Ex nihilo

Tree of Life by Eli Content at the Joods Historisch Museum. The Tree of Life, or Etz haChayim (עץ החיים) in Hebrew, is a mystical symbol used in the Kabbalah of esoteric Judaism to describe the path to HaShem and the manner in which He created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing).

Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing": when phrased as ex nihilo nihil fit it means that the universe was formed from eternal matter, as in "nothing comes from nothing"; when phrased as creatio ex nihilo, in contrast, it means that God created the cosmos out of nothing.[1]

Ex nihilo nihil fit: uncreated matter [ edit ]

Ex nihilo nihil fit means that nothing comes from nothing.[2] In ancient creation myths the universe is formed from eternal formless matter,[3] namely the dark and still primordial ocean of chaos.[4] In Sumerian myth this cosmic ocean is personified as the goddess Nammu "who gave birth to heaven and earth" and had existed forever;[5] in the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish pre-existent chaos is made up of fresh-water Apsu and salt-water Tiamat, and from Tiamat the god Marduk created Heaven and Earth;[6] in Egyptian creation myths a pre-existent watery chaos personified as the god Nun and associated with darkness, gave birth to the primeval hill (or in some versions a primeval lotus flower, or in others a celestial cow);[7] and in Greek traditions the ultimate origin of the universe, depending on the source, is sometimes Okeanos (a river that circles the Earth), Night, or water.[8] To these can be added the account of the Book of Genesis, which opens with God separating and restraining the waters, not creating them out of nothing,[9]

Creatio ex nihilo: the creation of matter [ edit ]

Creatio ex nihilo, in contrast to ex nihilo nihil fit, is the idea that matter is not eternal and was created by God at the initial cosmic moment.[1] Most biblical scholars agree that creation ex nihilo is not found directly in Genesis or in the entire Hebrew Bible, which reflects instead a standard ancient creation mythology.[10][11]

The idea is sometimes claimed to be present in a passage of the 2nd century BCE Jewish Second Maccabees (2 Maccabees 7:28) or in the 1st century CE Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, but both are widely challenged,[12] and it seems to have originated in 2nd century CE Christian literature when Justin Martyr (c.100-165) identified a tension between the "world-formation" of Genesis and the omnipotence of God.[13] A generation later gnostic thinkers such as Basilius, Marcion and the Valentinians were advancing the idea that a transcendent God could not have fashioned pre-existent materials.[13] The tension was finally resolved in the anti-gnostic Christian theology of the second half of the 2nd century, and by the 3rd century creation ex nihilo was regarded as a fundamental tenet of Christian theology.[13]

The book A Universe from Nothing by theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss details creation not only from the absence of matter but from the absence of space-time in which matter could exist.

Metaphysics: the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) [ edit ]

Logical [ edit ]

A major argument for creatio ex nihilo, the first cause argument, states in summary:[citation needed]

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

An expansion of the first cause argument is the Kalam cosmological argument, which also requires creatio ex nihilo:[14]

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
  4. If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal creator of the universe exists, who without the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and infinitely powerful.
  5. Therefore, an uncaused, personal creator of the universe exists, who without the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and infinitely powerful.

In Jewish philosophy [ edit ]

In The Book of the Articles of Faith and Doctrines of Dogma (Kitāb al-Amānāt wa l-Iʿtiqādāt, Emunoth ve-Deoth, completed 933) written by Saadia Gaon (c. 882−942) the metaphysical problems of the creation of the world and the unity of the Creator are discussed. In this book, Saadia Gaon gives four proofs for the doctrine of the creation of the world ex nihilo (yesh me-ayin).

To harmonize the biblical statement of the creation ex nihilo with the doctrine of the primordial elements, the Sefer Yetzirah assumes a double creation, one ideal and the other real. In introducing Sefer Yetzirah's theory of creation Saadia Gaon makes a distinction between the Biblical account of creation ex nihilo, in which no process of creation is described, and matter formed by speech as described in Sefer Yetzirah. The cosmogony of Sefer Yetzirah is even omitted from the discussion of creation in his magnum opus Emunoth ve-Deoth.

