Theories of Creation Part One: The Gap Theory

Within the scope of creation account interpretations, the Gap Theory is a fairly new idea.  Though there may have been adherents to it previously, it was made popular by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Thomas Chalmers.  He preached a series of sermons in 1804 in which he promoted the theory. The theory peaked in popularity when it was included in the Scofield Study Bible.

The Gap Theory holds that there was a gap perhaps as long as five billion years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2[1].  Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth[2].”  According the theory, this is when God created a perfect world[3].  To understand the scope of the theory a look at Genesis 1:2 in vital.  Genesis 1:2 states, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters[4].

It is at this point that this interpretation gets interesting.  What happened between verse one and verse two?  Those that adhere to the Gap Theory hold that there is a mistranslation in most English versions.  The word that is translated as “was” in Genesis 1:2 should be “became”.  This one word describes a whole new meaning in Genesis 1:2. If the world became void it means that it had already existed.  The theory proposes that the time period between verses one and two was marked by Satan’s rebellion against the creator.  Satan lead the original creation in total rebellion[5].

Thus, the original creation that God had created was destroyed.  Included in this original creation were prehistoric men, and prehistoric animals such as the dinosaurs[6].  Following this rebellion, the world was covered with a cataclysmic flood, which proponents say can be evidenced in Genesis 1:2[7].  The undisclosed time period between verses one and two allows for the various layers of sediment and rock to form. This interpretation continued with God hovering over the waters and deciding to create what we have today.  The creation following the rebellion was done in six literal days, but still allows the earth to be billions of years old because of the gap between verses one and two[8].

The view was very popular for a time, but there are some concerns for it.  Among these concerns are that the Hebrew grammar in verses one and two go against it[9].  From an exegetical standpoint time is not inserted between verses one and two, because verse two does not follow in that manner.  This can be seen by using a grammatical device in Hebrew called a waw-disjunctive.  The Hebrew word waw, which means “and”, is connected with a noun.  In this case the noun is the earth, and this literary device links up to the previous verse.  It does so that it may describe verse one more fully, and thus time is not permittable to be inserted.


[1] Dan Story, Defending Your Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997), 147.

[2] Genesis 1:1 (New International Version).

[3] Robert J Utley, How It All Began:  Genesis 1-11 (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 24.

[4] Genesis 1:2 (New International Version).

[5] James M. Boice, Genesis:  An Expositional Commentary, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 50-52.

[6] James E. Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1993), 50.

[7] C.I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909), 3.

[8] Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999), 144.

[9] Paul S. Carleen, The Handbook to Bible Study (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 328.


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