Special Prophecy Update Number 148B

November 30, 2003

The Gap Theory of God’s Creation of the Earth

In Prophecy Update Number 148A, I covered the history of what is now known as “The Gap Theory,” from its origin by Dr. Thomas Chalmers, in 1814, up to its introduction in Missionary Baptist work in the nineteen thirties. Some of those, who seem to have an intense dislike of it, often accuse those who propagate it as believing in evolution, and some of the creation scientists have actually called it heresy. As I indicated in 148A, I could care less what people believe about how and when the earth was created, as long as they believe Genesis 1:1.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Let us suppose that the Gap Theory is correct, and that the earth really is billions of years old. Just think of all that time, and all the many things that transpired during those billions of years. And, continuing to accept it is correct, suppose that God had given Moses a detailed history of all these events to present to the group traveling with Moses, a group that knew nothing about when and how God created the earth, what do you think they would have done to Moses? More than likely, they would have thrown him out from among them, and left him on his backside in the sands of Sinai. God chose to give Moses the truth about his creation in an easy simplified form they could understand and accept. And accept it they did until man began to run to and fro across the earth, such that his knowledge was tremendously increased in the things on it, under it, and above it. Now, it is possible for us to better understand the when and the how of the earth’s creation.

Daniel 12:4 – But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

The Gap Theory is not difficult to understand, and its premises are based on Biblical linguistics, on the Word of God. It involves three verses of Scripture in the direct evidence of its validity – Genesis 2:1,2 and Isaiah 45:18. And the Hebrew words, WAS, WITHOUT FORM, and NOT IN VAIN, in these three verses, constitute the motivational linguistic reasons that led me to accept the Gap Theory.

Genesis 1:1,2 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. [2] And the earth WAS WITHOUT FORM, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Isaiah 45:18 – For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it NOT IN VAIN, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.

“WAS,” in verse 2, is the Hebrew word “HAYETHAH.” Many expositors on this verse claim that the word “HAYETHAH” is merely a copula. A copula, in the Hebrew grammar, is a weakened verb form of the word, which merely acts as the link between a subject, and the predicate of a preposition. However, the placement of HAYETHAH in this grammatical structure is not copular. HAYETHAH is indeed a verb, but it is not used in the copular sense. HAYETHAH means “BECAME.” The earth was not created in verse 1 as “without form and void.” It BECAME “without form and void” in verse 2 for some reason, after it was created in a stable condition in verse 1. The Hebrew language does not contain a verb equivalent to our English state of being verb “be.” The sense of the verb “be” in Hebrew is indicated by the absence of a verb in cases where the sense of a verb is required. HAYETHAH comes from the vocabulary root form HAYAH, which Strong lists as a primary root, meaning “to exist, to be or to become,” and states the following: “It is emphatic, and not a mere copula.” Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, says of HAYAH: “it means to become, occur, come to pass, be,” and goes on to state: “This verb occurs only in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Old Testament attests HAYAH about 3,560 times. Often this verb means more than simple existence of identity (this may be indicated by omitting the verb altogether).” In the writings of Moses, the word HAYAH is translated as BECAME some 22 times in the KJV, and the New International Version of the Bible carries a footnote stating the WAS in Genesis 1:1 may be correctly translated as BECAME. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies also says HAYAH is frequently translated BECOME. For those of you who know the Hebrew, HAYETHAH is Qal stem, perfect tense, third person, singular number and feminine gender. The verb agrees in person, number and gender with the feminine subject, which is “earth,” i.e., “the earth became.” It may be translated fully as: “the earth she became.” The first portion of Genesis 1:2, laid out in the English language of today for the purpose of deriving its interpretative exposition, is as follows.

Genesis 1:2a – And the earth BECAME (HAYETHAH) a desolation (THOHU) and a waste (VABOHU).

KJV Translation – Genesis 1:2a – And the earth was without form, and void; (“was” is HAYETHAH, “without form” is THOHU, and “void” is VABOHU).

THOHU is the vocabulary form TOHU. It describes a state or condition of desolation and wreckage, and it describes the condition into which the earth came, apparently after having originally been created in a perfect condition. The next word is VABOHU, which is parallel with TOHU. The vocabulary form is BOHU, and it means “waste.” It is the result of an activity or a wrecking force, as described in the previous word TOHU. The VA prefixed to BOHU is simply the coordinating conjunction, and both BOHU and TOHU are nouns.

So, up to this point, I have offered linguistic proof that the word “was” preceding “without form and void” in Genesis 1:1, can legitimately be translated as “became” without violating the inspired Word of God. Now, if this was the only way I could prove my case, I freely admit that, from a linguistic standpoint, I would have reservations about it being correct to the point of definitely stating “was” should be interpreted as “became.” However, the very reason I know it should be understood as “became,” is that I believe the word of God to be inspired, and I do not believe it contradicts itself. Let us now examine Isaiah 45:18, bearing in mind the statement I have just made concerning inspiration of the Bible.

Isaiah 45:18 – For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it NOT IN VAIN, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.

The two English words IN VAIN are translated from the Hebrew word TOHU, and the NOT preceding it definitely states that God did NOT create the earth in a TOHU condition. So, if we let WAS, which precedes TOHU (without form) in Genesis 1:2, stand as the correct interpretation of HAYETHAH, rather than BECAME, we have a direct contradiction between the statement of Moses in Genesis 1:1 and the prophet in Isaiah 45:18, which I do not accept. Some of the proponents for an earth 6000 to 12000 years old insist that Isaiah 45:18 is not talking about the original creation. I have listened to, and read the tenets of their claim, and find no valid justification for it.

Since I am a proponent of the Gap Theory, I feel a certain responsibility to advance what I believe occurred during a very long period of time that passed on this present earth from the time it initially became TOHU and BOHU until God, in Genesis 1:3, began a restoring of it to exist much as we know it today. As I stated in Prophecy Update 148A, and again in this Update, I don’t care when or how he created it. I am only concerned for those who do not believe God created it. In my 71 years on this planet I have seen men throw themselves into debates, arguments, and indignant states of dislike for one another over this issue of creation. I certainly think the discussion of it is worthwhile, but I do not intend to waste what time I have left in active service in debating, arguing, or even breaking fellowship over it. It is a lot like the rapture, which is certainly worth discussing and studying, but I could care less as to “when” you believe Jesus is coming. I am only concerned for those who don’t believe he is coming. That God created the heavens and the earth, and that his Son, Jesus Christ is going to return for all believers, and then rule and reign on it, is Christian doctrine. “When” God created the earth, and “when” his Son is returning, is Christian opinion.

As I mentioned in Update 148A, Dr. Fred Stevenson, who taught Hebrew at the Missionary Baptist Seminary for many years, spoke slower than any one I have ever known, except Brother Buddy Pennington. And much of the content in Update 148B comes directly from Dr. Stevenson’s audio cassettes, which were recorded during his classes at the seminary. Dr. Stevenson’s words were transcribed directly by Brother Joe Barker from the cassettes. Dr. Dennis Richey, the pastor of Glendale BC, used his transcription in the preparation of his Doctoral Thesis he presented to Landmark Missionary Baptist Institute, which is sponsored by Glendale Baptist Church in Mauldin, South Carolina. His Father-in-Law, Dr. J.O. Phillips, and myself, are strong advocates of the Gap Theory.

I did not intend to ever place on our web pages what I believed about the Genesis creation account, because it so controversial and naturally tends to generate strife among the brethren, but over the last three years I have been flooded with requests as to what I believed concerning it. So, in the next few Updates, Lord willing, I intend to write what I believe about the dinosaurs, cloning, when man was created, and several other subjects in question about the long period of time that I believe passed between 1:1 and 1:3 in Genesis. These are things I have taught at Dardanelle MBC for almost 30 years, but until the late nineties I stayed off controversial subjects like creation and the rapture as I traveled to some 800 churches, and 21 colleges, universities, and seminaries.