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The Gap Theory

By Richard Gunther


The incredibly well-researched 'Companion Bible' by Bullinger begins its massive and usually wonderfully helpful notes with the comment that Genesis 1:1 describes a perfect world, which subsequently perished. Bullinger says that this destroyed Earth is the origin of the fossils. In just this one tiny gap between two verses is supposed to be found the rise of Satan, his fall and judgement, and the destruction of some perfect world, followed by a restoration and then a new start, with Mankind's creation, etc. So many things hidden in so small a space of nothing! This interpretation, which is still circulating today, has been spread far and wide and it seems to be a way of conveniently assigning the millions of years claimed by evolutionists to the first verse of the Bible.

Because the 'gap' theory undermines a correct understanding of Genesis, we ought to examine it more carefully.

If someone had not told me about the 'gap' theory, I would never have come to it unaided, because for me, the most straightforward and obvious reading of Genesis chapter 1 is that Moses, under the guidance of the Spirit, intended to write a literal, historic account of what God did from day one. If God had intended us to understand a 'gap' at such a crucial point in His description of creation, surely He would have spent a little more time on it, but He has not, and there are no direct references to any 'gap' anywhere else in the Bible. Some of those who hold the 'gap' theory rip the odd verse from elsewhere in the Bible out of its context and stitch it together to make a case, but this is the sort of intellectual dishonesty we would expect from a cult, rather than a sincere student of the Bible.

Orthodox Jews and conservative Christians have always read Genesis chapter one as an uninterrupted flow of events, with no hidden catastrophe. Professor Davis Young, a geologist and an evolutionist admitted, “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.” In other words, when Man's false history of the world appeared, involving millions of years, some Christians deliberately twisted and reinterpreted the Bible to try and squeeze it into these theories and false views. Up until Darwin's theories became popular, Christians had no problem with Genesis 1 as it reads.

Genesis 1:31 tells us that “God saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good.” Compare this statement by God with the sort of planet we would have if the 'gap' theory was correct. Before we reached Genesis 1:2 the Earth would be strewn with fossils – evidence of mass extinction, death, disease, decay, violence and degradation. “Gap' theories sometimes also include a race of humans, but these too would be dead, and when Adam and Eve walked on the 'renewed' Earth, they would have walked over the remains of a smashed and coruscated planet. “Very good?” Hardly. If God called a planet like this “very good” then we need to redefine the meaning of the word “good.”

The 'gap' theory tells us that in the silence between verse 1 and 2 there was a global flood, about which nothing at all is said, yet when we come to Genesis 6-9, God spends three whole chapters describing a flood which He tells us was global – yet according to the 'gap' theory, this second global flood left almost no trace! How amazing, that the first flood destroyed the planet, but the second was hardly noticeable, and that God would spend no words on the first, but three chapters on the second? Perhaps Noah's flood was only local, but if that was so we would have to ignore many of the statements about it, and besides this possibility we still have the problem of evidence. Where do the world's fossils come from – a flood about which nothing is said, or a flood about which much is said?

In Exodus 20:11 we read, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is . . .” Six days means six days, so there is no extended time available for an ancient earth before the creation days. This verse gives us the definitive time frame in which God worked. Everything was created within this six day period, which includes Satan, the angels and Man.

Romans 5:12 tells us, “. . . by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin . . .” What does God mean by the word “death”? We know from Genesis that from the moment of Adam's sin, he began to die, physically. From this we can deduce that there was no death before Adam sinned. This wipes out the 'gap' theory which requires enormous amounts of death before Adam sinned. How could God say (in Romans 5:12) that death entered the world after Adam, and then suggest that death had already entered the world millions of years prior to this? God never contradicts Himself.

The 'gap' theory makes some very dubious claims based on interpretation of a few words in Genesis 1:2 “The earth was without form, and void.” The 'gap' theory says “was” means “became” but all they really do by following this line is ignore the majority of grammarians, lexicographers and linguists. It also raises the question as to why God would spend so little time on such an enormously important stage in the Earth's history, and hide so much secretively in the questionable translation of a single word?

The 'gap' theory picks up the words “without form and void” or “tohu and bohu”, and says that the Earth became like this from some original state of perfection. Literally, these words mean “unformed” and “unfilled” The Earth, before land or life appeared, was deserted and empty. It was an undeveloped thing. It was a mass of water, with no land, and so no features to describe, and no inhabitants filling it. It did not become like this, but began like this.

The 'gap' theory jumps on the words in Genesis 1:28: “. . . and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. The 'gap theory claims that the Earth must have needed re-filling or re-plenishing, since it had been destroyed. The problem is resolved when we go back to the original meaning of the word 'replenish', which, in 1611 meant “fill”. As linguist Dr. Charles Taylor wrote: “As translated in 1611 'replenish' was merely a parallel to 'fill' and the prefix 're' didn't mean 'again' but 'completely'. The same Hebrew word is used in gen. 1:22 and is there translated “fill the seas”, so there is no need to translate it any differently in verse 28. If replenish does mean 'start all over again' we have a problem with 1:22 which would imply that despite a worldwide flood the fish in the oceans were also destroyed. Just how a large amount of additional water could kill all the life in the sea is another mystery the 'gap' cannot answer.

The 'gap' theory is a can of worms, which leads away from the Bible in many directions. As soon as one begins to follow the theory, all sorts of extraordinary interpretations have to be pulled in and added. Like a leaky boat, the 'gap' theory needs frantic repair in order to stay afloat.

Even good science, in the area of paleontology supports the conservative view. Many animal fossils match perfectly with living plants and animals, yet if one follows the 'gap' theory this would seem extremely peculiar. According to the theory, all the living things before Adam and Eve were destroyed, so why is there any correlation between the fossils and todays organisms? Why would God allow for what is an obvious direct line of descent if He was starting things anew? What would be the point of such a mischievous deception?

Jesus himself said: “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” - Mark 10:6 Notice that Jesus allowed for only one beginning, and that male and female began with this one beginning. This statement by Jesus makes things very difficult for the 'gap' theory which says that before Adam and Eve there was another world, populated by humans. Are we then to conclude that the race of Men before Adam were not really human? If so what were they? What kind of God would create humans and then destroy them like that? Only a fiendish God, with no love or mercy would do such things. The 'gap' theory is therefore an attack on the character of God – which is why I see it as yet another attempt by Satan to discredit Him and throw doubt on His Word.

Finally, with the help of good science, there is plenty of evidence to show that the Earth is not millions of years old. The evidence in the real world confirms the Genesis account. We would be worried if the real-world evidence contradicted the Bible. What holders of the 'gap' theory are trying to do is fit together their assumption that the world is very old with the Bible view that it is only a few thousands of years old. As the fit is not immediately obvious – well nigh impossible in fact – they have gone searching for some out of context verses to justify their lack of faith. As I mentioned at the beginning, because they lack faith, they try to explain things with human reasoning, which is faulty. As far as I can see, we either accept Genesis 1:1 and 2 at face value, or we totally reject them. To apply synchronism is a futile waste of time. It just cannot reconcile two so enormously disparate accounts.

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