: What is the "Gap Theory" and is it
Letters from our Readers:
Q & A with Chuck Missler
Q: What is the "Gap Theory" and is it
A: The so-called "Gap Theory" is a conjecture about a possible interval
between the first two verses in Genesis 1. Among other things, it attempts
to deal with the creation of the angels, the fall of Lucifer, and related
topics. The angels apparently witnessed the creation of the earth; 1
but when were they created? Satan's rebellion is also portrayed in
but when did he fall?
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. - Genesis
Beresheet Bara Elohim et ha-Shamayim et ha-Eretz.
Seven Hebrew words; 4 x 7 letters. Volumes have been written on this
verse alone. This opening declaration in verse 1 stands alone; it says it
If you understand this verse you will have no trouble with any other verse in
The first word is Beresheeth, "In Beginning," which yields the name
of the book of Genesis in Hebrew.
The second word is bara, to create out of nothing. This is in
contrast to similar words in the Hebrew: Asa, to make, fashion, or
fabricate; and Yatsa , to form or shape. (Isaiah 43:7 uses all
three.) Most of what we see in the remainder of Genesis 1 are forms of
The third word, Elohim , the name of God, seems to be a grammatical
"error": it is a plural noun, used as a singular. It is recognized by many
scholars as the first hint of the Trinity.3
It is the second verse that raises some questions.
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 words, "without form and void, tohu w'bohu , seem to be
contradicted by a passage in Isaiah:
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
[Whto tohu], he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is
none else. - Isaiah 45:18
And also in Jeremiah:
I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void [tohu w'bohu];
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. -Jer 4:23-27
When were "all the cities thereof broken down"?
Furthermore, the verb hayah , "was" in Genesis 1:2, is a transitive
verb; it is the same word used when "Lot's wife became a pillar of salt." 4
It implies an active transition.
Also, the waw , "and," in Genesis 1:2 usually implies a time delay.
Here it can be construed as an adversative conjunction, implying a reversal as
well as a delay.
(In the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate it is rendered as "but.")
Putting all this together, some scholars suggest that it should be
"But the earth became without form and void ("ruined and
uninhabitable"); and darkness was on the face of the deep (LXX:
abousso). And the Spirit of God hovered (Talmud: like a
dove?) over the face of the waters ."
The Cosmic Interval
The conjecture is that between the first two verses of the Bible, after the
original creation which included the angels and Lucifer, there was a rebellion
and a judgment of his principal domain, the Earth. We thus find Satan
already fallen in Genesis 3.
According to this view, the record following is simply a reconstruction and
the subsequent unfolding of God's plan of redemption.6
These ideas were published by Thomas Chalmers in 1814; George Pember, in
1907; Arthur C. Custance in 1970, and Donald Gray Barnhouse, among others, in
more recent years.7
This is all, of course, highly speculative, and there are those who have
published refutations against this view.8
In any case, attempting to employ the "Gap Theory" in an attempt to reconcile
the Genesis record with geologic or paleanthological theories is inappropriate
and futile. Fossils are dead: they occurred after Adam. Clearly, the
Biblical record attributes plants and animals to the post-Adamic world, and its
subsequent "bondage of decay" to the fall in Genesis 3.9
The ambiguities of language, and its subsequent translations,
often leave room for creative speculations. Conjectures such as the Gap
Theory are provocative and challenge us to search "the whole counsel of God" for
consistency and integrity with known, established doctrines.
Speculations such as these can stimulate fruitful discussions but should, of
course, be maintained with a light touch at best.
Yet, the possibility of such an interval would seem to reconcile many of the
passages regarding Satan and his background. His aspirations to "ascend
into heaven," and the suggestive portrayal in what appears to be a
with the earth as his principal domain, would seem to harmonize with this
As the "prince of this world," 11
Satan's offer to Jesus Christ in the famed temptations was valid, or else it
wouldn't have been a temptation.12
By God's allowing the cosmic drama to play itself out, Satan will
inadvertently glorify God by demonstrating that there can be only one will in
the universe and all other paths lead to chaos and destruction.
God will use the weakness of man, and his redemption through faith in His
Son, to redeem not only fallen man, but "a new heavens and a new earth."13
* * *
For more on this subject, see our Expositional
Commentary on the Book of Genesis .
This article was originally published in the
July 2000 Personal Update NewsJournal.
- Job 38:4-7.
- Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:12-19.
- Cf. Psalm 2. See also our briefing package, The
- Genesis 19:26.
- Exodus 2:1-2, an eight-year period; Deuteronomy 10:5-6, a 38-year period;
1 Chron-icles 10:14; 11:1, a seven-year period; Ezekiel 6:22, 7:1, a 58-year
- 1 John 3:8.
- George H. Pember, Earth's Earliest Ages, Hodder and Stoughton,
London, 1907; Arthur C. Custance, Without Form and Void, Brockville,
Ontario, Canada, 1970; Donald Gray Barnhouse, The Invisible War ,
Zondervan Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI, 1965.
- For a refutation of the Gap Theory, see Weston W. Fields, Unformed and
Unfilled , Burgener Enterprises, Collinsville IL, 1976.
- Romans 8:21.
- Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:12-19.
- John 14:30; Luke 11:17-18.
- Luke 4:5-8.
- Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1.