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(cross-posted from The Ones You Didn't Hear in Sunday School)

Sometimes the Bible is dismissed as “Just a Collection of Myths”; an assessment which to my mind shows a shallow understanding of both the Bible and of Myth.  But if we’re going to level the charge of Mythology against any part of Scripture, then surely the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis, in which we see God personally shaping the World, are the most Myth-like.  Here we have God forming Order out of Chaos; erecting the Sky; raising the Continents; and bending down to get his hands dirty forming the first man out of the dust of the earth and breathing into him the breath of Life.  Cosmic stuff.

Now wait, you are saying, didn't I say that these were going to be the ones we didn't hear in Sunday School?  Well, yes.  But as Julie Andrews tells us, we should “start at the beginning; A very good place to start.”  And if we’re going to be talking about the Bible, it’s hard to get much earlier than Genesis.  And instead of going into the whole Charles Darwin vs. Bishop Ussher thing, I wanted to just touch a bit on one aspect of the beginning of Genesis that we maybe sometimes overlook.

Most  people have probably heard the passage “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth” and know that according to Genesis God created the world in six days; but they might not know that there are two different Creation accounts in Genesis.  The first is the familiar Six-Day story found in Genesis chapter 1, (plus a couple concluding verses which somehow got put in Chapter 2).  The second, beginning in Genesis 2:4 and continuing through the rest of the chapter, describes the Garden of Eden and describes how God created first Adam and then Eve.

But why are there two Creation accounts?  I can think of a couple explanations.

Tradition holds that the first five books of the Bible; the Pentatuech, or Torah; were written by Moses.  In the 19th Century, Biblical scholars developed the theory that these books were actually compiled at a much later date from several different sources, each with a different agenda and a different point of view.  This has become known as the Documentary Hypothesis or the JEDP Theory after the four sources that are believed to have been used in assembling the Books of Moses as we know them today.  Most biblical scholars accept the Documentary Hypothesis, or some version of it; although some Literalists like to stick with Tradition because that’s what we do.  Others simply shrug and quote 2 Peter 1:21 “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke form God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”   From that point of view, Scripture is still Scripture no matter who actually wrote it down.

According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the multiple versions of the Creation Account make perfect sense.  The Redactor, (the guy who compiled the disparate sources into the Torah), had two different versions of the same story and wasn't sure which one to throw out; so he included both.

But another possibility occurs to me, not necessarily incompatible with the first.  Scriptures often employ a literary device where something is described, and then described again in a slightly different way.  We see this a lot in the Psalms, most frequently in the form of the first half of a verse making a statement and then the second half restating it; for example: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.“ (Psalm 119:105)  Both statements are saying the same thing, but the rephrasing gives us a slightly different connotation from the first, giving us a sort of stereoptic view of the concept.

So perhaps the Creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are doing the same thing:  providing two different views of the same event.  The first looks at the Big Picture, and places it in the context of a Six-Day-plus-Sabbath structure.  The second, focuses on a couple important features of Creation:  the Garden of Eden, and the Origin of Mankind.

Except there’s one fairly big discrepancy there.  The Genesis chapter 1 account strongly suggests that God created the first Man and the first Woman at the same time, on the sixth day:  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27 NIV).  Sounds pretty clear to me.

But the Genesis 2 account has God creating Adam first, and then, thinking it over, decided that Adam needed a companion.  To remedy this situation, he created the first woman, Eve.

There are two ways of looking at this passage.  Traditionally, it’s been interpreted to mean that  Man has precedence over Woman because he has seniority.  But I think it’s just as valid to say this story is about how Man needs companionship.  Eve is not just a secondary creation, an afterthought on God’s part; she is actually created out of Adam’s body and therefore, it seems to me, she has a greater claim to equality with Adam than if she had simply been Adam 2.0.  But we’re getting away from the point.

So how do we reconcile this story of Eve created out of Adam’s rib with the Genesis 1 account where Male and Female were created at the same time?

The easiest solution is to say that both stories are myths and we shouldn't expect them to be consistent because they never really happened.  But really, what’s the fun of that?

Another way is to say that the author of the Genesis 1 account fiddled things around in order to get everything to fit neatly into his Week-of-Creation outline.  Raised as I was in a tradition adhering to the Inerrancy of Scripture, I can’t say I’m crazy about that interpretation; but it seems plausible.

