A LONG-HELD VIEW
It is a rare thing nowadays to find in a scholarly work on Genesis any acknowledgment of the fact that there is evidence of a discontinuity between the first two verses of Chapter One and that this was ever recognized by commentators until modern Geology arose to challenge the Mosaic cosmogony.
The usual view is that when geologists "proved" the earth to be billions of years old, conservative biblical students suddenly discovered a way of salvaging the Mosaic account by introducing a gap of unknown duration between these two verses. This is supposed to have solved the problem of time by an expeditious interpretation previously unrecognized. This convenient little device was attributed by many to Chalmers of the middle of the last century, and popularized among "fundamentalists" by Scofield in the first quarter of the present century. Both the impetus which brought it to general notice and the company it kept in its heyday combined to make it doubly suspected among conservative scholars and totally ignored by liberal ones.
However, D. F. Payne of the University of Sheffield, England, in a paper published recently by Tyndale Press entitled, Genesis One
Reconsidered,3 makes this brief aside at the appropriate place: "The 'gap' theory itself, as a matter of exegesis, antedated (my emphasis)
the scientific challenge, but the latter gave it an new impetus". Granted then that the view did antedate the modern geological challenge, by how long did it do so ? Just how far back can one trace this now rather unpopular view and how explicit are the earlier references ? And on what grounds was it held prior to the general acceptance of the views of Laplace, Hutton, and Lyell? If its antecedence can be established with any certainty, one then has to find some other reason than the threat of Geology for its having arisen.
The view was undoubtedly held by early commentators without- any evidence that it was being presented as an "answer" to some suspected challenge to the veracity of Scripture. It must therefore have arisen either because a careful study of the original text of Scripture itself had given intimations of it, or perhaps due to some ancient tradition about the after-effects of the catastrophe itself, such after-effects as might well have been observed by early man before the new order had effectively buried the evidences of the old. For man must have been created soon enough after the event to observe at least some of the evidence which time has since eroded away. There is evidence of a tremendous and comparatively recent geological catastrophe still to be observed even today in certain parts of the world. There are numarous instances of mammoths and other animals which were by some agency killed en masse and instantly buried together, the preyed upon with the predator, while apparently still in the prime of life. Such animal cemetries have frequently been reported in northern latitudes: in Siberia, for example. And similar indications may well have existed in former years in much lower latitudes where early man could have come across them and pondered their meaning. Such evidences of destruction, even if it occurred before the creation of Man, must surely have set mens minds to wondering what had been the cause. There is no reason to suppose that early man was any less observant than his modern descendants, or any less curious about the cause of such mass destruction of living forms.
At any rate, here in broad outline is the situation in so far as ancient and modern literature reflects some knowledge of such an event. This outline will be explored in detail subsequently - but a summary review may help to establish the general picture. And it will show that it is indeed a long-held view.
We are in no position at present to determine preeisely how the Jewish commentators made the discovery, but their early literature (the, Midrash for example) reveals that they had some intimation of an early pre-Adamic catastrophe affecting the whole earth. Similarly, clear evidence appears in the oldest extant Version of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Targum of Onkelos) and some intimation may be seen in the "punctuation marks" of the Massoretic text of Genesis Chapter One. Early Jewish writers subsequently built up some abstruse arguments about God's dealings with Israel on the basis of this belief and it would seem that Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians is at one point making indirect reference to this traditional background.
A few of the early Church Fathers accepted this interpretation and based some of their doctrines upon it. It is true that both they and their Jewish antecedents used arguments which to us seem at times to have no force whatever, but this is not the issue. The truth is, as we shall see, that the idea of a once ordered world having been brought to ruin as a consequence of divine judgment just prior to the creation of Adam, was apparently quite widespread. It was not debated: it was merely held by some and not by others. Those who held it referred to it and built up arguments upon it without apparently feeling the need to apologize for believing as they did, nor for explaining the grounds for their faith.
During succeeding centuries not a few scholars kept the view alive, and medieval scholars wrote about it at some length - often using phraseology which gives their work a remarkably modern ring.
The Book of Jasher, Alcuin's version, seems clearly to assume it - even though the document itself has a questionable pedigree. It certainly antedates modern Geology in any case.
And for the past two hundred years many translators and commentators have maintained the view and elaborated upon it at length.
In short, it is not a recent interpretation of the text of Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2, but an ancient one long antedating modern geological views. Indeed - it could be as old as the writing of Gen. 1. 2 itself! Some of the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian fragments that, when pieced together, give us a general view of their cosmogony, seem to lend support to it as a very ancient belief. It is perfectly true that these epics and legends are full of fantasy and absurdity if read at their face value - but it is not absolutely certain that the writers themselves intended them to be taken precisely at face value. It may have been for teaching purposes. The use of animation as a mnemonic aid is recognized widely today, and scientific textbooks for schools and colleges adopt this technique of teaching without requiring us to believe, for example, that metallic elements do actually "marry"! Such a simile is employed in metallurgical literature because it aptly conveys what seems to be happening when one metal unites with another. The Sumerians and Babylonians may have animated their cosmogonies for the same reason, while they themselves actually held much more down-to-earth views on the matter. We should not assume that their thinking was altogether childish. At any rate, there are evidences in these ancient texts that they looked upon the earth's very early history as having been one in which things had in some way and at one particular point in time "gone wrong". And this sense of catastrophe is not limited to a recollection of the Fall of man. It seems to refer to something prior to it. It was on a cosmic scale. Since there are reverberations of these catastrophic events even as far away as China, it is possible that the earliest writers had knowledge of things which we now diseern only very dimly if at all, and that this knowledge was generally shared by mankind prior to the dispersion of Genesis 11. See Appendix XXI.
It is surprising that this almost unbroken thread of testimony to a view that is now widely held to be of recent origin should have been consistently ignored or unrecognized for so long. Admittedly it is at times evanescent and occasionally ambiguous, and admittedly the fanciful methods of interpreting Scripture adopted by the Jewish Commentators and often emulated by the early Church Fathers do not exactly encourage one to seek for solid factual information in their writings, yet at other times they are quite explicit in their presentations. At any rate, whatever use or abuse they may have made of the information they had, there can really be no doubt that they DID have information of this sort, and this information seems never to have been entirely lost sight of from New Testament times to the present.
It is worth exploring all the strands we have, for in one way or another they each tend to contribute light to the total picture. Yet it must be emphasized once again, after saying all this, that while it is valuable to be able to correct a false impression about the antiquity of this view, it really proves nothing about the correctness or otherwise of the view espoused. The only way this can be done is by a study of the text itself.... which is undertaken in the chapters which follow: the present objective is a lesser one, a historical sketch.
Now after or during the Babylonian Captivity, the Jewish people gradually accumulated the comments and explanations of their best known teachers about the Old Testament for some 1500 years - or well on into the Christian era. This body of traditional teaching was gathered together into the Midrash which thus became the oldest pre Christian exposition of the Old Testament. It was already the basis of rabbinical teaching in the time of our Lord and must have been quite familiar to Paul.
