Does Genesis 2 contradict with Genesis 1, and doesn’t this indicate that at least two different authors were involved in putting Genesis together? I’m writing about this now because Dad searched here and at the Fellowship Hall on the subject, to no avail. I don’t know if he tried Google or not, but there are probably hundreds — if not thousands — of Christians out there providing answers to the subject of the apparent Genesis 1 & 2 contradiction. How cool that he checked my sites and let me know that, well, my material was lacking! Hopefully, this post will fill the gap and make up for it.
Okay, welcome back. So, what exactly are we dealing with here? What is the claimed contradiction? Well, it is made up of the following, taken from Are There Contradictions in the Bible (Ralph O. Muncaster):
- Genesis 2:5-7 seems to indicate that man was created before vegetation.
- Genesis 1:12 indicates vegetation was created on day 3; Genesis 1:27 indicates man and woman were created on day 6.
- Genesis 2:7, 19 seem to indicate that animals were created after mankind.
- Genesis 1:20-25 indicates animals were created on days 5 and 6 and in Genesis 1:26, 27, the Bible indicates man and woman were created later on day 6.
So, there are two sets of seemingly contradictory details which can be found in the first two chapters of Genesis. Let’s look at the first two propositions and see whether they are truly irreconcilable.
The Order of Vegetation & Man
Genesis 1:12 states that, “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Simple enough. Now, let’s grab that bit from chapter 2, verses 5-7: “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” And for completion sake, I think verse 8 should be given as well, “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”
It is very apparent in Genesis 1 that plants preceded humanity but three days. However, does Genesis 2 disagree? Absolutely not. In fact, we see that prior to man’s creation, the creation of vegetation is described (2:4, 5), as well as the initial watering of such vegetation (2:6). These couple of verses are an expansion of the account given in chapter 1 verse 12.
Based on Genesis 2 alone, we don’t know the timespan between verses 6 (the watering of the plants via a mist) and 7 (the creation of man). The beginning of verse 7 (“And…”) simply indicates that there is a progression in events. From chapter 1, we see that 3 days have passed.
Many seem to mistake verse 8 in chapter 2 (the planting of Eden) as the creation of vegetation. That simply is not so. Eden was not the whole Earth (lest there be no land for Nod [4:16]). And the garden planted was simply “eastward in Eden.” This special planting does not constitute the same creation of plants that occurred in 1:12.
So, both Genesis 1 and 2 agree on the order that vegetation & man were created. Genesis 2, however, gives us a bit more detail, rather than the brisk survey of creation found in chapter 1.
The Order of Animals & Man
Genesis 1:20-25 states: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and god saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Immediately after that, in verses 26-28, we are told of the creation of man. So, the order in Genesis 1 is clearly animals then man.
What says the second chapter? The relevant verses are 7 and 19.
Chapter 2 verse 7 says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
And then verse 19: “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: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.”
The order of events in chapter 2 is important to observe:
- 2:1-3 The conclusion of chapter 1’s quick survey of creation.
- 2:4 An introduction to chapter 2, “These are the generations…” (Or, “this is the history…”)
- 2:5-6 An insight into Day 3.
- 2:7 Creation of Adam.
- 2:8-17 Creation of the garden in Eden, and man’s placement therein.
- 2:18 It isn’t good for man to be alone.
That brings us up to the creation of some animals in verse 19. Man is in Eden, and he’s alone. While there were a myriad of creatures created on Days Five and earlier in Day Six, none of them had been placed in Eden, which was freshly planted. Man was placed there solitary, but that wasn’t good. So what we have in verse 19 is an additional creation of animals, farther on in Day Six. This time, only land animals and fowls of the air were brought forth to Adam to be named.
And finally, after that, we come to verse 21, at which point Adam is falling asleep and the formation of Eve is not far behind.
There isn’t any contradictions in those events. It is, however, crucial to read how chapter 2 begins. Indeed, it ties directly into the end of chapter 1, and then tells us that we’re now going to learn some of the history of the earth when it was created. How were plants tended to if it hadn’t yet rained? What’s up with Eden? Where did Eve come from? When was man placed over the animals? Genesis 2 provides us the answers.
In fact, let me put it this way for you:
- Genesis 2:5-6 corresponds to Genesis 1:12.
- Genesis 2:7-25 corresponds to Genesis 1:26-30.
I think that pretty much covers everything. I went into a tiny bit more detail than I had planned to, and certainly more than Ralph Muncaster did in the book I quoted earlier. However, I found his explanation simply assumed too much and was disappointingly incomplete, not even dealing with the second set of propositions I quoted from his book above.
- Genesis Contradictions?
- Cration Account, Times Two or, Was the Author of Genesis 1-2 a Flaming Knucklehead?
- Does Genesis 1 Contradict Genesis 2?
I’ll be the first to admit that there will be readers who don’t like my explanations. If we have to try so hard to make the text work, then obviously the “contradiction” is what is in the text, not long-winded explanations. The law of noncontradiction, as Aristotle stated it, maintains that “one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”
For a contradiction to remain a contradiction, it must have no logical reconciliations. I believe that Genesis 1 & Genesis 2 are harmonious, and that any contradiction present is merely apparent and not inherent in the text.
If a reconciliatory explanation exists for texts which appear contradictory, and if such reconciliation is itself logically sound, then the burden is on the one claiming contradiction to provide a logically sound contradiction.