Is there evidence for the Gap Theory of the Bible in Genesis?
The Gap Theory of the Bible in Genesis chapter one proposes that a long period of time, an ambiguous gap, separates the first two verses of the Bible (Genesis 1:1 and 1:2). No one claims to know for sure exactly how long this gap lasted, but it is generally assumed to have been a very long time (i.e. billions or at least millions of years). There is some debate among Gap Theorists as to what took place during this period of time. The majority consensus is that there was a pre-Adamite rebellion against God during which time Satan and about one-third of the angels fell. This pre-Adamite rebellion culminated in a global deluge (called the Luciferian Flood to distinguish it from the Noachian Flood of Noah’s day). Thus, according to this version of the Gap Theory (often called the Ruin-Reconstruction hypothesis), Genesis 1:1 describes the initial creation of the Earth while Genesis 1:2 describes the beginning of a six day restoration project.
Gap Theorists cite two lines of evidence to justify their conclusions. First and foremost, they point out the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists and academics alive today believe that the Earth is very old (approximately 4.6 billion years old). Gap Theorists insist that the only way to reconcile this with the Genesis 6-day creation account is to place an unspecified gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 into which they can insert the vast majority of Earth’s history. This is a classic example of “eisegesis,” the practice of approaching a text with preconceived notions, reading those notions into the text. The text doesn’t actually mention a gap but it is obvious to Gap Theorists, who already believe in a chronological gap, that a gap must be there.
Second, Gap Theorists cite a few isolated passages of Scripture which they believe describe (or at the very least allude to) some of the events that they believe occurred during this gap. For example, Gap Theorists point to 2 Peter 3:3-7 which reads, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming [referring to Christ’s return]? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’ For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (New American Standard Bible, emphasis added)
This passage has traditionally been interpreted as referring to Noah’s Flood. Gap Theorists interpret this passage differently however, insisting instead that it describes the Luciferian Flood -- as if the Noachian Flood, which occupies three consecutive chapters of the Book of Genesis (in addition to receiving special mention by Jesus Christ Himself), deserved no mention by Peter while this obscure “Luciferian Flood,” which is nowhere else mentioned in the entire Bible, was singled out by the Apostle to be included in this lone passage. It is curious that no other Jewish author, biblical or otherwise, ever mentioned this event. And yet Gap Theorists maintain that it was somehow well known to the Apostle Peter. Mainstream Bible scholars reject this interpretation, preferring instead to read this passage as a description of Noah’s Flood, an event well known to both Jews and Gentiles alike (the Gentiles had their own stories of a worldwide deluge), an event which received special mention in both the Bible and in other Jewish writings outside of the Bible.
Critics of the Gap Theory attack it from different angles. Old Earth advocates on the one hand maintain that the Genesis creation account can be reconciled with an Old Earth model without having to postulate an imaginary gap. They prefer the Day-Age Theory or the Framework Theory instead. Young Earth advocates on the other hand insist that the Old Earth model, gap and all, is flawed having been founded upon faulty assumptions, disproved premises, and circular arguments.
As for the biblical case against the Gap Theory, most biblical scholars don’t go for the Gap Theory simply because Scripture seems to preclude it outright in various places. Consider for example Exodus 20:11 which reads, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.” (NASB, emphasis added)
It is apparent that this passage teaches that God created the Earth, the sea, and all that is in them during the six days described in Genesis. To say that the Earth and the sea were around before the six days of Genesis (so that the Earth could have been inundated) is to directly contradict this unambiguous passage.
The Gap Theory of the Bible in Genesis chapter one is not an example of sound biblical hermeneutics. It is quite the opposite. It serves to demonstrate what can happen when someone reads into the text something that simply isn’t there.
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