One of the common allegations thrown against creationists is that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are contradictory. This claim is popular, repeated ad nauseum by both old earth Christians and the atheist critics of the Bible. However, it is purely bogus. In making claims that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict one another, the scoffers assume facts not in evidence. Let’s have a look at Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and see if they conflict.
Starting in verse seven of chapter 2, we begin to hear about God planting the Garden of Eden. This is where the first objection arises. Some people object that this must be after the seventh day because it falls after the seventh day in the text. While I can understand where people who think this come from, the objection has no weight. In verse four of the chapter, we get a clear delineation of a break in chronology. That verse closes the first week of creation and sets up a parenthetical for the rest of the chapter. “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 verse four serves as an end point for the days of creation and permits the introduction of a new thought that is not chronological.
The astute among you may have noticed that verse four contains the word “day” (Hebrew yowm). This is the same word used in the first chapter which I and other creationists argue means a 24 hour day. Yet were it to mean a 24 hour day here, it would contradict the first chapter. The answer lies in the context. Like in English, the Hebrew word for “day” can have multiple meanings. And, like in English, context determines the meaning. Any time “yowm” is accompanied by evening, morning, night, or a number, or some combination of the above, it means a 24 hour day, like it does when Joshua marches around Jericho and when Jonah is in the great fish. However, it can be used, as in this context, to represent an indefinite length of time, much like the use of the phrase “the day of the Lord” in other passages. In this case, because Genesis 1 gives us a clear description of the length of time it took God to create, we can easily interpret Genesis 2:4’s use of “yowm” to mean seven, twenty-four hour days.
Proceeding through Genesis 2, we find God again discuss making man, filling in more details. Some might object that this involves a second creation of man. However, given that God is giving us details absent in the first account, and there is no enumeration of days like the first account, this is best understood as a parenthetical note. Another objection comes from the Garden of Eden being made after man. While this is not set out in the first passage, it’s possible the Garden was made before God made man and the parenthetical tells us about it, or that it was made after and for man. Neither is contrary to the text as it is written.
The next objection is that there is simply not enough time in day six for everything to occur, assuming that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 discuss the same event. But what must occur on the sixth day. God makes the animals, God makes man, man names the animals, God makes woman, maybe God makes the Garden of Eden. How long does it take God to create? Is He not God? Could he simply not speak everything into existence in a moment? Obviously the answer is yes. So the formation of man, woman, the animals and maybe the Garden are not a problem. There is an appeal to a gap between man being made and woman being made because God brings the animals to Adam to name. This would take some time, but not enough to make it longer than a single day. Answers in Genesis has a good article on this topic.
It can be argued that the order of Genesis 2 contradicts with Genesis 1 because Genesis 1 claims that Adam was made after the animals while Genesis 2 lists him first. This does not hold water because Genesis two is not attempting to be completely chronological. It is a parenthetical focused on man, the crown jewel of God’s creation. Thus while the text lists animals as being made after man, God could simply be bringing the reader up to speed ie that the animals were made and now brought to Adam. This resolves all the potential for contradictions.
God does not contradict Himself, that we know. Therefore, the text of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 cannot be contradictory if God is their author. As we have seen, there are no contradictions between the passages. The Bible all fits together because it has the ultimately consistent Author, the Creator God.
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