Is the Gap Theory Biblical? Refuting James Knox on the “Gap Fact.”

Jan 28, 2020 | Bible Q & A, Creation, Podcast

Although it’s not held widely by biblical scholars today, many are compelled to believe that the Bible teaches a view that would reconcile a recent view of humanity with an ancient view of the universe.1

There are numerous variations, but it is most commonly known as The Gap Theory (GT).2

I’d like to devote some time to a version of this which has recently come to my attention, taught by pastor and Bible teacher, James Knox.

I don’t know anything about Knox, so I will do my best to refrain from any generalizations or unfair characterizations of his views. That said, I did find the overall tone of this presentation, well, troubling, and worth teasing out.

He’s a pulpiteer, for sure. He comes across as confident, compelling, and well-argued. Unfortunately, I found that a quick visit to each of his proof texts was enough to cast considerable doubt on his view.

There is, therefore, a lesson to underscore before moving any further: Test everything against the Scriptures, no matter who says it (including me).

It is this very practice that earned the Bereans an eternal commendation inscripturated in Acts 17. A compelling presentation or convincing oration should not produce a higher level of confidence in our minds about its truthfulness, goodness, or validity.

For anyone tempted to disagree, I’d merely ask you to consider how one the greatest orators of all-time—Adolf Hitler—was also one of the greatest menaces of all time. I’m not comparing Knox to Hitler; make no mistake, though—this presentation sounds compelling if you listen.

In fact, I want to be careful to separate this man from his claims, especially since I don’t know him. He opens his presentation with a call to Christian unity, and the clear message that he does not think this is an issue which should divide the church or separate believers.

On that, we can certainly agree.

I do, however, find his exegetical claims wanting, at best. Let’s take a few moments to explore them.

The Theory

As we’ll examine proof texts for aspects of the theory in a moment, I’d like to provide a quick summary first.

According to the GT, between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, there is a nondescript amount of time in which at least three events happened: The creation and forming of a “first earth,” the fall of Satan and his being cast down to earth (and thus the actual entrance of sin into the world), and the destruction of this first earth by some sort of watery cataclysm.

Two general observations are necessary.

First, this is not a view that is explicitly taught by any one portion of Scripture. Proponents must peruse the Bible and piece together this theory by doing some exegetical math, so to speak.

This practice is not necessarily to be frowned upon. One could argue this is exactly what New Testament writers needed to do when seeking to understand how Jesus was, in fact, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.

Hebrew scholar Dr. Mike Heiser has ably argued that this is what the Apostle Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 2:8. Had Jesus’ arrival been made explicit in just one passage of Scripture, such that there would have been no mistaking it, the “princes of this world” could have thwarted the plan.

The question is not in the validity of this practice (although some genre considerations might make that point arguable), but rather whether or not the texts pressed into service for Knox’s view will support his claims.

Second, one is hard-pressed to arrive at this view merely due to an honest examination of the text. In other words, this view was literally created and is most usually defended to reconcile the findings of modern science with obvious chronological details in Scripture.

Now, I question the basis for GT from the get-go since I think we do have evidence for a young earth from modern science. Regardless, this approach is an invalid starting point for any examination of the Bible.

Our goal is not to massage the words of Scripture and the findings of modern science together in order to form a nice fit.

Rather, it is to understand the meaning of the text, and determine the implications of it. If those implications demand that we reject a certain theory of modern science, so be it. If not, so be it.

A Problem with the Program

One of the issues in biblical studies has to do with systems, programs, and other spurious machinations that are invented to support a presupposed paradigm.

In other words, if an idea does not work across the Revelation in general, it cannot be held consistently in part. Once you understand the real program—the story being told by Scripture, one is hard-pressed to find something more out of place than the GT.

An in-depth discussion of that program is beyond the scope of this post, but you may find a useful resource in Dr. Heiser’s, What Does God Want?

Generally speaking, we find a busy world of forward motion, both in accordance with and in opposition to God’s will, from the very beginning of creation. In fact, you’ll find the Story cast in those exact terms in Scriptures such as Mark 10:6; 13:9, 2 Peter 3:4, and John 8:44.

We have every indication that very soon after time started ticking, Adam was created, and the story carries on. The Story is one about creation, rebellion, and redemption—both in the spiritual realm and the physical realm. But the nature of these events has been revealed to us in surprising detail!

We don’t know everything, of course, but there is in fact very little mystery as to the major events of history from the beginning of creation. The GT posits that something rather mysterious—which the Bible only hints at in obscure passages—was going on before the beginning of creation that we know.

