Today will be sermon number 13 in my series on the evolution/creation debate. To date I have presented a great deal of material on this issue. At times I have brought to the discussion props to help get a point across. You may remember the big mouse trap I used in our discussion of irreducible complexity and the toaster I used to demonstrate the scientific method as it relates to intelligent design. I have also used many slides to help better understand the material presented. 

        During the course of this series, I have demonstrated that the debate is not so much about creation versus evolution. It is about origins and whether the Biblical account of creation can be coordinated with science. Some Christians believe there is no need to coordinate the Biblical creation account with science.  It is believed the Genesis creation account stands on its own and any science that suggests otherwise is bogus science.  While I consider this view to be extremely myopic, I do believe the validity of the Genesis creation account is vital to the validity of salvation theology.  As discussed in my first sermon in this series, salvation theology is based on there being a literal Adam and Eve who sinned and thus created the need for the Christ event. 

       The scientific evidence for the earth and life forms being much older than the six to ten thousand years advocated by young earth creationists is extensive. I believe that to deny the findings of science as to the age of the earth and life forms is unrealistic.  Therefore, the question before us is can a universe, earth and life forms that appear to be millions of years old fit into the Genesis creation account?  Today we are going to discuss an issue that is vital to answering this question.  We are going to discuss what is often referred to as the Gap Theory. I have alluded to the gap theory several times throughout this series but today we will examine it in depth. 

       It is necessary that we do this because next week I hope to bring this series to an end by bringing together what we have discussed to date. As you will see, discussing the gap theory in detail will be important to the conclusions we discuss next week as to origins and the evolution/creation debate in general. So let’s begin today by looking at Genesis 1:1-2.

     Genesis 1:1-2: In the beginning God (Hebrew: elohim) created (Hebrew: bārā’) the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (NIV).

       Verse one appears pretty straightforward. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The word “”the” is not in the Hebrew and is implied. In the Hebrew, verse one looks like this: "In-the-beginning he-created (namely) God the-heavens and the-earth."  In contrast to English sentence structure, which exhibits a subject-verb-object sequence, Hebrew sentence structure commonly exhibits a sequence of verb-subject-object. In addition, some Hebrew verbs have pronouns such as you, he, and she built right into their formation. The Hebrew verb bārā’ appears in this manner in Genesis 1:1.  It appears as “he-created.” In so doing it gives strong emphasis to God as creator.

       The Hebrew word for God in this passage is elohim.  This word appears 2,570 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and is used most of the time to identify the one true God.  The Hebrew Soncino Commentary shows elohim to be a plural word in the Hebrew language and is often used in Hebrew to denote “plenitude of might.” 

       Some Hebrew linguists believe Elohim is derived from the Hebrew El, which has the meaning of "the strong one."  The Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament defines elohim as “plural of majesty.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states the plural elohim is “usually described as a plural of majesty and not intended as a true plural when used of God as this noun is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular.” 

       So in reading Genesis 1:1, we can virtually read it as  “In the beginning, a Being having plenitude of might and great majesty created the heavens and the earth.” Now let's return to Genesis 1:1-2.

       Genesis 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And (Hebrew: waw) the earth was (Hebrew: hayah) without form (Hebrew: ō·hū), and void (Hebrew: bohu); and darkness was upon the face of the deep" (KJV). 

       Here is where there is disagreement among creationists as to what is being said in Genesis 1:1-2. Young earth creationists believe Genesis 1:1-2 happened on the first day of the six day creation event.  Old earth creationists believe there is a separation of perhaps millions of years between verse one and verse two?  This is the gap theory.  So the question before us is did God create the earth without form and void or did it become that way?

       Some translations render the Hebrew waw as "now" or "but." Waw is pronounced differently depending on whether there is a dot above the w or below the w so I will simply pronounce it waw.

       The Septuagint renders waw with a Greek word (δ [de]) which is rendered into English as "but."  Joseph Thayer, author of Thayer’s Greek- English Lexicon, writes that “δὲ is a “participle adversative distinctive disjunction and that it serves to make a transition to something new.” Therefore, waw is seen here as a disjunctive which means it shows separation between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 as opposed to using it as a conjunctive which would show no separation between 1:1 and 1:2.

       To use δὲ as a conjunctive forces the conclusion that God created the earth ō·hū and bohu, without form and void.  To use δὲ as a disjunctive allows for a separation between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 and the conclusion that God did not create the earth ō·hū and bohu but somehow it became that way.

