One of the most popular ways of understanding the creation account in Genesis is known as the Gap Theory or the ruin and reconstruction theory. Although there are some variations among those who hold to the Gap Theory, its basic teachings are as follows:
Perfection Then Chaos
refers to God's initial perfect creation. Everything that God made was beautiful, there was no sin anywhere. Verse two, on the other hand, assumes that a great catastrophe occurred that caused the earth to become in a chaotic state through the judgment of God. According to the Gap Theory, the formless and void state, as recorded in Genesis 1:2
, is in direct contrast to the perfect initial creation. Something happened between the first two verses of Genesis to cause the earth to become desolate and uninhabitable after having been made perfect. Those holding the Gap Theory contend that this state of ruin could have possibly lasted millions of years.
After this unknown amount of time between the first two verses, God began a re-creation or restitution which involved successive days. The remainder of the first chapter of Genesis deals with the reconstruction of the earth, not
the original creation. This re-creation is usually assumed to have occurred only a few thousand years ago and was accomplished in six literal twenty-four hour days. Genesis 1:3-2:3
, therefore, is a second creation. Consequently Genesis speaks of creation, judgment, ruin, and recreation.
Literal Days, Old Earth
The individuals who hold to the Gap Theory want to accept the Bible literally as well as the conclusions of modern science about the ancient age of the earth- they are not evolutionists. The Gap Theory provides a solution to two problems between the Bible and science - the time problem and the fossil problem. To reconcile the Bible and science, the geological ages are placed between Genesis 1:1
and Genesis 1:2
What Was The Judgment?
The judgment is usually spoken of as a flood because of the statement of Genesis 1:2
- the earth was covered by water. This judgment is also known as the Luciferic flood named after the angel who became the devil.
The cause for the judgment is usually given as the rebellion of Satan or some pre-Adamic race that sinned. All of the inhabitants of the earth were judged by God, leaving behind fossil remains. The present plants and animals living today have no genetic relationship with the fossil left behind by the judgment of God.
The Case For The Gap Theory
Those who advocate the Gap Theory do so for the following reasons:
1.The Hebrew Conjunction Waw In Genesis 1:2
Gap theorists make part of their argument out of the Hebrew conjunction waw that begins Genesis 1:2
. They wish to translate it as but. The idea is that there is a contrast between what was stated in Genesis 1:1
and the statement of Genesis 1:2
. The author is emphasizing that the earth was created perfect but
something happened that caused to become formless and void.
2.The Earth Became Void
The word translated was in Genesis 1:2
is the Hebrew verb hayah
. It is possible to translate it as became or had become. Thus, the earth was created perfectly and then became without form and void. The world, though created perfect, became desolate and uninhabitable. What had previously been a perfect world was now ruined. Those who argue for this translation point out that in other places in the creation account the verb hayah
is translated became or had become. (Genesis 2:7
, etc.). Hence the translation of the verb in this manner is consistent within the context of the creation account in Genesis.
3.The Septuagint Translation
Some advocates of the Gap Theory point to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, for support of their translation of hayah
as became. The verb hayah
occurs 27 times in the first chapter of Genesis. The Greek translators of the Septuagint, rendered hayah
, in 20 instances, by the Greek word egeneto
which means became.
4.Formless And Void
describes the earth at the time of the creation as being without form and void or desolate and uninhabitable (Hebrew tohu wa bohu
). Are we to assume that a perfect God created the world in a chaotic condition? The phrase without form and void seems to require some type of judgment.
In addition, Isaiah 34:11
and Jeremiah 4:23-26
, the only other instances the phrase without form and void is used, clearly refers to some type of divine judgment. Hence, Genesis 1:2
must also be a reference to judgment.
speaks of the world in a state of darkness. Darkness is almost always used in Scripture as a sign of sin and judgment (Jude 13
, John 3:19
). Furthermore, God did not say the darkness was good as He had said about the light (Genesis 1:3
). If God originally created the world in light, then something caused the earth to become dark.
