“Gap Theory” in the Beginning of the Universe
The “gap theory” advocates believe that science has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Earth is far older than what the Bible says. According to the “gap theory” (also known as “gap creationism”), the six-day creation period involves six literal 24-hour days of creation, but it also states that there was a gap of time between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2. They see this “gap” as the border between two distinct creations. According to them, first the Creator created a universe, then He destroyed it and created it again.
This interpretation, however, is problematic. The verse fails to explicitly mention or lead the reader to the understanding that there must be a gap between verse 1 and verse 2, for there is little in the verse (if anything) that would suggest such a thing. If a reader does not know how to be careful with such ideas, but takes them at face value, he or she will inevitably become confused. Moreover, those interpreters who advance this “gap theory” are under the necessity and obligation of explaining the Hebrew text of Genesis.
“Gap theory” creationists
The failed attempt to reconcile the Bible with secular science has led the “gap theory” to become the standard interpretation in Protestant Christianity to such an extent that it even appears in the reference notes for Genesis in the 1917 Scofield Reference Bible. This interpretation of the first verses in Genesis works for Scofield Reference Bible but contradicts the Hebrew Scripture.
To support their findings “gap theory” creationists claim that certain “facts” about the age of the Earth have been omitted from the Genesis account. They hold that there was a gap of time in the Biblical account that lasted an undefined period between a first creation in Genesis 1:1 and a second creation in Genesis 1:2–31.
But because there is no proof for the “gap theory” given in Genesis account, the proponents of the “gap of time”, use other scriptures to support and explain what might have occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 using specific linguistic reasoning in the Hebrew text of Genesis.
For example, they say that the Hebrew word yom, “day”, does not necessarily refer to a 24-hour period but to thousands even millions of years. Proof for this claim the “gap theory” creationists have found in Psa 90:4. This interpretation of the word yom gave birth to another theory that differs from the “gap theory”. According to this theory (which we will call the “long-day creation” theory), there is no gap of time between the first two verses of the Bible, and it considers (unlike the “gap theory) that the creation story refers to only “one creation”. According to the “long-day creation” theory, the six days of creation were not literal 24-hour days but long days of a thousand years, as they interpret Psalm 90. The proponents of the “long-day creation” theory (the theory of one creation) and the “gap theory” (the theory of “two creations”) refer to science to confirm the supposition of “old earth”.
“The authority of the Torah comes from the fact that the Torah does not refer to itself”. (Jewish saying)
But is there any proof for the “gap theory”? For if there is such proof for what the proponents of the “gap theory” claim, now is the time to produce it. The “proof” for their claims can be summarized in the following.
“Gap theory” creationists believe that (1) because God is perfect and everything He does is perfect, the newly created earth should not have been formless and void (Gen 1:2); (2) the Holy Spirit was “renewing” the face of the earth hovering over the waters noting that in verse 1 the earth had already existed (Gen 1:2); (3) Satan and his angels waged war in heaven (Rev 12:7-9), and in the gap between verse 1 and 2 of Genesis 1, they had fallen from grace (Luk 10:18). This must have occurred before the fall of man, since he had already tempted Adam and Eve (Joh 8:44). We can refute these verses taken out context, but we will not prolong our argument, instead we will merely point to the following.
The problem for the “gap theory” creationists is that they do not see the process of Creation in its important stages and elements. Because they could not explain why the narrator saw fit once to tell that in the beginning the heavens and the earth were created, and then later one more time, they saw a gap where it does not exist at all. But the narrator, if this were his intent, would involve himself in self-contradiction, in such a degree, that he had to explain the gap, but he did not. For if he has given such details in Genesis 2 to explain the locations of the rivers Pishon, Gihon, and Tigris, and that there is bdellium stone in the land of Havilah, why has he omitted such an important detail as the gap between the very first verses of the Bible?
For this reason, the “gap theory” creationists created two creations: “creation 1” in Genesis 1:1 and “creation 2” from Genesis 1:2 to Genesis 2:3. However, a question presents itself: If they were to be consistent in their own supposition which they have taken for granted, why did they not see another creation, “creation 3” from Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 2:25?
Also, as the “gap theory” creationists believe the Creator is perfect and everything He does is perfect, how could He have created something imperfect that then He had to destroy? And if they say that the reason for the destruction of the “first earth” was for the reason of the alleged war in heaven that was waged in the gap between verse 1 and verse 2, what should we say to them? The Supernal Sovereign of the universe has no enemies, and no one is able to wage war against Him. Hasatan is a created being, an angel; he has no agenda of his own but to serve His Creator, as we see his role in the Book of Job. Imagine a pot rebels against the potter! Besides, any alleged mutiny of created creatures can be simply undone by the Creator. Nothing is out of His control and reach. But by saying that a war was waged against Him, the “gap theory” creationists have created a god in their own image, who was not perfect enough to prevent such a rebellion in the first place. Far it be that this could be said about YHVH Elohim!
But instead of arguing with such theologians, we will explain below what the Scripture does say, not what it does not. For a careful examination of these “facts” of the “gap theory” shows to the intelligent reader that their arguments are nothing less than proof out of silence, and proof out of silence is not proof at all. Or at best, these “facts” taken out of context are an assumption that does not prove a thing. For if the Torah had only written in Gen 1:1 “And Elohim destroyed the earth”, we would have known that the earth created on the third day must have been a new earth. But in order to make this clear to the reader, the Torah writes in verse 2, “And the earth was unformed and void” thus indicating that this is the same earth in verse 1. A closer reading of the text, however, shows that the Torah is not merely being repetitive here, but that it prepares the reader for what immediately follows, namely, the work of Ruach of Elohim.
It is the object of this work to explain the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1, which is not distinctly explained by the commentators and expose certain misconceptions of the “gap theory” that still exist. We will explain the reason for this in due course, as we intend to posit another way to look at Creation specifically in reference to the age of the universe. We will do this, as we will rewind the time to the very beginning of the universe, where we will refute the “gap theory” of creation.
What it takes to see the “gap theory” in Torah
There is a great deal of misunderstanding as to how the creation story in particular and the Hebrew Scripture in general were written. The words “In the beginning”, with which the Hebrew Scripture begins, are not necessarily a poor translation. But in Hebrew, Bereishit has much more to it than simply “In the beginning”. The misunderstanding that there might have been “two creations” and a “gap” between them comes from the translation of the first verse of the Hebrew Bible, which reads literally: “In the summit (most importantly, chiefly, primarily) Elohim [the Supernal Powers] filled the sky and the land” (Gen 1:1). What exactly is being described here? Understand this according to what it literally implies. The creation of the heavens and the earth was the summit of His work.
Elohim created the heavens and the earth, and this is the first and last time the Torah mentions “heaven”. The Torah tells us almost nothing about the creation of the heavens focusing almost entirely on the creation of the planet Earth and the life on it. Maimonides (Rambam) in his philosophical views of Creation, The Guide for the Perplexed, explains that there is a difference between “first” and “beginning” in Hebrew. The term “first” implies that something precedes in time something else, and the thing that precedes is not the cause of what follows. And Maimonides gives the following example to make it simple: “A” was the first inhabitant of the house, after him came “B”. This does not imply that A is the cause of B inhabiting the house”. The term “beginning” however exists in the thing which it commences and as such may not precede it, i.e., the heart is the beginning (principle) of life; without the heart, there is no life. Likewise, the head (Hebrew, rosh from which the word reishit comes) is the principle part as regards position, the highest in rank and importance.
“Elohim is in the details”. (Jewish saying)
In Creation, Elohim is the cause of what follows, and in principle (bereishit), He created the heavens and the earth with regard to fundamentals although not concerning details. After we are told the principles in Genesis 1:1, then the details follow in Genesis 1:2 and on. The true explanation of Genesis 1:1 therefore is as follows: “In principle Elohim created the heavens and the earth. And everything was formless primordially”.
According to the common reading of the text of Genesis 1:1, the meaning of the word בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereishit is “In the beginning”. In order to read it this way, the word רִאשָׁה rishah, must be present in the Hebrew text, but this is not what Torah reads. If the Torah did not write the word רִאשָׁה rishah, which means “beginning”, as in Eze 36:11, this is because the word רֵאשִׁית reishit includes much more than does the word rishah. The Torah’s use of words is never incidental. The word רִאשָׁה rishah, “beginning”, comes from the word רֹאשׁ rosh, “head”, as head is the highest or the beginning point of the human body. From this word, another word is derived: רִאשׁוֹן rishon, first in time or space; also, ancestor, forefather, former thing.
Therefore, the first two verses of the Hebrew Scripture — In principle Elohim created the heavens and the earth. And everything was formless primordially” — brings to light quite different creation story than what we were accustomed to. According to this translation and interpretation, the narrator of the Creation account focused Mosheh’s attention to the primary detail, namely, that in the Creator’s design the creation of the heavens and the earth was “in the summit” (most importantly, chiefly, primarily): the highest level or degree attainable, the highest stage of development. Why was this detail most important? Because the planet Earth would be the home of the human race; the heavens were created for the messengers (angels), the earth was for the humans.
It is interesting that the first word of the Torah בראשית bereishit, “In the beginning”, when the letters are re-arranged, reads ברית אש berit eish, “Covenant of fire“. The word “Bereishit” is also an acronym of “the first son you shall redeem after 30 days”. Also, “Bereishit bara Elochim et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz” – “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth”, with which the Hebrew Scripture opens for its readers, contains seven words and 28 letters. The opening verse of the Covenant (The Ten Statements), “Vayedaber Elochim et kol hadevarim haeileh leimor” – “And Elohim spoke all of these Words, saying …”, also contains seven words and 28 letters (see Exo 20:1 in Hebrew). It is also interesting to note here that the first books of the Bible and the Torah form a hidden message to mankind. They are (in their Hebrew names):
- Bereshit: containing the words of Elohim from Creation to Israel’s going to Egypt.
