Contradictions in the Bible

Genesis 1-11 

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Thursday, 21 September 2017 13:36

Contradictions in the Bible | The creation of man and woman

Written by Gabriel Baicu
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The narratives of the creation of humankind are also marred by contradictions between Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 2. When was man created? Two biblical texts dispute among them the moment of creation of humankind. In Genesis chapter 1, humankind was created after the creation of animals but in Genesis chapter 2, man was created before the creation of animals and woman after their creation. These are the biblical texts:

 Genesis 1:

“26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 27 So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1; 26-27 NRSV)

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Genesis 2:

“In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when … 7then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground,* and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2; 4-7 abbreviated NRSV)

In Genesis chapter 2, man had been formed on Earth in the beginning of creation but in Genesis chapter 1 he was created together with woman at the end, on day six. Even if the creation story in Genesis chapter 2 isn’t divided in sequences or days of creation one can suppose that the entire story took some time and wouldn’t have been consumed in only one day, if by day one should understand a 24-hour day. If we consider the huge number of animal species existing on Earth, naming them by man would have taken more than a 24-hour day. There are radical differences between Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 2 about when the man was created and where he had to live immediately after his creation.

Even if in Genesis chapter 2 the man created by God was established in the Garden of Eden immediately after his creation, in Genesis chapter 1 humankind had dominion over “the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”. How could humankind exercise dominion over the whole earth if they were destined to dwell in the Garden of Eden? The two stories contradict each other. Humankind was destined in Genesis chapter 1 to live on the entire earth but in Genesis chapter 2 to live in the Garden of Eden.

The special dwelling for humankind on Earth, the paradise, would have been the Garden of Eden, and living there forever would have been their initial fate. But if they followed that happy destiny they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to exercise dominion over the entire earth. In other words, disobedience to God about the tree of knowledge would have been a necessary condition for humankind to be able to exercise dominion over the fauna of the entire earth because obedience would have meant an eternal life in the earthly paradise. If disobedience to God was the condition to respect His command in connection with dominion over the animals, the messages of the narratives of creation from the book of Genesis are inconsistent.

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In Genesis chapter 1, humankind had to fill the earth as a task given by God but in Genesis chapter 2 the life outside the Garden of Eden was a punishment and not a blessing. God blessed human beings, sending them to multiply and to fill the entire earth in chapter 1, and He cursed them, sending them to live on the entire surface of the earth when they had been thrown out from the Garden of Eden, in chapter 2. This is a discrepancy which devalues both stories of creation from the book of Genesis.

In Genesis chapter 1, human beings had to eat “every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit” and all these plants were found uncultivated by man in nature but in Genesis chapter 3 human beings would have fed from agriculture in very heavy conditions. 

“17 And to the man* he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3; 17-18 NRSV)

In what way would the curse of God have changed His initial indications? Do we have to understand that after the curse man couldn’t have eaten uncultivated plants or fruits, but only cultivated plants? Why bother cultivating the land in the epoch when there were only two people on the earth and so many uncultivated vegetation good for food was available? According to Genesis chapter 1 the fruit trees had been created on the entire surface of the earth. God’s curse from Genesis chapter 2 is based on the assumption that fruit trees would have been created only in the Garden of Eden, but this presupposition is categorically denied by Genesis chapter 1 in which fruits were available on the entire earth.

If plants for eating grew everywhere uncultivated, Adam didn’t need to cultivate plants for his family and the commandment from Genesis 3 is absurd unless all uncultivated plants would have been rendered unfit for human consumption, for example if they would have become poisonous, but the latter proposition is absurd.

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None had established and none had enforced the prohibition of eating those uncultivated plants, according to the book of Genesis. Such prohibition was organised only in connection with the tree of life. The curse regarding human nutrition after the Fall seems to be nonsensical as far as the fruit trees and other nutritious vegetables would have existed not only in the Garden of Eden but on the entire surface of the earth.

In Genesis chapter 1 all uncultivated plants good for food would have been created on the entire surface of the earth, therefore once Adam and Eve were thrown out from the Garden of Eden they didn’t need to change their feeding habits. They could have found in nature outside the Garden the same food as consumed by them in the Garden. From the beginning, God had given to humankind as food “every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.” Taking this into consideration, after the exit from the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve could have returned to this food which was plentiful on Earth without the need to cultivate the ground. 