How does this fit within God’s program? GT proponents argue that this is where we ought to place Satan’s fall and judgment. In fact, the Bible tells us very little about this incident, and what it does tell us cannot, as I’ll attempt to show, be used to demonstrate the GT. 

The Grammar of Genesis 1

I’m a fan of keeping things simple.

So I am going to pick up the above discussion in a moment. But first, I’d like to spoil all of the fun and tell you the simple reason why the GT is not discernible from the text of Genesis 1.

Gap theorists must propose that this extensive block of time should be placed between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The problem with this idea is that Hebrew grammar precludes it from being possible.

I was surprised to find this specific argument left out of Knox’s presentation; stated or unstated, however, the grammar of these verses is crucial to his view. Do we have exegetical license to find a large gap of time between these verses?

According to Hebrew and Old Testament scholar, Dr. David Fouts, the answer is no. In his book Right From the Start he writes:

The main verb of [Genesis] verse two is hāyeṯâ. This form, from the root hāyâ, normally is understood as the stative verb “to be.” When translated actively, i.e., as “to become,” the syntax often appears as the verb followed by the direct object prefixed by the lamedh preposition, as in 1 Sam. 22:2: “He became (form of hāyâ followed by lamedh) prince over them.” Admittedly, when the lamedh is absent, context can indicate the active nuance of “to become”, but such cases are unusual. Those who support the Gap theory argue that the verb hāyeṯâ should be translated with the active sense, and also should be understood as a past perfect (or, “pluperfect” in some grammars). In other words, it should be translated, “now the earth had become formless and void.…” One must concede that, grammatically, the verbal form itself can go either as a simple past of the stative verb: “now the earth was …” or as the past perfect “now the earth had become.” However, for it to be a past perfect there must be the proper setting. In the proximate context there must be a main verb in the past tense, in order to indicate that the action of the past perfect chronologically precedes the action of the main verb, i.e., some statement or event to which the past perfect provides a setting. Since this situation does not occur in verse two, and cannot be the bārāʾ of the topic sentence in verse one (which as we have seen stands alone) nor the initial verb of 1:3 (which continues the narrative sequencing), the translation “now the earth had become” is not possible.

Driving the nail further into the coffin, we must understand that the Hebrew language has a well-known indicator for the consecutive passage of time, known as the waw consecutive. We see such a sequence beginning with the Days of Genesis 1, in verse 3.

Not only is this form not present anywhere between verses 1 and 2, but we actually find a waw disjunctive—meaning, there is an explicit temporal disconnection between these verses!

Dr. Jason Lisle writes3 in Understanding Genesis,

Hebrew grammar disallows the possibility that “something happens between verses 1 and 2.” Namely, verse 2 begins with “And the earth” — a Hebrew grammatical construction called a “waw-disjunctive.” The construction occurs when a sentence starts with “and” followed by a non-verb, such as a noun. The waw-disjunctive indicates a break or interruption in the narrative. This is often for the purpose of providing additional information about what was previously stated. When used this way, it functions much the way we would use parenthesis in English — it shows that verse two is a comment on verse one. Verse two does not necessarily follow in time, but is a parenthetical description of the conditions of the earth that was mentioned in the previous verse. Thus, it is impossible for something to happen between verses one and two because there is literally no time between the two.

Are you getting the picture? Gap theorists have identified one place in the entirety of Scripture where the time they require could be placed, and it happens to be precluded—on multiple fronts—by Hebrew grammar itself.

This alone is enough to silence the view, and is the likely reason I cannot personally name one living Hebraist who defends this position.

However, this is far from the only battleground on which gap theorists such as Knox wage war. In fact, much work is devoted to defending the GT from other portions of Scripture.

Do those give us reason to think there is something to this view?

Persnickety Proof Texts

It is in this lengthy portion I will interact most closely with the particular arguments of Pastor James Knox.


I was surprised to find that the first argument he makes, and frankly, where he really digs in his heels, is the word “replenish” found in Genesis 1:28.

Cross-referencing with the usage of this word in Genesis 9:1 following God’s destruction of the world via a great deluge, Knox seems to think the Genesis 1:28 reference requires that a similar previous destruction occurred—one obviously omitted from Genesis 1, resulting in a need to repopulate the planet.

In fact, he digs in so hard on this point that I think it would seriously undermine his view if shown wrong.

The fact is that the word מָלָא (male’) that is translated “replenish” in these verses simply means “to fill.” For the King James translators to use the word replenish here is not incorrect; in Old English, that’s what the word “replenish” actually meant!4

So it’s not as though the writer is meaning to telegraph that the earth is to be filled again due to a previous destruction, but merely that it is to be filled, period. And this is no surprise, since God “formed the earth to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18).

But, wait a minute. One of Knox’s arguments is that that verse—Isaiah 45:18—declares that God would not have created the earth in an “unformed and unfilled”5 state as Genesis 1:2 suggests. Is that the case?

Here is the verse:

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.

Notice that in this passage, there is no sense of time whatsoever. If I were to paraphrase, I might say something like this: “God did not create the earth in vain, because he formed it to be inhabited.”

Is this not precisely what we see in the creation account? God creates the universe and the Earth, and then proceeds to form it in order to be inhabited! At most, this passage says nothing about when it was formed to be inhabited, so cannot be used to form a positive argument for the GT.

And what’s much more likely is that this verse is teaching a theological point about the supremacy of God on the basis of the details given in Genesis 1. The earth was indeed formed to be inhabited; that does not mean God “poofed” the earth into existence in a habitable state. Creation was a process, one the Bible explains in quite detail.

2 Peter 3

The next proof text we find Knox appealing to is 2 Peter 3:3-7. Here is the account:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Most scholars see this passage as declaring the ignorance of scoffers towards three events in Earth history: the creation, the flood of Noah’s day, and the coming judgment.

But Knox objects to this take. His reason? The “heavens” were not involved in the judgment of Noah’s day, but they are involved in the coming judgment mentioned. In order for the symmetry to remain, Knox argues, the “world that then was” which “perished” by “being overflowed with water” describes the otherwise nondescript judgment of the “original creation” proposed by gap theorists, which must also have included the “heavens.”

Right off the bat, my suspicion is that a Greek scholar would be able to detect a construction in the language that precludes this possibility. I, however, am not one, so I am going to appeal to a few practical considerations instead.

First, this only works by assuming there was another time when the world was overflowed by water, other than during “Noah’s Flood.” This is the only direct referent in Scripture we have to an event such as this, therefore, this passage would have to be teaching us of another one, which hardly seems justified by the text.

Second, it’s not clear to me that there must be further clarification by the text in order to preserve the analogy. It’s not as though this is Hebrew poetry, where parallels depend upon individual words within a couplet/doublet.

Third and finally, some have suggested that, in fact, the flood of Noah’s day did have universe-wide consequences. It’s not a hill I would die on (and neither would Dr. Kurt Wise), but consider with me his thoughts on this as a well-trained scientist.

In his book Faith, Form, and Time following a discussion of physical evidence such as cratering on the moon, Mars, and the resurfacing of Venus, which may well be attributed to the events of the flood, he concludes:

It is not impossible that the Flood may have occurred as a result of God’s changing some physical constant or constants of the universe. The sudden changes in radiometric decay rates suggested by some is consistent with this claim. If true, then the catastrophism in the days of Noah may have actually impacted not just the earth but perhaps the entire solar system—even the entire universe. Could the dust of the solar system be the result of this catastrophe? How about the asteroids? And what of exploding stars? There is opportunity for much young-age creationist research and reinterpretation.

In my opinion, it’s much more likely for there to have been “universal” consequences during Noah’s Flood than to think these verses are teaching us of an entirely different event that happened long before the creation of the world we now know.

Others have argued that the words “heavens of were of old” and “the earth standing in the water and out of the water” may be teaching the GT, but this is not at all clear.

Most theologians who take these verses to be describing physical creation are convinced by the details in Genesis 1 that the earth was essentially created as a ball of water, from which the rest of the land was formed. These verses are consistent with that view.

Further, to say the heavens are “of old” is not to say they are billions of years old. That is not indicated by the text. At the time of writing, the creation would be ~4,000 years old. That’s pretty old! To read billions of years of time into that statement is not sound.

Job 22:8

If the evidence was not already wearing thin, Knox’s take on this particular verse is difficult to believe.

Here is the verse (emphasis mine) in its context (vv. 1-11):

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect? Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment? Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing. Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it. Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken. Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee; Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.

The context very clearly indicates that Eliphaz, one of Job’s “friends,” has launched into a withering critique of his past moral judgments and decisions. Eliphaz is moving from one event to the other, pulling stories from Job’s life to help him make sense of the perceived awful injustice being done to him.

For Eliphaz, Job is getting his just desserts.

