The Two Creation Stories of Genesis

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The Two Creation Stories of Genesis

As many of you people know for now, there are two creation stories in Genesis. But the first one has an interesting sort of pattern in it, a pattern that explains its odd features. THe pattern is this: God first creates three environments, then creates their inhabitants. In more detail:
Day 1: Celestial environmentsDayNight
Day 2: Far-terrestrial environmentsSkySea
Day 3: Near-terrestrial environmentsLandPlants
Day 4 = 3+1: Celestial inhabitantsDay: SunNight: Moon, stars
Day 5 = 3+2: Far-terrestrial inhabitantsSky: Flying animalsSea: Aquatic animals
Day 6 = 3+3: Near-terrestrial inhabitantsLand: Land animals, humanityPlants: "You may eat these"
Day 7: God celebrates the first Sabbath in the history of the Universe.
And God not only creates in a very orderly fashion, he creates by separating and by commanding.
Turning to the second creation story, we find a very different sequence of events:
God first creates Adam.
But Adam is lonely.
God then creates animals for him.
Adam is still lonely.
God creates a woman for him.
Adam is now happier.
But a certain mischievous snake leads Adam and Eve to eat a certain fruit, and God gets pissed at them, making the snake crawl on its belly and kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.
The second one is much more improvised, and God creates in a very physical fashion, shaping pre-existing material. God is even called "yhwh elohim" instead of the plain "elohim" of the first.


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That is interesting. I

That is interesting. I always thought of the first creation story, coming at the very beginning of Genesis in chapter 1, as a prologue of sorts to the whole Torah. And the second creation story, begun at approximately Genesis 2:2, is the beginning of the Torah narrative proper.

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It has always been my

It has always been my understanding that the two Creation stories in Genesis are from two sources, combined together at some later date, probably after the unification of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah--the differences are more obvious in the original Hebrew than it is in English, with the most obvious distinction being how the Deity is addressed (most folks don't recognize the distinction between addressing the Deity as "God" or "LORD God" in English).

Taken literally, these two accounts obviously present problems for anyone wishing to present the accounts of creation as literal history--the chronology of events is significantly different between the two making them difficult at best to reconcile, and the accounts themselves are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically.

Taken as allegory however, the accounts present no significant problems. The first account places the emphasis on God as the omnipotent creator of all that exists, while the second account places the emphasis on the purpose of God's creation, which is for the benefit of Man, who is to be its steward. Taken as a whole, they convey the truth of the relationship between God and Man--specifically Man's unique place in God's creation.

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zarathustra
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The_Saint wrote: Taken

The_Saint wrote:

Taken literally, these two accounts obviously present problems for anyone wishing to present the accounts of creation as literal history--the chronology of events is significantly different between the two making them difficult at best to reconcile, and the accounts themselves are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically.

Taken as allegory however, the accounts present no significant problems. The first account places the emphasis on God as the omnipotent creator of all that exists, while the second account places the emphasis on the purpose of God's creation, which is for the benefit of Man, who is to be its steward. Taken as a whole, they convey the truth of the relationship between God and Man--specifically Man's unique place in God's creation.

Is there some objective method for determining what parts of the bible to take literally, and what allegorically?  Are we free to take the gospels allegorically (as they likewise conflict with one another, just like the creation stories)?  After all, the gospels "are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically":  Virgins don't have babies, and men don't rise from the dead.

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zarathustra wrote: Is there

zarathustra wrote:
Is there some objective method for determining what parts of the bible to take literally, and what allegorically? Are we free to take the gospels allegorically (as they likewise conflict with one another, just like the creation stories)? After all, the gospels "are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically": Virgins don't have babies, and men don't rise from the dead.


Proper Biblical exegesis requires the reader to understand the history of Scripture, the culture in which they were written, along with any social-political pressures that may have influenced them, writing style (poetry, social commentary, apocalyptic, history, etc.), and the intended audience, just to name a few. Taking such criteria into account, one can get a better grasp on the intent of Scripture, but no--there is no strict, objective methodology for making conclusions with absolute certainty. If there were, there wouldn't be such disparity between the various Christian sects.

That said, as a Christian, there are certain aspects of Scripture that I must take purely on faith, and you give some good examples. The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the miracles--these are all examples of claims made by the authors of the Gospels as that of being historical fact.

Can these claims be verified scientifically? No, and that makes them purely issues of faith, despite being attested to as historical fact by the authors of the Gospels; whether science proves that men don't rise from the dead, and virgins don't have babies is not relevant to me as a believer, since I believe that these things did happen, in order to fulfill certain promises by God. That they don't happen now, to me, does not prove that they did not happen then.

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zarathustra wrote:

zarathustra wrote:

Is there some objective method for determining what parts of the bible to take literally, and what allegorically?

Yeah there is. Objectively, the recording or telling of any historical event in any language in probably all times, has been laced with allegory, rhetoric, bias and comment. Literature is by nature whether it be historical, scientific or fictional ~ imaginative, embellished, encoded and colloquial.

So how to tell which parts to view in an allegorical sense is easy. All of it. It's all in some way analogously but not literally related to our present world, written by thinking people of an ancient world.

 

zarathustra wrote:

Are we free to take the gospels allegorically (as they likewise conflict with one another, just like the creation stories)?

Consider, if someone was to find the writings on this site in a couple of millennia and read through them to find discontinuity between your thoughts and the thoughts of one of your fellow atheists and come to the conclusion that you, neither, based anything you had to say in real experience because you contradicted each other, what would you have to say to them? There is your answer.

zarathustra wrote:

After all, the gospels "are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically": Virgins don't have babies, and men don't rise from the dead.

I'm sure in a couple thousand years people will say the same about the limits of our knowledge. But you'd still hope that our better half of wisdom could stand the test of time, right?

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Eloise wrote:

{edit} oops double post


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The way I read Genesis . . .

To answer your question as to why there seem to be two different accounts of creation in Genesis, here is the way I read it.

First off, Chapter 1 is the overview or summary of all creation, starting out with a basic universe and building upon it and detailing it with each new day, ending with man and woman on the sixth day as the pinnacle of His creation. 

Then if you continue to read, you get to Chapter 2 verse 4 which says,  "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens."

 In other words, at this point in Genesis, it's saying here is a more detailed account of what happened on the sixth day as it goes on to describe how God created man first on that day, and then woman later in the day when Adam was sleeping.

So I don't read it like two different accounts, but one is a general version and the other a more detailed version of the sixth day.

Understand?


zarathustra
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Eloise wrote:

Eloise wrote:
zarathustra wrote:

Is there some objective method for determining what parts of the bible to take literally, and what allegorically?

Yeah there is. Objectively, the recording or telling of any historical event in any language in probably all times, has been laced with allegory, rhetoric, bias and comment.

Does genesis therefore purport to be in any way historical, or is it entirely allegorical? Are adam and eve historical figures, or merely symbols?

Eloise wrote:

Consider, if someone was to find the writings on this site in a couple of millennia and read through them to find discontinuity between your thoughts and the thoughts of one of your fellow atheists and come to the conclusion that you, neither, based anything you had to say in real experience because you contradicted each other, what would you have to say to them? There is your answer.

I certainly would not say to them to take my words allegorically.

There is not my answer. Is the resurrection a historical event, or only allegory?

Eloise wrote:

zarathustra wrote:

After all, the gospels "are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically": Virgins don't have babies, and men don't rise from the dead.

I'm sure in a couple thousand years people will say the same about the limits of our knowledge. But you'd still hope that our better half of wisdom could stand the test of time, right?

Yes, I would hope so. And religion is not in that better half.

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zarathustra wrote:

zarathustra wrote:
Eloise wrote:
zarathustra wrote:

Is there some objective method for determining what parts of the bible to take literally, and what allegorically?

Yeah there is. Objectively, the recording or telling of any historical event in any language in probably all times, has been laced with allegory, rhetoric, bias and comment.

Does genesis therefore purport to be in any way historical, or is it entirely allegorical? Are adam and eve historical figures, or merely symbols?

Is it historical? no, definitely no, this story heralds from a culture without the means or linguistic sophistication to keep an historical record of even a low standard as demanded by our modern culture. Though that would also define a lack of sophisticated ability to gloss embellish or outright lie a history by the same token. So I would say its a reasonably reliable account of something, it's just really unlikely that something is pure history by our standards, it more realistically could be called remembrance. They may have been remembering something which was stored in subconscious in early man, or something which was in some way a carry over program from a preconscious part of the brain of early man, or it could have been experiential, but by all accounts the flood myth was probably not experiential in the trusted sense that we can determine.

