A LONG-HELD VIEW.
It is a rare thing nowadays to find in a scholarly work on Genesis any acknowledgment of the fact that there is evidence of a discontinuity between the first two verses of Chapter One and that this was ever recognized by commentators until modern Geology arose to challenge the Mosaic cosmogony.
The usual view is that when geologists "proved" the earth to be billions of year sold, conservative biblical students suddenly discovered a way of salvaging the Mosaic account by introducing a gap of unknown duration between these two verses. This is supposed to have solved the problem of time by an expeditious interpretation previously unrecognized. This convenient little device was attributed by many to Chalmers of the middle of the last century, and popularized among "fundamentalists" by Scofield in the first quarter of the present century. Both the impetus which brought it to general notice and the company it kept in its heyday combined to make it doubly suspected among conservative scholars and totally ignored by liberal ones.
However, D. F. Payne of the University of Sheffield, England, in a paper published recently by Tyndale Press entitled. Genesis One Reconsidered, makes this brief aside at the appropriate place: "The 'gap' theory itself, as a matter of exegesis, antedated (my emphasis) the scientific challenge, but the latter gave it a new impetus". Granted then that the view did antedate the modern geological challenge, by how long did it do so? Just how far back can one trace this now rather unpopular view and how explicit are the earlier references? And on what grounds was it held prior to the general acceptance of the views of Laplace, Hutton, and Lyell? If its antecedence can be established with any certainty, one then has to find some other reason than the threat of Geology for its having arisen. The view was undoubtedly held by early commentators without any evidence that it was being presented as an "answer" to some...