In the Genesis creation accounts there are certain discrepancies- if read wrongly. The first two chapters of Genesis defy a wooden literal interpretation, not because they disagree with science but because they disagree with each other. Considering how well thought out that these chapters are this is not an oversight. Every letter has been carefully arranged, there are equidistant letter codes in the bible and in Genesis. In the original Hebrew going to the first letter "T"- Hebrew Tau- then counting an interval of forty-nine letters and taking the fiftieth then repeating the procedure until there are four Hebrew letters, the word TORAH is spelt, (in Hebrew this uses four letters not five). Torah is the name for the first five books of the bible. This is no coincidence and is true for the next book Exodus. In the third book Leviticus this is not the case, however the name of God, YHWH, is codified this way. In the fourth and fifth books, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the word TORAH is spelt backward in this equidistant letter spacing code. So the central book acts as the mirror line and there is a composed symmetry with the Law, (Torah), always pointing to the name of God. In the Hebrew numbers have meaning aside from the numerical value. The number seven means completeness, fullness, so forty-nine being seven sevens is very special. Refer to the book Cosmic Codes, by Chuck Missler, pages 126-129, copyright 1999 by Koinonia House.
The chapters of Genesis have been composed with a lot of care to arrange to such a high degree of structure and wording. There is certainly not going to be simple mistakes at the first level of reading. In chapter six there was the story of The Scientist, The Fundamental Biblical Literalist and Aesop's fable- The Tortoise and the Hare; this illustrated two ways of interpreting the fable of which both were wrong. The fable is never meant to be interpreted in either way. To interpret in such ways corrupts the meaning of the fable. This blatant example is used to shed light on the issue of Genesis and its interpretation that is subject to the same misinterpreting, but apparently not so obviously. The material of Genesis is not intended to be read in such a way as to contradict itself; this shows a dogmatic, hard literalistic approach to be wrong. The Genesis accounts only from the scientific standpoint would show them to be wrong. The Genesis accounts are not wrong. The Genesis accounts from a rigid literalistic belief system would attribute being correct to them but the reader would largely be wrong, what could be gained from this type of reading would be limited; there would be difficulty in explaining the apparent contradictions. The reader in this way either denies any contradictions or says that it is true but it is a mystery of God just how. At worst the reader would have to confabulate about the discrepancies. Often they do.
According to the first account in Genesis the creation of man was on the sixth day Gen. 1:26-31. In the second account man was made in the day God made the earth and the heavens Gen 2:4-7, which according to the first account, the heavens were made on the second day and the earth on the third, (although the earth existed as water before this). There is confusion (with a fundamental literal approach) as to what day man was made, the third day or the sixth?
The order when plants, animals and man are made also varies between the two records. In chapter two God forms man from the earth then causes plants to grow and then forms the animals, after this God makes woman from the rib of the man. In chapter one God creates man, both male and female last on the sixth day; the plants were already made on the third day, the sea creatures and birds were made on the fifth day and on the sixth the animals of the earth were made before man was. Was man made before or after the other creatures?
Examination of these chapters shows there are two different creations accounts, each a unit in their own right bridged together by verse 2.4. Genesis 1:1-2.4a makes up one unit and Genesis 2:4-2.25 makes up the next although it carries onto the next chapter with the fall of man and banishment from the Garden of Eden, and the generations and history of man.
It is not that the narratives conflict with each other they are just dealing with different concerns and expressing these concerns in a different manner to one another. Truths formulated into poetry, stories or lyrics are still valid even though the formats are different to each other, as they are to mathematics or philosophy for example.
The first unit has a profound and solemn form of declaration, a creation hymn celebrating the utterly transcendent God ordering into existence, with a word, creation. God works in creation giving form, structure and order more and more until the creation of human beings in the image and likeness of God, and then God rests on the seventh day. The important truths are theological and spiritual. It was written in an age of polytheism with the surrounding cultures having diverse religious beliefs. When the Zoroastrian religion worshipped light Genesis said light was only something created by God. When the earth and its fertility was worshipped the narrative said the earth was made by God and endowed by God with fertility, certainly not to be worshipped nor were temple prostitutes and other fertility rites true worship. Some worshipped the stars and other astral bodies, Genesis said God created the stars, the moon and the sun for the roles they had and were not God and as such were not to be idolized. When the ancient kings set up statues in their likeness to represent them in remote parts of their kingdoms Genesis said man was the image and likeness of God, not stone or wood, these things are not to have obeisance done to them. While some worshipped their own might or the greater human collective-Hab.1:11 "…guilty men, whose own might is their god!" - Genesis said that God had made and created people and so people are not God.
