Article Preview: The “Gap” Theory versus a 6,000 Year Old Earth. Could both views be right—and wrong? Could both explanations have conclusions based on an assumed premise? Both explanations appear to be Biblically sound. Is it possible that both camps have “missed” the mark due to an unknown factor—a third choice? The controversy is resolved!
Could both sides be right? And wrong? Could both sides have based their “conclusions” on an assumed premise? It may be so. Yet, both sides “arguments” certainly appear to be Biblically sound. How can this be? And is it really possible that both sides have “missed” the mark due to an unknown factor?
It would seem that much of the Christian world has, for one reason or another, found itself taking up a defensive position when it comes to “explaining” Genesis 1:1-2. On both sides of this matter, intelligent, civil, God-fearing people from every walk of life can be found. Neither side is inane nor uneducated, and otherwise Scripturally deaf and blind, yet there continues to be a division. Many on each side are amazed and even dumbfounded that those on the “other” side just can’t seem to see what is so clear and evident to those who stand on their own side of this issue. This should not necessarily be surprising since there are people, who are Biblically minded, on just about every side of any issue one can think of. All claim the same common source for their position, each claiming to base their case on “the Bible”.
Perhaps this is just one more “side” that will be presented herein, perhaps not. Either way there is a concept that seems to stand the test of time. This “concept” is a generally accepted principle that basically states that when we have Scripture in conflict with other Scripture, then what we actually have is the human factor still lacking sufficient understanding of Scripture.
If we approach problems of “understanding” from the perspective that it is ourselves who are deficient, and not the Bible, could we not agree that we stand a better chance of eventually coming to a level of “understanding” that eliminates any apparent conflict within Scripture, or between Scriptures? All too often we will prematurely think we have something “new” and then be willing to die for our “baby”, even though virtually everyone else can see the inherent flaws in our premise or position. I suppose that is just human nature, and we all have it. But there are many who want to do better than just human nature; some want to put on a God-like nature. Could reading this article be an opportunity to “practice” thinking like God. Well, that would certainly be presumptuous, but perhaps this is an article that could bring the two differing sides together at last, at least on this one issue.
This article will present a solution. Both sides make Biblically valid points, but both sides have unknowingly based their argument on the very same assumption that divided them, an assumption that was not necessarily Biblical.
If you are familiar with “both” sides of this controversy feel free to sneak a peek at the end of the matter, but in doing so you will miss some critical information. The surprising simple solution makes both sides winners. For those less familiar with one side or the other, both “cases” will be briefly presented.
Simply stated, those who espouse or support the “Gap” theory believe that there is a “gap” of an undetermined number of years of time that must have elapsed between the state or condition of the earth they see described in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The case for this is based on a number of points which we will address briefly. NOTE: Various groups put forth numerous variations on a theme on both sides of this controversy. The solution presented in this article should resolve or vacate all disputes. Should a particular “argument” not be mentioned in this article do not despair as the solution will either include or allow the point in its conclusion or, on the other hand, eliminate the basis for the argument in the first place.
First of all, as the supporters of the “Gap” like to point out, the very word “created” in verse one implies a “perfect” completed creation based on the original Hebrew. Verse two introduces an earth in a state not fitting of the description “implied” (legitimately, I might add) by the Hebrew in verse one. The state of the earth as described in verse two is tohu and bohu in the Hebrew and is generally rendered to mean: vain, confused, waste, or empty, while bohu generally means: void or empty.
The Gappers say that God did not “create” the earth in a vain and void state and that “something” must have happened to cause it to become this way after it was originally made. They conclude that whatever amount of time, even billions of earth years, may have passed between the original creation of the universe and the universe (or “earth”) as presented in verse two. One Scripture used to support this premise is:
Isaiah 45:18 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 (tohu, as in Gen. 1:2), he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Using this verse they state that since God did not “create” the earth “tohu” something must have happened between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2, and billions of years could have elapsed in that “gap”, which would allow for the antiquity of the earth, geological rock structures and layers, fossils, etc.
They further point out that the Hebrew verb translated “was” in the King James translation (Gen 1:2, was without form) would be better translated “became”, or “had become”. This is a valid observation when the Hebrew grammar is properly consulted.
