Origins 16(2):49-68 (1989).
WHAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT
Literary critics have divided Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 between different authors at different times. Literary techniques employed at several different and parallel junctions (beginning, middle and end) in the two narratives demonstrate a similar writing style, however, and thus point towards a unity of authorship.
This study addresses the problem that is presented by the common
literary critical approach to the two creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2. According to
the Documentary Hypothesis, Genesis 1 was written by the Priestly writer or his school in
the 6th or 5th century B.C., while Genesis 2 was written by the Yahwist writer, currently
dated in the 10th century B.C. Since these two sources were supposedly written by
different persons in different places in very different times, this approach to these
narratives has emphasized their differences even "contradictions"
and the contrast in their writing styles. Needless to say, neither source is seen to have
any connection with an earlier Mosaic authorship of these passages. The corollary of this
view, sometimes written but other times left unsaid, is that the reader need have little
confidence in the idea that either record might actually reflect the historical events of
In my earlier study of this problem (ORIGINS 5:9-38, 1978), I concentrated on lexical and thematic links between Genesis 1 and 2 in supporting their unity of authorship. This present study comprises a more comprehensive examination of that particular aspect of these literary relations. In so doing, all of Genesis 2 is outlined, and the relevant corresponding passages in Genesis 1 are also examined in some detail. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate sufficient literary structural parallels between these two narratives to support their unity of authorship. No attempt will be made to date these narratives.
LITERARY STRUCTURAL OUTLINE OF GENESIS 2
An extended outline of Genesis 1 can be found in my 1978 study and
therefore will not be repeated here. This present article will outline Genesis 2. While it
generally is appropriate to start the outline at the beginning of a chapter or narrative,
this study of the literary structure of Genesis 2 commences from the center of the
chapter. The reason for the selection of this starting point will become evident in the
course of this study.
At the center of the creation narrative in Genesis 2 lies the description of the four rivers which flowed from the Garden of Eden. This description is given in a particular form which can be detected best by outlining the statement about each river. The section begins with a general observation: "And a river went out from Eden to water the garden, and from there it was divided and became four heads" (v. 10). The identification and description of each river follows:
The description of these rivers has been outlined in a decrescendo
form, and each of the successive descriptions becomes shorter and shorter. The first
description names the river, states its location, and describes the precious metals and
stones that were present. The second description names the river and the land around which
it flowed, but no detailed information about that land is given. The third description
also names the river and its location, but even this description is shorter than that of
the previous river. The fourth river is only named; the country or countries by which it
flowed are not named, and no description is given.
The same pattern is also evident in the Hebrew word counts. The four successive river descriptions are given in 20, 10, 8, and 4 Hebrew words respectively. Perhaps it is coincidental that the second description is half the length of the first, and the fourth is half the length of the third. What surely is not coincidence, however, is that the writer designed an intentional and progressive reduction in the length of each statement and the number of words employed to state them.
What did the author wish to express through this format? While a better grasp of this picture can be obtained by taking the whole narrative into account, a preliminary answer is that the writer employed this form to indicate the central point in the narrative. Different subjects precede and follow it, and in a sense the literary style used to describe the rivers expressed the fact that the "watershed" of the narrative had been reached.
From this central point we will examine the sections that precede (vv. 8-9) and follow (vv. 15-17) it. Not only do both sections deal with the Garden of Eden; they are also related in that they show a progression in which the second section develops some ideas about the garden that are not found in the first section. These two sections can be compared side-by-side in translation:
Genesis 2:8-9 Genesis 2:15-17 And Yahweh God planted a garden east of Eden, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. And Yahweh God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden, to till it and to keep it. And Yahweh God caused to sprout from the ground every tree pleasant of appearance and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowing good and evil. And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "from every tree of the garden you may surely eat, but from the tree of knowing good and evil, you shall not eat from it, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die".