Going to the other extreme we have the interpretation that the story in Gen. 2: 7-25 all took place on the same day; the Sixth Day of Creation.  That was what I remember being taught in Sunday School.  But when you look at it, we have (1.) God creating Adam; (2.) God establishing the Garden of Eden for Adam to live in; (3.) God brings all the animals he’s created to Adam, who gives them all names; (4.) God puts Adam into a deep sleep and creates Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs; (5.) Adam and Eve meet, get to know each other, and presumably invent sex.  And keep in mind this all happens after God has already created every animal that creepeth upon the Earth.  That’s a lot to pack into one busy afternoon.  Yeah, God’s good at multi-tasking, but still, it’s enough to make a man consider the theistic notion that the Days of Creation represented geological epochs rather than 24-hour days.

Then there’s the theory that Adam actually had two wives, one created with him on the 6th day, and a second one, Eve, created out of his rib.  But that’s a story we‘ll get to another time.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A Tip Jar Formed from the Dust of the Earth (34+ / 0-)

    The purpose of this series is to explore some of the more obscure corners of Scriptures, the stories that sometimes get overlooked.  I realize this does not fit exactly with the Stated Purpose of Kos, but I hope my readers will enjoy these pieces, and maybe add comments of their own.

    Because I live for feedback.

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 12:38:43 PM PDT

  •  I don't have any problem with creations time frame (9+ / 0-)

    being a little fuzzy.  Time's rate is not is not necessarily the same for all observers.

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 12:56:04 PM PDT

  •  also the identity of the creator is different (7+ / 0-)

    being Elohim in chapter 1 and YHVH Elohim in chapter 2. My take on this subject here  

    •  I have a similar theory (6+ / 0-)

      about the so-called queen of England.  She has way too many names to be one person, don'tchya think?

    •  "Me, Myself and I" (4+ / 0-)

      I can think of a couple explanations for why the Creator is referred to -- and refers to himself -- in the plural in the Creation accounts.  The orthodox Christian version, of course, is that when God says "Let us make man in Our own image," he is speaking of the Other Three Persons of the Trinity.  Non-Trinitarians, not surprisingly, see this as a stretch; but since there are no explicit references to the Trinity in Scriptures, we take what we can find.

      The traditional Jewish interpretation, if I understand correctly, is that here God is speaking to his Heavenly Hosts, in the manner of a CEO addressing his staff before starting on a major project.  That seems a plausible interpretation too.

      Another possibility is that the reference is a relic from an earlier version of the story composed before the Hebrews adopted monotheism, which Moses or the Redactor or whoever overlooked in the editing process.  That seems very plausible, although it chafes against my Biblical Inerrancy upbringing.

      Yet another related possibility is that the Hebrews continued to use the word "Elohim"  even when they ceased worshiping multiple gods, because "Elohim" was the generic word for deity in the Semitic culture of the area.  We see something like that with the word "baal" which in the Canaanite language meant "lord" as well as being the proper name for a specific deity.  There are places in the Old Testament where "-bal", a shortened form of "baal", is found in names; something later writers of Scriptures found embarrassing and tried to fix.

      Or, maybe God was using his prerogative as Source of Holy Writ to use the Editorial "We".  

      Okay.  That one's just silly.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

      by quarkstomper on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 03:02:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It could also be the second was written to (5+ / 0-)

    emphasize the subservient nature of women. Whereas the first establishes women as equals, the second clearly establishes women as the lesser.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 01:07:26 PM PDT

  •  On the sixth day, I made two omelettes (8+ / 0-)

    On the seventh I reseted.

    Now here follows the story of how I made the omelettes:

    I first made a Nova Scotia Lox omelets.  Then, I felt it needed a companion.  So I made a jalapeno omelette.  And it was good.

  •  "The easiest solution is 2 say that... (6+ / 0-)

    both stories are myths" or, in a Yiddish vein, on the other hand>>> look at it from the view point of playing the childhood game of "Telephone".

    In that game, the first person chooses a word or phrase and whispers it into the ear of the next person in line then each person in a line of people passes that info on by a re-wispering into the next persons ear.

    Those who played such a game may recall that, given enough people, the last person ends up with something other than what the first person said.

    My point being that if one accepts the bible stories as being true, how can that be so, having been passed down in oral history from ear to ear  thru year after year?.

  •  Fundamentalists refuse to believe there are 2 (8+ / 0-)

    versions but have invested a good bit of time in apologetics trying to prove the 2 accounts are complementary and not contradictory.  After all the Bible is seen as inerrant by them (BTW a relatively new theological idea opposed to the traditional view of infallibility of the Bible)
    Here is one such attempt

  •  There is a midrashic interpretation (9+ / 0-)

    that the first being called Adam was both male and female -- hence male and female He created them -- and that God's creation of Eve involved splitting Adam more or less equally down the middle, rather than taking away a single bone and turning it into a whole being.

