Can the 'Gap Theory' Still Be Maintained?

Please Read This Brief Introduction First

The so-called 'Gap Theory' always was a compromise. In this theory a few million years are inserted between two verses of Genesis 1. But this was only ever done as a compromise and an attempt at formulating a 'common meeting place' with evolutionary theory. But this is 'eisegesis' - that is, it is to put something into the Scriptures which was not originally there.
Today very liitle of evangelical scholarship still accepts this artificial construction, yet - despite this - Cyrus Scofield's openness towards this theory, which led to him including it in his 1909 Scofield Reference Bible means that many American Christians, especially those of a fundamentalist leaning, still insist on imposing a few million years into a Genesis text which contains no hint of such a construction. More seriously, to do so undermines many other inspired Scriptures and even undermines the Gospel of Jesus. However, I should point out that 'Gappists' are certainly not heretics - nothing like it! They do reject evolution and believe in the divine inspiration of Scripture, yet one feels that - sincere or not - they have accepted an approach to Genesis One which has quite serious problems. There follows an article which clearly outlines the dangers of the 'Gap Theory.'

However, I should point out that UK Apologetics does not necessarily support every single point of Grigg's. For example, we believe the evidence to be strong that Lucifer's rebellion occurred prior to the days of creation (the angels were already present and were able to shout for joy - Job 38:7) and since their creation is never recorded in the 6 days (and they were able to shout for joy when it did occur), therefore they already existed. In addition, the Lord's warnings about the tree of good and evil shows that Adam and Eve needed to be immediately warned of Satan's activity. With these few provisos, this remains a generally very good article. (See also my brief inset article, 'Where Do the Angels Fit In?').
Robin A. Brace, 2007.

From the Beginning of the Creation

by Russell Grigg

Is there a ‘gap’ of billions of years, in between verse 1 and verse 2 of Genesis chapter 1, into which Christians can conveniently assign the long ages claimed by evolutionary geologists? 1,2.

What does the Bible actually say?

What did Moses intend to convey?

The most obvious and straightforward reading of Genesis 1 provides a prima facie case that Moses, under the direction of God, intended to write a literal historic account of what God had revealed to him (or to his antecedents), and not a cryptic message with clues for the super-intelligent. In other words, if God had meant us to understand that there was a gap of billions of years between verses 1 and 2, involving so many details about Satan, sin, judgment, punishment, re-creation, etc., we might reasonably expect that He would have provided the author with at least some of these alleged details. He did not. Nor are they to be found anywhere else in the Bible. 3.

In fact, orthodox Jews and conservative Christians have always read Genesis 1 as literal history. Prof. Davis Young, a theistic evolutionist geologist, admits:

‘It cannot be denied, in spite of frequent interpretations of Genesis 1 that departed from the rigidly literal, that the almost universal view of the Christian world until the 18th century was that the Earth was only a few thousand years old. Not until the development of modern scientific investigation of the Earth itself would this view be called into question within the church.’ 4.

Other parts of the Bible are the death-knell for the gap theory

Genesis 1:31 says, 'And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good.' [The Hebrew is meod tov, which indicates perfection, a complete absence of evil of any kind, as Calvin and many other commentators have pointed out.] This is hardly an accurate description, if the being who became Satan had already rebelled! And if there were billions of 'Lucifer-flood' fossils with the marks of disease, violence, death, and decay, corresponding to the perishing of an entire pre-Adamic race and the extinction of a complete world of animals, with Adam and Eve walking around on top of buried fossils, how could God have called all this 'very good'? 5. (In their monumental Old Testament commentary, Keil and Delitzsch say about 'very good' in Gen. 1:31: 'everything was perfect in its kind...the existence of anything evil in the creation of God is absolutely denied, and the hypothesis entirely refuted, that the six days work merely subdued and fettered an ungodly, evil principle, which had already forced its way into it).

Genesis 6-9 describes a worldwide flood in which all the air-breathing land animals which were not on Noah's Ark died. As gappists assign the fossils to Lucifer's flood, they are forced to conclude that Noah's Flood left virtually no trace or was merely local. Surely a flood which is explicitly described in the Bible is a better source of the fossils than a hypothetical flood which the Bible does not mention at all!

Exodus 20:11 says, 'For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them' - This is the definitive verse outside Genesis concerning the time frame of creation. It states categorically that God created everything in six days. There is just no allowance for a gap. 6.

What is the Gap Theory?

