Adam and Atrahasis (RJS)

Chapter three of the new book by Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, looks at the relationship between the stories of origins contained in the Hebrew Scriptures – our Old Testament – and the stories of origins in the surrounding Ancient Near East (ANE) cultures. In the post Tuesday we looked briefly at the general relationship the ANE stories and the Hebrew Old Testament focusing on Enuma Elish and the creation story in Genesis 1.  The relationship between the flood story of Genesis 6-8 and flood stories in Gilgamesh and Atrahasis is particularly clear, but this doesn’t really bear on the central question of this series of posts – which is Adam. Thus I am not going to discuss all of the details of the comparison, but rather move on to Israel’s second creation story in Genesis 2-3, the relationship of this account with Atrahasis and some general conclusions.

There are two major points to the argument Enns makes in this part of the chapter. First, scripture contains parallel accounts of the same events and these don’t always harmonize. The side by side accounts of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25 contain two different creation stories.  Second, Genesis contains elements common to other ANE texts. The way that Genesis uses these elements is not consistent with the idea that Genesis tells the one true story from which everything else is derived and corrupted.

Careful study of the text of scripture itself, and the comparison of Genesis with other ANE texts calibrates the genre and thus the theological purpose of the creation stories in Genesis. This removes the pressure to see Genesis as addressing modern scientific and historical questions.

What do you make of the two creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2?

What do you make of the similarities between Genesis 1-11 and various ANE texts?

Table 3.1 in The Evolution of Adam, slightly adapted from a table by Daniel Harlow, illustrates the differences in the parallel creation accounts of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25.

Some of the differences are minor, some of them are more significant. But the two accounts cannot be easily harmonized into one self-consistent creation narrative.  Parallel accounts not easily reconciled are found in other parts of Genesis 1-11 as well – in the genealogies of 4:17-26 and 5:3-32; the repopulation after the flood 10:1-32 and 11:10-32; and for that matter within the flood story. The point here is not to claim that scripture is errant, but to illustrate the fact that when Genesis was compiled and as it became accepted in the canon of Holy Scripture these differences were both obvious and not considered a problem.

Whoever is responsible for Genesis 1-11 certainly seems comfortable allowing distinct accounts to rest side by side. The reason for this may simply be that the final editor of Genesis wished to preserve Israel’s own diverse traditions, or perhaps needed to, owing to the weight of tradition behind them. I certainly think this is true … (p. 52)

The forms of the two creation narratives are different, Genesis 1 is more stylized, perhaps poetic, although this isn’t clear. Genesis 2 is written in a narrative style. But this doesn’t make one more historical and the other less historical. Fiction can be written in a narrative style and history can be written using a stylized poetic form.

Genesis 1 is not the symbolic, less historical, “poetic” account of creation and Genesis 2-3 the narrative and therefore more historical one. Both reflect ancient ways of thinking; we need to understand them first on their own terms and appreciate the tensions between them for what they tell us about their theologies. (p. 53)

Comparison with Atrahasis. The second major point in the argument Enns makes in this chapter is that Genesis contains elements common to other ANE texts. The arise from the same cultural context.   In the last post Genesis 1 was considered in the context of the ANE tale Enuma Elish. The creation story in Genesis 2 has more in common with Atrahasis. In fact some have suggested that Genesis 2-8 may be modeled after Atrahasis, a suggestions Enns acknowledges as reasonable but not definite. Many of the points of comparison are listed in Table 3.2 in the book. These include humans created out of clay to cultivate the land, the institution of marriage and the flood story.  But Atrahasis is not the only ancient text that carries themes common to Genesis 2. Enns also includes a summary of comparisons of Genesis 2-5 with a number of other ANE texts from Babylon, Sumer, and Egypt. The breath of life, streams of water, plant that confers immortality, serpent, and female made from the male’s rib/side are other plot elements found in ANE tales.

