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Creatio Ex Nihilo Or Ex Materia?


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#1 Cassiterides

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 04:26 PM

Creatio ex nihilo: The belief God created everything out of nothing, and that nothing pre-existed before God.

Creatio ex Materia: The belief God created out of pre-existing materials, that existed before God.

My personal view: creatio ex materia. Why? The first thing God created was not the heavens or the earth, but the light (Genesis 1: 3). Darkness, water and the ‘‘deep’’ all existed before God (Genesis 1: 2). How did i reach this conclusion?

Genesis 1: 1 opens with the following words:

‘‘Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'arets.’’

Bereshit more literally translates as something at the start of a constructive state, not a completed act. Young’s Literal Translation opens therefore with a more appropriate translation:

‘‘In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth’’

The Heavens and the earth were therefore not created first. The first thing God created was the light, seperating it from the darkness. Note Genesis 1: 2 -

''and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’’

The deep (Hebrew Tehom: watery abyss) and the darkness existed before God. Those materials God used to create from.

My other argument:

The Human mind can not contemplate nothingness, since it does not exist. God created from materials, not from nothing. We cannot picture nothing in our heads.

#2 oliver

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 02:04 PM

Bereshit more literally translates as something at the start of a constructive state, not a completed act. Young’s Literal Translation opens therefore with a more appropriate translation:

‘‘In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth’’


But no other translator seems to agree. Even the Septuagint (translation into Greek 2nd century BC) translates it εποιησεν -- he created.

The Heavens and the earth were therefore not created first. The first thing God created was the light, seperating it from the darkness. Note Genesis 1: 2 -

''and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’’

The deep (Hebrew Tehom: watery abyss) and the darkness existed before God. Those materials God used to create from.

Absolutely not.

Exodus 20:11 "In six days God created the heaven and the earth and all that is in them."
John 1:3 "All things were made by him and without him nothing was made that was made."
Prov 8:26 "While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields,
Nor the beginning of the dust of the world."
Heb 11:3 "By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible."

If there were anything before God, he could not be what he is, all-powerful and all-sufficient, He would be no more than the gods of pagan mythology. If there were any preexisting material, it must have been created; that would mean there was some other God, but the scripture denies that. If God had a beginning, he would not be eternal, but he is.

My other argument:

The Human mind can not contemplate nothingness, since it does not exist. God created from materials, not from nothing. We cannot picture nothing in our heads.

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Of course you can. You can picture an empty jar. It has nothing in it. If it were in space, it would not even have air in it. Mathematically we can conceive of the empty set. But whether you can or not, it makes no difference to what God tells us he did.

Of course there never was a "time" when there was nothing at all, since God is eternal. He made time too. All of space-time is like a little nut in his hand.

When he created, he spoke and the undifferentiated water and other matter of the universe came into existence and time started. Then God began to shape the undifferentiated material and made the universe out of it.

#3 Cassiterides

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 03:42 PM

But no other translator seems to agree.  Even the Septuagint (translation into Greek 2nd century BC) translates it εποιησεν -- he created.


YLT (Young's Literal Translation) and AMP (Amplified Bible) agree with me, also there is the Ferrar Fenton Bible which also agrees (also it includes an interesting note at the bottom of the first page of Genesis showing the errors in the septuagint for the mistranslation of bereshit).

Rashi in the 11th century wrote a very interesting piece of commentary on bereshit, and how the waters predated God. You can find this online.

There is also the fact, a lot of the earliest Christian writers and Church Fathers believed in creatio ex materia, that materials existed before God. Two examples would be Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria.

Exodus 20:11 "In six days God created the heaven and the earth and all that is in them."


Tehom, is not the heaven or the earth. Furthermore Genesis 1: 3 starts with the creation, not Genesis 1: 1.

If you believe Genesis 1: 1 starts with God creating, then you allow Genesis contradictions. If the earth was already created in Genesis 1: 1, how could it be without form and void (Genesis 1: 2)? The answer is that Genesis 1: 1 is not a creation, the hebrew translates as 'preparing', so there is no contradiction.

John 1:3 "All things were made by him and without him nothing was made that was made."
Prov 8:26 "While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields,
Nor the beginning of the dust of the world."
Heb 11:3 "By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible."


YLT translates some of these passages differently, so i guess it's down to what Bible translation you follow. I follow YLT above the others because it is the most literalist translation.

If there were anything before God, he could not be what he is, all-powerful and all-sufficient,  He would be no more than the gods of pagan mythology.  If there were any preexisting material, it must have been created; that would mean there was some other God, but the scripture denies that.  If God had a beginning, he would not be eternal, but he is.


The pre-existing materials He used to craft from always existed, they had no creator. It is impossible for something to come from absolute nothing.

Of course you can.  You can picture an empty jar.  It has nothing in it.  If it were in space, it would not even have air in it.  Mathematically we can conceive of the empty set.  But whether you can or not, it makes no difference to what God tells us he did.


In an empty jar space still exists, it is not nothing. No one can contemplate nothingness. It's impossible.

When he created, he spoke and the undifferentiated water and other matter of the universe came into existence and time started.  Then God began to shape the undifferentiated material and made the universe out of it.


Tehom and darkness, existed before God. No where does Genesis say God created Tehom (the watery abyss) or darkness. Note when God created light in Genesis 1: 3 the darkness already existed since He seperated it in Genesis 1: 4. The darkness already existed before God in Genesis 1: 2 before the light.

#4 jason78

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 10:57 PM

No one can contemplate nothingness. It's impossible.

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Anyone can. It's not impossible, just hard.

#5 oliver

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 01:13 AM

The pre-existing materials He used to craft from always existed, they had no creator. It is impossible for something to come from absolute nothing.

Indeed it is. But they were not preexistent; they came from God, who is not nothing!

Matter cannot be eternal, because that would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Entropy is increasing (which means that the amount of energy available to do work is constantly decreasing). Therefore as long as the universe has existed, there was always less entropy at time t-1 than there was at time t. Entropy is not now 0 and it cannot have a negative value, but it can reach a maximum; so there must have been a time when entropy was 0. There can have been no time before that, because, if there were, entropy would have been negative.

To say that God came after matter, then, requires that someone else must have created the universe with entropy 0, and God in some way came into existence later. But that being must then have created God and therefore be greater than God; but God is all-powerful and eternal and there is no one greater than he. Ergo, it is God that created the universe and put his energy into it, setting entropy to 0, and at the same moment he created all matter, which was merely a matter of putting some of his energy into a trapped form.

Matter is merely trapped energy (e = mc^2). The energy comes from God, who maintains the universe from moment to moment. If he ceased to do that, it would cease to exist.

Tehom and darkness, existed before God. No where does Genesis say God created Tehom (the watery abyss) or darkness. Note when God created light in Genesis 1: 3 the darkness already existed since He seperated it in Genesis 1: 4. The darkness already existed before God in Genesis 1: 2 before the light.

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Darkness is merely the absence of light. Before the world existed there was no darkness, because there was nowhere for it to be.

Since the heavenly bodies were not created until the fourth day, the initial light was direct from God himself. It began as universal illumination, consistent with the fact that God fills heaven and earth. In separating light from darkness, God concentrated his divine light into a single source, so that the newly created world would cast a shadow (which is darkness). He then imparted to it rotation, so that it could experience day and night.

#6 Cassiterides

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 06:45 AM

Anyone can.  It's not impossible, just hard.

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So explain how someone can imagine 'nothingness'.

That means no space, no colour, purely nothing.

#7 Cassiterides

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 06:56 AM

To say that God came after matter, then, requires that someone else must have created the universe with entropy 0, and God in some way came into existence later.  But that being must then have created God and therefore be greater than God; but God is all-powerful and eternal and there is no one greater than he.  Ergo, it is God that created the universe and put his energy into it, setting entropy to 0, and at the same moment he created all matter, which was merely a matter of putting some of his energy into a trapped form.


The pre-existing materials always existed. They had no creator. They were then shaped or crafted into the known world etc by God.

This theme appears in all world creation stories, or cosmogony myths. Plato's Demiurge for example was a builder who created from primordial pre-existing material, the Norse believed in a pre-existing abyss (much like Tehom of Genesis 1: 2 which predated God), the Gylfaginning, IV notes:

''Gangleri said: "What was the beginning, or how began it, or what was before it?" Hárr answered: "As is told in Völuspá:

''Earth was not found, | nor Ether-Heaven,--
A Yawning Gap, | but grass was none."

