Creating Stories of Creation

*Author’s Note* As this is my first official post, please bear with me if it is long-winded and academic. The beginning part is certainly a little drier than the rest, but I felt it was necessary to explain how I view the story intellectually in order to make sense out of some truths behind it. Please enjoy.

What if I told you that the “Creation Story” that occurs in the Book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, was in actuality two different versions of creation? If you have studied the Bible academically, then this comes as no surprise. If not, allow me a moment to explain further. Granted this will be brief, but I think it gets the relevant points across.

Many scholars hold that the creation account in the Bible comes from two different literary sources. In Genesis, the first account occurs  between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:3. The second story occurs from Genesis 2:4b (that is, the middle of verse 4), through the end of Chapter 2. The second story (Adam and Eve, dust, etc.) comes from the J-source (I would explain that, but not enough time here) and is the older of the two stories. This you could date, give or take a few hundred years, to somewhere around 850 BC. The narrative of Genesis 1 comes from what is called the P (or Priestly) source, and dates from after the Israelites returned from the Babylonian Exile, sometime between 550 and 450 B.C. Finally, the two stories were put together in what is the Book of Genesis at some point after this last date.

Briefly, here is the evidence scholars use:

* Different names for God (אלהים “Elohim” in Genesis 1) and the name of God (יהוה “Yahweh” in Genesis 2).

* Differences in how creation works (by spoken word in Genesis 1, and by physical manipulation in Genesis 2).

*Inconsistent details: Genesis 1 concludes with the creation of humans, male and female at the same time. In Genesis 2, God creates humans before plant life appears, then creates Adam, followed by Eve.

*Overall differences in style and approach.

Still with me? Again, I’m leaving out many details, but this is the brief sketch of how scholars have reacted to this story.

How do I deal with it? Does one’s faith, particularly a Christian’s, depend on the “historical accuracy” and literal truth of these narratives? Not at all! The Israelites were engaging in a practice that was common in the ancient world and still to this day: They attempted to understand where we, as humans, came from. Two different stories tells me that their thinking changed and evolved, especially when you consider that the Genesis 1 story bears striking resemblance to a Babylonian creation story called the Ennuma Elish.  That story alone may warrant a post, but that will have to wait for a future date.

After all, as different as the two stories in Genesis are, the common thread that they share is that the divine is infused in all of us, whether that is in the image of God or whether we are infused with the wind or breath (the same Hebrew word in Genesis 2 can be translated either way) of the divine. I think that is the heart and lasting power of both of these stories, and a concept that people over 2500 years ago understood.

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2 Responses to Creating Stories of Creation

  1. Jordan says:

    There’s a third version:

  2. Muse says:

    I think recognizing the divine in each other each day is difficult for humanity. Seeing the divine in one another regularly in marriage relationships, work relationships, or a passing stranger is the goal.

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