Saturday, January 17, 2009

Understanding ex nihilo

One creationist statement often made is that the Hebrew word for "create", bara (e.g. Gen 1:1) means creatio ex nihilo, or, creation out of nothing. Unfortunately, this is not true.

The verb itself does not inherently mean that the object being created comes out of thin (non-existent) air. Rather, it is simply puts the focus on the created thing as opposed to how it was created. God is always the subject of the verb, so it does indeed refer to a special kind of creation, but God does use pre-existing material at times.

For example, in Gen 1:26 God decides to "make" (Hebrew, asa) man. Then in the next verse, it says God created (bara) man. We know that God used dust to make man, so this is one of many cases where bara is used of creation with pre-existing materials.

If you have the ability to look up every time the verb bara is used, you will quickly see that in many instances throughout Scripture it simply cannot mean creation out of nothing.

That does not negate the doctrine of ex nihilo, it just means we have to prove it from the context of Genesis 1 and from the rest of Scripture, which I think is easy to do and has been done and does not need to be done here.