The bottom line: In Genesis we have parallel creation accounts allowed to stand side by side. These accounts are not consistent with each other and each has elements in common with other texts from the ancient Near East. In fact the entire primordial history in Genesis 1-11 has clear evidence of commonality with various elements from different ANE texts.  The authors and editors who compiled Genesis were not concerned with harmonizing them. The creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 are not designed to answer modern scientific questions about science or detailed questions about history. The texts reflect an ancient world view, not a modern one because they were written in an ancient culture. Enns summarizes the situation:

Although there is no absolute scholarly consensus about how to read the creation and flood stories in all their details, the evidence points us clearly in the following direction: the early chapters of Genesis are not a literal or scientific description of historical events but a theological statement in an ancient idiom, a statement about Israel’s God and Israel’s place in the world as God’s people.

The core issue  raised by the ancient Near Eastern data has helped to calibrate the genre of the biblical creation accounts. (p. 56)

But Genesis is not a patchwork quilt of material from disparate texts and sources. This post started out comparing the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. These two creation accounts have distinct differences in tone, style, and content. Yet they are allowed to stand side by side. This isn’t accidental, each text serves a theological purpose. This is one of the key ideas that shapes Enns’s overall argument in The Evolution of Adam.  Completing the quote just after the table above:

I certainly think this is true but there is still more going on. The placement of these stories side by side has theological value: Genesis 1 tells the story of creation as a whole by the one sovereign God, and Genesis 2 focuses early and specifically on Israel’s story. (p. 52)

This is an argument we will consider as we move through the next several chapters of The Evolution of Adam.

What approach should we take to the apparent inconsistencies in the text of Genesis?

Do the elements of similarity between Genesis 1-11 and various ANE tales challenge the truthfulness of Genesis?

Do you think we can view Genesis as stemming from the correct original? Does our doctrine of scripture require this?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • gingoro

    “a theological statement in an ancient idiom, a statement about Israel’s God and Israel’s place in the world as God’s people”

    Fine but what are the details of this theological statement?
    Pardon my stupidity.
    Dave W

  • RJS

    gingoro,

    Pete has a proposal about this, as do John Walton and some others. Walton’s view of Genesis 1 is outlined in his book “Lost Worlds of Genesis One”. The polemical nature discussed in my previous post is also part of the theological statement of Genesis 1. Pete’s view of Genesis 2 and how this may be interpreted as a theological statement really builds off the quote I complete at the bottom of this post. I am not sure we will all agree with Pete when we’ve finished. I am not even sure I’ll agree with his take on the theological point. But I am sure that looking for the theological meaning rather than concordance with science and archaeology is the right approach and direction.

  • Norman

    Probably the better view of comparing Gen 1:1-2:3 and 2:4-25 is to recognize that Gen 1 is an introductory prologue or table of contents introducing an abridged overview story of Israel’s creation account until messiah. Gen 2:4 and onwards begins the fleshing out of that previous outline and starts filling in the details. There really are no two different creation accounts recounting the same event; there was six days of creation in the first and one day in the second account beginning with Gen 2:4.

    In Jewish 2T applications Adam was the first Day or Age and each major event or age following with Noah, Abraham, David, Exile, and finally John the Baptist announcing Christ represented the following 5 days or ages. Augustine recognized this and said the filling of the six empty water jars with new wine represented Christ filling the void of the Old Covenant 6 ages. The ancients let us in on these ancient understandings if we would examine them a little more closely.

    As I have stated before the Jewish appropriation of ANE myths at their exilic time is more a matter of convenience and opportunity. They turned those pieces on their head while at the same time presenting Israel’s dilemma in a quasi-historical setting but more importantly projected prophetically toward messiah. We can see that the stories of Gen 12-50 are also presented as a recapitulation of Israel’s history ending with Joseph who clearly represents the Messiah figure as claimed by Christ.

    If we get too hung up on trying to make sense of these accounts relationship to other ANE accounts we simply are in jeopardy of missing the big Israel picture that is being presented. You can’t match Genesis with science, history or ANE myths and stay on track with what’s really being presented.

    Also I might mention that Gen chp 1-4 are tied together in word counts and themes and have obviously been constructed to reflect this Hebrew literary structure. Whoever wrote or arranged these four chapters did so from an artistic literary approach. Cassuto, Blocher, Waltke and many other Genesis commentators have recognized this actuality.

  • http://disorietedtheology.wordpress.com Paul A.

