By Daniel H. King
One of the marvels of the great book that we call the “Bible,” and which gives us the clear impression that it comes from God, is its ability to rise above the false theories and foolish ideas that characterized the people who lived when it was written. This is a unique quality. It is singularly difficult even for Christians today to avoid being tarnished by the sophisticated-sounding “science that is falsely so-called” which places all kinds of question marks around the faith that we cherish and hold dear.
Yet the Bible possesses that quality and exhibits it in a number of ways. One very important and fascinating doctrine of the Old Testament is the concept of creatio ex nihilo, or “creation out of nothing.” Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was shapeless and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The use of the word bara in the Kal form “always means to create, and is only applied to a divine creation, the production of that which had no existence before” (Delitzsch). The philosophical depth of this doctrine is incredible and completely inexplicable under any evolutionary and developmental hypothesis of ideas. It appears in Gen. 1:1 without precedent and without parallel in the ancient world. In fact, examination of texts from Babylonia, Assyria, and Egypt evince quaint and curious notions of creation. Yet they all possess a common feature: creation is always “out of something” rather than “out of nothing.” In other words, matter of one type or another is always pre-existent. Pagan theologians could never divorce their gods from the physical realm long enough to answer the question regarding the origin of matter itself: “Where did it come from?”
In the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, the world is said to have arisen out of pre-existent water. Apsu the fresh water and the Tiamat the salt water divinity are said to have mingled the waters and the result was the creation of all that is. In Egypt, Atum, the primal god of the Heliopolitan pantheon, after self-gratification took his own seed into his mouth and spewed forth the first pair of gods, from whence derived the rest of creation. At Memphis in Egypt, Ptah created all things by the “mouth which named all things.” But the word of creation is in all Egyptian religion a fluid substance emanating from the mouth of the god. Thus there is, in reality, no creation in our sense but an emanation whgreby one material is changed into another.
The biblical doctrine of creation from nothing stands as convincing testimony of the inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture. The penman of Genesis 1:1 rose above the reprehensible conceptions of heathen idolatry only because the artificer of the universe and man’s own maker lifted him to that great height.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 18, p. 289
May 1, 1980