Each passage contains two main statements which are demarcated by
the use of the doubly divine name to introduce them. Both statements speak of the garden
and the placing of man in it, and the second passage adds man's purpose to till and
keep it. The trees in the garden are the topic of the second main statement. Both passages
refer to "all of the trees" of the garden and their purpose for man's
nourishment, and especially mention the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The first
passage adds a statement about the tree of life, and the second passage makes a statement
about death the death that would result from a violation of the prohibition about
eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus in terms of subject matter
and approach, these two passages which flank the central section in the narrative about
the rivers are evenly balanced.
The third major pair of statements in this chapter, actually the first and last statements of the narrative, deal with more distinctively creative acts: the creation of man at the beginning of the chapter, and the creation of woman at the end of the chapter. But each is introduced by a scene in which an absence is noted. In the case of the creation of man the picture is drawn of fields that are untended because man has not yet been created. The fields are waiting for him to expend his energies upon them, but man has not yet come upon the scene of action. After he is created, the needs of the fields will be met.
The same pattern is depicted at the end of the chapter in the account of the creation of woman. Beginning with the divine observation that it is not good for man to be alone (v. 18), this introduction concludes with the statement that, after having named all of the animals, the man did not find a helper and a counterpart for himself (v. 20). Even after having seen all the animals, man felt alone. His life still was empty, just as empty as the fields upon which he had not yet expended his energy.
While these scenes cover different subjects, they are thematically related as introductions to the creative acts which are necessitated to fill a void described in each introductory scene. Both passages which introduce the creative acts at the beginning and the end of this chapter follow a similar pattern in terms of form and content. Both open with a pair of main statements, followed by a longer series of dependent or less direct statements, virtually parenthetical in nature. This parenthetical-like description sets the stage for the creative acts which are described next. These two introductory sections may be outlined in translation as follows:
Genesis 2:4-6 Genesis 2:18-20
- "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when created,
- And Yahweh God said, "It is not good for man to be alone,
- on the day of Yahweh God's making earth and heaven;
- I will make for him a helper as his counterpart".
- and no shrub of the field was yet in the earth,
- And Yahweh God formed from the ground every beast of the field and every fowl of the heavens.
- and no herb of the field had yet sprouted,
- And he brought them unto the man to see what he would call them.
- for Yahweh God had not yet caused it to rain upon the earth,
- And everything that the man named the living creatures, that was its name
- and there was no man to till the ground,
- And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to all the fowl of the heavens, and to every beast of the field.
- but a mist went up from the earth and watered all the face of the ground" .
- But for man there was not found a helper as his counterpart.
These introductory sections are preceded by two main statements
(A + B). In the first section these are summary statements about creation
overall. In the second section they are given as direct speech from God. Though not
directly related by content, they are related by form in terms of both paired statements
and chiastic contents (i.e., characterized by a reversal in the order of words) which they
present. This is most evident in the first case where heavens and earth in v. 4a are
reversed in v. 4b to read earth and heavens. In addition, these pairs are reversed in
order in their relationship to the verbs present in their statements. The pair precedes
the verb in v. 4a and the pair follows the verb in v. 4b in their Hebrew word
order The chiastic construction in the opening statement of this creation narrative
provides an indicator of what is to follow on a broader scale in the rest of the
A chiastic element is also found in the second section in reference to the fowl of heaven and the beasts of the earth. The beasts of the earth precede the fowl of heaven in v. 19, but they follow them in v. 20. The relationship between this chiasm and the one in the preceding section is worth noting. In the first section the heaven and the earth are given first in one order and then in the reverse order. The same two elements are found also in the second section, but this time they are linked to the birds and beasts which occupy them. Another link between these two sections is the way in which the dual divine name is used. In both sections it occurs twice: once in the introduction and once in the body of the description.
The translations and punctuation (especially in the second section) given here are my own. Since punctuation was not used in the original manuscript in ancient times, one is permitted some freedom in punctuating these statements. My punctuation, based on their thought units, reveals a significant difference between these two passages. In the first passage the phrases of description are dependent clauses which are directly and intimately linked to the opening statement of introduction. In the second section the statements of description of action can stand alone as independent sentences. Thus in the first case a paired opening introductory statement is followed by a series of five dependent clauses, while in the second section the paired opening introductory statement is followed by a series of five independent statements that can be considered to be separate sentences.
