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Genesis 1:1-2 by Robert Dean
Dr. Dean's 2010 - Creation Special is an addendum to this lesson.
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 20 secs

The Gap View; Day Age View

We have begun to answer four key questions. These are important questions that are often addressed and answered in studying Genesis because there is such an incredible amount of pressure from the cosmic intellectual systems to accommodate the Bible with these other views. This is the essence of syncretism, the idea that you can take the Bible and then merge it with whatever seems to be the thinking, the accepted realities of the culture around; to somehow knock the rough edges off the Bible so that it doesn’t always seem to have this head to head confrontation with the world around us. But the whole doctrine of creation is just that, and it always has been. The world is quite adept at constantly trying to undercut the teaching of Scripture and attack Genesis 1-11. The reason is that if Genesis 1-11 is thrown out in any way, shape or form, then everything else in the Bible suffers. Everything else from Genesis 12 to Revelation is built upon what is taught in Genesis 1-11. So we have to be very careful that we don’t fall into the trap of accepting the conclusions today of empirical science as absolute fact. We have to stick with the Scriptures and interpret the Scriptures in light of the Scriptures, and then no matter how much it may run foul of modern theories of science we must be willing to accept the Bible for what it says.

Genesis 1:2 begins with a conjunction in the Hebrew, then a noun, and then a verb. But this is not standard Hebrew sentence structure. Standard Hebrew sentence structure is conjunction, verb, and then noun. So when you have conjunction then noun this introduces what is called a disjunctive phrase. That means you are introducing a new topic, something that is different from the previous topic. So this can be translated “but,” or in some ancient Latin translations it is actually translated “however.” So there is a contrast. Verse 2 consists of three circumstantial clauses: “But the earth was without form and void”; “and darkness was on the face of the deep”; “and the Spirit of God was covering.” A circumstantial clause describes the circumstances surrounding the action of the main verb. This sentence is not an independent sentence; it is a dependent sentence. But the question then becomes, is it dependent on the first verse or on the third verse? In other words, is it describing the circumstances of God creating the heavens and the earth (in which case it would be: When God began to create the heavens and the earth the earth was without form and void) or, is it circumstantial to the third verse? And it is circumstantial to the third verse; you do not have the type of structure in the first verse necessary to have that as a temporal clause. The preposition be, “in” the beginning, should be taken as an independent statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is the original creation. The three circumstantial clauses in v. 2 describe the conditions existing on the earth when God first spoke on day one.

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 [tohu, a waste place], he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” So we have a specific statement here that God did not create the earth a waste place, without form. He creates it orderly. Something happened, then, that introduces the concept of tohu waw bohu, or judgment. We have already seen from Jeremiah 4:23-26 and Isaiah 34:11 that this terminology is always associated in the Old Testament with a judgment from God. So the first phrase, “without form and void,” is a phrase that indicates the action of divine judgment on the planet. Furthermore, it is not simply that one act of divine judgment but there is a second phrase, and that is “darkness.” Darkness is another concept that also indicates judgment, and everywhere else in the Scripture when you have the concept of darkness you have an indication of some sort of judgment. For example, there is darkness in Egypt in Exodus 10:21-23; Joel 2:2; John 3:19. Darkness always has this negative connotation of something associated with evil and with judgment. Then third phrase has to do with the word “deep.” This is the word tehom, which is also associated with something judgmental. In fact, if you look at the Greek Septuagint it translates it with the Greek word ABUSSOS which is where we get our English word “abyss.” Everywhere you see abyss in the Scriptures this is the place where the angels are sent for punishment. All of this terminology works together to present an image of judgment on the earth.

Another thing that comes across in this passage is that there is a certain play on words that takes place here that would not be evident except in the English. For example, bohu is a cognate of the Assyrian word bahu. Bahu was the personification of chaos and disorder in the Assyrian pantheon. Bahu, this demonic personage in the Assyrian pantheon, is frequently associated in the literature with Tiamot, a name that is etymologically related to the Hebrew word tehom for deep. So Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is utilizing words that also carry other connotations that the Hebrews would be aware of, and it is this sort of sub-text that comes across showing that God is in control of everything that is going on here, and an indication that the God of the Hebrews is in control over these nature gods of the pagan people surrounding Israel. So that is just a little indication that there is more going on here than what we would pick up on by just reading the English.

