The gap theory, or gap creationism, is a theory of creation that asserts that there was a gap of indeterminate length between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. This gap allows time for geological processes to occur, for fossils and coal to be deposited, and for the starlight problem to be addressed. According to the theory, the surface of the Earth was destroyed by a battle between God and Lucifer, causing it to be "without form" by the time of verse 2. Gap theory was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible of 1917.
Justifications used in support of the Gap
Here are some of the justifications provided by Christians for the Bible teaching an old earth from a gap theory perspective. Adherents to a young Earth or one of the other age of the Earth proposals are prone to disagree with some of these points.
- Avoids conflict with Natural Law and Eternal Law as proposed by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Christian adherents to an old Earth see no value in arguing with non-Christians about the age of the Earth and see disagreements on the age of the Earth as not only unproductive but as a deterrent to bringing people to God.
- Separate from evolution. Belief in an old Earth does not equate to belief in evolution.
- Harmonizes with recorded history by placing Adam and Eve on Earth roughly 6,000 years ago.
- Hebrew words for Create and Make: The Hebrew word meaning to create out of nothing is used in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the Earth but not used again until higher order life is brought (back) onto the Earth in the fifth day in verse 21. The Hebrew word meaning to make or to form out of pre-existing materials is used in the first few days of the six days of Genesis indicating that God was simply changing the existing structures and materials which were created in verse 1. The Hebrew word for make is also used in Exodus 20:11 indicating this verse is in reference to the six days (of restoration) instead of the original creation. The sun, moon and stars being revealed is viewed as God's supernatural darkness or judgement being removed so that the light could reach the surface of the Earth when in reality the sun, moon and stars were created long before as recorded in verse 1.
- Isaiah 45:18 is in conflict with Genesis 1:1-2 without a time gap since Isaiah 45:18 tells us God did not create the Earth without form and void and that it was inhabited but we find it without form and void and uninhabited in Genesis 1:2.
- Job 38:4-7 tells us that all the angels, including the pre-rebellion Lucifer, rejoiced when God laid the foundations of the Earth. Since we find Lucifer had already fallen by the time Adam is placed on the Earth and the foundations of the Earth were laid in Genesis 1:1, Job 38:4-7 is in reference to the original creation in Genesis 1:1 and it would not make sense for the Angels to rejoice at a waste place as described in Genesis 1:2.
- Psalms 104:5-7 describes the original creation in Genesis 1:1 and then the flood in Genesis 1:2 since the waters fled away instead of slowly seeping away as they did with Noah's flood.
- Provides time for Satan to rebel against God: Ezekiel 28:12-19 describes Satan on the Earth ruling over the Earth prior to his rebellion which would have been before Genesis 1:2 since he had already fallen by the time Adam was placed on the Earth.
- Isaiah 14:12-17 After Lucifer rebelled, the Earth became without form and void.
- Jeremiah 4:23-26, nowhere in all of Scripture is the Earth without form and void except between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 which would place the events described in Jeremiah 4:23-26 before Genesis 1:3.
- Genesis 1:28. The KJV translation says God told Adam and Eve to "replenish" the earth. Although this can be translated as fill or populate, it is interesting to note in light of the other Scriptures.
- Very little Biblical evidence for a young Earth: The justification for a young Earth rests on three assumptions: 1: No time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. 2: God's Spirit brooded over the Earth for only a few hours instead of thousands or perhaps millions of years. 3: Only one world (or system of life and existence) was ever on this Earth which is the current world.
- Death before Adam's Sin: The Bible is clear that Adam brought sin into the world and Jesus died for the sins of the world. There is no indication that Jesus died for the sins of any prior world on this Earth before Genesis 1:3 and Adam did not bring sin into the Earth but rather into the world on the Earth. Any sin and death in a prior world on this Earth would have no bearing on the current world since that world was completely eliminated before the six days (of restoration). Before Adam sinned, Adam was told to subdue the Earth indicating that rebellion (in the form of Satan) was already on the Earth.
- Provides plausible explanation for origination of demons. Demons recorded in the Bible are always seeking a body to inhabit (human or animal) indicating that they had prior experience in some sort of body.
- Provides plausible explanation for humanoid fossils.
- Noah's Flood: Since all marine life, all vegetation and the Ark survived Noah's flood, it is fantastic to imagine there was enough disruption from Noah's flood to form the vast sedimentary layers, fossils and carbon deposits. It is much easier to have most of this disruption in a far greater flood prior to and during Genesis 1:2.
The dinosaurs were also destroyed at this time and their fossil remains are those that are found to this day.
Differences of opinion
As a theory which attempts to harmonize the age of the earth with that promoted by naturalistic scientists, it is preferred by some Christians, although it has largely fallen out of favor in recent times.
Problems with the theory
A crucial point for the gap theory is the translation of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2:
1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2 (ESV)
Gap theorists claim that the verse can be translate to say that the Earth became formless and empty. However, the Hebrew letter waw used as a conjunction does not allow this translation in this context. It is clear that the original language doesn't allow any gap.
In trying to harmonize the Bible with uniformitarian geology, the gap theory introduces a new global catastrophe (the so-called "Lucifer's Flood") which uniformitarian geology doesn't recognize and the Bible doesn't mention.
- Ham, Ken, Creation at the academy, Creation 22(2):24–27, March 2000.
- Sarfati, Jonathan, The Gap Theory, Why it fails on all counts, 2006.
- Sarfati, 2006
- Ham, 2000