What does Creation “ex nihilo” mean?

JP: Image above is entitled “The “Pillars of Creation” from the Eagle Nebula“. Taken by Hubble, this and other images are available from hubblesite.org

JP: Brief article from GotQuestions.org

What does Creation “ex nihilo” mean?


“Ex nihilo” is Latin for “from nothing.” The term “creation ex nihilo” refers to God creating everything from nothing. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Prior to that moment there was nothing. God didn’t make the universe from preexisting building blocks. He started from scratch.

Humans can be very creative, but we require materials from which to build something. God is not so constrained. This is difficult for us to comprehend because of a fundamental law of physics which we are all familiar with. Whether or not we know what it’s called, we’re all familiar with a very basic principle. The “first law of science” states that matter (the stuff the universe is made of) cannot be created or destroyed. Matter can converted from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again; atoms can be combined into molecules and split into their component parts; but matter cannot be created from nothing or completely destroyed. And so this idea that God created everything from nothing is not natural to us. It’s not natural at all—it’s supernatural.

The term “creation ex nihilo” refers to the supernatural event which was the beginning of the universe. It was the moment that God created something from nothing.

JP: Good article by Charles Hodge from his Systematic Theology.

The Scriptural Doctrine of the Origin of the Universe


The Scriptural doctrine on this subject is expressed in the first words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The heavens and the earth include all things out of God. Of which things the Scriptures teach that they owe their existence to the will and power of God. The Scriptural doctrine therefore is, (1.) That the universe is not eternal. It began to be. (2.) It was not formed out of any preëxistence or substance; but was created ex nihilo. (3.) That creation was not necessary. It was free to God to create or not to create, to create the universe as it is, or any other order and system of things, according to the good pleasure of his will.
According to the Scriptures God is self-sufficient. He needs nothing out of Himself for his own well-being or happiness. He is in every respect independent of his creatures; and the creation of the universe was the act of the free will of that God of whom the Apostle says in Rom. xi. 36, “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.”

From Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Part 1, Chapter X. The full three volumes of his work are available at ccel.org.

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