Menu

Sign up for email updates!

Subscribe

RESEARCH FINDINGS BEHIND GROUNDBREAKING NEW BOOK “BEFORE GENESIS” TELL THEIR OWN TALE—PART 23: EARTH BETWEEN “VOID” AND “GOOD”

Share this!

Up to this point, we’ve talked about the inerrancy of Scripture—a doctrine I hold to unequivocally—as well as Ussher Chronology, admissible Old-Earth interpretations of terms in Genesis, what science has to say about Earth’s age, and the evidence of a very ancient intelligence. We have flirted with the possibilities of a pre-Adamic race and the OOPArts they left behind, hinted at a possible link to a “void” era of Earth’s history that might explain an enormous gap in time within God’s Creation epic, and promised to address what I believe the Bible might be saying about it all. Finally, we are at that promised point.

Some readers might be wondering why I tackled only part of Genesis’ terminology in the first couple of chapters, then broke off that topic to explore science and mysterious locations, and am only just now returning to take on the rest of the words in Genesis. In short, this was because I wanted to build the case that the Bible allows for an Old-Earth interpretation (covering issues that consistently arise early on in the debate), followed by evidence of Old Earth being true—all before diving into what may have actually occurred between the initial formation of the planet and its later re-creation beginning in Genesis 1:3. By now, readers should have a general feel for why what we are about to delve into is not only possible, but also happens to connect the wayward, detached dots in a way no other interpretations have done. For the rest of this chapter and the next, we’ll take a look at a powerful cherub of God’s design; the self-inflating decision he made; what the prophets also saw in their visions related to this cherub; and what disastrous conditions that may have thrust upon Earth, its surface, its earliest inhabitants, and even dinosaurs.

The first item on this list is a “Who got there first?” question some may have regarding the earliest religion on Earth. I’ll address that briefly.

The Doctrine of Original Revelation

In a study reviewing the most ancient sites and objects on Earth that also appear to be man-made, it’s crucial to get one thing established before anything else: The very first, and therefore original, revelation of all things spiritual came from God. If Adam was, in fact, born around 4004 BC—and if, in fact, someone or something was walking Earth before him—then it would be easy to think the first true, image-bearing human beings merely copied spiritual concepts from the surrounding cultures that predated them. In other words, one might say, Christianity is not the foremost or final Word on the spiritual realm, as it is younger than whatever was going on during the “void.”

This could not be farther from the truth, as God was still first. He is eternal, so He is always the First and the Last (Isaiah 44:6–8).

A doctrine sometimes referred to as the “Doctrine of Original Revelation” (a term that originated with Tom Horn years ago in his now out-of-print book “The Gods who Walk Among Us” and is not to be confused with the “Doctrine of Revelation” [which says the Bible is God’s trustworthy self-revelation to mankind]), that goes like this: Adam was the first human being who walked in the Garden of Eden alongside God. The two spoke with one another and discussed an unimaginable number of deep, spiritual topics, as can be gleaned from Genesis 3:8. The Fall of mankind was what initially drove a wedge between God and man, but Adam and Eve felt remorse for their rebellion and attempted to mend their ways—in part, by rearing children who were trained in the spiritual matters of the original teachings God gave Earth’s first parents. This model of training up children in the ways of the Lord would also be passed down to biblical writers (cf., Proverbs 22:6). As the population multiplied and pagan nations arose, they hijacked the original revelation of God to Adam and twisted it to attempt to make their gods look more powerful than Jehovah/Yahweh. Heavenly concepts that were at first unblemished, beautiful, and wholly good became warped as evil, ugly, and overbearing, while what was intrinsically wicked came to be viewed by the pagans as the right way: the way to true liberty of the soul, mind, body, and spirit. Though history records many complicated religious shifts within early human cultures, this is how we came to have, as one example, the many gods of Egypt, Babylon, etc., most of which can be linked to some aspect of God’s character or His control over His Creation.

The central point is that God was first, and every other god or religion was a pathetic imitation giving allowance for sin: The Doctrine of Original Revelation states that Adam had it right and everyone after Adam who developed pagan ideas from his stories and ran with them had it wrong. Obviously, if Adam got here first, then his testimony of who God is, what happened in Eden, and all other details passed down through generations—eventually reaching Noah, then Moses, then the Israelites, then the Jews, and so on until the authoritative canon of Scripture was established—are the first, and therefore original, spiritual truths drawn from God’s revelation to man (and recorded in the Word).

But what happens when someone suggests that there was life on Earth prior to Adam, such as a pre-Adamic race? Does the Doctrine of Original Revelation go out the window? Can it no longer be trusted if someone else got here first?

