The original question was: I have recently heard several pastors preach the Gap theory. I don’t see how there can be a gap anywhere in Genesis 1. Where did the gap theory came from, and how do we answer it? Are these pastors deceived, ignorant or just ill-informed?
Answer by John Mackay
What is the Gap Theory?
This is a theory widely spread by the Schofield reference Bible and commonly accepted in Brethren/AOG Assemblies, and in any big users of Schofield. It usually refers to the idea that there is a missing time period between Genesis 1:1 and 1: 2. Theologically it is supposed to represent the missing account of when the Devil, who it is claimed used to rule earth before man, rebelled and lost his role and his planet, and geologically it is usually associated with all the time needed for the fossil record to formed prior to man.
Let’s give you a unique way to Biblically expose the error in the gap theory, followed by a little helpful history, and one warning.
How many conjunctions does it take to make a gap?
Silly irrelevant question? Not when you know there are 131 conjunctions between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:3. A conjunction is a joining word such as ‘and’ or ‘then’. In your Bible the English word ‘and’, is a translation of the Hebrew word waw or vav, (pronunciation and spelling depending on what school you went to.)
Look at Gen 1:1 – 3 in King James Version (KJV):
“In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth. 2 and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 and God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
This use of and is most easily spotted in the KJV, but even when the word is translated as ‘then’, in some modern translations, it is still a connecting word based on the Hebrew conjunction waw.
Why direct your attention to the number of ‘ands’ or conjunctions? Simply because they tell you there is no possible gap between 1:1 and 1:2. Genesis 1:1-2:3 reads, in short-hand: “God did this, and this, and this, and this, and … etc. Nor indeed can you stop for a breath until the end of the 7th day when God Himself rested! And that’s the point: ‘for in 6 days the Lord made the heavens/earth/seas and on the seventh day He rested’, just as God reiterated to Moses in the 10 commandments. Exodus 20:11 reads: “For in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all that is in them.”
Did you notice back in Genesis that the making of the heavens and the earth was only referred to in Genesis 1:1? If there was a time gap in between verse 1 and 2 for any reason, then Exodus 20:11 should read; “For in six days the Lord made some of the earth and the seas and only some of what is in them, because He had made the earth and heavens ages ago”. This reading is impossible.
When you see some Bible translations that have been influence by this theory, yet know the Hebrew is not to favourable to this, they use some very dirty tactics. For example: the Common English Bible begins with: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth — the earth was without shape or form”. Dake’s annotated bible leaves a white space several lines in depth.
So why was I so scathing with the words ‘dirt tactic’? We all tend to forget that the original Hebrew text did not have chapter and verse number. These were added by Medieval Christians to make it easier to read and memorise. Surprisingly they were later adopted by Jewish rabbis in the often forced debates with Spanish clergy who quoted ‘chapter and verse.’ What was the source of this numerical system? By 1205, one Stephen Langton is claimed to have been the first to put chapter divisions in the Vulgate Bible, which were later added to New Testament Greek manuscripts in the 1400s. Robert Estienne was the first to number verses within each chapter thence added to New Testament copies by 1565 and by 1571 had been added to the Hebrew Bible.
There is no denying the majority of those who want a gap, do so because they are trying to accommodate the ever increasing age of the earth and universe touted by geologists and astronomers. Just cast your eyes over the brief history below, as we start in 18th Century France.
History of Long Ages
Frenchman Georges Louis-Le Clerc de Buffon who lived 1707 – 1788, calculated that Adam and Eve came into being 6,000 – 8,000 years before present, but the earth had been in prior existence for 75,000 years. He derived this age for earth by comparing the earth to a large iron ball and attempting to calculate its rate of heat loss from a hot molten blob to its present cooler state. In doing so, he applied the measured rate of heat loss for the small iron ball to an earth size iron ball, in order to derive the figure of 75,000 yrs. This comparison method of using present measurements applied to the past would later be called he principle of uniformitarianism.
In the politics of the day, if a Frenchman said something, an Englishman rejected it, so the Scots would deliberately accept it. Gauls and Gaels vs Anglo Saxon/Normans. (Not much has changed has it? ) So by 1785 at Scotland’s prestigious Edinburgh University: geologist James Hutton promoted his version of De Buffon’s concept of uniformitarianism in his very hard to read text Theory of the Earth to derive an inestimably old earth. In 1802 at Edinburgh University, this uniformitarianism concept was further expounded in a much more readable form by John Playfair, in his text Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory.
Edinburg’s Theologians began to take notice of the ‘Geologians”. After all, Edinburgh University was very respectable. In 1814, a Christian mathematician and amateur geologist who had studied at Edinburgh and lectured at St Andrews University popularised the idea that the obvious differences in ages could be rectified by using a time gap between verse 1 and 2 of Genesis, and claiming the rest of Genesis 1 was still intact so this gap was not a problem at all. Thomas Chalmers entered the debate. Problem solved? Actually it wasn’t too long until what was put in the ‘missing time’ would become an even bigger problem. An ever increasing volume of claimed fossil evidence for time was poured into that gap which would soon provide a basis for arguments that if there was a real history of life, and death in the rock records, then evolution was a better explanation than Genesis with or without a gap. Now the question could be raised, “How much has God not told us?”
Since Chalmers’ day, the amount of History the geologist could allegedly provide us became larger and larger and larger. By the time this author first encountered the gap theory in the 1970’s via a Brethren group addicted to Schofield’s reference Bible the geologists had increased the age of the earth to billions of years, and the effect on the youth of that church was obvious: If God only tells us about 6000 or so years of history, and the geologist knows about billions, who knows more? God began to shrink until He was, for all practical purposes, irrelevant.
You may find it also interesting to note that by 1816 a Scotsman from near Edinburgh had moved to England and graduated in Law at Oxford. He was Charles Lyell who would become Darwin’s mentor. In 1830 Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology presented geologic evidence from England, France, Italy, and Spain that Lyell believed showed Hutton was correct. By the 1830’s Charles Darwin (ex Edinburgh University) had become becomes Lyell’s disciple, and the rest is History as they say. But he wasn’t the first – a Scotsman had beaten him to it!
In 1844 a book named Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation had been published anonymously in London, predating Darwin’s Descent of Man by decades. The author promoted evolution of man from the apes. It was a best seller. It was only in 1884 that its author was discovered to be Robert Chambers (1802 – 1871) of Edinburgh.
A Final Warning
God has already given it to us: Don’t add to or subtract from His word (Revelation 22:18-19). Like any lie, the Gap Theory puts a real space between man and God, and the devil really is in the details!
For more information
Some people use to the gap theory to explain the creation of angels and the fall of Satan. For more information see the question:
ANGELS: When did God create angels, before or after He made the earth? Answer here.
For more information on the days of creation see the questions:
Creation Days: Were the days of creation, as described in Genesis 1, real 24 hour days? Answer here.
Genesis Days? Are they 2 parallel symbolic lists of 3 days of forming and 3 of filling? Answer here.
Did Jesus believe 6 day creation because he was fully man and therefore ignorant of modern science? Answer here.
Why do you claim Genesis days are 24 hours when Augustine said they are indefinitely long periods? Answer here.
To see the effect of belief in Lyell’s long ages on Charles Darwin read the article The Descent of a Man. PDF here.
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