The Counterarguments to reading Genesis 1 and 2 as Recapitulatory

Just now back from taking my dad on his veteran’s Honor Flight to D.C. Will review the science, etc., and engage.
When Jesus says he is the “Alpha and the Omega,” he is also convolving those two things.
Are we to draw the conclusion that he sees those as the same thing, and that the entire sweep of intervening history is to be seen recapitulatively?
I’m sorry, but that’s just a laughable argument.
If I were to quote a sentiment from the Declaration of Independence and combine it with another sentiment from the Constitution into one sentence, in defense of, say, the American notion of personhood, would anyone in their right mind conclude that I meant to argue that those two documents were narrating a simultaneous instance?
The sequential reading cannot be simply dismissed using such, if you’ll pardon my English, inanity.
Would love to hear any reasonable counterarguments to this, @swamidass or @jack.collins . Thanks for the show, @purposenation !


I’ll go further and make a purposefully provocative claim that, without a sequential reading of the first two chapters, we have to admit that the Bible makes no particular claim to all of humanity having a monogenetic origin, since Genesis 3 presents the simple fact of others from outside the garden, not from Adam’s lineage, as a non-controversial thing, from among whom Cain could choose a wife after having been exiled by God Himself away from his family of origin.
Either he committed bestiality by doing so, or he directly defied God’s order of permanent family exile to do so (not noted as such in the text) --or, the Genesis 1 account presents the unified origin of all of humanity at God’s creation, PRIOR TO the beginning of the family line fostered by Adam and his lineage.
Again, I’d love to hear a response to this line of thinking by @swamidass , @jack.collins , @deuteroKJ , @KenKeathley , @anon46279830 , and @jongarvey , among others.
I do mean to present this as a serious challenge to those who would blithely dismiss the cogency of a sequential reading of the first two accounts.
In a sequential reading, there is no chronological recapitulation of events (only of concepts such as “made from dust”).
In a sequential reading, God creates from “adam” --mankind generally, not the singular person of Adam (see Gen. 1:26) --a brand new thing; a humanity (plural – Genesis 1:27) created in God’s image, male and female, who then by God’s invitation, wander over the face of the earth, being fruitful and multiplying… WELL BEFORE God takes the next step: to school a specific male named Adam in His good nature, by asking him to remain in one place --a garden, where God will teach him irrigation agriculture, with its attendant need to learn to respect the rights of private property, so that humanity can go on to flourish in numbers without wreaking unsustainable havoc on the earth’s ecosystems, thus launching civilization proper.
Adam’s fails at these lessons at their most basic level --ignoring God’s command as the garden’s owner, eschewing his role as a regent of God’s bidding and as a reflection of God’s good character, and instead rebels against God’s good plan. Yet, God’s ultimate plan is not thereby thwarted. Thanks be to Jesus!
In this reading, Adam could well be from very “recently” in time, say, from 15-13 kya.



I completely agree with you on this position.

A very close scrutiny of events in Genesis 1 and 2 show two very different chain of events. It is so subtle and yet still visible… the more I compare the more certain i am that these were two different stories!


Thanks, George.
That the second story was purposefully meant to be read and understood in light of the first, but NOT as co-occurring with the first, is the plainest thing once you give it the chance to mean that.
No complicated mental gymnastics needed to harmonize them as a single account. The order of things is intentionally different in the second, because it’s both signaling a discontinuity with the first story, while situating it within a wider unfolding narrative.
“This is what happened after the first story you heard was concluded.”
Especially by Genesis 3, we definitely have to see the details of Adam and Eve’s fall as occurring sometime after God’s “day six” comment that things were "very good."

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Would you say that the creation of the animals in between the creation of Adam and the creation of Eve situates the second story within a wider unfolding narrative?

I would agree, but perhaps we mean different things. I’d say that there are three different stories, and that the Cain/Abel story is separate from the Adam/Eve story.

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I think the fact Genesis 1 makes no mention of the Tree of Evil… while Genesis 2 does is the MORE convincing indication of a wider narrative of different people having different circumstances.


I can agree to that as well! Cain appears to be the ORIGINAL good guy… with the original mark of protection…

… redactors turned him into a murderer as a way to re-contextualize the mark of protection… and then they stole his family tree story…

You refer to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? I think it’s obvious from most every point that the two stories are unconnected to each other and are independent creation myths stuffed by the compilers of Genesis into one book. I would venture a guess (uninformed by any actual knowledge) that Genesis 2 is the earlier of the two stories, just because it seems theologically more primitive.


That also solves the problem of where Cain got his wife. Cain would not originally have been attached to the first couple or to a world in which all people were descendants of that couple.


It would seem that you both might have trouble letting the text speak on its own terms.
No animals were newly “created” in the second story (“bara” is nowhere to be found there); they were only brought to Adam, having been “formed from the ground.” Hardly a description for newly miraculous acts!
"Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. - Genesis 2:19 NASB
This particular part of the story is elucidating the growing need in Adam for a companion; see verse 20.
Cain is definitely NOT presented as the original good guy.


You can swing a bat at whatever you like… but Genesis 1 is clearly more closely connected to the very beginnings of the Cosmos.

Genesis 2 is more specially connected to a more moral phase of cosmic evolution.


Just remember that identifying the literary seams for how different stories were sutured together does not change the importance of how the different stories created meaning to existence.


I think i was clumsy in my description. My point about Cain as “good guy” is made in reference to the hypothesis that the fragment of the Cain story that survives in the Bible probably comes from etmological legends of the Canaanites…

Inverted for the Bible to more favorably honor a non-canaanite heritage.

Well, I’ve never been clummzy in my whole life, but I’ll try to relate without tripping over my own rhetoric. : )

Remove Genesis 1, and I contend you don’t really have a creation story at all. You have the story of a particular population (of 2) in a very particular place - and moreover, unlike city-based creation myths like Enuma elish, a place that disappears from the narrative (but whose loss sets the trajectory of the whole ensuing account).

So it is not a typical story of the founding of a state-cult, but everything focuses on it: Adam is formed elsewhere and brought to it; the animals formed (or already formed are brought here for Adam’s naming), the drama revolves around the gaining of (perverted) wisdom in despite of Yahweh’s intentions, and the loss of eternal life thereby.

I’d disagree that Cain’s story can be separated - we have a tightly knit narrative from 2:4 to the call of Abram. But the creation story has its own agenda and its own genre and, as I’ve written extensively before, acts as a stand-alone introduction of the good world God has created, humanity and all, in which dramatic things begin to happen as God begins something new.

That something (in the light of the Bible’s overarching narrative) could be described in terms of a new creation - a creation based on intimacy with Yahweh in covenant, on co-regency (which is not inappropriately decribed by Heiser as membership of the divine council), and of eternal life, something entirely distinct from the natural outcomes of Gen 1.

And so Adam is a man, as in Gen 1, but in some sense a new kind of man, for whose origin and life-events “mytho-poetic” language would be considered most appropriate. Think in terms of two stages of creation - or even two creations - within one developing “salvation narrative”, and the place of the stories in the sequence becoems obvious.

The Victorian preoccupation with isolating sources is of limited use (and thankfully fading as people rediscover that we have a book by an author to understand). Personally, my feeling is that ch2-11 embody a single set of traditions (explaining, do a degree, the paralells with other ANE literature), shaped into the narrative of Israel, to which the author added a unique and sophisticated monotheistic creation narrative as the setting.

In case any are unfamiliar with this, that Gen 1 narrative is neatly explained by its clear parallels to the building of the Tabernacle in Exodus - there is a rich cross-correlation between Yahweh’s cosmos and Yahweh’s covenant sanctuary - and crucial parallels AND differences between those and the garrden sanctuary of ch2.

Loosely speaking, the call of Israel (the theme of the Pentateuch) follows from the Adam narrative - whereas the world to which they are called to minister follows from ch1.


Is it, perhaps, the other way 'round, that the parallels, canons and conventions of building the temple in Exodus are the result of the revelatory oracles in early Genesis? There’s good reason to think that chapter one is really that ancient, predating the Genesis 2 and ff. narrative.

@Alice_Linsley what does your work in anthropology say about Cain’s wife?

I had this discussion with the Director of Tyndale House! It seems to me a two way street, in which all one can really say is that the cosmos is described as sacred space in the same terms as the tabernacle is. Which came first appears to me to be of minor importance.

The cosmos corresponds to the tabernacle, and the tabernacle to the cosmos. And the revelation of both, as we have it, is in the same body of literature. One way or another, Israel discovers that as they worship in the tabernacle, they are worshipping the God of the whole cosmos. And as they live in the world, they are in the courtyard of God’s true tabernacle.

Plus, of course, the lessons are echoed at an intermediate level in which Israel itself is the sanctuary of the world, and the tabernacle its Holy of holies.

That “representation” has its spiritual parallels throughout salvation history, for the locus of worship is now the body of Christ, the “true temple”, and that in turn is represented in the Eucharist.

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When I say “earlier” I don’t mean in the time scale of the stories; I refer to the historical origins of the stories. And I refer to the conceptions of God in the stories. The Genesis 2 God is much more anthropomorphic and, frankly, bumbling. He walks in the garden. He can’t create from nothing but acts more like a potter. He can’t figure out that Adam’s proper companion is a female human until he tries out all the animals. He gives Adam an impossible task (not eating a particular fruit). He doesn’t know where the humans are when they hide from him. He doesn’t seem to realize that the snake is acting against him until after the fact. And his concern is that Adam will eat from the other tree and live forever, which for some reason he had not done previously.

Contrast with Genesis 1 in which a powerful deity makes everything using only his will as expressed in a voice. That seems much more like the modern conception of God.