man and woman which prepares for the 
fall of the world. It is beautifully oranized to this end. It is a failure to describe the 
creation of the world, even a localized world like palestine. There were remes and dag 
in Palestine.

>>Apparently the primitives that wrote it lived in an area of only 
>>beautiful and edible trees? With no fish or bugs? 

>Where are the bugs in the first account? And where is the opportunity to
>talk about fish in the second?? And where exactly in the first account are
>any trees created?

remes make good bugs. And though the question is loaded (because the second is 
not designed to talk about fish because it is not an account of the craetion of all 
animal life) I would, if describing the creation of all animal life, mention fish sometime 
around verse 19.

>>Nice place! Completely contradictory 
>>to every creation account the world has ever known, however, which state
>that we 
>>came from Chaos.

>Would you like to list some of these accounts that are contradicted?

Egypt starts with nun, Greece starts with chaos, etc. ad nauseum.

>>But I would really appreciate answers to some of these questions. Not one
>soul on 
>>here responded to my post about the possibility of supposedly older OT
>books written 
>>in Late Biblical Hebrew being late translations of older works. How this
>post is 
>>received will combine with the absolute lack of response to my last one to
>form my 
>>opinion of how modern scholarship deals with ideas that do not conform to 
>>established dogmas of biblical criticism.

>(Tone. I don't think you should continue this sort of tone. It is plain
>rude. I'm sorry that no-one has responded to some of your posts. This
>happens. It has happened to me often enough. People don't necessarily react
>the way you'd like them to. It doesn't mean that you have to write stuff
>like this.)

Sorry about the tone.


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