Why does the Bible have two creation accounts?

“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.

Why do the gospels have different accounts of Jesus’ life?

Some skeptical about the truth of the Bible claim the four gospels are filled with contradictions. These apparent contradictions are offered as proof the Bible is unreliable. The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each present an account of the life of Jesus. If all four gospels are true accounts why do they offer differing versions of the same events in Jesus life. Examples of these differences can be found in the number of demoniacs healed in Gederah- Mark and Luke say there was 1 but Matthew says there were 2; the order of events at the crucifixion; the people Jesus stood before in His trial- John says Annas and Caiaphas, the other gospels just say Caiaphas. The gospels offer a wide selection of these kinds of differences. Why do the gospels at times present events in different ways?

To answer this question several things need to be remembered. The gospels are not biographies. This does not mean the gospels are fictional accounts, but the purpose of the writing of the gospels was not tell the life story of Jesus. The gospels are presentations of doctrinal truths about Jesus. The events contained in the gospels are not given for biographical but theological purposes. The gospel are not laid out in a precise chronological fashion. Though all four gospels move from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to His death, none of them attempt to present an exact timeline of the events in Jesus’ ministry. This is why the gospels present the events in different orders. The miracles, teachings and significant events are arranged in thematic fashion which seeks to drive home a particular doctrinal point without entirely disregarding the broad chronology of Jesus’ life.

The gospels are not histories. The authors are not interested in detailing a precise historical formulation of Jesus. Generally a historian would seek to arrange things in a very orderly and sequential fashion and to include as many details as possible. The gospel writers are presenting the message of salvation to their readers. Historical details are the means of communicating rich gospel truths. The records of Jesus’ travels from place to place are not a description of the way of life of first century Palestinians, but the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God who came to bring salvation. Critiquing the gospels for their failure to be biographies or histories is to misunderstand the goals of the authors.

All other considerations aside, the reality is none of the supposed contradictions are actually contradictory. Some portions of the gospel may require more effort to correlate together, but in all cases no account excludes the information contained in another account. They offer additional details to the record. When Mark says there was a demon possessed man living in the tombs, he does not exclude the existence of another. The purposes of the narrower account is served with the discussion of the deliverance of the one man. The details of the gospels simply do not contradict one another. The gospels are complementary accounts that present the wonderful truth that Jesus God made flesh, the promised Messiah, who died and was raised to life for the salvation of men.