aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

A clarification on Genesis

I was reading an opinion piece on the perennial argument over Creation Science and the adoption of textbooks in Texas. The writer, with whom I happen to agree about the merits of the argument, unfortunately made a reference to bolster his case which was in error. He said that there is more than one creation story in the book of Genesis. This is supposed to point out the absurdity of saying we should teach the creation story. Which one should we teach, then? Well, I did not reply to correct him, because it would look as though I were taking the other side in the argument. But I keep hearing this claim that there are two different -- as in, conflicting -- creation stories in Genesis. There are not. Allow me to elucidate.

Genesis begins with the familiar story of the creation of the heavens and earth. Genesis Chapter 1 covers the six days of God's activity. Genesis Chapter 2 then begins with the seventh day,
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
The next line, verse 4, says,
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
We then launch into the story of Adam and Eve. Some editions label this section, beginning with either verse 4 or 5, "Another Account of the Creation," except it isn't.

The creation of the heavens and the earth, with passing reference to Man as created in the image of God, is given in Genesis 1:1-2:4. "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created" is not a header in the text introducing a new section, but a footer, closing the previous section. Some of these footers are near the beginnings of chapters. We need to remember, though, that the chapters of the Bible are not part of the text itself. Our chapter divisions originate in the work of Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (the one who forced King John to sign Magna Carta), who died in 1228. The verses were broken up later, the Old Testament ones in the 1400s and the New Testament ones in the 1500s.

Genesis 2:5 does begin a new section, but it is not another account of the creation; at least, it doesn't tell the same story over again (even if from a different angle). Having giving the one account of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the next tale is of the creation and fall of Man. From a general sweep over the whole subject, we focus in on one particular subject: the creation of the first human beings and their placement in Eden, their temptation and fall, and the outworking of their sin in the first murder.

The creation story is about the making of the heavens and the earth. It is not only about causing things to be, but about the bringing of order out of chaos. And it is both relational and hierarchical, with each day's creation being able to participate more responsively in God's designs for it.

But the second story is the story of humanity. It explains not just how we came to be, but more especially, why we are the way we are. We were supposed to be in one relation to God, but chose to occupy a different relation to him. In choosing to disobey God, we did not become his peer; we only perverted all his goodness into sin. The effects of that sin lead to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. And so, out of all the creation whose making takes up the first story, we only have rebelled and refused to fill our place in the divine order.

So it's not the same story from a different angle. It is a different story, a new section that advances the narrative. There are not two creation stories in Genesis. There is a story of how things came to be, and then there is a story of why people are the way they are.

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