One reason for this difference involves the nature of the five statements of description. In the first passage those statements make up a description of a scene or picture, that of the empty fields which had not yet been watered or worked and had not produced any crops. In the second section the description contains a series of action statements, divine acts in the creation of woman. In contrast, the pictorial descriptive statements are set in a series of dependent clauses. This difference becomes all the more significant when this creation narrative is compared with the one which precedes it in Genesis 1.
From this analysis of the introductory scenes, we may turn next to the statements which deal directly with the actions of creation, the creation of man described at the beginning of the chapter and the creation of woman described towards the end of the chapter.
Genesis 2:7 The Creation of Man
- "Then Yahweh God formed the man of dust from the ground,
- and he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
- and the man became a living soul".
Genesis 2:21-22 The Creation of Woman
- a) "And Yahweh God caused a heavy sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept.
- b) And he took one from his ribs and closed the flesh over it.
- a) And Yahweh God built the rib which he had taken from the man into a woman.
- b) And he brought her unto the man".
While technically speaking this is not poetry, there does appear to
be a measured difference between these two passages. The first statement, which deals with
the creation of man, is given in one series of three statements. The second passage, on
the other hand, describes the creation of woman through two pairs of statements, each of
which is introduced by the dual divine name. By way of contrast, the dual divine name is
used only once in the opening statement about the creation of man. As will be discussed
below, this arrangement of a triplet related to a pair of couplets also resembles some
elements which are related between Genesis 1 and 2.
The final two elements in Genesis 2 have no corresponding and balancing unit at the beginning of that narrative. I refer in this case to the poem found in Genesis 2:23, which is the song that Adam sang when Eve was presented to him. Then follows an epilogue which tells about the dress, or lack thereof, of the first human couple.
The description of the contents of the creation narrative found in Genesis 2 is complete at this point and it may now be diagrammed as a chiasm.
The structure of the creation narrative in Genesis 2 can thus be
seen as an evenly balanced composition in which three major blocks of text in the first
half of the narrative are paralleled by three major blocks of text in the second half of
the narrative. These blocks present an introduction to the creative act, and in a linked
passage the creative act itself is described (A1 + A2 // A1'
+ A2'). The paired statements are also evenly balanced. The introduction to
each creative act is described in turn in two sections, the first consisting of a pair of
preliminary statements that are followed by five dependent or independent statements which
provide the body of the description. Each description shows that a definite and important
element is lacking in the scene. In the first case man was needed to work the
fields. In the second case woman was missing, and man, despite having named all
of the animal world, still needed human companionship.
The descriptions of the creative acts themselves are not as evenly balanced, but the imbalance appears to be intentional. The first creative action the creation of man is described in one triplet of statements. The second creative act which dealt with woman is described in a pair of couplets. Thus the single and the doubled literary units are linked with the first and the second of the creative acts. The more expanded statement deals with the succeeding creative act.
Following the passage which deals with the creation of man and preceding the passage that deals with the creation of woman, we find another pair of passages (B and B') which focus upon the garden. Both passages state that man was placed in this garden, and the second gives the reasons for this. Then attention is turned to the trees in the garden. Both passages identify these trees. The first passage describes their use for food in general, while the second passage specifies a restriction upon their consumption. There is one specific tree in the garden from which fruit was not to be eaten. Again the number of statements dealing with the two related subjects in these two passages corresponds directly.
At the center of the narrative is the dividing point literarily and geographically. At this point we reach the watershed of the narrative and the watershed of the garden, for here the four rivers which flow from the garden issue and are described. The particular fashion in which they are described is one of a decrescendo literary unit with progressively shorter statements being made about each river. This decrescendo form emphasizes the dividing point that has been reached in the narrative.