    Another ANE comparison that Enns mentions briefly in chart form is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is more commonly cited for its flood comparisons. But it features a god creating a man from dirt, the man being naked and in communion with animals, only to lose his childlike innocence, become as wise “as a god,” and require clothing. (shameless plug)

    I don’t think such comparisons challenge the theological accuracy of Genesis, which makes a firm and correct argument that Israel’s God is better than the pagan gods of the neighboring peoples. It only challenges a modern-day notion of historical accuracy that the writers, editors and early readers of Genesis would not – and could not – have understood.

  • Steph

    RJS, I wanted to tell you that I have really appreciated this post and the one before in particular: I am definitely buying this book.

    You quoted Enns as saying there is no “consensus about how to read the creation and flood stories in all their details.” What I’ve come to realize, from the very first discussion I engaged in after one of your Genesis posts, months ago, is that I cannot get my mind off of the details. With those texts in particular, we have a tendency to zero in on details and then extrapolate very weighty and far reaching implications from them. And I find that I personally am very good at not seeing the forest for the trees. I can do a lot of questioning, the kind that precedes paradigm shifts, but I suppose I don’t have the mental courage to make the paradigm shift itself on my own.

    Reading here on Jesus Creed is a thrilling and invigorating experience, expanding my view of God and the Bible. Thank you.

    The best lit courses I took in either undergrad or graduate school were ones that looked at diverse texts (novels) in context (regional, historical, social). I could not have grasped the texts nearly as well without that broader look at the context. I would have written great papers on subjects I could tease out from a look at the details, but I would have lost the “feel” of the literature.

    Again, thank you.

  • Dopderbeck

    These are important insights. They allow us to understand that we appropriate these texts for their own purposes and not for a modern “scientific” purpose.

  • Gleddiesmith

    RJS,

    Would I be right in saying that Enns sees difference as leading to inconsistency as opposed to seeing difference as complementary?

    I would see the differences as being different perspectives on a complex matrix of ideas. You need to look from here, here, and here in order to even begin to grasp how everything is related. Where if I am hearing right Enns is saying the differences lead to inconsistency so I can then throw out all these ideas which I don’t like.

    I would then ask the more speculative question about these options between how one understands difference are marked by Enns journey away from a certain American reading of Genesis 1 and 2. It feels to me like I want the differences to be complementary because I don’t have that reaction.

    Hope that makes sense. Thank you for your posts.

  • Seth

    Thank you. The posts and all the discussion that follows is very helpful in light of a rash of Ken Ham outbreaks through our church that have me seeking ways to connect people to constructive dialogue about the subject.

  • Val

    Thanks so much for your posts on the ANE and creation. I have known about them for years and realized the pre-Abrahmic stories were similar to myths and legends of old, not consistent in their descriptions, had two creation accounts, etc.

    Now I am reading through Walter Breuggermann’s commentary on Genesis and finally finding out what this text is really teaching us. For years, I suspected the texts had a message, but it wasn’t a “how the world was made” message. Nice to finally see others are searching for this as well. It is hard to find this info when everything out there is a huge scientific debate.

    I also not that the parallels between the goddess Nin-Ti being taken from a god’s rib and Eve being taken from Adam’s don’t mention that the word-play is Mesopotamian, not Semitic. Nin = Lady and Ti = life OR Nin = Lady and Ti = Rib, so Nin=Ti who is from the god’s rib is also the Lady who gives life, while Eve = life, so she is a life giver, but Hebrew doesn’t use the same word for life and rib, so the world play (a common ANE writing device) is lost in translation and we try to figure out why she is taken from Adam’s rib and not his heart or something.

  • jason

    Gleddiesmith (#7) – I’m not RJS, nor Enns, nor a son of Enns, and I must confess I haven’t even read the book yet (though it’s sitting next to me on a very messy floor!), but if I could channel my inner Enns, I don’t think the point is that the inconsistencies allow us to throw out ideas we don’t like, but rather that the inconsistencies render the entire literalist/historicist approach untenable. This is a hermeneutical issue – what is the literature, and how should we be reading it? I’m fairly certain Enns would adamantly oppose throwing any of it out – from his perspective, all of it is sacred scripture, all of it, divine revelation.