Darkness is merely the absence of light.


The light was created in Genesis 1: 3. Darkness already existed in Genesis 1: 2 before God began His creation.

Before the world existed there was no darkness, because there was nowhere for it to be.


The darkness was over the face of Tehom (the watery abyss), read Genesis 1: 2.

Darkness existed before God began His creation. This was a well known fact by the earliest Christians, especially the Church Fathers.

#8 oliver

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 11:12 AM

The pre-existing materials always existed. They had no creator. They were then shaped or crafted into the known world etc by God.

This theme appears in all world creation stories, or cosmogony myths.


The bible does not agree with you. Nor does what we know of science. I already showed you why it is impossible.

And the gross and distorted myths of various pagan cultures are not a place for Christians to get information about what God did.

Darkness existed before God began His creation. This was a well known fact by the earliest Christians, especially the Church Fathers.

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If they didn't get it from the bible, they were wrong. In any case, be specific. Give precise references of writers and works.

#9 Cassiterides

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 12:18 PM

The bible does not agree with you. Nor does what we know of science.  I already showed you why it is impossible.


Actually you never adressed the Hebrew at all. 'Bereshit bara elohim' (Genesis 1: 1)does not mean 'In the beginning God created' it means:

‘‘In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth’’

The Heavens and the earth at the stage were not created. Now if you go to Genesis 1: 2:

''The earth was without form and void...''

You use the translation of Gen 1: 1 as follows:

'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'

Now how does this fit with Gen 1: 2?

''The earth was without form and void...''

So the earth has been created in Genesis 1: 1, but in Genesis 1: 2 is not created and 'without form'?

Your translation allows contradiction, the translation i follow doesn't. In fact, the translation you follow gave rise to Gap Creationism and pre-adamite civilization, because people interpreted Genesis 1: 2 as meaning God had destroyed the earth He created in Genesis 1: 1. The translation i follow does not allow this, since it is the most literal.

And the gross and distorted myths of various pagan cultures are not a place for Christians to get information about what God did.


Most Christian throughout history would disagree with you. Most Christians have always believed that pagan myths sprung from Genesis, only having been corrupted in form (still retaining element of truth).

If they didn't get it from the bible, they were wrong.  In any case, be specific.  Give precise references of writers and works.


Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 59:

‘‘…Plato borrowed his statement that God, having altered matter which was shapeless, made the world, hear the very words spoken through Moses, who, as above shown, was the first prophet, and of greater antiquity than the Greek writers; and through whom the Spirit of prophecy, signifying how and from what materials God at first formed the world, spake thus: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was invisible and unfurnished, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and it was so.” So that both Plato and they who agree with him, and we ourselves, have learned, and you also can be convinced, that by the word of God the whole world was made out of the substance spoken of before by Moses. And that which the poets call Erebus, we know was spoken of formerly by Moses.’’

Philo saw preexistent matter alongside of God at the beginning. This matter was eternal (On the Creation, 12).

The Midrash Genesis Rabbah notes:

"God created heaven and earth (Gen.1:1) from what? From the following: And the earth was chaos (Gen.1:2)"

Gersonides (1288-1344 AD) asked some probing questions like "When were the waters created?" Because there was no mention in Genesis of the creation of water, he rejected the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 05:23 AM

Creatio ex nihilo: The belief God created everything out of nothing, and that nothing pre-existed before God.

Creatio ex Materia: The belief God created out of pre-existing materials, that existed before God.

My personal view: creatio ex materia. Why? The first thing God created was not the heavens or the earth, but the light (Genesis 1: 3). Darkness, water and the ‘‘deep’’ all existed before God (Genesis 1: 2). How did i reach this conclusion?

Genesis 1: 1 opens with the following words:

‘‘Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'arets.’’

Bereshit more literally translates as something at the start of a constructive state, not a completed act. Young’s Literal Translation opens therefore with a more appropriate translation:

‘‘In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth’’


Your statement about "Bereshit" is incorrect. I can be translated as "prepare" or "create". As any translator will tell you, context determines meaning.

The Heavens and the earth were therefore not created first. The first thing God created was the light, seperating it from the darkness. Note Genesis 1: 2 -

''and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’’

The deep (Hebrew Tehom: watery abyss) and the darkness existed before God. Those materials God used to create from.


