Genesis 1:1 by Robert Dean
Dr. Dean's 2010 - Creation Special is an addendum to this lesson.
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:1 hr 9 mins 28 secs

The Gap View
Genesis 1:1

We have had introduced four questions which must be addressed as we begin to move beyond the first verse of Genesis one into the remainder of the chapter. These questions are important because there has been a tremendous amount of pressure for the last 200 years on Christians to somehow assimilate what is found in science with what the Bible says, that somehow to put the two together to make them harmonize. And there are a number of assumptions associated with that attempt that at least need to be pointed out, and many of them are somewhat dangerous. The primary pressures come from the idea that science has somehow discovered Truth, absolute truth, about origins and so make the Bible fit what apparent conclusions from science are. We have to first of all understand what the Bible does teach. This is important because there have been a number of things that have occurred over the centuries where people have not been clear on what the Bible teaches. They come to a false conclusion of what the Bible teaches and then that is juxtaposed with science. The classic case is Galileo being tried by church courts because he wanted to shift from a geocentric solar system, an earth-centered solar system, to a helio-centric or sun centered view of the solar system, which we know is correct.

Just about any time you bring this subject up, when you are talking with a proponent of evolutional science, they will say that this is a case of science versus the Bible, a case of science versus religion. And that is a completely false construct and it betrays the ignorance of the evolutionist as to what was going on, or he is just unwilling to face the historical reality of what took place during the middle ages. Also the fact that Christians cower when they are faced with this indicates that they are pretty ignorant of the situation too. What had happened in the middle ages, going back to about the 11th or 12th century, especially as the Moslem hordes were putting pressure on the Byzantine empire, is that as that pressure developed people were fleeing from the Eastern Orthodox Church and from Greece up in to Europe and they were bringing their libraries with them. They were bringing with them the ancient Greek MSS of Plato, and specifically Aristotle. Aristotle made tremendous impact, an Aristotilian view of science and the universe and on the western church. And what happened was that the western church began to assimilate their view of Scripture and to begin to interpret their Scripture within an Aristotilian framework. So what we actually have taking place in the middle ages is not a view of science and a view of the solar system and the universe as being something that was purely biblical, but it is the Bible being reinterpreted within this framework so that you end up with a geocentric view of the solar system. This is because they were taking the Bible plus Aristotle, so it is not a purely biblical interpretation.

Furthermore, there were problems with things in language. Another example would be that Job talks about the four corners of the earth. The Hebrew there for corners is one of many words that are used. Actually it means the four directions on the earth or four dimensions of the earth, it is not necessarily the technical word for corners, that is, a right angle. So because it is a mistranslation and a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word it let some people to believe that to take the Bible literally leads to a flat-earth theory. The Bible does not have this view of either a flat earth or of that the heavens are some sort of solid mass, neither does it teach an earth-centered solar system. But when you have a lack of correct understanding of the original languages, and when trying to take a biblical view and interpret it within a human viewpoint philosophical framework, this will always come up with erroneous conclusions.

It is important for us to make sure we accurately understand just what the Bible says and what it doesn’t say, and then once we formulate and understanding of creation based on what the Scriptures say, then we can on that model can have a framework for correctly interpreting the empirical data that science develops. Of course, modern man wants to do it the other way around. We want to conclude that science and empiricism correctly discerns the way things actually are, and then we want to bring that in to govern the interpretation of Scripture. As long as we believe in the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture we will always start with Scripture, and no matter how real or how clear something may appear according to science today we know that we walk by faith and not by sight. Walking by faith doesn’t mean that we are going to believe it despite the evidence, but it does mean that the evidence can clearly be falsely interpreted by modern science, and so the Word of God, which is clear, is going to be more real to us than what our experience may bring to bear.

The second question we need to address is, Could there be millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, and could this not be the time frame for historical geology, the dinosaurs and cavemen? This is an important question. There are really two questions here. One is: Is there a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, and how long is it? The second is, Can we cram historical geology, the dinosaurs, the fossils, everything that doesn’t seem to fit into the Bible, into the gap between these two verses? Yes, there is a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. First of all, we know that God is perfect and His work is perfect. Genesis 1:1 is a complete sentence syntactically in the Hebrew. Then 1:2 tells us that the earth was empty, deserted, distorted. The way the verse is punctuated in the English Bible is wrong. There are three circumstantial clauses. The main verb doesn’t actually come until verse 3. The point we make is: How does the earth become “without form and void”? Where does the darkness come from? And why is it necessary for the Spirit of God to generate a flutter over the face of the deep? To answer this we have to compare with other scriptures.

  1. Because God is perfect, His work is perfect. God does not create something less than perfection. Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” In Genesis 1:2 we are told three things about the condition here. It is formless and void; it has no form, it is chaotic, and it indicates that something disastrous has happened. In other places, as we will see, it indicates judgment and chaos. This is not a case of God just creating the random parts of the universe.
  2. Elsewhere in Scripture “heavens and earth” are used of a completed, working universe. The retort to this is that Genesis 1 is distinct so we are going to have to use all of these terms different from the rest of Scripture. The problem with that is that it would be fine if this were actually recording revelation that was given at the beginning of creation. But remember, this was Moses writing down the Scripture in 1446 BC. So the Jews on the plains of Moab already have a history of biblical or revelatory terminology and they are going to interpret words on the basis of that. Everywhere else in Scriptures words like light and darkness, imply light is good; darkness is evil. “The deep” has an evil connotation; tohu waw bohu has a connotation of judgment. So if the second verse in Genesis has these three phrases and that is being written for people living in 1440 BC who already have an oral tradition that has given certain baggage to those words, then when they hear those words at the beginning it is going to have that connotation for them. Same thing with “heavens and the earth.” You can’t just come along and say this is different because it is the starting point in creation. So what we have here is a specific Hebrew syntax or grammar that indicates a change; it indicates a break, a disjunctive waw. When you have a disjunctive waw it is not action that is consecutive to the preceding action. It doesn’t read, “In the beginning God created the earth and the earth was without form and void.” That would be consecutive, and it is how some people want to read it. You read it as a break, and it should be translated, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but the earth was without form of void.” Then coming to the main verb, the perfect of the Hebrew verb hayah, it normally indicates a state of condition, and since it is not the original state of 1:1 we can translate it “became” – “the earth became formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.” Since these are circumstantial clauses that relate to the main verb of “said” in verse 3 we should translate, “Now the earth was without form and void,” because it is stating the condition the earth was in when God spoke in verse three. It is not the same condition of verse one; the waw consecutive breaks the action. So it is clear from the grammar that you have an original creation inverse one and then there is this break where there is some sort of introduction of chaos between v.1 and v. 2. Then verse 2 takes up what is happening in terms of six days of more accurately stated restoration.
  3. Then there is a lexical argument from word meaning. This is based on three terms that are used here. Tohu waw bohu basically means formless or shapeless, or something that is completely out of its original design. Bohu means empty. These words are used together. Tohu is used a few times by itself but bohu is never used apart from tohu. Looking at a couple of passages that are related to this you see that there is a sense of judgment that is in the context of these passages. Jeremiah 4:23-26 is a passage where Jeremiah is warning the Jews of the southern kingdom of the coming judgment of Babylon on Judah. In order to portray the destructiveness of this judgment he borrows imagery from creation. Isaiah 34:11 is another passage, the judgment of the nations at the time of the Lord’s vengeance—the end of the Tribulation. Now where did the judgment of tohu waw bohu come from in Genesis 1:2? Here we have to make a theological deduction. Job 38:4-7, when God laid the foundation of the earth the angels of God shouted for joy, they were all united. They were present. It seems that there has to be a time period for the fall of Satan, described in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. When did Satan and the angels fall? There are only two options. They either fall between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 or they fall after the creation week. The judgment terminology in v.2 suggests that what we are talking about here is the aftermath of the fall of the angels. So what we have here is chaos, which is the result of Lucifer’s fall and the angelic rebellion. As a result of that there is a judgment on the angels. Their abode prior to the fall was on the planet. Earth became the scene of Satan’s rebellion against God and his judgment, so God basically turned the lights out in the universe. God exists in unapproachable light, and when you come to Revelation at the end of the Bible there is no darkness. Where does the darkness come from? It is something that is added, it is not just there. A completely dark universe is going to be frozen because there is no light and no heat. It is during this time that God judges the angels who fell, and it is at this time that Satan raises the challenge to God’s ability to rule His creation and that God had not given him a fair chance and opportunity to prove what he can do. It is at this point, then, that God is going to restore the earth and set up this new universe in which He is going to set forth a test case on planet earth to give Satan the opportunity to demonstrate what he can do, and for God to demonstrate that no creature can live or operate independent from the creator. The concept of darkness in Scripture always has a negative connotation, e.g., Exodus 10:21, 22; Psalm 35:6; Joel 2:2; Matthew 4:16; John 3:19. Then the third word that is used is the Hebrew word tahom, which means “deep,” and is often symbolic of chaos and death. For example, in Exodus 15:5, 8 related to the Red Sea: “the deeps covered them.” Then, Ezekiel 26:19, “ … I shall bring up the deep over you, and the great waters will cover you.” When we look at these texts we should infer that there is something radically different that has taken place here as a result of some action that is not mentioned in verse 1 that describes the circumstance on the earth when God spoke in verse three. This indicates that there is some kind of time gap. It is based on grammar, on vocabulary, and on theology.

Then the second part of the question: Can we put into this time gap the geological ages?