According to the Revised Edition of Chambers's Encyclopedia published in 1860, under the heading "Genesis" the view which was then being popularized by Buckland and others to the effect that an interval of unknown duration was to be interposed between Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2 was already to be found in the Midrash. In his great work, The Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginsberg has put into continuous narrative a precis of their legends, as far as possible in the original phrases and terms. In Volume 1 which covers the period from the Creation to Jacob, he has this excerpt on Genesis 1:4
"Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by God. He made several other worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours."
Clearly this reflects the tradition underlying the translation which appears in the Targum of Onkelos to be noted below.
Furthermore, in the Massoretic Text in which the Jewish scholars tried to incorporate enough 'indicators' to guide the reader as to correct punctuation there is one small mark which is technically known as Rebhia, which is classified as a "disjunctive aceent" intended to notify the reader that he should pause before proceeding to the next verse. In short, this mark indicates a "break" in the text. Such a mark appears at the end of Genesis 1. 1. This mark has been noted by several scholars including Luther.5 It is one indication among others, that the initial waw () which introduces verse 2 should be rendered "but" rather than "and" a dis-junctive rather than a con-junctive.
Another piece of substantiating evidence is to be found in the Targum of Onkelos, the earliest of the Aramaic Versions of the Old Testament written by Hebrew Scholars. According to the Babylonian Talmud, Onkelos was a proselyte, the son of a man named Galonicas, and although he was the composer of the Targum which bears his name, he is held actually to have received it from Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, both of whom lived towards the end of the first and the beginning of the second century A. D. However, since in the Jerusalem Talmud the very same thing is related by the same authorities (and almost in the same words) of the proselyte Aquila of Pontes, whose Greek version of the Bible was used by the Greek speaking Jews down to the time of Justinian, it is sometimes argued that Onkelos is but another name for Aquila. Aquila Ponticus was a relative of the Emperor Hadrian, living in the second century B. C. Thus even if Onkelos is not yet completely identified, the Targum attributed to him must still be placed early in the second century B.C. As his translation into Aramaic of Gen.l. 2, Onkelos has the following:
w'aretsah hawath tsadh'ya.
In this passage, the verb is compounded with the Aramaic
verb which appears here as a passive participle of a verb which ltself means "to cut" or "to lay waste". We have here, therefore, a rendering "and the earth was laid waste" an interpretation of the original Hebrew of Gen. 1. 2 which leaves little room for doubt that Onkelos understood this to mean that something had occurred between verse 1 and verse 2 to reduce the earth to this desolated condition. It reflects Ginsberg's Jewish legend.
Akiba ben Joseph was an influential Jewish rabbi who was president of the School Bene Barek near Saffa. He laid the basis for the Mishna. When Barcochebas rebelled against the Romans, Akiba joined him and was captured. He was executed in 135 A. D. The ancient work known as The Book of Light, or Sefer Hazzohar, sometimes simply Zohar, was traditionally ascribed to one of Akibals disciples, a certain Simeon ben Jochai. In this work, which thus represents an opinion held towards the end of the first century and the early part of the second, there is a comment on Gen. 2.4-6 which, though difficult to follow, reads thus: 6
"These are the generations (ie., this is the history of....of heaven and earth....Now wherever there is written the word "these" the previous words are put aside. And these are the generations of the destruction which is signified in verse 2 of chapter 1. The earth was Tohu and Bohu. These indeed are the worlds of which it is said that the blessed God created them and destroyed them, and, on that account, the earth was desolate and empty. "
Here, then, we have a comment which in the time of our Lord was held widely enough that Paul might very well have known about it. In which case we may better understand the background of his words in writing to the Corinthians (II Cor. 4. 6) where he said, "God Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus".
Now very few will deny that in this passage Paul is referring back to Gen. 1. 3, "And God said, Let there be light. What is not absolutely certain is how far one can press the analogy. Personally, I believe it makes excellent sense to assume here that Paul had in mind an interpretation of these first three verses of Genesis 1 which sees the situation as a ruin about to be restored by God's creative power, commencing with the giving of light where all was formerly darkness. This is, after all, precisely the position that the unredeemed soul is in. The analogy is most pointed and reasonable. And if we once allow that this is what was in Paulls mind, then we must surely also admit that Paul, speaking by inspiration, set his seal upon the truth of the interpretation of Gen. 1. 2 for which we are here contending; and the more ancient tradition which lies behind the words of Akiba and the rendering of Onkelos receive a measure of confirmation.
In his Rabbinical Commentary on Genesis,7 Paul Isaac Hershon has this some what obscure quotation which reinforces Paulls analogy:
"'And the earth was desolate and void'. The earth will be desolate, for the shekinah will depart at the destruction of the Temple, and hence it is said: 'And the Spirit of God hovered upon the face of the water': which intimates to us that even although we be in exile (after the destruction of the Temple) yet the Torah shall not depart from us; and therefore it is added: 'And God said, Let there be light'. This shows us that after the captivity God will again enlighten us, and send us the Messiah.... ".
Admittedly, this mode of interpretation is strange to us, but there is really no doubt what is intended. The Promised Land with its capital city epitomized by the Temple, was once the place of God's Shekinah glory. But now it has been destroyed and made empty, as Jer. 4. 24 f. predicted. Nevertheless, it was not destroyed permanently, for the Spirit of God still hovers over the place of His former "glory", though for the present it is destroyed and made empty. In due time, just as God's Spirit hovered over the destroyed earth with a promise of new life to come upon it, so will He restore the Land and the Temple and renew His glory by the presence of His Messiah Who shall come.
There is little question that the whole hope of restoration underlying this passage from the rabbinical commentary is based on a view of Genesis which sees in verse 3 a similar case of restoration after judgment. And the belief that this restorative process began in the first case with a command that the light shine out of the darkness, and that this will again occur when a new Light shines unto Israel is surely the Jewish background of Paulls words to the Christian believers in Corinth.
I believe, moreover, that there may be one further evidence in the New Testament of this view in (appropriately) the Epistle to the Hebrews. Here in Heb. 11. 3 the writer makes this significant observation: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God". The significant thing about this statement in the present context is that the word rendered "framed" is the Greek verb katartidzo () which although it is rendered "to perfect" in seven cases in the New Testament (Matt. 21.16; Lu. 6.40; I Cor. 1. 10; II Cor. 13. 11; I Thess. 3. 10; Heb. 13. 21; and I Pet. 5. 10), is more strictly a word meaning 'to repair" or 'to restore". In Matt. 4. 21 and Mark 1. 19 it is used of repairing or mending nets. Liddell and Scott give the meaning in Classical Greek as "adjust", or 'Put in order again', or "restore". Even Young in his Coneordance at these references (above) where the word is rendered "to perfect" adds that its meaning is "to fit thoroughly" or "to adjust". Andin Classical Greek the word was used by Herodotus (5. 106) to mean "to put in order again", and (5.28) "to settle by acting as mediator", and so "to reform"; while Polybius uses it of repairing a ship, or setting a broken bone. Thayer says of its use in I Pet. 5. 10 that it has the meaning of "making one what he ought to be". 8 This could, of course, mean nothing more than the "maturing" of the individual with no necessary implication of a process of mending his ways. However, Thayer also adds at the same place, as an illustration of its use in an ethical sense, Gal. 6. 1 where it is used 'of those who have been restored to harmony'. So that we understand by faith how the worlds were restored and made fit for man by the Word of God.
