The Bible begins, everyone knows, with a creation story. Â Or, to be more specific, the first two chapters of Genesis actually provide two distinct creation stories. It is amazingly easy to read these two accounts and bridge them togetherâ€”but a more discerning review illuminates striking differences.
In Gen. 1, â€œGodâ€ (Hebrew Elohim) creates night and day, the moon and the stars, the earth and its oceansâ€”and then the birds, fish and animals, eventually creating â€œman and womanâ€ before resting on the seventh day. Â The chapter contains a refrain at the end of each major act of creation, noting the order of the days. Â God creates things out of thin air: he simply (and famously) states â€œLet there be light,â€ and there is. Â Creation, it seems, is as easy as God snapping his fingers. Â At the end of Gen. 1, God has created the entire known world.
But suddenly, everything changes in Gen. 2. Â The most striking difference, if one were not to read the work in English, is the nomenclature for God. Â Elohim now becomes â€œLORD Godâ€â€”or, more specifically, the so-called â€œtetragrammaton,â€ which is just a fancy way of saying (without really saying) the Hebrew name of God, or the four letters YHWH. Â In English, this would be like essentially calling God â€œTerryâ€ in the first chapter, and then suddenly referring to him as â€œJimboâ€ in the second. Â The two names are markedly different. Â But English translations simply use â€œGodâ€ and â€œLORD God,â€ and the difference appears insignificant.
With this new name, the creationâ€™s order changes dramatically. Â For example, in Gen. 2 man is created before the animals, and woman and man are not created simultaneously. Â Rather, LORD God creates man (Hebrew: adam) first, then creates the animalsâ€”so that adam can name themâ€”and then creates woman by snatching a rib from adam while he sleeps. Â Note that now â€œLORD Godâ€ does not just snap his heavenly fingersâ€”he must use some sort of molding technique to mold adam from clay, and woman from adam.
So what gives? Â Why do Gen. 1 and Gen. 2 differ so dramatically?
Scholars looking at the problemsâ€”and contradictionsâ€”inherent in Gen. 1 v. Gen. 2 have proposed a hypothesis. The hypothesis asserts that the obvious problems between Gen 1 and Gen 2 are a result of the two independent traditions (and authors) of creation. Â These accounts were then conjoined into what became the first two chapters of Genesis.
This really shouldnâ€™t be the province of PhD-toting biblical scholars, however. Â Anybody reading through the first two chapters of Genesis should see the striking differences: two distinct names for God, two completely different creation stories, and two distinct traditions. Â Itâ€™s common sense.