“11 Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.” (Genesis 1; 11-13 NRSV)

 In these verses the entire earth had to put forth vegetation but in the following ones God would have determined the apparition of plants only in the Garden of Eden:

“8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2; 8-9 NRSV)

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The cultivation of plants for food is seen in Genesis 3 as a curse but in Genesis 2 man was placed in the Garden of Eden to do just that, to till the ground, before the Fall. In other words, before and after the Fall Adam had the same occupation. What sense would a curse which didn’t change anything have had? In the Garden man had to eat fruits but in Genesis chapter 1 he had to eat all plants. If one considers that fruits were not a limitation and man could have eaten plants in the Garden also, tilling the ground was an identical occupation both inside and outside of the Garden.

What was the object of the curse? Was all the land in the Garden fertile but all the land outside the Garden infertile? It is hard to accept such an unrealistic assertion. The valleys of Tigris and of Euphrates were doubtlessly very fertile and a “paradise” for their inhabitants, but it wasn’t the only such earthly “paradise” because the valleys of the Nile and of other rivers were also “paradises” for human beings. In the valley of the Nile, the land being fertile, God’s curse of the earth never was realised. In many places on the earth human beings would have managed to avoid the effects of God’s alleged curse of the ground and they could use the ground in a productive way.

Moreover, thorns and thistle would have existed after the creation of plants on many areas of the earth before Adam and Eve’s Fall, but that couldn’t prevent humankind from obtaining good agricultural productions. When were thorns and thistle created if not on the third day of the creation? Are we allowed to infer that thorns and thistles evolved from other species of plants when surveying the perspectives of creationism? The book of Genesis indicates only the third day for the creation of plants.

The literal creationism is inconsistent with its own opinions. Either God created all species of plants or the species evolved from one to another. Plants with thorns and plants without thorns are usually different species of plants. To guess that God would have created plants with thorns and thistle after the third day, meaning after Adam and Eve’s Fall, is contrary to the texts of the book of Genesis chapter 1 hence the book of Genesis contradicts its own statements.

Adam and Eve’s sins didn’t happen within the first six days of the creation, but sometime after that because everything was very good at the end of the creation. Nevertheless, if Satan’s revolt in “heavens” already happened in the creation because “heavens” were a part of the created world, God’s creation wasn’t as good as the Bible says.

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Again, there are two different stories, in one of them God had asked human beings from the moment of their creation to fill the earth and in the other one filling the earth was not a blessing but a collateral consequence of the human Fall. In order to fill the earth the first human beings had to leave the Garden of Eden. 

“16 To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ (Genesis 3; 16 NRSV)

 Filling the earth would have been impossible if Adam and Eve obeyed God and would have remained forever in the Garden of Eden. Genesis chapter 1 and 2 gives each of them another purpose for the creation of humankind. The former sees humankind as multiplying and occupying the entire earth but the latter understands humankind as destined to live forever in the Garden of Eden. Living in the Garden was something beneficial as opposed to quitting the Garden which was a punishment, but this penalty was the only chance to fulfil the human fate established in Genesis chapter 1.

If God initially had established man in the Garden of Eden, which was delimited from the rest of the earth, why did He give to mankind as food, according to Genesis chapter 1, every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, an area much more extended than the Garden of Eden? It is not a rational proposition. Either God had established human beings in the Garden of Eden according to Genesis chapter 2 from the beginning, or He had given them dominion over the whole earth and as food all the plants on the planet, as Genesis chapter 1 says. The two versions contradict each other.

The Garden of Eden would have been created before Adam and Eve’s Fall, according to Genesis chapter 2, even if the entire earth was similar to the Garden of Eden, peaceful and inhabited only by herbivores, according to Genesis chapter 1. Being without sin the entire earth would have been a paradise filled with fruit trees and other plants. Why build a Garden in a place like a garden? There wouldn’t have been any need for the Garden of Eden if the nature on Earth was created as Genesis chapter 1 sets forth.

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 This is a clear discrepancy between Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2. In Genesis chapter 1 the entire earth would have been a Garden of Eden but in Genesis chapter 2 only a limited area of the surface of the earth would have been reserved for the Garden.

In the first story of creation the entire earth would have been destined as a dwelling place for humankind from the beginning of creation, and they had to multiply and to fill the entire earth, and that would have been a blessing. In the second story of creation, multiplying and filling the earth by humankind would have been the effect of a curse and would have happened in a hostile world.