The gap theory is an attempt by some Christian theologians to make Genesis fit the popular belief that the universe is exceedingly old. Gappists believe in a literal Genesis, but accept an extremely long age (undefined) for the earth. To reconcile these views, they fit the geological ages between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. However, they are opposed to evolution.

According to Weston W. Fields, author of the definitive anti-gap book Unformed and Unfilled, the traditional or classical gap theory can be summarized as follows: 'In the far distant dateless past God created a perfect heaven and perfect earth. Satan was ruler of the earth which was peopled by a race of ‘men’ without any souls. Eventually, Satan, who dwelled in a garden of Eden composed of minerals (Ezekiel 28), rebelled by desiring to become like God (Isaiah 14). Because of Satan’s fall, sin entered the universe and brought on the earth God’s judgment in the form of a flood (indicated by the water of 1:2), and then a global Ice Age when the light and heat from the sun were somehow removed. All the plant, animal, and human fossils upon the earth today date from this ‘Lucifer’s flood’ and do not bear any genetic relationship with the plants, animals and fossils living upon the earth today ...' (Ref. 6, p. 7). Today’s creatures are a result of a 6-day re-creation.

Note, however, that recently a new type of gap theory has surfaced in which there is no ruin or reconstruction; proponents just postulate a lengthy time gap only, with either ancient stars, an ancient earth, or both.

Romans 5:12 states, 'By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin.' Adam was created on Day Six, but the classical gap theory says there was death during the gap before Day One. Not so, according to the Apostle Paul! This verse plainly says that death entered the world because of (and so after) Adam's sin. There is nothing to restrict this verse to human death; on the contrary, Romans 8:20 says that the whole creation was made 'subject to vanity.' Death could not therefore have been in the world (with fossils killed in the alleged 'Lucifer's flood') before Adam sinned. Gappists must therefore say that Romans 5:12 and Genesis 3:3 refer only to spiritual death. This is not so. Adam began to die physically (Hebrew: 'dying you will die,' that is, the process of dying would begin;Genesis 3:19, completed in Genesis 5:5), and he also died spiritually. 7. Jesus experienced both physical death and spiritual death (Matthew 27:46) for us on the cross. See also 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.

The alleged biblical evidence for a gap

Gappists' arguments depend heavily on revisionist translations of a few Hebrew words.

The Hebrew words bara ('create out of nothing') and asah ('make').

Genesis 1:1 uses bara and Exodus 20:11 uses asah. Gappists claim that Exodus 20:11 refers to a re-creating and re-forming of a ruined world because, they claim, bara and asah cannot be used interchangeably.

Answer: The Hebrew word bara is used three times in Genesis 1, each representing the creation of a completely new entity—something which did not exist before.

In Genesis 1:1, bara is used of the creation of heavens and earth.

In Genesis 1:21, bara is used of the creation of the first conscious animal (or nephesh) life.

In Genesis 1:27, bara is used of the creation of the first man, that is, human life made in God's image.

But Genesis 1:26 quotes God as saying, 'Let us make (asah) man in our image,' whereas the very next verse says, 'So God created [bara] man in His own image.' The same event is here described by both bara and asah, so the verbs are obviously used interchangeably - the passage is Hebrew parallelism. Furthermore Genesis 2:4 says, 'These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created (bara), in the day that the Lord God made (asah) the earth and the heavens.' Here bara and asah are again used together in synonymous parallelism, again showing that they are used interchangeably by Moses.

Sometimes 'asah' is clearly used to mean create ex nihilo (out of nothing), despite gappist's claims to the contrary, e.g. Nehemiah 9:6:

'You alone are the LORD. You made (asah) the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.'

'Waw' is the name of the Hebrew letter which is used as a conjunction. It can mean 'and', 'but', 'now' 'then', and several other things depending upon the context and type of 'waw' involved. 8. It occurs at the beginning of Genesis 1:2 and is translated in the KJV, 'And [waw] the earth was without form, and void.' Gappists use this translation to support the gap theory. However, the most straightforward reading of the text sees verse 1 of Genesis 1 as the principal subject-and-verb clause, with verse 2 containing three circumstantial clauses. This is what [Hebrew grammarian] Gesenius terms a 'waw explicativum.' [also called waw copulative or waw disjunctive] or explanatory waw, and compares it to the English 'to wit.' 9.

Where Do the Angels Fit In?

Exodus 20:11 says that God made all things in heaven and earth in six days, but did this include the angelic realm? We do know that the angels were all originally created good and holy (Colossians 1:16, Jude 6).