The CSB translation of vv. 7-8 is perhaps clearer with respect to how v. 8 is situated in the story:

You gave no water to the thirsty and withheld food from the famished, while the land belonged to a powerful man and an influential man lived on it.

Strangely, Knox desires that we completely rip this verse out of context and see the “mighty man” as Satan and the “honorable man” as Adam!

He claims this verse teaches there was a time when only two people were on the earth, Adam (the honorable man who lived there) and Satan (the mighty man who “had owned” it), and that this could only be situated in history after the fall of Satan and destruction of the old world.

Of course, never once does the term “mighty man” refer to Satan or any other spiritual being in all the Bible, nor does the context have anything to do with the events of or before creation.

This is a blatant (not to say confusing) mishandling of Scripture that must not be taken seriously.

This verse simply describes a situation that was known by his friend Eliphaz, where Job apparently acted unjustly (perhaps for personal gain) during a time of drought and famine. Nothing more, nothing less.6

Isaiah 14

A scene from Isaiah 14:12-20 seems to describe the fall of Satan from his position in Yahweh’s Divine Council. Here are the verses in question:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; That opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, Lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, And as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, That go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, Because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: The seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

Knox argues that this entire event transpired prior to the creation of the current earth and heavens. He reasons that this must be the case, since that was the only time when Satan would have made “the earth to tremble” and “shook kingdoms” and “destroyed the cities of the world,” etc.

I haven’t the space here to exegete this entire passage,7 neither will I claim expertise in prophetic language. However, it seems Knox has either missed or conveniently skipped v. 15 (emphasis mine): “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit…”

This seems to be describing the ultimate judgment and mockery of the one who is currently allowed rule and domain over the earth. Satan is, as it were, the Lord of the Dead. He wanted to be the Most High—the Lord of all; as a judgment, Yahweh, the actual Most High, made him Lord of the dead—those who die in sin.8

Yahweh will eventually spell the final defeat of death, hell, and the grave—and thus, of their leader. Verse 15 therefore indicates a shift in time. The events prior describe Satan’s fall, the events posterior describe his coming judgment, after which time it will absolutely be accurate to say that Satan made “the earth to tremble” and “shook kingdoms” and “destroyed the cities of the world,” through leaders such as the king of Babylon and others.9

Jeremiah 4:23

Jeremiah 4:23 is a well-known gap theorist proof-text. The usual argument involves an interesting phrase chosen by the writer which seems to borrow language from the creation account, “formless and void.”

This is, indeed Genesis 1:2 language. Most interpreters (rightly) understand this passage to describing the desolation of Israel by Babylon’s forces. Thus, the gap theorist claims that the first use of this descriptive language in Genesis 1:2 also describes a state of destruction.

Knox, however, takes it even further. He wants to say that Jeremiah 4:23 is not merely an analogy; it is the writer’s very description of the original world’s destruction!

Knox is convinced of this view in part due to language found in verses 25-26:

I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, And all the cities thereof were broken down At the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger.

In Knox’s explanation of this passage, he incorrectly mentions that most scholars date the events of this passage to the time of the tribulation. He even goes so far as to mention that the language “there was no man” would not fit this time. There’s no indication, he rightly concludes, that the tribulation is associated with total annihilation.

However, what most scholars believe this passage to be about is the condition of Israel after Babylon’s invasion, as briefly mentioned earlier. What should we make of these claims?

Let’s go in reverse.

First, it might be fair to say that the language of total annihilation does not apply to the Babylonian invasion, either. What’s interesting is that language is baked into the passage to guard against taking it too literally.

Consider v. 27, emphasis added:

For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; Yet will I not make a full end.

God is clear in communicating that, yes, the land will be made desolate. But he’s equally clear in communicating that a full end will not be made of Israel. This serves as a reminder that poetic and prophetic passages can easily lead to incorrect conclusions if pressed for a sort of wooden literalism.

What, then, do vv. 25-26 intent to communicate? What the writer is telegraphing is a metaphorical description of the desolation. It’s no mistake that the language of creation is used here.

The writer means to convey that the punishment against Israel for leaving her God will be so severe that it will be as though it were an undoing of creation. The unformed and unfilled nature of the land, the absence of light, the fleeing of the birds—these are all meant to picture a devastation so thorough it will be as though the world had never been formed and filled.

Given the clear context of this passage, to rip v. 23 out of its context and see it as describing the condition of an old creation prior to God’s creating our current world is entirely unjustified.

But what about, secondly, the view that one can read this language of destruction (again, from v. 23) back into the creation account?

It is important to consider two things, minimally: The meaning of the words, and the context of the words.

The expression in question here is tohu wa bohu (without form and void). What do these words mean? Respectively, they mean “unformed” and “unfilled.” Note that these words do not on their own denote destruction.

It is apparent from their use in this passage that they can be used to picture a scene of destruction. However, since it is always context that determines meaning, we have to consider whether the use of this expression in the creation account is intended to signify a state of destruction.

Since the words do not carry this connotation on their own, and there is no reason from the context of Genesis 1 to suppose there was a deconstruction of an old world going on, there is no reason to import this meaning from Jeremiah 4 into their meaning in Genesis 1.

Of this connection, John MacArthur notes the following:

What was once a fruitful land had become a wilderness (v. 26). It was a wasted, devastated place without any inhabitants. It had lost its former beauty. It didn’t have any form. It didn’t have any beauty. It had reverted to a state of barrenness that reminded Jeremiah of the state of the earth in the beginning, before God’s creative work had formed it into something beautiful. Isaiah borrows the same expression. Prophesying the destruction that would come in the day of the Lord’s vengeance against the Gentiles, he says their land will be turned into desolation. “He shall stretch out over it the line of confusion [tohu] and the stones of emptiness [bohu]” (Isaiah 34:11). That pictures God as the architect of judgment, using a plumb line of tohu, which is kept taut by weights made of bohu. So these words speak of waste and desolation. They describe the earth as a place devoid of form or inhabitants—a lifeless, barren place. It suggests that the very shape of the earth was unfinished and empty. The raw material was all there, but it had not yet been given form. The features of earth as we know it were undifferentiated, unseparated, unorganized, and uninhabited. (MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning)

As with the examples before, therefore, we see that Jeremiah 4 simply cannot support the exegetical weight demanded to prop up the GT.

Genesis 1, Ecclesiastes 3, and the Distinction Between “Create” and “Made”

Finally, our examination of Knox’s proof texts will find us where it all began, in Genesis 1, with some help from a supporting question in Ecclesiastes 3. Let’s look there first.

In v. 15, Solomon writes the following:

That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

Solomon uses this sort of cryptic language often in the Book of Ecclesiastes. It seems that v. 15 hearkens back to 1:10-11:

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

With this verse in mind, Knox asks a rhetorical question: “Are we to believe that God sat in darkness for a bazillion years until he decided to do something 6,000 years ago?”10

Here again, it seems that all this verse means to communicate is a theological point; this time around the timelessness of God. All humans are subject to the limitation of time, but God is not. History repeats itself for us, but God knows the end from the beginning.

Ironically, assuming I’m right about the meaning of this passage, it actually undermines the point of Knox’s rhetorical question. Knox, by his own admission, cannot fathom that God would sit around for billions of years twiddling his thumbs.

His solution, of course, is to say that God indeed created billions and billions of years ago, and even endured through a creation entirely unknown to us (save for its destruction, according to Knox and company).

But this represents a giant misunderstanding about the nature of God, and the nature of time. As humans, we can only interpret our experience in the context of temporal reality. But God is not bound by such constraints, as this verse and others11 teach.

In fact, as I’ve written on before, one of the most prominent views of the relationship between God and time is that God enters into time himself, but only upon his creative act. Therefore, one who believes the universe is merely 6,000 years is not faced with any sort of conundrum. No scenario where God twiddles his thumbs for countless eons is necessary to explain, because no such scenario exists.

The spiritual realm is not bound by the passage of time. After all, even 13.8 billion years is a mere twinkling of the eye when compared to eternity. To even speak in such terms is to misunderstand the concepts of God’s timelessness, eternity, and self-existence.

Ironically, then, the scenario Knox describes is only problematic for the person—such as himself—who affirms that the initial creative act was in fact such a long time ago!

Knox ends his presentation with a return to Genesis 1:29ff. He settles into 2:1-3 and derives a common argument from them which trades on a distinction between the words “created” (bara) and “made” (asah). Here are the verses:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 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.

His claim is that these words have an important distinction in the kind of creative activity that is taking place. The claim is that bara indicates creation (that is, out of nothing) and asah indicates the forming of what has been previously created.

Knox wants to say that we find nothing being created in the account until God begins populating the creation with life, suggesting that all work prior to the creation of new life was merely forming that which was already created.

There are a few problems with this.

First of all, if this were the case, it’s not clear why it would be a problem. Many do, in fact, think that only God’s initial creation was ex-nihilo, while the work that followed was merely the formation of the previously created materials.

This idea itself does not require that the initial creative act was billions of years ago. It could simply be that God “created,” then subsequently “formed” beginning the next day.

However, most Hebraists agree that the words bara and asah are synonymous, and can be used interchangeably. In fact, we need to look no further than the creation account itself to see this in action.

Consider vv. 26-27:

And God said, Let us make 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. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

As the editors of the Faithlife Study Bible correctly note,

The Hebrew verb used here, bara, is the same word used in Gen 1:1. However, the plural declaration “let us make” in v. 26 uses a different verb. The verbs for “make” (asah) and “form” (yatsar) are also used elsewhere with bara to refer to God’s work as Creator in chs. 1–2. In ch. 2, yet another verb is used for the fashioning of Adam (yatsar). These verbs are synonyms.

Additionally, the very verses used by Knox in support of his claim, Genesis 2:1-3, undermine his point. Knox thinks that the phrase “created and made” indicates two different categories of action by God.

But since we’ve already seen that these words are synonymous, the parallel is likely in place merely to underscore the point that God alone does the forming, making, and creating out of nothing.

For the exegete who would wish to double down on this point, I’d simply ask what we should make of Exodus 20:11:

For in six days the Lord made [asah] heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

If we pressed Knox’s point, we’d be forced to conclude that God merely formed the entire creation, having never created ex-nihilo! Obviously, this point does not work.

It’s not relevant to Knox’s point, but there is an awesome distinction between bara and any other word describing the processes of creation and formation. A cruise throughout the Hebrew Bible will reveal that only one Being is ever the subject acting on the verb bara: Yahweh.

This means that, while lots of beings both physical and spiritual can form and make things, only Yahweh is powerful enough to create them out of nothing. This is the true and important distinction between these words. What a God we serve!


In this discussion, we’ve noted some reasons why The Gap Theory should not be considered a viable interpretive option for the reader attempting to find millions or billions of years between the pages of Scripture.

Along with an obvious lack of place for this motif within God’s larger program and a grammatical construction that will not allow for its insertion, we have examined and found wanting alleged proof texts which are unable to sustain the burden of supporting this view.

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  1. For purposes of this piece, “recent” will denote a 6,000-10,000 year time frame and “ancient” will denote a timeline greater than 1 million years.
  2. Other variations/alternative names include The Gap Fact, The Restitution Theory, The Genesis Gap, and The Ruin-Reconstruction Theory.
  3. Dr. Lisle is not a Hebrew scholar, but he is a well argued theologian with plenty of friends who are, and I found his quote here clear and instructive. If you’re look for a credentialed scholar of Semitic languages to support this point, see here.
  4. See here for further discussion.
  5. The texts says, “without form, and void.”
  6. You may be tempted to object to this understanding of the passage on the basis that Job was considered a righteous man. However, there are two problems with this. First, it’s the most sensible take on the passage in its context. If it doesn’t mean what I’ve just described, it’s hard to imagine what else it could. Second, the Bible is clear that there are none righteous. In the Bible, it is never sinless perfection which garners the favor of God. Rather, it is believing loyalty in the face of opposition and temptation by intelligent evil forces (other gods, Satan, et cetera). Look no further than Noah, Abrahram, or David for examples of men God counted to be righteous on the basis of their believing loyalty to him, despite their moral failures.
  7. This passage is notoriously difficult to translate. Note that its full context deals with much more than Satan and his future judgment, but it also deals with how he (and of course, those who do his bidding) has power and control over the gentile kings. The king of Babylon and Israel’s exile is in view as well. The verses which follow the brief analogical shift in the passage to Satan’s rebellion therefore have dual application to Satan himself and those who’ve reigned under his control (including the king of Babylon), indicating that this judgment is future, not past.
  8. There’s lots here, but see John 8:44. This is one of many verses indicating that Satan and other intelligent evil forces have a measure of control over the world.
  9. Knox claims that passages in Revelation and elsewhere claim that God was the administrator of the earth’s trembling and the destruction of cities, and that therefore Isaiah 14 is describing work that Satan did prior to this creation. Since Knox does not provide explicit references, I will not deal with this point, other than to say that if this were the case, it would still not rule out the possibility of the Bible attributing such destruction both to God and Satan. The Bible is clear that God uses the free will of both physical and spiritual forces to accomplish his purposes. It’s not free will or God’s sovereignty; it’s “both, and.”
  10. For the record, I’m not willing to affirm that this verse is even remotely related to the question Knox raises. But he raised it, so I will do my best to interact with his arguments.
  11. See Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 2:8, for example.

Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

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