The Genesis Gap Sidetrack

Is There a "Gap" Between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?

Bringing in the Hebrew?

Timothy S. Morton

Back to the Originals?

Even though most Bible Believers today will not use original language arguments, the Genesis Gap gap was first "proven" by changing the word "was" in Gen 1:2 to "became" by appealing to the "original Hebrew." Chalmers based his argument for a gap on the supposed mistranslation of the Hebrew word "hayah" in the KJB as "was." He insisted the word should be translated "became" so the verse would read "...became without form and void." But this is just typical Scripture wresting tactics. If the Bible doesn't say what you want, just force it to comply using Hebrew or Greek as an excuse.

Arthur C. Custance in his book "WITHOUT FORM AND VOID" spent several hundred pages quoting certain "ancient authorities" and Hebrew scholars trying to prove the King James Bible translated Genesis 1:2 wrong. In an attempt to get the Bible to line up with "modern geologic theory" he says the verse should be rendered, "but the earth had become a ruin and a desolation." Yet in spite of all his words he can only say, 

" is my conviction that the issue ['was' should be 'became'] is still an open one, that all the objections raised against it thus far are not really valid, that the rules of Hebrew syntax and grammar not only allow this alternative rendering but positively favour it."

Even though he believes Hebrew syntax and grammar favors his reading, he admits he can prove nothing and the matter is "open." This is often the way Bible correctors work; even though they cannot prove their claims, they often do succeed in introducing doubt.

Regardless of the contentions of Chalmers, Custance, and other Bible correctors, not one English Bible translation of any significance agrees with them. Essentially all the modern translations read with the KJB and earlier translations translating "hayah" as "was." This includes the ASV, ESV, NIV, RSV, HCSB, NASB, WEB, NLT, ISV, etc., etc. So despite all their many words and arguments, essentially no Bible translator or translating committee agrees with them.

Another appeal to Hebrew is often made in the same verse dealing with the words "without form and void." These Hebrew words "tohu vabohu" are said to imply a previous judgment or destruction. Even Dr. Ruckman makes this claim in his Genesis commentary,

The Hebrew verb reads “tohu vabohu” and implies a previous catastrophe and then a “remaking.”

Is Dr. Ruckman claiming the Hebrew verb reveals more than its English translation? Evidently because the English words "without form and void" do not suggest in ant way a catastrophe or remaking. They simply state something is formless and empty.

Note: Dr. Ruckman wrote his Genesis commentary in the late 1950s and published it around 1970. The statement he made above about the Hebrew verb is not likely a statement he would have made later in his ministry. His previous statement in chapter 1 where he said there is no explanation of a gap in Genesis 1:1-2 text indicates this.

Furthermore, the words "without form and void" are not to be taken in an absolute sense. If something exists it has a basic form even if it's not its final form.

What Does "Without Form and Void" Really Mean?

The Gap Theorists base a lot of their claims on their peculiar reading of Gen 1:2 where is says, "...the earth was without form, and void...." They simply cannot fathom why the earth was "without form and void" without some vast destruction making it that way. Before they were exposed to the Genesis Gap idea they read Genesis chapter 1 as a clear narrative of God creating the "heaven and the earth," but once they hear of the Genesis Gap theory and put their Genesis Gap Goggles on, Genesis 1 takes on a whole new "meaning."

To a typical reader of the Bible, saying the earth was "without form" simply means it has not been formed yet. That is the obvious reading, but to the Gappers there must have been a "whole world" of trouble between verses 1 and 2 to cause it to be "without form." They emphasize the negative aspects of the verse while ignoring its overall positive thrust. They see the components of formlessness, voidness, and darkness while ignoring the fact that before God created any of it there was nothing! The thrust and emphasis of the verse is God is starting to create, which is very positive. Plus, the Spirit of God being anywhere is a good thing.

What does it mean to "form" something and to say it is "without form"? Let's look at something else God formed—Adam.

Adam and His Garden

Genesis 2:7 says,

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

So the Lord "formed" Adam from the ground. Where was Adam before he was formed? No where and everywhere. The physical components he was formed from were in the ground, thus when he was "without form" he didn't exist. Also, even after it was "formed," Adam's body was "void" of life until the breath of life was placed in him. Thus God brought Adam about in a process of at least two stages.

