Remember my preference


Table of Contents



  Chapter  1
  Chapter  2
  Chapter  3
  Chapter  4
  Chapter  5
  Chapter  6

  Appendix I
  Appendix II
  Appendix III
  Appendix IV
  Appendix V
  Appendix VI
  Appendix VII
  Appendix VIII
  Appendix IX
  Appendix X
  Appendix XI
  Appendix XII
  Appendix XIII
  Appendix XIV
  Appendix XV
  Appendix XVI
  Appendix XVII
  Appendix XVIII
  Appendix XIX
  Appendix XX
  Appendix XXI

  Biblical References

General Bibliography

                             Chapter 1.


It is a rare thing nowadays to find in a scholarly work on Genesis

any acknowledgment of the fact that there is evidence of a discontinuity

between the first two verses of Chapter One and that this was ever

recognized by commentators until modern Geology arose to challenge

the Mosaic cosmogony.

The usual view is that when geologists "proved" the earth to

be billions of year sold, conservative biblical students suddenly dis-

covered a way of salvaging the Mosaic account by introducing a gap

of unknown duration between these two verses.   This is supposed

to have solved the problem of time by an expeditious interpretation

previously unrecognized. This convenient little device was attrib-

uted by many to Chalmers of the middle of the last century, and

popularized among "fundamentalists" by Scofield in the first quarter

of the present century. Both the impetus which brought it to general

notice and the company it kept in its heyday combined to make it

doubly suspected among conservative scholars and totally ignored by

liberal ones.

However, D. F. Payne of the University of Sheffield, England, in



pg 1 of 31       


a paper published recently by Tyndale Press entitled. Genesis One

Reconsidered, makes this brief aside at the appropriate place: "The

'gap' theory itself, as a matter of exegesis, antedated (my emphasis)

the scientific challenge, but the latter gave it a new impetus". Grant-

ed then that the view did antedate the modern geological challenge, by

how long did it do so?   Just how far back can one trace this now

rather unpopular view and how explicit are the earlier references?

And on what grounds was it held prior to the general acceptance of

the views of Laplace, Hutton, and Lyell?   If its antecedence can

be established with any certainty, one then has to find some other

reason than the threat of Geology for its having arisen.

The view was undoubtedly held by early commentators without any

evidence that it was being presented as an "answer" to some suspected

challenge to the veracity of Scripture. It must therefore have arisen

either because a careful study of the original text of Scripture itself

had given intimations of it, or perhaps due to some ancient tradition

about the after-effects of the catastrophe itself, such after-effects as

might well have been observed by early man before the new order

had effectively buried the evidences of the old.      For man must

have been created soon enough after the event to observe at least

some of the evidence which time has since eroded away.   There

          is evidence of a tremendous and comparatively recent geological

catastrophe still to be observed even today in certain parts of the

world.    There are numerous instances of mammoths and other

animals which were by some agency killed en masse and instantly

buried together, the preyed upon with the predator, while apparently

still in the prime of life.   Such animal cemeteries have frequently

been reported in northern latitudes: in Siberia, for example.  And

similar indications may well have existed in former years in much

lower latitudes where early man could have come across them and

pondered their meaning. Such evidences of destruction, even if it

occurred before the creation of Man, must surely have set men's

minds to wondering what had been the cause.   There is no reason

to suppose that early man was any less observant than his modern

descendants, or any less curious about the cause of such mass des-

truction of living forms.

At any rate, here in broad outline is the situation in so far as

ancient and modern literature reflects some knowledge of such an

event. This outline will be explored in detail subsequently - but a

summary review may help to establish the general picture. And it

will show that it is indeed a long-held view.

We are in no position at present to determine precisely how the


     pg.2 of 31      

          Jewish commentators made the discovery, but their early literature

(the Midrash for example) reveals that they had some intimation of

an early pre-Adamic catastrophe affecting the whole earth.   Sim-

ilarly, clear evidence appears in the oldest extant Version of the

Hebrew Scriptures (the Targum of 0nkelos)and some intimation may

be seen in the "punctuation marks" of the Massoretic text of Genesis

Chapter One.    Early Jewish writers subsequently built up some

abstruse arguments about God's dealings with Israel on the basis of

this belief and it would seem that Paul in his Epistle to the Corinth-

ians is at one point making indirect reference to this traditional


A few of the early Church Fathers accepted this interpretation and

based some of their doctrines upon it. It is true that both they and

their Jewish antecedents used arguments which to us seem at times

to have no force whatever, but this is not the issue. The truth is,

as we shall see, that the idea of a once ordered world having been

brought to ruin as a consequence of divine judgment just prior to the

creation of Adam, was apparently quite widespread.   It was not

debated: it was merely held by some and not by others. Those who

held it referred to it and built up arguments upon it without apparently

feeling the need to apologize for believing as they did, nor for ex-

plaining the grounds for their faith.

During succeeding centuries not a few scholars kept the view alive,

and medieval scholars wrote about it at some length - often using

phraseology which gives their work a remarkably modern ring.

The Book of Jasher, Alcuin's version, seems clearly to assume

it - even though the document itself has a questionable pedigree. It

certainly antedates modern Geology in any case.

And for the past two hundred years many translators and comment-

ators have maintained the view and elaborated upon it at length.

In short, it is not a recent interpretation of the text of Gen. 1.1 and

1.2, but an ancient one long antedating modern geological views.

Indeed - it could be as old as the writing of Gen. 1.2 itself!   Some

of the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian fragments that, when pieced

together, give us a general view of their cosmogony, seem to lend

support to it as a very ancient belief. It is perfectly true that these

epics and legends are full of fantasy and absurdity if read at their

face value - but it is not absolutely certain that the writers themselves

intended them to be taken precisely at face value. It may have been

for teaching purposes. The use of animation as a mnemonic aid is

recognized widely today, and scientific textbooks for schools and

colleges adopt this technique of teaching without requiring us to


     pg.3 of 31      


believe, for example, that metallic elements do actually "marry"!

Such a simile is employed in metallurgical literature because it aptly

conveys what seems to be happening when one metal unites with

another. The Sumerians and Babylonians may have animated their

cosmogonies for the same reason, while they themselves actually

held much more down-to-earth views on the matter. We should not

assume that their thinking was altogether childish.   At any rate,

there are evidences in these ancient texts that they looked upon the

earth's very early history as having been one in which things had in

some way and at one particular point in time "gone wrong".   And

this sense of catastrophe is not limited to a recollection of the Fall

of man.   It seems to refer to something prior to it.   It was on a

cosmic scale. Since there are reverberations of these catastrophic

events even as far away as China, it is possible that the earliest

writers had knowledge of things which we now discern only very dimly

if at all, and that this knowledge was generally shared by mankind

prior to the dispersion of Genesis 11.    See Appendix XXI.

It is surprising that this almost unbroken thread of testimony to a

view that is now widely held to be of recent origin should have been

consistently ignored or unrecognized for so long. Admittedly it is

at times evanescent and occasionally ambiguous, and admittedly the

fanciful methods of interpreting Scripture adopted by the Jewish

Commentators and often emulated by the early Church Fathers do not

exactly encourage one to seek for solid factual information in their

writings, yet at other times they are quite explicit in their present-

ations. At any rate, whatever use or abuse they may have made of

the information they had, there can really be no doubt that they DID

have information of this sort, and this information seems never to

have been entirely lost sight of from New Testament times to the


It is worth exploring all the strands we have, for in one way or

another they each tend to contribute light to the total picture. Yet

it must be emphasized once again, after saying all this, that while it

is valuable to be able to correct a false impression about the antiquity

of this view, it really proves nothing about the correctness or other-

wise of the view espoused.   The only way this can be done is by a

study of the text itself.... which is undertaken in the chapters which

follow: the present objective is a lesser one, a historical sketch.

Now after or during the Babylonian Captivity, the Jewish people

gradually accumulated the comments and explanations of their best

known teachers about the Old Testament for some 1500 years - or well

on into the Christian era.   This body of traditional teaching was


     pg.4 of 31      

gathered together into the Midrash which thus became the oldest pre-

Christian exposition of the Old Testament. It was already the basis

of rabbinical teaching in the time of our Lord and must have been quite

familiar to Paul.

According to the Revised Edition of Chambers's Encyclopedia

published in 1860, under the heading "Genesis", the view which was

then being popularized by Buckland and others to the effect that an

interval of unknown duration was to be interposed between Gen. 1.1

and 1.2 was already to be found in the Midrash. In his great work,

The Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginsberg has put into continuous

narrative a precis of their legends, as far as possible in the original

phrase sand terms. In Volume 1 which covers the period from the

Creation to Jacob, he has this excerpt on Genesis 1:

"Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things

earthly created by God.   He made several other worlds

before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was

pleased with none until He created ours."

Clearly this reflects the tradition under lying the translation which

appears in the Targum of Onkelos to be noted below.

Furthermore, in the Massoretic Text in which the Jewish scholars

tried to incorporate enough "indicators" to guide the reader as to

correct punctuation there is one small mark which is technically

known as Rebhia which is classified as a "disjunctive accent" in-

tended to notify the reader that he should pause before proceeding to

the next verse. In short, this mark indicates a "break" in the text.

Such a mark appears at the end of Genesis 1.1.  This mark has been

noted by several scholars including Luther.   It is one indication

among others, that the initial waw ) which introduces verse 2

should be rendered "but" rather than "and", a dis-junctive rather

than a con-junctive.

Another piece of substantiating evidence is to be found in the

Targum of Onkelos, the earliest of the Aramaic Versions of the Old

Testament written by Hebrew Scholars. According to the Babylonian

Talmud, Onkelos was a proselyte, the son of a man named Calonicas,

and although he was the composer of the Targum which bears his

name, he is held actually to have received it from Rabbi Eliezer and

Rabbi Yehoshua, both of whom lived towards the end of the first and

the beginning of the second century A.D.   However, since in the

Jerusalem Talmud the very same thing is related by the same auth-

orities (and almost in the same words) of the proselyte Aquila of


     pg.5 of 31      

Pontes, whose Greek version of the Bible was used by the Greek-

speaking Jews down to the time of Justinian, it is sometimes argued

that Onkelos is but another name for Aquila. Aquila Ponticus was a

relative of the Emperor Hadrian, living in the second century B.C.

Thus even if Onkelos is not yet completely identified, the Targum

attributed to him must still be placed early in the second century B .C.

As his translation into Aramaic of Gen.1.2, Onkelos has the following:

      w’aretsah hawath tsadh’ya.

In this passage, the verb   is compounded with the Aramaic

verb   which appears here as a passive participle of a verb

which itself means "to cut" or "to lay waste".   We have here,

therefore, a rendering "and the earth was laid waste", an interpret-

ation of the original Hebrew of Gen. 1.2 which leaves little room for

doubt that Onkelos understood this to mean that something had occurr-

ed between verse 1 and verse 2 to reduce the earth to this desolated

condition, It reflects Ginsberg's Jewish legend.

Akiba ben Joseph was an influential Jewish rabbi who was president

of the School Bene Barek near Saffa.   He laid the basis for the

Mishna.   When Barcochebas rebelled against the Romans, Akiba

joined him and was captured. He was executed in 135 A.D.  The

ancient work known as The Book of Light or Sefer Hazzohar,  some-

times simply Zohar was traditionally ascribed to one of Akiba's

disciples, a certain Simeon ben Jochai.   In this work, which thus

represents an opinion held towards the end of the first century and

the early part of the second, there is a comment on Gen. 2.4-6 which,

though difficult to follow, reads thus:

"These are the generations (ie., this is the history of....)

of heaven and earth.... Now wherever there is written the

word 'these' (  ) the previous words are put aside.

And these are the generations of the destruction which is

signified in verse 2 of chapter 1.   The earth was Tohu and

Bohu. These indeed are the worlds of which it is said that

the blessed God created them and destroyed them, and, on

that account, the earth was desolate and empty."

Here, then, we have a comment which in the time of our Lord

was held widely enough that Paul might very well have known about

it.  In which case we may better understand the background of his

words in writing to the Corinthians (II Cor. 4.6) where he said, "God


     pg.6 of 31      

Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined into

our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in

the face of Christ Jesus".

Now very few will deny that in this passage Paul is referring back

to Gen. 1.3, "And God said, Let there be light".   What is not ab-

solutely certain is how far one can press the analogy. Personally, I

believe it makes excellent sense to assume here that Paul had in mind

an interpretation of these first three verses of Genesis 1 which sees

the situation as a ruin about to be restored by God's creative power,

commencing with the giving of light where all was formerly darkness.

This is , after all, precisely the position that the unredeemed soul

is in. The analogy is most pointed and reasonable. And if we once

allow that this is what was in Paul's mind, then we must surely also

admit that Paul, speaking by inspiration, set his seal upon the truth

of the interpretation of Gen. 1.2 for which we are here contending;

and the more ancient tradition which lies behind the words of Akiba

and the rendering of Onkelos receive a measure of confirmation.

In his Rabbinical Commentary on Genesis, Paul Isaac Hershon

has this somewhat obscure quotation which reinforces Paul's analogy:

'"And the earth was desolate and void'.   The earth will

be desolate, for the shekinah will depart at the destruction

of the Temple, and hence it is said: 'And the Spirit of God

hovered upon the face of the water'; which intimates to us

that even although we be in exile (after the destruction of the

Temple) yet the Torah shall not depart from us; and there-

fore it is added: 'And God said. Let there be light'.   This

shows us that after the captivity God will again enlighten us,

and send us the Messiah....".

Admittedly, this mode of interpretation is strange to us, but there

is really no doubt what is intended.   The Promised Land with its

capital city epitomized by the Temple, was once the place of God's

Shekinah glory. But now it has been destroyed and made empty, as

Jer.4.24 f. predicted. Nevertheless, it was not destroyed perm-

anently , for the Spirit of God still hovers over the place of His former

'glory', though for the present it is destroyed and made empty. In

due time, just as God's Spirit hovered over the destroyed earth with

a promise of new life to come upon it, so will He restore the Land

and the Temple and renew His glory by the presence of His Messiah

Who shall come.

There is little question that the whole hope of restoration under-


     pg.7 of 31      

lying this passage from the rabbinical commentary is based on a view

of Genesis which sees in verse 3 a similar case of restoration after

judgment. And the belief that this restorative process began in the

first case with a command that the light shine out of the darkness, and

that this will again occur when a new Light shines unto Israel is surely

the Jewish background of Paul's words to the Christian believers

in Corinth.

I believe, moreover, that there may be one further evidence in

the New Testament of this view in (appropriately) the Epistle to the

Hebrews.   Here in Heb.11.3 the writer makes this significant

observation: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were

framed by the word of God". The significant thing about this state-

ment in the present context is that the word rendered 'framed' is the

Greek verb katartidzo  ) which although it is rendered 'to

perfect' in seven cases in the New Testament (Matt. 21.16; Lu. 6.40;

I Cor. 1.10; II Cor. l3.11; I Thess. 3.10; Heb. 13.21; and I Pet. 5.10),

is more strictly a word meaning 'to repair' or 'to restore'.   In

Matt. 4.21 and Mark 1.19 it is used of repairing or mending nets.

Liddell and Scott give the meaning in Classical Greek as 'adjust', or

'put in order again', or 'restore'. Even Young in his Concordance

at these references (above) where the word is rendered 'to perfect'

adds that its meaning is 'to fit thoroughly' or 'to adjust'.   And in

Classical Greek the word was used by Herodotus (5.106) to mean

'to put in order again', and (5.28) 'to settle by acting as mediator',

and so 'to reform'; while Polybius uses it of repairing a ship, or

setting a broken bone. Thayer says of its use in I Pet. 5.10 that it

has the meaning of 'making one what he ought to be'. This could, of

course, mean nothing more than the 'maturing' of the individual with

no necessary implication of a process of mending his ways. How-

ever, Thayer also adds at the same place, as an illustration of its

use in an ethical sense. Gal. 6.1 where it is used 'of those who have

been restored to harmony'. So that we understand by faith how the

worlds were restored and made fit for man by the Word of God.

Now, any one of these pointers taken alone might carry little

weight.   But put together they seem to require that we recognize

the real possibility that a view of Gen. 1.1 and 1.2 which many today

feel strained and improbable may in fact have been generally taken

for granted in our Lord's day and during the first century or so of the

present era. In no case does the view seem to have been 'defended',

and this could be either because it was so widely accepted - or because

it did not seem to have any great significance.    There are many

today who feel that this catastrophic event was a significant turning


     pg.8 of 31      

point in the thread of God's self-revelation and that this is reflected

in the recurrent New Testament phrase "since the foundation of the

world", a phrase which they believe should rather be rendered "since

the disruption of the world". I also, at one time, felt well satisfied

that this is a more correct translation, but I have come to feel that

the grounds for it are not altogether satisfactory from the linguistic

point of view. Since a good argument is not strengthened by a weak

link, I have not appealed to this possibility as part of the 'evidence’,

but careful consideration of some of the pros and cons will be found

in Appendix XIX.

In any case, the view was never thereafter entirely lost, even

though it was sometimes presented only in the form of an opinion that

such a gap did exist, a time interval of unknown duration between the

initial creation and the work of the six days which began in verse 3.

Origen, for example, who lived from 186 to about 254 A.D., and

to whom the original languages of the Bible were very familiar, has

this to say in his great work, De Principiis, at Gen. 1.1:

"It is certain that the present firmament is not spoken of

in this verse, nor the present dry land, but rather that heaven

and earth from which this present heaven and earth that we

now see afterwards borrowed their names."

And that he saw verse 2 as a description of a "casting down" of the

original is borne out quite clearly by his subsequent observation that

the condition resulted from a "disruption" which is best described, he

suggests, by the Latin verb dejicere, ‘to throw down’.

In the course of time, attempts were made - not unnaturally - to

fill in the details of the event which led up to the devastation described.

Since all such effects were presumed to be moral judgments and since

man had not yet been created, the angels were blamed. Somewhere

around 650 A.D. , the English poet Caedmon (who died about 680)

wrote about Genesis and the creation, and presented the view that

man had really been introduced in order to replace the angels which

had conducted their dominion over the earth so ruinously.   Fallen

angels were responsible for the catastrophe.   Whether the poems

attributed to Caedmon were really his is a moot point, but someone

in the seventh century knew about this tradition. According to Bede,

these poems we re supposed to have resulted from a dream in which

an angel told Caedmon to sing and write about the Creation.   This

he finally did, though at first reluctantly, producing works dealing

with the creation of the world, the origin of man, and the whole history


     pg.9 of 31      

of Genesis.   All the 'poems' or songs thus attributed to Caedmon

were first published by Francis Junius in 1665 from a manuscript

now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. At present of the whole series

on Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan, it is generally

conceded that only the one on Genesis is really Caedmon's work, and

even this has perhaps been transmitted to us in an interpolated and

modified form. At any rate, the basic idea regarding the destruction

of the old world seems to have been known to him, and subsequent

modifications of his original text do not alter the fact that in Bede's

time (674 - 735 A.D.) this view was known and discussed whether by

Caedmon him self or by those who took it upon themselves to modify

his works.    The earliest manuscript we now have is of the 10th

century and it gives no indication (by signature) of its authorship, but

the substance of it agrees well with what is attributed to Caedmon.

This work, which is a commentary on the first 22 chapters of

Genesis with one small missing segment near the beginning, was

written in verse but is rendered as prose by Mason in his translation.

Caedmon is not as specific as one would wish but his view in brief is

that the created order which preceded the present heaven (and earth ?)

system was ruled over by Angels.   In his own words:

"These angelic hosts were wont to feel joy and rapture,

transcendent bliss in the presence of their creator; then their

beautitude was measureless. Glorious ministers magnified

their Lord, spoke his praise with zeal, lauded the Master of

their being, and were excellently happy in the majesty of God.

They had no knowledge of working evil or wickedness, but

dwelt in innocence forever with their Lord; from the beginning

they wrought in heaven nothing but righteousness and truth,

until a Prince of Angels through pride strayed into sin: then

they would consult their own advantage no longer, but turned

away from God's loving kindness.

"They had vast arrogance in that by the might of their

multitudes they sought to wrest from the Lord the celestial

mansions. Then there fell upon them, grievously, the envy,

presumption, and pride of the Angel who first began to carry

out the evil plot, to weave it and promote it, when he boasted

byword - as he thirsted for conflict - that he wished to own

the home and high throne of the heavenly kingdom of the north".

So the Lord cast them "that had committed a dire sin" (line 46)

into a specially created "joyless house of punishment", banishing


     pg.10 of 31      

them from heaven (line 68). "Then, as formerly, true peace existed

(once more) in heaven, fair amity: for the Lord was dear to all, the

Sovereign to his servants" (line 79 and 80).   But the 'heavenly seats'

of these rebellious creatures were now vacant. So (line 92 f.):

"Our Lord bethought him, in meditative mood how he might

again people, with a better race, his high creation, the noble

seats and glory crowned abodes which the haughty rebels had

left vacant high in heaven. Therefore Holy God willed by his

plenteous power that under the circle of the firmament of the

earth should be established with sky above and wide water, a

world-creation (ie., as opposed to a heavenly one) in a place

of the foes whom in their apostasy he hurled from bliss".

The poet then describes how "this broad earth stood.... idle and

useless, alien even to God himself" (line 105) until God looked upon it

in its joylessness and darkness, and then "created heaven and earth"

(line 114). It is thus not too easy to see how he views these events

in their precise temporal relationship, for he first describes how

this "broad earth" existed in its uselessness and then some ten lines

later he describes God's remedial action in creating not merely

heaven but earth also. Perhaps he really means creating order on

the earth rather than actually creating the globe itself.

At any rate, there existed an order of created beings prior to all

this who, though living in heaven, had failed to fulfill their appointed

role in the economy of God.   And then there existed an earth in

shrouded darkness and in a chaotic state which God later turned into

a habitation for an order of created beings destined to replace the

fallen angels. Admittedly not a very clear account, but at least one

which makes it apparent that a created order existed long before

Day One of the Creation Week.

The purpose of the ordering of this alienated world was to provide

a home for this new race. But whether the earth's "state of alien-

ation" from God (as Caedmon evidently views Gen. 1.1 and 2) was in

any way the direct consequence of the fall of the Angels, he does not

make clear.   Perhaps he thought it was obvious.

According to Erich Sauer, King Edgar of England (943-975)

adopted the same view. This man was an unusually gifted individual

and it was largely due to his enthusiastic co-operation with Dunstan,

the then Archbishop of Canterbury, that Monasticism was revived in

England.   The evils which in time arose from these institutions

should not allow us to overlook the fact that in an age which was indeed


     pg.11 of 31      

dark they kept alive and carried over from antiquity the learning and

lore which in due time became the starting point for the Renaissance.

It was certainly in part due to the learning which this king himself

evidently enjoyed that royal patronage was so gladly given to the

revival of the only schools known to that age.   I have no precise

information on what he actually said on the present issue, but evident-

ly his opinion was shared quite widely by his contemporaries.

Hugo St. Victor (1097-1141) was a Flemish scholar and a member

of the Augustinian Monastery of St. Victor and later Prior of the

monastery in Paris.   He wrote:

"Fortassis jam satis est de his hactenus dis-

putasse, si hoc solum adjecerimus quanto tempore

mundus in hac confusione, priusquam ejus dispositio

inchoaretur, perstiterit.     Nam quod illa priam

rerum omnum materia, in principio tempros vel potius

cum ipso tempore exorta sit, constat ex eo quod dictum

est:   in principio creavit Deus coelum et terram.

Quandiu autem in hac informitate sine confusione

permanserit, scriptura manifeste non ostendit."



ie.   "Perhaps enough has already been debated about these

matters thus far, if we add only this, 'how long did the world

remain in this disorder before the regular re-ordering (dis-

positio) of it was taken in hand? For the fact that the first

substance of all things arose at the very beginning of time - or

rather, with time itself - is settled by the statement that, 'In

the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'.  But

how long it continued in this state of confusion. Scripture does

not clearly show".

In this remark Hugo is certainly not saying, specifically, that he

sees the disordered state of the world in Gen. 1.2 as the result of a

catastrophe of some kind. He could mean merely that it began this

way and, as here visualized, was only awaiting the ordering hand of

God to make it into a Cosmos. What is, I think, quite clear is that

he did not equate the work of the first day with the act of creation.

A period of time of unknown duration intervened between Gen. 1.1 and

1.2. This is all he intends: but it is this admission which we wish

to underscore.

Two centuries later, Thomas Aquinas (1226 -1274) reiterated this

view when he wrote:


     pg.12 of 31    

Sed melior videtur dicendum quod creatio fuerit

aute omnen diem...

ie.   "but it seems better to maintain (the view) that the creat-

ion was prior to any of the days (literally, before any day)."


St. Thomas evidently considered that the first day was not to be

equated with the time of creation itself. This first day came later:

he does not suggest how much later.

In somewhat indefinite statements like this, only one thing stands

out clearly.   The writers would not have agreed with Ussher that

Creation occurred 4000 B.C.    They might very probably have

assented to his chronology as applied to the creation of Adam but

they would have set the creation of the Universe (the heavens and the

earth) further back in time by some unstated amount. Gen. 1.2 does

NOT represent the condition of things immediately after the initial

creation.... but some time later. None of these writers ventured

to suggest just how long the interval had been. The idea of an earth

so old that the period of man's history pales into insignificance when

viewed merely in chronological terms was probably not in their

thoughts. One has the impression rather that they saw this interval

merely as an interval.... not as a period perhaps vastly greater than

all the time that has elapsed since.   My point here is merely to

emphasize that we cannot make any more of these witnesses than to

say that they did believe there was a break in the creative processes

between Gen .1.1 and 1.2. They may have seen it as of quite a short


At any rate, it is clear that the creative process did not proceed

smoothly and unbrokenly from Gen. 1.1 to Adam. With the passage

of time, the question of a discontinuity became crystallized more

concretely and was discussed in greater detail.    Thus Dionysius

Petaviua (1583-1652), A French Roman Catholic Jesuit Theologian

who was first Professor of Philosophy at Bourges and later Professor

of Theology at Paris, wrote:

"Quod intervallum quantum fuerit, nulla divinatio

posset assequi.     Neque vero mundi corpora illa,

quae prima omnium extitisse docui, aquam et terram,

arbitror eodem, in quem lucis ortus incidit fabricata

esse die; ut quibusdam placet, haud satis firma


ie., "The question of  'How great an interval there was ', it


     pg.13 of 31      


is not possible except by inspiration to attain knowledge of.

Nor, indeed, do I judge those basic components of earth and

water, which I have taught originated first of all, to have been

fabricated the same day on which had occurred the appearance

of day light, as it pleases certain persons (to believe), but by

no means with sound enough reason."

That is to say, Petavius did not agree with some who asserted,

without sufficient reason, that the basic elements out of which land

and water were later made came into being on the same day that the

land and water themselves actually did. These basic elements were

made long before the actual creation of water and land, though no man

can know how long ago apart from revelation, and that revelation is

not to be found in Scripture.

And even more specific was the most learned of all medieval

commentator son Genesis, Pererius (1535 - 1610) who wrote:

"Licet ante primum diem, coelum et elementa

facta sint secundum substantiam, tamen non fuerit

perfecta et omnino consummata, nisi spatio ittorum

sex dierum:   tunc enim datus est illis omatus,

comptementum, et perfectio.   Quanto autem tempore

status ille mundi tenebrosus duraverit, hoc est,

utrum plus an minus quam unus dies continere solet,

nec mihi compertum est, nec opinor cuiquam mortalium

nisi cui divinitus id esse patefactum.”

ie. , "Even though before the first day, the heavens and the

elements were made subsequent to the substance (ie. , basic

essence of creative activity) nevertheless they were not per-

fected and completely furnished until the period of the six

days: for then was given to them (their) furnishing, (their)

fulfillment (filling up), and (their) completion.   However,

just how long that darkened state of the world lasted, ie.,

whether it lasted more than one day or less than one day, this

is not clear to me, nor (I hold) is it clear to any other mortal

man unless to one to whom it has been divinely made so."

This statement, suffering as it does to modern eyes from the

complexity of sentence structure characteristic of the age in which

it was written, nevertheless once more confirms the view stated by

others quoted above that before the six days began and after the initial


     pg.14 of 31      

substance of the world had been created, an interval of time of

unknown duration intervened-during which the world was in a dark-

ened state.   It would appear that by this time the view of such a

darkened world as being also a destroyed world was beginning to be

lost sight of, the poet Caedmon being the last writer, as far as I have

been able to discover, who viewed the situation in the light of a divine

judgment upon a previously ordered system. Yet this concept was not

entirely lost, for in due time we begin to meet it once again in more

and more specific terms, especially by Roman Catholic scholars on

the Continent.

According to Bernard Ramm, the subject received its first scient-

ific treatment by J. G. Rosenmuller (1736- 1815) in his Antiquissima

Tellures Historica published in 1776, a treatise which formed the

basis of the theological works of Bohme. At any rate, it seems to

have been sufficiently broadly recognized to influence Alcuin in his

edition of The Book of Jasher which although it may very well be a

forgery was at least issued somewhere towards the end of the 18th

century.   Alcuin renders the counterpart of Gen. 1.2 (which in his

version appears, however, as verse 5) as follows: "So that the face

of nature was formed a second time".   From 1763 to 1781, the

Orientals Scholar and Biblical Critic, Professor Johann August Dathe

of Leipzig published his great six-volume work on the Books of the

Old Testament and he translated Gen. 1.2; "Afterwards the earth

became (facta erat) a waste and a desolation".  He comments on

this passage as follows:

"Vau ante  non potest verti per ET, nam

refertur ad vs.1 ubi narratum fuit, terram acque

coelum a Deo esse oreatam.    Jam pergit vs.2 de

terram eam incertum quo tempore, insignam subiisse

mutationem.   Igitur vau per postea et expticandum,

uti saepe: eg. Num. 5.23 et Deut. 1.19."

ie., "Waw  ) before 'the earth' cannot be translated 'AND',

for it would then refer back to verse 1, where the narrative

has 'the earth and heaven were created by God'.  Whereas

verse 2 proceeds to tell how that the earth, at some uncertain

time, had undergone some remarkable change.  Therefore

waw stands for 'afterwards' and is so to be interpreted, as

it so often is - for example in Num. 5.23 and Deut. 1.19".

In these two passages there are two clauses which begin with waw


     pg.15 of 31      

and they are translated "and.... and...." in the English.   But as

Dathe quite properly observes, the second might more sensibly have

been rendered ".... then afterwards....".

And so with this long thread of continuous reference to and recog-

nition of the special relationship between Gen. 1.1 and 1.2, we finally

arrive at the period when modern Geology began to formulate those

principles of interpretation of the earth's past history which so ser-

iously challenged the more confined (though possibly unnecessary)

limits imposed upon biblical chronology by Ussher and many others.

And this challenge, far from calling forth an otherwise unknown

interpretation of Genesis as an emergency measure, had rather the

effect of suddenly casting this ancient view into a new light and making

manifest its great significance. I do not think it would be altogether

incorrect to state that this is in reality just one more instance where

the Bible has again shown itself to be ahead of the times - even where

the original writers may not have been aware of the ultimate signifi-

cance of their own words. Only inspiration could account for such

a circumstance.

In 1785, James Hutton (1726 - 1797) published in Edinburgh his

Theory of the Earth, in which the issue as to the real age of the

earth was spelled out in such a way as to make the matter clearly

one of "scientific knowledge based on strict observation" and not

merely a philosophical treatise. It marked the beginning of a war

between chronologists, the secular and the biblical, between those

who were demanding enormous periods of time of inconceivable mag-

nitude and those who, assuming that the first of the creative days

also marked the origin of the earth, held the process to have occupied

a few thousand years at most.

Inevitably, the conservatives saw the issue as fundamental to the

whole structure of faith and were ready to give battle at once in defence

of their interpretation of Scripture. But there were some who, being

aware of the "long-held view" which we have traced thus far, suddenly

perceived that there really need be no conflict at all.

One of the first of these, perhaps not unnaturally, was a country-

man of Hutton's, a clergyman named Dr. Thomas Chalmers of the

Scottish Church engaged in lecturing at St. Andrews, a man keenly

interested in the developing sciences of his day, particularly in

connection with various earths of importance to the chemist.   In

1804 he wrote:

"There is a prejudice against the speculations of the geol-

ogist, which I am anxious to remove.   It has been alleged


     pg.16 of 31      

that geology, by referring the origin of the globe to a higher

antiquity than is assigned to it by the writings of Moses,

undermines our faith in the inspiration of the Bible, and in

all the animating prospects of the immortality which it unfolds.

This is a false alarm.  The writings of Moses do not fix the

antiquity of the globe."

Ten years later, in 1814, Dr. Chalmers produced his more elab-

orate scheme of reconciliation between the Divine and the geologic

records in an Examination of Cuvier's Theory of the Earth. This

paper presented the view that between the first act of creation which

evoked out of the previous nothing the matter of the heavens and earth,

and the first act of the first day's work recorded in Genesis, periods

of vast duration may have intervened.   He held that though in the

previous period the earth may have been "a fair residence of life", it

had be come a desolation: and that although the sun, moon, and stars

continued their existence, "in relation to our planet" their light had

somehow become obscured.

Thus was initiated a trend in certain Christian quarters which

increasingly laid emphasis on what is now so often disparagingly

referred to as the "Gap Theory".   In an age when men were more

concerned than they are today about the importance of confidence in

Scripture as the true basis for Christian morality, it is not unnatural

that a view of such respectable antiquity should at once be seized

upon and explored to the fullest. British and Continental scholars

studied the question with a keenness and thoroughness it had never

received before.    Exegetical and linguistic grounds pro and con

were explored and argued at great length.   And some of the very

best Hebrew scholars of the day not merely accepted it as probable

but elaborated upon it, delving not only into the "fact" itself, but into

its causes both physical and spiritual.

The most famous of these early protagonists in England was per-

haps Dr. William Buckland who in 1836 contributed a paper in the

Bridgewater Treatises.   Here in summary is his view:

"The word 'beginning' as applied by Moses expresses an

undefined period of time, which was antecedent to the last

great change that affected the surface of the earth, and to

the creation of its present animal and vegetable inhabitants,

during which period of time a long series of operations may

have been going on: which, as they are wholly unconnected

with the history of the human race, are passed over in silence


     pg.17 of 31      

by the sacred historian whose real concern was barely to state

that the matter of the Universe is not eternal and self-existent,

but was originally created by the power of the Almighty....

"The first verse of Genesis seems explicitly to assert the

creation of the Universe, the heavens, including the sidereal

systems and the earth, more especially our own planet, as

the subsequent scene of the operations of the six days about

to be described.......

"Millions of millions of years may have occupied the in-

definite interval, between the beginning in which God created

the heavens and the earth and the evening or commencement

of the first day of the Mosaic narrative....

"We have in verse 2 a distinct mention of the earth and

waters as already existing and involved in the darkness.

Their condition is also described as a state of confusion and

emptiness (tohu va bohu), words which are usually inter-

preted by the vague and indefinite Greek term chaos, and

which may be geologically considered as designating the

wreck and ruins of a former world."

In 1847 J. Harris published a work in London entitled,   The

Pre-Adamite Earth.   In this work he sets forth a number of reasons

why he believed Gen. 1.1 must be set apart from the work of the six

days.   He wrote:

"Now, that the originating act, described in the first verse,

was not meant to be included in the account of the six Adamic

days, is evident from the following considerations: first, the

creation of the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth days

begins with the formula 'And God said'. It is only natural,

therefore, to conclude that the creation of the first day begins

with the third verse where the said formula first occurs, 'And

God said, Let there be light'. But if so, it follows that the

act described in the first verse, and the state of the earth

spoken of in the second verse, must both have belonged to a

period anterior to the first day."

I think there is much force in this argument. Verse 2 may be the

record of a situation which not merely arose only some time after the

initial creation, but a situation which may also have persisted for

some time after it arose. And thus in 1853 Professor J. H. Kurtz

of the University of Dorpat wrote that


     pg.18 of 31      

 ".... between the first and second, and between the second

and third verses of the biblical history of creation, revelation

leaves two great white pages on which human science may

write what it will in order to fill up the blanks of natural hist-

ory which revelation omitted to supply itself as not being its


Much has seemed to depend, in the minds of many writers then and

today, upon whether in the second verse the verb  should be

translated "was" or "became".   In the next chapter this matter is

dealt with from the linguistic point of view, but it seems proper here

to note what some of these earlier commentators said and to what

extent their arguments for an interval here depended upon the trans-

lation of this verb one way or the other.

Kurtz him self did not apparently feel it proper to render Gen. 1.2

"but the earth became a desolation" as Dathe had done. Nevertheless

he did favour the view that verse 2 described a ruin and not a first

stage in the creative process.   Thus he wrote:

"The theory that a devastation of the earth took place be-

tween the primary creation of heaven and earth, and the

fashioning of the earth during the six days, which devastation

had made a restitution and a new creation necessary, cannot

be proved from Genesis 1: but neither does the whole chapter

contain anything which would exclude it."

He then remarks that part of this uncertainty arises from the fact

that Scripture does not say how it happened or how long it lasted, nor

what followed afterwards or what evolutions and revolutions took

place before the state of things was reached which is described in

verse 2. However, in his History of the Old Covenant, published

in 1859, he committed himself more fully.   In the Introduction to

this work he presents the view that "the state of the earth described

in verse 2 was connected with the fall of the angels who kept not their

first estate (Jude 6)".   He continues:

"This view is very old, though not exactly known to the

Fathers, who generally asserted that mankind were created

to fill the gap left by the fall of the angels.   Many of them

thought that the race was to increase until the number of the

redeemed should equal the number of the fallen angels."


     pg.19 of 31      

As to his view of the events of the first creation, he wrote:

"The organisms of the primeval world are not the animals

and plants of the Mosaic economy, neither are they those of

historical times: while those of the biblical narrative are

those which natural history at present makes us acquainted

with.  Thus the supposed contradiction is removed.   The

types buried in the rocks.... were not created for man and

have not been his contemporaries on earth.   Long before he

appeared they had become extinct or were shut up in their

rocky graves.... Beyond doubt, the fossils of the rocks

cannot represent those organisms whose creation the

Bible relates" (emphasis his).

In his New Commentary on Genesis, Delitzsch carefully consid-

ers the wording of Gen. 1.2.   He is not decided as to the precise

intent of the author but is reasonably sure that there is no justification

for "assuming that the chaos was the consequence of a derangement

connected with the fall of the angels and that the six days' creation

was the restoration of a new world from the ruin of an old".   He

expresses the feeling that the relation in which verse 1 stands to

verse 2 is not at all clear. In considering verse 2 he observes that

the word tohu comes from the verbal root tahah ) in Hebrew

 (which =  in Aramaic) meaning "to be desolate", "confounded",

and as a noun therefore signifying "desolation".    Bohu is from a

verbal root which means 'to be closed' or 'deaf or 'stupid', and as a

noun implies unconsciousness or lifelessness. He adds:

"The sound as well as the meaning of the pair of words

is awe-inspiring; the earth according to its substratum was

a desolate and dead mass, in a word a chaos."

I think he is perfectly right in noting that Dillman held the view


".... a created chaos is a nonentity. If once the notion

of an Almighty God is so far developed that He is also con-

ceived of as the author of matter, the application of chaos

in the doctrine of creation must consequently cease.   For

such a God will not first create the matter and then the form,

but both together."

Delitzsch adds his own comment to Dillman: "Certainly the


     pg.20 of 31      

account does not expressly (my emphasis) say that God created

chaos". But surely if we render Hayetha as "was", we cannot but

read this meaning into the text.    The force of this was fully re-

cognized by Delitzsch who nevertheless, while he had to reject the

alternative rendering of "had become", emphasizes that the verb

hayethah here "is no mere erat,” ie., cannot simply be taken to mean

"was" in the English copulative sense.   Yet he feels that there is

no justification whatever to adopt what he calls "the restitution hy-

pothesis" which assumes that "the Chaos was the consequence of a

derangement connected with the fall of the angels and that the six

days' creation was the restoration of a new world from the ruin of

the old".

But during the next decade Delitzsch was much in correspondence

with Kurtz about the matter, and in the end he made a complete about-

face and wholeheartedly adopted the concept of a rebellion in heaven

and a judgment brought upon the earth as a consequence prior to the

creation of Adam. Thus while he still did not propose that hayethah

should be rendered "became", he admitted that this is really what

had happened. It is a curious circumstance in Delitzsch's case, for

when he came to deal with the origin of the name Jehovah he asserted

not only that the verb   lay at the root of it but that it does not

signify   ('to be') but   ('to become')!

Delitzsch now believed that the cause of the judgment was that the

"Prince of the Angels would not continue in the truth and therefore

the earth was consumed". So he finally concluded that:

"There is much for and nothing against the supposition

that the tohu wa bohu is the rudis indigestaque moles into

which God brought this earth which He had first created good,

after the fall of Satan to whom it had been assigned as a habit-


In his System of Biblical Psychology he expressed the view that

man (in Adam) was created to be guardian (ut custodiret) of a world

which was now in constant danger of being taken over once again to its

ruin by a power which was not material yet was self-conscious, as

he put it, and must therefore be angelic.   This angelic Being (and

his followers) was once part of that still unfallen order of beings who

".... were created before the creation of our corporeal

world.    The creation of the angels is thus included in the

summary statement of Gen. 1.1.... and the more particular


     pg.21 of 31      

narrative (1.2) takes its point of departure at a time when the

angels were already created."

He then pointed out that this was no new idea.   It was held by

such Church Fathers as Gregory of Nyssa, Basilios, Gregory of

Nazianzen, and others, and was taught by Josephus Philoponius In his

seven volume work on the creation.   Delitzsch felt that the very

choice of the words   reinforces the idea of judgment.

Thus he wrote:

"How we are to apprehend this condition, occurs to us

when we reflect that tohu in every case, where it has not the

general meaning of wasteness, of emptiness, of nothingness,

betokens a condition of desolation by judgment of God (Isa.

24.10) and especially fiery judgment (as in Isa. 34. 9-11 and


Subsequently, Delitzsch has a footnote in which he refers to a

certain Mr. R. Rocholl who proposed some questions to him, and

he replied to these questions by saying substantially what we have

extracted above from his work. Referring to this correspondence,

he remarked:

"The above will show, as far as it is here permitted, to

what result further enquiry has led me since the second edition

of my Genesis, and after manifold correspondence with Kurtz

(one of his critics - ACC).... The Mosaic history of creation

proceeded from revelation; and since knowledge of salvation,

and generally, knowledge of the truth, has endured subsequent

to Moses for a period of thirty centuries, we are certainly in

a position to read things which transcended the intelligence of

Moses, between the lines of the Mosaic history of creation"

(emphasis mine).

Delitzsch may have exceeded the bounds of strict scholarship and

allowed his imagination too much free play. Yet Delitzsch was also

a great Hebrew scholar, and it is therefore noteworthy that he did

base his views, in part, on linguistic evidence, evidence be it noted

which in earlier editions of his Commentary he had denied but which

he later embraced.   Thus he wrote subsequently:

"The writer of Gen. 1.2 taking his position on this side of

'the beginning ' continues in verse 2 'and the earth was a


      pg.22 of 31       

desolation and a ruin'.    The preterite, with the subject

prefixed is the usual way of introducing a subsequent history

and so the beginning of it.   The   ('was') is more than

the expression of the copula ERAT; the earth, as it came

directly into being through God's creative power OR (and we

do not here yet decide on this) as God's six days' creative

operation found it already existing was a  , a des-

olation and a ruin."

Now the important point to notice next is that Delitzsch adopted

the second supposition and admits, as we have already seen, that

there is "much for and nothing against" the supposition that this is

indeed a picture of an earth brought into a chaotic state.   And so

Delitzsch then notes that had the writer intended to connect verse

2 with verse 1, “the form   must have stood in the place of  ."