Islamic [ edit ]

Early Islamic philosophy, as well as key Muslim schools of thought, have argued a wide array of views, the basis always being that the creator is an eternal being who is outside of the creation (i.e., any materially based entities within all of creation), and is not a part of creation. Several schools of thought stemming from the first cause argument, and a great deal of philosophical works from Muslim scholars such as Al-Ghazali, came from the following verses in the Qur'an. The following quotations come from Muhammad Asad's translation, The Message of The Qur'an:

  • 52:35: "Were they created by nothing? Or were they themselves the creators?"
  • 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 while at one point they were nothing?"
  • 21:30: "ARE, THEN, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We (formal singular) then parted asunder? – and [that] We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, [begin to] believe?"
  • 21:56: "He answered: 'Nay, but your [true] Sustainer is the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth—He who has brought them into being: and I am one of those who bear witness to this [truth]!'"
  • 35:1: "ALL PRAISE is due to God, Originator of the heavens and the earth, who causes the angels to be (His) message-bearers, endowed with wings, two, or three, or four. He adds to His creation whatever He Wills: for, verily, God, is most competent over all things."
  • 51:47: "It is We (formal singular) who have built the heaven with (Our creative) power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it."

Opposing arguments [ edit ]

Logical [ edit ]

The "first cause" argument was rooted in ancient Greek philosophy and based on observation in physics. Originally, it was understood[by whom?] in the context of creation from chaos. The observed phenomenon seen in reality is that nothing moves by itself. In other words, motion is not self-caused; thus, the Classic Greek thinkers argued that the cosmos must have had a "prime mover" primum movens. However, this scientific observation of motion does not logically extend to the idea of existence, and therefore does not necessarily indicate creation from absolutely nothing.

In theology, ex nihilo creation states that there was a beginning to the universe (including therefore, to each person's existence), and anything that has a beginning has a cause.[15] This idea of a required beginning appears to contradict the proposed creator who existed without a beginning. In other words, people are considered to be contingent beings, and their existence depends upon a non-contingent being. However, if non-contingency is possible, then there is no basis for arguing that contingency is required for existence, nor can it be logically concluded that the number of non-contingent beings or non-contingent things is limited to one single substance or one single Being.

David Ray Griffin expressed his thoughts on this as follows:

"No special philosophical problems are raised by this view: If it is intelligible to hold that the existence of God requires no explanation, since something must exist necessarily and "of itself," then it is not unintelligible to hold that that which exists necessarily is God and a realm of non-divine actualities."[16]

Christian [ edit ]

Bruce K. Waltke wrote an extensive Biblical study of creation theology in which he argues for creation from chaos rather than from nothing - based on the Hebrew Torah and the New Testament texts. The Western Conservative Baptist Seminary published this work in 1974 and again in 1981.[17] On a historical basis, many[quantify] scholars agree that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was not the original intent of the Biblical authors, but instead a change in the interpretation of the texts that began to evolve in the mid-second century AD in the atmosphere of Hellenistic philosophy.[18][19] The idea solidified around 200 AD in arguments and in response to the Gnostics, Stoics, and Middle Platonists.[20]

Thomas Jay Oord, a Christian philosopher and theologian, argues that Christians should abandon the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Oord points to the work of biblical scholars such as Jon D. Levenson, who points out that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo does not appear in Genesis. Oord speculates that God created our particular universe billions of years ago from primordial chaos. This chaos, however, did not predate God, for God would have created the chaotic elements as well.[21][page needed] Oord suggests that God can create all things without creating from absolute nothingness.[22]

Oord offers nine objections to creatio ex nihilo:[23]