  1. That idea was set forth in the 19th century. A little history of this interpretation: It can be traced back to at least the 9th or 8th century AD. So the idea that there is a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 didn’t originate in the 19th century, it goes back to the early church.
  2. It was not there in order to ram, cram, and jamb historical ages in there. It was understood to be the time frame when Satan fell. It was the only use of that view up until the 19th century. This was the view expressed by Milton in Paradise Lost: that this was the time within which the angels were created and Satan fell. At the end 1700s there was the rise of historical geology. This is in the period of the Enlightenment, and in the Enlightenment man’s reason reigns supreme and there is a definite anti-biblical slant to man’s thinking. There is a rejection of God’s Word. Up to that point scientists almost without exception held that there was a literal Noahic flood that lasted a year and that all of the fossils were formed in the flood. There was a clear belief in flood geology. But starting in the late 18th century there was a rejection of the Bible, a rejection of Noah’s flood as a reality, and that fossils were formed gradually over a long period of time. There was the development of the uniformitarian view of geology, which now, incidentally, is falling out of vogue with modern geology. As a result of that historical geology was postulating a date of the earth of 45,000 years. At that time there had already been the influence of science and Enlightenment thinking on he church for about 150 years; that somehow you could come up with Truth apart from Scripture. So science is developing its reputation that this is true, they know what they are talking about, and they have accurately interpreted the data and that we have a 45,000-year-old earth. A man by the name of Thomas Chalmers who was a Presbyterian pastor in Scotland, one of the foremost Scottish Presbyterian theologians at that time, set forth the theory that all they needed to come up with is 45,000 years. So it was decided to put the fossils into this gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Notice that the pressure is coming from a secular interpretation of geology that the earth is only 45,000 years old, and so he is trying to come up with only 45,000 years. By the end of the 19th century the talk was something like a million years or several million years, and now it is up to about 300-million years. It keeps getting larger. It is one thing to come up with 45,000 years but quite another to come up with 300-million years. Chalmers’ view was very popular and by the end of the 19th century there was a man by the name of G.H. Pember who wrote a book called “World in Chaos.” He holds the same view, and he tries to put the geologic ages in between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. This became known as the gap theory. What they really did was hijack the theory that had been around since the early church in order to try to assimilate and compromise with the findings of science, thinking that the findings of science were accurate. Remember we have already seen the fact that dating systems may be extremely flawed, but they were assuming that the dating systems were accurate. So they began to shift the interpretations of Scripture in order to fit the conclusions of science. But there are some basic and fundamental problems with that view. First of all, if you have some form of pre-Adamic race and all of animal life prior to Genesis 1:2. When the judgment occurs, what happens to all this life? It’s dead. This presents some serious problems to theology. Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” In that passage “death” has the definite article emphasizing a unique death. But it seems that with Romans 5:12 you can place an argument from context that this is spiritual death. Spiritual death is the penalty for sin and physical death is the consequence for sin. So even though a lot of people want to use this verse as a argument here, it doesn’t work because Romans 5:12 is a passage that deals with spiritual death primarily. But there is still the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22 to deal with, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In order to do that attention must be paid to the context of chapter 15—physical resurrection, e.g., v. 20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” What kind of death is in view in v. 20? It is physical death, not spiritual death. Then Paul states a principle in v. 21: by a man came death; by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. So it is clear that the death here is not spiritual death. Furthermore, death here does not have the article in the Greek, which indicates it is the qualitative idea of death, death in principle came through man. So we are talking about the principle of death. It cannot, according to this verse, precede Adam. If you have anything die physically before Adam then Christ did not need to go to the cross. If death enters into the world before Adam sinned, then death, even in the animal kingdom, is not the result of Adam’s sin, and therefore it would mean the cross was not necessary. And that is heresy. That is why evolution is a subtle attack on the necessity of the cross. Furthermore, if there was physical death before Genesis 1:2 and the fossils were there, then the contention is that Adam is put in perfect environment, but a perfect environment that is a graveyard! That is not perfect environment. Then, the contention is that you could have two catastrophes, one before Genesis 1:2 to form fossils, and another at the flood. This is impossible. Fossils don’t always flow in the same pattern; they are all mixed up. All the fossils have to be formed by the same catastrophic event. It is either the catastrophic event of a judgment in Genesis 1:2 or it is a catastrophic event at Noah’s flood. If it is a catastrophic event at 1:2 then you have a worldwide flood where the waters swirl around the earth with incredible power for an entire year in Genesis chapter six, and there is no trace left of it in the geologic record. That’s absurd. All the fossils are found in sedimentary rock. What lays down sedimentary rock? Water. So if all of those fossils were laid down in Genesis 1:2, all of that evidence would have been destroyed by the flood in Genesis 6. So the only option we are left with is that all the fossils had to have been formed by the Genesis 6 flood. Furthermore, there are examples of tree trunks in multi-strata deposits. That is, there is one tree trunk going through several strata, indicating it was all laid down at one time. Then there are those who presuppose that dinosaurs couldn’t live on the earth with man. But that is assuming that they lived on the same piece of real estate. Lions and tigers do not co-exist compatibly with human beings, but we don’t occupy the same piece of real estate. There are many animals alive today that do not live compatibly in the same environment with man. So what we have is the existence of these creatures but they didn’t exist in the same area as man. Then there are fossilized evidences in Texas that are dinosaur footprints fossilized in the same strata as human footprints. What happened to the dinosaurs? They died out after the flood.