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Although the second creation story departs from the first in content, tone, mood and orientation, Leon R. Kass (The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis) says that pious readers, believing that the text cannot contain contradictions, ignore the major disjunctions between the two creation stories and tend to treat the second story as the fuller, more detailed account of the creation of man (and woman). He says we must scrupulously avoid reading into the second story any facts or notions taken from the first (and vice versa) if we mean to understand each story on its own terms. We should therefore recognise and understand these differences, as well as the similarities.


The two stories (Genesis 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-25) are similar in that they describe God as performing creation, acting entirely alone. In this, they differ from most other creation stories from the Mediterranean region and Near East. There is no mention of Lady Wisdom being with God and participating in the creation (see Proverbs 8:22-34, which describes how Wisdom was with God at the time of creation) or of Jesus being present (See John 1:1-3).

Neither account explains why God created the world. Some Near Eastern creation accounts portray a great struggle between a god and the chaos monsters, and indeed the Book of Job does contain a fragmentary account of this, with the Leviathan being one of the two chaos monsters God defeated), but there is nothing of this in the two accounts as they have come down to us.

Neither account seems to claim that the world was created out of nothing, ex nihilo. Although Genesis 1:1 is usually translated into English as "In the beginning God created heaven and earth," biblical scholars say that a more accurate translation is "When God began to create ..." There was a pre-existing watery chaos and the ocean was already present, resting on dry land which appeared on day 3 when God gathered the waters together, and a wind moved across its surface. Similarly, the second story begins with a pre-existing world in which every plant of the field was already in the earth, but God had not yet made it rain.


It has been suggested that the first account, with its emphasis on the ocean, arose in a culture that was familiar with the oceans, while the second account originated in an arid environment similar to the Palestinian hinterland, home to the Hebrew people.

The first account is attributed to the Priestly Source ('P Source'), who preferred the name El Shaddai ('God Almighty') for his God. In line with this, God could create every thing merely by a command, speaking everything into existence in six days. The Yahwist's God, in the second account, is less powerful. He needed clay to make Adam (Genesis 2:7) and breathed life into his nostrils. In Genesis 2:19, God also created the beasts of the field out of clay, in a similar manner. In verse 2:22, God made Eve out of a rib he had taken from Adam. In this story, God shows that he was unable to make living things out of nothing.

In the first story, the animals come first and man is then to be their ruler, but in the second, the beasts only come after Adam was created, as his possible companions.

In the first story, man is made directly in the image of God (1:27) but in the second he is made of clay and divine breath (2:7), and only becomes god-like at the end - "now the man is become like one of us" (3:22) - and only after his act of disobedience.

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Q: What are the similarities and differences between the two creation stories in the Book of Genesis?
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