The syntax of Genesis 1:2 allows no gap of time, as illustrated from other biblical examples

Introduction

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth became (?) formless and void….

At the core of the gap theory is this interpretation of Genesis 1:2. Does the text indicate that something happened to the earth, after it was already created in verse 1? Is there merit to this view, that the Hebrew more correctly should read (or at least, that it possibly can read): “the earth became formless…” rather than: “the earth was formless…”? The difference is between the words “to be” and “to become.” The first simply represents a state (of being), the second indicates an event, that is a change of state that occurred.

If you have read my previous treatment on how to read Genesis 1:1-2 (note: this is a forth-coming article at this time, though I give a few citations of it below), you’ll know that I argue verse 1 acts in large part as a summary of creation week, while still representing the initial step in the creation narrative. Contrary to this, the gap theory only makes sense if verse 1 indicates that God completed the entire creation of the cosmos in verse 1 alone. Then something bad happened to it (v. 2), and now the rest of chapter 1 is devoted to a re-creation event. Obviously, if my interpretation of verse 1 holds true, then it totally invalidates this theory. But one might still be left wondering about verse 2. Might it still have this potential meaning? Is this “became” reading valid at all, and might that possibly indicate a large gap of time occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, or simply between verses 1-2 and verse 3?

The purpose of this section is to analyze the Hebrew syntax of this verse, and to show through many other verses in the Hebrew Bible, those which share the same basic syntax of verse 2, that this reading is unwarranted. Beyond that though, an even larger purpose I have is to demystify verse 2 (particularly its syntax), and to hopefully remove any doubts people may have that would lead them to adopt a similar reading of the text. There is no room for reading in a gap of time into this verse, but more than that, I want people to see how common the basic form and meaning of this verse really is. At the same time, it is not my purpose in this section to formally introduce and critique the gap theory. Rather, I will focus narrowly on this particular ‘plank’ the theory stands upon.1 In the following we’ll see that there is nothing particularly complex about the Hebrew syntax of verse 2, and that there are many other verses in the Hebrew Bible like it. None of these support the “became” reading demanded by the gap-theory that I have found, while many other examples match the simple reading most of us are familiar with.

How verses 1 and 2 relate, a review of previous conclusions

I think it is important that we review what was already concluded about the basic purpose of this verse, and how it functions in relationship to verse 1. In the last article, in the section entitled “6.1 – The juxtaposition of verses 1 and 2 indicates a process of time was used in creation,” I stated the following:

Syntactically, it is clear that verse 2 disjunctively expands upon the last word spoken in verse 1. So while verse 1 ends with the words “and the earth” (וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃), verse 2 immediately picks up with that last word saying: “But the earth…” (וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ):

 … וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ …

… and the earth. But the earth was formless…

Then I also demonstrated that it’s possible to see a semantic (meaning based) disjunctive contrast between verses 1 and 2. While gap-theorists might be delighted to hear that, this doesn’t help their cause in the end:

For now, however, what I would like to focus on is that there does nonetheless seem to be a semantic adversative juxtaposition between the sense of total completion conveyed in verse 1, with what you might call the “non-cosmos” of verse 2… Now I realize that the old gap theory played up on a sense of adversity in verse 2, but we shouldn’t let our own exegesis be dictated one way or the other based on examples of bad exegesis. The gap theory proponents were reading a good vs evil conflict into the text, as well as a historical sequence of events that (I believe) the text never even hints.
But if God was going to create the universe through a process, not just in an instant, then it was an essential necessity that most of the things we associate with goodness and with order be missing: things such as light, daily and seasonal rhythms, and so forth. So the adversative sense I see here is not one of conflict between good and evil, but rather one of contrast between the sense of absolute completion conveyed in verse 1, and the sense of an absolute lack of order and design conveyed in verse 2. In verse 2, the earth was like a lump of unformed wet clay, although encouragingly, the Spirit of God was already prepping it for action (spinning up the wheel, we might say).
Here’s my point then: I see the adversative juxtaposition of verse 2 as a textual clue telling us that despite the statement of verse 1 – that God created the heavens and the earth in all of their perfection in the beginning – that nonetheless he did this through a process of time. He didn’t do this instantly, in a moment. So verse 2 transports us to the beginning of a process, the end of which will see the complete fulfillment of the statement made in verse 1. After verse 2, the text will unfold the main details of the chronological process God followed in fulfilling exactly what verse 1 claimed happened, when God ‘created the heavens and the earth.’ But as Exodus 20:11 states, he did this “in six days.” God did not create the heavens and the earth in one moment, nor in 8 billion years, he created them in a span of six-days’. Genesis 1:1 was never meant to be read differently from how Exodus 20:11 reads.

