Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bauckham comments on creation ex nihilo

I recently posted some thoughts about creation ex nihilo in light of 2 Peter 3:5, and offered three ways of dealing with what we are to make of the (later) doctrine of ex nihilo in light of such biblical themes.

In short I suggested: 1) reject ex nihilo, 2) claim ex nihilo came ex nihilo, but is still correct and 3) argue ex nihilo, while a later development, is consistent with seeds of truth already to be found in the NT and Apocrypha.

Richard Bauckham e-mailed me a fourth possibility that I had not even considered, one I find very appealing:

"Another possibility is that 'chaos' was a sort of mythological way of imagining 'nothing.' To imagine a pre-creation chaos and to say that God created all things was perfectly consistent, because no 'thing' existed until God formed it out of chaos"

What do you think?


At 8/13/2009 12:55 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

Interesting possibility I hadn't considered before. Though option 3 is where I would tend to fall, this Bauckham's suggestion is probably worth considering (aren't most things he suggests?!).

At 8/13/2009 6:29 AM, Anonymous Kevin Davis said...

Paul Jewett argued for this (4th) position in his systematics, God, Creation, and Revelation. It's a good discussion with some good references. You should check it out. I had never heard it before either, until I came across it in Jewett.

At 8/13/2009 3:10 PM, Anonymous Phil Sumpter said...

I wonder how Bauckham's suggestion fits with Isa 45:7:

"I form light and create [bara] darkness,
I make well-being and acreate [bara'] calamity [ra´, often translated "evil."),
I am the Lord, who does all these things."

Only God is the subject of the verb bara' in the OT. For this reason, it's often seen as a special type of creating.

As for chaos being a way to conceptualize "nothingness," does this scan with, e.g. Ps 93:3-4?:

"3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord mon high is mighty!"

This doesn't refer to a past Überwindung, it seems to refer to the chaos ocean as an ever present reality with which God has to wrestle. Craigie (WBC) says about this:

" the cosmogonic victory of Yahweh should not be treated as a purely past event. The context of acclamation indicates a continuing threat: Why the acclamation of Yahweh as the Victor King if the “floods” have long ceased to be a problem? The pounding, surging, and roaring of the “floods” are never far away. The seas of chaos are tamed, but their mighty roar hangs in the air like an echo ..."

Of course, even this is open to interpretation. Whereas Hossfeld seems to think this is evidence that God must continually sustain creation, Craigie thinks this is ultimately "liturgical actualization" (" In a sense the “floods” belong to the distant past, but their primordial roaring is also contemporary.").

I've got to wrestle with this myself at some point, as it is an open question whether Ps 24:1-2 talks just of creatio or also of conservatio. I posted on this today: creatio and conservatio in Ps 24:2?.

At 8/13/2009 3:59 PM, Anonymous mwhitenton said...

Interesting suggestion I had not considered before.

Mike Whitenton

At 8/14/2009 5:23 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

This is an interesting possibility, to say the least. But another possibility is the one that I would argue. If I am not mistaken the term ex nihilo might be a misnomer in the sense that when the Scriptures note that God created from nothing, that nothing may be understood to mean something not visible to the naked eye. It does not necessarily mean the absence of anything, a completely empty vacuum. It simply means something that cannot be seen.

If this interpretation is held to then God did not create from absolutely nothing, but created from something which was too small to be seen by the naked eye. Thus, with this said I would also argue for the Big Bang Theory to be the moment Creation and Time began. And, of course, off of this put into place and motion by God!

At 8/15/2009 3:41 AM, Anonymous steph said...

Hey that's a cute photo of you and Anja!

At 8/16/2009 7:10 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Jason: (Yes!!)

Kevin: thanks for the reference.

Thanks for the link and thoughts, Phil (and Mark). Just received Moberly's new Theology of Genesis to help me think it through.

Steph, thanks!

At 8/17/2009 12:44 AM, Anonymous Kenny said...

I am neither a Hebraist nor a dogmatic theologian, but I had heard the interpretation that Gen. 1:1 was supposed to refer to a ex nihilo creation, whereas 1:2ff. (and other verses in the Scripture) refers to a later forming of the earth out of chaos. This is a common line among the young-earth-old-universe types, but is consistent with a less literalistic reading as well.

I guess that, since 1:1 is not terribly explicit, this would probably be a way of embracing (3).

At 8/17/2009 10:53 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Kenny,
"This is a common line among the young-earth-old-universe types"

Interesting! I have never heard such an argument before (and I am sure you are right)

At 8/18/2009 4:57 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

Richard is correct; the Church, as well as the Church Father, teach that the biblical choas is a symbol for the nothingness from which creation came, i.e., God used no previous matter to create.

Here is a wonderful document on the vocation of theologican that I encourage you to read:

And here is a document on liberation theology:

At 8/22/2009 10:01 AM, Anonymous Mark said...

Hi Chris. Bonhoeffer also develops this line in his lectures given in Berlin, 'Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3'. Might be worth a gander!


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