Now, any one of these pointers taken alone might carry little weight. But put together they seem to require that we recognize the real possibility that a view of Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2 which m any today feel strained and improbable may in fact have been generally taken for granted in our Lord's day and during the first century or so of the present era. In no case does the view seem to have been "defended", and this could be either because it was so widely accepted - or because it did not seem to have any great significance. There are many today who feel that this catastrophic event was a significant turning point in the thread of God's self-revelation and that this is reflected in the recurrent New Testament phrase "since the foundation of the world" a phrase which they believe should rather be rendered "since the disruption of the world". I also, at one time, felt well satisfied that this is a more correct translation, but I have come to feel that the grounds for it are not altogether satisfactory from the linguistic point of view. Since a good argument is not strengthened by a weak link, I have not appealed to this possibility as part of the "evidence", but careful consideration of some of the pros and cons will be found in Appendix XIX.
In any case, the view was never thereafter entirely lost, even though it was sometimes presented only in the form of an opinion that such a gap did exist, a time interval of unknown duration between the initial creation and the work of the six days which began in verse 3.
Origen, for example, who lived from 186 to about 254 A. D. and to whom the original languages of the Bible were very familiar, has this to say in his great work, De Principiis, at Gen. 1. 1: 9
"It is certain that the present firmament is not spoken of in this verse, nor the present dry land, but rather that heaven and earth from which this present heaven and earth that we now see afterwards borrowed their names."
And that he saw verse 2 as a description of a "casting down" of the original is borne out quite clearly by his subsequent observation that the condition resulted from a "disruption" which is best described, he suggests, by the Latin verb dejicere, 'to throw down'.
In the course of time, attempts were made - not unnaturally - to fill in the details of the event which led up to the devastation deseribed. Since all such effects were presumed to be moral judgments and since man had not yet been created, the angels were blamed. Somewhere around 650 A. D. , the English poet Caedmon (who died about 680) wrote about Genesis and the creation10 and presented the view that man had really been introduced in order to replace the angels which had conducted their dominion over the earth so ruinously. Fallen angels were responsible for the catastrophe. Whether the poems attributed to Caedmon were really his is a moot point, but someone in the seventh century knew about this tradition. According to Bede, these poems were supposed to have resulted from a dream in which an angel told Caedmon to sing and write about the Creation. This he finally did, though at first reluctantly, producing works dealing with the creation of the world, the origin of man, and the whole history of Genesis. All the "poems" or songs thus attributed to Caedmon were first published by Francis Junius in 1665 from a manuseript now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. At present of the whole series on Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan, it is generally conceded that only the one on Genesis is really Caedmon's work, and even this has perhaps been transmitted to us in an interpolated and modified form. At any rate, the basic idea regarding the destruction of the old world seems to have been known to him, and subsequent modifications of his original text do not alter the fact that in Bede's
time (674 - 735 A.D.) this view was known and discussed whether by
Caedmon himself or by those who took it upon themselves to modify his works. The earliest manuscript we now have is of the l0th century and it gives no indication (by signature) of its authorship, but the substance of it agrees well with what is attributed to Caedmon.
This work, which is a commentary on the first 22 chapters of Genesis with one small missing segment near the beginning, was written in verse but is rendered as prose by Mason in his translation. Caedmon is not as specific as one would wish but his view in brief is that the created order which preceded the present heaven (and earth ?) system was ruled over by Angels. In his own words:
"These angelic hosts were wont to feel joy and rapture, transeendent bliss in the presence of their creator; then their beautitude was measureless. Glorious ministers magnified their Lord, spoke his praise with zeal, lauded the Master of their being, and were excellently happy in the majesty of God. They had no knowledge of working evil or wickedness, but dwelt in innocence forever with their Lord: from the beginning they wrought in heaven nothing but righteousness and truth, until a Prince of Angels through pride strayed into sin: then they would consult their own advantage no longer, but turned away from God's loving kindness.
So the Lord cast them "that had committed a dire sin" (line 46) into a specially created "joyless house of punishment", banishing them from heaven (line68). "Then, as formerly, true peace existed (once more) in heaven, fair amity: for the Lord was dear to all, the Sovereign to his servants" (line 79 and 80). But the "heavenly seats" of these rebellious creatures were now vacant. So (line 92 f. ):
"They had vast arrogance in that by the might of their multitudes they sought to wrest from the Lord the celestial mansions. Then there fell upon them, grieviously, the envy, presumption, and pride of the Angel who, first began to carry out the evil plot, to weave it and promote it, when he boasted by word - as he thirsted for conflict - that he wished to own the home and high throne of the heavenly kingdom of the north".
"Our Lord bethought him, in meditative mood how he might again people, with a better race, his high creation, the noble seats and glory crowned abodes which the haughty rebels had left vacant high in heaven. Therefore Holy God willed by his plenteous power that under the circle of the firmament of the earth should be established with sky above and wide water, a world-creation (ie. , as opposed to a heavenly one) in a place of the foes whom in their apostasy he hurled from bliss".
The poet then describes how "this broad earth stood.... idle and useless, alien even to God himself" (line 105) until God looked upon it in its joylessness and darkness, and then "created heaven and earth" (line 114). It is thus not too easy to see how he views these events in their precise temporal relationship, for he first describes how this "broad earth" existed in its uselessness and then some ten lines later he describes God's remedial action in creating not merely heaven but earth also. Perhaps he really means creating order on the earth rather than actually creating the globe itself.
At any rate, there existed an order of created beings prior to all this who, though living in heaven, had failed to fulfill their appointed role in the economy of God. And then there existed an earth in shrouded darkness and in a chaotic state which God later turned into a habitation for an order of created beings destined to replace the fallen angels. Admittedly not a very clear account, but at least one which makes it apparent that a created order existed long before Day One of the Creation Week.
The purpose of the ordering of this alienated world was to provide a home for this new race. But whether the earth's "state of alienation" from God (as Caedmon evidently views Gen. 1. 1 and 2) was in any way the direct consequence of the fall of the Angels, he does not make elear. Perhaps he thought it was obvious.
According to Erich Sauer,11 King Edgar of England (943 - 975) adopted the same view. This man was an unusually gifted individual and it was largely due to his enthusiastic co-operation with Dunstan, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, that Monasticism was revived in England. The evils which in time arose from these institutions should not allow us to overlook the fact that in an age which was indeed dark they kept alive and carried over from antiquity the learning and lore which in due time became the starting point for the Renaissance. It was certainly in part due to the learning which this king himself evidently enjoyed that royal patronage was so gladly given to the revival of the only schools known to that age. I have no precise information on what he actually said on the present issue, but evidently his opinion was shared quite widely by his contemporaries.
Hugo St. Victor (1097 - 1141) was a Flemish scholar and a member of the Augustinian Monastery of St. Victor and later Prior of the monastery in Paris. He wrote:12
"Fortassis jam satis est de his hactenus disputasse, si hoc solum adjecerimus quanto tempore mundus in hac confusione, priusquam ejus dispositio inchoaretur, perstiterit. Nam quod illa priam rerum omnum materia, in principio tempros vel potius cum ipso tempore exorta sit, constat ex eo quod dictum est: in principio creavit Deus coelum et terram. Quandiu autem in hac informitate sine confusione permanserit, scriptura manifeste non ostendit. "
In this remark Hugo is certainly not saying, specifically, that he sees the disordered state of the world in Gen. 1. 2 as the result of a catastrophe of some kind. He could mean merely that it began this way and, as here visualized, was only awaiting the ordering hand of God to make it into a Cosmos. What is, I think, quite clear is that he did not equate the work of the first day with the act of creation. A period of time of unknown duration intervened between Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2. This is all he intends: but it is this admission which we wish to underscore.
ie. "Perhaps enough has already been debated about these matters thus far, if we add only this, 'how long did the world remain in this disorder before the regular re-ordering (dispositio) of it was taken in hand? For the fact that the first substance of all things arose at the very beginning of time - or rather, with time itself - is settled by the statement that, 'In the beginning God ereated the heavens and the earth'. But how long it continued in this state of confusion, Scripture does not clearly show".
Two centuries later, Thomas Aquinas (1226 - 1274) reiterated this view when he wrote:13
Sed melior videtur dicendum quod creatio fuerit aute omnen diem...
St. Thomas evidently considered that the first day was not to be equated with the time of creation itself. This first day came later: he does not suggest how much later.
ie. "but it seems better to maintain (the view) that the creation was prior to any of the days (literally, before any day). "
In somewhat indefinite statements like, this, only one thing stands out clearly. The writers would not have agreed with Ussher that Creation occurred 4000 B.C. They might very probably have assented to his chronology as applied to the creation of Adam but they would have set the creation of the Universe (the heavens and the earth)further back in time by some unstated amount. Gen.1.2 does NOT represent the condition of things immediately after the initial creation.... but some time later. None of these writers ventured to suggest just how long the interval had been. The idea of an earth so old that the period of man's history pales into insignificance when viewed merely in chronological terms was probably not in their thoughts. One has the impression rather that they saw this interval merely as an interval.... not as a period perhaps vastly greater than all the time that has elapsed since. My point here is merely to emphasize that we cannot make any more of these witnesses than to say that they did believe there was a break in the creative processes between Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2. They may have seen it as of quite a short duration.
At any rate, it is clear that the creative process did not proceed smoothly and unbrokenly from Gen.l.l to Adam. With the passage of time, the question of a discontinuity became crystallized more concretely and was discussed in greater detail. Thus Dionysius Petavius (1583 - 1652), A French Roman Catholic Jesuit Theologian who was first Professor of Philosophy at Bourges and later Professor of Theology at Paris, wrote:14
"Quod intervallum quantum fuerit, nulla divinatio posset assequi. Neque vero mundi corpora illa, quae prima omnium extitisse docui, aquam et terram,
arbitror eodem, in quem lucis ortus incidit, fabricata esse die; ut quibusdam placet, haud satis firma ratione."
That is to say, Petavius did not agree with some who asserted, without sufficient reason, that the basic elements out of which land and water were later made came into being on the same day that the land and water themselves actually did. These basic elements were made long before the actual creation of water and land, though no man can know how long ago apart from revelation, and that revelation is not to be found in Seripture.
ie. "The question of 'How great an interval there was', it is not possible except by inspiration to attain knowledge of. Nor, indeed, do I judge those basic components of earth and water, which I have taught originated first of all, to have been fabricated the same day on which had occurred the appearance of daylight, as it pleases certain persons (to believe), but by no means with sound enough reason."
And even more specific was the most learned of all medieval commentators on Genesis, Pererius (1535 - 1610) who wrote:15
"Licet ante primum diem, coelum et elementa facta sint secundum substantiam, tamen non fuerit perfecta et omnino consummata, nisi spatio illorum sex dierum: tunc enim datus est illis ornatus, complementum, et perfectic. Quanto autem tempore status ille mundi tenebrosus duraverit, hoc est, utrum plus an minus quam unus dies continere solet, nec mihi compertum est, nec opinor cuiquam mortalium nisi cui divinitus id esse patefactum."
This statement, suffering as it does to modern eyes from the complexity of sentence structure characteristic of the age in which it was written, nevertheless once more confirms the view stated by others quoted above that before the six days began and after the initial substance of the world had been created, an interval of time of unknown duration intervened - during which the world was in a darkened state. It would appear that by this time the view of such a darkened world as being also a destroyed world was beginning to be lost sight of, the poet Caedmon being the last writer, as far as I have been able to discover, who viewed the situation in the light of a divine judgment upon a previously ordered system. Yet this concept was not entirely lost, for in due time we begin to meet it once again in more and more specific terms, especially by Roman Catholic scholars on the Continent.
ie. , "Even though before the first day, the heavens and the elements were made subsequent to the substance (ie., basic essence of creative activity) nevertheless they were not perfected and completely furnished until the period of the six days: for then was given to them (their) furnishing, (their) fulfillment (filling up), and (their) completion. However, just how long that darkened state of the world lasted, ie. , whether it lasted more than one day or less than one day, this is not clear to me, nor (I hold) is it clear to any other mortal man unless to one to whom it has been divinely made so."
According to Bernard Ramm,16 the subject received its first scientific treatment by J. G. Rosenmuller (1736 - 1815) in his Antiquissima Tellures Historica published in 1776, a treatise which formed the basis of the theological works of Bohme. At any rate, it seems to have been sufficiently broadly recognized to influence Alcuin in his edition of The Book of Jasher which although it may very well be a forgery was at least issued somewhere towards the end of the 18th century. Alcuin renders the counterpart of Gen. 1. 2 (which in his version appears, however, as verse 5) as follows: "So that the face of nature was formed a second time" 17 From 1763 to 1781, the Orientals Scholar and Biblical Critic, Professor Johann August Dathe of Leipzig published his great six-volume work on the Books of the Old Testament and he translated Gen. 1. 2: "Afterwards the earth became (facta erat) a waste and a desolation". He comments on this passage as follows: l8
"Vau ante non potest verti per ET, nam refertur ad vs. 1 ubi narratum fuit, terram acque coelum a Deo esse creatam. Jam pergit vs. 2 de terram eam incertum quo tempore, insignam subiisse mutationem. Igitur vau per postea et explicandum, uti saepe: eg. Num. 5. 23 et Deut. 1. 19."
In the two passages there are two clauses which begin with waw and they are translated "and.... and... " in the English. But as Dathe quite properly observes, the second might more sensibly have been rendered ".... then afterwards.... ".
ie. , "Waw () before 'the earth' cannot be translated 'AND', for it would then refer back to verse 1, where the narrative has 'the earth and heaven were created by God'. Whereas verse 2 proceeds to tell how that the earth, at some uncertain time, had undergone some remarkable change. Therefore waw stands for 'afterwards' and is so to be interpreted, as it so often is - for example in Num. 5. 23 and Deut. 1. 19".
And so with this long thread of continuous reference to and recognition of the special relationship between Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2, we finally arrive at the period when modern Geology began to formulate those principles of interpretation of the earth's past history which so seriously challenged the more confined (though possibly unnecessary) limits imposed upon biblical chronology by Ussher and many others. And this challenge, far from calling forth an otherwise unknown interpretation of Genesis as an emergency measure, had rather the effect of suddenly casting this ancient view into a new light and making manifest its great significance. I do not think it would be altogether incorrect to state that this is in reality just one more instance where the Bible has again shown itself to be ahead of the times - even where the original writers may not have been aware of the ultimate significance of their own words. Only inspiration could account for such a circumstance.
In 1785, James Hutton (1726 - 1797) published in Edinburgh his Theory of the Earth, in which the issue as to the real age of the earth was spelled out in such a way as to make the matter clearly one of "scientific knowledge based on strict observation" and not merely a philosophical treatise. It marked the beginning of a war between chronologists, the secular and the biblical, between those who were demanding enormous periods of time of inconeeivable magnitude and those who, assuming that the first of the creative days also marked the origin of the earth, held the process to have occupled a few thousand years at most.
Inevitably, the conservatives saw the issue as fundamental to the whole structure of faith and were ready to give battle at once in defence of their interpretation of Scripture. But there were some who, being aware of the "long-held view" which we have traced thus far, suddenly perceived that there really need be no conflict at all.
One of the first of these, perhaps not unnaturally, was a countryman of Hutton's, a elergyman named Dr. Thomas Chalmers of the Scottish Church engaged in lecturing at St. Andrews, a man keenly interested in the developing sciences of his day, particularly in connection with various earths of importance to the chemist. In 1804 he wrote:19
"There is a prejudice against the speculations of the geologist, which I am anxious to remove. It has been alleged that geology, by referring the origin of the globe to a higher antiquity than is assigned to it by the writings of Moses, undermines our faith in the inspiration of the Bible, and in all the animating prospects of the immortality which it unfolds. This i sa false alarm. The writings of Moses do not fix the antiquity of the globe. "
Ten years later, in 181420, Dr. Chalmers produced his more elaborate scheme of reconciliation between the Divine and the geologic records in an Examination of Cuvier's Theory of the Earth. This paper presented the view that between the first act of creation which evoked out of the previous nothing the matter of the heavens and earth, and the first act of the first day's work recorded in Genesis, periods of vast duration may have intervened. He held that though in the previous period the earth may have been "a fair residence of life", it had become a desolation: and that although the sun, moon, and stars continued their existence, "in relation to our planet" their light had somehow become obscured.
Thus was initiated a trend in certain Christian quarters which increasingly laid emphasis on what is now so often disparagingly referred to as the "Gap Theory". In an age when men were more concerned than they are today about the importance of confidence in Scripture as the true basis for Christian morality, it is not unnatural that a view of such respectable antiquity should at once be seized upon and explored to the fullest. British and Continental scholars studied the question with a keeness and thoroughness it had never received before. Exegetical and linguistic grounds pro and con were explored and argued at great length. And some of the very best Hebrew scholars of the day not merely accepted it as probable but elaborated upon it, delving not only into the "fact" itself, but into its causes both physical and spiritual.
The most famous of these early protagonists in England was perhaps Dr. William Buckland who in 1836 contributed a paper in the Bridgewater Treatises. Here in summary is his view: 21
"The word 'beginning' as applied by Moses expresses an undefined period of time, which was antecedent to the last great change that affected the surface of the earth, and to the creation of its present animal and vegetable inhabitants, during which period of time a long series of operations may have been going on: which, as they are wholly unconnected with the history of the human race, are passed over in silence by the sacred historian whose real coneern was barely to state that the matter of the Universe is not eternal and self-existent, but was originally created by the power of the Almighty....
In 1847 J. Harris published a work in London entitled ,22 The Pre -Adamite Earth. In this work he sets forth a number of reasons why he believed Gen. 1. 1 must be set apart from the work of the six days. He wrote:
"The first verse of Genesis seems explicitly to assert the creation of the Universe, the heavens, including the sidereal systems and the earth, more especially our own planet, as the subsequent scene of the operations of the six days about to be deseribed.. .. .
"Millions of millions of years may have occupied the indefinite interval, between the beginning in which God created the heavens and the earth and the evening or commencement of the first day of the Mosaic narrative....
"We have in verse 2 a distinct mention of the earth and waters as already existing and involved in the darkness. Their condition is also described as a state of confusion and emptiness (tohu va bohu), words which are usually interpreted by the vague and indefinite Greek term chaos, and which may be geologically considered as designating the wreck and ruins of a former world.
"Now, that the originating act, described in the first verse, was not meant to be included in the account of the six Adamic days, is evident from the following considerations: first, the creation of the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth days begins with the formula 'And God said'. It is only natural, therefore, to conclude that the creation of the first day begins with the third verse where the said formula first occurs, 'And God said, Let there be light'. But if so, it follows that the act described in the first verse, and the state of the earth spoken of in the second verse, must both have belonged to a period anterior to the first day. "
I think there is much force in this argument. Verse 2 may be the record of a situation which not merely arose only some time after the initial creation, but a situation which may also have persisted for some time after it arose. And thus in 1853 Professor J. H. Kurtz of the University of Dorpat wrote that 23
".... between the first and second, and between the second and third verses of the biblical history of creation revelation leaves two great white pages on which human science may write what it will in order to fill up the blanks of natural history which revelatlon omitted to supply itself as not being its office."
Much has seemed to depend, in the minds of many writers then and today, upon whether in the second verse the verb should be translated "was" or "became". In the next chapter this matter is dealt with from the linguistic point of view, but it seems proper here to note what some of these earlier commentators said and to what extent their arguments for an interval here depended upon the translation of this verb one way or the other.
Kurtz himself did not apparently feel it proper to render Gen. 1. 2 "but the earth became a desolation" as Dathe had done. Nevertheless he did favour the view that verse 2 described a ruin and not a first stage in the creative process. Thus he wrote: 24
"The theory that a devastation of the earth took place between the primary creation of heaven and earth, and the fashioning of the earth during the six days, which devastation had made a restitution and a new creation necessary, cannot be proved from Genesis 1: but neither does the whole chapter contain anything which would exclude it."