It is clear from looking at the text that there is this clear time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. What happened historically was, a couple of men came along in the 19th century who were influenced by historical geology and trying to add on an other 30 or 40 thousand years to the age of the earth. Thomas Chalmers, already mentioned, latched on to a view that had been around for some time. The idea that there was a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 goes back to at least the time of Christ and based on certain Talmudic renderings and a fair case can be made that it goes back to the Mishna which predates Christ. Clement of Rome at the end of the first century AD, Origen in the late second century, and Tertullian, all translate Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in this contrasted way, indicating a gap between 1:1 and 1:2. Furthermore, in various rabbinical commentaries, even though they are very mystical in the way they apply the text, they couldn’t get where they were going if they didn’t assume a gap between 1:1 and 1:2. So the idea of a gap goes back into at least the early rabbinic period, predating the time of Christ. But the fact that there was a gap there was simply to explain the fall of Satan and the introduction of evil. It is not an indication that there are vast time frames, like millions or billions of years as demanded by modern evolution. In fact, there is no indication of how long this time was. The dating methods of science can be, and are being challenged.

One of the basic problems that is most telling is the theological problem, and that is related to an understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22. This crops up again and again and again. If you have any fossils before Genesis 1:2, to create a fossil something has to die. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” This is a clear statement because the word “death” there is without the article, which means it is a qualitative use referring to death in principle. Death in principle comes by a man. That means that whatever else you can say about the rebellion of Satan they did not die spiritually. You can’t apply the word “death” to whatever happened to the demons when they rebelled against God. You can’t apply the concept of death to anything prior to Genesis chapter three when Adam eats from the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, because it is by a man that death came. We have to take that verse and connect it to Romans 8 which tells us that Adam’s sin not only affected the human race, it affected the entirety of creation. Vv.18, 19, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us [Paul is building a theology of suffering]. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation [revealing] of the sons of God.” That refers to the fact that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will be manifested in full glory as the bride of Christ at the second coming of Christ. It is at that time that the curse is rolled back. It is at that time that the lion will lie down with the lamb. It is not until then that there will be a world that will be without military conflict. It is not until then that the curse starts to be rolled back. So between Genesis 3 and the second coming of Christ in Revelation 19 there is going to be war and misery in the whole creation. Vv. 20, 21, “For the creature was made subject to vanity [futility], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” The point in v. 21 is that the creation isn’t delivered, doesn’t experience the benefits of redemption, until the sons of God are made manifest at the second coming of Christ. This indicates that there are clear ramifications to nature, to creation, as a result of Adam’s sin, so that the curse that applies to creation and to nature, to the physical reality, is not reversed until the second coming of Christ. All of creation is impacted by Adam’s sin. Even though the penalty was spiritual death there were physical consequences, changes in biology, in botany, in zoology, in geology, in astronomy; all of the natural realm, all of the physical, material realm was changed.

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.” Corrected translation: “But the earth” or “Now the earth.” Then we have the verb “was,” the Hebrew verb hayah, the basic verb to be which is called an equative verb, but in many places it has the connotation of “became.” In this passage it is in the qal perfect. Usually in English the perfect tense is translated as either a simple past—it was, or it became—but it also can have an English pluperfect nuance. Remember that any time there is that concept of perfect in a tense it indicates completed action in the past. This holds true for the perfect tense of hayah and it is translated that way in a couple of different passages. For example, in Genesis 20:4, “But Abimelech had not come near her.” This is a qal stem of the verb and it is translated “had not come,” indicating a perfect tense, the completed action. There are many other passages but that gives us an exegetical basis for translating “became” as “the earth had become,” indicating that a transformation had taken place. The best translation that we should have for Genesis 1:2 is, “But the earth had become a disordered waste, and empty; and there was darkness on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the waters.”