      On the basis of such translations of waw, some see a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The earth is seen as becoming ō·hū and bohu as the result of a cataclysmic event or events that occurred sometime after the earth’s initial creation as recorded in Genesis 1:1.  Such event or events resulted in the earth becoming formless and void.

       The Gesenius Hebrew/Chaldee Lexicon defines ō·hū as “wasteness, that which is wasted, laid waste, emptiness.” Bohu is defined as "emptiness, voidness, something void and empty." Strong's Hebrew Dictionary defines bohu as "to be empty," and "an indistinguishable ruin."  Did God create the earth in this manner or did it become this way?

       Tō·hū appears 20 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and is rendered as "waste," "chaos," "desolation," "confusion," and "emptiness" in various translations.  Bohu appears just three times in the Hebrew Scriptures and is rendered as "chaos," "emptiness" or "void" in various translations. Tō·hū and bohu appear together only twice in The OT in addition to Genesis 1:2.      

       Isaiah 34:11: The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos (ṯō·hū) and the plumb line of desolation (bohu).

       Jeremiah 4:23:  I looked at the earth, and it was formless (ō·hū) and empty (bohu); and at the heavens, and their light was gone.

       In both these cases it can be seen by context that judgment was being brought against a nation that would move that nation from being a viable entity to experiencing complete destruction. Some believe this is Scriptural evidence for how Genesis 1:2 should be understood in relation to Genesis 1:1. A viable entity called earth became a desolation due to God's judgment upon an existing population of living organisms.

      Some that believe there exists a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 believe the earth became ō·hū and bohu as the result of a rebellion of Satan and a third of the angels who are believed to have inhabited the earth before the six-day creation. This Satanic rebellion is believed to be spoken of in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 which I will address later in today’s sermon.  This rebellion is seen as resulting in war between God and the forces of rebellion which resulted in much destruction to the earth and its solar system. After an unknown period of time, God is seen, in a literal six days, restoring the earth to its previous condition. 

       This restoration is seen as the separation of water and land, the clearing of the atmosphere to reveal the heavenly bodies, the reintroduction of life forms and the creation of man. Thus a great gap of time is inserted between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3.  It is believed that beginning with Genesis 1:3 we see what amounts to a “recreation.” This recreation is believed to have occurred during a period of six literal days.

       We had earlier in this series discussed the perspective of progressive creationists who see much of the fossil record being formed during six great epochs of time. Progressive creationists believe the six days of creation recorded in Genesis represent six epochs of time covering millions of years.

       Those taking the gap approach see much of the fossil record forming due to the destruction that occurred during the supposed Satanic rebellion. This rebellion resulted in the earth becoming without form and void as described in Genesis 1:2. This approach assumes there were physical living organisms inhabiting the earth prior to the six day recreation and that the fossil record is a witness to their life and death.  

       Those who hold to the gap approach believe Genesis 1:2 should read: “And the earth became (Hebrew: hayah) without form and void” rather than “was (Hebrew: hayah) without form and void.”  The Hebrew word translated “was” is הָיָה (hā·yə·āh) [hayah], [Phonetic Spelling: (haw-yaw].  This Hebrew word, in its various tenses, appears 3,561 times in the Old Testament and is mostly rendered as "was" in English translations but is also rendered a number of times as became or become

       Some feel this word can only be translated as “became” when followed by the preposition le which is not the case in Genesis 1:2.  An example of hayah with the preposition le is Genesis 2:7 where it’s recorded, “and the man became (hayah) a living being” (NIV).

       However, some scholars feel hayah could be translated “became” in Genesis 1:2 despite it lacking the preposition el. This conclusion is based on the determination that the verb hayah has a basic notion of becoming, emerging or coming into being. It is instructive that in the KJV and RSV, hayah is rendered "became" or "become" more than 30 times without the preposition el being present.

       One Hebrew scholar I read points out that the verb hayah is in the past perfect tense in Genesis 1:2 and thus it is grammatically correct to render hayah as “had been” in Genesis 1:2. Therefore, this passage could be saying the earth had become without form and void at some undisclosed time in the past.

        It is instructive that the well respected Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines hayah as "to fall," "to come to pass," to become" and "to be." James Strong, in his Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, defines hayah as "to exist, be or become, come to pass, always emphatic and not a mere copula or auxiliary." A copula is a connecting word.

