THE TWO ACCOUNTS OF THE CREATION.
It is well known to all Bible Students that in the first two chapters of Genesis we have two distinct, and in some respects apparently contradictory accounts of the Creation. Skeptics have called attention to these apparent contradictions as evidences of the unreliable character of the Bible. The first account is contained in the first chapter and the first three verses of the second chapter. The second account embraces the remainder of the second chapter.
Now there is doubtless some explanation of these discrepancies; an explanation that is reasonable and consistent, as there is to all the apparent defects of Scripture. We may not only be sure of the above, but we may also expect that, where there seems to be a contradiction or discrepancy in the Bible, when we come to understand the solution of the difficulty we shall find some especially grand and glorious truth hid away in the heart of the perplexing "letter," like a pearl in an oyster, and what at first seemed to be an irreconcilable tangle, is found at last to be only another illustration of the absolute harmony and perfection of God's wonderful "Word of life."
We will notice some of the characteristics of these two accounts and then I will present what I believe to be a scriptural solution of the seeming difficulties.
It seems a discrepancy, to begin with, that there should be two accounts. Why should not every particular and detail be embraced in one full account without perplexing us with two partial and varying ones? it would seem as though the one account would be preferable; surely this would be the verdict of human wisdom. But God's ways are not our ways nor his thoughts our thoughts. He has given us four Gospels instead of one, thus supplying a fruitful field for cavillers to rake up objections and note contradictions. But there is not one discrepancy between the gospels that is not capable of a perfectly consistent solution, and that does not hide some gem of truth. So here in these two accounts there is a reason, we may be sure, for this dual presentation of this greatest event on record, the creation of the world. If we humbly sit at the feet of Divine Wisdom, as Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, it may be that He will give us the key to unlock this mystery.
Remember, the Bible is written in parables and dark sayings. The Scriptures are a veil as well as a revelation. In the Word incarnate the truth was "hid" as well as revealed. See Col. 2:3. So it is in the written Word. To some it is "given" to know the mysteries, to others it is not given. Matt. 13:11. The fact that there seems to be a discrepancy here so far from being a trouble to the enlightened student of Holy Writ should rather cause him to rejoice since he would gather therefrom that underneath this seeming difficulty there must be an especially precious vein of truth. And so he sets to digging that he may get at the precious ore. As we proceed in our examination it will clearly appear, I think, why there should be two accounts instead of one.
NOW TO NOTICE THE VARYING CHARACTERISTICS
1. The first account shows a perfect order, system and method, of which the second account is entirely destitute. In the first account the time is divided up into regular intervals. "The evening and the morning were the first day." "The evening and the morning were the second day," and so on. Here also the work of creation is systematically arranged and graded; it moves on majestically from the lowest forms of being to man, the image of the Creator. There is nothing of this kind in the second account. There is no order or system here, but rather a sort of an off hand mingling of all the events together in one short narrative.
2. According to the first account the work of creation occupied six "days"; whether the day be days of twenty-four hours, or days of a thousand years, or vast geological periods, we need not now stop to discuss; it is enough for our present purpose simply to notice that the periods are each called a "day." According to the second account the whole work of creation seems to have occupied only one day. See verse 4. "In the day that the Lord God made the earth, and the heavens, and every plant," etc.
3. The six days of the first account are followed by a seventh day of rest. No rest day is spoken of in the second account.
4. In the first account everything that God makes is pronounced "good"; and at last when His creative work is crowned with man in His own image, all is stamped with the divine seal as "very good." Nothing is pronounced good in the second account.
5. In the first account two beings are spoken of as being engaged in the creation of man. "Let us make man," etc. In the second it is the Lord God alone who creates male.
6. In the first account man is created in the image and likeness of God. In the second nothing is said of his being thus created.
7. In the first account man is given dominion over all God's creation. In the second no such authority is bestowed upon him.
8. In the first account the creation of the man and the woman seems to have been simultaneous and is blended together in a very curious way, as indicated by the use of the singular and plural pronouns in verses 26 and 27. "And God said let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them [the man and woman evidently, though nothing had been said about the female] have dominion. So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." In the second account the creation of the male and the female is very distinct and explicit; and it appears that the former came into existence sometime before the latter.
9. Thus in the first account we see the male and the female blended together as though they actually were one, although nothing is said of their being one. In the second account we see just the opposite of this; the man and the woman appear as very distinct and separate. but they are said to be one.
10. In the first account the man and the woman are commanded to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it." No such command is given in the second.
11. In the first account man has full permission, without any restriction whatever, to partake of every herb and tree "upon the face of all the earth," verse 29. In the second account a restriction is placed upon him. "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
12. Finally, and perhaps more significant than all the rest, in the first account everything that is done is God's work. Man has nothing to do with it. God does the whole work from the beginning until he creates man in His own image and likeness, and rests because everything "He has made" is very good. In the second account, the prohibition laid upon him, man is made a party to the work; and he spoils it all, as he always has, by his disobedience. The first account is rounded out, and perfectly completed, bright and glorious, by "everything very good," and God resting "from all His work" (2:2) . The second account runs sadly on into the devil's disastrous work, man's disobedience, and the apparent ruin of the race. When we see it thus we feel like exclaiming, O that the first account might have been the true and only one! where there is no law, no serpent, no sin, no death. But many who would thus express themselves little think that without this second account, with all its disastrous consequences, man would never have reached the perfect state, and God's work would never have been completed.
It will be seen that some of the foregoing differences seem absolutely contradictory; others are perplexing; all of them are very suggestive. In the letter it would be very difficult to harmonize these differences, so as to make the Bible appear consistent and reliable. But there is a spirit to this portion of the Word as to all the rest. We are sure of this, for Paul plainly indicates it when he tells us in Rom. 5:14 that Adam was a "figure (type, same word as in margin of 1 Cor. 10:11) of him that was to come," Jesus Christ, the finished Adam. This account of the creation then is an "allegory," like that of Abraham and the promised seed. This has a spiritual meaning. What is it? What is the spirit of this portion of the word? I will tell you in my own language and then give the proof afterwards. If I err not, the key that unlocks this mystery is this:-The first account is PROPHETICAL, setting forth the work, in figure, as it was to be in the process, and as it will be in the perfect, finished result. The second account is HISTORICAL, setting forth the work as it actually was at that stage of the process. Let us see if the application of this key will not clear up all the discrepancies and explain all the difficulties, and bring out the truth.
In Rom. 4:17, a very important principle in God's method is laid down; "God calleth those things which be not as though they were." God speaks of things that he determines to do as though they were done. He speaks of things in process as though completed. He speaks of things that are not as though they were. I might give many examples of this from the Bible, but one very striking one will make the principle plain.
Read the l7th chapter of Genesis and note the tense of the verb in the 5th verse. "A father of many nations have I made thee." Humanly speaking God had not at that time made Abraham a father of many nations. He had only one son, Ishmael, the child of the bondwoman; and in the common course of nature there was no possibility of his having any more; (See Rom. 4:17-21), and yet God says, "The father of many nations have I made thee," as though it was something he had already done for him. Paul tells us that God was speaking of things that were not, as though they were. God has a right to speak thus. What God purposes to do is as good as done; nothing can thwart or disarrange his plans; there is no possibility of failure. Hence he has a right to speak of things that are not as though they were. When God makes a promise he need not say I will do so and so, but I have done it. In Rev. 21:5-6, the expressed purpose "Behold I make all things new," is followed by the promise in the future tense, "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." But sandwiched between the two, as if to assure us that there is no doubt about the fulfilment, comes in the grand declaration, "These words are faithful and true-It is done, I am Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end." Thus we may rest on God's promises with the same assurance as though we already had the fulfilment.
As God spoke to Abraham, so he spoke by the mouth of his servant Moses in the Scripture we are studying. In this first account of the creation he is speaking of things that are not as though they were. He speaks not as things actually were at that time, but as they will be when completed; but he has a right to speak in the past tense as we have seen, because this account is prophetical, expressing God's purpose, and hence absolutely certain of accomplishment.
In one respect at least we are sure that this first account speaks of things that are not as though they were: namely, when it says that Adam was created in the image of God. Now we are certain that Adam was not created in God's image at that time,-that no one has been thus created as yet, except Jesus Christ. He is the only human being that has ever been finished; hence he is "the first born of every creature," and "the beginning of the creation of God." (Rev. 3:14). If Adam was actually created in the likeness of God, then he, and not Christ, was the beginning of God's creation. That Adam was not originally created in the image of God is also made plain in 1 Cor. 15:45-49. In this passage Adam and Christ are contrasted; it is here shown how they differed. Adam was not like Christ; they were not "made" alike (verse 45). Hence, since Christ is like God, and Adam was not like Christ, Adam was not like God. This is certain, and yet we read in Gen. 1:27 that "God created man in His own image." How can we understand this except as above? And this is no more strange than what God says to Abraham, "A father of many nations have I made thee," "when as yet he had no child." (Acts 7:5) . The rule that God "calleth those things that be not as though they were" makes all plain; and we shall find that in every particular and detail this rule fully reconciles these two accounts. Now refer back to the characteristics I have noticed as we apply this rule.
1. This is just what we should expect according to the foregoing explanation. If the first account is prophetic it should set forth, as it does, how God works through successive "ages," represented by the "days" in the account, to accomplish His great work of creation; from chaos to perfection, from a formless void to the image of God, is God's way in grace, as well as in nature. Everything in God's plan moves on methodically, with regular gradation, growth and development. "My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure." So in this first account. Thus does this account plainly, though mystically, foreshadow the complete creation of God. The second account presents no particular order or arrangement because it would not become apparent at that early stage of the process.
2. The six "days" of the first account, I think, point to the six thousand years, to the perfection of the promised "Seed." They represent thousand-year days. (2 Pet. 3:8). "I must work today and tomorrow," said Christ, "and the third day I shall be perfected." Luke 13:32. There is no possible sense that we can put upon Christ's words here except we understand that he was speaking of the thousand-year days. He was in the fifth millennium, just at the beginning of it, when he spoke; that was the "today" he referred to; the 6th millennium was the "tomorrow," and the "third day" was the 7th millennium when "the Christ" will be complete and perfected. We are now entering upon the 7th millennium, and the promised "perfection" is close at hand. So in this first account: the six days represent six thousand years, followed by the seventh thousand, which is the day of rest. Only one day is spoken of in the second account because that account sets forth only the initial stage of the work.
3. The six days were followed by a seventh day of rest. So the seventh millennium is God's rest. Let it be noticed in the account that on the seventh day God rested. There is nothing said about man resting, it was God's rest day. Of course this has a spiritual meaning, for certainly God did not need to rest literally, as though he was tired. When is God's rest day? It had not come when Christ was here on earth, for he said, "My father worketh hitherto and I work." But when the promised seed, the real Adam, of which the first Adam was only a figure,"-when this finished seed is complete, then will come God's rest day. It takes both the male and the female to make the one Adam. Gen. 5:1,2, "God called their name Adam." Christ and his bride make the one "new man," the real Adam; and when he is come, the work of regeneration will be given into his hands, just as generation was the work of the first Adam and Eve. And when the work is thus taken in charge by God's "son" even his "first born," then God rests. "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, behold the tabernacle of God is with men; and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." What God sought for, with his ancient people, "a Sanctuary," (Ex. 25:8), and could not have because of their perversity (Ex. 23:7), he has at length found in the new heavens and new earth. His tabernacle is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. Notice how the idea of God's association with men is repeated three times, as though now at length the Father's heart was satisfied. He has got home; he is with his children; the completing of the work is handed over to the elder son, and the Father rests. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (O blessed rest of God, speedily dawn upon us, that the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man, may be known in all the earth!). There is no rest day spoken of in the second account, because at that stage it was a long way on in the future.
4. In the first account everything is "good," and at last. "very good." At every stage God's work is good, no less than at its completion. Though the process may lead from chaos, through darkness, suffering and death (for God's way to life is through death. John 12:24; 1 Cor.15:36), yet every stage is good, because man is drawing nearer each "day" to the "very good." In the second account nothing is pronounced good, because man at that stage was not prepared to see that even evil is made to result in good in God's economy; and yet that even that stage really was good.
5. "Let us make man." "My Father worketh hitherto and I work." God and Christ, the Father and the Son together accomplish the creative work. But there is "division of labor." The Father raiseth the dead; Christ, the Adam, regenerates. The Father begins the work; the Son takes it at a certain stage to complete it; thus both are engaged, and this appears in the first account, which foreshadows the entire process. But in the second account which presents only the first stage of the Father's work, there is no intimation of any other being co-operating with the Lord God.
6. In the second account nothing is said of God's image because at that stage man was a long way from that image. In the first account, however, which prefigures the entire process, man in the image of God appears. Thus assuring us "in a mystery" that God's likeness is the goal to which humanity tends.
7. Nothing is said of dominion in the second account, because man had not yet attained to it. But in the first account after he is made in God's image, dominion is given to him, thus foreshadowing the fact that the finished man shall have "all things put under him." (Heb. 2:9). "And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem." (Mic. 4:8).
8. In the early stages of man's development, natural distinctions are made prominent and insisted upon. But in Christ Jesus, the finished man, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but all are one." So in the first account this blending and unification is mystically prefigured, while in the second account the male and female appear separate. We must leave this mystery for further elucidation at some future time.
9. Now that we do not have the substance we need the "word of faith"; when we possess the substance the word may be dispensed with. Now it is said, "they twain shall be one flesh" though the reality of this oneness with Christ is still unrealized. When the reality is known, it no longer need be said.
10. The real fruitfulness of man will be "in the Regeneration," (Matt. 19:28), when the typical Rebekah shall become ", ... mother of thousands of millions." (Gen. 24:60.). Then the promised seed shall be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it. "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." In this natural state the less fruitful man is the better, hence no command to be fruitful and multiply is given in the second account; neither is there any command to "subdue" the earth, because man at that stage was not prepared to receive such a command. But the first account contains these commands; for the finished man which the first account foreshadows, shall "subdue all things," and be exceedingly fruitful. "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; (make room for the children) Spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited." Isa. 54:1-3. God be praised! that this earth shall yet be peopled by a happy, joyous race, dwelling in love one with another, and having in their midst "the Tabernacle of God."
11. When man is perfect he will need no law, no prohibitions, but all God's universe will be spread out before him to be used as he will. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." But in the process of development, restraint is needed; bounds and limits must be set, prohibitions and commands must be laid down; for "the law is the child leader unto [i.e. until we get to] Christ." All this is presented "in a figure" in these accounts.
12. The great truth that we are God's workmanship, and that all things are of him, has already been noticed in this number. In the second account man is seen apparently spoiling God's work, just as the second covenant, that of the law with the children of Israel at Sinai, seems to fail because man is a party to it. But in the first account most emphatically , "all things are of God," as it really is always; nothing depends on the man-"Let us make man," God and Christ do the whole work, and hence nothing fails. So in the first covenant, the "covenant (not of mutual agreement, but) of promise," with Abraham. There are no conditions in it; nothing depends on man. God simply tells Abraham what He will do, without any if about it. ( See Gen. 17). Will it be done, do you suppose? God be praised! that the accomplishment of the process and completion of creation depends not on man but on God,-hence there can be no failure,-the race at last shall attain to the likeness of God; and then His words will be no longer mystically prophetical, but actually realized,-"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them."
I must close this long article, although many thoughts still crowd upon my mind for expression. There is no bottom and no shore to this "great deep" (Psa. 36:6) of God's truth. The letter of the Word seems oft-times to lose its power and to be exhausted. The spirit is as inexhaustible as God; it is God, for to find the spirit in all things, is to find "God in everything." What I have said may help some to more truth. These two accounts surely have a deeper richness and significance when we thus see the spirit of the Word. We can thus see why there are two accounts, and all the apparent discrepancies are seen to be dazzling gems of truth, when the dust of the "letter" is cleared away. May the spirit lead us on into "all truth." Amen.