He then remarks that part of this uncertainty arises from the fact that Scripture does not say how it happened or how long it lasted, nor what followed afterwards or what evolutions and revolutions took place before the state of things was reached which is described in verse 2.25 However, in his History of the old Covenant, published in 1859, he committed himself more fully.26 In the Introduction to this work he presents the view that "the state of the earth described in verse 2 was connected with the fall of the angels who kept not their first estate (Jude 6)". He continues:
"This view is very old, though not exactly known to the Fathers, who generally asserted that mankind were created to fill the gap left by the fall of the angels. Many of them thought that the race was to increase until the number of the redeemed should equal the number of the fallen angels."
In his New Commentary on Genesis, Delitzsch carefully considers the wording of Gen. 1. 2.28 He is not decided as to the precise
intent of the author but is reasonably sure that there is no justification
for "assuming that the chaos was the consequence of a derangement
connected with the fall of the angels and that the six days' creation
was the restoration of a new world from the ruin of an old".29 He
expresses the feeling that the relation in which verse 1 stands to
verse 2 is not at all clear.30 In considering verse 2 he observes that the word tohu comes from the verbal root tahah () in Hebrew (which= in Aramaic) meaning "to be desolate", "confounded",
and as a noun therefore signifying "desolation". Bohu is from a
verbal root which means 'to be closed' or 'deaf' or 'stupid', and as a
noun implies unconsciousness or lifelessness. He adds: 31
As to his view of the events of the first creation, he wrote:27
"The organisms of the primeval world are not the animals and plants of the Mosaic economy, neither are they those of historical times: while those of the biblical narrative are those which natural history at present makes us acquainted with. Thus the supposed contradiction is removed. The types buried in the rocks.... were not created for man and have not been his contemporaries on earth. Long before he appeared they had become extinct or were shut up in their rocky graves.... Beyond doubt, the fossils of the rocks cannot represent those organisms whose creation the Bible relates"(emphasis his).
"The sound as well as the meaning of the pair of words is awe-inspiring; the earth according to its substratum was a desolate and dead mass, in a word a chaos."
I think he is perfectly right in noting that Dillman held the view that 32
"....a created chaos is a nonentity. If once the notion of an Almighty God is so far developed that He is also conceived of as the author of matter, the application of chaos in the doctrine of creation must consequently cease. For such a God will not first create the matter and then the form, but both together. "
Delitzsch adds his own comment to Dillman: "Certainly the account does not expressly (my emphasis) say that God created chaos". But surely if we render Hayetha as "was", we cannot but read this meaning into the text. The force of this was fully recognized by Delitzsch who nevertheless, while he had to reject the alternative rendering of "had become" emphasizes that the verb hayethah here "is no mere erat"33 i.e., cannot simply be taken to mean "was" in the English copulative sense. Yet he feels that there is no justification whatever to adopt what he calls "the restitution hypothesis" which assumes that "the Chaos was the consequence of a derangement connected with the fall of the angels and that the six days' creation was the restoration of a new world from the ruin of the old" 34
But during the next decade Delitzsch was much in correspondence with Kurtz about the matter, and in the end he made a complete aboutface and wholeheartedly adopted the concept of a rebellion in heaven and a judgment brought upon the earth as a consequence prior to the creation of Adam. Thus while he still did not propose that hayethah should be rendered "became" he admitted that this is really what had happened. It is a curious circumstance in Delitzsch's case, for when he came to deal with the origin of the name Jehovah he asserted not only that the verb lay at the root of it but that it does not signify ('to be') but ('to become')!35
Delitzsch now believed that the cause of the judgment was that the "Prince of the Angels would not continue in the truth and therefore the earth was consumed". So he finally concluded that: 37
"There is much for and nothing against the supposition that the tohu wa bohu is the rudis indigestaque moles into which God brought this earth which He had first created good, after the fall of Satan to whom it had been assigned as a habittation."
In his System of Biblical Psychology he expressed the view that man (in Adam) was created to be guardian (ut custodiret) of a world which was now in constant danger of being taken over once again to its ruin by a power which was not material yet was self-conscious, as he put it, and must therefore be angelic.38 This angelic Being (and his followers) was once part of that still unfallen order of beings who 39
". .. . were created before the creation of our corporeal world. The creation of the angels is thus included in the summary statement of Gen. 1. 1.... and the more particular narrative (1. 2) takes its point of departure at a time when the angels were already created."
He then pointed out that this was no new idea. It was held by such Church Fathers as Gregory of Nyssa, Basilios, Gregory of Nazianzen, and others, and was taught by Josephus Philoponius in his seven volume work on the creation. Delitzsch felt that the very choice of the words reinforces the idea of judgment. Thus he wrote: 40
"How we are to apprehend this condition, occurs to us when we reflect that tohu in every case, where it has not the general meaning of wasteness, of emptiness, of nothingness, betokens a condition of desolation by judgment of God (Isa. 24. 10) and especially fiery judgment (as in Isa. 34. 9-11 and Jer. 4. 23-2 6)."
Subsequently, Delitzsch has a footnote in which he refers to a certain Mr. R. Rocholl who proposed some questions to him, and he replied to these questions by saying substantially what we have extracted above from his work. Referring to this correspondence, he remarked: 41
"The above will show, as far as it is here permitted, to what result further enquiry has led me since the second edition of my Genesis, and after manifold correspondence with Kurtz (one of his critics - ACC).... The Mosaic history of creation proceeded from revelation; and since knowledge of salvation, and generally, knowledge of the truth, has endured subsequent to Moses for a period of thirty centuries, we are certainly in a position to read things which transcended the intelligence of Moses, between the lines of the Mosaic history of creation" (emphasis mine).
Delitzsch may have exceeded the bounds of strict scholarship and allowed his imagination too much freeplay. Yet Delitzsch was also a great Hebrew scholar, and it is therefore noteworthy that he did base his views, in part, on linguistic evidence, evidence be it noted which in earlier editions of his Commentary he had denied but which he later embraced. Thus he wrote subsequently: 42
"The writer of Gen. 1. 2 taking his position on this side of 'the beginning' continues in verse 2 land the earth was a desolation and a ruin'. The preterite, with the subject prefixed is the usual way of introducing a subsequent history and so the beginning of it. The ('was') is more than the expression of the copula ERAT; the earth, as it came directly into being through God's creative power OR (and we do not here yet decide on this) as God's six days' creative operation found it already existing was a a desolation and a ruin."
Now the important point to notice next is that Delitzsch adopted the second supposition and admits, as we have already seen, that there is "much for and nothing against" the supposition that this is indeed a picture of an earth brought into a chaotic state.43 And so Delitzsch then notes that had the writer intended to connect verse 2 with verse l, "the form must have stood in the place of .
