The Cumberland Gap is a narrow pass through part of the Appalachian Mountains. Some claim there is a different kind of gap in Genesis chapter one. The view that there are long ages between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 is commonly called the Gap Theory. The reason some accept this is to account for the fossil record with its evidence of death and disease. Orthodox believers who take Genesis as historical narrative should reject the “gap theory.” The creation of all things took six regular days (Ex. 20:8,9,11) – this leaves no room for a gap at the start.
If God wanted to indicate an “age” or “era” in Gen. 1:1 there is a Hebrew word for it, “olam” (Strong’s #5769). This word is used to describe “ancient times” in Is. 64:4. Daniel’s statue of gold and silver in chapter two represents several epochs of hundreds of years. If God wanted to describe undetermined ages he could have used a similar device in Genesis.
There was no death before Adam. On Day Six of Creation Week, God called everything “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Miles of fossils with disease is not “very good.” According to Gen. 3:18 the Curse brought “thorns and thistles” yet these are found in the fossil record. Death came into the world because of the sin of Adam, not because of the fall of Satan as the gap theory claims (1 Cor. 15:21,22).
The first two verses of the Bible are glued together:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 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 (Gen. 1:1,2, KJV).
Note the “and” – there is no gap between verses one and two. Many Hebrew grammarians admit as much. Arthur Custance, who supported the Gap Theory, admits that the Septuagint (LXX) does not allow a gap between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2.
Many in the Gap Theory camp hold to a local Flood. If the rock record is the result of “Lucifer’s Flood” then this leaves no room for the massive evidence of death, destruction and sedimentary deposits that a global Flood during Noah’s time would leave. There is no reason to introduce a catastrophe in Gen. 1:1 – the Flood of Noah is sufficient to explain geologic history (see for example The Young Earth by John Morris).
If the Gap Theory is true, how is it that believers through the centuries have held to the traditional view of Genesis (creation in six days). Did Charles Spurgeon seek the illumination of the Holy Spirit as he studied Moses’ first book? Consider this section from Spurgeon’s catechism:
Q: What is the work of creation?
A: The work of creation is God’s making all things (Ge 1:1) of nothing, by
the Word of his power, (Heb 11:3) in six normal consecutive days, (Ex
20:11) and all very good (Ge 1:31).
John Wesley held that the creation of the universe took place around 4000 BC and that the geologic layers were remnants of the Flood.
The concept of the Gap Theory was virtually non-existent before 1800.1 This view came about as a way to accommodate the millions of years proposed by some scientists. The rise of the modern creationist movement starting with the publication of The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris (1961) has yielded clear evidence that the millions of years do not exist and that the rock record is the result of Noah’s Flood. Here is a great video about this classic work.
Did the earth become “formless and void” (Gen. 1:2)? Because of the context (following a waw disjunctive) the word “haya” must mean “was” and not “became.” All the major English translations have “was” as well as the LXX. The words for “formless and void” in Gen. 1:2 can be rendered “unformed and unfilled” – of itself there is no association of judgment. The definitive study on the Gap Theory from a traditional creationist perspective is Unformed and Unfilled by Weston Fields.
1) The Great Turning Point by Terry Mortenson (Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2004), pp. 33, 35.