What is the Gap Theory?


The Gap Theory may be represented as such:

  • Perfect Creation (Gen. 1:1)

    • [Time, Fossils, Fall of Satan]

  • Utter Destruction & Chaos (Gen. 1:2).

The Gap Theory (aka: Gap Creationism, Ruin-reconstruction Theory), a form of Old Earth Creationism, views that God's Creation was perfect and complete in Genesis 1:1, with water, sky, and animal life (including dinosaurs). Then something catastrophic happened - the fall of Satan - so the earth became "without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep" (Gen. 1:2). So, since Satan's sin ruined God's original creation, he had to begin Creation again (Gen. 1:3-2:25).

There are numerous problems with the Gap Theory:

(1) Bara Bookends: Both in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:4, we observe that God "created" (Hebrew, bara, meaning, "create"). Between these two bara bookends all was "created" by God (Gen. 1:2-2:3). So, these texts are grammatically connected and should viewed as one unit:

  • A. God created (Gen. 1:1a)
    • B. God (Gen. 1:1b)
      • C. heavens and earth (Gen. 1:1b)
        • D. Forming and Filling the Earth (Gen. 1:2-31)
      • C.' heavens and earth (Gen.2:1)
    • B.' God (Gen. 2:2-3)
  • A.' God created (Gen. 2:4)

(2) Waw Conjunctions: The Hebrew word waw may mean numerous things depending upon context ("and," "but," "now," "then," etc.). What is called the "waw consecutive" is used throughout Genesis 1. This means that there is sequence of events. Beginning in Genesis 1:3 we observe waw connected to an imperfect verb and observe the same phase, "And God said" over and over again (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24). So, these events were genuine, occurring one right after the other - literal history!

But what about the waw in Genesis 1:2? There are actually three waws:

(1) "[And] the earth was without form and void"

(2) "and darkness was over the face of the deep"

(3) "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters"

but we are referring to first one, "And the earth ..." This is known as the "waw conjunctive," which means it is simultaneous in time with Genesis 1:1. So, Genesis 1:2 is simply referring back to Genesis 1:1. Because of this construction nothing new happened or could have happened between these two verses; rather, Genesis 1:2 is simply a more detailed explanation of things already described in Genesis 1:1. So, the physical matter created in Genesis 1:1 was still "without form and void" (Gen. 1:2). So, there is "no gap" between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 to fill in!

(3) "Was" Means "Was:" In this context, the Hebrew word hayah is always translated as "was," and not "became." It is grammatically impossible when the verb hayah is combined with a "waw disjunctive" to be translated "became" (in the remainder of the OT, waw a noun haya (qal perfect, 3rd person) is always translated "was" or "came," but never "became").

This said, God did not intend for Creation to remain this way (Isa. 45:18). Genesis 1:1-2 was merely a first step. But as an intelligent designer and artist, God had a divine purpose for what we see in Genesis 1:1-2, to make it "very good" (Gen. 1:31). From beginning (Gen. 1:1) to the end (Gen.2:4), God had one creation plan in Genesis 1.

(4) No Information: Where is Genesis 1:_ 1 and 1/2? Why didn't God just tell us what happened between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? Actually, he did - absolutely nothing, see (2) above.

(5) "Very Good"?: How could everything be "very good" (Gen. 1:31) if there was already animal death and the Fall of Satan?

(6) Replenish: The KJV 1611 uses the word "replenish" (Hebrew, male) in Genesis 1:28. Gappists use this 1611 translation to support their claim that the earth once was full of life and now it needed replenishing. However, the word literally means "fill," not replenish. In the time of the 1600s replenish was used as a synonym for "fill" and "re" meant "completely." The same Hebrew word is used in Genesis 1:22 as well and in the KJV 1611 reads, "And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitfull, and multiply, and fill the waters in the Seas, and let foule multiply in the earth."

(7) Darkness: In the Bible, "darkness" can denote evil or the judgment of the wicked (Exod. 10:21; Isa. 13:10; Joel 2:31, etc.). Gappists argue that Genesis 1:2 and the mention of "darkness" (Hebrew, choshek) is a metaphor referring to an evil state - the Fall of Satan. However, this is an error of logic. Simply put, "the symbol has been confused with the thing symbolized, until the very symbol itself is now considered evil!" [1] How could the earth been anything else but dark, God hadn't created light yet (Gen. 1:3).

(8) Jesus wasn't a Gappist: Those who embrace the Gap Theory overlook, Mark 10:6, which says, "But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'"

The Gap Theory is the chief of mistranslating words and phrases. While it is an accepted Christian view, anyone who has done serious study would (or at least should) dismiss it, as a theory still hunting for a Creation text.

While I commend the Gappist's view for realizing that the earth has "age," their methodology and theory of how the universe attained that age is in error.

How then do we account for the age of the universe? We may deduce from Scripture that God created "a mature universe; one with age." One where Adam: (1) understood instruction (Gen. 2:16-17); (2) could speak - as he names the animals (Gen. 2:19-20); and (3) was old enough to understand both the need for and to be given a wife (Gen. 2:18, 21-24) - he even marveled with words at his wife's creation (Gen. 2:23). Adam was given instruction that he could eat of every tree of the Garden (Gen. 2:15-16) - except one (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). So, Adam had the ability to reason. Also, the "trees" in the Garden were ALREADY producing fruit! They were Created mature. God Created a mature universe.

So, when Adam was Created, he was a mature adult; fully able to walk, talk, and care for the Garden (Gen 2:15), etc. When God Created fruit trees, they were already bearing fruit. In each case, what God Created was functionally complete right from the start - able to fulfill the purpose for which it was Created. God's evaluation of his own work was that his completed Creation was "very good" (Gen. 1:31). God observing what he Created in Days - not just the sun, moon, stars, trees, vegetation, animals and man himself, etc. - but their function and harmony with each part fulfilling the purpose for which it was Created - was "very good."

Verily, God Created the universe - Ex-Nilho (Heb. 11:3) and in doing so he created all of its processes to work in harmony with one another. For, the universe to have functioned in such harmony from the beginning reveals that it had to be Created with "true maturity" - not just with an appearance of age, but with already complete operating system(s) (complicated complete systems operating within other complicated complete systems, etc.). So, we can affirm God created "a mature universe, one with age." So, in essence the earth can be both young and old at the same time. Please see, "What is the Mature Universe Theory?," below.


[1] Robert E. Franzen B., Creation Under Fire from Within the Church, (Xulon Press , 2009), p. 114.

Various Creation Positions

What is the Big Bang Theory?
What is the Day Age Theory?
What is Ex-Nihilo?
The Framework Theory
What About Hebrews 11:3?
What is the Intelligent Design Theory?
What is the Mature Universe Theory?
What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?
What is Progressive Creationism?
What is Theistic Evolution?
What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

Related Topics

What is the meaning of Day in Genesis 1?
Are there two different accounts of Creation?
What is BioLogos?
Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?
A Universal or Regional Flood?
What about the evidence of Carbon-14 dating?
What About Dinosaurs?
Scientific Evidence for YEC?
How could there be evening and morning the first three days of Creation?
Extraterrestrials and the Bible?
What was the Scopes Monkey Trial?
Can a person be born an atheist?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).