In general the scientific community contends the the universe is between 14 - 16 billion years old and the earth 4 -5 billion years old. Some misguided "creationists" insist that it cannot be more than 6,000 years old. (Here is a link to a sermon: Genesis, 'Prehistoric man,' and the Gap theory. Here is a link to a related article in Spanish: ¿Cuán vieja es la Tierra? ¿Cuán largos fueron los Días de la Creación? ¿Teoría de la brecha?)
This article will attempt to answer those and other questions.
The Bible teaches:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted)
But the Bible does not say when that happened, other than it happened in "the beginning." Many (including this author) have added up ages of various biblical figures when they became fathers, combined with reigns of biblical kings and other scriptures, and concluded that from the time Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden to present, there has been a little less than 6,000 years (for details, please see the article ).
But some (and not this author) have then concluded that Genesis 1:1 took place 6,000 years ago. That, however, is an incorrect assumption.
Fossil evidence, carbon-dating, light patterns, and other dating systems suggest that the earth is likely much older than 6,000 years and probably billions of years old.
Some find this confusing as certain scientific evidence points to the Earth itself being much older than 6,000 years. But this is also explainable from the Bible.
As it turns out, there was a gap of time between Gensis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
Notice what the KJV translation of Genesis 1:2 states:
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. (Genesis 1:2, KJV)
Because the NKJV also kept about the same translation, many have been confused about what Genesis 1:2 really teaches.
The following is the Hebrew transliterated into characters that non-Hebrew readers can recognize:
2 weh’ares haytah tohû wabohû wehošek 'al-penê tehôm werûha elohîm merapet 'al-penê hammayim. (Genesis 1:2 from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, edited by Karl Ellinger and Wilhelm Rudolph. Fifth Revised Edition, edited by Adrian Schenker. © 1977 and 1997 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart. Used by permission. With certain letters in modern form by COGwriter as html would not display minimized certain characters properly)
Here is a somewhat literal translation of it:
2 the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness [is] on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2, Young's Literal Translation)
Here is a more understandable translation of it:
2 The earth became waste and void, and with darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon on the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2, clarified literal translation)
Before going further, notice something else:
18 For thus says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
"I am the Lord, and there is no other (Isaiah 45:18)
Notice that the earth was NOT created in vain. The word translated as 'vain' above is the same Hebrew word translated as 'without form' in Genesis 1:2. Obviously, then, according to the Bible, something happened between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
Here is an explanation of Genesis 1:2 by Craig White:
Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning God." God was before all. The next word is "created." "God created." He created the heaven and the earth. But the very next verse says this: "The earth was without form and void." The Hebrew words for "without form and void" are tohu and bohu. Translated into English they mean chaotic, in confusion, waste, and empty. When God created the heaven and the earth, did He create this earth originally in a state of confusion? Did He create it all topsy-turvy and chaotic?
World NOT Created in Chaos
We read in I Corinthians 14:33 that God is NOT the author of confusion. God is the author of peace. God is the author of order and of law. Notice Job 38:4-9. God says there that the angels shouted for joy when He created the earth. It must then have been a perfect creation, not a creation that was in chaos and confusion! Why would He create it in disorder and then have to straighten it out? That doesn't make sense!
Dr. Bullinger, the Hebrew authority, says that the Hebrew word for "created," used in Genesis 1:1, " implies that the creation was a perfect work." That very word "created" implies a perfect and a beautiful order and system, not chaos or confusion! Then how did it become chaotic? In Genesis 19:26, the same Hebrew word is used which is translated "was" in Gen. 1:2. And there it is translated into the English word "became." In the first three chapters of the Bible, and many other places where you find the word "was," in almost every case it is denoting a condition that was different from a former condition. In other words, it "BECAME" or "was made" that way. It had not always been that way.
The Earth BECAME Chaotic
Plainly the word "was" has the meaning of "became." The Rotherham translation of Gen. 1:2, out of the original Hebrew language, is this: "Now the earth HAD BECOME waste and empty." It hadn't always been that way. In Jeremiah 4:23, in Isaiah 24:10, in Isaiah 34:11, and in other places in the Bible, you find the same words, toha and boha, meaning chaotic and in confusion. In every case that condition is a result of sin.
No Chaos Originally
Notice Isaiah 45:18. "Thus saith the Eternal that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth and made it, He hath established it, He created it not in vain." "In vain" is an incorrect translation. In your Bible, if you have the marginal references, you will find in the margin the proper translation "waste." The original Hebrew word there is TOHU. This Hebrew word is the identical word used in Gen. 1:2, meaning confusion, or emptiness. or waste - a result of disorder, a result of violation of law.
In Isaiah 45:18 we have the plain statement that God created the earth not "toho," that is, not in confusion, not in disorder. But in Genesis 1:2, the earth was, or the earth BECAME - as it ought to he translated - chaotic and in confusion! Then it became that way after it was created.
Now, what could have caused that confusion? - that disorder? What sin could have wrecked the earth and brought it into the condition in which it was found in Gen. 1:2?
Life Before Adam?
Now, what was the sin then that caused this physical destruction to the earth? It was not a sin caused by humanity, because there had been no man on the earth until the sixth day of that re-creation or that re-making. So it was not a sin of man. Adam was the first man. We find over in I Corinthians 15:45 that Adam is called the first man on this earth. In Genesis Eve is called the mother of all living human beings. There was no other race prior to Adam and Eve. So the sin which brought chaos was not caused by man. And yet life must have populated the earth because a sin had occurred on the earth that brought it into a condition of chaos and confusion by breaking the laws of God. What kind of life could it have been? It wasn't human life.
What was it that populated this earth prior to the second verse of Genesis, the first chapter? In Genesis 1:28, speaking to the man whom He had created, God said this: ''Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." What does that word replenish mean? To plenish is to populate. To replenish means to repopulate - to populate all over again. Those very words imply that the earth had been populated before! Immediately after the flood in Genesis 9:1, God spoke to Noah. He blessed Noah and his sons and said unto them: "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." Identically the same words that He spoke to Adam! (White C. http://www.originofnations.org/HRP_Papers/Flood_Pre-Adamic.pdf)
The reality is that the Bible supports the idea of a "re-creation." And that is apparently what happened.
Note: Some critics of the gap theory claim because some species were the same over thousands or millions of years that there was not a re-creation. Of course, God could have re-introduced formally extincted species. Now because many of the world's scientists accept evolution, they would not tend to admit that there ever could have been total extinction of life prior to the re-creation--but this is what scripture seems to suggest that God did.
I would also like to point out that it was not until Genesis 1:14 that God made certain lights be for the purpose of marking off times like holy days:
14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs and will mark religious festivals, days, and years. (Genesis 1:14, God’s Word Translation)
(Note: While many Bible translated the “religious festivals” as “seasons,” the Hebrew word this originally was, mowed’, means religious festival.)
It may well be that time prior to Genesis 1:3 was counted differently than afterwards.
Do any scriptures about angels support the view that there was a gap? Perhaps. Notice what the New Testament show:
6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode (Jude 6)
3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. (Revelation 12:3-4)
The above indicates that angels came down prior to the time of Adam and Eve.
After I wrote the above, I came across something that the late Herbert Armstrong wrote about this:
It will come as news to most readers that angels were created before the earth and the physical universe were brought into existence. Job 38:1-7 shows the angels shouted for joy when God first created the earth. It is stated in both Genesis 1 and 2 that the earth was created at the same time as the entire physical universe. ...
Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning [of the physical universe] God created the heavens and the earth." These are material and physical.
As previously stated, in the Authorized Version will be found the word heaven in the singular. But this originally was written by Moses in Hebrew. And in the Hebrew the word is in the plural--heavens--thus including not only our earth, but the entire material UNIVERSE.
It is therefore indicated that at that time--after the creation of angels--the entire universe was brought into existence at the same time as the creation of our earth. I find strong indication of this in other biblical internal evidence, and also it is definitely stated in Genesis 2:4.
The Perfect Creation
The original Hebrew words (the words written by Moses) imply a perfect creation. God reveals himself as Creator of perfection, light and beauty. Every reference in the Bible describes the condition of any completed phase of God's creation as "very good"--perfect.
This first verse of the Bible actually speaks of the original PHYSICAL creation in its entirety--the universe--including the earth, perhaps millions of years ago--as a perfect creation, beautiful and perfect as far as its creation was a finished, completed work. God is a perfectionist!
In Job 38:4, 7, God is speaking specifically of the creation of this earth. He said all the angels (created "sons of God") shouted for joy at the creation of the earth. This reveals that angels were created before the creation of the earth--and probably before the material universe. The suns, planets and astral bodies are material substance.
Angels are individually created spirit beings, composed solely of spirit.
It will come as a surprise to many to learn that angels inhabited this earth BEFORE the creation of man. This passage from Job implies it.
Angels on Earth Sinned
Other passages place angels on earth prior to man.
Notice II Pet. 2:4-6. First in time order "angels that sinned." Next in time sequence, the antediluvian world beginning with Adam, carrying through to the Flood. After that, Sodom and Gomorrah. ...
