Are the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 likely to be from different sources? If so, what sources? What are some arguments for this?
The almost universal consensus of critical scholars is that the two creation accounts are from two different sources. The account in Genesis 1:1-2:4a is generally attributed to an anonymous source now known as the Priestly Source. The second account, in Genesis 2:4b-25 is generally attributed to an anonymous source now known as the Yahwist.
Leon R. Kass says, in The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, page 54, the second creation story departs from the first not only in content but also in tone, mood and orientation. He says (page 56) once we recognise the independence of the two creation stories, we are compelled to adopt a critical principle of reading if we mean to understand each story on its own terms.
Kass tells us that the first story ends with man, whereas the second begins with him. In the first, the animals come first and man is to be their ruler, but in the second, the beasts come after the creation of man, as his possible companions. In the first, man is to be the master of life on earth (1:28); in the second, he is to be the servant of the earth (2:5, 15). Finally, in the first story, man is made directly in the image of God (1:27); in the second he is made of earthly dust and divine breath (2:7) and only becomes god-like at the end – “
now the man is become like one of us” (3:22) and only in transgression.
The specific case for the Priestly Source ('P') as the author of the first creation story is based on literary style and theology. This source's God is majestic, and transcendent, and all things happen because of his power and will.
In the second, more primitive story, God's power is more limited, and he can not make living things out of nothing. He makes Adam and the animals out of dirt (Genesis 2:7,19), and Eve out of Adam's rib (Genesis 2:22).
A belief in two independent sources leads to a modern study of Genesis along the lines described by Leon R Kass: “once we recognize the independence of the two creation stories, we are compelled to adopt a critical principle of reading if we mean to understand each story on its own terms.” (see Dick Harfield’s answer) The danger in this approach to Scripture is eisegesis, the reading of one’s own ideas into a passage of the Bible and failing to interpret or explain a passage correctly (exegesis).
First, there is no reason to require or impose a condition where a single human author must use the same style or language. Contemporary writers may purposely vary style and language to best communicate their message. Second, the Source for all Scripture is God:
All Scripture is breathed out by God… (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)
“God breathed” is first found in the second account:
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7 NKJV)
The fact there is no mention of the woman receiving this same breath of life does not lead to the conclusion it did not happen. Rather, what is written in the first account leads to a more accurate exegesis of both accounts:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)
Man (and woman) created in the image of God includes the LORD God breathing His Spirit into man (and woman).
“God breathed” gave physical life to male and female. There was a single source of origin yet God’s work produced physical differences. There is no Biblical reason to demand that Scripture which is also “God breathed” must have the same tone, mood, and orientation to be from a single Source.
The correct exegesis is that the two accounts are connected and complementary. From the perspective of Source, there is a single message which has been purposely divided into two parts. The two parts are different yet each contains something relevant to the other.
Failure to see the inter-relationship of the two accounts leads to eisegesis such as Kass’s conclusion about man and animals. According to Kass, “In the first, the animals come first and man is to be their ruler, but in the second, the beasts come after the creation of man, as his possible companions.” Proper exegesis of the second account will include the Biblical concept of giving a name, which requires authority. Arguably the authority of giving a name is higher than that found in the first account.
Since the naming of animals occurs before the creation of the woman, it occurs before the authority described in the first account was given. Again the correct exegesis is that the man receiving the spirit from the LORD God (second account) not only endued him with knowledge to name the animals; it included the knowledge of his authority. So before being told directly of the authority, the man exercised it by naming the animals.
A second type of eisegesis that comes from the demand to see the accounts as originating from two different sources is the failure to consider what is missing. For example, the first account makes two statements about light and darkness:
…and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4 NKJV)
…and to divide the light from the darkness... (Genesis 1:18 NKJV)
First, in the secular world darkness dominates the created world. According to modern science 95% of the universe is made up of dark energy and dark matter and “darkness” is the force that caused the universe to expand. Creation began in darkness; yet there is no mention about how darkness was created. The Documentary hypothesis with its demand to have multiple independent sources presents the writers of the Bible as deficient in knowledge of the most significant and powerful aspect of the created world. Yet the Scripture does have the answer:
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness… (Isaiah 45:6-7 NKJV)
It is the LORD who both formed the light and created the darkness.
Second, if repetition is significant then separating light from darkness is the most important point of the first account. This is the only action that was repeated. In the first account God began His work in darkness and despite two attempts was not able to overcome the darkness; He “settled” for a separation of darkness and light and created objects that gave light to the earth. The natural world serves as evidence of God’s inability to overcome the darkness and provide continual light for anything He created.
The idea of multiple sources not only expunges Moses from the Bible, it expunges God’s power from the created world. Every day all life on the surface of the earth experiences a reminder of the power darkness holds over light. According to modern science it is only a matter of time until God’s created sources of light burn out leaving His creation in eternal darkness.
However, all the earth can hold on to the hope that light will overcome darkness. This hope is based on the second account which has no mention of the darkness. The second account foreshadows the true ending of the created world:
“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.” (Isaiah 60:19 NKJV)
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. (Revelation 21:23 NKJV)
The proper exegesis of the parallel accounts of creation sees a single Source with a single message. If there are points of differences, these are to be examined as two descriptions of one thing. To illustrate this point consider two descriptions of a coin. A description of the front of a coin does not contradict the description of the back. Rather both can be seen as describing a single item and the two should be combined into one.
The Bible has more to say about redemption, restoration, and recreation than about creation and there is no reason to demand that the Bible’s opening chapters somehow contradict or conflict with everything which follows. The better approach is to study each account with the primary purpose of the Bible in view:
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things… (Hebrews 10:1 NKJV)
The first has a shadow of the good things to come. So which account is the basis for a hope that God’s plan from the foundation of the world was to dwell with His creation? Which account is the basis for a hope that God will take man from the place of creation to a place He has prepared for them? Which account is the basis for a hope that God will seek after man and woman who have rejected Him?
Each of these questions are found and answered in the second account. It is the LORD who will redeem, restore, and recreate.
They have the same source, this idea of there being two sources stems from the common misconception that Adam was created on the sixth day. This is simply not true, Adam was created much earlier, this is what the second creation account tries to establish.The text clearly states that Adam was created on the day that Yahuah God created the earth and the heavens before the plants and the animals (Genesis 2:4-8)
The two stories need to be read in their contexts. They are different but interdependent accounts of the creation of Adam and subsequently mankind. God decided that it was not good for man to be alone so he made animals as companions, but it quickly became apparent that man needs a wife. After he created Eve from Adam's side He thought that it will be good to create human beings male and female, which he did on the sixth day, to replenish the whole earth.