The discipline of literary criticism arose in the 18th century and questioned Biblical validity with regard to its historic and prophetic content. The creation account has been one of its prime targets both in terms of validity and authorship. Even the continuity of the narrative has been questioned and its authorship split into factions separated by centuries. Traditionally, the authorship of the book Genesis is ascribed to Moses, but critics have tried to assign the creation account in Genesis to the 10th and 6th or 5th centuries BC.
According to the Documentary Hypothesis, Genesis 1 was written in the 6th or 5th century BC. and Genesis 2 was sup- posedly written in the 10th century BC. The two narratives differ in various ways, but also have numerous points of contact as well. In his exhaustive study of the two narratives, William Shea clearly exposes the unlikelihood of these accounts ever having been written centuries apart or even by two authors.5 According
to Shea, Genesis 2 essentially picks up the narrative of Genesis 1 and although everything is not repeated in the second narra- tive, highlights of the account are doubled to bring these issues into view. One example is in the announcement of the creative act itself, which is doubled in the second narrative. In Genesis 1 we read:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
In the second chapter we read:
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. Genesis 2:4
Not only is there a doubling in the narrative, but also the divine name is employed differently in the two chapters. In Genesis 1, the divine name Elohim is used exclusively, whereas in Genesis 2 the combination Yahweh Elohim is used throughout the chapter, and the literary critics believe this to be an indication of different sources. However, since there are points of contact in terms of the chiastic structure of the two chapters and a doubling of narrative phrases and of the divine name throughout the second chapter, this indicates intent and points to one author. Moreover, it is unlikely that this doubling in Genesis 2 can make this chapter the primary source which supposedly preceded the writing of Genesis 1 by five centuries; rather it points to continuity and harmony between the chapters since the second chapter is schooled on the first. There is a reason why the second account seems so different to the first. Genesis 1 provides an overview of the creation events, but in Genesis 2 the focus is the creation of man and God’s personal involvement and relationship with man. This close relationship is highlighted by the use of the personal name of God, namely Yahweh. The use of the name Yahweh Elohim brings God into personal contact with man and is a direct contradiction of the concept of an impersonal God who started the evolutionary process and left it to its own devices.
It is claimed by theologians critical to the literal interpreta- tion of the Genesis account of creation that the accounts of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 do not correspond and that they even contradict each other thus suggesting not only different narratives, but differ- ent authors for the two accounts. In Genesis 2 we read:
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, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. Genesis 2:4-5
After completing the six day creation account, culminating in the seventh day of rest, in the first chapter, the account of Genesis 2:4-5 lists four things that God had not yet done: the plant of the field, the herb of the field, rain, and a man to till the ground. This seems to contradict the completed creation of Genesis 1. Moreover, we read in Genesis 2:7-9
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man who he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:7-9
This sequence of events also seems to contradict the account of Genesis 1, since man now appears to precede the formation of plants which according to Genesis 1 had already been created on the third day. Randall Younker, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Archaeology and author of God’s Creation: Exploring the Genesis Story, succinctly analyses the reasons for these discrepan- cies and provides a profound solution for the apparent inconsisten- cies. Firstly, he points out that the transition between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 does not appear where it is currently placed, since the division is arbitrary and, as acknowledged in many modern transla- tions, the transition actually occurs in the middle of verse 4 after the concluding sentence: “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.” The things that God had not yet created thus form part of the second narrative. Secondly, he points out that the idea of multiple authors raises a number of questions which would place doubt on various other portions of scripture, especially since the Bible writers and Christ Himself refer to the Genesis account as written by Moses and considered it divinely inspired (Rom 4:17; Gal 3:8; Heb 4:4; James 2:23). Younker states:
Especially interesting is Jesus’ comment to the Pharisees about the permissibility of divorce (Mt 19; Mk 10). Jesus asked, “What did Moses command you?” (Mk 10:3). When they replied by quoting Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Jesus countered by quoting from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 (Mt 19:4,5; Mk 10:6-9). clearly, Jesus’ counter-argument was based on the assumption that Moses authored these passages – otherwise His arguments would have been devoid of authority.
What about the four things that did not yet exist after the
completion of the earth and the heavens (plant of the field, the
herb of the field, rain, and a man to till the ground)? These then would form part of the second narrative and an explanation seems warranted as to why these things did not yet exist when the crea- tion account seems to have been completed in Genesis 1. Younker points out that most scholars who had studied the creation accounts in Genesis appear to have assumed that the phrases used for the plants in Genesis 1:11,12 and Genesis 2:5 referred to the same type of vegetation, but this is not the case. He states that:
Genesis 1:11,12 actually reads “Let the earth produce vegetation [Heb. deshe’], seed-bearing plants [‘esev mazry ‘zera’], and fruit-bearing fruit trees [‘ets pry ‘oseh pry] with seed according to its kind.” Genesis 2:5, on the other hand, reads that prior to man’s creation there was no shrub of field [siah hassadeh], and no plant of the field [‘esev hassadeh] “had yet sprung up.”
The Hebrew terms are different in the two chapters and refer to different things. Younger continues:
The word siah, “shrub”, appears in only three passages in the Hebrew Bible – Genesis 2:5, 21:15, and Job 30:4,7, while the full expression siah hassadeh, “shrub of the field”, is unique, appearing only in Genesis 2:5. The context of both Genesis 21:15 and Job 30:4,7 make it clear that the siah is a plant adapted to dry or desert environments. As such, it is most likely a spiny or thorny plant… thus, one of the plants that did not yet exist at the beginning of the narrative of Genesis 2:4b was the thorny xerophyte – the agriculturist’s bane.
The other botanical term used in Genesis 2, ‘esev (plant) is quite commonly used, but the full expression ‘esev hassadeh (plant of the field) is used only in Genesis 2;5 and Genesis 3:18, where it refers to the food that Adam would have to eat as a result of his sin. This food was to be obtained only through toil and thus also constitutes a new order of things and is directly a consequence of the fall into sin. Since Genesis 3:19 states that these plants were used to make bread, the term thus refers to the grains which would henceforth constitute the staple diet of man, and these could only be cultivated by tilling the ground by the sweat of the brow. The plants of the second Genesis narrative thus refer to post-fall food crops and weeds.
The Garden of Eden was largely a fruit tree orchard, since Genesis 2:9 mentions that it contained all kinds of trees that were good for food. A man to till the ground, which was also not yet in the Genesis 2 account, also does not come to view until after Adam’s sin. It is only after the fall that the ground is cursed by God and that toil becomes necessary. Genesis 2 is thus not saying that no man existed after God had made the earth and heavens, but that no sinful man yet existed. Genesis 3 makes it clear, that “working the ground” is a condition associated with sin. The final not yet item mentioned in Genesis 2 is rain, and this is a further circumstances that did not exist prior to the entry of sin. Only at the commencement of the flood does rain become a feature of the post-fall world and is a further judgment of God in response to the fall of man. It would henceforth be the lot of man to be dependent on rain for the successful cultivation of the staple food crops, a constant reminder of his dependence upon God. The introductory verses of the second Genesis narrative thus explain the origin of the four things that were not part of the original creation, and rather than contradicting the first narrative, Genesis 2 forms a bridge between the perfect creation account and the fall of man which is presented in Genesis 3.