Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?

It is very common for people to object to the idea that the early chapters of Genesis are literally true. One of the most common objections raised is that of two creation accounts. It is said that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 contain two different creation myths that cannot both be true. In chapter 1, man and woman are created at the same time after the creation of the animals. In chapter 2, the animals are created after people.

This apparent contradiction is best illustrated by looking at Genesis 2:19.

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them (NKJV).

The language appears to suggest that God made the animals after making Adam and then He brought the animals to Adam. However, in Genesis 1, we have an account of God creating animals and then creating men and women.

The difficulty with Genesis 2:19 lies with the use of the word formed. The same style is read in the KJV.

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.

Pluperfect

The ESV has a subtly different rendition.

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

The ESV suggests a different way of viewing the first two chapters of Genesis. Genesis 2 does not suggest a chronology. That is why the ESV suggests using the style “the LORD God had formed every beast of the field.” Therefore, the animals being brought to Adam had already been made and were not being brought to him immediately after their creation. Interestingly, Tyndale agrees with the ESV—and Tyndale’s translation predates the KJV.

And after yt the LORde God had make of the erth all maner beastes of the felde and all maner foules of the ayre he brought them vnto Adam to see what he wold call them. And as Ada called all maner livynge beastes: eve so are their names.

Tyndale and the ESV are correct on this verse because the verb in the sentence can be translated as pluperfect rather than perfect and this is what the context demands. The pluperfect tense can be considered as the past of the past—that is to say, in a narration set in the past, the event to which the narration refers is already further in the past. Once the pluperfect is taken into account, the perceived contradiction completely disappears.

We need a final comment on alleged contradictions in the Bible, such as this. Contradictions are easy to spot, if we deliberately try to find them. However, our presupposition should really be that the Bible is inerrant and authoritative. When we approach an alleged contradiction, with the correct a priori position that the Bible is true, we see that there are always rational and reasonable ways of reading these passages that do not involve contradictions.

[This article was adapted, with modifications, from a chapter in the New Answers Book 2]

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