By Mike Clinton
For at least 2000 years church scholars and rabbis have noticed a strange thing about the first two verses in Genesis. After the creation of the heavens and the earth in verse one, something happened that resulted in the ruined earth we find in verse two. There is a chasm of missing time between the two verses. What happened to caused the earth to become a chaotic ruin during this gap of time?
This mysterious gap reveals, what turns out to be, the central drama of the ages – read on.
Since there is a gap of time between the two verses this is called “The Gap Theory”.
Let’s look at the first two verses to see exactly what they say about this gap of time. Verse one tells us about the original creation. Verse two begins the six day record of God restoring the earth that had become a ruin after the original creation.
VERSE ONE – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
This part is a little complicated but it gets better.
MERISMS Verse one is a summary verse that tells us how everything we see came into being. Some claim it is a title but it is not. “And” in verse 2 shows that verse one cannot be a title.
Verse one is what is called a merism, a feature of Biblical poetry.
For example, in Genesis 1:1, when God creates the heavens and the earth (KJV), the two parts combine to show that God created the whole universe.
Similarly, in Psalm 139, the psalmist declares that God knows my downsitting and mine uprising; indicating that God knows all that he does.
An example of this is given in The Online Dictionary of Language Terms:
“merism, a figure of speech in which the whole thing is mentioned by naming some of its parts.
(1) He searched high and low
(he searched everywhere).
(2) God created the heavens and the earth
(God created the universe)”
So, verse one just tells us that somewhere back in time God created everything we see. It does not tell us when this happened. Ages could have rolled by between verses one and two. At some point something caused the earth to become a ruin.
VERSE TWO – And (but) the earth was (became) without form, and void;
Verse two does not speak of the original creation; it begins the history of the six days when the earth was restored. We see this from the following facts:
(1) The earth already exists before the first day. The first day starts with the earth already being a waste and a ruin. The earth was not created on the first day, it already existed.
(2) The word translated “and” is an adversative conjunction like our word “but” and it is translated this way in the Jewish Septuagint which shows the Jewish thinking on this verse. God created the earth “but” something happened.
(3) The word “was” is more properly translated “became” or “came to be” because it is an intransitive verb (active transition) For example, in Gen.19:26, Lot’s wife “became” a pillar of salt. (same Hebrew word)
(4) “Without form and void” ( Hebrew- Tohu-Va-Vohu) The Bible explicitly says that God did not originally create the world this way.
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( same (Hebrew word), he formed it to be inhabited:”
Since it was not created this way something must have happened to it.
According to Jeremiah 4: 23 this condition is a result of a judgment.”I beheld the earth, and, lo, [it was] without form, and void;(same Hebrew words) and the heavens, and they [had] no light.”
So, the ruined earth was a result of a judgment by God.
(5) The word “create” (bara) in verse one is different from the word “made” (asah) used in the restoration of the ruined earth. Word Bara – create out of nothing Asah – the arrange what was created in vs. one
My translation: In the distant past God created the universe but (later) it became a desolate ruin.
The “Gap Theory” is not new. It has been a part of church and Jewish doctrine for at least 2000 years.
Here is what some of the ancient writers had to say about these two verses:
St Thomas Aquinas, The Second Book of Sententiarum ”but it seems better to maintain that the creation was prior to the six days”
Targum Onkelos 2nd. century and medieval Jewish writers ” Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things early created by God. He made several other worlds before ours, but he destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none before he create ours.”
Zohar 1st and 2nd century A.D.”And these are the generations of the destruction which is signified in vs. two of chapter one. The earth was Tohu and Bohu. These are indeed the worlds of which it is said the blessed God created them and destroyed them, and, on that account, the earth was desolate and empty. Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai
WHAT CAUSED THE RUINED EARTH?
The fall of Satan caused the earth to become a ruin.
The judgment described in Jeremiah above is exactly what we see. Satan’s fall occurred during this “gap” of time. You can read about the fall of Satan and the angels in Rev. 12: 3&4, Ezek 28:13, and Isaiah 14 13-14.
Satan and the angels were created before man.
The angels were there when God created the earth. Job 38:4-7 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the (measuring) line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God (angels) shouted for joy?
Phil. 2:6 tells us this about this about Christ in eternity past: ASV ”who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped…”
Existing is “hyparcho” a present, active, participle – He always existed. Form is “morphe” – the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision, external appearance
Since the Lord always existed in a form that could be seen, who saw him? His form is what the angels could see.
When Satan made his appearance early in the third chapter of Genesis he was already a fallen angel.
THE DRAMA OF THE AGES BEGINS.
The earth is center stage in the drama of the ages.
When Satan fell it looked like creation would forever be in ruins. What would God do? God promised the angels that he had a plan already in place.
Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
Who did God make this promise to before the world began? It had to be to the angels.
The plan of salvation was put on place before Satan brought ruin to the universe.
Rev. 13:8 He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
The foundation of the world is interesting. Actually it should be the casting down, or overthrow of the world. Before the casting down of the world brought by Satan’s fall, God already had a plan and He promised the angels all would be well.
For an in-depth study of the real meaning of the term “foundation of the world” see this:
This explains the interest of the angels in the story of redemption. 1 Peter 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
The followers of the Lamb became a spectacle for angels. I Cor. 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
The Church has become a university for angels. Through Christ and his followers the angels learn about God’s wisdom and faithfulness.
Eph. 3:9&10 And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
One day soon, Satan’s kingdom will be overthrown and Christ and the saints will take over the rule of the universe.Rev. 20:4 NLT Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge.
In the end the universe will be restored to order.
1 Cor. 15 24-28 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.”[a] But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
Then the saints will judge the angels.
1 Cor 6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels?