This piece will be brief, as it is intended to answer a question that was posed earlier today on Where I Stand. The question – “Why are there two different creation stories in Genesis?” can be answered with two words: There aren’t. Now, I’m hoping that what I’m about to say isn’t controversial, seeing as both liberals and conservatives, Christians and atheists and all other character groups can associate with at least a base understanding of language and tense usage. Being a believer shouldn’t be an issue when considering what I’m about to write, so take it with a grain of salt and don’t let personal inclinations get in the way of simple understanding.
AnsweringGenesis.org handles this issue at length and through summary. The verses in question are present in the first and second chapters of Genesis and are often utilized to disprove the Bible’s accuracy and applicability. Upon close examination, one quickly realizes that the first creation timeline is not in opposition to the second. In sum:
Genesis 2 is not a different account of creation. It is an expansion of, and comment upon, the events of Day Six of creation. When Genesis 2:19 states, “The LORD God formed every beast of the field…” the Hebrew verb can be translated as a pluperfect. A better translation would be “Now the LORD God had formed…,” which is how it is rendered in the NIV [New International Version]. When read as a pluperfect, there is no contradiction between the order of creation. God made animals first, then people. Correctly read, Genesis 2 does not contradict the order given in Generis 1. Even if one accepts the translation of 2:19 with a simple past tense, there are ways of interpreting the whole verse that do not contradict the order of creation in Gen. 1.
Essentially, Genesis 1:27 is a summary of God’s formation of mankind, whereas Chapter 2 is an expoundification (I just added that word to the English lexicon) of Genesis 1:27. When read in this light, whether you accept of reject Christianity (or Judaism for that matter) you cannot ignore this simple structural fact based on tense usage that governs our lives on a daily basis. When it gets down to the grind, the two stories of creation work in unison to illustrate the ways in which God formulated our world and initiated our being – at least that’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches.