The Gap Theory Refuted

age of the earth, apologetics, Gap Theory No Comments

An excellent article appeared recently in Apologetics Press titled, “Is Gap Theory Linguistically Viable?” (December, 2015, vol. 35, no. 12). It was written by Justin Rogers who holds a Ph.D. in Hebraic, Judaic, and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  Rogers clearly shows that the Gap Theory violates clear biblical teaching. This is remarkable in light of the fact that Nobie Stone allows for the Gap Theory in his book, Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space, p. 67.  Stone states, “The point here is that there is a grammatical break between the first sentence and the second, which begins with the word now.  It is such an obvious break that it has been suggested that the first sentence is not a sentence at all, but a title for the following material; although this has its own problems.  We simply ask the question, “What right do we have to impose any constraint on this clear break?” Is it continuous? Is there a gap? We truly do not know.”  Dr. Rogers is much more definite than Dr. Stone.
What is the Gap Theory?
The Gap Theory is an effort to harmonize Genesis 1:1-2 with the evolutionary concept of an Earth that is billions of years old.  The theory holds that there is a gap between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 that would allow for billions of years of time to pass.  Proponents of the Gap Theory insist that “science” requires an Earth that is billions of years old.  Consequently, the Scriptures must be made to “fit” science.  Gap theorists then twist the Scriptures to make them fit their theory.  Obviously, to many Christians, this is backwards.  Scripture should take precedence over scientific theory (scientism is not a fact, but a philosophy).  Evolution is not a fact, but a theory based upon presuppositions that include a materialistic interpretation of origins.
What Are The Linguistic Arguments?
Rogers states the specific linguistic arguments that Gap theorists allege.  First, Gap theorists begin by affirming that the Hebrew term bara in Genesis 1 means “create” (from nothing) and asah  means “restore” (at a later time) (p. 135). Rogers comments, “By interpreting the Hebrew in this fashion, Gap theorists believe they can accommodate an Earth billions of years old without compromising the essential integrity of the Genesis account.  The bara state of Creation occurs first (Genesis 1:1), and, after centuries or even billions of years, the asah stage of Creation occurs (the “six days,” Genesis 1:2ff) (p. 135).  Rogers shows that this sharp distinction between these two Hebrew words does not hold up under further examination.  He affirms, “…these terms (along with eleven others-DS) are used interchangeably of God’s creative activity” (p. 136).  For instance, the term bara is used of the creation of man (Gen. 5:1 and 6:7) which, if Gap theorists were correct, only asah should have been used.  While these terms are often found in parallel constructions of God’s creative activity, they are not always synonymous terms (p. 136).
Second, Gap theorists make three arguments on the grammar of Gen. 1:2.  “They claim: (1) the Hebrew waw implies a gap in the narrative; (2) the verb form “was” (hay tah) signals a new beginning; and (3) the nouns tohu va-vohu imply a re-creation from a degraded, earlier Creation (pp. 137, 140).  Rogers answers each of these arguments.  First, when the waw is attached to a noun it is disjunctive and signals a shift in the narrative.  The disjunctive waw can simply provide background information to the story being related (e.g. Genesis 13:13), or explain what is happening simultaneous with the narrative, but elsewhere in location (e.g. Genesis 37:36, translated well as “meanwhile” in the ESV).  In these cases, the waw sets up a parenthetical remark which functions to explain the preceding information (p. 140).  Rogers addresses the second grammatical feature, the hay tah or “was.”  Gap theorists mistranslate this term insisting it means “became” or “had become.” Rogers acknowledges that this can be a possible meaning, but that the context determines the actual meaning.  In this context, the word “was” refers to the time when God began his work of creation.  It serves as a copula (a word that joins parts of one thought to another).  “Was does not mean that the earth remained in this shapeless state for a long time; nor does it mean that it became such after being something else earlier” (Reyburn and Fry, 1997, p. 30) (p. 140).  “This point is recognized by virtually every decent translation of the Hebrew text since the Septuagint (cf. the Latin Vulgate and the mountain of English translations)” (p. 140).
Rogers addresses the final grammatical consideration, the  Hebrew phrase, tohu va-vohu (“without form and void”-KJV).  Gap theorists affirm that these terms imply a depreciation of the original Creation. Rogers replies, “While the Gap theorists are correct to understand tohu va-vohu to mean a state of creation God did not regard as ideal, nothing in the Hebrew words themselves implies a depreciation of Creation. Rather, the expression conveys the amorphous nature of the Earth before God provided His creative structure to it” (p. 141).
Rogers concludes, “There is nothing in the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 to demand a gap of time” (p. 141).