For some time I have held the view that the age of the earth, dinosaurs,
and remains like “Lucy” can be explained by the gap between Genesis 1:1
and Genesis 1:2. The earth was created “in the beginning”, not the first
day. The earth was then “formless and void”, a phrase that can be rendered
“a waste and empty”. This same phrase is found in Jeremiah 4:23 as a
description of the results from God’s judgment. Can it be that Adam and
Eve are unique in that they were created in God’s image and not because
they were the first inhabitants on earth?

What you are referring to is what is commonly known as the
“Gap Theory.” I do not have a problem with people who use the Gap Theory,
but I personally do not feel it is likely to be a correct explanation of
how God created the earth. The problem with the Gap Theory, as I see it
is that it is an attempt to create a compromise between the literal
interpretation of Genesis 1 and the more symbolic interpretation of the
chapter. In doing so, it does not solve any of the problems of either
interpretation in my opinion. As I see it, there are two possible
interpretations of Genesis which are consistent with what is taught in the
Bible and with what we know from science.

The first possibility is that God created the earth a few thousand years
ago in six literal days. If this is true, then God created the earth with
an “appearance of age.” In other words, although the earth is in fact
very young, God created it to appear very old. The fact is that every
reliable estimate from science for the age of the earth is a few billion
years old. However, if Jesus could make wine ready to drink and fish
ready to eat, he certainly could make the earth already mature. There are
a few philosophical difficulties with this position, but I believe it is a
reasonable explanation of the Bible and the scientific facts if one will
allow for an all-powerful God.

The second possibility is that the “days” of Genesis are meant to be a
symbolic representation of great periods of time over which God created
the universe and the earth as we know it. To take this stand, one will
have to admit that it is not the most obvious meaning of the text in
Genesis chapter one, but it is theologically/linguistically defendable in
my opinion.

The Gap Theory is sort of a blending of the two which, as I said, solves
none of the problems. If God created all the life forms, the mountains,
oceans etc. on the earth in just a few days, then why allow a gap of
billions of years between initial creation and the first “day” of
Genesis? What scientific issue is solved by this view? For this reason,
it is not an improvement on the literal interpretation. It is not an
improvement on the non-literal day theory either, as scientific evidence
does not allow for all the fossils known to exist to have been deposited
in just a few thousand years. Bottom line, either the earth if extremely
old, and Genesis 1 is non-literal, or it is very young–created with an
appearance of age.

You imply a second question as well. You ask if Adam and Eve could have
been made in God?s image, rather than being the first inhabitants. I am
not exactly sure what you mean, but let me guess. I am guessing that you
are wondering if it is possible that man evolved from apes, but that at
some point, God miraculously did something to the evolved proto-humans,
putting his spirit in Adam and Eve and making them in his image. If that
were true, the only difference between Adam and Eve and the other
inhabitants is that they were somehow in God?s image. I have considered
this idea quite a bit. In view of some of the evidence for homo erectus,
Australopithecus, Neandertals and so forth, this is an attractive theory.
I personally do not ascribe to this theory, as it simply requires too
much deviation from what appears to be a clear text in Genesis one and
two. These passages seem to say quite clearly that Adam and Eve were made
by God out of inorganic matter. I would not want to be dogmatic on this,
but personally, I believe Adam and Eve were special creations of God. To
be honest, I am waiting until I get to heaven to have a final answer on
this question, but I believe that special creation is the most likely
explanation of the origin of Adam and Eve.

A more thorough discussion of this question is found in my book, “Is
There a God? Questions of Science and the Bible,” available at

John Oakes, PhD

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