The Battle for the Beginning – 4 of 12

by | May 11, 2017 | Adult Christian Learning | 0 comments

4) Yom can mean “day.” Most often it does. And an ancient Israelite would’ve read Genesis 1 as literal 24 hour periods. I’m not denying that. But yom can also mean a period of time, an age, forever etc. For the sake of argument… let’s assume it means literal six day creation and that Adam and Eve ARE Genesis 1:26 and that dinosaurs are included in Genesis 1:20-25 making man and dinosaurs cohabiting together… Why is the order of creation flipped in Genesis 2 from the order of creation in Genesis 1? Genesis 1 creation order=Vegetation (Day 3) -> Animals (Day 6) -> Mankind, male and female (Day 6). Genesis 2 creation order=Man (Day 6) -> Vegetation (Day 3) -> Animals (Day 6) -> Woman (Day 6). So in Genesis 1, vegetation is created 3 days BEFORE animals and *THEN* mankind is created but Genesis 2 has Adam created BEFORE both vegetation or animals. He then names all the animals. Then and only then is Eve created. Let that marinate for a second. Again, if you are going to insist that Genesis 1&2 are an accurate scientific or literal historical account of human origins you need to address the text.

As a point of focus, remember that I am interacting with a real person over at the Faithlife forum who thinks that the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 is wrought with problems. He has outlined 12 points that I responded to in brief on the Faithlife forum. As a point of interest, he never interacted with my response as far as I can tell. If he did, I missed it. In this point (4), he surmises that Genesis 2 is attempting to do the same thing that Genesis 1 is attempting to do: Provide a chronological account of the beginning. I believe he is dreadfully misguided. What he fails to realize is that Genesis 1:1-2:3 constitute one literary unit with an entirely different goal than Genesis 2:4 which begins a separate unit. This second literary unit does not have the same goal as the first one. The marker is the famous toledot that begins in v. 4. We can clearly see the Chiasmus: A “heavens” B “earth” C “created” C “made” B “earth” A “heavens.” It is used elsewhere in Genesis and it always announces a new section of narrative. [Wenham, Genesis] This pericope seems to have an altogether different purpose than Genesis 1.

From the start, the point is made that Yom can mean “day” and most often, it does. But it is also true that Yom can mean something other than a 24-hour period. However, it is not the case that Yom can mean different things within the same context. “In any coherent discourse, thoughts are expressed in association rather than isolation.” [Kostenberger & Fuhr, jr., Inductive Bible Study] The meaning of words and phrases in any language is determined by their use within a very specific context. In Genesis 1, Yom means a 24-hour period. The context and construction are very simple and straightforward. In Genesis 2, Yom does not mean a 24-hour period of time. The context and construction are very simple and straightforward. In Genesis 2, Yom refers to an indefinite time. “In the day when God created man” emphasizes God’s act to create man. We may use similar expressions, such as, “back in the day.” We know that in that context, day does not refer to a 24-hour period but to some period of time in the past.

Notice that the real issue is apparently that in Genesis 2, man is created before vegetation and the animals while in Genesis 1, he is created after vegetation and the animals. First, there is an issue with the word vegetation. The implication is that there is a direct contradiction between Gen. 1:11-12 and Gen. 2:5-6. The problem is that the vegetation of Genesis 1:11-12 is not the plants of Genesis 2:5-6. Gen. 1:11-12 refers to dešeʾ, ʿēśeb, and ʿēṣb pĕrî: grass, eatable plants or grass, and fruit trees. Gen. 2:5-6 on the other hand refers to śîaḥ haśśāde, and ʿēśeb haśśāde. Safarti rightly points out that ʿēśeb haśśāde refers to any non-woody, edible plant which requires human cultivation, including cereal crops, rice vegetables, and herbs. What this means is that Gen. 1:11-12 is not referring to the same thing that Gen. 2:5-6 is referencing. This means that the problem is not actually a problem after all. The real problem is that we are talking hermeneutical apples and oranges, so to speak. From this we conclude that Genesis 2 does not flip the order of creation between man and vegetation after all. The integrity and validity of the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 remains intact.


According to some, the another problem that the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 is that the creation of man and animals are also flipped. However, there is no reason to think that Genesis 2 specifically references when the animals were created. Let’s take a look at it and hopefully you will see what I mean. Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. Rather than interpreting wayyiṣer as an waw consecutive intended to give the chronology of creation, it seems most reasonable to take it to be a pluperfect. Bruce Waltke makes this very point in his superior work on Hebrew Syntax:

The use of wayyqtl to represent pluperfect situations can be seen as a subvariety of epexegetical use, but it has been controversial. Driver denied such use apart from instances occurring at the beginning of a narrative or paragraph. He tried to explain the exceptions to this rule as due to a redactor who joined originally distinct literary units together without regard to formal unity. But W. J. Martin and D. W. Baker have argued otherwise. Driver seems inconsistent here, since he allows for the epexegetical use of waw-relative, which may entail a pluperfect situation. Moreover, wayyqtl in the received text, the object of our grammatical investigation, must be understood to represent the pluperfect. David Qimhi in the early period of Hebrew studies already pointed out this use.[1]

The arrangement may be explained on the supposition, that the writer, who was about to describe the relation of man to the beasts, went back to their creation, in the simple method of the early Semitic historians, and placed this first instead of making it subordinate; so that our modern style of expressing the same thought would be simply this: “God brought to Adam the beasts which He had formed.”[2] In fact, they go on to observe, “A striking example of this style of narrative we find in 1 Kings 7:13.”[3]

Essentially the best method is to allow the clearer text of Genesis 1 to put up guardrails for Genesis 2. This is in keeping with the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture.

The real issue here has more to do with presuppositions than it does the actual syntax of Genesis 1-2. The problem with the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-2 is not that it violates grammar, is poor exegesis, or fails to adhere to good interpretive principles. The problem is that the traditional method ipso facto rejects the possibility that there are errors and contradictions in the autographa. Those who are heavily reliant on the historical-critical method insist that the Bible be treated like any other book. This means that we can supposedly follow the evidence wherever it leads without embracing or having to defend a specific presupposition. But this viewpoint has been thoroughly debunked as naïve and quite impossible. The pursuit of neutrality is a pursuit in futility. McCartney and Clayton write, “But if the Bible is indeed coherent and divinely authored, we should be able to draw from it this principle: the Bible is its own best interpreter, not only in a general sense, and not only with respect to the passages specifically quoted and interpreted later in the book. What we need to understand is that Christian belief begins with the presupposition that the autographa contains no errors or contradictions. Any belief that contradicts that belief ought to be purged from the community everywhere it is discovered. We purge that decision though instruction, discipleship, and even discipline up to and including excommunication if necessary. This means that the belief that the Scripture as originally recorded contains errors and contradictions should be viewed as leaven and dealt with accordingly. Of course the consequences of this view are sweeping. Professors would be terminated along with pastors. Members would be asked to affirm this belief on a regular basis or resign their membership. If they refused, excommunication would ensue. It is a hard pill to swallow, but the hardness of that pill is more a product of a postmodern culture than it is anything else.

[1] Bruce K. Waltke and Michael Patrick O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 552.

[2] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 54.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996).

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