Contradictions in the Bible

Genesis 1 - 11

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 20:01

IX. The two stories of creation

Written by Gabriel Baicu
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   Many critics of the Bible assert that the book of Genesis contains two accounts of the creation of the earth and mankind. Liberal or not, any reading of the book of Genesis will invite the reader to answer to many inconsistencies generated by the juxtaposition of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. It seems that these two accounts are the work of different authors writing in different time periods. It is also obvious that the narratives contradict each other inmany particular details. The two different records involve Genesis 1; 1-31; 2; 1- 3 and Genesis 2; 4-25. One of the foundational assumptions of this viewpoint is that the Pentateuch was not authored by Moses.

Presumably, several ancient writers contributed to this collection. These authors are referred to as J, E, P, and D. It is the view of the critics that all of these writings were collected by a “redactor”.  

This theory, known as the Documentary Hypothesis, started to take central stage in the 19th century when Jean Astruc, a French physician, claimed that he had isolated certain “source” authors in the Pentateuch. The view was expanded by many others and by the end of the century, numerous biblical commentators had adhered to this concept. Genesis 1 is said to be a “P” document dating from the Babylonian or post-Babylonian captivity period, while Genesis 2 is supposed to be a “J” narrative from the 9th century B.C. The arguments in support of this viewpoint are twofold. Firstly, it is the claim that the two creation stories show evidence of different styles of writing. Secondly, it is argued that the accounts conflict because they reflect divergent concepts of deity and a mixed order of creation.87  

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In this work, I do not insist on certain differences coming from names such as the use of a different name for God, Elohim or Yahweh Elohim, in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, or considerations regarding stylistic problems. Even if they are important details I only acknowledge them and leave these discussions for the numerous specialists in this domain.

I am mainly interested in what are real contradictions from the point of view of an internal logical coherence which is required by any story in order to gain its credibility. There are basic irreconcilable contradictions and differences which come from the logical consequences of the assertions contained by the texts.  

While I don’t minimise the importance of an exhaustive analysis of all types of stylistic differences or textual divergences between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, I also consider that the logical inconsistencies are very important and they plead the case against the existence of only one story of creation contained by the Bible.  

Things which are presented as facts by the Bible don’t correspond with each other and are incongruous to the point that they annihilate one another when trying to harmonize them. Probably the most disqualifying aspect in the attempt to realize a harmonization of the two stories is their sequence of time. In Genesis 1 all happened in seven days but in Genesis 2, in one unique period of time. Genesis 2 cannot be seen as a synthesis of Genesis 1 because the latter reverses almost every detailed presented by the former. If one tries to harmonize the narratives from Genesis 1 and 2 in the way in which so many harmonists do, he or she has to be able to assemble them in one single story with a unique sequence of time. I try to do that in this study in order to see if such unification is possible or not.  

I will use the sequence of time offered by Genesis 1 in which I will try to insert the story told by Genesis 2. If this endeavor is not possible given the inconsistencies contained in the texts there is a problem which cannot be ignored.  Some critics of the unity of the biblical account of creation maintain that it is a useless attempt to try to harmonize the two stories of creation from Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 because they cannot stand together.  James writes:  

“Any artificial attempt to reconcile these marked differences of style, outlook and subject-matter are bound to fail. The recognition that they belong to different periods, the second story being obviously the older and looking back to a still earlier time, is a sufficient and natural explanation of their inconsistency.”88




88 › ... › Study & Research › Answers to Skeptic’s Questions

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2018-10-15 13:57