by Herold Weiss
It is widely accepted that the first three chapters of Genesis actually contain two stories of creation which are told from two quite different perspectives. One is found in Gen. 1: 1 – 2: 4a, and the other in Gen. 2: 4b – 4:23. Neither one of them supports what came to be affirmed as the orthodox Christian view of creation – that God created ex nihilo, out of nothing. Both stories have pre-existent matter at hand when God enters the picture. The first says that God’s Spirit moved over the primeval ocean. The second says that God came to an inhospitable, arid desert.
Most importantly, the two stories differ by the way in which they express God’s relationship to primeval matter and the way in which God accomplishes what he wishes to do. In the first God never enters the world that is being created. God remains throughout aloof in space and issues commands. In the second God walks upon the ground and gets physically involved in bringing about what is to be. He plants a garden, molds clay, breathes into the clay. God takes a rib out of Adam and closes its place with flesh. God talks face to face with Adam and Eve. God searches for them while calling them. God makes garments of skins for Adam and Eve, and clothes them. While the God of the first story is transcendent, the God of the second is fully immanent.
Finally, both stories have God establish a means for keeping in touch with the human family. In the first God creates the Sabbath as a day of rest. In the second, God plants at the center of the garden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus, each story has a peculiar “temple” of its own. All ancient stories of creation end with the establishment of a temple by means of which human beings keep their relationship with the gods alive. While the story of the transcendent God establishes a temple in immaterial time, the story of the immanent God has trees that establish that human life is dependent on obedience. In pointing out these details of the two stories, am I not reading my Bible literally?