[Originally published as Creation Accounts: Are There Two Different Accounts?]
Some people question, “Genesis 1:1–2:3 seems to describe one version of the Creation account, and Genesis 2:4–2:25 another. Are there two different accounts of Creation?” Genesis 1 and 2 have some clear differences. For example, Genesis 2–4 relay events from the perspective of an eyewitness, such as Adam. But these differences do not mean that the documents fail to present accurate history.
The surest way to know that Genesis 1 and 2 are historical is to consider that Jesus quoted directly from both chapters in one answer to the Pharisees. Mark 10:6-8 records his use of Genesis 1 and 2 as actual history:
Genesis 1:27—But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
Genesis 2:24—For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
A more complete answer to this question benefits from an understanding of how the book of Genesis is laid out. Genesis repeats the distinguishing phrase, “These are the generations of…” The Hebrew word translated generations is toledot and the term breaks Genesis into 11 sections (2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 36:9, 37:2)¹. For example, in Genesis 5:1 (“This is the book of the genealogy of Adam”) or Genesis 6:9 (“This is the genealogy of Noah”).
Genesis 1:1–2:3 probably belongs to the first toledot in Genesis 2:4. This first section of Genesis is a complete overview of the six days of Creation, whereas Genesis 2:4–2:25 retells and summarizes important events of Creation week. For example:
- Adam is created (Genesis 2:7)
- Garden of Eden created (Genesis 2:8–9)
- Description of river system in Eden (Genesis 2:10–14)
- Adam put in Garden and given instructions (Genesis 2:15–17)
- Adam names some of the kinds of animals (Genesis 2:18–20)
- God creates Eve (Genesis 2:21–22)
- Description of Adam, Eve, and marriage (Genesis 2:23–25)
Thus, Genesis 2:4–2:25 emphasizes Adam and Eve’s roles in taking dominion over Creation (including marriage, naming the animals, the Garden of Eden, the river systems, etc.).
1. The translators of the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) regarded this phrase as being so significant they gave the book its name after the term (Genesis is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew toledot).