    This works better in the Hebrew than it does in translation; the word usually rendered as rib can also mean side, as in one side of a polygon or one face of a polyhedron.

    (If you know the song "The Origin of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, this may sound familiar.)

  •  "In the beginning" of the Bible, some guys... (9+ / 0-)

    ...too lazy to invent their own myths out of whole cloth stole them from various people who preceded them.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 02:12:06 PM PDT

  •  Myths dont make literal sense (4+ / 0-)

    These tales are both taken from even more ancient sources - Cannanite and so forth.  They express nominative truths of mans place in the Universe.  These truths are different from their ancient sources - lets say a revelation - to the ancient Israelites.  Sort of like saying to ancient beliefs - yes you got the mechanism right - God created the world in some way. But you got the meaning wrong.  God gave dominion over that world to His creation.  It is his (mans) to do with, his to protect or destroy.  The hard line conservative Christian movement has been ever so busy trying to wipe out this meaning of ancient words - lets say this revelation.  There is no global warming.  We should do away with environmental protections.  But isnt the story of Genesis really a proscription against this point of view?  I believe it has nothing what so ever to do with dinosaurs, who was created first or whether or not women should vote. It instead points to a fundamental truth - take care of what God has given you.

    I also believe there are loads and loads of ministers today in the pulpit that know this to be true.  They are taught it in Seminary.  It is in many ways is accepted scholarship AMONG CHRISTIANS.  But the power and glory of the Franklin Grahms of the world is just too much to overcome.  And they slide into a dark and anti-theological stance that equates owning guns with religious freedom, destroying the environment with Christ, and hating your neighbor with God.  Then they get us all sitting around quibbling about whether there were two wives or one.  Nero himself would have been proud of just how much destruction this has brought to Christianity.

    •  Creation Care (4+ / 0-)

      Some Evangelicals have come around to the view that God's command for Adam to tend the Garden was a greater command for Man to take care of the Earth.

      But among Evangelicals, the "Creation Care" advocates are in a minority.  Part of it, I think, is the idea that the World is a Corrupt and Sinful Place and therefore anything Man does to Subdue It is okay.  It flies in the face of the statement "And God saw that it was Good" which is repeated several times in Genesis 1 so you'd think it was important; but the Church has been insisting that Nature is Evil for several centuries and the idea has a lot of inertia behind it.

      Another part, I think, is that a lot of them simply associate Environmentalists with Gaia-worshipers or Godless Evolutionists or both.  How a person can be godless and worship Gaia at the same time eludes me, but it's a knee-jerk reaction so I suppose it doesn't have to make sense.

      As for me, I keep going back to a remark attributed to Luther:  "If I knew for a fact that Christ was coming tomorrow, it wouldn't stop me from planting an apple tree today."  Taking care of our world and our environment is an extension of taking care of our neighbor.

      Which should be a no-brainer.  So you would think.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

      by quarkstomper on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 03:43:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The "anything goes" attitude also violates the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper, RiveroftheWest, Ahianne

        spirit of the concept of "the good steward." Christians are instructed to be "good stewards" of what they are given, and are to maintain that status until the time of the Second Coming. They are also specifically told that no one shall know the time of the Second Coming. So they are required to maintain whatever is in their care in good productive order on a continuing basis, being always ready to provide an accounting, but also continuing to maintain it indefinitely. Anyone who claims to know when the End Times will be, and so claims that damaging the Earth doesn't matter beyond that time, is blaspheming, in the traditional sense of the word.  

        -7.25, -6.26

        We are men of action; lies do not become us.

        by ER Doc on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 04:19:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lillith is mentioned in what, Kings? She who was (6+ / 0-)

    likewise created from dust and so believed herself Adam's equal?

    I can never remember where that 2nd mention of Adam's creation and companion is.

    Thanks for posting. :-)

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 02:22:06 PM PDT

  •  One interesting thing about Genesis. In (5+ / 0-)

    Genesis 6:1-8 reference is made to "Sons of God" who came to earth and had sex with human women, whose offspring were ancient heroes - giants and such.  In the movie "Noah" they were portrayed as creatures made out of rock who supplied labor and acted as security during the building of the ark.  Now if that sounds ridiculous, oh well.

    Now, how does that square with Jesus' alleged role as the "only begotten son of God?"  Not to mention that Jesus never referred to himself as a "son of God."  He referred to himself as "the son of man."  

    I'm sure there are library shelves full of apologetics that could lay it out for me, but I have a feeling that any explanation I got here would be at least as valuable.