Analysis

Technical notes

We’re going to look now at some other examples that match the basic syntactic form of Genesis 1:2, and particularly at other disjunctive clauses (those which begin with a noun or noun-phrase) which are followed by the ‘copulative’ verb to be (hayah). Of especial interest amongst these will be those examples where the noun that had the focus in the previous clause (or verse) is the same noun that fronts the disjunctive clause, just as ‘the earth’ (ha’aretz) ends Genesis 1:1, and yet also begins the disjunctive clause in verse 2.

A few technical notes on searching for such examples follow. There is no easy way to programmatically find all such examples, unfortunately, so I employed the following means to obtain a narrower result set to look through. Let me highlight that this is not a perfect search by any means, but with it at least I was able to obtain many fitting examples, even while I admit this is not perfect in the least.2 In Logos search on the following (the same could be done in BibleWorks or Accordance):

lemma:וְ@Pc BEFORE 0 WORD <WestMorph ~ n????+S???E?> BEFORE 2 WORD lemma:היה@vqp3

Interpretation: Find instances where a waw occurs 0 words before a noun, which itself occurs no more than 2 words before the verb to be (hayah, qal, 3rd person).3

This search comes up with some 126 verses, which at least is a set one can look through in a decent amount of time.4 But let me highlight again that many of these don’t actually match the pattern, that this morphology search is just meant to help winnow down to possible matches is all.

In displaying examples below, note that a thorough methodology would be to display every fitting instance, to categorize them into the ways they basically function, and then to see if any fit the ‘gap-theory’ (change of state ‘becoming’ interpretation). As beneficial as this would be, such a study would take many more pages than we have here, so I am not claiming the results below rule out such a reading. Even so, I will make the claim, in good faith, that in my admittedly quick and dirty search exercise, I spotted no examples that could fit the gap-theory view.  

Examples

In the following I will be tagging these examples when they fit one or more of the following categories of interest.

  • # – Starts a new section (pericope, chapter, etc.)
  • || – Some kind of comparison or contrast is made with the disjunctive clause over against the previous clause it follows. There is no doubt that this is often a subjective matter that must be discerned from the content, and that often the comparison or contrast can be a light matter. Even so it is worth highlighting these as such.
  • ! – Fits the pattern of Genesis 1:2 where the noun of the disjunctive clause harkens back or clarifies the thing that was just mentioned.

Genesis 1:2 (||, !)

… the heavens and the earth. The earth, however, was formless and void… (Genesis 1:2)

תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ הָיְתָה וְהָאָרֶץ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃…
tohu and bohu (formless and void)… was The earth, (however) … the heavens and the earth

 

No comment on this one, as of course it is the main question. So let us see what we can learn about the basic meaning of this verse as we look at these other verses that have the same syntactic structure.

Genesis 3:1 (#)

Now then, the snake was craftier than all the other beasts of the field which Yahweh God had made. (Genesis 3:1)

עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה הָיָה וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה
more crafty than all the beasts of the field which Yahweh God made. was Now the snake

I don’t know if anyone has tried to translate this as “became more crafty.” Of course, at one time Satan did fall (he changed character, and thus changed ‘state’), but I think it’s pretty clear this verse already assumes that is already the case, that this fallen state of affairs already exists at the moment this verse begins. So it simply means “was.” Of course the gap-theory assumes Satan had already fallen even before what they would consider the first day of creation, so for them as well, this verse must be taken as describing a static state, not a changing, ‘becoming’ one (“he was” not “he became”).

‘#’ – This is an example where the disjunctive clause type syntax is used to alert the reader to the fact that the narrative is changing to a new topic.5 So while there is no hearkening back to a noun just mentioned in the previous clause, as Genesis 1:2 does, this identical syntax illustrates just how common such syntax is, where the full (copulative) verb to be is included. Note that many times, Hebrew can still function without the verb (thus a ‘verbless clause’), but the meaning and overall function is often identical to when it does. So if someone tells you the occurrence of the verb to be in Genesis 1:2 is somehow unusual or uncommon, you’ll know how entirely untrue that is. I came upon one such claim recently, but unfortunately I cannot locate it.

Genesis 4:2 (||)

And again she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a shepherd of sheep, but as for Cain, he was a worker of the soil. (Genesis 4:2)

עֹבֵד אֲדָמָה הָיָה וְקַיִן וַתֹּסֶף לָלֶדֶת אֶת אָחִיו אֶת הָבֶל וַיְהִי הֶבֶל רֹעֵה צֹאן
a worker of the soil. he was but as for Cain, And again she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a shepherd of sheep

First off, I want to emphasize that this is only the third example my morphology based search resulted in, I haven’t even filtered any results yet (not even any results that don’t actually match the real pattern, of which see technical notes above). Soon I will have to narrow down the results to the most representative examples, but that hasn’t even happened yet.

The intended meaning is obvious. Abel was a shepherd, Cain was a tiller of the soil, a farmer. This is not saying they became that after being something different (for instance, Abel wasn’t formerly a farmer, but now he became a shepherd, and vice versa for Cain). Is it unusual in Hebrew for the full “to be” copulative verb6 to be used like it is in Genesis 1:2, when the intended meaning describes a static (not a changing) state of affairs? Not at all, it happens all the time as it does in this verse.

‘||’ – It is a light contrast being made, of course with not a hint of negative comparison, but this disjunctive syntax is used nonetheless to mark some kind of distinction. In this case, the distinction is between the alternative occupations each brother took on. Abel was a shepherd, while Cain, on the other hand, was a tiller of the ground.

(Genesis 7:6)

Anchor: “Noah was in his six hundredth year when the Flood came—waters upon the earth./”7 (Genesis 7:6)

K&D: “Noah was six hundred years old, and the flood was (namely) water upon the earth;”8

מַיִם עַל הָאָרֶץ׃ הָיָה וְהַמַּבּוּל וְנֹחַ בֶּן שֵׁשׁ מֵאֹות שָׁנָה
waters on the earth. was when the flood Now Noah was 600 years old

This is an odd syntax that probably doesn’t even fit the main category, which is why I put this one in parentheses. The clause we are interested in is obviously subordinate to the initial temporal indicator. It’s remotely possible one could translate this: “when the flood became waters on the earth.” But obviously, that wouldn’t make much sense, because a flood by definition is watery all the time. Both Anchor and K&D seem to be in agreement in taking this construction as indicating apposition. Let me note that there are other examples that are hard to exactly place, so let this serve as one example of them.

Genesis 29:17 (||)

Now the eyes of Leah were tender, but as for Rachel, she was beautiful in form, and beautiful in appearance. (Genesis 29:17)

וּלְלָבָן שְׁתֵּי בָנֹות שֵׁם הַגְּדֹלָה לֵאָה וְשֵׁם הַקְּטַנָּה רָחֵל׃וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה רַכֹּות וְרָחֵל הָיְתָה יְפַת תֹּאַר וִיפַת מַרְאֶה׃

יְפַת תֹּאַר וִיפַת מַרְאֶה׃ הָיְתָה וְרָחֵל וּלְלָבָן שְׁתֵּי בָנֹות שֵׁם הַגְּדֹלָה לֵאָה וְשֵׁם הַקְּטַנָּה רָחֵל׃וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה רַכֹּות
beautiful in form, and beautiful in appearance. she was but as for Rachel, Now Laban had two daughters, the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Now the eyes of Leah were tender,

