The Gap Theory is a notion which posits that there is a gap or break – spanning an unknown period of time – in the line of events described in the first two verses of Genesis. The idea was first suggested in the early 1800s by Thomas Chalmers, and though speculative, it has been supported by such commentators as G.H. Pember, D.G. Barnhouse, G. Campbell Morgan and others. By their reasoning, theorists envision an initial, complete creation and a primordial earth populated by ancient life and a pre-adamic race of man. During this time, they say the angel Lucifer fell, who then lashed out and destroyed the initial creation, ultimately leaving it an empty wasteland. Is it so though…
Believers in this position offer several Scriptural references in support of the notion. On verse often cited is Isaiah 45:18, which reads:
“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.”
As before, we find the word “vain” derived from the Hebrew tohu, meaning without form and confused. As such, a body of scholars hold the position that the earth was not created as formless and confused, yet this is what we find in our description of creation in verse 2 of Genesis chapter 1. What are we missing?
Another passage often referenced by Gap theorists is Jeremiah 4:23-26, which says:
“I beheld the earth, and, lo, [it was] without form, and void; and the heavens, and they [had] no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, [there was] no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place [was] a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, [and] by his fierce anger.”
What was the prophet referring to? Again we see the same linguistic trend; tohu being “without form, confused” & bohu representing “void, empty, waste.” These are the same words from Genesis 1. A number of scholars however report that the implications of the passage are reflective of some kind of judgment. There are cities mentioned, but now they are desolate. The land was fruitful but now it is a wilderness. Something happened to this place described, and some suspect that this judgment took place after Genesis 1:1 and before Genesis 1:2.
Going one step further, some researchers have noted that other clues from the language of Genesis 1:2 suggest another layer of intrigue. We read how it says “…and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The Hebrew for “darkness” is chosek. This however is not simply the darkness of a room without light, or even the darkness that falls across the land with the setting sun. Chosek is a darkness far beyond what man is accustomed to. It is a reference to a tangible, thick blackness that can even be physically felt! We find a reference to this kind of darkness in Exodus 10:21; a selective and tangible, nearly supernatural, darkness.
We also read about “the deep” at the end of the verse. The Hebrew here is Tehowm, but the Greek draws a connection to another, equally imposing, locale. In the Greek, the deep is abussos, and it is a word often throughout the Scriptures used to reference the Abyss, that terrible, dark prison for fallen and evil beings. Is there a true connection here, or is this simply a literary coincidence? Opinions vary depending on the commentator…
However one looks at the matter, the Gap Theorists believe their position is a valid one for a number of reasons, and long it has been offered-up as an answer to the curious questions of many. Even so, one must wonder just how Scriptural it actually is, and if there is another, perhaps better, answer yet waiting to be embrace. More on that soon…
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