Re: Summary: Something from Nothing

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Feb 19 1996 - 15:42:45 EST

On 2/19/96, Jim Beale wrote:

> On Will Wagers wrote:
> > No one commented on the creation in Jn 1:1 which refers to the logos as an
> > essential ingredient, but not as the only one.
> >
> > Therefore, creation ex nihilo seems to have no support in the NT without
> > unnecessarily extending the range of the references.
> I haven't really been following this thread very carefully, but it
> seems to have reached a conclusion that seems to me to be false.
> All things were made by him; and without him was not
> any thing made that was made.
> (John 1:3)
> It seems to me that this is quite strongly worded: If PANTA DI' AUTOU
> EGENETO is ambiguous, it seems that John eliminates any confusion by
> explicitly including the contrary phrase as well: XWRIS AUTOU EGENETO
> OUDE EN hO GEGONEN. It seems that the only "things" excluded from being
> made are the Persons of the Trinity.

The punctuation of the text in UBS3-4/NA26-27 puts "hO GEGONEN with the
following verse, to yield: "hO GEGONEN EN AUTWi ZWH HN, ..." Metzger has a
very interesting note on this verse, of which I cite only the opening: "A
majority of the Committee was impressed by the consensus of ante-Nicene
writers (orthodox and heretical alike) who took hO GEGONEN with what
follows." The shift to the common punctuation of the AV, he says, was a
tactic against the Arian attempt to; use the passage to argue that the Holy
Spirit is to be regarded as one of the created things. So there is not an
unambiguous support in this verse for a doctrine of "creatio ex aliqua re."

Personally, I think the Romans 4:17 passage is one of the strongest
supports for the "creatio ex nihilo" doctrine. I do think it is implicit in
the NT writers, for reasons David Moore set forth this morning.

It now occurs to me that another significant passage implying "Creatio ex
suppose that this creation is out of an "invisible" substance, but not out
of anything that would then have been deemed "material."

I can't speak with any authority on this matter and don't know what the
rabbinical sources may say, but I do have the impression that the doctrine
is relatively late in emergence. Is it in the Wisdom tradition, in any
unmistakable form. I think it's implicit in Philo's De Opificio Mundi,
which seems to understand the two creation narratives of Genesis 1 and 2 as
involving (1) a conceptual creation, and (2) a generation of the physical

As for the Genesis 1 creation narrative itself, it's easy enough to read it
as implying creation out of a primeval chaos, and the narrative in Genesis
2 seems to involve planting an oasis in a pre-existent desert.

This is an interesting question, but I would guess that it has probably
been thoroughly discussed already in a sizable body of literature.
Bibliography, anyone?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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