7.Created And Made
According to the Gap Theory, the original creation was in Genesis 1:1
. What happened on the six days of Genesis was not creating but rather making over. Gap theorists make a distinction between the verbs create bara
and made asah
. The verb bara
is used with regard to God creating while asah
means refashioning or made to appear. The New Scofield Reference Bible makes this distinction.
Only three creative acts of God are recorded in this chapter: (1) the heavens and the earth, v. 1; (2) animal life, vv. 20-21; and (3) human life, vv 26-27. The first creative act refers to the dateless past. . . neither here (Genesis 1:3) nor in vv. 14-18 is an original creative act implied. A different word is used. The sense is made to appear, made visible. The sun and the moon were created 'in the beginning.' The light came from the sun, of course, but the vapor diffused the light. Later the sun appeared in an unclouded sky (The New Scofield Reference Bible, 1967, p. 1 note #3, #6).
8.Not Created In Vain
clearly states that God did not create the world in vain. The Hebrew phrase translated in vain is lo tohu. Tohu
is the word translated without form in Genesis 1:2
. Thus, if God did not create the world in vain, then it seems logical to assume that at some time in the earth's past it became desolate. Since it is unthinkable that anything chaotic and wasteful could come from a perfect God, we must assume that there was some type of judgment to put the earth in that condition.
is often cited as a verse that speaks of the earth being formerly in ruin.
Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants.
Gap theorists also point to a passage in Jeremiah to bolster their point of view. The prophet wrote.
I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form and void; and the heavens had no light. . . I beheld, and indeed there was no man, and all the birds of the heaven had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities are broken down at the presence of the Lord and His fierce anger (Jeremiah 4:23-26).
Scofield says of this passage:
[It] describes the condition of the earth as the result of judgment . . . which overthrew the primal order of Gen. I:I. (The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 776 note ).
Many gap theorists point to Ezekiel 28:13-15
as describing the original creation before the desolation of Genesis 1:2
. The passage speaks of Satan dwelling in Eden, the Garden of God, before sin had infected it.
You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardus, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked backed and forth in the midst of the fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you (Ezekiel 28:13-15).
This is a description of the original perfection before God judged the world.
Some Gap theorists say that the time needed for the angels to rebel against God and be judged requires a gap between the first two verses in Genesis 1
. They believe there is not enough time after the completion of creation on day six, and the fall of humanity in Genesis three for the angels to rebel.
Since Adam and Eve did not conceive any children before the fall, there must have been a relatively short time between the completion of creation on day six and the events of Genesis three. This does not allow adequate time for the rebellion, judgment, and expulsion of evil angels.
13.Downfall Of The World
Some advocate that Hebrews 4:3
should be translated The works were finished from the downfall of the world. The downfall it is argued, refers to the catastrophe of Genesis 1:2
Some Gap theorists cite Genesis 1:27
in the King James Version as a proof that the earth was formerly filled with people.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28KJV).
You only replenish something that was already filled.
This bring us to our next point, Almost all Gap Theorists adopt the view that human-like creatures existed before Adam. Although not directly related to modern humans, they did have their own sinful history. The fossils that we find today testify to their existence.
16.Gaps Found Elsewhere In Scripture
The principle of a gap between statements is found in other places in the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 61:1-2
: verse one finds its fulfillment in the First Coming of Christ while verse two refers to the Second Coming of Christ. Because the principle of a long period of time between two verses is found elsewhere in Scripture, it is possible that a gap existed between Genesis 1:1-1:2
These arguments have led people to assume a gap between the first two verses of Genesis. They believe this is the best way to deal with the biblical and geological evidence. Science and Scripture are now in harmony when an indefinite gap is placed between Genesis 1:1
and Genesis 1:2
Difficulties With The Gap Theory
Though there are many good Bible believing Christians who accept the Gap Theory, there are some serious problems with this point of view that make it difficult, if not impossible, to accept.
1.No Mention Of Creation
To begin with, it is hard to imagine that the entire creation of the universe is passed over in only one verse and the bulk of the record deals with re-creation. According to the Gap Theory, there is no clear word from God concerning the original creation. Nothing is known as to the order of events or its history.
2.Not The Historical View
Furthermore, the historical view of Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Protestant interpreters is that Genesis is the account of God's original creation of the universe. The Gap Theory holds that only one verse, Genesis 1:1
, describes the original creation. The Gap Theory dilutes the majestic account in Genesis of God's creation.
3.Genesis Is Not A Cryptic Account
is written as a straightforward account of God's creation - not some cryptic record. If God had meant to inform us of a gap between the first two verses, He could have clearly done that. There is nothing in the Genesis creation account that requires or even hints at a gap. Something has to be read into the account that is not obviously there.
4.No Earlier Creation Taught Anywhere
There is no verse of Scripture that teaches there was an earlier creation. If there were a creation before Genesis 1:2
, there should be at least one verse that explicitly says that. But there is none.
5.Contrary To Scripture
Not only are there no explicit verses about a previous creation, the Scripture argues against this idea. Genesis 2:3
which sums up the previous chapter of God's work says:
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:3,4).
This is creation
, not re-creation. Thus, the context itself speaks of creation rather than re-creation.
Also mentioned in Genesis 2:3
is the creation of the heavens. What was completed in the six days was not just the work of God upon the earth but also heaven. They were created during the six days, not long before it.
In addition, Exodus 20:11
For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.
This passage does not say that God created the heavens and the earth before
the first day as the Gap Theory teaches but rather in
six days. All that is in heaven was created in six days. Everything.
6.No Direct Statement Of Judgment
There is no direct statement anywhere is Scripture that a divine judgment occurred between the first two verses in Genesis. While Scripture, at various times, does speak of God's judgment on the angels and the earth, there are no passages that speaks of it being before the creation narrative in Genesis 1:1-31
. Those who hold the Gap Theory must read this into the passage.
7.No Death Before Sin
The Gap Theory says that millions of animals lived and died not only before Adam, but also before the fall of Satan. But how could there be death in a sinless world? The Bible says that death was a result of sin:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men (Romans 5:12).
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:21).
The Bible also says that the groaning and travailing in pain of the animal kingdom (Romans 8:20-22
) is a result from the Edenic curse after
Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden.
8.God Made The World Very Good
At the end of creation we are told, 'God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good.' In this verse we have two superlatives: 'everything' and 'very good.' This could hardly be said if a part of the world had already been destroyed and if the angels had fallen into sin. The Gap Theory builds our present world on the ruins of a former one. How could it be very good?
In addition, the angels, as well as the rest of creation, were seemingly still in a state of perfection at the end of the sixth day. Everything was perfect everywhere.
9.Death A Result Of Adam's Sin
Humanity was created to have dominion over creation (Psalm 8
, Hebrews 2:5-8
). It was not until they deliberately rejected God's commandment that sin first appeared on earth. The judgment upon humanity and the animal kingdom was a result of Adam's sin - there was no death before this time of humans or animals. The Bible says.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned - (Romans 5:12).
The Bible does not restrict death from sin to human death. Sin brought death to the animal world as well. The Bible is clear that creation was made subject to futility - it was not created that way.
for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (Romans 8:20).
10.Darkness Not Necessarily Evil
The Bible does not teach that physical darkness is always equated with evil. The psalmist wrote.
You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl (Psalm 104:20)
records the darkened state of the earth before the creation of the sun or before the light from the sun came through. It should not be assumed to refer to something evil. Of necessity, there would have been darkness before light. It was only later in Scripture that darkness was used as a symbol of evil. There is nothing evil suggested in the context of Genesis.
The idea is that there was darkness before light merely shows that creation was in progress. The Bible says there was an evening, and hence darkness, at all six days of creation (Genesis 1:5
). There is no statement anywhere of God's disapproval of the darkness.