  • Gleddiesmith

    Jason (#10) – well I think I would describe the ideas that Enns doesnt like as being mostly literalist/historicist in nature. And I expect I largely agree with him. I just wouldnt use the language that he does. In fact Enns language reminds me of the language used by my secular friends to say that we can’t trust scripture at all. My question is a response to my own feeling that Enns is coming on very strong and using an overly large stick to make his point. I expect that is because he is arguing with a viewpoint that has never been part of my life. For my the complementary differences are entirely adequate to push beyond the literalist/historicist reading of Genesis 1 and 2.

  • AHH

    Gleddiesmith @7,

    I think it is a major misreading of Enns to say that the “inconsistencies” he points out are seen as justification for throwing out things he doesn’t like. These inconsistencies only arise in the first place if one tries to read the text as some sort of literal scientific and/or historical genre. So what Enns is doing is genre calibration. The fact that reading things “literally” produces an inconsistent story helps determine that the genre is something else.

    But your thought of “complementary” accounts has some merit IMO — not in the sense of complementary accounts of events reported as history (like the Gospels are for the most part), but in the sense of complementary stories (inspired stories!) each of which gives us a different angle on who God is, who God’s people are, and on the relationship.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    The use of elle toledoth in Genesis 2:4 (“these are the generations”) indicates the close of the preceding section to focus on what happened with a segment of it. Kind of like an inset map on a larger map. Elle toledot appears numerous times throughout Genesis and carries the narrative forward:

    From the “generations” of the heavens and the earth, from which Adam was created (Genesis 2:4),
    on through the generations of Adam (Genesis 5:1),
    on through the generations of Noah (Genesis 6:9),
    on through the generations of the three sons of Noah (Genesis 10:1),
    to focus particularly on through the generations of Shem (Genesis 11:10),
    on through the generations of Terah, father of Abram (Genesis 11:27),
    on though the generations, first of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12, a lateral line),
    then to focus on the generations of Isaac (Genesis 25:19)
    on through the generations, first of Esau (Genesis 36:1, another lateral line),
    then to focus on the generations of Jacob (Genesis 37:2).

    So, Genesis 1 shows the six days of creation, like a large map. Genesis 2 shows the sixth day of creation, like an inset map. If we compared an inset map with the larger map, we would expect that there will be differences — for example, the scale of the inset will be different from the scale of the larger map, and the inset will show details that the larger map does not show. These differences, however, do not mean that the inset contradicts the larger map. Generally, people are not confused by the presence of an inset map on a larger map. However, if one tries to read the inset map as covering all the information of the larger map, it will seems like there are many contradictions.

    So, the creation account in Genesis does not intend to cover all that was created in the six days of Genesis 1. Rather, it focuses on the creation activity of the sixth day. With that, I think that the table above, “Comparison of Creation Accounts”, does not present us with any real contradictions, as might be supposed.

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#13) — lots of people say that, but it really doesn’t work, because the order of creation is dramatically different between Gen. 1 and 2. Gen. 2 has Adam created before the animals. I know some folks try to argue the grammar otherwise and the NIV translates it otherwise, but that all seems to me (not being a scholar of Hebrew but able to read the various arguments) an exercise in linguistic gymnastics.

    Gleddiesmith (#7) — they are complimentary, and I think Enns would agree that they are (BTW, I don’t agree with all of Enns’ conclusions in this book, but I think he’s clearly right about this). The redactors (editors) who ultimately put the different narratives of Gen. 1 and 2 together weren’t dumb. Both narratives teach about different, but complimentary, aspects of God, the creation, and the functions of human beings, and you won’t get the whole picture if you flatten them out into a single narrative. Think of them more like different portions of the same beautiful impressionistic painting, rather than as different paragraphs in a technical journal article.

  • http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/ James Goetz

    The apparent inconsistencies within Genesis 1 and between Genesis 1 and 2 strongly indicate that the ancient Mediterranean authors and the Holy Spirit made no attempt to describe creation with modern standards of history and science but instead used powerful literary devices.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    So, dopderbeck, because there is a grammatical thing which seems to you to be “an exercise in linguistic gymnastics” — even though you admit not being a scholar of Hebrew, and even though you also see that the NIV translators (who presumably know a little something about Hebrew, probably more than you) support the grammatical argument — that is supposed to demonstrate that my my argument really doesn’t work? Forgive me if I am not convinced.

