Three creation accounts

Many critics of the Bible claim that it begins with two contradictory creation accounts.  They say that chapter 1 describes a six day creation in which plants and animals are created before humans and chapter 2 describes the creation of plants and animals after the first human was created.

Actually the first two chapters of the Bible contain three creation accounts and if you study them carefully you will find there are no contradictions between them. 

The first account is Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

We learn from this that God created everything.  The next verse begins the account of how the earth was created.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

This is followed by a period of six days in which God created the earth and a seventh day on which he rested.  In this time it was only the earth that was created, not the rest of the universe.  The belief that God created the universe during this time is based on a misunderstanding of what God did the fourth day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
Genesis 1:14-19

It says that God placed lights in the sky.  It does not say that he created the bodies that produced the lights at this time.  This section begins with the earth in complete darkness.  This darkness was probably the result of a cloud cover over the earth that kept any light from reaching it.  On the first day, when God said, “Let there be light,” the cloud cover thinned enough so that light could reach the earth but sun itself couldn’t be seen.  On the fourth day God removed the clouds completely so that the sun, moon, and stars could be seen.  For more about this subject, read this post:

Young earth, old universe

Opinions differ over whether the days were literal 24 hour days.  The days were literal days but they might not have been 24 hours long.

How long were the days?

Man was created on the sixth day.  The account of how the earth was created is followed by a detailed account of his creation.  It begins with these words:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Genesis 2:5-7

Some see a contradiction between the statement that no plant of the field had been created and the previous statement that God created plants on the third day.  The reference to plants of the field only means that God had not yet created those plants that require human effort for their cultivation.  And the creation of animals is mentioned after the creation of man but it isn’t clearly stated just when that creation took place.

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.
Genesis 2:19

Chapter 1 describes the creation of the earth in chronological order.  Chapter 2 focuses on the creation of man and other parts of the creation are mentioned when they affect man.

Here is how the creation of man is described in chapter 1.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

It describes man as having been created both male and female on the sixth day, but chapter 2 tells us that some time elapsed between the creation of the man and that of the woman.  Since Adam named all of the animals during this time it seems unlikely that all of this could have happened in a single day.  So how could man have been both male and female on the sixth day?  Here is the description of the woman’s creation.

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Genesis 2:21-22

Was the rib one of the bones that we call ribs or was it something else?  Here is a post I wrote that I believe answers this question: Adam’s rib

The Bible begins with three creation accounts: the creation of the universe, the creation of the earth, and the creation of the first humans.  If you study them you will find there are no contradictions between them.

There are parts of the Bible that seem to contradict each other if you don’t read them closely but if you study them you will find they agree.  The fact that God wrote the Bible this way shows that he wants us to search for the truth.

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Posted on January 15, 2016, in creation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I agree that Genesis 1 & 2 are not contradictory, and I like how you present three creation accounts, each of which is complementary. I see Genesis 1:1 as a wide shot and overview. Next, the creation account zooms in and gives detail chronologically, as you indicated, and then the final creation account in Genesis 2:5-25 focuses on man, bringing us a close-up of Adam and Eve. Excellent summary.

    However I’d respectfully argue that the creation account does include the entire universe. I presume you believe that the rest of the universe (sun, moon and stars) was made and existed prior to the work God did on earth. I think Exodus 20:11 helps shed some light on the issue, as it tells us that God created the heavens and the earth in six days. I think it’s basically saying that God made everything in six days. I’d also suggest that it was God’s glory that gave light to the earth on day one, much like Moses’ face was radiant with the glory of God (Exodus 34:29-35) so that he had to cover his face with a veil. Revelation 21:23 explains that there will be no sun or moon in heaven because God himself will be the light. Also note in Genesis 1:16-19 it indicates that God made the lights in the context of day four. I don’t think it’s necessary to imply that there was a cloud cover and that it was still dark on day four. So my question is, why insist on a cloud cover? To me it sounds unnecessary.

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    • Exodus 20:11 says, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” The words “heaven” and “earth” have more than one meaning.

      There are three heavens. Paul spoke of being caught up into the third heaven. The heaven spoken of in relation to the creation account is the first heaven, the earth’s atmosphere. “And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven.”

      The word “earth” can refer either to our planet or to dry land. “And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.”

      Exodus 20:11 could be expressed, “For is six days the LORD made the air, the land, and the sea, and all that is in them.”

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      • Thanks, you make some fine points. But if we suggest that the heavens do not refer to anything beyond earth, then Genesis 1:16 doesn’t make sense to me because it’s referring to the sun, moon and stars in the context of day four, and confirms that God made them. To me it makes more sense, theologically speaking, if we accept that God did indeed create the earth, the entire universe, and all of creation in six days.

        If the “heavens” really refers to the earth not the rest of the universe, then there would be no need for Genesis or Exodus to say that God made the heavens and the earth. It would simply say that God created the earth.

        I’m open to persuasion and don’t mind rethinking my position, but it’s not making sense to me from strictly a Biblical standpoint. Here’s a quick article I picked up from Answers in Genesis as they examine the Hebrew words. Let me know what you think.

        https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/linguistics-genesis-and-evolution-part-2/

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        • In Genesis 1:1 the word “heavens” does include more than the earth. In Genesis 1:8 it refers only to the atmosphere of earth and I believe the same meaning applies to Exodus 20:11. On the fourth day God placed lights in the sky but the Bible doesn’t say he created the bodies that produced the lights at that time.

          If God created the whole universe on the fourth day, how can we see stars that are millions of light years away? Answers in Genesis and other creationist sites have wrestled with that question and while they have come up with suggestions they haven’t come up with an answer that everyone accepts. That is the reason I reject the idea that the universe is as young as the earth.

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          • I’ve really enjoyed having this dialogue. Yes, you’re right that creationists sites have wrestled with this question, and they have offered solutions, but no matter what answer they provide- even if it’s the correct answer- it will never be an answer everyone accepts, at least not within the realm of secular science. As a Biblical creationist I’ve learned that we can’t be overly concerned about whether or not mainstream science validates our theories and conclusions. What’s important is that our science is sound within the scope of our worldview.

            In this case, I like Jason Lisle’s solution- the Anisotropic Synchrony Convention- to explain how light could have arrived on earth on Day Four. In a previous blog I wrote how this allows us to choose the one-way speed of light rather than accepting the conventional two-way speed of light, which measures out to 186,282 miles per second. The ASC means that light would have arrived on earth at the moment that God said, “Let there be light.”

            Whether or not this proves to be correct, I like how simple and elegant it is, and it demonstrates that we don’t need to concede to Secular long ages or reinterpret Biblical passages. I’ve spoken to Jason about it personally, and he’s confident with this theory, and it hasn’t been disproven to date.

            Further, it’s good to keep in mind that mainstream science has a light problem of its own, so we don’t need to concede an inch. Instead I think we should be on the offense and point out how they have to resort to hypothetical entities like dark matter, dark energy and inflation in order to make their cosmology work. Without these, the Big Bang model collapses. In fact many scientists have already abandoned the Big Bang, even though it remains the most well-known model out there. Other scientists are already looking into eternal universes, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to accept the Biblical worldview that God created the entire universe and earth in six days, not just the earth. I also think it’s a view that compliments the rest of Scripture, including a future heaven that mirrors the original creation where God was the source of light. Thanks again for the discussion. It’s always challenging.

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