Gap Theory

Ever since it was originally suggested by Thomas Chalmers in 1814, there have been two reactions to the so-called “gap” theory: either to dismiss it completely or to misapply it. We will attempt to do neither. Let’s start at the beginning:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

This is certainly straightforward and if you fully grasp that verse you will have no problem with any other verse in the Bible. It is the next verse that raises some basic issues:

Genesis 1:2 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.

Stepping into the Language Chasm, the words “without form and void,” the Hebrew words, tohu and bohu, will become critical elements of our vocabulary. Tohu means without form, confused; bohu means void, empty. When we examine a declaration of God in Isaiah we note an apparent contradiction:

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, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

The same word for “vain,” tohu (without form, confused), appears in this verse, and would appear to contradict the declaration in Genesis 1:2. The phrase in Genesis 1:2 also appears in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 4:23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.

Whenever you find an apparent contradiction in the Biblical text, we should rejoice! It may be what the rabbis call a remez: a hint of something deeper. It’s like a signpost saying, “Dig here! A treasure is hidden here.” So this compels us to more carefully examine the passage in Genesis 1:2. The verb “was” is actually a transitive verb (indicating action) and the word order (normally, conjunction-verb-subject-object) is reordered to suggest the transitive pluperfect form: “had become.” (It is so ordered in the International Standard Version.) It is the identical transitive verb which appears in Genesis 19:26, where Lot’s wife “became a pillar of salt.”

Furthermore, we also find that the initial conjunction, “And,” is also an adversative conjunction (“but”) and is so rendered in both the Septuagint and Vulgate translations. It often suggests a significant time delay. Putting this all together suggests the following rendering in Genesis 1: 2:

But the earth had become without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

There appears to be an interval of some kind—perhaps eons—between verses 1 and 2. It would seem that the earth was not originally “without form and void,” but had been subjected to some kind of catastrophic judgment prior to the sequence that continues in Genesis 1: 2. This possibility may explain when Satan fell. We know that the angels were created prior to the Earth. We find Satan had already fallen in Genesis 3. The mystery is, when did he fall? It appears that there are substantial Scriptural references to his rebellion, his agenda, and the subsequent catastrophic judgment that ensued.

Isa 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer,[fn] son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

Isa 14:13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;

Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the  clouds, I will be like the Most High.’

Isa 14:15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Isa 14:16 “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms,

Isa 14:17 Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’

Isa 14:18 “All the kings of the nations, All of them, sleep in glory, Everyone in his own house;

Isa 14:19 But you are cast out of your grave Like an abominable branch, Like the garment of those who are slain, Thrust through with a sword, Who go down to the stones of the pit, Like a corpse trodden underfoot.

This also raises the whole issue of the origin of evil. And why hasn’t God simply wiped him—and sin—out completely? It is also disturbing to recognize that Satan tempted Jesus by offering him the “kingdom, power and the glory” in the temptations recorded in Luke.[1] How could Satan lay a legitimate claim to these? He is a Usurper but somehow thinks he’s special because – my theory – Satan was in the heavenly audience between Gen 1: 1 and 1: 2 when God created the pre-biotic soup from nothing then intelligently designed life out of that lifeless soup. Divinely inspired Opposable Thumbs are phenomenal! All others are just failed imitations.


[1] Luke 4: 1 – 13

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