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In Genesis 1:27, it says:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

In Genesis 2:7, it says:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

It is common among Christian denominations to believe that these two verses are describing the same event.

However, some denominations apparently believe that these events are in chronological order: that Genesis 1:27 happened on the sixth day, and Genesis 2:7 happened after the first seven days.

Since both events are about the creation of the human being, but happened on two different days, how do Christian denominations that read these events as happening in chronological order, rather than as two different accounts of the same event, understand this?

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  • What makes you think this happened at two different times?
    – Andrew
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 15:02
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  • Would you be so kind as to provide what particular denomination takes Genesis 2:7 as an event that occurred after the first seven days? Commented May 15, 2017 at 16:18
  • @Meaquidemsententia See my answer, just posted below. Commented May 15, 2017 at 16:50
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2 Answers 2

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The various New Church (Swedenborgian) denominations that follow the Christian theology and Bible interpretations of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) see the two Creation stories of Genesis 1:1–2:3 and Genesis 2:4–25, not as describing the same events twice, but as being two distinct stories placed in chronological order.

Swedenborg saw these two Creation stories as being, not about the physical creation of the earth, and humans on it, but rather as the spiritual creation of human beings: meaning our "regeneration" or spiritual rebirth from being physical-minded and worldly people to being spiritual and heavenly people.

In Swedenborg's spiritual interpretation of the Creation stories, the first story represents the initial stage of our rebirth from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive, and the second story represents a second stage of that process. Here is how he expresses it in Secrets of Heaven #81, in his summary on the meaning of Genesis 2:

This chapter [Genesis 2] deals with the heavenly person; the last dealt with the spiritual person, who previously had been lifeless. In modern times, though, people know nothing about the character of a heavenly person and very little about that of a spiritual person or of a lifeless one. Let me clarify the differences through a brief discussion of each type.

(1) The only truth and goodness that lifeless people acknowledge are bodily and worldly kinds, and these they revere.

Spiritual people acknowledge spiritual and heavenly types of truth and goodness, but their acknowledgment stems from faith—as do their actions—and not as much from love.

Heavenly people believe and perceive truth and goodness of spiritual and heavenly kinds, but they acknowledge no other faith than one that springs from love; and love is also what moves them to action.

(2) Those who are lifeless fixate purely on bodily and worldly life as their goals. They do not know what eternal life is or what the Lord is. If they have heard about these, they have no belief in them. Those who are spiritual focus first on eternal life as their goal, and then on the Lord.

Those who are heavenly concentrate first on the Lord as their goal, and then on his kingdom and eternal life.

(3) When the lifeless undergo conflict, they almost always give in. When they are free of conflict, evil and falsity master them, and they are slaves to it. Their restraints are external and include fear of the law and fear of losing their life, wealth, profits, and consequent reputation.

The spiritual are subject to conflict, but they always win. The restraints that curb them are internal ones termed the bonds of conscience.

Heavenly people experience no conflict. If evil and falsity attack them, they spurn them, which is why they are called victors. They have no apparent restraints to curb them, being free, but they do have invisible restraints, which are the goodness and truth they perceive.

In other words, Swedenborg sees the stories as dealing with three stages in the spiritual development of an individual person, and also of humankind as a whole.

Stage 1: The worldly person, who is spiritually lifeless

The first stage, he says, is represented by the state of creation just after the initial creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:

The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. (Genesis 1:2)

The formlessness, void, and darkness, he says, is the spiritual formlessness, void, and darkness of people who have not yet been regenerated, or spiritually born again. This is where all of us start, and it is also where the earliest human beings on earth also started as a group.

Stage 2: The spiritual person, prompted by faith

He then interprets the first Creation story of Genesis 1 as referring to our reformation into spiritually aware and enlightened beings, who live a good life based on faith, belief, and understanding. This first Creation story is complete in us when we believe in God and live a good life because we know it is the right thing to do, and we know and understand that this is what God has commanded us to do for our own good.

The first Creation story, then, focuses on the rebirth and reformation of our mind and our understanding.

Stage 3: The heavenly person, prompted by love

The second Creation story, by contrast, Swedenborg says, focuses on the rebirth of our heart, our love, and our will.

When we have reformed our life and our thinking about life based on faith and an understanding of the goodness and rightness of God's laws and God's commandments, our spiritual rebirth or re-creation process moves deeper, to the level of our heart and what we love and feel joy in. That is what takes place in the second Creation story, in Swedenborg's interpretation of it.