  • Susan N.

    RJS, this has been a lot of new territory for me. I find it hard to collect my thoughts in one big idea as response to your posts. In this section, as with the last, a particular line of thought stands out as simple and wise at the same time:

    “God condescends to where people are, speaks their language, and employs their ways of thinking. Without God’s condescension–seen most clearly in the incarnation–any true knowledge of God would cease to exist.” (p.58)

    “What sets this [Christian] God apart is his habit of coming down to our level. As Christians confess, God even became one of us. Posing such a condescending and incarnating God as a theological problem to be overcome–which is what a literal reading of Genesis unwittingly requires–creates a far greater and more harmful theological problem than the nonliteral reading of Genesis. (p.59)

    Thanks (God and Peter Enns and RJS) for continuing to bring this to a level that I can at least begin to digest. :-)

  • Tim

    Jeff Doles #16,

    I think what David is getting at is that the broader linguistic community seems to converge on an interpretation that happens to be inconsistent with a straight chronologically harmonious sequence of events between the two Genesis accounts, whereas the NIV, for ideological purposes relating to how they feel Scripture should read engage in linguistic gymnastics to force the harmonization between the two accounts.

    Please understand that while David, myself, and I would venture to guess yourself as well may not be linguistic experts, with some study we can at least arrive at a lay-of-the-land concerning what the linguistic experts do think.

    If it seems that any minority view a priori rejects for ideological reasons the conclusion of the dominant expert position, then that should give us a good indication of what is going on.

    I hardly think that the NIV translators, as learned and talented as they are, are anything close to a “follow the evidence where it leads” orientation rather than a “let’s make sure our interpretations don’t violate our basic (inerrantist) tenants of what Scripture ought to look like.”

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Tim,

    I think that since elle toledoth is used throughout the structure of Genesis, we need to pay attention to how it is used throughout and give a good accounting of the way it is used in Genesis 2:4. When we do that, I don’t think we can make a 1 to 1 comparison between Genesis 1 and 2, as if they are both meant to cover all the same ground. Genesis 2 gives us a picture of what happened inside Genesis 1, on the sixth day. I think that resolves most of the problems, and what few issues remain are not intractable.

    I certainly do not claim to be a linguistic expert, but I do see that there is some disagreement over the grammatical issue among the experts. And I don’t think we can so easily dismiss those who disagree with you by mind-reading their motives and thereby attributing to them less them proper work and due diligence.

    If we are going to start attributing motives to those who disagree with us, this discussion could rapidly deteriorate.

    David did not really address my argument, he merely dismissed it with a bit of weak tea based on his admitted lack of expertise.

  • RJS

    Tim,

    I don’t want to disparage the NIV translators in any way, or any of the others, but I find the handling of Genesis 2 interesting. The more “liberal” translation – the NIV takes the path to harmonization in both v. 4 and v. 19 and gives no footnote or indication that there are other options. The ESV has days in v. 4 but “had formed” with a footnote giving formed as an alternate in v. 19. The HCSB has time in v. 4 with a footnote giving day as an alternate but does not use “had formed” in v. 19 and includes no footnote suggesting that there is an alternate.

    I have come to the conclusion that it is always important to study from a variety of translations

  • DanS

    Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

    “Again, as the completion of the heavens and the earth with all their host has already been described in Genesis 2:1-3, we cannot understand by “the heavens and the earth,” in Genesis 2:4, the primary material of the universe in its elementary condition (in which case the literal meaning of הוליד would be completely relinquished, and the “tholedoth of the heavens and the earth” be regarded as indicating this chaotic beginning as the first stage in a series of productions), but the universe itself after the completion of the creation, at the commencement of the historical development which is subsequently described. This places its resemblance to the other sections, commencing with “these are the generations,” beyond dispute. Just as the tholedoth of Noah, for example, do not mention his birth, but contain his history and the birth of his sons; so the tholedoth of the heavens and the earth do not describe the origin of the universe, but what happened to the heavens and the earth after their creation. בּהבּראם does not preclude this, though we cannot render it “after they were created.” For even if it were grammatically allowable to resolve the participle into a pluperfect, the parallel expressions in Genesis 5:1-2, would prevent our doing so. As “the day of their creation” mentioned there, is not a day after the creation of Adam, but the day on which he was created; the same words, when occurring here, must also refer to a time when the heavens and the earth were already created: and just as in Genesis 5:1 the creation of the universe forms the starting-point to the account of the development of the human race through the generations of Adam, and is recapitulated for that reason; so here the creation of the universe is mentioned as the starting-point to the account of its historical development, because this account looks back to particular points in the creation itself, and describes them more minutely as the preliminaries to the subsequent course of the world.