At the end of the narrative two more elements appear which are not balanced in the first half of the narrative. They include the song of the creation of woman, sung by Adam in poetic form, and the epilogue which deals with a lesson to be learned from the first couple's marriage, and a description of their physical habit. The chiastic portion of the chapter ends with v. 22, for that is the last of the narrative for which a balancing portion can be found in the earlier part of the narrative. The poem that follows is actually balanced by an element which is found in Genesis 1, as described below, but there is no balancing unit in Genesis 2 for it or the epilogue which follows it. It is not necessary for them to be balanced in order to have a chiastically constructed narrative here; they can simply be considered "overhanging" elements. Notice that they come at the end of the narrative and not at some earlier point where they would disrupt this neatly organized chiasm.
COMPARISONS BETWEEN GENESIS 1 AND 2
With the structure of Genesis 2 outlined as described above,
comparisons can now be made with Genesis 1 to identify points of correspondence and
parallels. A superficial glance gives the impression that there are no close points of
correspondence between the two narratives, for overall Genesis 2 is chiastic in
construction and Genesis 1 is not. But before parallels between the two chapters are
dismissed summarily, the details of the two narratives should also be compared. When this
detailed comparison is accomplished, correspondences of a much closer nature than had been
expected can be seen.
A standard outline of Genesis 1 suggests that Days 1-3 of creation that are described there are paralleled by those that are described for Days 4-6 of the creation week. In this way the light created on Day 1 is elaborated into the bodies which continue to give light on the earth, the sky and sea divided by the firmament on Day 2 are filled with fish and fowl on Day 5, and the earth that was separated from the seas and populated with plants was filled with animals and human beings on Day 6. To this is added a seventh day as a kind of epilogue, and, looking back at the beginning of the chapter, vv. 1-2 can be seen as a prologue that balances with the epilogue. This simple description or outline produces the following scheme for the chapter:
This was the outline which I elaborated in my previous study on this
subject, and something similar has been noted by any number of commentators on Genesis.
Since this outline might be called synonymous or synthetic parallelism by nature, and
since Genesis 2 employs a chiastic construction which is by nature inverted
parallelism, wherein lies the comparisons between the two? If they are so different in
overall structure, can they really be so similar in the details of their structure?
The thesis of this study is that there are specific points in the outlines and structures of these two narratives where they correspond in rather directly parallel ways. In actuality four of these points can be isolated. While the materials between these points of contact do not necessarily correspond either in form or content, these particular points of contact are sufficiently direct and detailed to suggest that they were written by the same author who intended a literary design in his description of the historical acts of creation. The four points of contact to which I refer can be found at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the narratives respectively, and in terms of the one piece of poetry which each of them contains. If these points of contact do correspond, both of these narratives have been written with an overall skeleton that corresponds to the other, even though the intervening details with which they have been fleshed out may not be directly related.
GENESIS 1:1-2 // GENESIS 2:4-6
While these verses or passages both contain statements about the creation of the heavens and the earth, it may at first appear that the comparisons go no further. A closer examination of the form of the first passage, however, reveals a correspondence by form, even though the thematic correspondence differs in a particular way.
In this case there is one main introductory statement, followed by
three dependent clauses which provide a picture of the scene which the earth presented at
that time. The structure is very similar to the structure of the introduction to the
creation narrative in Genesis 2. But there the introductory statement is doubled, and
the length of the dependent description is also approximately doubled. The doubling there
appears to be a literary marker, telling the reader that this narrative is an intentional
second narrative on the same subject of creation that was covered in the first narrative.
The doubling process can be seen from the fact that in the first case we have
A + 3 whereas in the second case we have A + B + 5. Not only
has the second passage been doubled over the first one by form or volume, but the
syntactic relations are very similar. The independent statement, either single
(Genesis 1) or paired (Genesis 2) introduces the scene, but the description of
the picture of things that follows is given in dependent clauses which would not stand
alone without the introductory statement.
There is also the thematic relation between these two passages, with the difference being only one of magnitude. In the first instance the whole world (earth) is empty, waste and void and uninhabited, while in the second instance it is specifically the agricultural fields that are empty, because man was not there to work in them. Thus the comparison is between the picture of the empty earth and the empty fields.
This doubling function of the introduction to the second creation narrative is also emphasized by the doubled use of "heaven and earth", whereas it is only used once at the beginning of the first creation narrative. The second time it is used in the second passage, it is reversed in order to make it a chiastic marker which indicates that the narrative which follows is indeed chiastic: in character.