Darkness can symbolize evil, yet darkness itself is not evil. The Gap Theory confuses the symbol with the thing symbolized.
11.Plants And Animals
The Gap Theory teaches that the plants and animals of the previous world were destroyed and fossilized. This means that they could not be genetically related to the plants and animals of the present world. Yet the majority of the fossilized plants and animals are identical in form to their modern counterparts. How can this be without any direct line of descent?
12.Too Much Made Out Of The Hebrews Conjunction Waw
The Hebrew word waw
, usually translated and is a simple conjunction. Gap Theorists attempt to make it a word that indicates a strong contrast to that which was previously stated. Yet it is merely the simple term for and. Waw
is used thousands of times in the Old Testament without emphasizing anything important. To make it important in Genesis 1:2
is inconsistent with its overall usage. A crucial doctrine should not be based upon this one word.
Instead of but the verse should read something like now the earth was . . .
Consequently, there is no grammatical reason to have a break between the verses.
13.Was Or Became?
Those who attempt to translate the verb hayah
became in Genesis 1:2
do so without much justification. The normal rendering of the word is was. Most scholars testify that the translation of became in this passage is doubtful, if not impossible to uphold. Therefore, to base this theory on a suspect translation is wrong from the start.
Though in some instances the Septuagint translators rendered the verb hayah
as became they did not
render it such in Genesis 1:2
. This demonstrates that they understood the word to mean was and not became. There should be a compelling reason for translating it became here. However, nothing in the text suggests this translation. It comes from a desire to harmonize science and Scripture
Hence, the burden of proof is upon those who would make the word say anything different than how it is usually (or most often) understood.
Bernard Ramm comments on the Gap Theorist attempt to make crucial points about the Hebrew words for and and was.
The entire interpretation of geology and Genesis is made to hinge on secondary meanings of two Hebrew words. To indicate that in some cases waw may mean but, and that hayah means became, does not give full warrant to insert these meanings in Genesis 1:2 and require all geology to conform (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science And Scripture, Eerdmans, 1954, p. 139).
14.Unformed And Unfilled
The phrase tohu wa bohu
, translated without form and void does not necessarily assume some type of judgment as the Gap Theory supposes. The phrase can mean unformed and unfilled. It is a neutral term describing God's unfinished creation. The early earth was at a stage that was not ready for humanity and the rest of creation. That which was previously unformed was then formed and filled by the Creator. The words do not necessitate judgment as has been contended - it merely describes the earth in an undeveloped state. On the first day, the water was covering the land mass. There was no dry land and no people. The earth had been neither formed nor filled.
15.No Context Of Judgment In Creation Account
Furthermore, the meaning of the expression tohu wa bohu
, in Isaiah 34:11
and Jeremiah 4:23
, often cited as proof for the Gap Theory, does not necessarily mean chaos as Gap Theorists argue. The details in the context of Isaiah 34
and Jeremiah 4
, where the phrase tohu wa bohu
is used, make judgment clear. The context of Genesis is not one of judgment. It is not proper to read the circumstances of judgment in Isaiah and Jeremiah back into Genesis where no judgment is required, or even hinted at.
16.In The Beginning
Jesus did not seem to believe there was any gap of time from the original creation to the creation of Adam.
But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female (Mark 10:6).
He made them male and female at the beginning, not after a gap of billions of years.
is more of an argument against the Gap Theory. It says that God did not create the universe in vain. This means He considered His creation to be good as Genesis 1:31
The context of Jeremiah 4
has nothing to do with the original creation. In context, the passage is about the destruction of the Holy Land, not the entire earth. The one looking at this is Jeremiah the prophet. It is much more in context to have him looking forward to a destruction, not looking back. In addition, this passage speaks of survivors after the judgment. There would have been no survivors of the judgment that the Gap Theory proposes.
The statement in Isaiah 24:1
does not deal with the original creation in Genesis. The previous verses referred to the destruction of Babylon and Tyre while the following verses refer to the destruction of the Holy Land.