  • Gleddiesmith

    @dopderdeck (#14) it seems that we agree. The two accounts are complementary. They maintain different viewpoints. They teach different aspects but maintain a coherent theological matrix. They aren’t historical in the sense demanded by modern science. So, where does the language of inconsistancy come from? Is the problem, that I am not the audience that Enns is pointing out inconsistancies for?

  • Tim

    RJS,

    I’ve actually found that the NIV when given the opportunity routinely aims to harmonize the Biblical text, or otherwise obscure any unsettling content (such as the burying of the DSS correction of the MT and LXX regarding the “son’s of God” passage in the footnotes). I didn’t think the ideological position of the NIV translation was some secret. Or am I wrong – is this really a contentious point?

  • Gleddiesmith

    @Tim (#23) What version do you choose to read? For what reasons do you think it is less ideologically influenced? I agree about the translation in Genesis 2, just curious.

  • Tim

    Gleddiesmith #24,

    I think the New Jerusalem Bible is an excellent translation IMO. I recognize each translation will have their biases and issues, but in my view what differentiates translations such as the NIV is that they cater to an audience that draws (very) hard lines in the sand. That’s not so much a subtle bias or influence as an a priori determining which conclusions are acceptable verses not.

  • Dan Arnold

    K&D argue against the use of the pluperfect, contra the NIV (84) translators, a usage that supports the harmonization of the two passages. In other words, they think the usage of toledot in other contexts support harmonization, even though the grammar here does not. Would we read this passage in light of the others if we came at it without the desire for harmonization?

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    RJS -

    I am just over halfway through Enns’ newest work myself and I am enjoying it.

    Were you able to read Kevin DeYoung’s recent post on why one should believe in an historical Adam? Here is the link – http://bit.ly/w7uXLV. Didn’t know your thoughts, though I think Enns’ new work helpfully engages each point.

  • RJS

    ScottL,

    I saw DeYoung’s recent post. His reasons are pretty standard. C. John Collins’s book is really an attempt to wrestle with the questions of Adam from a framework of commitments that come very close to those behind DeYoung’s post.

    I don’t intend to engage with DeYoung directly, but some of his reasons and the comments there are framing my approach to future posts in this series on Pete’s book.

    There is a fundamental orientation to scripture as the inspired word of God and the use of scripture in logical reasoning that needs to be brought into the open and explored. I have a very high view of scripture as the inspired word of God but … but the form used in reasoning from scripture common within evangelicalism at times leaves me cold – it makes no sense to me.

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    RJS -

    Yes, I agree. With books like Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation, Kenton Sparks’, God’s Word in Human Words, and now Enns’ newest work, I find these very helpful and thoughtful on the issues at hand. We are approaching the team-project of Scripture, God-breathed and written by men, with our own expectations rather than that of their framework.

    I have been asked before why I would argue such things against some of evangelicalism’s thoughts on the inspiration of Scripture, as put forth in places like the Chicago Statements. My best answer is that a) it’s not what Scripture states about itself, b) it’s not what God has preserved for us over thousands of years (God not being a micro-manager of “original autographs”), c) it’s bringing wrong expectations to the Scripture, d) it locks up people from approaching Scripture correctly so they abandon the faith when there is too much cognitive dissonance in their mind and e) people become outcasts because they disagree with a few points in things like the Chicago Statement. This stuff is causing confusions and ripping the evangelical church apart.

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff: what Tim (#18) said.

    FWIW, the NASB, which many people consider to be the most “literal” translation, does not include the pluperfect “had formed” in Gen. 2:19. And in terms of the narrative of Gen. 2 itself, this makes sense. The man is placed in the garden; he is alone; God creates various animals and brings them before the man, none of which are suitable for him as a helpmate; then at the pinnacle of all this God forms Eve from Adam himself. The animals here are specifically created and brought to Adam to teach him (and us) that only someone like us and from us is complementary to us as a mate.

    So, given (a) what seems to me the weight of the scholarly evidence; (b) what seems to be the approach of the more literal English translation; (c) other differences in the narratives that we haven’t discussed (e.g. the lack of plants before Adam’s creation (Gen. 2:5); and (d) what seems to make sense within the flow of the narrative, IMHO the case is exceedingly strong that Gen. 1 and 2 are different narratives that don’t “harmonize.”

    As far as I can tell, the only reason to say otherwise is a pre-existing commitment to a belief that the narratives must “harmonize” if they are in fact “scripture.” But IMHO that results from some mistaken approaches to what “scripture” must be.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    The scholars are apparently not all in agreement about whether “formed” should be rendered in the pluperfect. Perhaps the NASB has it right, or perhaps the NIV does. If one has pre-assumed that Genesis 1 and 2 are two different creation accounts that were later put together, then I suppose one might be more inclined to accept the non-pluperfect reading. Likewise, if the assumption is that Genesis 1 and 2 belong together, one might be more inclined to accept the pluperfect reading. The scholars disagree, so from my perspective as a layman, I think that could go either way, so it is not determinative for me.

    As Genesis 1 and 2 has come down to us place together, I find no reason to assume that they were not supposed to be considered in harmony. So, if they can be read, reasonably and naturally, in harmony, I find no reason why we should not do so. My opinion is that it is indeed reasonable to do so, and as I have indicated, it makes good sense of the elle toledoth (“these are the generations”) in Genesis 2:4, which I believe should be treated in the same way it is treated throughout the structure of Genesis.

    I don’t think it does much good to get into a “my scholars can beat up your scholars” match. Because that is a matter of who and what we find more persuasive. Nor does pointing out what my assumptions might be and how they might affect how I am persuaded, because it looks like you also have come with assumptions. I don’t think my assumption is an unreasonable one — the two chapters are presented to us together, joined together with a device (elle toledoth) that joins together many other sections in Genesis in a forward-moving direction. So I assume they are meant to be read together and in harmony rather than as two contradictory accounts (as Enn’s table above seems to suggest).

    I don’t think you have presented any evidence or argument by which we can conclude that they should not be read together in harmony. You have merely offered an alternate reading. That is worth considering, but it is certainly not conclusive.

  • TJJ

    Yeah…..What Jeff #31 just wrote. Agreed.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gleddiesmith#22 said

    The two accounts are complementary. They maintain different viewpoints. They teach different aspects but maintain a coherent theological matrix. They aren’t historical in the sense demanded by modern science. So, where does the language of inconsistancy come from? Is the problem, that I am not the audience that Enns is pointing out inconsistancies for?

    I bolded the part I want to comment on.

    I found your comment to be an interesting perspective. Certainly modern science is….modern…in its approach. It’s whole objective is to be rigorous and scientific.

    But I view the literal biblicist perspective to be the one that demands historicity in modern sense, while science does not. I believe the best scientific thinking done of Gen 1 and 2 etc concludes it not to be an historical text. Science is quite at home with allegory, mythology etc. No scientist would ever treat allegory as historical fact.

    In other words, don’t blame science for the wooden literal interpretation, blame modernists who espouse pseudoscience.

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#31): you said “So, if they can be read, reasonably and naturally, in harmony,…”

    But that’s the point. They can’t. The “detail of the sixth day” reading is strained on multiple counts, including but not limited to the creation of animals after Adam. The most “reasonable and natural” reading is that they are different narratives that theologicallycomplement each other. And I don’t think there’s really much scholarly disagreement about this, aside from some outliers, but admittedly I don’t have time or energy to do some kind of literature search.

    Aside from folks who insist these narratives must be absolutely “literal” and “chronological,” I frankly don’t understand the ruckus. To me it’s a beautiful and fascinating feature of the Bible. Over and over again, we’re given multiple versions of the same narrative in ways that don’t “literally” line up: Gen. 1 and 2, the histories in Kings and Chronicles, the Synoptic Gospels. It’s part of the literary makeup of the Bible — theological retelling and recapitulation — all ultimately with a view to revealing the mulch-faceted truth of Christ in a way that can never be exhausted.

    Well, we’re not likely to agree, but those are my two and a half cents.

  • dopderbeck

    multi-faceted, not “mulch-” faceted!

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    dopderbeck,

    We disagree. I do not find it a strain to take Genesis 1 and 2 in a harmonized fashion. I find that it harmonizes in a natural and reasonable fashion. You are free to disagree.

    You can line up all your scholars and I can line up mine and let them go at it in a cage fight, but I don’t think that really proves anything. At the end of the day, there is still disagreement, and I don’t know if there is a way to resolve it to the satisfaction of both of us. All I can do is offer the way I see it, and you can tell me the way you see it. But then if you don’t see it the way I see it and I don’t see it the way you see it, I guess we’ll have to live with it. I’m not going to change my view just to satisfy you and I don’t expect you to change your view just to satisfy me.

    I don’t take any of it as a “ruckus,” just a disagreement. If there is a ruckus, it is not on my part. What I am doing here is giving my view on it and why I see it the way I do. You are free to do with it as you will.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT,

    I don’t think the “literal biblicist perspective” demands that it be history in the “modern” sense. But it does take the Genesis accounts as being about things that happened in time and space, and not merely some sort of mythical story-telling. For example, they believe that there really was an Abraham. And that there really was a Terah who was Abraham’s father, and that there really was a a Nahor who was Terah’s father, and that there really was a Serug who was Nahor’s father … and so on, all the way back to Adam.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff Doles

    I don’t think the “literal biblicist perspective” demands that it be history in the “modern” sense. But it does take the Genesis accounts as being about things that happened in time and space

    How are these different?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT #38,

    What I have in mind about the difference between the history in the Bible and the modern sense of history is something like what John N. Oswalt describes in The Bible Among the Myths. In comparing the biblical accounts with modern history writing, he sees a number of differences. “For instance, the accounts are by no means exhaustive, often leaving large gaps; divine causation is frequently referred to; the standard by which progress or lack of progress in events is judged is the outworking of the divine purpose; and the style is more anecdotal than analytical.”

    So, for example, though the Gospel authors intend to tell us about Jesus and what He did and said in time and space (Luke is explicit about this purpose in his introductions to Luke and Acts), they are not history or biography in the modern sense.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff Doles#39, I am not sure I understand, so let me state what I think you are saying.

    You are saying that the technique in Biblical authors is to recount actual events (as a baseline), but their story may contain gaps and attributions to god as the cause. Is that right?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    drt, that would be two examples. The Gospel writers, for instance, intended to write about historical events, the things Jesus said and did. It is not really a biography of Jesus as we would use the term today. It does not tell us everything about the life of Jesus, it focuses on a certain aspect. It includes the “supernatural” aspects — the miracles and the purpose of God being fulfilled in Him — things the modern view of history does not allow for those. Nonetheless, the Gospel writers tell us about these as historical events — things that happened in time and space.

  • http://evewood-langford.co.uk Eve Wood-Langford

    The beautiful creatiion story of Adam and Eve, the second account in Genesis, is deemed older that the Priestly account that opens the Bible with the words ‘In the begining.’ The Eden story follows the pattern found in some of the world’s oldest literature, the epic poem of Gilgamesh, that circulated in Abraham’s Mesopotamia before the Old Testament was set into written form. This history preserves almost all the components of the Eden myth-history, and when the story of the naked couple is interpreted in the light of its origins in the Mesopotamian pantheon it can be seen as an allegory of an important anthropological stage in human history. In that light the story had nothing to do with a human fall but records human advance in the opposite direction – upwards. In the revolution of patriarchal monotheism, however, that interpretation was inverted. When interpreted as myth-history, not literal history, however, this important record does not disagree with Darwin’s theory of evolution and is in agreement with both science and religion.