Imagine that you have taken a hiking trip in the mountains. While standing at the foot of the slopes, you become absorbed by the surrounding forest and its wildlife.
Then, after climbing to the top, you marvel at the breathtaking view below you. The two perspectives complement one another and enrich your appreciation of the beauty around you.
In a similar way, the opening chapters of the Bible present two different accounts of creation, accounts that enrich us by their distinctive points of view. The first account (Genesis 1:1–2:4a) gives a panoramic view of the universe as God’s creation. This “view from above” emphasizes the sovereignty of God and highlights the effortless manner by which he brought everything into being. The universe is created with magnificent order, with man and woman as the crown of this creation.
The second account (Genesis 2:4b-25) offers a “view from below.” God is described in personal terms, planting a garden for the man who is his precious creation. Like a skilled potter, he forms man (“Adam”) from the mud (“adamah”) of the earth and breathes life into him. This account is filled with indications of God’s personal love for man and woman, whom he created with such care and mastery.
These two accounts come from different periods in Israel’s history. The second account comes from the “Yahwist” tradition (named because of a preference for using the term “Yahweh” or “the Lord”), which produced it in the early tenth century b.c., during the time of David and Solomon. The first account comes from the tradition of the “Priestly” writers in the fifth century b.c., when the Israelites were returning from exile and wanted to establish their unique identity among the peoples.
We have benefited greatly over the past century from the work of biblical scholars who are unlocking the treasures of divine wisdom contained in Scripture.
February 11, 2009
Two Genesis Accounts
A Word Among Us meditation on yesterday's first reading: