Creation ex nihilo means "creation out of nothing." “Ex nihilo” is a Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing.” The term is generally understood as the belief called creationism, which argues that the universe came into existence without the use of pre-existing matter, as claimed by traditional Judaism and Christianity. Conversely, “creation ex material” means “creation out of matter,” which is the belief that the universe came into existence out of matter that already existed. There are several verses in the Bible that are used in support of creation ex nihilo:
Creation Ex Nihilo in the Bible
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 explicitly 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 reflect the uniqueness of the Creator as an eternal being. It is further understood that eternal existence is an attribute 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 referred 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:
- - Everything that begins to exist has a cause
- The universe began to exist
- Therefore, the universe must have a cause