Home » Course Materials » The Yahwist Creation Narrative and the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:4b-25, 3:1-24)

The Yahwist Creation Narrative and the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:4b-25, 3:1-24)

Comparing the Two Creation Narratives

Genesis 1:1-2:4a Genesis 2:4b-25
The transcendence of Elohim The immanence of Yahweh
Formless waters representing chaos Barren, uncultivated land
Ordering creation with a word Shaping creation like a potter
land > animals > humans (male/female) land > man (?) > garden > animals > woman
Image of God Living being (nephesh)


  • The adam (ground-creature) from the adamah (ground)
  • Later the ishah (female) was created from the ish (male)
  • Was the first human androgynous before the division between male and female in Genesis 2:21-23 (cf. Genesis Rabbah 8:1; Jubilees 2:14; Apocalypse of Adam 1:4-5)? Yet adam continues to be used for the male after gender differentiation.


  • Patriarchal reading: the priority of men in the creation order, the ishah created as a “helper”, the deception of Eve by the serpent, and the punishment of pain in childbearing and patriarchal rule (Genesis 2:18-23; 3:1-6, 16; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13-15).
  • Alternative reading: the argument from creation order can be reversed to suggest that the woman is the pinnacle of creation or gender differentiation may not have occurred until God split ha-adam (the ground-creature), God is Israel’s “helper” (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 33:20; 70:5; 115:9-11), equality in creation and united as one flesh,  the man was present with her and ate the forbidden fruit without putting up resistance (Gen 3:6), and patriarchy is a curse.
  • See Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978).

The Serpent

  • Not yet interpreted as the devil (but see Wisdom of Solomon 2:24; Romans 16:20; Revelation 12:9; 20:2). On the serpent’s identity, see John Day’s “The Serpent in the Garden of Eden and Its Background” (http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2015/04/day398028.shtml).
  • There is a pun between  arōm or naked in 2:24 and arum or shrewd/crafty in 3:1 (cf. Proverbs 1:1-4).
  • Enmity between humans and wild creatures (Genesis 3:1) reinterpreted as the Protoevangelium announcing Jesus’ victory over Satan (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.23.7; 5.21.1)

Different Interpretations of Genesis 3

  • The tree of the knowledge of good and evil: an autonomous form of wisdom. Eating from it caused the breakdown of relationships with God, fellow humans, and nature.
  • Did the humans die after eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-5, 19)? Does the prohibition from eating from the tree of life suggest that the humans were not originally immortal (3:22-24)?
  • The traditional Christian interpretation is that this is the story of the “Fall” and “original sin” when read through the lens of the Apostle Paul (Romans 5:1-21) and especially the bishop Augustine.
  • An ambivalent story about the loss of childlike innocence in the birth of civilization.
  • Chiasm: A1 (God questions the man and he blames the woman), B1 (God questions the woman and she blames the serpent), C1 (the serpent is silent), C2 (the serpent is punished), B2 (the woman is punished), A2 (the man is punished)



%d bloggers like this: