Ruin Reconstruction Theory


The Ruin-Reconstruction Theory of Genesis 1:2

by John C. Whitcomb, Jr.

Students of the Bible have long debated the question of whether the original creation of the heavens and the earth is to be understood as an event within the first “day” of creation, or whether a vast period of time could ‘have elapsed between the original creation of Genesis 1:1 and the “waste and void” condition described in Genesis 1:2. Most theologians who favor a time gap between these two verses believe that the original earth was populated with plants and animals (and perhaps even men), and because of the fall of Satan it was destroyed by God. The vast ages of the geologic timetable are thought to have occurred during this interval, so that the fossil plants and animals that are found in the crust of the earth today are relics of the original world that was destroyed before the six literal days of creation (or, rather, re-creation) recorded in Genesis 1:3–31.

The “ruin-reconstruction theory,” or “gap theory,” has been widely accepted among Christians who interpret the book of Genesis in the traditional historical-grammatical method, especially since the early nineteenth century when Thomas Chalmers of England advocated this interpretation as a means of harmonizing the Genesis account of creation with the vast time periods of earth history demanded by uniformitarian geologists.1 The differences between the “gap theory” and the traditional view of a recent creation of the earth within six literal days are quite profound and may be outlined as follows: (1) The gap theory permits Christians to accept without question the complete validity of the timetable of uniformitarian geologists. (2) The gap theory leaves us with no clear word from God as to the original world—the time involved in its creation, the arrangement of its features, or its pre-judgment history—for instead of having the entire first chapter on this important subject, we have only the first verse. (3) Because all the animals of the first world were destroyed and fossilized, they have no relation to the animals of the present world, in spite of the fact that many of them appear to be identical in form to modern types. Likewise, those who would place human fossils into the “gap” are forced to the conclusion that such pre-Adamic “men” did not possess an eternal soul (Archer, 1964, pp. 201–204). (4) The gap theory redefines the “very good” of Genesis 1:31 (“God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good”), for Adam would have been placed as a very late arrival into a world that had just been destroyed, so that he was literally walking upon a graveyard of billions of creatures over which he would never exercise dominion (1:26). Furthermore, the earth would already have become the domain of a fallen and wicked angel who is described elsewhere in Scripture as “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Obviously, then, the gap theory is not a minor deviation from the traditional interpretation of the Genesis creation account. For this reason, the biblical evidences that have been set forth in its defense need to be carefully examined. The four most frequently used evidences are these: (1) The verb translated “was” in Genesis 1:2 (Heb. hayetha) can just as well be translated “became”; thus, the idea of a profound change in the earth’s condition is permitted. (2) The phrase “waste and void” (Heb. tohu wa-bohu) appears elsewhere only in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23, and the context of those passages speaks clearly of judgment and destruction. Furthermore, the word tohu by itself frequently has an evil connotation. (3) It is highly improbable that God, the Author of light, would have originally created the world in darkness, which is generally used in Scripture as a symbol of evil. (4) There seems to be a definite distinction in the first chapter of Genesis between “created” and “made,” thus permitting us to assume that many of the things mentioned in this chapter were simply re-created.