GENESIS 1:14-19 // GENESIS 2:8-17
We are dealing here with the central portions of these respective
narratives. We have previously isolated the statements about the rivers as the central
portion of the chiastic construction in Chapter 2. To this can be added the preceding
and following statements about the garden as the introduction and conclusion to the
statements about the rivers. The rivers and the garden are interrelated and cannot be
completely separated. As we shall see, this connection is also suggested by form.
The center of the narrative of Genesis 1 is not difficult to determine because its successive units have been divided by the successive days of the week. Taking a quick and rough count the seven days, as an uneven number, should indicate that the account of Day 4 is the center of the narrative. It tells specifically about some aspects of nature, the light-giving bodies in the heavens. The account of the river also deals with an aspect of nature as opposed to some animate objects, such as animals. Thus there is a general correspondence in terms of the nature of the objects treated in this portion of the account.
The form of these two passages is similar when they are divided by the topics their elements treat. Both are threefold in that there is an extended introductory statement, then the body of the description of the objects involved, followed by an extended statement of conclusion. The introductions and conclusions in turn can be divided into three subsections or statements each, in both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. In the translation that follows, I have deleted the formulaic statements which note, "and it was so", and, "God saw that it was good", because these are part of the skeleton or formula of each of the accounts of the creation days. We are more interested in the substantive content found framed by these formulaic statements. Now we may put these two passages side-by-side in translation:
Genesis 1:14-19 Genesis 2:8-17 Introduction Introduction
- And God said, "Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the heavens, to divide between the day and the night.
- And Yahweh God planted a garden eastward in Eden.
- And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.
- And he placed there the man whom he had formed.
- And let them be for luminaries in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth".
- And Yahweh God caused to sprout from the ground every tree pleasant of appearance and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowing good and evil.
(No preliminary statement)
(Preliminary statement) And a river went out from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided and became four heads.
- And God made the two great luminaries;
- The name of the first was Pishon, it was ...
- the greater luminary for ruling the day,
- The name of the second river was Gihon, ...
- and the smaller luminary for ruling the night,
- The third river was the Tigris, it went ...
- and the stars.
- The fourth river was the Euphrates.
- And God put them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth;
- And Yahweh God took the man,
- and to rule in the day and in the night,
- and he put him in the Garden of Eden, to till it and to keep it.
- and to divide between the light and the darkness.
- And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "from every tree of the garden you may surely eat, but from the tree of knowing good and evil, you shall not eat of it, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die".
The introductions to these two sections divide their several
statements by the use of verbs. In the first case all three verbs are forms of the verb
"to be". In the second instance, all three differ by referring to different
activities of God. Both the first and third statements in the introduction of the account
of Day 4 contain the identical phrase about the presence of luminaries in the
firmament of the heavens. The middle phrase is divided between them by the use of another
occurrence of the verb "to be".
The central section in each of these passages is the most important for our consideration here, for it is there that the objects of nature are enumerated. The description of the rivers as a decrescendo in literary form has already been mentioned above. Here we need to note a comparison between this and the passage which described the creative acts of Day 4. Once again, four objects are treated. Though one might argue that only three types of luminaries are treated, in the first statement the greater and lesser light are treated as a pair. The literary decrescendo is not so striking here for it goes from five Hebrew words to four words to four words and then down to one word, "the stars". One can now see more of a reason for this rather dangling position of the one word referring to the stars; it stands in the same position as does the most brief reference to the rivers in Chapter 2, the one phrase which identifies the Euphrates as the fourth river without any additional description.
More than the literary decrescendo in Genesis 1, however, is the importance in the decrescendo in size among the luminaries mentioned. The first mentioned is the pair of sun and moon. Obviously, the two together are larger than either of them separately. Then comes the sun alone, which is larger in size than the moon alone. Finally come the stars, and each of them, as tiny points of light in the night sky, is much smaller than either the sun or moon. Thus there is a decrescendo in form, but it is more of a decrescendo in the form of the objects in nature than it is a decrescendo in the lengths of their descriptions. No indication of this decrescendo in size is found among the descriptions of the rivers. In the latter case we encounter a more purely literary phenomenon. Thus although the decrescendo principle is worked out in both of these passages, it is worked out in different ways, rather than being slavishly the same. This is part of the artistry of the author, and it very strongly implies that the same author elaborated this theme in two different ways. It is seriously questionable as to whether different authors for these two narratives would have been so sensitive to this aesthetic nuance in the other's material.
One final point on these central sections is the way in which their key words are employed. The key word for the first passage is "luminary" and the key word for the second section is "river." It is interesting to note that (deleting the introductory statement of the second section) each of them uses their key word precisely three times. The first of the four rivers is not called a "river" per se in its own statement, while the fourth of the luminaries, the stars, is not referred to as a luminary per se in its own statement. Thus the numbers balance here, three each, and their positions are inverted or chiastic. The last luminary in the four statements does not use the key word in the first section, while the first river in the four statements does not use the key word in the second section. This might be accidental, but it appears to be by literary design, making it more likely that it would have been written by the same author who would have been particularly sensitive to this small detail, instead of two independent authors working in different places and times.
The concluding passage of the first section uses different infinitives rather than imperfect forms of the verb to be, as was the case with the statements in the introduction. The same type of usage is true of the conclusion in the passage from Genesis 2. The second verbal statement of v. 15 is not as sharply separated from the preceding statement as that which is found in v. 8, but there still is enough difference between them to make a disjunction here. A comparison could also be made between the use of prepositions in the introduction and conclusion to show their relationship, but such minor details are unnecessary for our purposes.
As an overall comparison between the two passages in the two chapters, it might also be noted that the passage in the first chapter begins with direct speech from God, while the passage in the second chapter ends with direct speech from God. Direct speech from God is not found elsewhere in these two passages. Once again, this might be accidental, but it seems more attributable to literary design, which strongly implies that the same author wrote both passages.
GENESIS 2:1-3 // GENESIS 2:18-20
The creation narrative of Genesis 1 ends with the account of the seventh day, which is actually presented in the first three verses of Chapter 2. As with the beginning statement of Genesis 1 in vv. 1-2, the concluding statement of this narrative opens with a main sentence, followed by three complementary statements. In our analysis, all of v. 4 belongs with the second creation narrative in Chapter 2 as the opening statement in its introduction. The account of the seventh day can be translated in outline as follows:
Each complementary statement which follows the opening statement can
stand as an individual sentence, more so than is the case with the construction in Genesis
1:1-2. Nevertheless there is a clear sense in which they complement, fill out and
elaborate, the opening statement of Genesis 2:1. It should be noted that the first
sentence is the only one in which the heavens and the earth are referred to, just as they
are in Genesis 1:1a. The last sentence of the four present here is the longest, which
tends to be a characteristic of the writer found in both of these narratives.
The main purpose of this analysis in these verses is to provide a basis for comparison with the beginning of Genesis 1 and the beginning and conclusion of the creation narrative of Genesis 2. Above it was noted that when the beginnings of these two narratives are compared, it became evident that there is a ratio between them. In the creation narrative of Genesis 1, the opening and concluding passages are composed of one main opening statement and this is followed by three complementary or subordinate statements. This is true of our analysis of Genesis 2:1-3, and it was also true of the analysis of Genesis 1:1-2. In that analysis above, it was also compared with Genesis 2:4-6, the passage which begins the second narrative. That passage consists of two opening statements written as a couplet, followed by five subordinate statements, dependent upon the first couplet and explaining the picture of the world as it was found at that time. Here we can add in the analysis of Genesis 2:18-20, the introduction to the concluding creative act of the second narrative. It too begins with a couplet, followed by five complementary statements. It becomes evident that the creative acts at the beginning and the end of Chapter 2 are introduced with the same form in their statements. Genesis 1 also begins and ends with similar forms, but the forms which begin and end Chapter 2 are essentially double in length of those employed in Chapter 1. Thus the following pattern is now evident:
Chapter One Chapter Two Introduction Introduction
A + 3 statements
A + B + 5 statements
Conclusion Conclusion (to final creative act)
A + 3 statements
A + B + 5 statements
The conclusions to these two narratives are modeled after their introductions. In turn, the conclusion of Chapter 2 is also modeled after its parallel member in Chapter 1, but it too has been doubled. Thus the four corners of this twofold picture emerge as all interrelated and very evenly balanced. While this pattern could have resulted from chance, it is much more likely that this has resulted from the literary design of a single author for both narratives.
GENESIS 1:27 // GENESIS 2:23
In my 1978 study, one of the few direct literary structural comparisons that I made was the one between these two passages which are, as far as I can tell, the only passages of poetry to be found in these two narratives. The comparison of these two brief poetic passages results in some interesting, even striking, analogies. For that reason some of the earlier points made about two verses are repeated here, because they fit well with the type of analysis carried out here on other passages of these narratives. In my earlier analysis of Genesis 2:23, there was an error in the poetic layout. The first unit of that poetic verse should be a bicolon, not a tricolon; and the statement "this now at last" should be part of the first line or colon, not separate from it. This results in analyzing Genesis 2:23 as a couplet of bicola. In translation these verses appear as:
Genesis 1:27 Genesis 2:23 And God created man in his image; In the divine image created he him, male and female created he them. This now at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman, for from Man was this one taken.
The count of stress accents and syllables in the Hebrew remains the same, regardless of this one minor revision in the second passage. It is remarkable that the counts are exactly the same for both passages, with 12 stress accents and 32 syllables in both passages. There is also a difference in that the first passage has one poetic unit, whereas the second passage in the second creation narrative has two. This doubling of the poetic units present follows the parallels in the volume of text found in the introductory and concluding passages discussed above. There we also saw a doubling as one moves from the first narrative to the second. Here, however, the doubling is of a more subtle nature. The actual volume of text is not increased, only the units into which they have been distributed.
We have now concluded our form analysis of the passages in
Genesis 1 and 2 which have some structural resemblance or parallels to each other.
This analysis shows clearly that there are passages in Genesis 1 for which there are
no corresponding parallels in Chapter 2. There are, however, four main points at
which the forms of these two narratives make contact in very specific ways. There is a
point of contact at the beginning of the narratives. Following this there is no parallel
material in the second narrative for the accounts of Days 1-3 of creation in the first
narrative. At the center of the two narratives is another point of contact and
correspondence. Following this, the materials recounted for Days 5 and 6 are not directly
paralleled structurally in the second narrative, with the exception of the portions of
poetry found in Genesis 1:27 and 2:23. As the conclusion to the narrative, the account of
the seventh day contains some parallels to the introduction to the concluding creative act
in the second narrative. While these two points of contact are not in exactly the same
position in the narrative, once the chiastic construction of the second narrative is
understood, it can be seen why this is where the parallels are located.
The overall scheme of these two chapters may now be outlined side-by-side. Points identified only by letters in the outline have been discussed in more detail above.
A word should be said here about the epilogue to the second
narrative and its corresponding elements in the first narrative. Since it follows the
second creative act of Chapter 2, we may look for some corresponding elements in the
last direct creative act in the first narrative. While Day 7 was also a creative day
in a certain sense, the last directly creative acts that produced physical objects of some
sort took place on Day 6. Hence that is where we should look for correspondences to
the epilogue of the second narrative.
The two main elements in the epilogue to the second narrative included the ideas that a man and his wife should leave their parents and cleave to each other. In Day 6 of creation in Chapter 1 they were to "be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth" (v. 28), i.e., the descendants are the subject of the first narrative. The parents of ancestors are the subject of the second narrative, so there is a general, though reversed, point of correspondence here.