In a somewhat similar manner, Fr. H. Ruesch, Professor of

Catholic Theology in the University of Bonn, while not agreeing that

'was' in Gen. 1.2 may be translated 'became', nevertheless holds

that this is really what happened. He did not agree with Delitzsch's

views about a spiritual rebellion as the cause but he did believe some

element of judgment had led to the earth's desolation and to the

destruction of its original order of life.   Thus he wrote:

"In other words, the Six Days treats not of the first form-

ation of the earth and of the first creation of organized beings

but of a re-formation of the earth; and a re-creation of or-

ganized beings, for which reason this has been called the

theory of restitution."

So he concludes later, "If, therefore, we ask first whether this

theory is exegetically admissible, I answer unhesitatingly in the


Bishop Gleig added one argument in support of this view which

others had not considered.   He wrote:

"Moses records the history of the earth only in its present

state. He affirms, indeed, that it was created, and that it

was 'without form and void', when the Spirit of God began to

move on the face of the fluid mass, but he does not say how

long that mass had been in the state of chaos nor whether it

was or was not the wreck of some former system which had

been inhabited by living creatures of different kinds from


     pg.23 of 31      




those which occupy the present.

"We read in various places of Scripture of a New Heavens

and a New Earth to succeed the present earth and visible

heavens, after they shall again be reduced to chaos by a

general conflagration, and there is nothing in the books of

Moses positively affirming that there was not am old earth

and old heavens, or in other words a former earth and heav-

en.... There is nothing in the sacred narrative forbidding

us to suppose that they are ruins of a former earth deposited

in the chaotic mass out of which Moses informs us that God

formed the present system.   How long it continued in such

a chaotic state it is in vain to inquire."

This is not, of course, very satisfactory. It is too vague and is

based entirely on negative evidence. His argument is that since we

are not told we may not make this assumption, therefore we obviously

may! The Bishop might have found positive warrant in II Pet .3.5,6

which some believe applies more appropriately to the event under

discussion than it does to the Flood of Noah's day.   But as time

went on and writers used their imagination more and more, it must

have seemed to many that the issue had ultimately to be settled on

linguistic rather than exegetical grounds. Only linguistic evidence

could really give a firm answer, although unfortunately even this has

not been decisive.

However, among those who approached the problem from this

angle was the famous Dr. E. B. Pusey of Oxford University whose

work on Daniel provided him with an opportunity to give a summary

statement of his own views on the matter.   First of all, he deals

strictly with the questions of grammar and syntax, and writes:

"The substantive verb not being used in Hebrew as mere

copula, had Moses intended to say that the earth 'was waste

and desolate' when God created it, the idiom for this would

have been   omitting the verb - just as it is

omitted in the following phrase 'and darkness upon the face

of the deep'. The insertion of the verb   has no force

at all unless it be used to express what was the condition of

the earth in some time past previous to the rest of the narr-

ative, but in no connection at all with what preceded. Such

a connection might have been expressed by  

or by the omission of the verb.   Moses was directed to

choose just that idiom which expresses a past time, anterior


     pg.24 of 31      

to what follows but in no connection of time whatever with

what precedes.

"Yet on the other hand, the waw by which verse 2 is united

with verse 1 shows that verse 1 does not stand as a mere

summary of what follows."

Thus Pusey concludes that we have

".... nothing to connect the time spoken of in verse 2

with the first declaration 'in the beginning God created....'

What intervened between 'In the beginning' and the remod-

elling of our habitation does not concern us....".

Now Pusey was a careful - though complex - writer.   He made

no attempt therefore to "fill in" where Scripture has "left out".  As

he wrote:

"I have confined myself to the statement that any length

of time which might seem eventually to be required by the

facts of Geology need not trouble the believer, even on this

ground - that Scripture said nothing whatever about time.

Where, then, nothing was said on the one side, there could

obviously be no contradiction on the other.   I did not say

that this mode of speech impels (us to the meaning of) a vast

gap - perhaps ages in length - between the first verse and

the second.   I only said that since the two verses stand in

no connection with each other, it admits of a long geological

history.   It was not my business to enter upon the claims

of geology. I was only an Interpreter of the sacred record,

and, in view of that record, I said 'the claims of geology do

not even touch upon Theology'."

He then continues later:

"There are cases in which words, arranged as they are

here (the subject being placed before the verb   and joined

with the preceding sentence by 'and') form a parenthesis.

But then the context makes it quite clear.... The only other

alternative is that   being in the past tense, relates to

a past time, and that that past time is unconnected with the

time of the previous verse.   For had Moses intended to

connect it, he would have used the common form  . No


     pg.25 of 31      

 one can doubt that the words 'and darkness (was) on the face

of the deep' expresses a condition contemporary with that of

the earth as tohu wa bohu; no one can doubt that the words

'and the Spirit of God (was) brooding on the face of the waters'

expresses continuous action co-existing with that state of

things. No one doubts of course that the word 'and God said'

denotes an action of God which followed immediately thereon.

"Since these denote time, contemporary and subsequent,

as little doubt can there be that the word   expresses time

upon which that contemporary condition and action depend and

by which they are determined.   Relative time is the very

force of the participle,* but then it must be contemporary

with time expressed already; which time is here expressed

by the word  .    Had Moses' object been merely to ex-

press past time, the natural construction would have been

to omit the  , just as the verb is omitted in the words

which follow  .    The continuity of the

narrative implies that   denotes time, and if so, then

every one admits it is time subsequent to and unconnected

with the words 'In the beginning God created'. They express

simply a past condition of the earth at the beginning of the

six days of creation; they express nothing as to the relation

of that condition with the creation of heaven and earth 'In

the beginning'.    They are simply the beginning of a new

statement or record.

"And this is, for the most part, the object of this coll-

ocation.    This collocation is the more remarkable in that

the word   is used, which there is no occasion to be so

employed. But everyone knows also that not only in the case

of the substantive verb but in the case of other words as well,

the idiom chiefly adopted in a narrative to DETACH what

follows from what precedes, is that which is here employed,

viz., the placing of the subject first and then the past verb."

While it has become a custom to challenge the Hebrew scholarship

of anyone who supports the "Gap Theory", and while it has thus be-




* Referring to the Spirit of God 'brooding' on the face of

of the waters.


     pg.26 of 31      

come possible to get away with such pontifical statements as "no

Hebrew scholar supports this view" (!), there never has been any

question as to the scholarship of Pusey who nevertheless did support

it. And if there were any question, it would be sufficient for most

people who know the meaning of the word "scholar" to note that S. R.

Driver unhesitatingly recognized Pusey as an authority.    It is

doubtful if Driver has an equal as a Hebraist - certainly not, I venture

to say, in the matter of the use of the Hebrew verb.   And Pusey

himself notes that Delitzsch, who in earlier editions had argued

against his own view, "subsequently embraced it".   It is also worth

noting that another scholar of equal stature with Delitzsch, namely,

August Dillman, likewise wrote against the view and subsequently

changed his mind – on lingusitic grounds alone.   In his Commentary

on Genesis published in 1897, Dillman renders Gen. 1.2, "But* then

was the earth waste, etc.", and he expresses the view that "became"

would be incorrect.   However, before the two volume work was

actually published he had changed his mind, for on page x under

Corrigenda he notes that the above rendering should be altered to

read: "But then the earth became....", and a later Corrigendum

refers to page 57 in Vol. 1 of the Commentary reiterating that here,

too, the text ought to have read, "but the earth became waste....".