  1. Theoretical problem: One cannot conceive absolute nothingness.
  2. Biblical problem: Scripture – in Genesis, 2 Peter, and elsewhere – suggests creation from something (water, deep, chaos, etc.), not creation from absolutely nothing.
  3. Historical problem: The Gnostics Basilides and Valentinus first proposed creatio ex nihilo on the basis of assuming the inherently evil nature of creation, and in the belief that God does not act in history. Early Christian theologians adopted the idea to affirm the kind of absolute divine power that many Christians now reject.
  4. Empirical problem: We have no evidence that our universe originally came into being from absolutely nothing.
  5. Creation-at-an-instant problem: We have no evidence in the history of the Universe after the Big Bang that entities can emerge instantaneously from absolute nothingness. As the earliest philosophers noted, out of nothing comes nothing (ex nihilo, nihil fit).
  6. Solitary power problem: Creatio ex nihilo assumes that a powerful God once acted alone. But power, as a social concept, only becomes meaningful in relation to others.
  7. Errant revelation problem: The God with the capacity to create something from absolutely nothing would apparently have the power to guarantee an unambiguous and inerrant message of salvation (for example: inerrant Bible). An unambiguously clear and inerrant divine revelation does not exist.
  8. Problem of Evil: If God once had the power to create from absolutely nothing, God essentially retains that power. But a God of love with this capacity appears culpable for failing to prevent evil.
  9. Empire Problem: The kind of divine power implied in creatio ex nihilo supports a 'theology of empire', based upon unilateral force and control of others.

Process theologians argue that humans have always related a God to some "world" or another. They[24] also claim that rejecting creatio ex nihilo provides the opportunity to affirm that God has everlastingly created and related with some realm of non-divine actualities or another (compare continuous creation). According to this alternative God-world theory, no non-divine thing exists without the creative activity of God, and nothing can terminate God's necessary existence.

Some non-trinitarian Christian churches do not teach the ex nihilo doctrine:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches that Jehovah (whom they identify as the heavenly form of Jesus Christ), under the direction of God the Father, organized this world and others like it out of eternal, pre-existing materials.[25][26] The first modern (non-biblical) prophet of the religion, Joseph Smith, explained the LDS view as follows: "Now, the word create does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize... God had materials to organize the world out of chaos... The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end"[27] Debate continues on the issue of creation Ex Nihilo versus creation Ex Materia between evangelical authors Paul Copan and William Lane Craig[28] and LDS/Mormon apologist Blake Ostler.[29]
  • Jehovah's Witnesses teach that God used the energy he possesses to create the Universe based on their interpretation of Isaiah 40:26.[30] They believe this harmonizes with the scientific idea of the relationship between matter and energy. They distinguish Jehovah from Jesus Christ, teaching that before he created the physical universe, Jehovah created Jesus and that Michael is the heavenly form of Jesus.

Hindu [ edit ]

The Vedanta schools of Hinduism reject the concept of creation ex nihilo for several reasons, for example:

  1. both types of revelatory texts (śruti[31] and smṛti) designate matter as eternal although completely dependent on God—the Absolute Truth (param satyam)
  2. believers then have to attribute all the evil ingrained in material life to God, making Him partial and arbitrary,[32] which does not logically accord with His nature

The Bhagavad Gita (BG) states the eternality of matter and its transformability clearly and succinctly: "Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the modes of matter are products of material nature."[33] The opening words of Krishna in BG 2.12-13 also imply this, as do the doctrines referred to in BG 16.8 as explained by the commentator Vadiraja Tirtha.[34]

Most philosophical schools in Hinduism maintain that material creation started with some minute particle (or seed) which had to be co-eternal or a part of ultimate reality (Brahman). This minute starting point is also the point into which all creation contracts at the end of each cycle. This concept varies between various traditions, such as the Vishishtadvaita tradition (which asserts that the Universe forms a part of God, created from some aspect of His divinity) and Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta traditions (which state that the minute initial particle (shuddha Maya) has always existed and was never created).

