It is not uncommon today to hear skeptical professors on university campuses assert that the Bible cannot be the infallible repository of redemptive revelation because the first two chapters are contradictory. How? In chapter 1, the creation of plants precedes the creation of man and animals, whereas in chapter 2, the creation of man precedes the creation of plants and animals.
First, it is highly unlikely that an author would contradict himself within the span of several sentences. Moreover, given the sophistication of the literary genres employed in Genesis, one is immediately alerted to a deeper purpose within the narrative. Rather than mining Genesis for all its wealth, fundamentalist fervor seems bent on forcing the language into a literalistic labyrinth from which nothing but nonsense can emerge.
Furthermore, even a cursory reading of Genesis 1 and 2 should be enough to discern that the author has a different purpose in one than in the other. Chapter 1 presents a three-level hierarchy of God’s creative prowess, memorably associated with days of the week. In contrast, chapter 2 focuses on the crowning jewels of God’s creation—man and woman—who are designed to be in right relationship with both creation and the Creator.
Finally, we must always remember that the language of Scripture is a heavenly condescension so that we finite human beings can know something of the nature and purposes of our infinite God. Readers concerned with a chronology of creation need look no further than God’s revelation in the book of nature*. Indeed, those who tenaciously follow evidence wherever it leads will read both the book of Scripture and the book of science with an open mind.
the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the
earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up
from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground—the Lord
God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.