Moreover, keep in mind Gen 1:26-27 states the Lord said He was going to create or form "man" before He actually did it.

Another event concerning Adam deals with the garden of Eden. Gen 2:8 says, "And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden..." then in vs 2:15 it says,

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

To "dress" a garden means to "put in good order; to prepare for render suitable for an intended purpose" (Web 1913) . Thus when the Lord planted the garden He didn't make it a complete or finished state (see Deut 28:39). Adam had to dress it and put it in order and then afterwards "keep it" that way so it would grow and produce. The Lord started the planting and forming, and then Adam was to finish it.

The obvious implication of this is if Adam was told to dress or put the garden in order, the Lord must have planted and created it NOT completely dressed or in complete order! It was in that sense not in complete form. Thus before we get through the first two chapters of Genesis the Lord gives us two examples of Him creating via a process (Adam) and creating something not yet completely formed (garden).

The Unformed Earth

Likewise, as with the forming of Adam and Eden "the earth," being formless in Gen 1:2 does not have to mean it was rendered that way because of judgment. Furthermore, actual earth or land didn't exist until God formed it as it popped out from under the waters in Gen 1:9!

Here we need to explain a little about the "presuppositions" people bring with them when studying the Bible. One big presupposition, especially when studying natural things concerning the earth and universe, is people come to Genesis thinking it presents "the earth" as a planet or globe. The Bible never describes the earth in this way. When people today think of the earth, they think of a spinning planet within a vast universe surrounded by the sun, moon, other planets, and stars (well, most think of it this way). Again, the Bible never presents the earth and the heavens this way at all. For more on this see our book (King James Cosmology). 

In the Bible the earth and heaven(s) are distinctly separate. The earth is never said to be in the sky, heaven(s), or surrounded by them like we now understand the universe surrounding a planet. The heavens are always spoken of as ABOVE the earth (Gen 1:20, 23:39; Exo 20:4; Act 2:16; etc.) and separate from it.

Here you may ask, "Is not the earth a planet that IS surrounded by the universe?" Yes, it is, but you didn't learn that from the Bible. You (mankind) learned that by the progressive revelation of nature to man (Psa 19:1). God did not let that truth be fully known until just a few hundred years ago, and He let Japeth find it. Not the Hebrews from Shem.

The Bible tells us what it means when it says "earth" in Genesis 1:9 —"dry land."

When the Scriptures says "the earth" was "without form," it means just that, it doesn't exist yet as earth much the same as Adam didn't exist before he was formed! Just as Adam was called "man" (Heb. adam) before he was formed (Gen 1:26), the earth is called "earth" before it was formed. The components the earth was to be made from may have been under the "waters" of 1:2, mixed in the water as a slurry, or they may have been actually created as it was emerging from the water, but which ever way, it did not yet exist.

This is little different from someone talking about "My new house" while the components of the house are sitting at the building site in a pile not yet formed or assembled into a home. The same with someone saying "My birthday cake" while it is still unformed liquid batter in a bowl. They could correctly say their house or cake was "without form" or unfinished.

Genesis chapter 1 defines its own terms and it defines "earth" in vs 9-10,

    9, And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
    10, And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

All is clear. "Earth" first appeared in vs 9 and was named such in vs 10. It is not a "planet earth" surrounded by a universe; it is a landmass.

The primary definition of "earth" in any standard dictionary agrees with the Scripture definition; it is "soil," "ground," or "areas of land as distinguished from sea and air" (Merriam/Webster), and since none of these existed until Gen 1:9, there was no tangible "earth" until then. Insisting the Bible speaks of the earth as a planet only confuses the matter.

An Empty Void

Concerning the earth being "void" in Genesis 1:2, what should one expect before anything is created to fill it? That is self-evident; it would naturally be void. Yes, the Lord could have spoken it all into existence in an instant, but as we mentioned above He chose to create it in stages as a process like He later did with Adam. Adam was actually a sub-process of the sixth day of the creation week. He simply created water first (without mentioning it), then heaven, and then earth. 