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

Citations [ edit ]

  1. ^ a b Bunnin & Yu 2008, p. 149.
  2. ^ Pruss 2007, p. 291.
  3. ^ Berlin 2011, p. 188-189.
  4. ^ Andrews 2000, p. 36,48.
  5. ^ Wasilewska 2000, p. 45,49,54.
  6. ^ Wasilewska 2000, p. 49-51,56.
  7. ^ Wasilewska 2000, p. 58-59.
  8. ^ Gregory 2008, p. 21.
  9. ^ Berlin 2011, p. 189.
  10. ^ Blenkinsopp 2011, p. 30.
  11. ^ Nebe 2002, p. 119.
  12. ^ Wolters 1994, p. 109.
  13. ^ a b c May 2004, p. 179-180.
  14. ^ Craig, William L. (2000). The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 105, 117. ISBN 978-1-57910-438-2.
  15. ^ Craig, William L. (2000). The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 105, 117. ISBN 978-1-57910-438-2.
  16. ^ "David Ray Griffin "Creation Out of Chaos and the Problem of Evil"". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  17. ^ Creation and Chaos: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Biblical Cosmogony
  18. ^ May, Gerhard (2004). Creatio ex nihilo [Creation from nothing]. Continuum International. ISBN 978-0-567-08356-2. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  19. ^ Frances Young ‘Creatio Ex Nihilo’: A Context for the Emergence of the Christian Doctrine of Creation. Scottish Journal of Theology, 44, pp 139-152. (1991).
  20. ^ James N. Hubler, "Creatio ex Nihilo: Matter, Creation, and the Body in Classical and Christian Philosophy through Aquinas" (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1995).
  21. ^ Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming - Catherine Keller - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  22. ^ Keller, Catherine (2003). Face of the deep: a theology of becoming. Routledge. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-415-25649-0. Retrieved 2009-10-04. Thomas Jay Oord has advocated an 'open theology' that 'embraces the hypothesis that God did not create the world out of absolutely nothing, i.e., ex nihilo. [...]' Matching Theology and Piety: An Evangelical Process Theology of Love', PhD dissertation (Claremont Graduate University, 1999), p. 284.
  23. ^ "Creatio Ex Nihilo: The Problem · For The Love of Wisdom and The Wisdom of Love · Thomas Jay Oord". 2010-01-19. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  24. ^ "Creation Out of Chaos and the Problem of Evil by David Ray Griffin".
  25. ^ "Jesus Christ". The Guide to the Scriptures. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  26. ^ Bruce R. McConkie (June 1982). "Christ and the Creation". Ensign.
  27. ^ (History of the Church 6:308-309).
  28. ^ The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement
  29. ^ "Reviews of The New Mormon Challenge " FAIR". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  30. ^ "What Is the Holy Spirit?". The Watchtower: 4–6. October 1, 2009.
  31. ^ But compare King, Richard; Gaudapāda Ācārya (1995). Early Advaita Vedānta and Buddhism: the Mahāyāna context of the Gaudapādīya-kārikā. State University of New York Suny series in religious studies. SUNY Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7914-2513-8. Retrieved 2010-05-31. [...] the Upanisads do not have a definitive point of view, even within the same Upanisad. GK III.23 notes for instance that the sruti equally upholds the view that creation occurs from a pre-existent being (sat) and that it proceeds from non-existence. creation is most frequently understood to be a transformation (parinama) or an emanation from a pre-existent reality. Creation from non-being (asat), however, is put forward as a possibility in Chandogya Upanisad III.19 and Taittiriya Upanisad II.7. This is not necessarily a creatio ex nihilo, but in all likelihood denotes an emergence of being from the pregnant and undifferentiated chaos known as non-being (asat). Nevertheless, the equating of non-being with nothingness may have been intended and it is certainly criticized on those grounds in Chandogya Upanisad VI.2. The predominant Brahmanical creation theme, however, describes an emanation from or transformation of "sat," whether envisaged as an abstract impersonal reality as in Taittiriya Upanisad II.i, or from a personal creator, as in Prasna Upanisad I.4.
  32. ^ "Brahmasutra Bhashya 2:1:34-36". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  33. ^ Bhagavad Gita 13.20. 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  34. ^ See Sri Vadiraja's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita

Bibliography [ edit ]

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