The alleged contradiction:
Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation of the universe, Earth, and life on the Earth. But do the two chapters contradict each other?
One reason some think this is because of the apparent contradiction between the two accounts. Chapter 1 describes the creation of plants followed by the creation of animals then humans. Chapter 2 describes the creation of humans followed by the creation of plants then animals. If this is the case then it seems that there is a contradiction between the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2.
Genesis 1: A global/universal perspective:
In Genesis 1 we see the account of the creation of the universe and life on Earth as it happened in chronological order. However, Genesis 2 is an expanded explanation of the events that occurred at the end of the 6th creation day when God created human beings.
We see that Genesis 1 gives almost no detailing about the creation of human beings other than that they were created in the image of God – in Genesis 1 humans only take up 13% (four verses) of the overall narrative. We also see that Genesis 1 is more interested in detailing global phenomena – we see that God created “the heavens and the earth” which describes the entire universe (space, moon, Earth, stars, sun, galaxies etc.). We also see Genesis 1 describing the “surface of the deep” which describes the primordial ocean. We also read that there was no land until God caused it to appear from the waters. These facts tell the reader that Genesis 1 is describing creation on a global and universal scale.
Lastly, Genesis 1 also describes the creation of plants and animals. Firstly it describes the creation of plants, then birds, large sea creatures, and swarming sea life. Then on the final day God creates the large grazing mammals and carnivores as well as small scurrying mammals. Then the climax of the creation is achieved when humans are created – the last creatures God creates.
Genesis 2: A local perspective:
Genesis 2 is not a rehash of Genesis 1, and this can be vividly seen within the context. As I mentioned above Genesis 1 dedicates 13% (four verses) to humans, however we see in Genesis 2 that 76% if the narrative (19 verses) gives priority to humans. We can immediately see that the emphasis has changed – we saw that in Genesis 1 the emphasis was predominantly on global phenomena with a brief after mention of humans, whereas Genesis 2 is giving priority to humankind. On top of this there is no obvious indication that Genesis 2 is referring to things on a global scale as we saw in Genesis 1, but it rather puts emphasis on locality. Genesis 2 shows God planting a garden in a place called Eden which is a local area.
We also see that the text gives us names – there are three other names mentioned along with four rivers in verses 10-14. The second place name is Havilah which is thought to be near the Caspian Sea. The third is Cush which is thought to be a location in Southern Egypt or Ethiopia. The fourth is Assyria which makes up modern day Iraq and Iran. Also, we know two of these rivers for certain: the Tigris and Euphrates, and both of which flow through modern day Iraq and Iran. The giving of names to the reader indicates a local focal point.
We read that all of the events within the Genesis 2 narrative takes place in Eden which is within the Mesopotamian flood plain. Subsequently, the narrative continues with descriptions of creation events – Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate it, God brought to Adam the animals he had already created for him to name. Also, since a companion in Eden was not found for Adam, God then created Eve. What is seen is that the creation descriptions in Genesis 2 can be attributed to the preparation of a place in which the first human made in the image of God were living.
I find this allegation odd for this reason. If someone (Moses) was authoring Genesis 1 and 2, a mere couple of verses away from each other, how likely is it that they would make such an obvious blunder. Mistakes like that could happen as we do see, but we need to take into account that the author of Genesis certainly took his subject extremely seriously as he was writing a holy sacred book – he would have read, and reread and reread again the text to make sure it said what it was meant to say. With this in mind it is hard to see that someone within the space of a mere few verses would make such an obvious error.
In Genesis 1 we see that God creates the universe, the Earth, the continents, and hence forth. We see that God created animals first then humans. Genesis 2 tells us that it is emphasizing locality: the Garden of Eden created for the first humans made in his image. In Genesis 2, God brings animals that he already created to Adam for him to name them. There is no contradiction here as maintained by some.