Alleged discrepancies between Genesis 1 and 2

By Spencer D Gear

A self-proclaimed atheist has made these allegations against the Bible on Christian Forums:

Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.
Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

How do you answer these accusations? If you have struggles with alleged discrepancies or contradictions in the Bible, I encourage you to obtain one of the books available to answer some of the arguments against some portions of the Bible, dealing with alleged discrepancies. I use three of them:

1. Gleason L. Archer 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

2. Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

3. Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce and Manfred T. Brauch 1996. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

In dealing with some of the issues of the apparent contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2, Gleason L. Archer wrote:

Doesn’t Genesis 2 present a different creation order than Genesis 1?

Genesis 2 does not present a creation account at all but presupposes the completion of God’s work of creation as set forth in chapter 1. The first three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry the narrative of chapter 1 to its final and logical conclusion, using the same vocabulary and style as employed in the previous chapter. It sets forth the completion of the whole primal work of creation and the special sanctity conferred on the seventh day as a symbol and memorial of God’s creative work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole sequence that has just been surveyed by saying, `These are the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made heaven and earth.’

Having finished the overall survey of the subject, the author then develops in detail one important feature that has already been mentioned: the creation of man. Kenneth Kitchen says,

`Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the center of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting. Failure to recognize the complementary nature of the subject-distinction between a skeleton outline of all creation on the one hand, and the concentration in detail on man and his immediate environment on the other, borders on obscurantism’ (Ancient Orient, p. 117)….

As we examine the remainder of Genesis 2, we find that it concerns itself with a description of the ideal setting that God prepared for Adam and Eve to begin their life in, walking in loving fellowship with Him as responsive and obedient children. Verses 5-6 describe the original condition of the ‘earth,’ or ‘land,’ in the general region of the Garden of Eden before it had sprouted verdure under the special watering system the Lord used for its development. Verse 7 introduces Adam as a newly fashioned occupant for whom Eden was prepared. Verse 8 records how he was placed there to observe and enjoy the beauty and richness of his surroundings. Verses 9-14 describe the various kinds of trees and the lush vegetation sustained by the abundant waters of the rivers that flowed out of Eden to the lower regions beyond its borders. Verse 15 indicates the absorbing activity that Adam had assigned to him as keeper and warden of this great natural preserve.

From the survey of the first fifteen verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite apparent that this was never intended to be a general creation narrative. Search all the cosmogonies of the ancient civilizations of the Near East, and you will never find among them a single creation account that omits all mention of the formation of sun, moon, and stars or ocean or seas-none of which are referred to in Genesis 2. It is therefore quite obvious that Genesis 1 is the only creation account to be found in the Hebrew Scripture and that it is already presupposed as the background of Genesis 2. Even the animals are not referred to until Adam is assigned the task of examining them carefully, one by one, in order to decide on an appropriate name for each species or bird and beast that was brought before him (vv. 18-20). But before this phase of Adam’s experience begins, he is brought into covenant relationship with God, who grants him permission to eat of the fruit of every tree in the garden except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vv. 16-17). Verse 18 then shows how Yahweh proceeded to fill Adam’s foreseen need of companionship-first by the fellowship with the animals and birds (vv. 19-20), then, after that proves to be unsatisfying, by the companionship of a wife, who is fashioned from the bone that was closest to Adam’s heart (vv. 21-22). The chapter closes with a vivid portrayal of Adam’s joyous acceptance of his new helpmate and his unreserved commitment to her in love.

The structure of Genesis 2 stands in clear contrast to every creation account known to comparative literature. It was never intended to be a creation account at all, except insofar as it related the circumstances of man’s creation as a child of God, fashioned in His image, infused with His breath of life, and brought into an intimate personal relationship with the Lord Himself. Quite clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the foundation of chapter 1 and represents no different tradition than the first chapter or discrepant account of the order of creation” (Archer 1982, pp.68-69).

E. J. Young has written that Genesis 2 was not intended to be chronological:


“It should be noted that there are no contradictions between [Genesis] chapters 1 and 2…. According to chapter 2 the order of creation is said to be man (v. 7), vegetation (v. 9), animals (v. 19), woman (v. 21f.). But in answer to this it should be noted that the order of statement is not chronological. Can we seriously think that the writer intended us to understand that God formed man (v. 7) before there was any place to put him? To insist upon a chronological order in chapter 2 is to place a construction upon the writer’s words that was never intended. In reality, chapter 2 declares nothing regarding the relative priority of man and vegetation. Nor does chapter 2 teach the creation of man before the animals. Here again, the chronological order is not stressed. The chapter has described the formation of Eden and the placing of man in the garden. It now speaks more particularly of man’s condition, showing his need of a help meet for himself, and that such a help meet was not found among the animals. Verse 1 may rightly be paraphrased, `and the LORD GOD having formed out of the ground every beast of the field, and every fowl of heaven, brought them unto the man.'” (E. J. Young 1949. An Introduction to the Old Testament. London: Tyndale Press, p. 55).

The theological liberals love to play up the “contradictions” between Genesis 1 and 2.  The above explanations provide some ammunition to demonstrate that there are no confirmed discrepancies between Genesis 1 and 2.


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:  8 June 2015.