20.No Parallel Principle
The gap principle that finds itself in other Old Testament passages, is not parallel to Genesis. The other passages containing gaps are all prophetic. There are none that deal with what has happened in history. Thus, there is no parallel between the first two verses of Genesis and other portions of Scripture where a gap is clearly taught.
21.Created And Made
The distinction made between the Hebrew words for created and made is not valid. Contrary to the Gap Theory, the words can be used interchangeably. John Whitcomb comments:
Genesis 1:21 states that 'God created [bara] the great sea-monsters . . .' while verse 25 states that God made [asah] the beasts of the earth . . . Surely we are not to think that the sea creatures were directly created on the fifth day, but land animals were merely 'appointed' or 'made to appear' on the sixth day! All those who hold that bara and 'asah cannot be used on the same kind of divine activity are faced with a serious difficulty here. In fact, the difficulty is so severe that the New Scofield Reference Bible, in support of this distinction, suggests that the beasts which were made on the sixth day (vs. 25) were actually created on the fifth day (p. 2, note #2)! (John Whitcomb, The Early Earth, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972, p. 128).
In addition, we have the two words, bara
, used side by side for the same act, the creation of man in Genesis 2:7
. They are also used synonymously in Genesis 1:26
where both terms describe the same event.
22.Ezekiel 28 And The Fall Of Satan
, rather than referring to the earthly Garden of Eden, more likely speaks of a heavenly place. Satan was cast out of the Garden of Eden to the ground (Ezekiel 28:16
). The Eden Ezekiel speaks of is not a garden of trees and flowers but composed of precious stones and stones of fire (Ezekiel 28:13
). This is similar to the description of the Holy City in heaven (Revelation 21:10-21
May Not Be His Fall
This text may have been a reference to the fall of Satan but it is ambiguous at best. We should not attempt to build doctrines on difficult passages - particularly ones that are highly poetic. Even if it did describe Satan's original fall there is no reason to insert it between the first two verses of Genesis.
23.Time Of Judgment Of Angels Is Not Specified
The passages in Scripture that speak of God's judgment of the rebellious angels (2 Peter 2:4
; Jude 6
) do not place the judgment before the creation account in Genesis 1:2-31
. No specific time is given for their rebellion.
24.Enough Time For Angelic Rebellion
There certainly was time for the angelic rebellion to take place after day six of creation and before the Fall of humanity in Genesis three. Even if only one day passed from the sixth day of creation and the fall, it is certainly enough time for the angels to rebel and be judged. God judgment would have been instantaneous.
In addition, angels live in a different dimension than us. Time for them is not necessarily the same as for us. Consequently there was sufficient time, from our perspective, for them to fall.
The idea that Hebrews 4:3
refers to the downfall of the world, the catastrophe of Genesis 1:2
, is not supported by the evidence. The Greek word katabola
means foundation or beginning, not downfall.
The Gap Theory must also assume there was a prior creation, lasting millions of years, that closely resembled the present creation. This creation, however, ended in failure. The animals of the previous creation did not fulfill God's original purpose - so He destroyed them. In addition, in the second creation, God made the plants and actly like the first ones.
Furthermore, since Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, this prior creation lacked God's crown of creation - humanity.
Therefore the Gap Theory would have God failing twice: first, His purpose was not accomplished in the animal and plant kingdom; second, He failed to crown His creation with man. This is inconsistent with God's nature - one that does not fail to accomplish His purposes.
27.No Pre-Adamic Human-like Creatures
Although Gap Theorists contend that pre-Adamic human-like creatures existed, there is no biblical warrant for this. The Bible knows nothing about such people.
28.Why Create Light Again?
If the sun, moon, and stars were part of the original creation in Genesis 1:1
, then why did God have to create light (Genesis 1:3
). There would have been light for the entire time of the alleged gap.