After dealing with the subject of parents and the married couple's separation from them, the text of the second narrative concludes with a reference to the first couple's clothing, or lack thereof: "They two were naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed before each other" (v. 25). The first narrative also includes an element of this general category of needs supplied, but in this case it is food, for the diet of the first pair was assigned there (v. 29). In the second case the parallel element dealt with clothing. In the first case these elements follow the poem of the song of the creation of man and in the second case these elements follow in the epilogue after the song of the creation of woman. These elements can thus be outlined as follows:
End of the account of the 6th day of creation: Genesis 1 Epilogue to the account of the creation of woman: Genesis 2
- Poem: Song of the creation of man
- Poem: Song of the creation of woman
- Be fruitful children/descendants
- Separate parents/ancestors
- Diet presented
- Clothes not presented (not needed)
In the larger outline above which summarizes the four major points
of contact between these two narratives, I have intentionally inverted one element in the
outline. The outline of Genesis 1 follows the text directly as it is in the Bible. In
the outline of Genesis 2, however, I have inverted the location of the piece of
poetry from following the (introduction to the) conclusion to preceding it. This was done
simply to show how direct the correspondence is. In actuality, when located following the
introduction to the conclusion in the second narrative, it is another case of a chiastic
correspondence between the two narratives. Our emphasis is, however, upon the more direct
correspondence between them.
After outlining these two narratives at the beginning of this study the question was raised, Is it possible to relate these two narratives structurally when one was written in a chiastic or invertedly parallel order, and the other was written in a directly parallel order? This seemed to be a tall order, given the distance between these two overall types of outlines. Nevertheless, when the details found within those outlines were examined more carefully, it was noted that there are quite a number of rather direct literary structural parallels between them. These parallels encompass most of Genesis 2, but some elements from Genesis 1 are not paralleled in that second narrative. There is good reason for this absence. The purpose of the second narrative was not to recount all of the details of creation from Genesis 1 again; it was to enlarge the details of some select portions of that first creation narrative, in particular, the creation of man and woman.
There are four main points of contact between these two narratives in terms of their forms or literary structural details. These parallels or correspondences are found at particularly strategic textual junctures; at the beginning, in the center, at the conclusion, and in the case of the one piece of poetry found in each narrative. In all four instances the literary forms employed are very similar in quite a number of respects. There is enough evidence from these points of contact to suggest and strongly support the idea that one is modeled after the other. I have emphasized the matter of "doubling" between the two narratives. This is the type of phenomena in which either the volume or the form of that which is found in the first is doubled in the second. I would, at this point, like to include one more example of this phenomena.
As the discipline of literary criticism arose in the 18th century, one of the features of the text which caused Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to be distributed to different sources was the matter of the use of the divine names. Elohim is the divine name employed exclusively in the first chapter, and Yahweh Elohim is the combination found exclusively in the second chapter. There are no exceptions to this rule. Literary critics believe this to indicate a difference between sources. Their case would be stronger if the name Elohim had been used in Genesis 1 exclusively, and the divine name of Yahweh had been used exclusively in the second chapter. But this is not the case. What we actually have exclusively in the second chapter is Yahweh Elohim. The divine name too has been doubled, not to show that this is a difference source, but that this is a "second" narrative. The author himself has left a number of literary markers in the narrative to demonstrate that.
The comparison of literary structure gives strong evidence of intentional design in the forms found in the passages analyzed above. These are intrarelated within their own narratives and interrelated between the two narratives. It is especially this last point, their interrelatedness, which emphasizes the probability that they were written by the same author. So much comparative design between the two narratives could hardly have resulted from two different authors at widely separated locations (Jerusalem and Babylon) and points in time (10th century and 6th-5th century).
It could be argued that the later author, P or his school, took an earlier narrative (already four centuries old) and deliberately modeled their work after that of J or his school. But this will not work, or at least it fits very poorly in view of the above analysis, for it is Genesis 2 which is "doubled" over Genesis 1. But Genesis 2 the "doubled" narrative is supposed to have been written four centuries before Genesis 1, which is the "single" narrative. In other words, literary critics have reversed the time relationship between these two narratives in comparison to that which would be required by the character of the text.
The real solution to this problem is not to attempt to put Genesis 1 before Genesis 2, or to put Genesis 2 before Genesis 1 in terms of when they were written, but rather to acknowledge that there are sufficient details in common between these two narratives to indicate that they were written by one and the same author. It is to that single author and the unity of these two narratives that these literary structural correspondences point us.
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