Job 38:4,7 suggests that the angels were already present when God laid the foundations of the earth. This raises the question as to when these beings rebelled to give rise to Satan and his demonic followers (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6). Some say that this was surely not possible before God pronounced everything as being 'very good' near the end of Day Six (Genesis 1:31). But surely the 'very good' referred to the creation of heaven and earth but not necessarily to the angelic realm which, after all, is plainly not included in the creation works of Days 1-6.

Angels inhabit a spiritual realm/dimension and we do not know how this interacts with our own space/mass/time continuum. Ever since Einstein, we know that time is not a constant and is affected, for example, by gravity, so time (if it exists as such) in the spiritual dimension is not necessarily the same as time in the dimensions we know.

We should surely conclude therefore that the angelic realm already existed at the creation of the heaven and earth (the angels shouted for joy when it took place), and since Satan was able to approach Eve relatively quickly and easily, the angelic rebellion under Lucifer had already taken place. However, we must understand that this did not occur within the time and space that God made for his human creation to live within.
Robin A. Brace.

Such a waw disjunctive is easy to tell from the Hebrew, because it is formed by waw followed by a non-verb. It introduces a parenthetic statement, that is, it's alerting the reader to put the following passage in brackets, as it were, a descriptive phrase about the previous noun. It does not indicate something following in a time sequence. This would have been indicated by a different Hebrew construction called the waw consecutive, where waw is followed by a verb [the waw consecutive is in fact used before the different days of creation]. Thus the Hebrew grammar shows that a better translation of Genesis 1:2 would be, 'Now the earth,' and it could be paraphrased, 'Now as far as the earth was concerned ...' 10.

It is as if the author of Genesis (under God's direction), by the use of such a joining word, is going out of his way to stress that there is no break between the two verses.

Was [Hebrew hayetah] in Genesis 1:2 is translated 'became' by gappists, giving the reading, 'And the earth became [or had become] without form and void.' Gap theorist A.C. Custance devotes nearly 80% of his book Without Form and Void, including 13 Appendices, to advocating this translation, especially with the pluperfect, 'had become.'

However, recognized grammarians, lexicographers, and linguists have almost uniformly rejected the translations 'became' and 'had become.' 11. It is a basic exegetical fallacy to claim that because Strong's Concordance lists 'became' as one of the meanings of haya, it is legitimate to translate it this way in the particular context of Genesis 1:2. It is simply grammatically impossible when the verb haya is combined with a waw disjunctive; in the rest of the Old Testament, Waw plus a noun plus haya (qal perfect, 3rd person) is always translated, 'was' or 'came,' but never 'became.'

The Hebrew words tohu and bohu, translated 'without form and void' in Genesis 1:2, are claimed by gappists to indicate a judgmental destruction rather than something in the process of being built. 12. But tohu occurs several times in the Bible in which it is used in a morally neutral state, describing something unfinished, and confused, but not necessarily evil. 13. Hebrew scholars and the Church have for centuries taken the view that Genesis 1:2 is not a scene of judgment or an evil state created by the fall of angels, but a description of the original undeveloped state of the universe. The plain and simple meaning of what Moses says is that on the first day there was a mass covered by water, with no dry land involving features (tohu = 'unformed'), and no inhabitants yet (bohu = 'unfilled').

Some have misused Jeremiah 4:23 to teach the gap theory, because it uses the phrase tohu va bohu to describe the results of a judgment. Leading gap theorists like Arthur Custance used this fact to assert that 'without form and void' must mean 'laid waste by a judgment.' But this is fallacious: there is nothing in the Hebrew words tohu VA bohu themselves to suggest that. The only reason they refer to being 'laid waste' is due to the context in which the words are found. They simply mean 'unformed and unfilled.' This state can be due either to nothing else having been created, or some created things being removed. The context of Jeremiah 4 is a prophecy of the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem, not creation. In fact, Jeremiah 4:23 is known as a literary allusion to Genesis 1:2; the judgment would be so severe that it would be leave the final state as empty as the world before God created anything. Jeremiah 4:23 cannot be used to interpret Gen. 1:2 as a judgment; that would be completely back-to-front, because an allusion works only one-way.

An analogy: when I open my word processor, my document screen is blank. But if I delete an entire document the screen would likewise be blank. So 'blank' means 'free from any text.' In some contexts, the lack of text is because I haven't written anything, in others it is due to a deletion of text. You would need to know the context to tell which - you couldn't tell from the word blank itself. However, a Custance-type analysis of the word might conclude, 'blank' can refer to a screen with all the text deleted, so the word 'blank' itself signifies a text deletion event, even when none is stated.