29.Contradicts Modern Unbelieving Geology
Although Gap theorists attempt to harmonize Genesis with modern geology, the proposed harmonization will not work. Modern geology is based upon the idea of uniformitarianism - all processes that we observe today have continued at the same rate from the beginning. Since the present rates are the same as the past, there is no room for a worldwide catastrophe. The geological ages cannot be separated from the theory of evolution.
30.No Connection Between Geology And Genesis
Because Genesis involves a re-creation, and the present-day fossils belong to a destroyed world, there can be no correlation between Scripture and geology. The Bible, therefore, has absolutely nothing to say about this subject. Therefore it is entirely in the hands of geologists, and we, of necessity, must believe what they tell us about the geological record.
31.Discounts Genesis Flood
If the present-day fossils are a result of a Luciferic flood that happened between Genesis 1:1
, then one must assume that Noah's Flood left no trace whatsoever. The fossil evidence can better be explained by a Flood that we know existed rather than a flood in which Scripture does not mention.
The word translated replenish in the King James Version
is the Hebrew verb maleh
. It means to fill. It is the same word used in Genesis 1:22
fill the waters. It has no idea of replenish. All modern translations render this word as fill. In 16th century Elizabethan English replenish meant to fill completely, not fill again.
33.No Judgment On Earth
There is no passage in Scripture that teaches that God judged the earth because of the sin of the angel who became the devil. Furthermore, why would God kill the inhabitants of the earth for an angel who sinned? The Bible continually stresses that God is a righteous God.
Far be it from you to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25).
Judging the earth for a sin of an angel who lived in the heavenly realm does not make sense.
Finally, it must be pointed out that the Gap Theory is a relatively recent idea. It was first popularized in 1814 by Thomas Chalmers in an attempt to reconcile Genesis with long geological ages. The geological studies of the 19th century were at odds with a recent creation. The Gap Theory gave the Bible the needed time that the geologists said was necessary for the earth to come to its present state.
In the twentieth century, the footnotes of the Scofield Reference Bible
, advocating the Gap Theory, caused it to become enormously popular among the laity. Yet before this time it was hardly ever considered a possibility by interpreters of Genesis. It is only when modern science taught that the age of the earth was, at least, millions of years old, did the Gap Theory become popular.
When the new discipline of geology was claiming long ages for the earth, many Bible students, with no way of scientifically refuting these claims, accepted the long ages of the earth.
Rather than admitting that the Bible taught something different, the Genesis creation account was then reinterpreted in light of the claims of geology. One of the ways that Genesis was reinterpreted was to find a gap between the first two verses of the Bible. However, until modern geology came on the scene, no one proposed a gap between these verses.
35.Gap Theory Is Self-Defeating
There is a major dilemma for the Gap Theory. If the judgment of God with His Luciferic flood rapidly created the entire fossil record that we now find, then there is no evidence for geologic ages as Gap theorists believe. But if there were no geologic ages, there is no need to argue for large amounts of time as the theory of evolution, and the Gap Theory, proposes. Thus the original need for the theory - to fit the long geological ages into the framework of the Bible - is done away with.
36.Wrong Way Of Looking At Subject
The Gap Theory is an example of the wrong way to look at issues of the Bible and science. The Bible should be the source that we use to interpret the scientific data, not vice versa. The Gap theory arose when modern science began to argue for an ancient earth and universe. It was an attempt to harmonize the lengthy time periods, or ages, with Genesis. The Gap Theory did not arise merely from a study of Scripture, it arose to solve the problem of the Bible and time. This fact alone should make the entire theory suspect.
Summary On Gap Theory
Though the Gap Theory attempts to solve the time problem and the fossil problem, it is beset with problems. First, something has to be read into the text that is not obviously there. There is not one verse in the Bible that explicitly teaches an earlier creation.
Also, the Gap Theory breaks the connection between the first two verses of the Bible where the text has no break. It builds our world on the ruins of a former world with no connection between the two. It leaves the original creation to just one verse. All of these problems make the theory highly suspect. Although those who hold to the Gap theory are well-meaning Bible believers, the facts, both biblical and scientific,do not justify this view. A better answer needs to be found.