Again a contrast or comparison (||) is made. Being that the disjunctive noun in this case is a feminine singular, as is ‘the earth’ in Genesis 1:2, this one makes for easy visual comparison:

 we-ha’aretz          hayetah            tohu…                         (Gen 1:2)

 we-rachel             hayetah            yephat-toar …             (Gen 29:17)

Exodus 1:5

(Exod 1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob)… Now all the souls who came forth from the loins of Jacob [and went to Egypt with him] were 70 souls, but as for Joseph, he was (already) in Egypt. (Exodus 1:5)

בְמִצְרָיִם׃ הָיָה  וְיֹוסֵף וַיְהִי כָּל נֶפֶשׁ יֹצְאֵי יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב שִׁבְעִים נָפֶשׁ
(already) in Egypt. he was but as for Joseph Now all the souls who came forth from the loins of Jacob [and went to Egypt with him] were 70 souls,

‘!’ – Of course there is no ‘became’ in this case, but what is most notable to me is how this identical kind of disjunctive clause is used here to clarify something that had just been stated in the previous verse. In particular, while the noun that has the focus in the previous verse is Jacob’s sons, now the text clarifies something about same noun-phrase, namely that Joseph, who of course was also one of Jacob’s sons, was not one of those who came up with Jacob because he was already in Egypt. So this is to me a lighter example of this disjunctive syntax being used to clarify something about the noun just spoken in the previous clause.

Exodus 3:1 (#)

Now Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian… (Exodus 3:1)

רֹעֶה אֶת צֹאן יִתְרֹו חֹתְנֹו כֹּהֵן מִדְיָן הָיָה וּמֹשֶׁה
shepherding the flock of his father-in-law… was Now Moses

As with Genesis 3:1 above, here again a new section opens with a disjunctive clause with an explicitly listed to be copulative verb, just like Genesis 1:2 has it. Another example of this is Judges 11:1 – “Now Jephtah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior…” (וְיִפְתָּח הַגִּלְעָדִי הָיָה גִּבּוֹר חַיִל ).

1 Samuel 2:11 (||)

Then Elkanah went to his home in Ramah, while the lad, on the other hand, stayed (lit: was) ministering onto Yahweh… (1 Samuel 2:11)

מְשָׁרֵת אֶת יְהוָה הָיָה וְהַנַּעַר וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶלְקָנָה הָרָמָתָה עַל בֵּיתוֹ 
ministering onto Yahweh. was but the lad So Elkanah went to Ramah to his home,

Notice the contrast carried by this disjunctive clause: While Elkanah goes home, his young son, on the other hand, stays on at Shiloh indefinitely as a minister of the Lord.

Various

  • 1 King 5:1 (#) – “Now Solomon was ruler over all the kingdoms from …” (וּשְׁלֹמֹה הָיָה מוֹשֵׁל בְּכָל הַמַּמְלָכוֹת ).
  • 1 Kings 14:30 – “Now war existed between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days long…” (וּמִלְחָמָה הָיְתָה בֵין רְחַבְעָם וּבֵין יָרָבְעָם כָּל הַיָּמִים׃).

Now we will look at five last examples, but they are the best of all. All of these fit our double exclamation category (‘!!’), where the noun of the disjunctive clause harkens back or clarifies the thing that was just mentioned, as Genesis 1:2 does.

Exodus 36:6-7

Then Moses commanded… ‘Let no man or woman perform any more ‘work’ (melachah) for the contributions of the sanctuary, for the work (melachah, i.e. that already supplied) was sufficient for all the work that had to be done, and more so. (Exodus 36:6-7)

דַיָּם לְכָל הַמְּלָאכָה לַעֲשֹׂות אֹתָהּ וְהֹותֵר׃ הָיְתָה וְהַמְּלָאכָה וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה … אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה אַל יַעֲשׂוּ עֹוד מְלָאכָה לִתְרוּמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ וַיִּכָּלֵא הָעָם מֵהָבִיא׃
sufficient for all the work that had to be done, and more so. was for the work (melachah, i.e. that already supplied) Then Moses commanded… ‘Let no man or woman perform any more ‘work’ (melachah) for the contributions of the sanctuary,

In this instance the disjunctive clause gives a reason for the first statement, that is, it is causal in intended meaning. Also note that the noun of interest in the first clause is the noun that fronts the disjunctive clause (‘the work’).

Judges 8:11 (!)

And Gideon arose … and he struck the camp, for the camp was unsuspecting. (Judges 8:11)

בֶטַח׃ הָיָה וְהַמַּחֲנֶה וַיַּעַל גִּדְעֹון … וַיַּךְ אֶת הַמַּחֲנֶה
unsuspecting. was while the camp And Gideon arose … and he struck the camp,

Note how the noun of the disjunctive clause (“the camp”) was the last word of the preceding clause. So just as Genesis 1:1 ends with “the earth” followed by “and (but? however?) the earth…,” the same thing happens here in order to clarify that the camp that had been struck had been unsuspecting, and thus had its guard down. So there is a clarification given via this construct. Note that this is one of the two major examples Mark Rooker listed in support of viewing Genesis 1:2 as “parenthetically” “describe[ing]” “an element in the main clause” (verse 1).9

1 Kings 18:3 (!)

Then Ahab called to Obadiah who was over his house. (Now for Obadiah, he did fear Yahweh greatly…) (1 Kings 18:3)

יָרֵא אֶת יְהוָה מְאֹד׃ הָיָה וְעֹבַדְיָהוּ וַיִּקְרָא אַחְאָב אֶל עֹבַדְיָהוּ אֲשֶׁר עַל הַבָּיִת
fear Yahweh greatly… he did (Now for Obadiah Then Ahab called to Obadiah who was over his house.

Once again, the disjunctive clause picks up on the noun (in this case the person) who was the subject in the previous clause. Its purpose is clearly to expound on or clarify something about that last mentioned thing or person.

Jonah 3:3 (!)

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was a great city onto God… (Jonah 3:3)

עִיר גְּדֹולָה לֵאלֹהִים … הָיְתָה וְנִינְוֵה וַיָּקָם יֹונָה וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל נִינְוֶה כִּדְבַר יְהוָה
a great city onto God…
 
was Now Nineveh So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh.

This is probably the most mentioned example that parallels Genesis 1:2, and rightfully so. However, I hope it is becoming obvious that this is by no means a one-off example. To the contrary, this is completely regular syntax. In this case, Nineveh is the focus of the main clause, but then the disjunctive clause clarifies something about it. This is just like what happens in Genesis 1:1 and 2. The last word of verse 1 is “the earth,” but then the disjunctive clause clarifies that (at the start of the process, though after the very initial creation), the earth was nothing more than deserted and empty, which indicates a process of creation was needed to take fulfill the full meaning of verse 1, going from less complete to more (that at least is my reading of the disjunction).

Zechariah 3:3 (!)

Then he showed me Joshua the High Priest standing before the Angel of Yahweh… Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments… (Zechariah 3:3)

לָבֻשׁ בְּגָדִים צֹואִים וְעֹמֵד לִפְנֵי הַמַּלְאָךְ׃ הָיָה וִיהֹושֻׁעַ וַיַּרְאֵנִי אֶת יְהֹושֻׁעַ …
clothed in filthy garments… was Now Joshua Then he showed me Joshua…

 

As we’ve in examples above, the disjunctive clause clarifies something about the topic of focus. It’s not until verse 3 with this disjunctive clause that we learn all is not well. This is why Joshua was in need of the Lord’s intercession, the filth of his own garments showed there was trouble that required this special intercession and protection from Satan’s accusations.

2 Chronicles 13:7 (!)

And certain empty-headed, devilish men gathered around him, and they overpowered Rehoboam the son of Solomon, while Rehoboam was but a lad and tender-hearted, and he could not withstand them. (2 Chronicles 13:7)

וַיִּקָּבְצוּ עָלָיו אֲנָשִׁים רֵקִים בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל וַיִּתְאַמְּצוּ עַל רְחַבְעָם בֶּן שְׁלֹמֹה וּרְחַבְעָם הָיָה נַעַר וְרַךְ לֵבָב וְלֹא הִתְחַזַּק לִפְנֵיהֶם׃

נַעַר וְרַךְ לֵבָב וְלֹא הִתְחַזַּק לִפְנֵיהֶם׃ הָיָה וּרְחַבְעָם … רְחַבְעָם בֶּן שְׁלֹמֹה
but a lad was while Rehoboam … against Rehoboam…

In this last example, we see how the disjunctive clause is intended to explain why something happened in the previous statement, namely how it was that this king did the stupid thing he did initially, in speaking foolishly at the beginning of his reign, as if he would make life even harder for the people than it had been under his father. The explanation is that he was in fact entirely overpowered as a young man new to the office by worthless scoundrels. Of course, it goes without saying that Rehoboam did not “become” a young man, tender of heart, rather he was already a young man, tender of heart, that was the very problem!

Conclusion

I hope you can see by now that:

  1. There is nothing unusual, mystic, or puzzling about the syntax of Genesis 1:2. This exact kind of syntax appears in many other regular biblical passages, where even the full ‘to-be’ copulative verb is specified. In these other similar passages, none of us would have thought of them as even remotely puzzling or difficult in intended meaning. To be clear, since this verse, the second verse in the Bible, describes a very strange time, a time before almost anything had been made, that of course still has some mystery to it, as we are forced to imagine what this strange time looked like. But the mystique is not at all from the syntax of this verse, which is identical in form to many other typical Hebrew narrative verses. 
  2. There seems to be no precedent for reading the copulative verb to-be in this kind of Hebrew syntax to mean “became,” that is, to postulate that the copulative describes a change of state, as opposed to simply describing something that was. I don’t want to overstate my case here, as the study represented above was not comprehensive in nature (that would take a more in-depth and longer study). But at best, such a ‘change-of-state’ meaning would be the exception and not the norm. 
  3. As we’ve seen in many of the examples of above, this particular kind of waw disjunctive clause most often represents a circumstantial clause that parenthetically describes or clarifies something  about the previous verse or passage. Mark Rooker describes this as follows: 

    “On the other hand it seems that such passages as Judges 8:11 and Jonah 3:3 are more helpful parallels to the grammatical structure reflected in Genesis 1:1–2, where a finite verb is followed by a waw disjunctive clause containing the verb הָיָה [hayah]. This clause qualifies a term in the immediately preceding independent clause. The independent clause makes a statement and the following circumstantial clause describes parenthetically an element in the main clause. This would confirm the traditional interpretation that verse 1 contains the main independent clause, with Genesis 1:2 consisting of three subordinate circumstantial clauses describing what the just-mentioned earth looked like after it was created.”10

  4. It is true that the meaning (not necessarily the syntax) of verses 1 and 2 seems to still represent a contrast of sorts. This is no different than how in the examples above, a contrast was often made, even though that contrast can be very mild (see the ‘||’ examples above). Sometimes the contrast is nothing more than: Cain was a farmer, but Abel was a shepherd… In this case, I believe the semantic (meaning-based) contrast is simply due to the sense of completion and perfection one gets from verse 1, and the quite opposite sense of incompletion and lack of anything good (not even light yet) we get from verse 2. So I am not denying that there is no contrast being made here. What I believe this contrast was representing is as I stated earlier, which is worth repeating again:

Here’s my point then: I see the adversative juxtaposition of verse 2 as a textual clue telling us that despite the statement of verse 1 – that God created the heavens and the earth in all of their perfection in the beginning – that nonetheless he did this through a process of time. He didn’t do this instantly, in a moment. So verse 2 transports us to the beginning of a process, the end of which will see the complete fulfillment of the statement made in verse 1. After verse 2, the text will unfold the main details of the chronological process God followed in fulfilling exactly what verse 1 claimed happened, when God ‘created the heavens and the earth.’ But as Exodus 20:11 states, he did this “in six days.” God did not create the heavens and the earth in one moment, nor in 8 billion years, he created them in a span of six-days’. Genesis 1:1 was never meant to be read differently from how Exodus 20:11 reads.

The key is to read Genesis 1 as a first time reader. Forget you’ve ever read this before. Then slowly read that first verse: “In the beginning, … God created … the heavens … and the earth.” Wow! That’s an amazing statement! Then you reach verse 2, which if you don’t mind, I’ll render creatively here, as if a hill-billy was describing it to his friend, but with the intent to pull out the actual meaning as I see it:

But as for that there “earth” I just mentioned, well … I have to tell you, it didn’t start out like we see it now, all nice and pretty like, no sir! Rather, it was all formless and empty, and there was nothin’ but darkness on the surface of them deep waters. But even then, the Spirit of God was already a-movin’ and a-broodin’ over them waters, gettin’ ready to do something special… And out of that darkness, God’s own Voice shook the whole place with these resounding words: “Let There Be Light!” And what would you know, there WAS light! 

Whether or not you accept all of this interpretation, one thing is clear from the research above: There is nothing unusual in the syntax of Genesis 1:2, and the verb to be is commonly used in such waw disjunctive clauses. It never, or at least almost never, describes a change of state (a becoming act, from one thing to another). While one might still be tempted to use an argument from silence to suppose a gap of time still did occur between verses 1 and 2, one cannot and should not suppose that there is support for that idea from the Hebrew syntax of this verse. And such a notion strongly contradicts the entire account of Genesis 1, which in the most unambiguous terms possible, recounts how God created the heavens and the earth in only six days time, just as Exodus 20:11 states.

 


  1. For a formal introduction and critique of the gap theory, one good resource is Sarfati, The Genesis Account, pp. 107-114. 

  2. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have a good tagging system that simply tags all examples of disjunctive clauses, and which even better, that categorizes these disjunctive clauses into some basic categories. There is an advanced “syntax” search in the Logos Bible software program, built on the Andersen and Forbes (|| Longacre’s) discourse analysis database, which divvies up the text according to their perceived DA sections. Unfortunately, even though this database marks disjunctive clauses, and while there may still be a way to do this, it has eluded me. All of the hierarchical discourse analysis tagging in my view obscures what should be simple searches. For example, this database has marked Genesis 1:2 in a way (as dependent on the last verse) that made it not come up in a simple search for disjunctive clauses (which again, I may have done incorrectly, but this is notoriously difficult, especially when I don’t want anything to do with these DA categories which I feel are imposed on the text). Well, it’s a worthless search if it doesn’t even bring up our chief verse of concern, Genesis 1:2! So let me send out this signal: We need a syntax database, but there are major drawbacks to it being built upon this utterly complex Discourse Analysis system, the foundational assumptions of which have largely been discredited in recent studies. I’m sure this database can still be used to some helpful affect now and then, but it is highly unfortunate that simple searches must be encumbered with these dubious, entirely too complex, hierarchical discourse analysis tags. Let’s build a simpler system without all of that baggage

  3. For this part: ‘<WestMorph ~ n????+S???E?>’, you simply type ‘@n*’ and it will expand to the larger form. 

  4. Making the verb to be more than 2 spaces removed comes up of course with more results, I think I tried this with up to 5 words removed as well. This did find a few more examples, but that was mixed with all the more flack. 

  5. This will have bearing later on John Collins’ and Hugh Ross’ claims, that only waw-consecutives are part of the main storyline. It is an amazing claim, as there are endless examples to the contrary. Indeed, the rule is for the most part the opposite, that a regular waw-consecutive doesn’t begin a new narrative section, in most cases it must have something like we have here. 

  6. Waltke O’Connor define ‘copula’ as follows: “a copula (Latin ‘rope, thong’): a verb that joins the subject and predicate of an equational verb clause, e.g., ‘She is tall’; or a pronoun that joins the subject and predicate of a verbless clause, e.g., ‘Miriam, she (is) tall.’” “Copula,” IBHS glossary, 690. 

  7. E. A. Speiser, Genesis: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, vol. 1, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven;  London: Yale University Press, 2008), 48. 

  8. K&D, Gen 7:1ff, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 91. 

  9. The full citation is given in the conclusion below. 

  10. Mark F. Rooker, “Part 2 (of 2 Parts): Genesis 1:1–3: Creation or Re-Creation?,” Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (1992): 416. 

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