We need to keep the audience in mind, here. These are ancient Hebrews. Verse 4 says that there should be a separation of the "waters" between earth and sky. What we now know is that this is the creation of matter. The "sky" would be the fairly voidless (and waterless) space between planets.

But back in the day, people thought there was "earth" and "sky", which included sun, moon and stars, which moved over the earth. (day 4?)

So, taking a modern scientific view of Genesis simply isn't going to be valid. We have to take the author and audience into account when exegeting this.

My other argument:

The Human mind can not contemplate nothingness, since it does not exist. God created from materials, not from nothing. We cannot picture nothing in our heads.

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This would seem to be a counter argument, as, if humans are unable to contemplate nothingness, then any Scripture attempting to describe "nothing" would use terms like "watery abyss" and separating waters from waters, or abyss from abyss.

#11 Cassiterides

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 08:34 AM

Your statement about "Bereshit" is incorrect.  I can be translated as "prepare" or "create".  As any translator will tell you, context determines meaning.


''...to state that these (heaven and earth) were created first; for if it intended to point this out, it should have been written Barishona bara, "At first God created..." Because wherever the word reshith occurs in Scripture, it is in the construct state''
- Rashi, Commentary On Genesis 1: 1

Bereshit as Rashi noted, does not mean a completed act, it means in a constructive state. If Genesis 1: 1 intended to say 'created' it would have used Barishona bara.

We need to keep the audience in mind, here.  These are ancient Hebrews.  Verse 4 says that there should be a separation of the "waters" between earth and sky.  What we now know is that this is the creation of matter.  The "sky" would be the fairly voidless (and waterless) space between planets.


Verse 4? Genesis 1: 4 does not say anything about the seperation of waters.

Here is Genesis 1: 4

''And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.''

Note God seperates light from darkness, but nowhere does the scripture say God created the darkness. The darkness (Genesis 1: 2) pre-existed before God.

So, taking a modern scientific view of Genesis simply isn't going to be valid.


I read what the Bible says, i don't try to mix it with modern theory.

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 09:09 AM

''...to state that these (heaven and earth) were created first; for if it intended to point this out, it should have been written Barishona bara, "At first God created..." Because wherever the word reshith occurs in Scripture, it is in the construct state''
- Rashi, Commentary On Genesis 1: 1


Yes, this is an introductory statement to Genesis 1. It describes the process. It is not complete in Gen 1, but rather just beginning in Genesis 1.

Bereshit as Rashi noted, does not mean a completed act, it means in a constructive state. If Genesis 1: 1 intended to say 'created' it would have used Barishona bara.


If the author intended to say that it was complete as of verse 1, yes. But that isn't his intent. He's making an introductory statement.

Verse 4? Genesis 1: 4 does not say anything about the seperation of waters.

Here is Genesis 1: 4

''And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.''

Note God seperates light from darkness, but nowhere does the scripture say God created the darkness. The darkness (Genesis 1: 2) pre-existed before God.
I read what the Bible says, i don't try to mix it with modern theory.

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My apologies... verse 6 speaks of separating the waters.

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 07:53 PM

But no other translator seems to agree.  Even the Septuagint (translation into Greek 2nd century BC) translates it εποιησεν -- he created.
Absolutely not.

Exodus 20:11 "In six days God created the heaven and the earth and all that is in them."
John 1:3 "All things were made by him and without him nothing was made that was made."
Prov 8:26 "While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields,
Nor the beginning of the dust of the world."
Heb 11:3 "By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible."



While I do believe that God created the universe ex-nihlo, citing the word "created" in the Bible is not a case for it. THere is nothing in the word "created" that demands "out of nothing." If anything, the Hebrew word for created works in favour of a creation ex-materia.

בָּרָא (word used for created in Genesis)
TO CUT, TO CARVE OUT, TO FORM BY CUTTING, to make smooth, to polish, hence to fashion, to eat, to feed, to grow fat
Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

fashion by cutting, shape out, pare a reed for writing, a stick for an arrow;
Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (electronic ed.) (135). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

Creation is used to God making man throughout the Bible, yet that was not an ex-nihlo event. The word creation gives not scriptural evidence for ex-nihlo.




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