       Seeing hayah as not just a connecting word but an emphatic (expressing something in a resolute way) allows for it to be seen in Genesis 1:2 as a standalone word describing what happened after an initial creation as seen in Genesis 1:1.  

       It has also been pointed out that the verb hayah in Genesis 1:2 is in what is called the "qal perfect form." This verb is found in this form a number of times in Genesis and in every case it is seen by context to describe a condition of becoming as opposed to a static state of being.  It is instructive that the “Let there be” of “let there be light” in Genesis 1:3 is hayah” and is in the “qal” form.  While the action of creating light had not yet occurred, it is seen in the process of occurring and not as a static state of being. This gives further credence to hayah used to describe the earth as becoming ō·hū and bohu in Genesis 1:2 as opposed to defining the earth being created ō·hū and bohu     

       In a resource work entitled “The Complete Word Study of Old Testament King James Version,” it is stated that when the verb hayah was used, it was not used in a copulative construction but only in a dynamic non static sense.  Therefore, even when hayah is rendered as "was," it can be seen to denote a change or changed state of things. In applying this principle to Genesis1:2, hayah is seen as being used to denote movement of the earth to becoming ō·hū and bohu and not that the earth was created ō·hū and bohu.

       In his book entitled "A Survey of Old Testament Introduction,” OT scholar Gleason Leonard Archer writes that, “Properly speaking, this verb hayah never has the meaning of static being like the copular verb ‘to be.’ Its basic notion is that of becoming or emerging as such and such, or of coming into being."

       Some Hebrew scholars instruct that when a Hebrew writer makes a simple affirmation as to the existence of something, the verb hayah is never used. The "something" is simply stated as existing. In other words, if Genesis 1:2 is stating the condition of the earth at the time it was created, the writer would have simply described the earth as ō·hū and bohu with darkness over the face of the deep.  However, since the writer does use the word hayah in Genesis 1:2, it should be seen in its meaning of "to become" or "to take place" and Genesis 1:2 should be rendered as "But the earth became ō·hū and bohu."  

       It is noteworthy that the Latin Vulgate (translation of the Scriptures into Latin) rendered hayah as exsisto some 13 times in Genesis chapter one. Exsisto means “to become.”  Of the 27 times hayah appears in Genesis chapter one, the Septuagint renders hayah as γίνομαι  (gínomai)  22 times. This Greek word means “to become.” The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures renders hayah as γίνομαι (to become) a total of 146 times in Genesis as a whole. This is in addition to multiple hundreds of other times throughout the OT hayah is rendered as γίνομαι (to become). In many if these cases, hayah is not followed by the preposition le.  

       In his Greek-English Lexicon, Thayer defines γίνομαι as “to become,” to come into existence,” “to begin to be,” and so forth. It is used in both the Septuagint and the NT Greek Scriptures to express these meanings.

       In view of the material thus far presented, it would appear logical to conclude that Genesis 1:2 should be rendered as "But the earth became ō·hū and bohu."  

        However, the Septuagint translators rendered hayah with a Greek word that means  "was" in Genesis 1:2.  Jerome used a Latin word that means "was" in the Latin Vulgate rendering of Genesis 1:2.  Most English translations render hayah as “was” and not as “became.” Why is this? 

       It is often reasoned that hayah can be rightly rendered as "become" or "became" in OT passages only if there is contextual support for such rendering. It is believed Genesis 1:2 does not provide such contextual support. For example, hayah is rendered as "became" in Genesis 3:22, 19:26, 21:20, Exodus 7:19 8:17 and 9:10 where the context clearly supports such rendering. These passages clearly show a change in circumstances and thus makes "became" a logical rendering.  Critics of the proposition that hayah means “became” in Genesis 1:2 believe there is nothing in this passage that suggests a change in circumstances.  

       Gap theorists point out that while it is true that there is no overt demonstration in Genesis 1:2 of a change from one circumstance to another circumstance, neither should it be assumed that such change had not occurred. To make such an assumption is to bring reader bias to the rendering of hayah in this passage. It is also pointed out that even if the word "was" is the better rendering of hayah in Genesis 1:2, "was" could still imply became.

        We use the word "was" in English all the time in this manner. For example I could say "I broke my wife's favorite flower pot and she was angry."  The obvious meaning here is that she became angry.  My wife moved from not being angry to being angry. Rendering hayah as "was" in Genesis 1:2 doesn't preclude the earth moving from a condition of perfection to one of ō·hū and bohu.