- Shemot: from Egypt to Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Covenant.
- Vayikra: describes the period of 11 months spent at Mount Sinai, and the laws men should live by.
- Bamidbar: from Sinai to the Promised Land and the 38 years in Arabia.
- Devarim: at the threshold of the Promised Land and the Covenant of Renewal.
If we use the Hebrew titles of the five books of the Torah and their Hebraic grammatical arrangement in a sentence, we read: In the beginning (Bereishit), YHVH called (Vaikra) the names (Shemot) and the words (Devarim) in the wilderness (Bamidmar).
Parallelism of Creation
The work of Creation began in two phases. In the first, Elohim began to create the heaven and the earth calling out the light into existence, “Light, exist!”. And light existed. Elohim thus created the Beginning, which is the very concept of time and space, or more properly “spacetime”. As Elohim began to create the universe out of nothing, He called up, reordered and gave functions to all the primordial elements bringing them together from what He had already conceptualized in His Master design. With this Creation began: Day 1.
Then, in Days 2 and 3 the Creator prepared a world in which the unliving things came into being. The planet Earth began to shape, as first, the lower waters were collected to form what would be called “sea”. Thus, the dry land began to appear, when the Creator gave the land the potential to sustain life to what was about to be created in the second phase.
In the next phase (Days 5 and 6), the creation of all living things came to be: first, plants, then the animal kingdoms in the water and on the dry land; and most importantly, the creation of the first human beings. We thus observe the following phenomenon in Creation:
The first day is the creation and separation of light and darkness and parallels the fourth day on which the sun and moon were set to rule over them.
The second day is the creation and separation of waters by the sky and parallels the fifth day on which the waters and sky are filled with fish and birds.
The third day is the separation of dry land from the water and parallels the sixth day on which the land is inhabited with the animals and the first humans.
The seventh day is the cessation of the Creator’s work and will parallel the seventh millennium of rest. Then, the creation narrative proceeds to describe how exactly that was made in Genesis 2 providing more and essential details for the readers as to how the plants and man were created in order to prepare the reader for what would transpire in Genesis 3, namely, the sin in the Garden. With that said, we see another parallelism in the creation narrative, in the words of Genesis,
In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that Yehovah Elohim made earth and heavens. (Gen 2:4)
The generations (toledot) of the heavens and the earth do not describe the origin of the universe but retell in more details the creation of the heavens and the earth, as the starting point of history of the world. There is no need to go any further into the matter, which is simple and comprehensible to the reader, for in the light of what has been said so far, it is now possible to understand the error of the “gap theory” in Genesis.
How old is the Earth?
After all of the above, it remains for us to explain why science sees “old earth”. The Torah says that the Creator made the universe and everything in it visible and invisible in six days. But secular science claims it is billions of years old. The Scripture speaks the language of man to make him understand. And indeed, we could imagine how perplexed Mosheh would have been, if the Creator had used the scientific language we use today. So, how old is the Earth? A good departure point to finding the age of the universe is to read from the Psalms. It is for this reason that it was said,
For a thousand years in Your eyes are like a day that has past, like a watch in the night. (Psa 90:4)
This verse seems relatively straightforward, yet there are layers of meaning beneath the surface of the plain text. A closer examination of the text shows that the psalmist is not merely being poetical here, but that he might have referred to a deeper level of understanding. Notice that the psalmist has not said “a thousand years in Your eyes are one day” (as the “gap theory” creationists read it), but “a thousand years in Your eyes are like a day (Hebrew, כְּיוֹם, ke-yom) that has past, or like a watch in the night”. According to the simple interpretation of the verse, it means that a thousand years are like a day for the Creator, like a watch in the night, i.e., like an instant in His eyes.
How does this verse explain the age of the earth? To answer this question, we need to pose another one: How old was Adam when he was created on the sixth day of Creation? According to the simple meaning of the account in Genesis, he was one day old on the first Sabbath. But let us suspend this question for a moment and raise a third one: How old did Adam look like when the Creator made him? We will answer the first two questions by explaining the latter.
From the Creation account we see that Adam was mature enough to know the Creator and to make his choice when he sinned in the Garden. Elohim did not create Adam from embryo and the plants from seeds; He created them all fully grown. Assuming that the first human might have looked like 20 or 30 years old, and on the supposition, which is a very probable one, that indeed Adam was one day old but looked like a young man, we may draw conclusion that the same line of thought may be applied to the age of the earth, namely, that the earth may look like old.
With the above in mind, we may then ask the question: How old did the Earth look like when the Creator created it on the third day? It is not difficult for the intelligent reader to perceive the line of reasoning here, for it is telling us that Adam’s age may serve as an illustration of the age of the earth and of the universe. Whether the Earth looked like thousands or millions of years old, we are not told, and it does not matter how old it looks like. According to the Torah, the Earth was created only 6,000 years ago but looks very old. In conclusion, why is it so important to explain the “gap theory” that should not have been invented in the first place?
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