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Gap creationism (also known as ruin-restoration creationism, restoration creationism, or "the Gap Theory") is a form of old Earth creationism that posits that the six-yom creation period, as described in the Book of Genesis, involved six literal 24-hour days (light being "day" and dark "night" as God specified), but that there was a gap of time between two distinct creations in the first and the second verses of Genesis, which the theory states explains many scientific observations, including the age of the Earth. It differs from day-age creationism, which posits that the 'days' of creation were much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years), and from young Earth creationism, which although it agrees concerning the six literal 24-hour days of creation, does not posit any gap of time.
Long before the modern study of geology, early church writers had examined the biblical text and considered the idea that between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 there stretched an indeterminate period when the created world fell into chaos. Such a scenario often connects with the idea that the angelic realm was originally entrusted with power over the earth, which power concluded with a betrayal of that trust when a number of the angels followed Satan in rebellion against God. Papias of Hierapolis (c. 60 - c. 130 AD) wrote, "To some of them [angels] He gave dominion over the arrangement of the world, and He commissioned them to exercise their dominion as well... but it happened that their arrangement came to nothing."
Twentieth-century Cardinal Jean Danielou explains: "Andreas of Caesarea tells us that Papias taught that God had conferred on certain angels the task of administering the Earth, and that they betrayed that trust." In the 3rd century, Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 - c. 253) taught in his Homily on Genesis that there were two creations in Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2, and a time gap between the two; the first involved a spiritual realm, the second a physical realm, although he was not exactly sure what the prior creation was. St. Jerome (c. 347 - 420) wrote that Origen taught that a world existed before our own, and another will exist thereafter, and so on, in constant succession.
By the Medieval period this was apparently a familiar interpretation. Flemish Catholic writer Hugh of Saint Victor (1097 - 1141) wrote in reference to Gen. 1:1 and 1:2: "perhaps enough has already been debated on these matters thus far, if we could add only, how long did the world remain in this disorder before the regular ordering of it was taken in hand? But how long it continued in this state of confusion scripture does not clearly show." In the 13th century St. Thomas Aquinas analyzed these verses in his Summa Theologica and wrote: "It seems better to maintain the view that the creation of the heavens and the earth was prior to any of the days, literally before the days", i.e., there was first the creation of the earth, and then the enumerated "days of creation".
French Jesuit theologian Denis Petau (1583-1652), referring to the time gap implied between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2, wrote, "The question of how great an interval there was, it is not possible, except by inspiration, to obtain knowledge of it." Catholic philosopher Benedict Pereira (1535-1610) wrote, "even though before the last day, the heavens and the elements were made subsequent to the substance, nevertheless, they were not perfected, completely furnished until the period of six days. However long that darkest day of the world lasted, whether it lasted one day or more than one day or less than one day is not clear to me or any other mortal, unless one is divinely made so."
In Jewish writings, the Genesis Rabbah states, "other worlds were created and destroyed before this present world was decided on as the permanent one", and the Zohar comments on Genesis 2:4 and connects it with the Hebrew phrase tohu va bohu (without form and void) found in Genesis 1:2, stating: "And these are the generations of the destruction which is signified in verse 2 of chapter 1. The earth was Tohu and Bohu. These indeed are the worlds of which it is said that the blessed God created them, and destroyed them, and on that account, the earth was desolate and empty."
Gap creationism became increasingly attractive near the end of the 18th and in first half of the 19th centuries, because the newly established modern view of the science of geology had determined that the Earth was far older than common interpretations of Genesis and Bible-based flood geology would allow. Gap creation allowed religious geologists (who composed the majority of the geological community at the time) to reconcile faith in the Bible with the new authority of science. The doctrine of natural theology in this period regarded science as a second revelation, God's word in nature as well as in scripture, so the two could not contradict each other.
"My own opinion, as published in 1814, is that it [Genesis 1:1] forms no part of the first day, but refers to a period of indefinite antiquity when God created the worlds out of nothing. The commencement of the first day's work I hold to be the moving of God's Spirit upon the face of the waters. We can allow geology the amplest time...without infringing even on the literalities of the Mosaic record."
Chalmers became a divinity professor at the University of Edinburgh, founder of the Free Church of Scotland, and author of one of the Bridgewater Treatises. Other early proponents of gap creationism included Oxford University geology professor and fellow Bridgewater author William Buckland, Sharon Turner and Edward Hitchcock.
In 1954, a few years before the re-emergence of young-Earth flood-geology eclipsed Gap creationism, influential evangelical theologian Bernard Ramm wrote in The Christian View of Science and Scripture:
"The gap theory has become the standard interpretation throughout hyper-orthodoxy, appearing in an endless stream of books, booklets, Bible studies, and periodical articles. In fact, it has become so sacrosanct with some that to question it is equivalent to tampering with Sacred Scripture or to manifest modernistic leanings".
Ramm's book became influential in the formation of another alternative to gap creationism, that of progressive creationism, which found favour with more conservative members of the American Scientific Affiliation (a fellowship of scientists who are Christians), with the more modernist wing of that fellowship favouring theistic evolution.
Religious proponents of this form of creationism have included Oral Roberts (1918-2009), Cyrus I. Scofield, Harry Rimmer, Jimmy Swaggart (1935- ), Perry Stone, G. H. Pember, L. Allen Higley, Arthur Pink, Peter Ruckman, Finis Jennings Dake (1902-1987), Chuck Missler, E. W. Bullinger (1837-1913), Charles Welch,  Victor Paul Wierwille, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986), Garner Ted Armstrong (1930-2003), Michael Pearl and Clarence Larkin.
Some gap creationists may believe that science has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Earth is far older than can be accounted for by, for instance, adding up the ages of Biblical patriarchs as James Ussher famously attempted in the 17th century when he developed the Ussher chronology.
For some, the gap theory allows both the Genesis creation account and geological science to be inerrant in matters of scientific fact. Gap creationists believe that certain facts about the past and the age of the Earth have been omitted from the Genesis account; they hold that there was a gap of time in the biblical account that lasted an unknown number of years between a first creation in Genesis 1:1 and a second creation in Genesis 1:2–31. By positing such an event, various observations in a wide range of fields, including the age of the Earth, the age of the universe, dinosaurs, fossils, ice cores, ice ages, and geological formations are allowed by adherents to have occurred as outlined by science without contradicting their literal belief in Genesis.
Because there is no specific information given in Genesis concerning the proposed gap of time, other scriptures are used to support and explain what may have occurred during this period and to explain the specific linguistic reasoning behind this interpretation of the Hebrew text. A short list of examples is given below: