As it is told by two perspectives, the savvy reader of Genesis 1 and 2 must resolve the at-times conflicting accounts and make sense of them as best as one can, according to the available resources at hand.
The beginning of the world is a major cosmic story that begs to be analyzed. How the planet and its people came into being is still hotly-debated and is the cause for many a rift in theological circles.
Still, what is so compelling about these two stories is the way in which one creatively is able to reconcile the difference between the two accounts. Hopefully, this is what will be able to be achieved here through analysis of both chapters.
Gerhard Von Rad says in his book Genesis: A Commentary, "Faith in creation is neither the basis nor the goal of the declarations in Gen., chs. 1 and 2. Rather, the position of both the Yahwist and the Priestly document isfaith in salvation and election[undergirded] by the testimony that this Yahwehis also the creator of the world."1
It is obvious that by the eloquence of the language in chapter 1 of Genesis is Priestly writing due to the fact that it is so staid and orderly. It is a cosmic vision of the beginning, and about how creation came into being through the words of God being spoken.
Von Rad points out that it is precisely because of this orderliness that Genesis chapter 1 is so compellingly told from a Priestly point of view. The first six days and nights are related in an orderly way.
God creates the living creatures, and then creates man. The seventh day is considered a day of rest.
As mentioned by Von Rad, "Anyone who expounds Gen., ch. 1, must understand one thing: this chapter is Priestly doctrine-indeed, it contains the essence of Priestly knowledge in a most concentrated formdoctrine that has been carefully enriched over centuries by very slow growth."2
As Von Rad states, this Priestly doctrine is quite obvious in the way that chapter 1 (and parts of chapter 2) progresses. That, in fact, is what the Priestly account is-a progression.
Von Rad's methodology is to look at the wording of the text in order to deduce that Genesis 1 is a priestly account. Von Rad, in his analysis of the text, is presupposing here that the first chapter is a Priestly account.
He constructs the meaning of this to relate that the text in chapter 2 is older. Thus, it is possibly more reliable as a source.
The Priestly author of chapter 1 painstakingly goes through every detail of the creation, in almost a mechanical way. Each day there is a new creation-whether it be a new day, animals, or the creation of man.
For the most part, Genesis chapter 2 is a Yahwist account. This denotes the special Yahwist community (or J redactor, J standing for Jahwist) which predominantly interpreted events from the viewpoint of the southern tribes of Israel, particularly Judah.
Although the Yahwist is not always writing in Judah's defense, Yahwist accounts-particularly that of Genesis chapter 2-are usually not as ethereal as other accounts, say for example Elohist (E), Deuteronomic (D), or Priestly (P). It is the Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomic, and Priestly accounts which form JEDP, or documentary hypothesis.
The documentary hypothesis is basically a conflagration of these four at-times conflicting