Not at all. But in that case, we need to bring into view a different relationship that may even make more sense in the perspective of Original Revelation: God and Lucifer.

The Scriptures make it infinitely clear that way before Adam was formed from dust, the angels were observing God at work during this planet’s Creation (this can be gleaned from a number of biblical passages, though Job 38:4–7 states it outright). Lucifer was an angel—a cherub, to be more specific—who rebelled against God and fell from Heaven to his kingdom, Earth. Before he fell, Lucifer would have had privileges similar to Adam’s in the Garden, understanding the ways of God as he had communed with God in His very presence in Heaven. Since God’s plan for mankind doesn’t come into the biblical narrative until the re-creation, the “void” era belongs to Lucifer, the angels that fell with him, and whatever pre-Adamic beings may have walked Earth prior to Adam millions and billions of years ago, nearer to when science acknowledges humanity’s “ancestors” to be (though that’s not what I think they were).

Then God, having heaved His righteous judgment on the “void” planet, brought what He first created back to perfection as recorded in Genesis 1:3 and following, and Adam was the pinnacle of that Creation, as well as the initial human recipient of the divine revelation.

Again, so readers don’t misunderstand: If beings of some kind were living on Earth before Adam, they would have been under Lucifer’s influence. Their religions would have ignited a worldwide catastrophe of satanic implications, evidences of which were possibly preserved in some or all of the sites we looked at in the last chapter. (However, there are Gap theorists who do believe that there was a pre-Adamic, humanlike creation made by God [but not necessarily in His image] who joined Lucifer in his fall and were then destroyed in the chaos battle between God and the fallen beings. This theory acknowledges that Noah’s Flood was a repeat case of God’s judgment, and that it will happen again to those who join Lucifer following the Great Tribulation, and yet again during the thousand-year Millennial Reign of Christ. I find this theory possible, but unlikely, due to the explicit and special nature of God’s salvific plan for humanity.)

If this is possible, then the Doctrine of Original Revelation still stands—God imparting Adam knowledge as they walked together in the beginning and eventually becoming what we know of the Word. Lucifer lying to a lot of people in history doesn’t change that.

Regardless of what Lucifer knew of God before he fell to Earth, we know he has been mimicking God any way he can in an attempt to deceive, warp, and destroy what God had made, throughout the “void” era, into the Garden where a “serpent” was waiting to deceive Adam and Eve.

Either way, I will repeat, and build on, something I said just paragraphs ago: The very first, and therefore original, revelation of all things spiritual came from God and was carried by His Spirit onto the pages we now know as the Bible…which can be trusted. (As many Bible readers are aware, it will always be Lucifer’s grandest trick to make humankind believe that his ways are the true ways and God is a capricious and overbearing rule-maker. He brought this trick into the Garden of Eden and that’s what heavily contributed to the separation between God and man. Jesus reversed and repaired this horrendous mistake. In the end, through the satanic seed of the serpent, Antichrist, Satan will once again claim to be the True God [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. We must always trust the Word that God, Himself, wrote [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21; 1 Corinthians 2:4–16].)

Now let’s dig in…

“Without Form, and Void”: Era of the Fossils

“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). The words “without form, and void” come from the rhyming Hebrew words tohu and bohu. Because these are in immediate proximity and appear to be somewhat synonymous (in both English and Hebrew), we’ll look at them together to see what they are truly describing. (Note that in all cases but one [these the endnotes], italics were in the original sources.)

Although “without form” isn’t an inaccurate or irresponsible translation of tohu, we are so far removed from the original implications of this word to the original Jewish readers that we don’t get the full picture of what an Earth “without form” would have meant at the time. The first readers of Moses’ day would have gotten it, though.

The first source I’d like us to consider is The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, Based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius. As the (rather long) title implies, this lexicon wasn’t just a compilation of some guy’s opinion; it was the result of years and years of reflection, study, deep digging, and peer review by some of the most prolific Hebrew linguists in history who have made it their lifelong duty to dissect the etymology of terms and bring back a full understanding of what the writers of the Bible intended to communicate. The most basic meaning of tohu, these masters say, is “formlessness, confusion, unreality, [and] emptiness—1. formlessness, of primaeval earth, of land reduced to primaeval chaos [as in Isaiah 24:10; 34:11; 45:18]…nothingness, empty space; of empty, trackless waste [as in Deuteronomy 32:10; Job 6:18].”[i]

Land “reduced to” a chaotic state—not land “formed that way in the beginning.”