In a somewhat similar manner, Fr. H. Reusch, Professor of Catholic Theology in the University of Bonn, while not agreeing that 'was' in Gen. 1. 2 may be translated 'became', nevertheless holds that this is really what happened. He did not agree with Delitzsch's views about a spiritual rebellion as the cause but he did believe some element of judgment had led to the earth's desolation and to the destruction of its original order of life. Thus he wrote:44
"In other words, the Six Days treats not of the first formation of the earth and of the first creation of organized beings but of a re-formation of the earth; and a re-creation of organized beings, for which reason this has been called the theory of restitution."
So he concludes later,45 "If, therefore, we ask first whether this theory is exegetically admissible, I answer unhesitatingly in the affirmative". Bishop Gleig added one argument in support of this view which others had not considered. He wrote:46
"Moses records the history of the earth only in its present state. He affirms, indeed, that it was created, and that it was 'without form and void', when the Spirit of God began to move on the face of the fluid mass, but he does not say how long that mass had been in the state of chaos nor whether it was or was not the wreck of some former system which had been inhabited by living creatures of different kinds from those which occupy the present.
This is not, of course, very satisfactory. It is too vague and is based entirely on negative evidence. His argument is that since we are not told we may not make this assumption, therefore we obviously may! The Bishop might have found positive warrant in II Pet.3.5,6 which some believe applies more appropriately to the event under discussion than it does to the Flood of Noah's day. But as time went on and writers used their imagination more and more, it must have seemed to many that the issue had ultimately to be settled on lingusitic rather than exegetical grounds. Only linguistic evidence could really give a firm answer, although unfortunately even this has not been decisive.
"We read in various places of Scripture of a New Heavens and a New Earth to succeed the present earth and visible heavens, after they shall again be reduced to chaos by a general conflagration, and there is nothing in the books of Moses positively affirming that there was not an old earth and old heavens, or in other words a former earth and heaven.... There is nothing in the sacred narrative forbidding us to suppose that they are ruins of a former earth deposited in the chaotic mass out of which Moses informs us that God formed the present system. How long it continued in such a chaotic state it is in vain to inquire.
However, among those who approached the problem from this angle was the famous Dr. E. B. Pusey of Oxford University whose work on Daniel provided him with an opportunity to give a summary statement of his own views on the matter. First of all, he deals strictly with the questions of grammar and syntax, and writes: 47
"The substantive verb not being used in Hebrew as mere copula, had Moses intended to say that the earth 'was waste and desolate' when God created it, the idiom for this would have been omitting the verb - just as it is omitted in the following phrase land darkness upon the face of the deep". The insertion of the verb has no force at all unless it be used to express what was the condition of the earth in some time past previous to the rest of the narrative, but in no connection at all with what preceded. Such a connection might have been expressed by or by the omission of the verb. Moses was directed to choose just that idiom which expresses a past time, anterior to what follows but in no connection of time whatever with what precedes.
"Yet on the other hand, the waw by which verse 2 is united with verse 1 shows that verse 1 does not stand as a mere summary of what follows."
Thus Pusey concludes that we have
".... nothing to connect the time spoken of in verse 2 with the first declaration 'in the beginning God created....' What intervened between 'In the beginning' and the remodelling of our habitation does not concern us....".
Now Pusey was a careful - though complex - writer. He made no attempt therefore to "fill in" where Scripture has "left out". As he wrote: 48
"I have confined myself to the statement that any length of time which might seem eventually to be required by the facts of Geology need not trouble the believer, even on this ground - that Scripture said nothing whatever about time. Where, then, nothing was said on the one side, there could obviously be no contradiction on the other. I did not say that this mode of speech impels (us to the meaning of) a vast gap - perhaps ages in length - between the first verse and the second. I only said that since the two verses stand in no connection with each other, it admits of a long geological history. It was not my business to enter upon the claims of geology. I was only an interpreter of the sacred record, and, in view of that record, I said 'the claims of geology do not even touch upon Theology'.
He then continues later:
"There are cases in which words, arranged as they are here (the subject being placed before the verb and joined with the preceding sentence by 'and') form a parenthesis. But then the context makes it quite clear.... The only other alternative is that being in the past tense, relates to a past time, and that that past time is unconnected with the time of the previous verse. For had Moses intended to connect it, he would have used the common form . No one can doubt that the words 'and darkness (was) on the face of the deep' expresses a condition contemporary with that of the earth as tohu wa bohu; no one can doubt that the words 'and the Spirit of God (was) brooding on the face of the waters' expresses continuous action co-existing with that state of things. No one doubts of course that the word 'and God said' denotes an action of God which followed immediately thereon.
"Since these denote time, contemporary and subsequent, as little doubt can there be that the word expresses time upon which that contemporary condition and action depend and by which they are determined. Relative time is the very force of the participle, * but then it must be contemporary with time expressed already; which time is here expressed by the word . Had Moses' object been merely to express past time, the natural construction would have been to omit the just as the verb is omitted in the words which follow . The continuity of the narrative implies that denotes time, and if so, then everyone admits it is time subsequent to and unconnected with the words 'In the beginning God created'. They express simply a past condition of the earth at the beginning of the six days of creation; they express nothing as to the relation of that condition with the creation of heaven and earth 'in the beginning'. They are simply the beginning of a new statement or record.
"And this is , for the most part, the object of this collocation. This collocation is the more remarkable in that the word is used, which there is no occasion to be so employed. But everyone knows also that not only in the case of the substantive verb but in the case of other words as well, the idiom chiefly adopted in a narrative to DETACH what follows from what precedes, is that which is here employed , viz. , the placing of the subject first and then the past verb. "
* Referring to the Spirit of God 'brooding I on the face of of the waters.
While it has become a custom to challenge the Hebrew scholarship of anyone who supports the "Gap Theory", and while it has thus become possible to get away with such pontifical statements as "no Hebrew scholar supports this view" (!)49 there never has been any question as to the scholarship of Pusey who nevertheless did support
it. And if there were any question, it would be sufficient for most
people who know the meaning of the word "scholar" to note that S. R.
Driver unhesitatingly recognized Pusey as an authority. It is
doubtful if Driver has an equal as a Hebraist - certainly not, I venture
to say, in the matter of the use of the Hebrew verb. And Pusey
himself notes that Delitzsch, who in earlier editions had argued
agains this own view, "subsequently embraced it" 50 It is also worth noting that another scholar of equal stature with Delitzsch, namely,
August Dillman, likewise wrote against the view and subsequently
changed his mind - on lingusitic grounds alone. In his Commentary
on Genesis published in 1897, Dillman renders Gen. 1. 2, "But * then
was the earth waste, ete.", and he expresses the view that "became"
would be incorrect.51 However, before the two volume work was
actually published he had changed his mind, for on page x under
Corrigenda, he notes that the above rendering should be altered to
read: "But then the earth became .... ", and a later Corrigendum
refers to page 57 in Vol. 1 of the Commentary reiterating that here,
too, the text ought to have read, "but the earth became waste.... ".
