Many Bible scholars recognize two separate creation narratives in the Bible, the first being from chapter one, verse one of Genesis to chapter two, verse four and the second picking up half way through verse four and continuing through verse twenty-two. I believe this observation to be poor hermeneutics. This is a narrative, and it is all part of one story. The two chapters are the introduction to the fall of mankind, which takes place in chapter three of Genesis. In the following, I will address many of these concerns in order to bring light to this fallacy.
The first of the two accounts presents the ‘big picture’ where the second account begins to get into the personal details of the accounts. For instance, the first creation account addresses God as Elohim. Where it is accurate that Elohim translates directly to God, the Jewish tradition holds that Elohim is referring to the character of God which is the Judge and the Creator. It has to do with His power and authority over creation. In the second account the term Yahweh is used, which is also easily translated as God, but tends to be translated as Lord or LORD, since to lord is to rule over and implies interaction. It is personal.
I like to look at it like a science fiction novel. Because science fiction is different from real life, the author must first set up the big picture. The reader needs to know all the elements of the world, before he can understand the life that exists in it. And he must understand life in order to understand the characters and the story. In the first narrative, we see Elohim express His power over vast waters, bringing forth land masses from below the sees. We see Him separate the waters of the heavens—the atmosphere—from the oceans and sees and finally animals and man are created. We get an idea of what the earth looks like, but not what it is like.
In the second narrative account of creation, we see the author take a step back from the big picture to give us the details of the creation account—the personal side. Yahweh planted a garden and placed Adam into it. It doesn’t say that He spoke it into existence. He made all kinds of plants that were pleasing to Adam. Again stepping down from the big picture, Adam existed in a very small part of the earth, compared to all that God had made. So the water described is simply the rivers in his locality. Certainly there had to be others, but these are the ones that Yahweh was interested in. Why? Because they were what Adam was interested in.
There are two major inconsistencies that are often pointed out when you look at the time line. It appears that two things were created out of order in the second narrative. It’s not so. The first narrative is a sequential listing of the events that took place. It is the account of creation. The second is not a creation account. It is the beginnings of the LORD’s interaction with man, and because of this, the creation is addressed, not sequentially, but in accordance with how they relate to Adam, in order to make the point that Elohim the author of creation was intending to make.