Creation Ex Nihilo




Image from the Hubble Telescope

What is Creation Ex Nihilo?

“Ex nihilo” is a Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing.”

“Creation ex nihilo” is generally understood as the belief that the universe came into existence without the use of pre-existing matter. Conversely, “creation ex material” means “creation out of matter,” is the belief that the universe came into existence out of some already-existenting matter.

The Doctrine of Ex Nihilo

There are several verses in the Bible that are used in support of creation ex nihilo:

Creation Ex Nihilo in the Old Testament

  • Genesis 1:1 reads, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Those who subscribe to creation ex nihilo emphasize that the Genesis 1 creation account stands out among Ancient Near East creation accounts as explicilty monotheistic and teaching that the Creator and the creation are distinct.
  • The description of God as "the first and the last" (e.g. Isaiah 44:6) and "the Alpha and the Omega" (e.g. Revelation 1:8) are believed to relfect the uniqueness of the Creator as an eternal being. It is further understood that eternality is an atttribute of the Creator, which nothing else in the universe shares.
  • Psalm 104:5-8 is said to support creation ex nihilo. It reads:

    "5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. 6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them."

  • Psalm 24:1-2 is said to support creation ex nihilo. It reads:

    "1 The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods."

  • Psalm 102:25-27 is said to support creation ex nihilo. It reads:

    "25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: 27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."





Creation Ex Nihilo in the New Testament

  • "John 1:3 reads, All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." The Greek term translated "all things" is "ta panta" is is generally understood to encompass the entire universe.
  • Romans 4:17 reads, "(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." While some scholars contend that creation ex nihilo is not directly being refered to as the end of the verse, many suggest the idea of creation ex nihilo is included in the phrase.
  • Hebrews 11:3, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." Many scholars consider this verse one of the most explicit affirmations of creation ex nihilo in the entire Bible.

Creation Ex Nihilo in Early Christian Literature

  • The Shepherd of Hermas (circa 150 A.D.) say, "God is one, who made all things and perfected them, and made all things to be out of that which was not" (Mandate 1.1.1.)
  • Irenaeus' Against Heresies (circa late 2nd century) says, "But the things established are distinct from Him who has established them, and what have been made from Him who has made them...He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord" (3.10.3).

Non-Biblical Creation Ex Nihilo

The Islamic faith and Greek philosophy are two places creation ex nihilo can be found outside of the Bible.

Islam

Several surahs (i.e. verses) in the Quran state that Allah created the universe out of nothing. Examples include:

  • 2:117: "The Originator is He of the heavens and the earth: and when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be'—and it is."
  • 19:67: "But does man not bear in mind that We have created him aforetime out of nothing?"

Greek Philosophy

In his book Metaphysics, Aristotle posited a “primum movens” that is a "Prime Mover" or "First Cause," who created the universe out of nothing. Furthermore, some argue that Plato speaks of creation ex nihilo in Timaeus.

Logic

The argument from logic, while used by Bible-believing creationists, is not necessarily limited to them. It is often ordered as follows:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe must have a cause

Creation Ex Nihilo Quotations

"I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise."

~ 2 Maccabees 7:28

"Even if, in their words, both Jewish and Christian writers during the last two centuries BC and the first two centuries AD did not use the precise words "creation out of nothing," it is undeniable that the concept is in their worldview and writings" (emphases theirs)

~ Creation Out of Nothing (Paul Copan and William Lane Craig)

"We can say confidently that those who believe in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo will not find themselves contradicted by the empirical evidence of contemporary cosmology but on the contrary will be fully in line with it."

~ Creation Out of Nothing (Paul Copan and William Lane Craig)

“Observe the manner how this work was effected; God created, that is, made it out of nothing. There was not any pre-existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters, and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. Observe when this work was produced; In the beginning—That is, in the beginning of time. Time began with the production of those beings that are measured by time. Before the beginning of time there was none but that Infinite Being that inhabits eternity.”

~ John Wesley, Notes On the First Book of Moses

"The manner in which this work was effected: God created it, that is, made it out of nothing. There was not any pre-existent matter out of which the world was produced. The fish and fowl were indeed produced out of the waters and the beasts and man out of the earth; but that earth and those waters were made out of nothing. By the ordinary power of nature, it is impossible that any thing should be made out of nothing; no artificer can work, unless he has something to work on."

~ Matthew Henry, Commentary On the Whole Bible




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