Does Genesis 1 Contradict Genesis 2?

There are a few absurd accusations of Biblical contradictions made, but probably the most popular one is regarding whether or not Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 contradict.

One must truly ask the unbelievers — how exactly do they devise a contradiction between two chronological texts that are not talking about the same thing? Let’s take a look, starting with Genesis 1.

[Genesis 1:20-27]  Then God said, “Let the water swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the large sea-creatures and every living creature that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds. He also created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So God blessed them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” Evening came and then morning: the fifth day. Then God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.

Let us now see what Genesis 2 has to say.

[Genesis 2:8-19] The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river went out from Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and became the source of four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon, which flows through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. Gold from that land is pure; bdellium and onyx are also there. The name of the second river is Gihon, which flows through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris, which runs east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” So the Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.

They are in fact quite long quotations of each chapter, but in Genesis 1, we see plants and animals are made first, and then man — however in Genesis 2, man appears before plants and animals! A clear contradiction, right??

Now that you’ve finished laughing off that statement, let us answer this accusation. For one, Genesis 2 does not have anything to do with re-describing the creation all over again — it’s talking about something completely different. If Genesis 2 were completely re-describing all of creation, which had just been explained in the earlier chapter, why doesn’t it mention the creation of the heavens and earth, sun and moon, sky, etc?

In reality, Genesis 2 is describing what God is creating in the Garden of Eden. Not the whole world or even the whole universe, just the Garden of Eden — independent of the rest of the world. In the rest of the world, God had already created plants and animals before Adam and Eve were formed. God was not wholesale creating animals and birds in Genesis 2:19, He was just placing them in the Garden of Eden. The funny thing is, Genesis 2:19 is likely past-tense in the original Hebrew, so in fact there would be no creation going on here at all — it is stating how God had already formed the plants and animals. So not only is Genesis 1 and 2 not both talking about the creation of the world, and thus not contradicting, not only does Genesis 2 specifically reference the Garden of Eden, but it doesn’t state when the animals and plants had been created either way, as the Hebrew is past-tense and so it would simply be stating God had already previously formed them, rather than that He was forming them during that moment.

Rather than having a Bible contradiction on our hands, it looks like this is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding. A strange one to presume against the Bible in the first place, but a misunderstanding nonetheless. A laughable one as well.

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3 thoughts on “Does Genesis 1 Contradict Genesis 2?

  1. “God was not wholesale creating animals and birds in Genesis 2:19, He was just placing them in the Garden of Eden.”

    Might this also describe Adam? And if so, does this mean we cannot pinpoint the length of time between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2? It could be Day 8, it could be a thousand years later.

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    • It can’t really be a thousand years later — Adam and Eve are created in Genesis 1:26 if I’m not mistaken (or 27?), and Adam’s entire life was 930 or so years. There is not exactly a “time difference” between Genesis 1 and 2 either, Genesis 2 simply begins explaining the story of God and man, after Genesis 1 tells us how God made everything.

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      • Gotcha. I grabbed ahold of your notion that Genesis 2 is not “The” creation of animals because they were placed in Eden and extended that to Adam. He was not created in Eden so perhaps this is not “The” creation of man either. But a couple verses earlier in 2 describes his creation from dust. Derp.

        I suppose if you take the organization of Genesis 1 to be thematic rather than chronological you clear up supposed discrepancies pretty quickly.

        Also your post should address verse 5 when it says there were no plants. I’ve seen a couple explanations and I am curious of yours.

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