Letter to the Editor
Creation Sequence of Birds and Humans
Owen D. Buck, M.D., M.S., ASA Member
P.O. Box 2008, Lewiston, ME 04241
From: PSCF 53 (June 2001): 136-137.
McIntyre is to be commended for his discussion of the introduction of Scripture into scientific controversy, "Repeating the Catholic's Galileo Error" (PSCF 52 [December 2000]: 255-9). This letter is to comment on the appendix to his article, "Resolution on Creation," items 1 and 3, pertaining to the question of historical accuracy and consistency of the Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 creation accounts.
In the Genesis 1 account, birds are created in the fifth day (1:20-22) and human beings, both genders, are created on the sixth day (1:26-27). In the Genesis 2 account, the creation sequence of birds and Adam is reversed. Adam is created first (2:7), then birds (2:9), and later Eve (2:22).
Several attempts have been made by apologists for biblical inerrancy and literalist interpretation to account for this apparent discrepancy. Geisler and Howe state that Genesis 1 is in "chronological order" and Genesis 2 is in "topical order," which they explain with regard to land animals.1 Since land animals and humans were created during the same Genesis 1 day (the sixth), this explanation may work for the animals but is nonresponsive regarding birds. Archer states that Genesis 2 presupposes that the events of Genesis 1 had already happened, and is merely fleshing out the details of the creation of human beings.2 Archer ignores the fact that birds, according to Genesis 1, were created the day before humans.
Ross acknowledges that there is an apparent problem here.3 His explanation is that the verb tense of "formed" in the original Hebrew (2:19) is nonspecific with regard to the relative creation sequence and indicates only that the events described had occurred at some time in the past. He dismisses the contradiction as being an artifact of "faulty scholarship." The verb tense may be nonspecific, but there are other factors that indicate that the Adam-bird-Eve sequence was intended in Genesis 2. First, a temporal sequence is implicit in the order in which the events are listed, i.e., Adam, then birds, then Eve. Second, 2:18 and 2:20 both explicitly state that one of the reasons for creating animals and birds was to address Adam's need for a helper or partner.
Seely has convincingly argued that "flying creatures" in 1:20 could include flying insects but could not be construed as excluding birds.4 However, I have yet to see an adequate reconciliation of the bird-Adam creation sequence with a literal Genesis interpretation.
1Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 35.
2Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 68-9.
3Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 73-4.
4Paul Seeley, "Genesis Revisted or Revised?" PSCF 52, no. 2 (June 2000): 77-8.