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Conflicting Creation Accounts?



By David Kowalski 

"Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind'; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good." Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”(Genesis 1:24-26 NASB))

"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name." (Geneses 2:18-19 NASB)

creationIt is fashionable in some quarters to believe that Genesis chapters one and two give conflicting accounts of creation. This belief is based on a faulty interpretation of Genesis 2:19 which some interpreters believe says man was created before the animals in contrast to the first chapter of Genesis which says the animals were created first. The NIV has perhaps the best translation of Genesis 2:19, saying God "had formed" the animals. This is a pluperfect, indicating the animals were created before man. Even if one were to translate this verse as a simple past tense the statement is easily seen as a parenthesis. I will give an example of this kind of parenthesis in two fictional comments:

"When I started hearing people assert the accounts were contradictory, I engaged in studying the issues related to Genesis chapters one and two."

"I have studied the issues related to Genesis chapters one and two. I became interested in it when I started to hear people assert the accounts were contradictory."

These two statements have the same meaning even though they have a different order. In the first statement the events are related in strict chronological order. The second statement uses a parenthesis, talking about an action after one that comes after it in time (it speaks of becoming interested in the issues after mentioning the study of the passages). This kind of parenthesis is a very common device in the English language and it was in the Biblical languages as well.

Thus, we have three options:

1) The Hebrew should be translated as a pluperfect, thus eliminating any possibility of a contradiction.

2) The second account uses the common device of the parenthesis.

3) The author (or, if one insists, editors/redactors) of Genesis was extremely careless with this text which was considered holy. Over the centuries no one seemed to notice this was a contradiction. Furthermore, very few people did until liberal scholars pointed it out in the 19th century.

Options 1 & 2 are possibilities. Option 3 does not seem credible. I embrace both accounts since they do not contradict each other. In fact, they complement (fill out the meaning of) one another.

© Copyright 2013, David Kowalski. All rights reserved. Links to this post are encouraged. Do not repost or republish without permission.

Written by David Kowalski

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4 Responses to “Conflicting Creation Accounts?”

  1. Don108 says:

    Whew!

    Re: Option One: Translation should be accurate and not re-imagined in order to fit a predetermined belief system. The belief system needs to be adjusted to fit the facts, not vice versa. Therefore, this option is not valid.

    Re: Option Two: There are no parentheses used in the original. Adding them here would justify adding them anywhere, allowing for dramatic changes of meaning throughout the Bible. I'm going to guess you're not going to allow that. Therefore, this option is invalid.

    You have already disallowed option three, so there is no need to discuss it.

    That still leaves Option Four: Two different and contradictory creations are described.

    In sum, your justification is poorly thought out, poorly worked out, and doesn't result in either accurate exegesis or desired outcomes.

    Sorry, Pastor Kowalski. Denial is not a river in Egypt.

  2. David Kowalski says:

    Don:

    I heartily agree that translation should be accurate and not prejudiced to a theological view. Translation as a pluperfect is grammatically legitimate in this case and is why the NIV scholars did so.

    You misunderstand the idea of parentheses and thus miss the point made in the article. I did not refer to the punctuation marks you refer to but to a manner of communication that is quite common in both biblical and contemporary usage. I explained this concept in the article.

    Your option four is identical to option three which you agreed to disallow.

    With all due respect, I would say you are not in a good position to comment on how poorly thought out the article is until you understand the basic concepts discussed. You appear to not know enough Hebrew or concepts of grammar to meaningfully interact with the substance of the article.

    As for "denial not being a river in Egypt," that cuts both ways. Sloganeering of this kind contributes no intelligent content to a discussion anyway. Such slogans are usually a substitute for thought.

  3. John Staton says:

    Thank you Pastor Kowalski. I truly appreciate both your research into the matter and your explanation. I have never been one to see both accounts as conflicting. Nonetheless, I am pleased and impressed with your knowledge and clarification on the subject. Great example given also.

  4. David Kowalski says:

    Thanks for your comment. You are not alone in seeing the two accounts as non-contradictory. It seems almost no one "saw" any contradiction before the advent of "higher criticism!" Now that it is common to encounter that opinion, it helps to be prepared.

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This post was last updated: May. 19, 2013