When this third stage of our spiritual re-creation is complete, we live a good life, not merely because we know and understand that it is the right thing to do—which is a rather intellectual and therefore relatively superficial type of spiritual life—but rather because we feel the love of God in our heart, and this prompts us to spontaneously and warmly love both God and our fellow human beings. So our spiritual life is moved not just by faith and understanding, but even more by a warm and burning love in our heart that prompts us to want and do everything good for the people around us.

This brings God's heavenly kingdom into fruition in and around those who reach this stage of spiritual rebirth.

References to the full exegesis

This is a necessarily brief and sketchy account of Swedenborg's detailed exegesis of Genesis 1 and 2, which he sees as a sort of "preface" to the Bible, providing a summary in two short chapters of everything that follows in the entire Bible.

You can read his fuller exegesis of these chapters in an older translation online at the links below. All linked numbers are from Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia ("Secrets of Heaven"). Subsequent section numbers can be read sequentially by clicking the "Next" button below each section.

His exegesis of Genesis 1 starts with a preface in #1, and the exegesis proper starts with a summary of the spiritual meaning in #6, followed by a detailed exegesis starting in #14.

His exegesis of Genesis 2 starts with a summary in #73, followed by a detailed exegesis starting in #81.

For a more modern and readable translation, I recommend the New Century Edition, which is available as a free download from the publisher's website here.

Summary and conclusion

In this chronological understanding of the two Creation stories:

When the human being is first created in Genesis 1:27–28, it represents our creation as spiritually aware human beings prompted by faith and an understanding of God's commandments as being good and right for us to follow.

When the human being is created second, in Genesis 2:7, it represents our creation as heavenly human beings, meaning people who are moved primarily by love for God and love for the neighbor, and who live a good life as prompted and motivated by that love. This, Swedenborg says, is God's ultimate goal for us, and completes our process of being born again as new creations in the image and likeness of God.

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The first creation story is prophetic of the new heaven and new earth. It begins by describing the current earth as a wasteland, empty and a void or confusion, covered in darkness. God creates the "Light" three days before he created the sun and moon.

the LORD'S own portion was Jacob; His hereditary share was Israel. He found them in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert. He shielded them and cared for them (Deu 32:8-10 NABO)

Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light… Thus evening came, and morning followed-- the first day. (Gen 1:3-5 NABO)

"Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night… Evening came, and morning followed-- the fourth day. (Gen 1:14-19 NABO)

The Adversary is the father you spring from, or, Jacob “striking” at the heel of his brother, Esau, the first born who is yoked to him. Esau represents the Messiah, who, like Christ whose kingdom is not of this world, has the blessing of a place far from the earth when he throws off the yoke of his brother.

If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. (Joh 8:39 NABO)

You belong to your father the devil (Joh 8:44 NABO)

Ah, far from the fertile earth shall be your dwelling; far from the dew of the heavens above! (Gen 27:39 NABO)

Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. (Joh 18:36 NABO)

the one (Jesus) who ascended far above all the heavens (Eph 4:10 NABO)

And you shall serve your brother; But… You shall break his yoke from your neck (Gen 27:40 TNK)

Adam, who was without sin, is the Lord beginning his work of salvation. Jesus is the first and last, alpha and omega, beginning and end. The sword guarding the way to the tree of life represent the sacrifice of being ‘made to be sin’. Again, Esau lives by the sword. It is sharpened for the day of vengeance and judgement. Therefore will he lift up his head.

"The first man, Adam, became a living being," the last Adam a life-giving spirit. (1Co 15:45 NABO)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Rev 22:13 NABO)

For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin (2Co 5:21 NAB)

By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve (Gen 27:40 NABO)

I will sharpen my flashing sword… "With vengeance I will repay (Deu 32:41 NABO)

We know the one who said: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay," and again: "The Lord will judge his people. (Heb 10:30 NABO)

At your right hand is the Lord, who crushes kings on the day of wrath, Who… judges nations… and thus holds high the head. (Psa 110:5-7 NABO)

If you do well, you can hold up your head (Gen 4:7 NABO)

Christ makes his sacrifice at the end of the ages, in two appearances, within the same generation, after which the new heavens and new earth will be created. He was to be lifted up like the serpent in the desert which was killing the Israelites. The serpent, which represents the cross, was smashed to pieces because they were burning incense to it. There will be wars and rumors of wars but, the sacrifice is when he comes as a thief in the night on the day of wrath and is counted among the lawless as the Lawless One

what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age? (Mat 24:3 NABO)

he has appeared at the end of the ages… Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ… will appear a second time, (Heb 9:26-28 NABO)

death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:14 NABO)

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up (Joh 3:14 NABO)

Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered (Num 21:9 NABO)

He smashed the bronze serpent called Nehushtan which Moses had made (2Ki 18:4 NABO)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away (2Pe 3:10 NABO)

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