At this point Gap Theorists often interject that there are other gaps in the Scriptures that are unseen until more revelation reveals them. Daniel 9:24-27 and Isaiah 61:1-2 are used as examples where both comings of Christ are mentioned. The difference is in those cases Scripture has made it very clear that Jesus Christ will return. These passages have first and second coming elements mingled together, and we know Christ will return to fulfill the yet unfulfilled parts. On the contrary, the Genesis Gap Theory is by no means clearly revealed in Scripture. We can show you many clear references to Christ's second coming, but the references the Gap Theorists produce for their Gap are as clear as mud.

As for true Bible gaps, the Scriptures most often identify them their self as in Genesis 38:12, Exodus 2:23, Judges 11:4, and 2 Chronicles 21:19.

Is It "Create," "Made," or "Formed"

Some Gap Theorists make a big deal of two or three Bible terms used when God creates or makes something. They insist "create" speaks of only an "ex nihilo" creation out of nothing and "made," "make" or "form" speaks of making something from something already existing. Some claim this is one of the strongest evidences for the Gap Theory. (This already sounds similar to the false "Greek Nugget" argument between "Agapao" (deep, godly love) and "phileo" (friendly love), some get into in John 21:15-17.)

The Gap Theorists feel compelled to say the terms are distinctly different because Exodus 20:11 just ruins their day without it (also Exo 31:17),

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:

Here the Lord is speaking Himself (while giving the ten commandments) clearly stating He made everything in six days. This is a doctrinal statement within a doctrinal discourse. The Gap Theorists have to "clarify" the Lord's words, though, and insist He only remade the heaven and earth. They insist there is a distinction between "create" and "made." Thus God didn't really make the earth in six days as the verse states, He remade or reformed it from the rubble of a previous earth! What a mighty claim, but how does it stack up to examination?

While it is true that the words in question can have distinct meanings, they also are often used synonymously throughout the Scriptures. In fact "create" ("bara") is not always used to describe a creation from nothing. It is used in Isaiah 65:18 in reference to Jerusalem being merely restored; not to its original creation. That these words are used to express the same concept in regard to God creating  can be seen by comparing Genesis 1:1, which uses "create" with the following verses which use "made,"

Genesis 1:31; 2:2-4;
Exodus 20:11;
2 Kings 19:15;
2 Chronicles 2:12;
Nehemiah 9:6;
Psalms 33:6; 96:5; 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 136:5; 146:6;
Proverbs 8:26;
Ecclesiastes 3:11;
Isaiah 37:16; 44:24; 45:12, 18;
Jeremiah 10:12; 27:5; 32:17; 51:15

Obviously, the Gappers are making a false distinction. The two words can be used interchangeably when describing God creating. Genesis 1:16 states God only "made" the great lights in the sky (sun and moon) and stars. Did He not create them as well? In Gen 1:7 it says He "made" the "firmament." Apparently He didn't create it either according to the Gap Theorists.

Want more proof? Look at these verses where the Lord is said to "make," "create," and "form" man,

And God said, Let Us make [asah] man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26)

So God created [bara] man in His own image, in the image of God created [bara] He him; male and female created [bara] He them." (Genesis 1:27)

"And the LORD God formed [yatsar] man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

"... for I have created [bara] him for My glory, I have formed [yatsar] him; yea, I have made [asah] him." (Isaiah 43:6,7)

As we saw above the same can be said about animals, and it is also true of the whole heaven and earth,

"For thus saith the LORD that created [bara] the heavens; God himself that formed [yatsar] the earth and made [asah] it; he hath established it, he created [bara] it not in vain, he formed [yatsar] it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:18)

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made [asah]; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made [asah]. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made [bara and asah]. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created [bara], in the day that the LORD God made [asah] the earth and the heavens." (Genesis 2:2-4)

To put the final nail in the coffin of their silly claim, look at what Neh 9:6 does to it,

Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made [asah] heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.

See the "heaven of heavens" and "their host" in there? That is, the heaven above all heavens: the "third heaven" plus all the angels, cherubim, and other heavenly creatures that dwell there! The text says he "made" them, so to be consistent the Gap Theorists would have to claim God must have destroyed His own dwelling place in the third heaven with all its angels and creatures and then remade it all from existing material...but none of them believe that nonsense. The simple fact is "made" can also refer to an act of direct creation.

Enough said. The Gap Theorists create vs make claims are just so much "bunk."

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