It is thought that this first part of Genesis was composed in refutation of the practices of the surrounding nations. The sequence of creation is strikingly similar to the Babylonian creation myth just as the theology is strikingly different. It is supposed the Babylonian myth or one like it was known to the authors of Genesis, and was reworked to be theologically correct. While other creation myths had a warrior deity battling chaos and hence creation arose, Genesis chapter one has sovereign God creating out of nothing that which is- a unique concept among that time. The use of this mythic format made for a parody, a spoof, on the incorrect pagan myths.
The second creation account in the next chapter uses other words to say God, often translated as Lord God; it is a singular, so again to the writers of Genesis it was God's own doing and intent in the creation of man and the universe. In order to remain accurate and true there is difficulty in Genesis, considering things outside our time zone and dimensions are being dealt with as well as our own then this is no surprise.
The second creation account differs in the vocabulary used and style of narration. It is a creation story dealing with aspects of human life to God, to one another and to the rest of creation. Man's role is as a guardian and servant placed in the Garden of Eden. Whereas in the first account man is the crown of creation having dominion and authority, created last as the climax of creation the second stresses a more holistic view of man as a center of a circle, an ecological existence. Man is defined by relationships. It is not a scientific account except in extremely broad terms- man made from mud and some geological points of interest in a certain land.
The truths are spiritual truths presented through the medium of a story. After the stage is set with man and woman placed in the utopian existence of the Garden of Eden the story goes on to say how a perfect existence became imperfect. The anomaly and ambiguity of life where good comes with evil, the habitat is hostile bringing up thorns, where food comes with bad toil and children are delivered in pain.
From the two accounts we know there is a complexity to human beings:
· Formed out of mud
· Made in the image and likeness of God
· Created male and female
· Containing the breath of life from God
· Related to the rest of creation and
· Set apart from the rest of creation
· Master of the earth and
· Servant of the earth
In both units man is special compared to the animals. In the first unit it is the earth that brings forth the animals at God's say so but God himself makes man. In the second unit God forms both man and animals from the earth but only man has God breathing life into man so that man becomes a living being.
A difficulty of this first Genesis account is the use by God of the plurals "us" and "our" when he decides to make man in God's own image and likeness. One explanation put forward for the use of the plurals is that it is a literary device to build the tension and show how momentous this next step as God comes to a big decision after a deliberation within himself Another explanation put forward that the use of plurals are a royal we but mean the singular, just like the Queen of England uses we in her speeches but is referring to herself. The word used for God in chapter one is Elohim, which literally translated means, Gods, however in the passage it is mainly treated as a singular. Christians were later to see the use of the plurals as being the trinity. These are a backward projection from another time and culture and are not the reason for the plurals. Actually there were other entities in existence at this stage; Psalm 82 has God passing judgment upon the gods of the divine council, Psalm 89:5-7 refers to an assembly of heavenly beings, of holy ones in a divine council. It would appear that in Genesis chapter one God operated through this heavenly court in the creation of man, the use of the terms "Gods" (Elohim), "us" and "our" reflect this. The terms and titles used for God denote the particular mode of operation or attributes of God relevant to the passage. The bible is quite clear to the existence of angelic entities yet Genesis does not record the creation of the angels, (unless the creation of the stars signifies this in that case it is not a literal interpretation). The second chapter also does not mention the angels as such but we know that the serpent is the Devil, a fallen angel, so again the true interpretation is not via a literal one. The issue of God/gods and explaining the plurals warrants a fuller explanation and is the next chapter.
This is not a full exegesis of these chapters but attention is drawn to the differences between the two accounts and apparent clashing on several points of what is said in each. This is done to highlight the need to read the chapters, as elsewhere of the bible, in a way relevant to drawing out what is said by how it is said. A dogmatic clinging to a literal absolute would have the chapters repudiating each other.