“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
The famous opening line of the Bible summarizes God’s creation of the universe. The first two chapters of Genesis record the creation of everything. Genesis 1 describes the creation of light, dry land, oceans, plants, the sun, the moon, stars, fish, birds, animals and mankind.
Genesis 2 tells of God’s seventh day rest from the creation work. The second chapter then goes on to describe how God formed Adam out of dirt, planted a garden in Eden, placed Adam in the garden, instructed Adam to name the animals and then made Eve.
The differences between Genesis 1 and 2 form the basis of claims that Genesis contains two separate and different creation accounts. The perceived contradictions between the two chapters are presented as evidence that Scriptures is not a reliable historical record. How do Christians, especially those who believe the earth is less than ten thousand years old, explain the problems between these two chapters?
Like many supposed contradictions in the Bible the problems of Genesis 1 and 2 are not problems at all. The differences between the first two chapter of Genesis are not contradictions. Genesis 1 provides the overview of all of God’s creative work. Genesis 2 focuses on God’s work to create man and a suitable habitation for mankind. Genesis 2 adds detail to the record of man’s creation.
At this point a reader may object that Genesis 2 says God caused the trees to grow after He made Adam. Genesis 2:8 answers the objection. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden.” The trees growing in Genesis 2 are only the trees in the Garden of Eden not all trees on earth. God planted the garden by causing specific trees to grow out of the ground where He wanted them to grow. God could have made the garden by transplanting trees from other places on earth. He did not. The trees He desired to be in the garden of Eden He commanded to spring up in their proper place. God’s creating trees in the Garden of Eden on the sixth day does not contradict the Genesis 1 description of God creating plant life on day three.
What about when Genesis 2 says that God made the animals and birds after He made Adam? Genesis 1 says all the flying creatures were made on the fifth day of creation, and it says God made the animals before He made man. How could that be true if they were created after Adam? In the King James Version Genesis 2:18-19 is translated, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” At first glance it looks like Genesis 2 is describing consecutive events: God made Adam, and then God put him in the garden, and then God said it is not good for man to be alone , and then God formed the birds and beasts. This is not the case. The word translated formed is expressing an action that had occurred in the past. Genesis does not say, “And then God formed every beast of the field.” Genesis says, “And God had formed every beast of the field . . .” The action had already occurred before God created Adam. God brought the already created animals to Adam for him to name.
Genesis does not contain two creation different accounts. Genesis 1 and 2 complement one another by providing additional details about what God has done. The creation account gives the wide angle view of the whole work of creation and then zooms in to describe specific events surrounding the creation of man.