The English word 'replenish' in the KJV translation of Genesis 1:28 ('..and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth'), does not support the gap theory as gappists claim. Linguist DR Charles Taylor writes, 'As translated in 1611, it (replenish) was merely a parallel to 'fill', and the prefix 're-' didn't mean 'again,' but 'completely.' 14. The same Hebrew word male is used in Genesis 1:22, and is there translated 'fill (the seas),' so there was no need to translate it differently in verse 28. (See also What does replenish the earth mean?)

The darkness. Since 'God is light' (1 John 1:5), and in the Bible darkness is sometimes used as a metaphor for judgment of the wicked (Exodus 10:21, Isaiah 13:10, Joel 2:31, Matthew 27:45, etc.), some (but not all) gappists have argued that Genesis 1:2 refers to an evil state. This is an error of logic. The symbol has been confused with the thing symbolized, until the very symbol itself is now considered evil. 15.

The earth could not have been anything but dark, because light had not yet been created. Indeed, Genesis 1:3, 'And God said, Let there be light', should alone be sufficient to undermine the gap theory. If the sun, moon and stars were all created (as even the newer gap theories insist) 'in the beginning' (Genesis 1:1), why was it necessary for God to create light (verse 3) after the alleged gap between verses 1 and 2?

Other problems

Very many animal fossils are virtually identical in features to animals living today. Traditional gappists are faced with the problem of how and why this should be so, without there being any direct line of descent.

Gappists overlook the words of Jesus in Mark 10:6, 'But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.' The Lord Himself obviously did not envisage any significant gap between Genesis 1:1 and the creation of Adam and Eve.

In any case there is much excellent scientific evidence consistent with a young earth. 16.

The whole concept of the need for a gap shows wrong-way-round thinking. It is the outcome of using humanistic evolutionary scientific opinions to interpret the Bible, rather than vice versa


Although the gap theory is well meant by its propagators, it is not confirmed by any data, whether linguistic, Biblical, theological, or practical. To advocate death before Adam sinned is contrary to the Biblical statements that death came as a result of Adam's sin, which occasioned the necessity for man's redemption through Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection.

References and notes

1. Proposed by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), founder of the Free Church of Scotland, the idea of a gap was 'canonized' for some Christians when C.I. Scofield included it in the footnotes of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909.

2. The most academic presentation of the gap theory is to be found in Without Form and Void by Arthur C. Custance, Doorway Publications, Brookfield, Canada, 1970.

3. The two Bible passages that are usually invoked about the fall of Satan are Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:13-17. Both of these passages are in the context of prophecies about earthly kings (of Babylon and Tyre), and no explicit reference is made to Satan. However, even if these verses are so taken, there is no indication that any of the events described took place before Genesis 1:2.

4. Davis A. Young, Christianity and the Age of the Earth, Zondervan, Michigan, p. 25, 1982.

5. In other words, if Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:13-17 do refer to the fall of Satan (which certainly is not proven), this more consistently fits after Day Six of Creation Week, and not between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. For further discussion, see my article, Who was the serpent?, Creation 13(4):36-38.

6. For further discussion see Weston W. Fields, Unformed and Unfilled, Burgener Enterprises, Collinsville, Illinois, p. 58, 1976.

7. In the Bible, spiritual death has the meaning of separation from God rather than of annihilation.

8. F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C.A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford, pp. 251-255, 1968, cited from Ref. 6, p. 81.

9. Kautzsch and Cowley, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, p. 484, section 154a, footnote 1, cited from Ref. 6, p. 82.

10. For a more detailed explanation, see Ref. 6, pp. 81-86.

11. For a more detailed explanation see Ref. 6, pp. 87-112.

12. Ref. 2, p. 168.

13. Ref. 6, p. 129, which summarizes Fields' arguments on pp. 113-130. Gappists sometimes claim that the two words are only used together (tohu wa bohu) in other parts of the Bible where judgment is in view; however, there is nothing in the context of Genesis, (which there is in these other references) which would independently suggest judgment.

14. Charles Taylor, The First 100 Words, The Good Book Co., Gosford, New South Wales, Australia, p. 74, 1996.

15. Ref. 6, p. 132.

16. See John D. Morris, The Young Earth, Master Books, Colorado Springs, 1994; as well as Dr Russell Humphreys' summary, Evidence for a Young World, Creation 13(3):28-31, also available as a reprint from the UK, USA, NZ and Australian bookstores.

(This fine article, which we claim no rights to, also appears here. Thanks to Answers in Genesis).