What is Ex-Nihilo?

Question
What is Ex-Nihilo?
Answer

"Ex-nihilo" is a Latin phrase meaning, "from nothing." It refers to God creating everything from nothing (including all time, matter, space). In other words, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). It is not the same as biogenesis which refers to the production of life from already-living matter or organisms.

First, God has always existed. So, God existed before space, time, and matter, and all other beings. Prior to the moment that God spoke the universe into existence there was absolutely nothing - except God - the Trinity (Psa. 90:2), who was not created (the aseity of God), and his created angels (Job 38:7).

Second, God created (Hebrew, bara). Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God created [bara] the heavens and the earth" and Genesis 2:4, "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created [bara], in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens." Between these two bara bookends all was "created" by God.:

  • A. God created (Gen. 1:1a)
    • B. God (Gen. 1:1b)
      • C. heavens and earth (Gen. 1:1b)
        • D. Forming and Filling the Earth (Gen. 1:2-31)
      • C.' heavens and earth (Gen.2:1)
    • B.' God (Gen. 2:2-3)
  • A.' God created (Gen. 2:4)

To put it another way, God didn't make the universe from some pre-existing set of Legos.

When examining Creation, some attempt to make too much of a distinction between the Hebrew words bara (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27), meaning "create," and asah (Gen. 1:7, 16, 26, 31), meaning "to make" or "do." Some claim that since the Hebrew word asah is used in Genesis 1, that God could have taken millions of years "to make" the universe. However, their case overlooks the fact that these Hebrew words (bara and asah) are often used interchangeably at times. As the reader will see in the chart below, the verses marked with an *** designate that these items are understood as both "created" and "made" (including the sun, the moon, the stars, sea creatures, trees, rivers, man, the heavens, the earth, and even plants, which though Gen. 1:11-13 states that they were neither "created" or "made," it clearly states they were in Gen. 2:1-3; Psa. 33:6-9; 148:1-14; Heb. 11:3, et. al.):

Text
***
Bara, create
Text
***
Asah, to make
Gen 1:1
created the heavens & earth Gen 1:7
made the expanse
Gen 1:21
created sea creatures
& birds
Gen 1:16
***
made sun, moon & stars
Gen 1:27
***
created man Gen 1:25
made land creatures
Gen 2:3
***
in creating had made Gen 1:31
all that he made
Gen 2:4
created heavens & earth Gen 2:3
***
in creating had made
Gen 5:1
created man Gen 2:4
made heavens & earth
Gen 5:2
created male & female Gen 3:1
God had made
Psa 89:47
created all the
children of man
Gen 3:7
made themselves loincloths
Psa 104:30
[all things
in sea] created
Gen 3:21
made garments
Psa 148:5
created angels, hosts,
sun, moon, stars,
heavens, waters, etc.
Gen 5:1
***
made man
Isa 40:26
***
created stars Gen 6:6
***
made man
Isa 40:26
created trees, rivers Gen 7:4
***
every living thing
that I have made
Isa 54:16
created the blacksmith
& the ravager
Gen 9:6
***
God made man
Psa 121:2
***
made heaven & earth
Psa 104:24
***
made sea &
sea & land animals
Isa 41:20
***
made the trees
& rivers
Isa 43:7
***
man created,
formed & made
Isa 45:18
***
made, formed,
established &
created earth

The New Testament carries over the same thought, as in: (1) John 1:3 all things were "made" ... "made"... "made" (Greek, egeneto, meaning, "I come into being, am born, become, come about, happen") and (2) Colossians 1:16 all things were "created"... "created" (Greek, ektisthe, meaning, "I create, form, shape, make"). This is the same divine fiat as in Genesis 1-2.

So, the universe came into existence by divine fiat or command (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29). It was not assembled from pre-existing matter or energy. As the writer of Hebrews states, "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible" (Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11).

Then why the use of asah, meaning to make? It is interesting that God first creates "order," so he can further employ his Word, artistry, and design. The earth was first "without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep" (Gen. 1:2). To this God further added his intelligent design and artistry and shaped the universe. So, the Holy Spirit uses both terms to describes the miracle of Creation.

So, God is the Creator (Psa. 19:1; 104:24). He created from nothing. He created everything "very good" (Gen. 1:31).

Various Creation Positions

What is the Big Bang Theory?
What is the Day Age Theory?
What is the Framework Hypothesis?
What is the Gap Theory?
What About Hebrews 11:3?
What is the Intelligent Design Theory?
What is the Mature Universe Theory?
What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?
What is Progressive Creationism?
What is Theistic Evolution?
What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

Related Topics

What is the meaning of Day in Genesis 1?
Are there two different accounts of Creation?
What is BioLogos?
Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?
A Universal or Regional Flood?
What about the evidence of Carbon-14 dating?
What About Dinosaurs?
Scientific Evidence for YEC?
How could there be evening and morning the first three days of Creation?
Extraterrestrials and the Bible?
Can a person be born an atheist?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).