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8.4 Gap Creationism

The “gap theory” acknowledges a vast age for the universe, including the Earth and solar system, while asserting that life was created recently in six 24-hour days by divine fiat. Genesis 1 is thus interpreted literally, with an indefinite “gap” of time inserted between the first two verses.

Gap creationism (also known as Ruin-Restoration creationism, Restoration creationism, or “The Gap Theory”), is a form of Old-Earth creationism that states that the six-day creation, as described in the Book of Genesis, involved literal 24-hour days, but that there was a gap of time between two distinct creations in the first and the second verses of Genesis. In this it differs from Day-Age creationism, which states that the ‘days’ of creation were much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years), and from Young Earth creationism, which although it agrees concerning the six literal 24-hour days of creation, does not admit any gap of time.

8.4.1 History

Gap creationism became attractive near the end of the eighteenth century and first half of the nineteenth century, because geology had determined that the Earth was far older than a literal interpretation of Genesis and the Bible-based Flood geology would allow. Gap creation allowed religious geologists (who comprised the majority of the geological community at the time) to reconcile their faith in the Bible with the new authority of science.

Gap creationism gained widespread attention when a “second creative act” was discussed prominently in the reference notes for Genesis in the influential 1917 Scofield Reference Bible.

8.4.2 Interpretation of Genesis

Gap creationists believe that science has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Earth is far older than can be accounted for by adding up the ages of Biblical patriarchs and comparing it with secular historical data, as James Ussher famously attempted in the 17th century when he developed the Ussher chronology.

To maintain that the Genesis creation account is inerrant in matters of scientific fact, Gap creationists suppose that certain facts about the past and the age of the Earth have been omitted from the Genesis account; specifically that there was a gap of time in the Biblical account that lasted an unknown number of years between a first creation in Genesis 1:1 and a second creation in Genesis 1:2-31. By positing such an event, various observations in a wide range of fields, including the age of the Earth, the age of the universe, dinosaurs, fossils, ice cores, ice ages, and geological formations are allowed by adherents to have occurred as outlined by science without contradicting their literal belief in Genesis.

8.4.3 Biblical support

Because there is no specific information given in Genesis concerning the proposed gap of time, other scriptures are used to support and explain what may have occurred during this period and to explain the specific linguistic reasoning behind this interpretation of the Hebrew text. A short list of examples is given below:

  • The word “was” Genesis 1:2 is more accurately translated “became”. Such a word choice makes the gap interpretation quite easier to see in modern English.
  • God is perfect and everything he does is perfect, so a newly created earth from the hand of God shouldn’t have been without form and void and shrouded in darkness. Deuteronomy 32:4, Isaiah 45:18, 1 John 1:5
  • The Holy Spirit was “renewing” the face of the earth as he hovered over the face of the waters. Psalms 104:30
  • Angels already existed in a state of grace when God “laid the foundations of the Earth”, so there had been at least one creative act of God before the six days of Genesis. Job 38:4-7
  • Satan had fallen from grace “in the beginning” which, since the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, had to have occurred before the Fall of man. Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:11-19, John 8:44
  • In addition, space, time, water, and the rock which constitutes the main body of the earth existed before the period of six days began in Genesis 1:3.

8.4.4 Criticisms

Most YEC organizations reject the gap theory, and say it is unscriptural, unscientific, and not necessary as the entire universe is only thousands of years old.