The Torah contains two competing or complementary accounts of how God created human beings:


Version I: Genesis 1:24-31

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind,” and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps upon the earth after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

God said, “Let us make man in our image, after 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 earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created man in God’s own image, in the divine image God create him; male and female God created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, on which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, where there is life, I have given every green herb for food; and it was so.”

God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Version Two: Genesis 2:7-17


YHWH God formed/shaped the human [literally, the Adam, Ha-Adam, הָאָדָם]  of the dust of the earth [ha-adamah, הָאֲדָמָה]  and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Adam became a living person.  YHWH God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there God put the human whom he had formed. And out of the ground made YHWH God every tree to grow 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 knowledge of good and evil.

A river went out from Eden to water the garden; and from there it was divided, and became four rivers:

The name of the first is Pishon; that is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon; that is the one which flows around the whole land of Kush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris (Hidekel); that is the one which flows toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates (Perat).

YHWH God took the human, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it. YHWH God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good a of the Garden of Eden and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

YHWH God said, It is not good that the human being should be alone; I will make him a helper/strength to match him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name. Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the bird of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper/ strength to match him. YHWH God made Adam fall into a deep sleep, and he slept; and Go took one from his ribs/sides, and closed up the flesh. And from the ribside, which YHWH God had taken from Adam, God built up a woman, and brought her to the man.

Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (Ishah), because she was taken out of Man (Ish). Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Notes to Version 2: This translation has been informed by Richard Elliot Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah. I also love Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s translation of Adam from adamah, as “Human from the humus” (the organc matter in soil, not the chick-pea sauce!). Some Midrashic traditions have Adam shaped from earth from the four corners of the globe (one imagines a variety of colors), and some see the original human as encompassing both male and female until female is separated out from the rib (or side) of male


Consider and Comment:

Tradition sees these two stories as complementary halves of the whole creation story. Modern scholarship sees them as two separate creation stories that were both popular enough to be included in the Torah. They are so familiar that it’s hard to look at them with fresh eyes or hear them with fresh ears, but give it a try. Read each one aloud. What do you notice? How do these accounts of human creation differ? How do the two accounts depict the original relationship of human beings to God, to the earth, to the animals, to the opposite gender?  Which story engages you more on a personal level and why? Please join the discussion by commenting below.

Featured Image: Garden of Eden, Maui, yimmy149 via Flickr

Learn a Midrash about caring for the planet, or return to the Gateway of Gardens.

Note: Jewish theologians overwhelmingly see religion and science as compatible, and either read the Biblical creation stories as symbolic moral and ethical tales rather than scientific accounts, or strive to reconcile them in some broad way with scientific approaches.