The second definition of the same word relates to its figurative use: as a reference to something “empty, unreal, as idols (coll. [collective] of idolmakers), groundless arguments or considerations, moral unreality or falsehood; = a thing of nought, worthlessness; as adv. [adverb] acc. [accusative] I said not…seek me emptily, to no purpose.”[ii]

So far, “without form” means far more than just a harmlessly “formless” area God had not yet perfected because it was still being worked on. It means something that had been “reduced to chaos and trackless waste.”

Pay attention to this part, because this is a key to opening the door of my later conclusions: In order for the planet to have been “reduced to” anything, it had to have been something else before.

The phrasal verb “reduce to,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary, when referring to an object (and not a person), means “to cause something, especially a large structure, to be destroyed and broken into pieces.” Like Earth, perhaps? The example they give of this is: “Allied bombing reduced the city to ruins/rubble.”[iii] Interesting. So, if the grammarians behind our choice Hebrew lexicon say the chief definition of tohu relates in any way to the English words “reduced to,” and all that phrase implies, then we have one source (so far) supporting the idea that, after God created Earth, something happened to the planet’s surface that caused it to become “chaos” and/or “waste.” Again, “without form” is not inaccurate, but it doesn’t convey the whole picture.

As for the figurative meaning of tohu, it’s eminently clear that the term was used at this time to denote idolatrous, depraved immorality that amounts to “worthlessness” and/or “falsehood” in the eyes of God.

But is the figurative meaning of a word even relevant in this discussion regarding a “literal” act of God?

To those who understand how a root word takes on deviations throughout time and history—to those who comprehend how etymology works—yes, it’s relevant. Over time, words take on figurative (figure of speech, often metaphorical) applications associated with the nuances of meaning they gained in their earlier use. One example of this idea in English would be the word “allergy.” We know this literally refers to the human body’s adverse immune response to a food or other substance (like pollen) that a person’s DNA is hypersensitive to. Yet, it is common to hear this word used figuratively in our culture to represent a feeling of extreme dislike or aversion to someone or something: “Don’t let Sarah’s reaction to this conversation bother you. She’s allergic to politics.” If those who first heard the word tohu knew it meant a chaotic formlessness that had come from something evil, it’s not hard to see how the figurative application would link to idolatry, worthlessness, or deceit, etc. At some point in the development of Hebraic figures of speech, tohu became so associated with the idea of malevolence and chaos (wonder where they got that idea?—could it have been from the “void” era?) that they began using the word to identify or describe other people, places, or things they believed had an innate element of iniquity. As the world during the “void” is considered by a growing number of scholars to be a time when evil was rampant upon our planet’s surface, this is telling.

Flipping to the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon’s page on bohu (“void”), the central definition for Genesis 1:2 is: “emptiness [of] primaeval earth; of earth under judgment.” These scholars mention the appearance of bohu in Isaiah 34:11, which alludes to “the line of wasteness and the stones of emptiness.” These “stones,” as conjoined with bohu, are “not as usual for building, but [as a reference to] destroying walls.”[iv] In other words, there is an inherent component of devastation behind bohu.

Thus far, still having only visited a single expert source on the topic, tohu and bohu transparently speak of a destructive evil that reduced Earth to chaos and brought the planet “under judgment”—all of this well before God ever said anything about Earth being “good.” (Remember, we’re only on verse 2 of Genesis.)

Then why aren’t Bible teachers talking about this? Why does my pastor skip straight past this? How come I never learned about this in seminary?

Well, I have a few theories on this.

First, this topic is not an essential doctrine for salvation, and before science started producing discoveries that “prove the Bible wrong” today (or so they think), scholars didn’t see this as the utmost priority as long as the dying world needed a Savior. (However, because the dying world still needs a Savior in an era when science is the reason some people may not accept Christ—a true concern today that will only become more alarming in years to come—we are starting to see a growing number of scholars prioritize this subject. I hope we’re not too late to skyrocket this truth to the forefront! It’s still a tedious topic in the opinion of many well-intended Christians, unfortunately. It’s like they don’t see all the precious souls out there who are struggling to believe in a God whose existence and activities “science has refuted.” And when scholars do step up to gently defend the faith in light of science and what the Hebrew honestly communicates about Earth’s age, they receive a tremendous amount of backlash for trying to force the Bible to agree with science when it already does. It’s that age-old, inaccurate concept that science is opposed to, or separate from, God, and interpreting the Bible in light of it is heresy. But that will never be the case for “true science” as I have defined it in this series [i.e., what God actually did and what is actually around us—not merely what mankind observes in finite fields of study]. Even I, earlier in this very series, made sure to note that the Bible is not a science manual. But studying science and the Scriptures side by side is, as I also said, nothing less than a form of worship if it leads to praising God for His Creation. I pray we can more and more clearly see that God is the Master Scientist and, therefore, bringing the study of His Word into harmony with His Creation is an act of worship. But I digress…)

Second, when Ussher Chronology became the leading influence on determining Earth’s age, the true meaning of Hebrew words was back-burnered and considered largely inconsequential since most of the Church had adopted Young Earth interpretation.

Third, English translations around Ussher’s time rendered tohu and bohu “without form, and void,” which appear synonymous to “as yet incomplete” instead of “became destroyed.”

And fourth, only a measly 13 percent of professing Christians in the West—the part of the world where most of our theological studies come from—read the Bible regularly,[v] meaning that the vast majority of Christians are waiting for someone else to figure it out and tell them what it means, so the scholarly pool is overwhelmed.

However, though it’s been a tragically marginalized teaching, this interpretation of Genesis 1:2 is nothing new. It wasn’t thought up yesterday; it has been known by Christian scholars, Jewish sages, Hebrew linguists, historians, and even the first readers of Moses’ writings since literally the beginning of (human) time. (By no means am I suggesting that this is the only way Genesis 1:2 can be interpreted and that anyone who doesn’t agree is less educated or uninformed. I simply hope to leave you with the true impression that this is as valid an interpretation of this verse as any other, and when you see how this theory compares with other Scripture passages, you may, like me, believe it’s the likeliest to be true.)

But, of course, I don’t want you to take the word of just one source.

In the Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament), we see how tohu is used throughout Scripture, and the references are revealing (pay special attention to the cross-references from Jeremiah and Isaiah, as some will be crucial in our later discussion):

formlessness, emptiness, i.e., a state of empty space and so nothingness, so not having a shape, implied to be a state prior to order and form (Ge 1:2; Job 26:7; Isa 45:18; Jer 4:23+)… wasteland, i.e., what is barren and void of use, as tracts of unpopulated land (Dt 32:10; Job 6:18; 12:24; Ps 107:40+)… idol, i.e., an object which are worshiped, with a special focus on the uselessness and worthlessness of the fashioned object (1Sa 12:21+)… ruination, destruction, i.e., what has been destroyed and in chaos and confusion (Isa 24:10; 34:11+).[vi]

Now, of course, not all of these definitions are linked to the context of Genesis 1:2 (as the excerpt shows), but they still help us drill into the general spirit of the word tohu (“without form”). As for bohu (“void”), this source offers the following meaning:

emptiness, the void, i.e., an emptiness that shows lack of order (Ge 1:2; Jer 4:23+)… note: some interp[ret] this as a void from a prior creation… [or] total chaos, i.e., a physical state of total lack of order (Ge 1:2; Jer 4:23+).[vii]

James Strong—the scholar most known for the ever-popular Strong’s Concordance—provides a sharp look at tohu in his Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible, saying it means “to lie waste; a desolation (of surface),”[viii] while bohu is “an unused root (mean. to be empty); a vacuity [a “nothingness”], i.e.…an undistinguishable ruin.”[ix] Then there’s the Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, which is acknowledged by Logos Bible Software to have been “among the most trusted and definitive resources for students of Hebrew for over a hundred years.”[x] In this source, German Bible professor William Gesenius sees tohu as “that which is wasted, laid waste, Genesis 1:2”[xi] and bohu simply as “emptiness, voidness.”[xii]

The question we must ask at this point is: Would God, Himself, create something so associated in the language of His people (the Jews and their Hebrew) with destruction, waste, desolation, chaos, confusion, worthlessness, and moral depravity?

The answer is, of course, an emphatic and resounding “no.” Especially when we consider that this same language elsewhere in the Old Testament says God’s works are “perfect” (Deuteronomy 32:4) and “glorious” (Psalm 111:3), to name only two of countless other biblical references that acknowledge His handiwork to be exactly what He calls it throughout Genesis after He restored it: “good.” And in 1 Corinthians 14:33, we specifically read that God is not the “author of confusion,” meaning He wouldn’t have purposefully designed a planet tohu/bohu. But if God is not personally accountable for this state of Earth—if He did not set out to make a paradise for His creatures that would ever be described in this way as so many other Old Testament verses show—then we’re left to fill in the blanks as to what may have occurred between “void” and “good” Earth, and what being(s) took part in that destructive event.

Lexicons are useful for isolating words for deep studies, especially when there is an interpretational discrepancy. But obviously, taking a word or two out of the verse that surrounds it can result in abandoning its first context, which is an interpretational fallacy none of us should want to be guilty of. Therefore, in addition to looking at these two words in lexicons, let’s look at what commentaries have to say about what these words are describing in the whole verse.

I will start with one of my all-time favorite commentary teams: Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, and David Brown. For many students of God’s Word, these men are already familiar, household names. It’s difficult to go very far in the exegesis of Scripture without running into their work. (And that’s for good reason: Jamieson was awarded his doctorate of divinity by Glasgow University, Scotland, in 1848, and went on to become moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland [the highest leadership position in the Scottish Church] by 1872. Fausset, after receiving a mountain of prestigious scholarships and awards for excellence in biblical studies, was also awarded his doctorate in divinity from Trinity College in Dublin in 1886, maintaining his position as rector of St. Cuthbert’s Church in York, England, from 1859 to the day he died in 1910. Brown’s doctorate of divinity was awarded in 1821 from Scotland’s Aberdeen University, where Brown chose to stay for a length of time as a professor of theology. All three of these men specialized in Hebrew, Greek, and biblical history, and their expertise in the linguistic and historical implications of Scripture has been celebrated and their writings analyzed for more than a 150 years by top scholars all over the globe.)

This trio first penned the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (often abbreviated as Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, or JFB) in 1871, and it has produced many derived works, including abridgements, volumes, and appraisals by later scholars. Of tohu and bohu in Genesis 1:2, they conclude: “This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made [by God] to arise.”[xiii]

They aren’t the only team of scholars to arrive at this reasoning.

Although Allen P. Ross of The Bible Knowledge Commentary ultimately comes to a different conclusion than I do about what might have occurred between “void” and “good” Earth, he does admit that the Hebrew terms tohu and bohu describe the early planet as “a chaos of wasteness, emptiness, and darkness.” He immediately goes on to say: “Such conditions would not result from God’s creative work (bara); rather, in the Bible they are symptomatic of sin and are coordinate with judgment.”[xiv] Cyrus Ingerson Scofield of the best-selling, highly acclaimed, and fundamentalist Scofield Reference Bible takes Jeremiah and Isaiah into account to further deconstruct this “without form, and void” conundrum. His study notes of Genesis 1:2 opens by cross-referencing Jeremiah 4:23–26 and Isaiah 24:1 and 45:18, which, he says, “clearly indicate that the earth had undergone a cataclysmic change as the result of a divine judgment. The face of the earth bears everywhere the marks of such a catastrophe.”[xv] And in truncated, staccato form, Ethelbert, W. Bullinger—of The Companion Bible: Being the Authorized Version of 1611 with the Structures and Notes, Critical, Explanatory and Suggestive and with 198 Appendixes—looks at more than just tohu and bohu. He zeroes in on what happens just before these terms to when Genesis 1:2 states Earth “was” (Hebrew haya) tohu and bohu, and compares what “was” means in relation to tohu and bohu throughout the rest of Scripture:

was = became. See Gen. 2:7; 4:3; 9:15; 19:26; Ex. 32:1; Deut. 27:9; 2 Sam. 7:24, &c. Also rendered came to pass, Gen. 4:14; 22:1; 23:1; 27:1; Josh. 4:1; 5:1; 1 Kings 13:32; Isa. 14:24, &c…. Hence, Ex. 3:1, kept = became keeper, quit = become men, &c. [The bottom line here is that “was” is better rendered “became.”]

without form = waste. Heb. tohu va bohu…. Not created tohu (Isa. 45:18), but became tohu (Gen. 1:2; 2 Pet. 3:5, 6). “An enemy hath done this” (Matt. 13:25, 28, 39. Cp. 1 Cor. 14:33).[xvi]

Wait a second…what was that? The Hebrew allows “the earth became” instead of “the earth was”?

Actually, yes.

The Hebrew word haya often conveys “became” over its “was” alternative; it’s surprising how many English Bibles prefer “was” in this location, when it’s clear that God would not have created an Earth that “was” a place of pure chaos. Recall that the diacritical marks in Hebrew didn’t exist at the time Genesis was written, so we cannot rely on any help in that area. If we take the base root word back to its foundational concept, as The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon has done, we see the following:

[haya] vb [verb]. fall out, come to pass, become, be — Qal I. 1. a. fall out, happen. b. occur, take place, come about, come to pass. 2. esp. & very oft., come about, come to pass sq. substantive (subj.) cl. almost alw. + modifying (usu. temporal) cl. or phr.: a. (1)…and it came to pass that[xvii]

It isn’t that haya must mean “become”/“became”; it’s it can mean “become”/”became,” and once we look at all the evidence—especially considering God’s nature, character, and creative power throughout the rest of the Creation epic—that’s the more reasonable interpretation of the word.

Consider this example from Genesis 19:26: “But his [Lot’s] wife looked back from behind him, and she became [haya] a pillar of salt.”

The respected Blue Letter Bible Online—well known for its “Outline of Biblical Usage” section that, as the title implies, gives a general understanding of how certain words are used in the Bible—shows that “become”/“became” is actually the first definition of haya: “Outline of Biblical Usage: I. to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen, fall out.”[xviii] Just under that, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon agrees: “fall out, come to pass, become, be.”[xix] In Bullinger’s aforementioned treatment of “without form,” the last thing he does before moving on to another word is link the concept of “became” to the working of an enemy: “‘An enemy hath done this’ (Matt. 13:25, 28, 39. Cp. 1 Cor. 14:33).”[xx]

An “enemy,” huh? That’s a fascinating cross-reference for this study, indeed. It implies that when Earth “became” (or “was reduced to”) this chaotic state, it was because of the workings of an enemy of God.

But just before Bullinger says this, he states something quite telling about what else was on Earth in those days as a result of this enemy. The first words of the entire Companion Bible work—in relation to Genesis 1:1 and the ancient state of our planet—are: “1: ‘The world that then was’ (2 Pet. 3:5, 6).… Creation in eternity past, to which all Fossils and ‘Remains’ belong.”[xxi] To restructure Bullinger’s point in an order I find easier to follow: The “fossils” and “remains” of a civilization—including bones of humanity’s common ancestor (to use the Darwinian turn of phrase) and other animals (which have now become extinct, as we will address in the following pages)—Bullinger says, “belong” to a “world that then was.” This quote from 2 Peter 3:5–6 is often assumed to be a reference to the Flood of Noah’s day, but I’m not surprised to see some scholars take it farther back and accept it as a reference to pre-Adamic times.

First, consider Peter’s words as they appear in English, and note the italics I’ve added: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” (The use of both “out of water” and “in the water” is confusing, and this description has often been a matter of much debate. After consulting many sources, I found this can be interpreted one of three ways: 1) Earth was made out of water and was also covered with it entirely at this time; 2) Earth had two sources of water, the heavens [rain] and the springs that came up from within Earth in Genesis 2:6; or 3) vast regions of land appeared and came up from of the water on the third day of Creation, as Genesis 1:9–10 describes. Our study of this passage doesn’t rely on a solid solution to this debate, as none of these interpretations are critical to our emphasis on a “perished” Earth.) Not wishing to be sensational, I cannot guarantee that this is a reference to the “void,” as Peter could very well be viewing the Flood event. However, in the previous chapter, Peter talks about the fallen angels under Lucifer’s leadership and the Flood together in a single sentence, though they are two separate events:

God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. (2 Peter 2:4–5)

Similar to the prophets’ words (tackled next), Peter is clearly amplifying a link between the day the “angels…sinned” and “the flood upon the world” in a dualistic linguistic pattern: They are two different things, but he sees them sharing the element of God’s judgment. So, when we happen upon his words in 2 Peter 3:5–6, we cannot insist he’s referring only to the Flood. The late Marvin Richardson Vincent—New Testament word-study expert, professor of New Testament exegesis and criticism at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and author of the Word Studies series—acknowledges Peter’s mention of “the world that then was…perished” could be a “reference to the original liquid condition of the earth—without form and void.”[xxii] Since Genesis 1:2 also describes a world that is covered with liquid (water), it appears to fit. Thus, the “void” era shows that, obviously following God’s corrective response to what Earth had “become,” the planet was covered in water…from time immemorial before Adam was ever formed.

What’s interesting about Peter’s glance into the past here is that he says the “world…perished.” The Greek for “perished” is apollymi, which means “destroyed.” This is derivative of Apollyon (“destroyer”) who comes up out of the bottomless pit to incarnate within Antichrist, son of Satan, perhaps showing another connection to the reptilian spirit linked with chaos, destruction, and the usurpation of God. Though the word for “world” is kosmos (from which we derive our English “cosmos”—i.e., the universe), the immediate context dismisses the idea that he’s referring to all of space. However, the dramatic phrase expresses an emphasis on the widespread destruction of this watery judgment of God. When the Flood occurred in Noah’s day, there is no doubt it had a permanent effect upon Earth: every living thing (except the inhabitants of the ark) died. Absolutely, that can be considered a “perished world.” What once was a place of life was rendered a planet-wide grave. However, scholars who have counted the number of days mentioned in the Flood narrative (Genesis 6–8) have calculated that 370 days elapsed between the beginning of the rain and Noah’s departure from the ark. That’s only five days over the duration of a year. Then, the vessel’s inhabitants (both human and animal) went forth into the devastated planet, multiplied, and repopulated. In other words: Yes, the “world” was destroyed, but only a year later, it was in a state of reparation. Genesis 1:2, if any variation of the Gap theory is correct, represents a state of God’s wrath, followed by a watery-grave destruction for an unknown time, possibly millions or billions of years.

Perhaps Peter, while recalling the “heavens” that were “of old” (Greek ekpalai, “of a long time [ago]”; i.e., an ancient subject), had not the Flood in mind, but the watery, “without form, and void” Earth that: 1) science has deemed to be millions/billions of years old; and 2) God brought judgment down upon in pre-Adamic times. His choice words—“the world…perished”—appears to describe such a thing. That Bullinger (and others) connect this era to fossils and remains of Earth’s earliest and most ancient inhabitants is a possible arrow likewise pointing to pre-Adamic species/races.

With this in mind, let’s look at what else Jamison, Fausset, and Brown had to say about not only tohu and bohu in Genesis, but about their relation to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the issue we just raised in relation to “was.” They say tohu and bohu, “in passages where they occur conjointly (Isa. 34:11, and Jer. 4:23 [in context of the Babylonian exile])” are:

…used to describe the desolations which were to overspread Idumea and Palestine respectively, and by which those countries would be reduced from the settled and flourishing condition which they exhibited at the time of the predictions into universal disorder and ruin. The analogous use [in Genesis 1:2], therefore, of this rare and peculiar phraseology in the verse before us may imply…that the world, which had formerly been a scene of material beauty and order, was by some great convulsion plunged into a state of chaos or widespread disorder and desolation. Hence some eminent critics, who take this view, render the clause thus:—“But (or afterwards) the earth became waste and desolate.”… Dr. M’Caul has shown that the verb [haya] “was,” is, in some twenty places in this chapter, used as equivalent to “became.”[xxiii]

Did you happen to catch the bottom line? “Eminent critics” (renowned, important, prominent, distinguished men, celebrated in the scholarly world for their skills in exegesis) render Genesis 1:2 to say: “But (or afterwards [after a yet-undisclosed event]) the earth became waste and desolate.”

Why do they start the verse with “But” instead of “And”?

Well, unlike in English, the Hebrew conjunction—a single character that looks like a shepherd’s hook—cannot stand alone as a word. In our language, we have “and” and “but,” each easily standing alone and with certain distinctions. In Hebrew, this tiny word must be joined like a prefix to another word for its meaning to be identified—and it can mean either “and” or “but” based on the context. In this case, the context could go either way, so we can only assume which was intended. Should it be a conjunctive conjunction that joins two separate ideas/words/statements (“and”) or a contrastive conjunction that contrasts two separate ideas/words/statements (“but”)? We don’t know, but when the “void” Earth interpretation is applied, the contrastive conjunction fits and is a perfectly permissible interpretation. (We do know this single-character prefix is elsewhere translated “but,” like in Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”) If this is the correct approach, the “but” at the start of Genesis 1:2 indicates contrast between the original planetary state in verse 1 to its later “without form, and void” condition.

After looking at a few of hundreds of commentaries that point to the same conclusion, I’ll ask the question of the day once more: Would God, in His infinite creative ability and scientific mastery, ever make a planet of chaos on purpose?

Here are a couple more questions to ponder: Would He do so on accident? Does the Master of the universe not think ahead? Does He accidentally create things that weren’t good, as He originally intended, so He has to fix His own flubs? Couldn’t He have made a planet beautifully perfect the first time around? Did He have to fix all of creation, starting in verse 3, when He looked at his handiwork and realized in hindsight that it was a desolate place unworthy of His best? Is He, or isn’t He as powerful as the entire Word of God says He is?

If tohu and bohu mean what these Hebrew linguistics experts say, then I have a hard time believing God is the reason behind the “void” Earth.

If I wanted to belabor the point, I could list another thirty examples from trusted resources…but instead, I find myself wishing there was just one verse somewhere in the sixty-six books of the scriptural canon that would clarify all of this so we wouldn’t have to rely on interpretations.

Oh…

Hang on a sec…

Found one.

There is a verse that brings direct clarity to the subject!

This evidence I’ve pointed to that is heavily quoted by Old Earth scholars is not even the most important factor in all of this. Over in Isaiah 45:18, we’re expressly told that God did not create Earth this way: “God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.”

In English, this sounds like it’s describing the concept that God’s plans were not fruitless—that the Almighty (eventually) carried out Creation successfully and powerfully, establishing it as a place where His people would inhabit it happily—but once we bring the original language of Hebrew into the mix, something suddenly pops. The English word “vain” here is from the Hebrew tohu. This verse literally says that “God himself formed the earth…[and] created it not in tohu.”

The Bible says God did not create Earth “without form.” In fact, in Psalm 104:30, we read of God: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”

God “renewed the face of Earth”! In other words, the “surface” (“face”) of Earth was restored after something else had happened to it.

English theologian George Hawkins Pember was evidently riled by the translator’s decision to render tohu “in vain” in this location, believing that conclusion could have only been born from inadequate cross-referencing to the point of neglect in the translational process:

We have a direct and positive assertion to that effect in the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah: for we are there told that God did not create the earth a tohu. This word, therefore, whatever meaning be assigned to it, cannot at least be descriptive of the earliest condition of earth. But our translators have obscured the fact by rendering tohu “in vain”: they can hardly have compared the passages in which it occurs, or they would surely have seen the propriety of translating it in Isaiah’s manifest reference to creation by the same word as in Genesis.[xxiv]

Many choose to see this verse in Isaiah with an emphasis on God’s intention (“he formed it to [eventually] be inhabited”), meaning that He did, in fact, create the Earth “void,” but He mended that state right away as it was mid-Creation (it was “void,” but He just wasn’t finished yet), and we can see the fruits of His handiwork from “Let there be light” forward. Many ministers and teachers consider this a valid approach to this verse; however, with 100 percent respect to my Christian fellows, that’s not what the verse says. If we were to study all hard-to-understand verses in light of what we think is implied instead of what is said, the Bible would very quickly become a subjective experience instead of an authoritative directive from God to humanity. In the direct language of this verse, we are told by God’s prophet, Isaiah, that it was not God who should own the “without form” era or status of Earth. Yet Genesis 1:2 acknowledges that was the state of the planet at some time…which means someone or something else caused this cataclysmic condition. When Eve fell into the trap of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Gary Stearman of Prophecy Watchers observes, the spirit world around her was in a fallen state already.[xxv]

Who could have rendered Earth to such a condition?

It appears a few of the Lord’s prophets—who personally experienced God-given visions that later became canonized as Scripture—had the answer.

UP NEXT: The Obvious Perpetrator

[i] Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, Based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius (Boston; New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906), under the heading “תֹּהוּ” (tohu).

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “reduce to,” Cambridge Dictionary Online, last accessed March 31, 2023, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/reduce-to.

[iv] Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, under the heading “בֹּהוּ” (bohu).

[v] “American Worldview Inventory 2020—At a Glance…Release #11: Churches and Worldview,” October 6, 2020, Cultural Research Center, Arizona Christian University, last accessed March 31, 2023, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/CRC_AWVI2020_Release11_Digital_04_20201006.pdf.

[vi] Swanson, James, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), under the heading “תֹּהוּ” (tohu); bold in original.

[vii]Ibid., under the heading “בֹּהוּ” (bohu); bold in original; italics added.

[viii] James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 123.

[ix] Ibid., 19.

[x] “Gesenius Hebrew Bundle,” Logos Bible Software, last accessed March 31, 2023, https://www.logos.com/product/6559/gesenius-hebrew-bundle.

[xi] Gesenius, William, Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, available online at: “תֹּהוּ” (tohu), Blue Letter Bible Online, last accessed March 31, 2023, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8414/kjv/wlc/0-1/.

[xii] Gesenius, William, Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, available online at: “בֹּהוּ” (bohu), Blue Letter Bible Online, last accessed March 31, 2023, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h922/kjv/wlc/0-1/.

[xiii] Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible: Volume 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 17.

[xiv] Ross, Allen P., “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 28.

[xv] Scofield, C. I. ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), viii.

[xvi] Bullinger, Ethelbert W., The Companion Bible: Being the Authorized Version of 1611 with the Structures and Notes, Critical, Explanatory and Suggestive and with 198 Appendixes: Volume 1 (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2018), 3; bold in original.

[xvii] Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, under the heading “הָיָה” (haya); bold in original.

[xviii] “הָיָה,” Blue Letter Bible Online, under “Outline of Biblical Usage,” last accessed April 3, 2023, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1961/kjv/wlc/0-1/.

[xix] Ibid., under “Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon”; further under “STRONG’S H1961.”

[xx] Bullinger, Ethelbert W., The Companion Bible, 3.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Vincent, Marvin Richardson, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 704.

[xxiii] Brown, David, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson, A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Genesis–Deuteronomy: Volume 1 (London; Glasgow: William Collins, Sons, & Company, Limited, n.d.), 3.

[xxiv] Pember, George H., Earth’s Earliest Ages (Crane, MO: Defender Publishing, 2012), 23.

[xxv] Stearman, Gary, “The Dark Prophecy: Satan’s Long, Long Story,” Part 1, March 2023, Prophecy Watchers Magazine, 5; emphasis added in first paragraph; emphasis in middle paragraph appears in the original. Magazine subscription available at: www.prophecywatchers.com.

Category: Featured, Featured Articles

SkyWatchTV