What Is the Gap Theory?

Rob Franzen

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A summary taken from the book Creation Under Fire.

My purpose here is simply to educate; I am not defending any particular position or particular age of the earth, which I’m not really concerned about. My concern is, however, to promote and defend the integrity of Scripture from obvious errors that have risen and been promoted.

In short, the gap theory teaches that a long undetermined amount of time transpired between verses one and two of Genesis chapter one. It teaches that the cosmos and the earth had been created long before the creation week described in Genesis chapter one, with animals and dinosaurs; some versions have a race of humanoids as well. It teaches that Satan fell during this time and ruled the earth and corrupted it so badly, that God had to destroy the earth by a global flood indicated by the waters in verse 2, before re-creating it starting in verse 3. It is also known as the “pre-Adamite theory,” or the “ruin-restoration theory.”

The idea of a gap of time was first heard of in the year 1814 by a Scottish theologian named Thomas Chalmers in a lecture he gave at Edinburgh University, Scotland. This idea came about shortly after the acceptance of longer geological ages proposed by some scientist in the late 18th century. In Christian circles, theologians went crazy trying to reconcile and fit the longer ages into the Bible. This gave rise to the many theories we know today like the “Day-age theory,” and “theistic evolution,” to name a couple.

Science was increasingly developing in the 1700s. A man by the name of James Hutton (1726-1797) came out with a book called Theory of the Earth in 1785. It came out again in two volumes in 1795 and became widely read. His theory was that the Earth was much older than what was traditionally known (which was about 6,000 years old based on Bible chronology to about 12,000 yrs old). He believed it to be about a hundred thousand years or so of age (it’s been growing ever since). Because of his work, he is known as the father of modern geology, or “Huttonian Geology,” today known as uniformitarianism.

Hutton’s book influenced a man by the name of Charles Lyell (1797-1875). Lyell wrote a book in 1830 called Principles of Geology. He was the key player responsible for evolutionary theory. He also developed what we call the “Geologic Column” that our kids learn about in our schools today. Lyell did not acknowledge a global Genesis flood. Following in Hutton’s footsteps, Lyell became known as the high priest of modern geology or uniformitarianism. Lyell excessively promoted long ages of uniformitarian process in geology, opening the way for biological uniformity.

Lyell’s life and book greatly influenced another man by the name of Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882). We all know Darwin wrote the book The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for life (the whole original title) in 1859.

Here’s what this amounts to: in 1795, Hutton’s book took away the traditional, historical interpretation of Genesis and intimidated theologians that “science” is the real interpreter Genesis. In 1830, Lyell’s book took away Noah’s flood and gave us “The present is the key to the past,” a theory now known as uniformitarianism (which has bewitched science ever since by locking it into that box). In 1859, Darwin’s book took away the Creator and gave us “All life comes from a common ancestor” (a rock that had been rained on for millions of years and developed a puddle of goo soup). “Our Father, goo soup…”?

On the grander scale of history, the gap theory was only popular throughout most of the 1900s before losing popularity in the 1970s and 80s. (It has since been replaced by more modern theories, most of which are also based on uniformitarian science unfortunately). Many of the finest Christians grew up with this theory. However, it lost popularity because scholar after scholar found too many inconsistences with the theory. To name a few:

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The gap theory, along with many like it cannot be traced back throughout history. In other words, they are only recent theories based upon modern views of scientific theories (which sometimes change over time). These theories were not held by ancient patriarchs, the prophets or Jesus, the Apostles or the early church. These theories were constructed by fallible men in the 18th and 19th centuries in an attempt to harmonize Scripture with the ever-changing scientific theories of their day. They are based upon man-made theories that constantly change as new evidences and technology develops. We find that man’s knowledge and theories are subject to change, and do change all the time, but the Word of God never changes!

The gap theory likes to change the word “was” to the word “became” in Genesis 1:2 to read: “and the earth became without form and empty.” This goes against every work of interpretation prior to this time. Works like the Septuagint (LXX) that was translated into Greek about 250-200 B.C. does not allow for a gap of any kind in its reading, because the 70 Jewish translators didn’t recognize any gap in the text, or in their history. The only way the word was can be translated as became is if the Hebrew verb hayah is seen with the preposition to (Hebrew le) on the object of the verb. Genesis 1:2 lacks this preposition, so that is why it cannot be translated became and even less likely had become. The only time it can be translated as became is when the combination of haya + le is seen. A good example of this combination is in the appropriate translation of Genesis 2:7, “man became a living soul.” Gen. 1:2 is a description of the earth coming into existence before God formed it to be inhabited and filling it with His habitation (us). The first three days of creation were forming and the next three days were filling the unformed and unfilled earth.

The gap theory and others like it have death, destruction and judgment in a creation context. Genesis chapter one is our Creator telling us (humanity) the factual, historical account of our origin. The context is of origin / creation; that’s all it allows for. Anything else is guilty of “eisegesis,” reading something into the text that’s not there.

The gap theory and others like it have death, suffering and disease before the fall of man/Adam. The Bible teaches that there will be no more death in the end (1 Cor. 15:26, 54; Rev. 21:4); therefore, if death has an end, it had a beginning. The Bible teaches the origin of death in Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:14; I Cor. 15:21-22. Rom. 5:12 states by one man death entered into the world and death by sin! Sin is the origin of death! Death is the by-product of sin. The Bible doesn’t say by Satan’s fall death came but rather by Adam’s fall into sin death came into the natural/physical world. Death before the sin of Adam is simply not Scriptural; let God be true and every man a liar, Rom. 3:4.

Everything began with God; therefore, everything starts with perfection and order, NOT CHAOS! This cannot be stressed enough. This is the context of the whole chapter of Genesis one, starting with perfection and divine order. God pronounced His total satisfaction with His work of creation in Gen. 1:31, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good…” Deuteronomy 32:4 confirms this by saying, “His work is perfect.” A study of these words shows Gen. 1:31 is God saying creation is exceedingly righteous with no blemishes! That creation is perfectly completed with no blemishes! Thus, the creation week is the absolute, genuine beginning reference point of all things. Satan wasn’t created bad; even he was created perfect at first. Ezk. 28:15 says “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” Lucifer was once perfect and in full glory and truth, but verse 17 tells us “by reason of thy brightness,” was lifted up in pride and self-exaltation, thus fell to become the distorted, perverted Satan.

Jesus Himself defines the “beginning.” He said in Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female,” (also found in Matt. 19:4), quoting from Genesis 1:27 and 5:2. In one short sentence, He stifles the mouths of the educated elite, identifies the origin of the marriage institution, defines marriage as between one man and one woman with purpose, and tells us when and what “the beginning” is. According to Jesus, the creation week is the beginning. Adam and Eve were at the beginning, our view of creation needs to follow suit. Jesus therefore, obviously takes Genesis as real, authentic, literal history.

The gap theory and those like it actually teach two beginnings, an original and a re-creation in the first chapter of Genesis. It also teaches two floods, the Gen. 1:2 judgment flood and Noah’s flood. Some even try to say there were two gardens mentioned in the Bible, the garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and 3 and “Eden the garden of God,” mentioned in Ezk. 28:13. The fact is there is no “re-creation in the Bible, not even after Noah’s flood. There are not two global floods mentioned anywhere in the Bible or in any other historical writing. And there is certainly no mention anywhere of two gardens of God. There can be only one! Only one way; one beginning, one judgment flood and one Garden of Eden, as there is only one way of salvation. There is only one original creation, created by the one and only Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ! Only the historical, traditional rendering of Genesis gives an account with no hermeneutical, grammatical or theological errors. The extreme importance of the traditional interpretation of Genesis is because it states purpose and identity for humanity. It also answers our questions about where we came from, what our value or worth is, and the purpose of all creation around us – i.e. everything was created for mankind and God’s enjoyment. It’s that simple.

For more detailed information on creation, Genesis and the gap theory, refer to my book entitled, Creation Under Fire from within the church, and/or Unformed and Unfilled by Weston Fields.


Rob FranzenRob Franzen

The mission of the “Creation Under Fire project” is to educate people with the truth of our origin as revealed in the first book of the Holy Bible – Genesis.  To establish a clear understanding of the original thought and intent of the author as it was originally recorded; therewith, dispelling untrue theories of creation within the church. In turn, strengthening people’s faith and equipping them with real answers for the faith they possess and to defend it well. Also to expose the most subtle scheme Satan has ever unleashed on humanity, which has sent more people to hell than any other attack mankind has ever known.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

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