The plain uncontrived sense of the entire Bible, and in particular, the simple sense of the account in Genesis One, is that this is a unity, the grand account of the creation of the universe in six days. This glorious passage is stretched into a peculiar and unnatural meaning and then we are opening up the whole Bible to this sort of interpretive gymnastics. Re-creation is certainly not stated or implied. Elsewhere the Bible declares that God did all of his work in six days (Ex. 20:11).
Linguistic Arguments for the Gap Theory
Genesis 1:2 should be translated as “became.”
Instead of the normal translation, which reads: “the earth was without form and void,” they think it should be translated as “the earth became chaotic and desolate.”
Would-be translators often take possible meanings and say, “this is what the translation should be.” Too often, they are wrong. We should be very hesitant to alter the work of the pious and brilliant scholars who gave us our enduring versions. Those who adopt the Gap Theory make a novel and highly questionable interpretation rest on an infrequent and secondary meaning with a rare grammatical usage. Several times the word HYH is translated “become” or “became” in Genesis (2:7,10; 3:22; 9:15; 18:18; 19:26; 20:12; 21:20; 24:67; 32:10; 34:16; 37:10; 47:20, 26; 48:19; 49:15). However the word is often not in the same tense (perfect case).
HOWEVER: Hebrew grammar positively excludes any gap between verses one and two. A new event is indicated by a “vav consecutive,” while a description of circumstances under the primary verb is indicated by “vav disjunctive.” Our text is the latter form, meaning: “Now the earth was . . . .”
If Moses meant to describe a gap he would have used a “vav consecutive.” But here is a disjunctive describing the preceding clause, the conditions as existing and resultant from the action of the first verb, not a subsequent action. The identical form is used in Jonah 3:3 and Zech 3:1-3, where it cannot mean “become.” When the meaning is “become,” then the linking verb complement has a prepositional prefix (בְּ, לְ, or כְּ) as in 2:7 and 2:10 and 3:22.as in Gen. 2:7, 10; 3:22).
Without form and void describes an evil condition as a result of divine judgment, chaotic and desolated (compare Is. 45:18).
We are often pointed to Isaiah 45:18 (compare 24:1; Jer. 4:23-26), where it is said that the earth was not created tohu vabohu [without form and void]. The context here plainly shows that the meaning is the sense of being incomplete: formless and empty; unformed and unfilled. Creation was not complete in the first two verses but at the end of the chapter.
HOWEVER: Tohu does not always refer to something evil (Job 26:7). It is simply a word that means incomplete, unformed (or granted, perhaps deformed), and Bohu means empty (or granted, emptied) or unfilled. The original sense is “unformed and unfilled.” These words are used of deserts and wildernesses where life is apparently absent (Deut. 32:10; Job 6:18; 12:24; Ps. 107:40). The basic meaning is non-organized and non-occupied.
The two main verbs: Create (Bara’) and Make (`Asah) are distinct in meaning.
Create is out of nothing without pre-existing material and Make is always from and make out of already existing material.
HOWEVER: An absolute exclusionary distinction is not permitted by Hebrew usage. While Bara’ is almost always out of nothing and always bringing something new into existence, it is inaccurate to assert that `Asah can never have a sense of creation out of nothing (Ex. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Gen. 1:21 and 25). In fact, the verb which means to form or to fashion using material is Yatsar and occurs for the first time in the description of the forming of Adam’s body out of the dust of the ground (2:7).
Darkness is evil and presumes judgment and the presence of forces against God since in him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5; John 3:19; Jude 1:13).
HOWEVER: While darkness can be a symbol of sin, evil, and a time of judgment, darkness is not inherently evil. Darkness is simply the absence of light. Darkness was given a name by God and was called “good” (Genesis 1:5) and “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Clearly, darkness is not evil (Ps. 104:19–24).
Adam and Eve are told to “re-plenish” the earth, implying a previously populated planet.
HOWEVER: This is probably the weakest of Gap Theory arguments based on a weak KJV translation. The Hebrew verb simply means to fill up, not refill.
General Problems with the Gap Theory
The rebellion of Satan
The Bible teaches that Satan rebelled not on the earth but in heaven, and it was from heaven that he was cast out (Ezek. 28:14–15; Luke 10:18).
“The beginning of death”
If death came as the result of Adam’s sin, then how can it be that he was walking on a graveyard of millions of fossils? If the world was very good, then how can it be that beneath his feet were layers upon layers of failure and extinction? The Bible is very clear that death is evil and an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26).
Argument from Silence
A major problem with this theory, which postulates a judgment upon a pre-Adamite population, is that it is nowhere mentioned by Jesus or the Apostles. There is no clear and definite statement about such a world and such a judgment anywhere in Scripture, particularly in passages that treat judgment systematically (Jude and II Peter). This pre-Adamite world is nowhere described or even alluded to in the Bible.
Such a theory lends itself too easily to uncontrolled subjectivism and imagination. Almost anything goes when this is our pattern of interpreting Scripture, an appealing approach for many charismatics.
Is Paul correct in calling Christ the Second Adam? Did death come as a result of Adam’s sin, or had it been active already for millions of years in previous ages of Earth’s existence? The Bible speaks of only one judgment by a flood, and the second is to be by fire. Are we living on the first earth or not (Rev. 21:1)? The creation of which we are a part is the first, not the second or tenth or forty-second.
The Gap theory has been advanced and popularized to account for the numerous geological strata and the apparent antiquity of the earth. In the first place, the antiquity is only apparent and the cataclysmic flood of Noah accounts for all the strata.
Jesus said that Adam and Eve were made “at the beginning” (Mark 10:6), not millions or billions of years later. The plain sense of Scripture is that Genesis chapter one tells about the beginning, the first creation, not in any sense a re-creation or re-making or repair.
It all had to begin at some point. There must be an absolute beginning of the creation of God. Why not this creation and this planet? Why should we not think that we are the full plan of God?
A greater responsibility is ours if we are not just one of many attempts. We are it. God will indeed fulfill His purposes in us. God “got it right” the first time.
We are it. We are alone with God. He wants us.