Sounds reasonable so far, right? While there are other points that may be added, these form the basis of the premise taken by the Gappers. By the way, no derogatory meaning should be inferred with the use of the terms “Gappers” or “young earthers”. They are simply used to readily distinguish the side being discussed. Perhaps there are different terms that each group prefers to be called, but as of this writing I am not aware of any, and each group seems to identify the other by the above. When I was in one of these camps myself I was completely unaware that there was a moniker assigned to my understanding, apparently by the other group.
Typically, “Young Earthers” are those who support the concept that the planet earth is only 6,000 years of age. Their ultimate position is that they believe God rather than man. While they must deal with many apparent conflicts to what is seen in, on, and around this planet (fossils, rock structures and formations, etc.) they form their position based upon a Scriptural understanding that requires the planet earth to be only 6,000 years old. To their credit they believe that since God said it (as they see and understand it), it must be so, regardless of any other apparent questions or concerns. Since their position flies in the face of what the Gappers would call reason, logic, or even just reality, they come across as being less than realistic to the Gappers, despite their sincere faith, so their Scriptural facts are tainted as a result. It isn’t much different the other way around either. Not surprisingly, the Gappers also claim a degree of the Scriptural road, but alas, these two sides apparently are using two differing Scriptural roads. If we examine both sides we see a Bible in conflict with itself based upon the usage of it by these two combatants. Is it possible that both sides have deliberated so long at their prospective endeavors, that they may even refuse to look at anything else? Veracity and Resolve are the only ways to approach any research. It’s impossible to work without the two. Start with that in mind and you will likely find that it is the appropriate way to go about uncovering the truth. I am sure both sides would assert they have done just that. But what if there was an unknown factor, something overlooked by both sides, one that would result in a different view of Genesis 1 and a different conclusion? There is, but first ....
The Scriptures used in support of the 6,000 year old earth
While there are numerous additional Scriptures that show that God created the earth, only two spell it out as taking six days to accomplish.
Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
With these Scriptures firmly believed to mean what they say, the Young Earther has no apparent option, but to accept that the earth is only 6,000 years old. This, too, altho a position that draws great persecution, nevertheless, sounds simple enough.
Surprise! The Common Link Is the Missing Link–for Both Sides.
Let’s now examine what both sides agree on. Besides the fact that both sides have a firmly held belief that God did indeed “create” this earth and all that came to exist on it, as opposed to a process of evolution, there is one point of commonality that has been completely overlooked. Both sides are in complete and total agreement that Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” speaks of, or refers to, the time when God originally created the universe, or if you prefer, matter. (Note: There are, no doubt, a few on either side who would counter this, but by far, the vast majority appear to be in agreement.)
The surprise in this controversy is that the “understanding” of verse 1 is the cause of the controversy itself.
What is inferred by both the “gappers” and the “young earthers” from verse 1 is not necessarily what is implied by the Bible, and therefore God. While both sides have inferred the same understanding of this verse, could it be possible that God meant something else here? Let’s look at a few things and see whether that might be so.
First of all, the expression, “In the beginning” does mean in English what it states, but what, or which “beginning” is the one referred to? Is it the “beginning” of all matter? For example, there is a different “beginning” referred to in John 1:1. The “beginning” described and discussed in John must certainly precede the “beginning” in Genesis 1:1. The “beginning” in John precedes the creation of matter, hence it predates the creation of the material “universe” and all within it. We have identified at least two different Biblical “beginnings”. One is a beginning that predates “matter”, and the other is the Genesis 1:1 “beginning”. But just what is and when was the “beginning” in Genesis 1:1? Both sides “begin” their premise by basing their explanation of Genesis 1:1 as being the “beginning” of the “universe”. In simple words, they would read the first verse of Genesis to mean, “In the beginning God created the ‘universe’.” Both sides assume that the word “heaven” in verse 1 implies the “universe”, ignoring the fact that the word “earth” is also mentioned. Isn’t the “earth” a part of the universe? So why be mentioned separately? Could both sides have misunderstood what “heaven” means?
What does “heaven” really mean in the “Hebrew” Scriptures?
The Hebrew term, #8064 in Strong’s Concordance, appears over 400 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Regardless of what anyone may personally believe, the Biblical definition must be based on the usage and is limited to the Hebrew meaning, without any encumbrances or additions from outside sources. So any Greek “cultural” influence should be considered as invalid and non-Scriptural. Some may not understand what was meant by the mention of the Greek cultural influence here. It was thru the latter non-Christian Greek culture that the idea of “heaven” being a “spiritual” realm of some sort, was first introduced into the early church and eventually successfully infiltrated it. (For an excellent resource on this you might want to read, Pagan Christianity [added source] or “Primitive Christianity in Crisis”, by Alan Knight.)