Angels inhabited this earth before the creation of man.
It is revealed in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, that God placed the archangel Lucifer, a cherub, on a throne on the earth. He was placed there as a ruler over the entire earth. God intended him to rule the earth by administering the government of God over the earth. And the government of God was administered on earth until the rebellion of the sinning angels.
How long these angels inhabited the earth before the creation of man is not revealed. It might have been millions--or even billions--of years. More on that later. But these angels sinned. Sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4). ...
By this angelic sin, Lucifer became Satan the devil and his angels became demons.
God is Creator, Preserver and Ruler.
Satan is destroyer!
So, now we read in Jude 6-7: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
Now back to Genesis 1:1-2. Verse 1, as stated above, implies a perfect creation. God is the author of life, of beauty, of perfection. Satan has brought only darkness, ugliness, imperfection, violence. Verse 1 shows the creation of a perfect, if unfinished earth, glorious and beautiful. Verse 2 reveals the result of the sin of the angels.
"And the earth was [became] without form, and void." The words "without form, and void" are translated from the Hebrew tohu and bohu. A better translation is "waste and empty" or "chaotic, in confusion and in a state of decay." The word was is elsewhere in Genesis also translated became, as in Genesis 19:26. In other words, the earth, originally created perfect and beautiful, had now become chaotic, waste and empty, like our moon, except earth's surface was covered with water.
David was inspired to reveal how God renewed the face of the earth: "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth" (Ps. 104:30).
A Surprising Truth
Now another surprise for most readers. Here is another bit of the missing dimension in knowledge, actually revealed in the Bible, but unrecognized by religion, by science and by higher education.
From verse 2 of Genesis 1 on, the remainder of this first chapter of the Bible is not describing the original creation of the earth. But it is describing a renewing of the face of the earth, after it had become waste and empty as a result of the sin of the angels.
What is described from verse 2 on, in the supposed creation chapter of the Bible, did occur, according to the Bible, approximately 6,000 years ago. But that could have been millions or trillions of years after the actual creation of the earth described in verse 1! ...
When God placed angels--apparently a third of all (Rev. 12:4)--on the newly created, perfect, beautiful and glorious earth, he set over them, on a throne, to administer the government of God, an archangel--the great cherub Lucifer. ...
What Caused the Angels' Sin?
What caused the angels on earth to sin, to turn to lawlessness? Certainly the ordinary angels did not persuade this great superbeing to turn traitor. No, it was in him that iniquity was found. But, after how long? We don't know. God does not reveal that! It could have been any number of years from one or less to millions times millions.
And then, even after Lucifer himself made the decision to rebel and try to invade God's heaven to take over the universe, it is not revealed how long it took him to persuade all of the angels under him to turn traitor and follow him.
I know well the method he used. He uses the same method still today in leading deceived humans into disloyalty, rebellion, and self-centered opposition against God's government. First, he turns one or two to envy, jealousy and resentment over an imagined injustice--then into disloyalty. Then he uses that one or two, like a rotten apple in a crate, to stir up resentment, feelings of self-pity, disloyalty and rebellion in others next to them. And, as each rotten apple rots those next to it until the whole crate is rotten, so Satan proceeds.
If, in the government of God on earth today, the "rotten apples" are not thrown out early enough, they would destroy the whole government. But, once thrown out of the crate, they cannot do any more damage to those in the crate.
But think how long it must have taken the soured and embittered Lucifer to turn millions of holy angels into resentment, bitterness, disloyalty, and finally open and vicious rebellion. It could have taken hundreds, thousands or millions of years. This was all before the first human was created.
All this happened after the original creation of the earth, described in verse 1 of Genesis 1. Verse 2 of this creation chapter describes a condition resulting from this sin of the angels. The events described in verse 2, therefore, may have occurred millions of years after the original creation of the earth.
The earth, therefore, may have been created millions of years ago. But continue this passage in Ezekiel 28: "By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as proface out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy [remove] thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground..." (verses 16-17). (Armstrong HW. Mystery of Angels and Evil Spirits part of Chapter 2 in Mystery of the Ages, 1985).
Scriptures about angels provide additional support for the 'gap' position.
How long were the days of creation, or re-creation in this case?
The Bible clearly teaches they were normal 24 hour days:
3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 Then God said, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens." 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 29 And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food"; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:3-31)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3)
How long did all that take? A week. Notice also, according to the Bible, that the physical re-creation took six literal days, followed by the Sabbath:
8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)
16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:16-17)
So, the Bible is clear that the re-creation took six literal days, and then God rested on the seventh-day, and He expects those who follow Him to work on six days and rest on the seventh-day.
Since this article has had a lot of discussion about time, another question to deal with is, where in chronological sequence does the Bible really begin?
Perhaps it may be appropriate to look at how someone else answered that question:
If one should ask, where do you find the actual beginning of events in the Bible, most who possess even a slight knowledge of the world's "best seller" would say, "Why in Genesis chapter one verse one, of course." WRONG!
The real beginning, in order of time sequence, is found in the New Testament, in the first chapter of John, verse one. The events portrayed in Genesis occurred later - possibly even millions of years later. But the event recorded in John 1:1 reveals an existence perhaps long prior to the time God created the earth and the material universe. Note it: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." It continues, "The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." The term "all things" is translated in Hebrews 1:3, in the Moffatt translation, as "the UNIVERSE." The entire UNIVERSE was made by Him!
The fourteenth verse of John 1 says: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." The Personage called the Word was the one who ultimately-yet more than 1900 years ago-was born Jesus Christ. The name, "the Word," is translated from the original Greek text, and means, literally, just what is translated into English -"Spokesman." But He was not the Son of God "in the beginning." Yet the Scriptures reveal that He has always existed, and always will - "from eternity to eternity." He was "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life . . ." (Heb. 7:3).
So think on this, if you will! Originally there existed only these two Spirit Personages, self-existent. They had creative powers - they had perfect supreme minds - they possessed perfect, holy and righteous CHARACTER.
But THERE WAS NONE ELSE - NOTHING ELSE! There was no matter - no material universe - YET! No other living being or thing. Only these two, equal in mind and powers, except that God was supreme in authority, and the Word in perfect harmony under that authority. They were of one mind, in absolute agreement.
But ALL THINGS - the universe and everything existing in it - was made by the Personage called the Word. Yet, as we read in Ephesians 3:9: "God. . . created ALL THINGS by Jesus Christ." And prior to becoming Jesus Christ, He was "the Word!" Also, in His human life Jesus said He spoke only as the Father directed. Yes. THINK!
In the eternity even prior to "prehistory" there were these two Supreme Beings. Alone! In the emptiness of space! No other life forms - no other living beings! Nothing else!...Now another surprise for most readers. Here is another bit of the missing dimension in knowledge, actually revealed in the Bible, but unrecognized by religion, by science, and by higher education. From verse 2 of Genesis 1 on, the remainder of this first chapter of the Bible is not describing the original creation of the earth. But it is describing a renewing of the face of the earth, after it had become waste and empty as a result of the sin of the angels.
What is described from verse 2 on, in the supposed "Creation chapter" of the Bible, did occur, according to the Bible, approximately 6,000 years ago. But that could have been millions or trillions of years after the actual creation of the earth described in verse 1! I will comment later on the length of time it might have taken before all earth's angels turned to rebellion.
The earth had become waste and empty. God did not create it waste and empty, or in confusion. God is not the author of confusion (I Cor.14:33). This same Hebrew word - tohu - meaning waste and empty, was inspired in Isaiah 45:18, where it is translated "in vain." Using the original Hebrew word, as originally inspired, it reads: "For thus saith the [Eternal] that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain [tohu], he formed it to be inhabited."
Continue now with the remainder of verse 2 (Gen. 1) (the earth had become chaotic, waste, and empty): "And darkness was upon the face of the deep [the ocean or fluid surface of the earth]. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness" (verses 2-4).
Satan is the author of darkness. The rebellion of the angels had caused the darkness. God is the author of light and truth. Light displays and enhances beauty, and also exposes evil. Darkness hides both. The verses which follow in this first chapter of the Bible describe the renewing of the face of the earth, yielding beautiful lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetation - then the creation of fish and fowl, animal life, and finally man. (Armstrong HW. Incredible Human Potential, 1978)
So, the chronological beginning was in John 1:1.
It is true that humankind as we know it has only existed for about 6,000 years (for biblical details, please see the article Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?). But what about the planet?
While dating methods are subject to criticism, it is likely that the earth is much older than 6,000 years. However, this is not in contradiction to scripture, though some do not understand that.
Also, when God re-created the earth, this took six literal days, and was followed by a seventh-day of rest. This only took a literal week.
Here is a link to a sermon: Genesis, 'Prehistoric man,' and the Gap theory. Here is a link to a related article in Spanish: ¿Cuán vieja es la Tierra? ¿Cuán largos fueron los Días de la Creación? ¿Teoría de la brecha?
Thiel B. How old is the earth? How long were the days of creation? Gap theory? www.cogwriter.com/gap-theory-old-earth-long-days.htm 2012/2013/2014/2015 0305
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