If humankind initially would have been destined to live only in the Garden why did God create fruit trees all over the earth before the Fall? The impression generated by Genesis chapter 2 is that man and woman were created to live in the Garden of Eden forever and only after the Fall they had to leave the earthly paradise and dwell in other places on Earth. Only if God had known previous to their creation that humankind would be disobedient would He have created plants all over the earth to be used by human beings after their Fall.

A much more realistic explanation is the one given by science in which the apparition of life happened on the entire surface of the earth when the right conditions were in place. The biological forms of life have evolved and they have started to occupy the marine environment, the dry land, and air. The story of the Garden of Eden is the reflection of human understanding in the most incipient phase of human civilization, having nothing to do with reality.

It is not debatable if Adam and Eve would have had the ability to have children before the Fall, but the question is whether we have any arguments to maintain that they would have had children or not. It is worth quoting the following opinion:

“So I think there is a pretty solid line of evidence that Adam and Eve did have children before the Fall, even if Cain and Abel (or Cain and a twin sister) were the only ones.”[1]

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In my view, Adam and Eve aren’t real personages but only mythological ones, therefore the problem related to their children is only a hypothetical issue. At the same time the book of Genesis doesn’t state if Adam and Eve would have had children before the Fall, even if this information is important from the point of view of their attitude toward God. If the children of Adam and Eve were real, would they have disobeyed God and eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or not? The question is important being that all human beings have their individual personality. For example, Abel was a positive character from the point of view of his attitude to God. Would he also have disobeyed God by eating from the tree of knowledge if he had been in the situation to choose? If he had disobeyed God he couldn’t have been considered a righteous man as allegedly he was deemed to be. The point is that the book of Genesis tells us that even if Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, their child Abel was a righteous person.

It is undisputable that being depicted as standard human beings by the Bible, Adam and Eve could have had children before the Fall, but the book of Genesis doesn’t say anything about children before the Fall. This brings one to the conclusion that Adam and Eve’s temptation happened immediately after their creation.

The existence of children and at the same time living in the Garden of Eden forever is a contradiction given the limited space of the Garden and the multiplication of the human races. Sooner or later human beings would have needed to leave the paradise and to live on the entire earth. If mankind, being obedient to God, had multiplied only in the Garden of Eden, at a certain point the Garden would have become overcrowded. That could have been a very strange situation; the Garden being overcrowded but the rest of the earth being unpopulated with human beings. No feasible solution to this conundrum appears. Living outside the Garden was a punishment and living inside the Garden forever would have been impossible for so many human beings.

Humankind was asked by God to be fruitful and multiply therefore failing or not, due to an important increase in population after a certain period of time, human beings would have left the Garden of Eden and would have lived on the entire earth. 

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    Without being driven by God outside the Garden, human beings would have left it anyway, the place being too small for the entire human population developing in time. This is a detail which is important if one wants to see the inconsistency of the book of Genesis. Genesis chapter 1, in which humankind had to multiply and had dominion over the entire earth, doesn’t correspond to the Garden of Eden if human beings had multiplied according to their nature. The presumption that Adam and Eve wouldn’t have multiplied if they had been obedient to God and would have abided in the Garden of Eden eternally without offspring, is irrational and is contradicted even by the Bible.

“24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2; 24 NRSV)

 In Genesis chapter 1 human multiplication was a blessing but in Genesis chapter 2, multiplication inevitably equated with a punishment because in the end it would have led to the leaving of the Garden of Eden by many human beings.

Another difference between Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 is that the woman in chapter 2 is the reflection of man, but in chapter 1 she is the reflection of God. If woman had been made from the beginning in the image of God as Genesis chapter 1 says, she is not the reflexion of man but of Him. If woman was taken from man’s rib she is just a helper of man and she was created mainly for him. In point of fact, both man and woman are helpers for each other and the concept of woman being more a helper for man than man a helper for woman, is absurd. This also is a very important inconsistency which generated incredible inequalities in human history.

According to Genesis chapter 2, all animals were made in pairs but only man was created alone. This is very strange. God knew what kind of helper each animal needed and created them accordingly, but He wouldn’t have known what kind of helper man needed. God would have tried to find a helper for man only after He created him. He wouldn’t have known initially that man also would have needed his pair. God would have created man alone and after that He would have tried to find a helper for him within the ranks of animals. That is the message given by Genesis chapter 2 but not by Genesis chapter 1. 

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    This is of course a legend, because God cannot be as ignorant as chapter 2 says. Genesis chapter 2 tried to explain and to justify why man and woman were unequal in ancient societies. The status of women makes an important difference between Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2.

Remarkably, Genesis chapter 5 uses the same formula used by God when He created mankind in chapter 1: “he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image”. This formula opens the way for a new understanding of the book of Genesis chapter 1. God is not the majestic Being, aloof from His creation, He is the father of mankind in a similar way to that in which Adam was the father of Seth. 

“3 When Adam had lived for one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5; 3-4 NRSV)

God is Adam’s extra-terrestrial Father and Adam is Seth’s terrestrial father, both sons bearing the likeness and therefore the image of their parents. Probably God was seen by the author of Genesis chapter 1 as a celestial-like human being who created all that is. This is the real innovation brought about by the book of Genesis chapter 1; man is not created by strange deities as other religions would maintain, man is created by another man, but a different man, an All-powerful and creative Man.

Apostle Paul set forth in one of his epistles:

“7 For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection* of God; but woman is the reflection* of man.” (1 Corinthians 11; 7 NRSV)

Apostle Paul was incorrect both in relation to Genesis chapter 2 and in connection to Genesis chapter 1. Genesis chapter 1 declares plainly that woman was made in the image and likeness of God together with man. Apparently Genesis chapter 2 opens the door for a different understanding but the image of God or His likeness would have been out of limits for human beings in chapter 2.

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    Humankind was punished for wanting to be like God, meaning in His likeness or after His image by knowing the good and the evil as He does. Only when human beings ate from the tree of knowledge, contrary to God’s command, did they become like Him, therefore it wasn’t His will that humankind be like Him:

“22 Then the LORD God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— 23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.” (Genesis 3; 22-23 NRSV)

In Genesis chapter 2 the pursuit of the likeness of God was considered a sin. It doesn’t make any rational sense to prohibit knowledge which is in the nature of things and which is good for humankind. If human beings were really made in the image of God in Genesis chapter 1 why were they prohibited to be like Him by knowing good and evil in Genesis chapter 2? To me this is a very important contradiction and an essential difference in theology between Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2.

If human beings were the reflection of God before their Fall as stated in Genesis chapter 1 they didn’t need the knowledge of good and evil in order to be like Him, as Genesis chapter 2 declares, they would have had the knowledge of good and evil from the beginning. It was impossible to be, at the same time, in God’s likeness as Genesis chapter 1 pretends but not knowing the difference between good and evil, according to chapter 2. God knows the difference between good and evil and this moral knowledge is decisive for someone who is said to be like Him. If human beings really were in the likeness of God before the Fall they would have known the difference between good and evil and they would have been able to choose easily the good against the evil.

At the same time, even after the Fall humankind wasn’t like God but they were sinful, unlike Him in spite that they had eaten from the tree of good and evil, and that is contrary to what Genesis chapter 2 says. They still didn’t become like Him because they became sinful. This was a predicament impossible to be avoided by the first human beings.

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     To become like God, knowing good and evil but being sinful, or remaining obedient to Him but not being like Him in lack of the knowledge of good and evil.

In Genesis chapter 2 God didn’t want human beings to be like Him, knowing good and evil. This is another contradiction between Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2. If God wanted a real likeness between Him and humankind He wouldn’t have prevented human beings eating from the tree of knowledge and knowing the difference between good and evil. In the lack of this knowledge human beings couldn’t have been in the likeness of God therefore the book of Genesis chapter 1 is wrong in saying that He created humankind like Him. According to Genesis chapter 2, God didn’t create humankind in His likeness, it became like Him only by disobeying Him. There is a huge difference in the way in which Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 understand the likeness of God.

In Genesis chapter 2, each animal was formed from the ground and man also was created from the dust of the ground. What is the difference between creation from the dust of the earth and out of the ground, the manner in which man would have been created and animals were created? There is not such difference. Man got the breath of life from God but obviously the animals also had to get the breath of life directly from Him. The omission of the expression breath of life for animals doesn’t bring anything extra to the creation of man. Without breath of life animals would have remained only ground.

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