The Bible contains three versions of Creation.1 Genesis itself has two distinct versions 2 told back-to-back. These narratives were created at different times by different people 3 but woven together in the version we now read in Genesis. It’s important to know these stories were not exclusive to the Hebrews but were versions which borrowed heavily from Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Sumerian 4 and Egyptian 5 creation stories.
The first version is pretty straight forward. It’s the one with the days. Day one God created the heavens, earth and light. Day two he separated the waters from the waters, etc. In this version, God is called Elohim, a generic Hebrew name for God.6
The second version is the Adam and Eve story. In this one God is referred to as Yahweh, a more personal name.7
If we want to take these stories literally we have a problem right off the bat. The order of who, what and when things were created is all mixed up. In the first version both man and woman were created last, after everything else was already done. In the second version man was created first, then all the plants and animals, and finally, at the end of it all, woman was created from Adam’s rib. None of the pertinent details (ie: the days, the snake, the garden, the rib, etc) are contained in both versions.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all symbolic. These ancient stories were created over the millennium in an effort to make sense of a prehistoric world and to teach life lessons. Remember, these were people who didn’t know where the sun went at night and thought lightning was God having a tantrum. These were stories told around campfires for thousands of years before ever being written down.8 Depending on which camp fire you sat around determined which particular version you grew up with.
1 For the 3rd version John 1:1-5