As already stated, there were several attempts to accommodate modern science to Genesis chapter one. The gap view, as it came to be called, was just of several accommodationist views. Another accommodationist attempt was called progressive creationism. Definition: The idea of a number of acts of divine creation but they are not in six consecutive days. In one form of progressive creationism you have one created day one, and then, say, a million years and then another act of creation, then another long period, then the third day, and so on. The six days of creation are separated by millions of years. In that view what happens is that after each created act there is a period of time when diversification or evolution takes place. Then another view is the day-age view where each day is not a literal 24-hour day but each day may be two or three million years long.

This brings us to our next question: How long are the days? Some people who support the day-age view go to verses like Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night,” and 2 Peter 3:8, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” So what these people want to do is come along and say each day was equivalent to a thousand years. That still doesn’t work, they want to take this figuratively and say that each day is millions of years. But that completely misreads both Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3. The point in both of these passages is that God is timeless. God is eternal. Eternal means that God is not subject to time at all. God doesn’t have days; He doesn’t have anything like a day. He has one eternal present. There are successions of His creatures but as far as God is concerned He is eternal and timeless. So this is not to be taken literally, it is a simple statement that God is timeless and we should not try to fit God’s timing into our frame of reference. God is not a temporal being.

When we come to the descriptions of the days in Genesis 1:3 through 2:3 we see that there are certain qualifications. For example, in v.5, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Two things bear on the interpretation of “day” there. First of all it is described as being evening and morning. Any reading of the text would suggest that that is the same frame of reference that you and I have, and after one evening and one morning it is the next 24-hours period. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for day is the word yom. Whenever the word yom is used with an ordinal numeral, like one, it always refers to one 24-hour period in every one of its uses in the Old Testament—259 uses of yom in the OT, and every one of them refers to a literal 24-hour period. There is one problem passage in Hosea but it is used in an idiom that is based on an understanding of a 24-hour period. So the term “morning and evening” always qualifies it, when there is an ordinal numeral it always indicates a literal 24-hour period. Some suggest that the word “morning” which is the Hebrew boqer is not a literal term but that it can also mean a broad period of time. However, boqer is never used figuratively or metaphorically in the 205 times it is used in the Old Testament. So it is a literal morning. Furthermore, there is another contention made. In Genesis 2:4, “This is the history of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” There the word “day” does not refer to a 24-hour period, but it equals the entire week. No one who knows the original languages argues that the term “day” in Hebrew can’t refer to a long period of time. It is when it is qualified by an ordinal number or when it is qualified by phrases like “evening and morning” that it always means a 24-hour period. In this particular phrase there is the preposition be, which means “in.” When you have that preposition it is an idiom for that time period. It is just a broad term, in the day, in that time period.

There are a couple of other important problems. In the second verse we saw that the earth was chaotic, unformed, and in order to form it, to order it again, God does this in three days. In the first day He creates light, in day two He creates the atmosphere, and on day three He restricts the seas, creates vegetation, and there is geographic separation. Then in the second group of three days He orders the emptiness, the bohu. In day four He has light bearers. Notice that on day one He creates light but it is not localized in a body. On day four He creates the light bearers—the sun, moon and stars. But the point here is, when does God create vegetation? Day three. When does the sun appear? Day four. Problem” Plants need photosynthesis in order to survive. So if these are longer than 24-hour days, if we are talking about millions of years, then you can’t have vegetation before you have the sun. So that is just a basic problem that breaks down the whole concept of either progressive creationism or the problem of the day-age group. Then we have Exodus chapter 20 where we have the Sabbath law. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Principle: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” If those six days aren’t literal 24-hour days, then I can work for 6000 years and rest on the seven-thousandth year. I can work for six geologic ages and rest of the seventh geologic age. If the days of Genesis one are not literal 24-hour days, then there is no meaning for the commandment related to the Sabbath obedience. Furthermore, this passage says that the Lord made the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them. That means that everything that is on the planet including the fossils was made in that six-day period. You can’t throw the fossils before Genesis 1:2 and say that these fossils were created by the judgment on Satan and you have some sort of pre-Genesis 1:2 event, because what this verse says is “everything.” Everything that is on the planet now was created/made, asah, in that six-day period. That is why the complete renovation that would have left nothing. Everything is completely overhauled and renovated in Genesis 1:2ff.