After reading the first two chapters of the Bible, some skeptics, in an attempt to disprove the
Bible’s inerrancy, have accused the writer of Genesis of erring in regard to the record of events occurring on day six of creation. While Genesis 1:24-27 plainly indicates that man was created after the animals, critics claim that Genesis 2:18-19 teaches that man was created before animals. They strongly assert that such language by the author of Genesis proves that the Bible is not divinely inspired.
Does Genesis two present a different creation order than Genesis one? Is there a reasonable
explanation for the differences between the two chapters? Or
is this to be recognized as a genuine contradiction?
Some Bible students resolve this alleged contradiction simply by explaining that the Hebrew
verb translated “formed” could easily have been
translated “had formed.” In his Exposition of Genesis, H.C. Leupold stated:
Without any emphasis on the sequence of acts the account here records the making of
the various creatures and the bringing of them to man.
That in reality they had been made prior to the creation of man is so entirely apparent from
chapter one as not to require explanation. But the reminder
that God had “molded” them makes obvious His power to bring them to man and so is quite
appropriately mentioned here. It would not, in our
estimation, be wrong to translate yatsar as a pluperfect in this instance: “He had
molded.” The insistence of the critics upon a plain
past is partly the result of the attempt to make chapters one and two clash at as many points as
possible (1942, p. 130, emp. added).
Hebrew scholar Victor Hamilton agreed with Leupold’s assessment of Genesis 2:19 as he also
recognized that “it is possible to translate formed
as ‘had formed’ ” (1990, p. 176). Keil and Delitzsch stated in the first
volume of their highly regarded Old Testament commentary that
“our modern style for expressing the same thought [which the Holy Spirit, via Moses, intended
to communicate—EL] would be simply this: ‘God brought to Adam the beasts which He had
formed’ ” (1996, emp. added). Adding even more
credence to this interpretation is the fact that the New International Version (NIV
) renders the verb in verse 19, not as
simple past tense, but as a pluperfect: “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground
all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the
air” (emp. added). Although Genesis chapters one and two agree even when yatsar is
translated simply “formed” (as we will notice in
the remainder of this article), it is important to note that the four Hebrew scholars mentioned
above and the translators of the NIV
, all believe that it could (or should) be rendered “had
formed.” And, as Leupold acknowledged, those who deny this
possibility do so (at least partly) because of their insistence on making the two chapters
The main reason that skeptics do not see harmony in the events recorded in the first two
chapters of the Bible is because they fail to realize that
Genesis 1 and 2 serve different purposes. Chapter one (including 2:1-4) focuses on the order of the creation events; chapter two (actually 2:5-25)
simply provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in chapter one.
Chapter two never was meant to be a chronological
regurgitation of chapter one, but instead serves its own unique purpose—i.e., to develop in
detail the more important features of the creation
account, especially the creation of man and his surroundings. As Kenneth Kitchen noted in his
book, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament:
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
complimentary 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 (1966, p. 117).
Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe summarized some of the differences in Genesis 1-2 in the
following chart (1992, p. 35):
The fact is, “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.... [C]hapter 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). In short, Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are
harmonious in every way. What may seem as a contradiction at
first glance is essentially a more detailed account of chapter one. The text of Genesis 2:19 says
nothing about the relative origins of man and beast in
terms of chronology, but merely suggests that the animals were formed before being brought to man.
If one still rejects both the possibility of yatsar being translated “had
formed,” and the explanation of the two chapters being worded
differently because of the purposes they serve, a final response to the skeptics allegations is
that the text never says that there were no animals created
on the sixth day of creation after Adam. Although in my judgment it is very unlikely that
God created a special group of animals to be named by Adam
(after creating all others before the creation of man—Genesis 1:20-27), some commentators
hold this view. After his comments concerning the
translation of yastsar, Victor Hamilton indicated that the creatures mentioned in 2:19 refer
“to the creation of a special group of
animals brought before Adam for naming” (p. 176, emp. added). Hamilton believes that most all
the animals on the Earth were created before Adam;
however, those mentioned in 2:19 were created on day six after Adam for the purpose of being
named. In U. Cassuto’s comments on Genesis 2 regarding
the time Adam named the animals, he stated: “Of all the species of beasts and flying
creatures that had been created and had spread over the face of
the earth and the firmament of the heavens, the Lord God now formed particular specimens
for the purpose of presenting them all before man in the
midst of the Garden” (1961, p. 129, emp. added). Both of these long-time Bible students
recognize that the text never says there were no animals
created after Adam, but that all animals were created either on days five and six (before and
possibly even after Adam was created). However unorthodox (or
unlikely) this position may be, it does serve as another reason why skeptics have no foundation
upon which to stand when they assert that a contradiction
exists between Genesis 1:24-27 and 2:19.
Archer, Gleason L. (1982), An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI:
Cassuto, U. (1961), A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (Jerusalem: Magnes).
Geisler, Norman L. and Thomas A. Howe (1992), When Critics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor
Hamilton, Victor P. (1990), The Book of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
(Electronic Database: Biblesoft), new updated edition.
Kitchen, Kenneth (1966), Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Inter-Varsity
Leupold, Herbert C. (1942), Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
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