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Old 12-30-2001, 01:57 AM   #1
lpetrich
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Question Creation ex nihilo?

"Ex nihilo" is Latin for "from nothing" (I know enough Latin to not be intimidated by it); I've come to the conclusion that that is not really implied by the Biblical creation stories.

They start with Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth" or "In the beginning of when God was creating the heaven and the earth" (I've seen both sorts of translations; I'll leave it to some Hebrew expert like Apikorus or Devnet to decide which).

However, there is nothing in Genesis 1:1 to indicate whether or not there was space or time before the Genesis, or if there was, whether the creation was from nothing or was giving form to formless matter.

In fact, the interpretation of giving form to formless matter is a reasonable extrapolation from the method of creation that God employs in Genesis 2: giving a new form to pre-existing matter (Adam from some dirt, Eve from one of Adam's ribs).

However, Genesis 1 contradicts Genesis 2 in many important details, such as the order of creation, how happy God was, what God is called, and so forth. Another such contradiction is the preferred mode of creation; contrary to Genesis 2, the preferred mode in Genesis 1 is for God to say "Let something be", which is consistent with creation from nothing, though also with giving form to formless matter.

But an attempt to harmonize Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 IMO tips the balance toward creation from formless matter; in fact, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, had had that interpretation.

So the doctrine of creation from nothing is some later interpretation of an ambiguous text that partially implies creation from formless matter.
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Old 12-30-2001, 09:09 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally posted by lpetrich:
<strong>They start with Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth" or "In the beginning of when God was creating the heaven and the earth"
</strong>

The problem here lies in that the original Hebrew text did not have vowel-pointing. You can read the letters B-R-' (Bet-Resh-Alef) as either as "bara" or as "b'ro". In the first case, "b'reshit bara Elohim" means "in the beginning God created", whereas in the second case, "b'reshit b'ro Elohim" means "in the beginning of God's creating" (ie the first form is a past tense verb, whereas the second is a verbal noun, a gerund).

Quote:
<strong>
However, there is nothing in Genesis 1:1 to indicate whether or not there was space or time before the Genesis, or if there was, whether the creation was from nothing or was giving form to formless matter.
</strong>

The Hebrew creation myth follows Babylonian lines: a primeval chaos of water, ordered into a cosmos of earth on waters below and under waters above, with a solid sky (the firmament) as separator.

Quote:
<strong>
So the doctrine of creation from nothing is some later interpretation of an ambiguous text that partially implies creation from formless matter.</strong>
It may be a Greek idea. Greek philosophy influenced monotheistic theology a great deal. For example, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures is clearly a bodily being (eyes, nose, ears etc), but the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides was influenced by Aristotle's writings and interpreted the terms as metaphors, and formulated the creed that "God has no body, and cannot be perceived by perceivers of the body". That, an innovation in its time, became one of the 13 definitive creeds of Orthodox Judaism.
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Old 12-30-2001, 11:17 PM   #3
lpetrich
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Thanx, Devnet, for helping me there. My second version of Genesis 1:1 was actually a rewrite of "In the beginning of God's creating the heaven and the earth" that I had hoped would look like more reasonable English.

And as to influence from various Greeks, the early theologian Origen had been a Neoplatonist, and he argued in Maimonides fashion that the Bible's anthropomorphism had been allegorical (he's also known for closely following Matthew 19:12).
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