Simply put, the meaning of “heaven” can be boiled down to mean: “an elevated location or place.”
Using a common, but relatively unnoticed set of Scriptures as it relates to this specific point, please read Exodus 19. In this chapter we find that God was on the top of Mount Sinai and from this location He spoke to Israel, personally giving them the Ten Commandments.
Now, compare this with what God Himself states in:
Exodus 20:22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
In chapter 19 God was “on” the top of a mountain. In chapter 20 we find that the “top” of the mountain was “in” heaven. This is the normal meaning and usage of the Hebrew word translated “heaven” in the Bible. Any accepted Hebrew lexicon, or other source for Hebrew meanings will explain this.
In Genesis 1:15 we see the sun, moon, and stars identified as being located “in” heaven.
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
This is interesting for two reasons. First of all, if heaven meant the “universe” as it is often considered to, then let’s remember that the stars, sun, and planets are unfathomable distances away from the surface of the planet earth, which would create a limitless height to “heaven”. This creates a problem for verses 6-8.
6-8 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven.
If “heaven” meant or includes the universe, then the layer of water from the “above heaven” (or, above the firmament) would be beyond or above that! Our mind tends to gloss over certain potential difficulties because it automatically kicks in with an assumption that it knows this or that, so we do not need to think about it. What we do here is automatically think that we know what is meant with each usage of “heaven” and other words because we all know that since the sun is millions of miles from earth and the stars are even farther, and God said that they were “in” heaven, then God must mean that “heaven” means the universe. But in fact, God just means an elevated position, in this case visible things that you can see by looking upward from the surface, and as the example of Sinai shows, it does not have to be all that elevated. It tends to be more about perspective than location! This use simply denotes that what we see in the sky is in heaven, which is above us. There is no implication that the Hebrew refers to millions of miles or light years. Anciently, it was thought that the sun was about ten miles high. Later it was realized that it must be even higher. As recently as the 1600’s it was considered to be only in the thousands of miles away.
Also consider that if these various “lights” were in heaven, and it included outer-space, then how could they be “signs” [Genesis 1:14] as seen from anywhere else, but “on” the planet earth? The “signs” of the stars are related to the plan of God as viewed from the surface of this planet.
It can be noted that even in the first chapter of Genesis, the events of all six days of creation are described from a perspective of one being on the surface of the earth. For example, in verse 5 of chapter 1, the “light” of day and the “darkness” of night are really only applicable on the surface of the earth. To someone in outer-space there is no night or day. Similarly, the dividing of the “waters” that establishes “heaven” in the first place, finds that the waters that were “above” the firmament are the waters we call clouds today. Some have come to believe that these “above” waters were some kind of special “layer” in the uppermost atmosphere, but a full study of the word “heaven” should eliminate that perspective and lead one to conclude that this is simply a reference to the clouds in the sky.
Another point of logic that was raised earlier, but not pursued, is the shared emphasis between the two components of verse 1, “heaven(s) and earth”. Why do we consider that “heaven” in verse 1 represents the entirety of the universe, including all matter, but then think that the “earth” is a reference to just this little sphere we live on? Not to mention that virtually no one considers that it might just be a reference to the surface (land) area. There is no distinction between earth and land in Hebrew. Along this line, consider the disproportionate emphasis placed on “heaven” compared to the only other focal point of the verse, the “earth”. If “heaven” is all the universe, then doesn’t that automatically include the planet “earth”? If we restate this verse the way we have thought of it, perhaps without realizing it, it makes no sense. For example, if it said, “In the beginning God created the universe and the earth.” Then why would God have bothered to even mention the earth at all? It is a part of the universe anyway, altho a very small insignificant part at that. Doesn’t it make more sense that God was not making any reference to the entire universe and the creation of matter, and neither was He referring to the entire planet, but rather He was directing our attention to where it needed to be, in the narrow envelope surrounding the planet where life as we know it exists? God was preparing the land and air (sky), not creating the planet earth.
Can we now begin to see that the assumption of “heaven” being a reference to the universe in Genesis 1:1 was, simply that, an assumption?
Finally, it should be noted that the use of the Hebrew word translated as “heaven” in English is always plural Hebrew. Thus, Genesis 1:1 should read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is not to mean that there are multiple heavens, such as 3 or 7 as some think. [2 Corinthians 12:2] It is merely a reference to the “contents” of heaven. The expression, “heaven of heavens” does not mean that heaven has a heaven, but only that some things are higher up “in” heaven than other things. For example, the clouds of the heavens are higher up than the fowls of the heavens (note: often heaven is translated “air” in this reference), yet the sun, moon and stars are above even the clouds because the clouds can “hide” them. But they are all “in” the heavens, which in reference to the sun and company refers to the “visible” objects “in” the sky above. Even the use of “visible”, as derived from the Hebrew meaning for the heavens, eliminates the vast majority of the universe from being “in” heaven since it cannot be seen. Perhaps a technical point you say, but one that fits into this discussion nonetheless.
We might recall that the Bible states that Israel, all 12 tribes, not just the Jews, will be re-gathered from “one end of heaven to the other (end of heaven)”. Some take this to be some kind of reference to the “church”, but in fact it is simply an expression, not unlike any we might use ourselves today, that is used to describe a place beyond the horizon. Opposite horizons are two ends of heaven! But it is interesting to note that technically this is simply referring to the “end” of the sky as seen from a location “on” earth, or “on” land. Thus, once again demonstrating the basic concept of what “heaven” really is.
Well, if you have not jumped ahead of me by now, I’ll present a solution to the controversy.
Removing the common erroneous premise that Genesis 1:1 is speaking of the entire universe we can now look at what is stated and implied. That very first verse in the Bible is simply stating the “fact”, while the next several verses “explain” the stated fact. Perhaps Young’s Literal Translation is one of the closest to conveying the true meaning.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth—
Genesis 1:2 the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness is on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters ....
So that complete clarity can be seen, please allow me to elaborate.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth [for the habitation of mankind and company] the earth hath existed [was currently] waste and void, and darkness is on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters ....
Stated another way, “In THIS beginning God refreshed the earth and sky for the habitation of man and life as we know it.” Beginning with verse 2 God proceeds to explain more fully just how He accomplished that “creation” of verse one.
Please notice that verse one is not a reference to the original “creation” of the universe, or physical matter at all. Nothing in what is stated requires it to be so. It is not a reference to that “beginning”. It is a reference to the beginning of the plan of God for man.
The “young earthers” are correct in one important point here. Genesis 1:1 is directly “connected” to verse 2 according to Hebrew, and as such acts as an “introduction” to verse 2. This eliminates the possibility that there can be a passage of time between verse 1 and 2. Secondly, in the Greek, Genesis 1:1 is a thematic (having a theme) sentence that corresponds to the climactic summary of Genesis 2:1, again – no allowance for a “gap”. Their difficulty was simply that they misapplied verse 1 to refer to the original creation of matter.
Let’s paraphrase the first two verses as we might say it today.
In the beginning of the re-habitation of life on the earth, and for man’s existence and subsistence, God, over a period of six days, created a beautiful environment and living condition for man. The way God did this is explained as follows in the next several verses. Since the surface of the planet had become polluted, for reasons not given at this point, it was necessary to intervene and re-establish certain living conditions and to also designate for the future benefit of man, the sun, moon and stars for specific signs and times, which will become more apparent later ....
Let’s look at the New American Bible’s wording for Genesis 1:1. It has a very good basis for this wording, both linguistic and other:
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. (NAB)
Thus, this Gen. 1:1 “in the beginning” was not about the original “creation” of matter or the universe at all. This “beginning” was just as stated, the one described as taking six days to accomplish. Therefore, from a practical perspective, we have the Genesis 1:1 “beginning”, starting with a tohu and bohu earth already! Here the Gappers have a valid point, that the earth was not originally created tohu and bohu, but must have somehow “become” that way. They just misapplied the original creation, whenever it was, to the Genesis 1:1 “creation”. For brevity sake let me state that something indeed must have happened to the planet earth, to turn it into the uninhabitable state mentioned in Genesis 1:2, but nowhere in Genesis does God address what, why, when, or how this happened. God just starts with a picture of destruction and goes on from there. What Isaiah previously mentioned is just a reference to the fact that God took a messed up planet and made it fit for humanity to exist on. And, even more importantly, Isaiah reveals that God does have a plan for man and that this plan is not in “vain”, tohu! The Isaiah reference is not to the original creation of the physical universe. It was only assumed so by the Gappers because of how they perceived Genesis 1:1.
A parting point or two. Why were some things “made” and others “created”?
Some teach that God “created” the Sun “on” or during the “4th” day of creation week. This is primarily based upon the “understanding” that the creation of the universe was only 6,000 years ago, and that the 4th day was the 4th day since matter first appeared. A study of the two words used in Genesis 1, asah, translated “made”, and bara, translated “created”, will show there can be a difference in the Hebrew between the use, purpose and focus of each. This would help explain that the sun was already burning brightly long before the “fourth day”, but it was not exactly so as seen from the surface.
Another thought concerning the “sun” in light of this “creation” is the use of tohu and bohu. Notice that it was only the earth, erets in the Hebrew, that was identified as being in this state. The sun, moon, stars, etc. were not being referenced here. If they were also in tohu and bohu, it just is not stated. If they were not, which is what appears to be the case because God did not have to “do” anything to the celestial bodies, then that would be a suitable reason to use the word asah (made). This use would be in reference to God decreeing the purpose for the sun and moon in His plan for man, which is well within the parameters of the intent of the Hebrew. The universe was already in place. All God did was specify certain functions of selected bodies in the sky for their respective roles. As man had not existed before, any “plan” for him had not been initiated yet (as it directly relates to man’s existence). The fossils of Neanderthal man and other humanoid like creatures which date back possibly millions of years just were not “man” as we know it. Whatever they were only God knows. Perhaps they were missing that “spirit” in man that makes man different from the animals. It could be just that simple.
For the technically minded: One might raise the question concerning the use of the “plural” for heaven in connection with “create”, and claim that surely this proves that Genesis 1:1 refers to the original creation of the entire universe. This has to do with an association between “heavens” and “create” within Hebrew grammar. When you now consider what is meant by “heavens” in Genesis 1 this association in the Hebrew grammar actually lends additional credence to the solution and explanation offered herein.
The unknown factor that changes everything.
For those who believe that the meaning of “create” must refer to the origin of matter (or universe) let me again ask you to consider, as stated above, the difference between the use of the words translated “made” and “create”. Notice, as the account in Genesis 1 continues, some things were “made” and some were “created”. Consider that the English translation, while using satisfactory English words, may actually lead you to assume that the word means what it would mean when using the English word in the 21st century.
And what is wrong with that?
Today we have been preconditioned to “think” that in the Bible the English word “create”, as found in Genesis, means “to bring about from nothing”. This is the direct result of ecclesiastical thinking of the past, which is a result of not understanding the Hebrew use of “heaven(s)”. The lack of understanding of the Hebrew stems from the Greek cultural influence of Pagan religions use of the word “heaven”, that infiltrated the early church and remains with us to this day. While the English word “create” may mean, “to bring about”, it never means “to bring about from nothing”. Rather, the English word, as well as the actual Hebrew word that has been translated to “create”, both mean to develop something from materials already in existence. Basically, realistically, and factually the Hebrew word should be understood to mean “to use that which already exists (materially), and re-fashion it,” which is the thrust of Genesis chapter 1. Please note that Brown, Driver & Briggs lists “(to) shape” as the primary meaning for the verb bara, translated “created” (Qal verb stem) in Genesis 1:1 (page 135 BDB). The use of “create”, in the translation of the Hebrew word bara, will typically be the result of taking pre-existing materials and shaping them, or fashioning them into something “new” or different, thus “creating” something “new” from pre-existing material. This is exactly what is implied with reference to “the heavens and the earth”. It would be very similar to “creating” an arrow for a bow. You take a piece of wood, fashion it to the shape desired, attach an arrowhead, also fashioned and shaped to the desired form, add a set of feathers, also shaped as necessary, and there you have it. A brand new, never been used “arrow”; but it was not created out of nothing. In the case of the Genesis account it would be even more like refurbishing an old arrow, i.e. an unusable arrow into a useable one.
It is hoped that this article will in some way create an environment where the fences that divide us can be removed and that our working together in service to our God can be more fully realized. Iron should be sharpening iron instead of being used to inflict blunt force trauma. No one has all the answers and certainly not this writer.