       If Genesis 1:1-2 is a unified whole with no gap in time between the two narratives, we must conclude God created the earth in a state of waste and disarray and then proceeded to work on this wasted earth to produce what the six day creation account reveals. So what we must determine is whether this is a reasonable conclusion or is such conclusion problematical?

        It is to be noted that in the Masoretic Text (the commonly used Hebrew Text of the OT) and in many other Hebrew manuscripts as well, there is a small mark called a rebhia at the end of Genesis 1:1. This small mark is seen as a disjunctive accent which is there to advise the reader to pause before going to the next phrase (Genesis 1:2). This mark is seen even where no verse division exists. Gap theorists believe this indicates a possible gap of time between verse one and verse two. 

         Those who take the gap approach point out that Isaiah uses the same Hebrew word translated “without form” in Genesis 1:2 to say God did not create the earth “empty” (Hebrew: ō·hū).

        Isaiah 45:18: For this is what the LORD says-- he, who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be "empty" (Hebrew: ō·hū), but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other (NIV).

       It is felt that if God did not create the earth empty (without form), it must have become that way sometime subsequent to its creation.  Critics of this interpretation of Isaiah respond that Isaiah is simply saying God did not create the earth to be empty but to be inhabited. However, this doesn’t preclude the earth from once being inhabited after an initial creation and then becoming uninhabited due to some event that caused the earth to be ō·hū.  Furthermore, the phrase "he did not create it to be empty,” as seen in the NIV, is actually "he did not create it "empty." The phrase "to be" is not in the Hebrew.  Here are some other translations.

       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 (ō·hū), he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else (KJV).

       For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos (ō·hū), he formed it to be inhabited!): "I am the Lord, and there is no other (RSV).

       For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place (ō·hū), But formed it to be inhabited), "I am the Lord, and there is none else (NAS).

       From all appearances, Isaiah seems to be saying God did not create the earth ō·hū. He created it to be inhabited. Gap theorists believe it was inhabited and at some point became uninhabited. It became ō·hū, a waste due to come cataclysmic event and was restored during the six day period spoken of starting in Genesis 3.

       Young earth critics of the gap theory believe this theory is nothing more than a reaction to scientific findings that appear to provide evidence for an old earth. 

        In response to such criticism, those holding to the gap position point out that the gap theory had been taught prior to current day geological discovery.  They cite the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, where the Dutch scholar Simon Epíscopius (1583-1643) taught that the earth had originally been created before the six days of creation described in Genesis (1952, Vol. 3, p.302). This was roughly 200 years before geology discovered “evidence” for an ancient origin of earth.

       There is evidence in the Hebrew Midrash of belief in an existing earth prior to the six day creation account. The Midrash is the oldest pre-Christian commentary on the Old Testament.  There also is an ancient Aramaic translation of the Genesis 1:2 which reads "and the earth was laid waste."  Thomas Aquinas (AD 1226 to AD 1274) reportedly wrote in reference to Genesis 1:1 that "but it seems better to maintain that the creation was prior to any of the days."  This appears to reflect the view that the creation of the heavens and the earth preceded the six day creation account.     

        Origen, (AD 186 to AD 254) wrote in reference to Genesis 1:1, "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."  Origen further observed that this condition resulted from a disruption where he used a Latin word which means “to throw down.”

         In 1847, author John Harris published a book entitled “Pre-Adamic Earth.” Harris points out that Genesis 1:1-2 reveals that God created the heavens and earth and the earth was in a state of being without form and void. This is followed by six days of creative activity where the creative activity of each day is preceded by the phrase “And God said.”

     Genesis 1:3: "And God said," Let there be light" etc. Genesis 1:6: And God said, "Let there be an expanse" etc. Genesis 1:11: Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation etc. Genesis 1:14: And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky" etc. Genesis 1:20: And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures" etc.  Genesis 1:24: And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures" etc.

      Harris believes these “And God said” introductions to each of the six days of creation suggests a distinction between an original creation of the heavens and earth and God speaking into existence a restoration of what had become a wasted earth due to some event or events that are not revealed. It should also be noted that it is only the earth that is spoken of as without form and void, not the heavens.

      Genesis 1:2 says “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."  It is to be noted that God was presiding over an already existing earth having darkness and waters before he begins to say in Genesis 1:3 “let there be light” and all the other things he commands during the next five days of the six day creation account. Genesis 1:3 begins with an already existing heavens and earth. There is nothing in the account of the first day of the six day creation account that suggests this is when the heavens and earth were created, let alone created in a wasted state of being.  Does this suggest a preexisting earth that is antecedent to the six day creation?  

       To postulate that Genesis 1:1 takes place on the first day of the six days of creation is to postulate that God created the earth in an initial state of ō·hū “wasteness" and Bohu "emptiness" as recorded in verse two.  We must ask whether it is reasonable to believe God created the earth in this manner before proceeding to develop it in the manner seen in the rest of Genesis chapter one. 

       As pointed out earlier, some who hold to the gap approach will cite Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 as evidence for Satan having once lived on the earth with access to God's abode in the heavens. It is believed these passages of Scripture show Satan losing his position of authority because of pride and rebellion against God. God then casts Satan to the earth which resulted in a great galactic battle that resulted in the earth and our solar system becoming damaged.  

       Both Isaiah and Ezekiel begin by describing the demise of specific human rulers but appear to insert descriptions of the demise of a supernatural ruler into the narrative as well.  Some who teach the gap approach believe these passages speak of God’s judgement upon Satan and his allies (fallen angles) for their rebellion which led to the temporary destruction of the earth and its solar system.

Criticism of the Isaiah/Ezekiel connection:

      Critics point out that neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel say anything about a battle between God and Satan or the destruction of the earth occurring because of a presumed rebellion of Satan.  Such conclusions are felt to be very speculative and unsupported by any hard evidence. Gap theorists are seen as reading into the text what isn't there.

       The context in Isaiah is clearly addressing the King of Babylon and the context in Ezekiel is clearly addressing the King of Tyre.  It is pointed out that Scriptural writers often use rhetorical exaggeration (hyperbole) in describing events. It is felt that it is exactly such hyperbole that is being used here in describing the attributes of human rulers who are shown as having once held positions of prominence on planet earth but are now being brought down to nothing. It is believed the context of these two chapters clearly relate to earthly kings and nothing more.  For an in-depth discussion of the Isaiah and Ezekiel passages under consideration, go to "Origin and Significance of Satan and Demons: Part One."

        Some gap theorists cite the KJV and ASV translation of Genesis 1:28b which reads "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." They see the word replenish to indicate that the earth was once filled with life but because of a cataclysmic event all life was destroyed leading to a believed recreation starting with Genesis 1:3.  They see God instructing Adam and Eve to repopulate the earth.  

       However, the Hebrew word rendered "replenish" is ū·mil·’ū and means "to fill" and is so rendered in most translations of Genesis 1:28 and throughout the OT narrative.  Rendering ū·mil·’ū replenish is to miss-translate this word. 

       Some believe the gap theory is negated by Exodus 20:11a which states “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” Young earth creationists believe this shows the creation of the heavens and earth occurred within the six day timeframe.

        Gap theorists point out that the Hebrew word עָשָׂה (asah) which is translated “made,” has the basic meaning of “to labor, to make and produce by labor” (See Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament). Therefore, it is believed this passage could easily be saying that in six days God labored to restore the earth and heavens to a previous state of being.

        Conclusion:  In reviewing the research that has been done by various scholars as to the use of hayah in the Hebrew Scriptures, it appears reasonable to conclude that this word can be rendered as “became” in Genesis 1:2.  Thus Genesis 1:1-2 could read as follows.

     Genesis 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth became formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

       Reading this passage in this manner allows for a gap of time between an original creation of the heavens and earth and a creation subsequent to some event or events that brought about the destruction of the original creation of the earth. The original creation could very well have included a variety of life forms including prototypes of humans. This would coordinate with the findings of science as to both geology and life forms having existed for millions or years on planet earth.  Under this perspective, the Genesis creation account could be seen as God establishing a new order of things subsequent to an old order of things that had been destroyed.   

       In concluding this series next week, the perspective that there is a significant gap in time between the events of Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 will become a significant dynamic in our drawing of conclusions as to scientific findings of a very old earth and the creation account found in Genesis as well as the whole issue of evolution and creation.  

       Next week I will try to coordinate the many things we have discussed in this series and provide evidence based conclusions as to the creation/evolution debate.