Genesis 2 is commonly considered a creation narrative of the first humans. But when did this interpretation originate? Does ancient Jewish literature support this view or view Adam and Eve simply as the first covenant people?

  • Yes, Genesis 2. I'm not a Hebrew scholar but Gen 2 seems to be a clear creation narrative. It seems clearly intended to describe the original creation of humans as there would be no need to create them "from the dust" (עָפָר֙) if there were preexisting people. I think a better question would be, is there any evidence in the Hebrew that Genesis 2 ISN'T intended as a creation narrative?
    – P. TJ
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 15:27
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    I'm looking for evidence that the hebrew bible - when it was written - was understood this way. I don't see any writing until much later (first century) that interprets Adam and Eve as being the first humans. Does someone know if the Mishna or Talmud indicate how Gen 2 was understood in earlier times (e.g first temple era)?
    – perpetual
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 17:29
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    @user1992912 Are you happy with the edit P TJ made?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 11:14
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    A.) I really think this question should be reopened, or moved to Judaism.SE. For reference, both Rashi and Rashbam (his grandsom), who were later commentators wrote on this. You can see Rashi's at chabad.org. B.) The Talmud is post-Temple Period, and probably not not relevant; C.) Early Tannaitic and apocalyptic literature, as well as the Aramaic translations of Genesis - do tackle this. D.) But - it is certainly considered a part of Cannon, though perhaps - at a stretch - by different authors, (See "Documentary Hypothesis"). Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 0:14
  • Related - judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/66125/… Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


The story of Creation in the Tanakh is divided into two parts - the first part apparently being a later addition to Genesis during or after the Israelite exile to Babylon. This appears to have been intended to be a prologue or introduction to the book of Genesis and the creation narrative.

The second part appears to pick up in 2:4. A comparative analysis of the Geneis creation narrative and other narratives of the period and region reveals that while Genesis does not appear to be the first creation myth, it does appear to tell the same story as a corrective; using polemic to retell the shared creation story from the Hebrew perspective. The author uses this polemic to tell the "right" version to highlight the superiority of the Hebrew God Yahweh over other culture's gods; Each passage demonstrating how Yahweh is superior than the respective god of that creative act or deistic role. The story also highlights the centrality of mankind in which mankind is the apex of creation and all the earth is created for the benefit of mankind out of love. Conversely, mankind are created to serve the gods in competing creation myths. Finally, the Genesis creation narrative serves as a launching point for the following themes of Genesis and the Torah as a whole. Most notably, it serves to establish the need for the covenant relationship.

Consider that In Exodus the Hebrew people are promised a land flowing with milk and Honey, yet in Genesis the first Hebrew people lost the original promised land flowing with milk and Honey - the Garden of Eden. They did this by rejecting God's plan for them. This theme continues in Jeremiah 29:11 with Yahweh stating:

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.

This promise comes after a time of Idolatry that, according to Jeremiah and other prophets, cost Israel their promised land. After repentance, Israel is returned from Exile and enjoys the promised prosperity, but walks away from God again and again loses the Promised land to the Romans. A similar time of alternating periods of obedience and disobedience is reflected in Judges.

The Genesis creation story begins this theme. On the one hand, it appears to be about the very first people, but at the same the name "Adam" means "Man" or "Mankind" and thus inviting the people of Israel to put themselves in the places of Adam and Eve. This is not merely an event that happened in the past, but is a sin that Israel keeps repeating; History that Israel is failing to lean from and is doomed to keep repeating.

Thus, the retelling of existing origin stories indicates this is about the first people, but the way in which it is told is intended to be about both the first people and God's covenant people.

Author's note to the Original Poster:

I understand that you are looking for evidence that the Bible was understood this way. Unfortunately, outside of the Torah, there simply aren't many historical records from the time of Abraham until the time of Jesus. This kind of evidence just doesn't exist in Hebrew culture. The answer to your question however is very evident however from comparing and contrasting creative stories. I would therefore urge you to read my earlier referenced comparative analysis - but fair warning it isn't light reading and is rather extensive. This is why I have chosen to reference it here as opposed to reproducing it in part or whole.

  • Yes. The Hebrews definitely believed in a rhythm of history (not repeating cycles, but similar events). The rabbis linked Joel's prophecy of the last days back to the 70 elders of Moses' day. Likewise, they saw Esther in the king's court surrounded by at best those she couldn't trust and at worst enemies as a personification of David's travail in Psalm 22.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 13:56

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