Creation Studies Institute
The Gap Theory


"Can the geological ages be understood as occurring in a ‘gap’ between the 1st two verses of Genesis?"


It is widely known that historical geologists currently think the earth originated about 4.6 billion years ago, whereas the Bible indicates that "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Exodus 20:11).

Furthermore, the chronological data of Genesis 5 and 11 indicate that this all took place only a few thousand years ago. This obvious discrepancy is undoubtedly the most serious problem in the continuing warfare between Biblical Christianity and modern evolutionism.

It is obviously impossible to prove scientifically that the earth is older than the four or five thousand years for which we have actual written historical records. Science as such necessarily involves experimental observation and measurement, and no "observers" were on hand to record what may or may not have taken place in earlier times. The use of various physical processes to estimate past geologic time involves many unprovable, and in fact unreasonable, assumptions. Nevertheless, the pressures of evolutionary speculations have been so heavy during the past century that many Bible scholars have felt it desirable to reinterpret Genesis in some way that would accommodate the supposed geologic ages.

Two such theories have been advanced, one placing the geologic ages "during" the six days of creation (thus making the "days" into "ages"), and the other placing the ages "before" the six days (thus making them days of "re-creation" following a great cataclysm which had destroyed the primeval earth). The "day-age theory" is discussed in the next section and will be shown to be an impossible compromise, both Biblically and scientifically.

The "gap theory" has been advocated by many sincere Bible teachers, but actually involves numerous serious fallacies. The geologic ages cannot be disposed of merely by ignoring the extensive fossil record on which they are based, which is what the theory tries to do. These supposed ages are inextricably involved in the entire structure of the evolutionary history of the earth and its inhabitants, up to and including man. The fossil record is the best evidence for evolution (in fact, the only such evidence which indicates evolution on more than a trivial scale). Furthermore, the geologic ages are recognized and identified specifically by the fossil contents of the sedimentary rocks in the earth’s crust. The very names of the ages show this. Thus, the "Paleozoic Era" is the era of "ancient life," the "Mesozoic Era," of "intermediate life," and the "Cenozoic Era" of "recent life." As a matter of fact, the one primary means for dating these rocks in the first place has always been the supposed "stage-of-evolution" of the contained fossils.

Thus acceptance of the geologic ages implicitly involves acceptance of the whole evolutionary package. Most of the fossil forms preserved in the sedimentary rocks have obvious relatives in the present world, so that the "re-creation" concept involves the Creator in "re-creating" in six days many of the same animals and plants which had been previously developed slowly over long ages, only to gradually become extinct or else finally to perish violently in the great pre-Adamic cataclysm. The theory must include the concept of "pre-Adamic man" also, since many fossils of hominid forms have been dated at vastly greater ages (two million years or more) than the Bible chronology can accommodate.

The gap theory, therefore, really does not face the evolution issue at all, but merely pigeonholes it in an imaginary gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. It leaves unanswered the serious problem as to why God would use the method of slow evolution over long ages in the primeval world, then destroy it, and then use the method of special creation to re-create the same forms He had just destroyed.

Furthermore, there is no geologic evidence of such a worldwide cataclysm in recent geologic history, and no geologist would ever accept this gap theory. Advocates of the gap theory have often identified it with the glacial age, but the latter was hardly a worldwide cataclysm, since the ice sheets only extended into the middle latitudes, and certainly did not destroy all previous life. Any such global cataclysm, leaving the mountains buried in the sea, and rock debris blotting out the sun, would have disintegrated the very rocks and fossil beds on which the very concept of the geological ages is based.

There is no Biblical evidence of such a worldwide pre-Adamic cataclysm either. A few texts, isolated from their contexts, may possibly be interpreted to fit in with the gap theory, but nowhere in the Bible is there a clear, straightforward account of the supposed primeval creation and the character of the hypothetical pre-Adamic cataclysm. This is strange in light of the importance which this theory has come to hold in the theologies of many Bible teachers and in the much-too-easy answers which they offer for this basic issue in questions regarding the history of the cosmos.

Probably the greatest problem (and over 20 others could be listed7-8 if necessary) with the theory is that it makes God the direct author of evil. It implies that He used the methods of struggle, violence, decay, and death on a worldwide scale for at least three billion years in order to accomplish His unknown purposes in the primeval world. This is the testimony of the fossils and the geologic ages which the theory tries to place before Genesis 1:2. Then, according to the theory, Satan sinned against God in heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-17), and God cast him out of heaven to the earth, destroying the earth in the process in the supposed pre-Adamic cataclysm. Satan’s sin in heaven, however, cannot in any way account for the age-long spectacle of suffering and death in the world during the geologic ages which preceded it! Thus, God alone remains responsible for suffering, death and confusion, and without reason for it. But this is theological chaos! The Scripture says, on the other hand, at the end of the six days of creation, "And God saw everything that He had made (e.g., including not only the entire earth and all its contents, but all the heavens as well—note Genesis 1:16; 2:2, etc.) and, behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). Death did not "enter the world" until man sinned (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21). Evidently even Satan’s rebellion in heaven had not yet taken place, because everything was pronounced "very good" there, too.

The real answer to the meaning of the great terrestrial graveyard—the fossil contents of the great beds of hardened sediments all over the world—will be found neither in the slow operation of uniform natural processes over vast ages of time nor in an imaginary cataclysm that took place before the six days of God’s perfect creation. Rather, it will be found in a careful study of the very real worldwide cataclysm described in Genesis 6 through 9 and confirmed in many other parts of the Bible and in the early records of nations and tribes all over the world, namely, the great Flood of the days of Noah.

The Bible has the Answers
By Henry Morris

Dig Deeper: Recommended Resources
Dismantling the Big Bang
Thousands not Billions
Young Earth
Old Earth Creationism on Trial