How Many Biblical Creation Stories Are In Genesis 1-3?
How many biblical creation stories are there in Genesis 1-3? The previous post, What Kind of Bible Story Is The Biblical Creation Story?, considered the question of the type of story. Now it is time to consider whether is only one genesis creation story or two creation stories.
Genesis Creation Stories
As a place to begin, I highly recommend the article by Timothy Beal, In the Beginning(s): Appreciating the Complexity of the Bible. As Beal makes clear in the subtitle, his purpose is to demonstrate the complexity of the Bible. He does this by referring to multiple creation stories in the Bible. He starts with Genesis.
“The opening chapters of Genesis give us two [creation stories]. In the first, God begins on the macrocosmic level, calling forth light from dark, waters from waters, and land from sea. Then comes vegetation, then the sun, moon and stars, and then animal life. Finally, as the piece de resistance of creation, God makes humankind, in the plural, male and female, in God’s image.”
“In the second story, which immediately follows this one, the order of creation is entirely different. Here God’s first act of creation, before there are any plants or animals, is to form a single human, not yet male or female, by shaping it from the dust of the earth and then bringing it to life by breathing into its nostrils. Thus ha’adam, Hebrew for “the human,” is formed from ha’adamah, “the earth,” and becomes a living soul by divine breath. A beautiful image of the ecological spirituality of humanity: a God-breathed and breathing lump of clay, human from humus, an incarnation of divine transcendence and earthy immanence, as intimate with the ground as with God. Then come plants and animals. Then, when no animal fits the bill as lifelong companion (sorry, Fido), God essentially divides the human into two, male and female. So, in the first story, humans in the plural, male and female, are created last; and in the second, a single human is created first. These two versions of creation simply do not sync” (In the Beginning(s): Appreciating the Complexity of the Bible).
Evidence For Two Creation Bible Stories In Genesis
These two paragraphs are a concise and accurate description of evidence for two distinct creation stories in Genesis. In this post, my purpose is not to amplify Beal’s argument or even to consider why and how these are two different stories, with dramatically different origins. As a biblical scholar, I have studied the biblical creation stories of Genesis extensively and I have much to say about them.
Bible Stories As Midrash
What has always interested me most about these two creation stories, lying side by side in the Bible, is that they are evidence of a particularly Hebrew method of study called “midrash.”
The Hebrew noun, midrash, is derived from the verb, darash, which means “to seek.”
The particular aspect of midrash that fascinates me most is that it provides a dramatic contrast between the tendency of Christian tradition to treat the Bible as the irrefutable source of answers, in contrast to Hebrew midrashic traditions, which encourage seeking questions about its sacred book.
“Dr. Charles T. Davis (Appalachian Statue University, Philosophy and Religion Department, NC) has prepared a  summary of the definition and features of Midrash, based on Rabbi Burton Visotzky’s “Reading the Bible”. This summary says that once a canon (i.e., approved scriptural text) is closed, the problem facing the community is the problem of “searching out” the canon. Midrash is a method of reading the Bible as an Eternal text, and is the result of applying a set of hermeneutical principles evolved by the community to guide one in reading the canon, in order to focus one’s reading. The ultimate goal of midrash is to “search out” the fullness of what was spoken by the Divine Voice” (Question 3.24: What is a Midrash?).
Rather than see Genesis 1-3 as one complete story, Genesis 1-3 are actually two examples of midrash in Hebrew tradition.
To be continued…
For Your Freedom,
Dr. Kalinda Rose Stevenson
The Story Transformer
Creator of “The Story Transformation Process”
[Cross-Published on KalindaRoseStevenson.com]
This is the third post in a 5-Part series.