From a less involved position it's best to consider it as an artistic rendering, a fiction expressing some hidden philosophical portion of the psyche in contemporary words for the people of the time. Like any fiction there would be some existential undertone which is of timeless significance and that would be closest to the historical truth of it. The rest must essentially be taken as allegory. So Adam and Eve were not merely symbols, but yes basically symbols overall.

 

Quote:
Eloise wrote:

Consider, if someone was to find the writings on this site in a couple of millennia and read through them to find discontinuity between your thoughts and the thoughts of one of your fellow atheists and come to the conclusion that you, neither, based anything you had to say in real experience because you contradicted each other, what would you have to say to them? There is your answer.

I certainly would not say to them to take my words allegorically.

Not allegorically by our standards no, I can respect that. But such standards are subject to change dramatically over the course of time and there probably would be few bridges between us and them that were not allegorical.

But that wasn't my question, my question was regarding our individual worldviews and renderings of the same into literary symbols, it's not rare that our accounts don't meet up even when we are looking at the same thing. I wrote a little thought experiment about this when I was eighteen and it goes like this. Three people see a cat sit on a hat. One says 'I saw a ginger cat walk over here and sit at this spot'. The second says 'I saw Fred's hat get squashed'; the third says 'There was a furry object over there, it walked away' All saw the same thing, but if you didn't, how could you really be sure. For each person a different aspect of the event was important and by that very token even while they might swear their account was the most literal they can't escape their own aesthetic nature. One saw a cat coming, one saw it leaving, one saw the hat only and could identify with the owner of it more than anything else they were seeing. The more people and events you add to the mix the more this issue exponentiates. You never assume that someone is right to claim themselves a literal account of anything, we don't notice ourselves exponentiating our own diversity at all.

Quote:

There is not my answer. Is the resurrection a historical event, or only allegory?

I think it may well be an account as claimed, with some mystical overtones that are not necessarily what they seem; but who is to say there was no bait and switch situation going on there, after all Peter said he didn't know the man they hung on the cross, three times.

 

Quote:
Eloise wrote:

zarathustra wrote:

After all, the gospels "are obviously at odds with what we now know scientifically": Virgins don't have babies, and men don't rise from the dead.

I'm sure in a couple thousand years people will say the same about the limits of our knowledge. But you'd still hope that our better half of wisdom could stand the test of time, right?

Yes, I would hope so. And religion is not in that better half.

I think we agree on that.

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lpetrich wrote:Turning to

lpetrich wrote:
Turning to the second creation story, we find a very different sequence of events:

 God first creates Adam. But Adam is lonely. God then creates animals for him. Adam is still lonely. God creates a woman for him. Adam is now happier. ... The second one is much more improvised, and God creates in a very physical fashion, shaping pre-existing material. God is even called "yhwh elohim" instead of the plain "elohim" of the first.
 

OK sorry I'm a bit late but I figured zarathustra wanted me to engage this one...

Genesis 2: 4-8 (NASB) This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground (right here this matches Gen 1:6). Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

The second part after the mist sure sounds to me as if the garden was already there.  I don't read it saying, "THEN the LORD planted..."  So how is it that you came across it with a discontinuation of events?

What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason. - Voltaire


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Basically the first creation

Basically the first creation story is based on the 6 days and the second creation story is based on the 6th day alone. Pretty simple.


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Cadalyst wrote:Basically the

Cadalyst wrote:
Basically the first creation story is based on the 6 days and the second creation story is based on the 6th day alone. Pretty simple.

That's a common argument, but the details of the two stories are far too different, and the Bible itself does not state that would-be reconciliation. How different?

God's overall style of creating? 1: systematic and step-by-step, 2: improvised, create-as-you-go

In what order does God create? 1: everything else, then both sexes of humanity, 2: first man, animals, first woman (from first man!)

How does God create? 1: Separating and commanding, 2: Physically forming pre-existing material and bringing to life

God's mood? 1: Happy, and so happy at the end that he decided to celebrate the Universe's first Sabbath, 2: Rather exasperated and pissed off at the end, it seems

God's name? 1: Elohim, 2: Yahweh Elohim

Etc.