The apostle Paul was Timothy’s spiritual mentor, but he didn’t claim to be the person who taught Timothy the scriptures. Instead, Paul attributed that accomplishment to Timothy’s mother, Eunice, with Eunice presumably getting help from her mother, Lois (2 Timothy 1:3-5). As Paul said to Timothy:
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15, N.K.J.V.)
In keeping with this idea of Eunice teaching the holy scriptures to little Timothy, let’s imagine her teaching him scripture’s opening chapter. She starts by telling him about Genesis 1:1, which says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (N.K.J.V.). “Timothy,” she begins, “these words simply mean that God is the Creator of all creation. There wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for God.” Timothy ponders the matter for a second and then nods his head in agreement and understanding.
Now it’s time for Genesis 1:2, which says: “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (N.K.J.V.). Eunice eases into her explanation of this verse by saying, “Timothy, these words mean that this earth as God originally created it didn’t look like it does now. There were no people on it, no trees, no rivers, no mountains, and no deserts. The earth didn’t have its form back then either, and it was completely covered in water. The Spirit of God hovered over those waters like a cloud can hover over us today, but the earth was totally dark.” Timothy’s agreement and understanding come slower this time, but after a few seconds of processing he again nods his head as if to say, “Okay, what happened next?”
Eunice then proceeds to walk her child through the rest of Genesis chapter 1 as God continues the creative process through which He gave us the earth that we know now. The information is a lot to process, and Timothy can’t fully grasp every single detail of it, but he is able to understand plenty enough to know that God created: the heavens, the earth, the daytime, the nighttime, the dry land, the seas, the grass, the herbs, the trees, the sun, the moon, the stars, the water creatures, the land creatures, and Adam and Eve. He’s also able to know that God did all that work in just six days, days that had an evening and a morning.
But now let’s imagine that Eunice, Lois, and young Timothy attend their local synagogue one Sabbath day. The guest speaker for that day is a rabbi they have never heard, and he presents a brand new interpretation of the opening chapter of Genesis. He calls this new interpretation “The Gap Theory.” According to this theory:
- Isaiah 45:18 proves that God didn’t originally create the earth as formless, covered in darkness and water, and uninhabited.
- There were creatures and a race of people who lived upon the earth of Genesis 1:1.
- Satan’s rebellion against God was catastrophic enough to ruin a sizable amount of God’s pristine creation.
- In particular, Satan’s rebellion completely ruined the earth because Satan was the angel that God had originally placed in charge of the earth.
- There is a gap of time, no doubt millions or billions of years in length, between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
- The decimated earth from Genesis 1:1 laid for untold eons of time in the ruins described by Genesis 1:2.
- Finally, after all those eons had passed, God set Himself to the task of restoring the earth to a livable state.
- The process of how God did that restoring is recorded in Genesis 1:3-31.
- We don’t know anything about what kind of creatures or people inhabited the earth of Genesis 1:1.
- We can’t know what (if anything) became of those people in the afterlife.
Now I ask you, what would all of that new teaching have done to little Timothy’s simplistic understanding of Genesis chapter 1? For that matter, what would it have done to Eunice’s? Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that. Do you know why? It’s because no Jewish rabbi of Timothy’s day taught The Gap Theory. As a matter of fact, all the various strings of the theory weren’t pulled together into one unit until the 1800s. That’s when the likes of Thomas Chalmers started giving lectures on it and C.I. Scofield made it a central tenet of the study notes for his wildly popular Scofield Reference Bible.
You see, there are those who would have us believe that no one who lived prior to the 1800s correctly understood how Genesis chapter 1 should be interpreted. I mean, that is the obvious implication of holding to The Gap Theory, right? This, of course, stretches the bounds of believablity way past the point of credibility, and this alone should rule out The Gap Theory as being an acceptable interpretation of scripture. If you are really interested in this whole topic, I encourage you to read the eight posts in my series “How Old is the Earth?” (particularly the post entitled “The Gap Theory”), but in the meantime let’s just let Genesis chapter 1 read the way it reads and not force it to be filtered through any strange interpretations. After all, if such a simplistic interpretation was good enough for Eunice and Timothy, it ought to be good enough for us.