It was not a matter of indifference to Dillman, therefore, but of
sufficient importance to justify two Corrigendum notices. S.R.
Driver resisted this translation to the end - even, as we shall see, at
the price of a certain inconsistency. But Driver did admit in his
The Book of Genesis that it was "exegetieally admissible".#52 Yet
Skinner, in his Critical and Exegetical Commntary on Genesis
* His use of the disjunctive here agrees with the LXX, Vulgate, etc.
# It should be understood also, that Driver had a very great respect for Dillmans scholarship. In the Preface to his Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew, Driver says: "The Commentaries of Dillman are exceedingly complete and valuable, their author being distinguished both for calm and sober judgment and for sound scholarship".
in The International Critical Commentary, says simply: "This view that verse 1 describes an earlier creation of heaven and earth, which were reduced to chaos and then re-fashioned, needs no refutation"!53 It is all the more surprising that Skinner should commit himself to such an out-of-hand rebuttal when he says a little later: 54
"The weird effect of the language (of verse 2) is very important.... The exact meaning of this alliterative phrase tohu wa bohu is difficult to make out.... But our safest guide is perhaps Jeremiah's vision of chaos-come-again, which is simply that of a darkened and devastated earth, from which life and order have fled."
It seems to me that Skinner merely needed to follow out his own reasoning to its logical conclusion to reach precisely the position Driver reached on exegetical grounds - viz. , that the view espoused in this volume is "admissible", to say the very least. Indeed, on Skinner's own argument it is not merely admissible but highly probable!
It is well to remember that a substantial number of other Hebrew
scholars have adopted this view on the linguistic evidence:
Martin Anstey, Alfred Edersheim (to whom Hebrew was almost a native
language), H. Browne, G. V. Garland, N. Snaith (who seems to me
to favour "became" for "was"), T. Jollle Smith, A. I. McCaul,
R. Jameison, and many others. * In the Transactions of the Victoria
Institute two papers appeared in 1946 on the issue, one by
P. W. Heward in favour and the other by F. F. Bruce against it.55 Only by reading these two papers can one assess which is the more scholarly.
Personally, I believe both contribute equally to the debate. But it
is some indication of the extent to which prejudice can cloud over
better judgment that one writer, in referring to these two valuable
papers, says that Bruce's paper is scholarly but his opponent's is
"full of special pleading and much padding" 56 Needless to say, this writer did not favour the "Gap Theory". Unfortunately, this attitude
is reflected in many current works now adays, a situation which makes
it difficult for the newcomer to assess the matter fairly or even to be
inclined to review the evidence on both sides at all.
* For excerpts from these and other sources, see Appendix I.
In Chapter V we shall examine some of the se contrary opinions with care and it will become apparent then, I believe, how large a place emotion has played in the views expressed and how very little first hand examination of the facts of the case seems to be in evidence. But not all who reject the "Gap Theory" are as openly indifferent to the grounds upon which it is based. Edward J. Young has written a valuable monograph entitled, Studies in Genesis One, in which, though he rejects the conecpt of an earth under judgment, yet finds good linguistic grounds to believe that in the narrative of Genesis 1 there exists an interval between Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2 of unknown duration. He holds that Gen. 1. 2 begins a new narrative entirely; and that there are two narratives in Chapter one, the first being wrapped up in verse 1, the second in verses 2-31. Thus he writes:57
"The first act in forming the present world (my emphasis) was God's speaking. The verb is introduced by waw consecutive, but it should now be clear that is not the second verb in a series introduced by of verse 1.
In short, Young's picture is that we have a self-contained and complete statement in verse 1, "in the beginning God created, ete.". Then the narrative re-commences as a kind of second chapter with the words, "And God said, Let there be light" and when God said this, "the earth was (at that time) without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters". The phrases of verse 2 are thus made secondary to, and in explanation of, the circumstances which prevailed when God spoke for the first time in verse 3. The idea is an interesting one, but Young feels that it requires one to believe the descriptive terms of verse 2 have no undertones of judgment in them.58 With this point we shall deal at greater length subsequently, but at the moment it is only important to note that the break between verse 1 and verse 2 is frankly recognized.
Verse 1 is a narrative complete in itself. Verses 2-31 likewise constitute a narrative complete in itself."
And as to the length of the intervening period before the earth was made habitable, Young has this to say: 59
"On this construction we are not told how long this three fold condition (of formlessness, void, and darkness) had been inexistence, whether for years or merely for moments. Nor is the creation (ie. , cause ?) of it (ie. , of the situation in Gen. 1. 2) explicitly stated.
Young believes it not unreasonable to assume that this was in fact the originally created condition of the earth: "Verse 2 then states the condition of the earth as it was when created and until God began to form from it the present world". He repeats this three pages later: "Verse 2 describes the earth as it came from the hands of the Creator and as it existed at the time when God commanded the light to shine forth".
While this essay of Professor Young's is a pleasure to read for its most moderate tone in dealing with the views of those with whom he disagrees and for its unashamed acceptance of the Scripture as the Word of God, it must be said that the argument that verse 2 describes what God's handiwork first looked like will not satisfy many readers. Nor does it substantially reduce the difficulty of believing that God really did start by creating a chaos to suggest that "Chaos" merely means something not yet ordered and arranged into a Cosmos. * Whatever Ovid may have intended by his use of the word "chaos" - and he may merely have meant matter un-formed rather than de-formed - the fact is that every word in Gen. 1. 2 used to describe in detail the condition of the earth at that moment is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe something that has clearly come under God's judgment. Young appeals twice to Isa.45.18 and proposed that the word (tohu)is merely a word suggesting something not yet fit to be inhabited. But in most other cases the idea is much more dramatic in meaning, and these other cases must surely weigh against the adoption of what is, after all, only one possible rendering of Isa.45.18. Young suggests the translation, "God did not create it to be a desolation (ie. , uninhabitable) but to be inhabited."
Whatever points of disagreement there may be in this particular question, the fact remains that Dr. Young has made out a good case from a linguistic point of view that a break does exist between Gen. 1. 1 and 1. 2.
Altogether, therefore, we can find strong support from the very earliest times to the present for the view that an interval of unknown duration followed Gen. 1. 1 before the work of the six days was initiated
* On the use of the word in the Septuagint, see Appendix II.
either to "bring order to" or "restore order to" an earth that at that moment was evidently quite unfit for habitation. This view is indeed a long-held one, beginning with the Massoretic and the Jewish Cornmentators, re-appearing by implication in one of their earliest Aramaic Versions, reflected perhaps by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, adopted by some of the Church Fathers, held thereafter by early and later Medieval writers who, expressly stated and elaborated upon it, preserved in the centuries that followed to influence 18th century translations, seized upon by commentators when modern Geology challenged the Mosaic chronology, and subsequently explored by a few of the best Hebrew scholars right up to our own day. Yet, for some strange reason, it is still identified by many modern writers as a recent invention, without linguistic or exegetical support in Scripture, and never favoured by any scholar with a reputation!
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