    Ted Cruz president? Pardon my Vietnamese, but Ngo Pho King Way.

    by ZedMont on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 02:56:22 PM PDT

  •  Repetition was and still is a rhetorical device (3+ / 0-)

    But it was also incompetent stupidity.

    Gen I
    1 & 2: In the beginning God created heaven and the earth. . . . and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

    3 & 4: And God said Let there by light: and there was light. . . . and God divided the light from darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

    14 through 19: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night . . .

    [Whoa, whoa, right there. Yo, God, you already divided the day from the night a couple of days ago--ya' know that evening and morning sequence.]

    And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. . . .

    [Writes whl, ff]

    Now, then, any genuine textual scholar would, at this point, declare that some scribe lost his place and then repeated the same drivel all over again. Text experts name this "dittography." But . . . scholars are rare among true believers. Also, sacred texts are so darned sacred that the true believers are afraid to mess with the sacredness and let obviously idiotic sacred errors persist, yea even unto the 105th generation, lo and forsooth.
    Verily, I say unto you, this stuff was made up in about the 5th century Before Common Era (according to a different group of scholars). Philo, a Jewish philosopher who was around and thinking during the same time as Jesus, wrote something on the order of "It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days." And that creation of light and dark and stuff 2 or 3 times seems. . . ? Some folks call this the Hymn of Creation--sing along, ayeh.

    We're all just working for Pharoah.

    by whl on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 07:13:26 PM PDT

    •  "scholars are rare among true believers" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You know, sometimes the only reasonable response to something like this is to point and laugh.

       * points and laughs *

    •  Poems Are Made By Fools Like Me... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It is one thing to say that Poetry should not be mistaken for Truth, but you seem to be saying that Poetry is Stupid.

      I may be missing your point, but since you seem to have missed my point I suppose we're even.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

      by quarkstomper on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 04:32:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, the errors in Genesis are stupid (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The stuff I quote, piled right in with each other, are scribal mistakes that subsequent editors are afraid to correct.

        The 2 fairy tales about creation probably resulted from scribes not knowing which one to include-- as described by textual scholars and referred to by you.

        My dragging in the term "Hymn of Creation" is to indicate that the stuff was never intended to be true. It's a song and dance routine, and looks very much like one of the older dog and pony shows--as some deity invents dogs and ponies.

        Most poetry is stupid. In fact, good poetry is so rare that it probably ceased to exist a very long time ago.

        We're all just working for Pharoah.

        by whl on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 05:01:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  More Poetry (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Batya the Toon

          Well, if no one ever wrote anything stupid, then the Internet would be a sad and lonely place.

          I think the Jewish scholars of old saw value -- or at least tried to -- even in the parts of Scripture that look contradictory.  That was why they went through so much effort trying to interpret and explain it.  (We'll see some of their more creative gyrations next week).  

          Some of the later Jewish mystics held that the entire Torah was one long Name of God, and that therefore every tiny stroke of the pen had some kind of meaning.  That seems extreme to me, but even if they were right, that's only one aspect of Scriptures, and not necessarily the most important.

          A thing doesn't have to be True in order to contain Truth; which is what I meant by my oblique comment at the beginning regarding Myth.  And that's one of the purposes behind Poetry: to express a Truth "at a slant" as Emily Dickinson put it.

          J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis once got into an argument over the nature of Myth.  Lewis insisted that Myths were simply lies, even if, as he put it, they were "lies breathed through silver".  Tolkien disagreed, and by way of a response  composed a lengthy poem arguing for the value and validity of Myth and that Myths can also contain Truth.

          I don't know if I'm going to be uncovering a lot of Truth in this series, but I hope to explore many of the ways the stories I'll be re-telling have been interpreted.  And I do believe that stories have value in themselves, regardless of their Literal Accuracy.

          Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

          by quarkstomper on Mon Apr 07, 2014 at 06:30:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My comment was to belittle the Genesis fairy tales (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Basing a serious discussion of poiesis, as in knowledge rather than procreation or heroic fame, on what I consider the drivel of Old Testament ramblings is a waste of time from my point of view.

            Such discussion is your purpose. My purpose was to cause some readers to doubt, question, and analyze the "stuff" you reference as your source(s).

            As cosmology, it's false. As abiogenesis, it's ridiculously idiotic. If it is, in fact, a "Hymn of Creation," the poetry sucks. Overall, it's stupid.

            We're all just working for Pharoah.

            by whl on Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 10:13:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I think your assessment of poetry is unduly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          harsh. It's not always "history" and it's certainly not always "true", nor is it meant to be. It has a different purpose; that doesn't mean it's "stupid."

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