It was not a matter of indifference to Dillman, therefore, but of

sufficient Importance to justify two Corrigendum notices.    S-R.

Driver resisted this translation to the end - even, as we shall see, at

the price of a certain inconsistency.   But Driver did admit in his

The Book of Genesis, that it was "exegetically admissible".#   Yet

Skinner, in his Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis




*His use of the disjunctive here agrees with the

LXX, Vulgate, etc.

# It should be understood also, that Driver had a very

great respect for Dillman's scholarship.    In the Preface

to his Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew, Driver

says: "The Commentaries of Dillman are exceedingly complete

and valuable, their author being distinguished both for

calm and sober judgment and for sound scholarship”.


     pg.27 of 31      

in The International Critical Commentary, says simply: "This

view that verse 1 describes an earlier creation of heaven and earth,

which were reduced to chaos and then re-fashioned, needs no refut-

ation"!   It is all the more surprising that Skinner should commit

him self to such an out-of-hand rebuttal when he says a little later:

"The weird effect of the language (of verse 2) is very im-

portant. ...   The exact meaning of this alliterative phrase

tohu wa bohu is difficult to make out....   But our safest

guide is perhaps Jeremiah's vision of chaos-come-again,

which is simply that of a darkened and devastated earth, from

which life and order have fled."

It seems to me that Skinner merely needed to follow out his own

reasoning to its logical conclusion to reach precisely the position

Driver reached on exegetical grounds - viz., that the view espoused

in this volume is "admissible", to say the very least.   Indeed, on

Skinner's own argument it is not merely admissible but highly prob-


It is well to remember that a substantial number of other Hebrew

scholars have adopted this view on the linguistic evidences Martin

Anstey, Alfred Edersheim (to whom Hebrew was almost a native

language), H. Browne, G. V. Garland, N. Snaith (who seems to me

to favour "became" for "was"), T. Jollie Smith, A. I. McCaul, R.

Jameison, and many others.*    In the Transactions of the Victoria

Institute two papers appeared in 1946 on the issue, one by P. W.

Heward in favour and the other by F. F. Bruce against it. Only by

reading these two papers can one assess which is the more scholarly.

Personally, I believe both contribute equally to the debate. But it

is some indication of the extent to which prejudice can cloud over

better judgment that one writer, in referring to these two valuable

papers, says that Bruce's paper is scholarly but his opponent's is

"full of special pleading and much padding". Needless to say, this

writer did not favour the "Gap Theory". Unfortunately, this attitude

is reflected in many current works nowadays, a situation which makes

it difficult for the newcomer to assess the matter fairly or even to be

Inclined to review the evidence on both sides at all.




* For excerpts from these and other sources, see

Appendix I.


     pg.28 of 31      

In Chapter V we shall examine some of these contrary opinions with

care and it will become apparent then, I believe, how large a place

emotion has played in the views expressed and how very little first

hand examination of the facts of the case seems to be in evidence.

But not all who reject the "Gap Theory" are as openly indifferent to

the grounds upon which it is based.   Edward J. Young has written

a valuable monograph entitled, Studies in Genesis One in which,

though he rejects the concept of an earth under judgment, yet finds

good linguistic grounds to believe that in the narrative of Genesis 1

there exists an interval between Gen. 1.1 and 1.2 of unknown duration.

He holds that Gen. 1.2 begins a new narrative entirely; and that there

are two narratives in Chapter one, the first being wrapped up in

verse 1, the second in verses 2-31.   Thus he writes:

"The first act in forming the present world (my emphasis)

was God's speaking.    The verb   is introduced by

waw consecutive, but it should now be clear that   is

not the second verb in a series introduced by   of verse 1.

Verse 1 is a narrative complete in itself.   Verses 2-31

likewise constitute a narrative complete in itself."

In short, Young's picture is that we have a self-contained and

complete statement in verse 1, "in the beginning God created, etc.".

Then the narrative re-commences as a kind of second chapter with

the words, "And God said. Let there be light", and when God said

this, "the earth was (at that time) without form and void, and darkness

was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over

the waters". The phrases of verse 2 are thus made secondary to,

and in explanation of, the circumstances which prevailed when God

spoke for the first time in verse 3. The idea is an interesting one,

but Young feels that it requires one to believe the descriptive terms

of verse 2 have no undertones of judgment in them. With this point

we shall deal at greater length subsequently, but at the moment it is

only important to note that the break between verse 1 and verse 2 is

frankly recognized.

And as to the length of the Intervening period before the earth was

made habitable, Young has this to say:

"On this construction we are not told how long this three-

fold condition (of formlessness, void, and darkness) had been

in existence, whether for years or merely for moments. Nor

is the creation (ie., cause?) of it (ie., of the situation in


     pg.29 of 31      

Gen. 1.2) explicitly stated."

Young believes it not unreasonable to assume that this was in fact

the originally created condition of the earth: "Verse 2 then states the

condition of the earth as it was when created and until God began to

form from it the present world". He repeats this three pages later:

"Verse 2 describes the earth as it came from the hands of the Creator

and as it existed at the time when God commanded the light to shine


While this essay of Professor Young's is a pleasure to read for

its most moderate tone in dealing with the views of those with whom

he disagrees and for its unashamed acceptance of the Scripture as

the Word of God, it must be said that the argument that verse 2

describes what God's handiwork first looked like will not satisfy

many readers.   Nor does it substantially reduce the difficulty of

believing that God really did start by creating a chaos to suggest that

"Chaos" merely means something not yet ordered and arranged

into a Cosmos.*   Whatever Ovid may have intended by his use of the

word "chaos" - and he may merely have meant matter un-formed

rather than de-formed - the fact is that every word in Gen .1.2 used to

describe in detail the condition of the earth at that moment is used

elsewhere in Scripture to describe something that has clearly come

under God's judgment.    Young appeals twice to Isa. 45.18 and

proposed that the word    (tohu) is merely a word suggesting some-

thing not yet fit to be inhabited.   But in most other cases the idea

is much more dramatic in meaning, and these other cases must surely

weigh against the adoption of what is, after all, only one possible

rendering of Isa. 45.18. Young suggests the translation, "God did

not create it to be a desolation (ie., uninhabitable) but to be inhabit-


Whatever points of disagreement there may be in this particular

question, the fact remains that Dr. Young has made out a good case

from a linguistic point of view that a break does exist between Gen.

1.1 and 1.2.

Altogether, therefore, we can find strong support from the very

earliest times to the present for the view that an interval of unknown

duration followed Gen .1.1 before the work of the six days was initiated




* On the use of the word   in the Septuagint, see App-

endix II.


      pg.30 of 31      

either to "bring order to", or "restore order to" an earth that at

that moment was evidently quite unfit for habitation. This view is

indeed a long-held one, beginning with the Massoretic and the Jewish

Commentators, re-appearing by implication in one of their earliest

Aramaic Versions, reflected perhaps by Paul in his letter to the

Corinthians, adopted by some of the Church Fathers, held thereafter

by early and later Medieval writers who expressly stated and elab-

orated upon it, preserved in the centuries that followed to influence

18th century translations, seized upon by commentators when modern

Geology challenged the Mosaic chronology, and subsequently explored

by a few of the best Hebrew scholars right up to our own day. Yet,

for some strange reason, it is still identified by many modern writers

as a recent invention, without linguistic or exegetical support in

Scripture, and never favoured by any scholar with a reputation!


Mirabile dictu!


     pg.31 of 31         


Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved


Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter