November 30, 2020

Dan Jepsen: Do some interpretations of Genesis 1 deny creation ex nihilo?

One Day, Moshe Mikanovsky

Note from CM: This is part two of a three-part series by Pastor Dan on Genesis 1. You can read part one HERE.

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Do Some Interpretations of Genesis 1 Deny Creation ex Nihilo?
by Daniel Jepsen

As I have tried to argue in a previous post, creation ex nihilo is in many ways the fundamental doctrine about God. It is more than the bare assertion that He made all things out of nothing. Rightly understood, it also teaches:

  • The universe is good, but not ultimate.
  • He exists in a way that nothing else does.
  • He transcends the universe and every element of the universe.
  • And He is therefore completely holy and completely sovereign.

I view this as the basis for all true theology, and the consistent teaching of scripture.

So one of the questions troubling me is the question of whether some interpretations of Genesis are consistent with this doctrine or not. In my opinion, coherence with creation ex nihilo is a necessary condition for an interpretation of Genesis one to be accepted as valid.

It may be helpful at this point to list (in no particular order) of some of the most common ways that Genesis 1 has been interpreted by Jews and Christians over the centuries. This list is not complete, but helps to clarify the issues.

1. The first way to understand it I call the rabbinic interpretation, because it was the favorite of many of the medieval rabbis. This is to understand 1:1 as a general statement of God’s creation of everything, and the rest of the chapter as his recreation of the land of Palestine for his people Israel. So when it speaks of “the earth”, this viewpoint translates that as “the land”, that is the promised land, which is a possible meaning of the word. This is sometimes called the Historical Land Interpretation.

2. A second way to understand whole chapter as describing in scientific terms the historical sequence of creation, and understanding the “days” as solar days of 24 hours. This interpretation will be called the YEC interpretation (Young Earth Creationism).

3. A third way to understand this is to again view the entire chapter as a scientific description of the historical process of creation, but to understand the “days” not as 24 hour time periods, but as events or epochs or long periods of time. So the text gives a scientific description of creation, but without dates. Supporters of this view will point out that the word for “day” [yom in Hebrew], is used two other ways in this passage: as the part of the day when sun shines (in verses 5 and 15), and as an event in 2:4. I will use OEC (Old Earth Creationism) to describe this (though some prefer the term day/age view)

4. The fourth way is to understand the days to describe the re-creation of the world, after some sort of defacing of it. So, 1:1 would describe the original creation, whereas 1:2 would describe it in its ruined state, and the rest of the chapter describes its re-creation. This is sometimes called the gap theory.

5. A fifth way is to understand Genesis one is to view 1:1 as relating the fact of creation (as in the Rabbinic view) while the rest of the chapter is a theological (not scientific) re-construction of that creation. In other words, this view holds that verse 2 through the end of the chapter are a theological interpretation of creation, using the concept of a “creation week” as a literary framework. I call this the temple view, since the main theological point it makes about creation is that it is to be viewed as God’s temple, the place that both shows His glory and serves as His throne (others call it the Framework view). See my analysis of this view here.

6. A sixth way to understand Genesis one is to view it as a story of God’s creation of the universe using the understanding of cosmology present to the original readers to make the point. In this view, God portrayed creation in this way not to canonize a certain view of cosmology, but used their understanding of cosmology to explain what creation means. For lack of a better term, I will call this the accommodation view, since it sees God accommodating his revelation to the level of those he is communicating to. This could also be called the flexible cosmology view. For brevity and clarities sake, I will not be discussing this view in this post.

I am not going to argue which view is correct here, and any technical analysis of the above is not the main point of this post. My concern, rather, is which of these is consistent with the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. This question will center on the relationship between verse one and the rest of the chapter.

Second Day, Moshe Mikanovsky

The temple view, the rabbinic view, and the gap view all see a disjunction of some kind between verse one and the rest of the chapter. Again, for clarity, that disjunction is:

  • For the rabbinic view, verse one is a summary statement of God’s creation of the universe, while the rest of the chapter does not describe the creation of the universe, but the forming and filling of the promised land.
  • For the temple view, verse one is also seen as a summary statement of God’s creation of the universe. And again, the rest of the chapter does not then describe the scientific progression of creation, but its theological meaning (i.e., that it is His temple and throne).
  • For the gap view, verse one describes the original creation of all things, which, they argue, were subsequently marred or destroyed by Satanic rebellion. The rest of the chapter, then, scientifically describes the re-creation or restoration of the universe from its ruined state.

However, in both the YEC and most OEC models, the relationship between verse one and the rest of the chapter is more of a continuity than a disjunction. For these views, verse one serves as a summary statement of God’ creation of the universe, while the rest of the chapter then describes how he did it. That is, verses 2-31 are a scientific description of the progression of creation. They explain the manner and progression of God’s creative act.

And herein lies the problem. If verses 2-31 describe what creation looked like scientifically, then verse 2 describes how God started creation. And, under this interpretation, He did not create ex nihilo, for matter already existed in the form of a watery earth.

Read Genesis 1:2 again: “Now the earth was without form and void, and darkness moved upon the face of the deep”. In other words, if creation starts here, it starts with matter already existing in the form of earth and water. God’s creation, then, consisted of taking that pre-existent matter and forming it into light, land, sky, sea, vegetation, and then filling it with stars moon, animal life, birds, fish, and finally mankind. The idea that God made all things out of nothing, that matter itself is created during creation, that no-one and nothing exists alongside of God, seems negated by this view.

Quite frankly, I don’t see a way around this. The only possible way for someone to hold both creation ex nihilo and a view that verses 2 through 31 teach a scientific description of creation is to argue for a two-stage creation. That is, it could be argued that verse one describes the first stage of creation in which God forms the materials of creation, and then the creation week describes how he forms this material into the universe.

Third Day, Moshe Mikanovsky

I see several problems with a two-stage creation. I will list them from less important to more important.

  • First, it seems strained. That is, it seems to not be the initial reaction one might have reading this passage, but rather an attempt to meet an objection. This is not a fatal flaw, but it should be noted.
  • Second, it does not seem to be the teaching of scripture elsewhere. In other words, our confidence in this two-stage interpretation would be bolstered if it seemed to be taught more explicitly elsewhere, or at least made sense of (and brought light to) another passage or two.
  • Thirdly, the logic behind the two-stage creation seems non-existent. If God is capable of forming all things instantaneously (as creation ex nihilo affirms) and if nothing limits that power, then why the two-step process?
  • Fourthly, it seems clear that what was formed in verse one was not simply matter. The earth (or land) already exists in verse 2, as does water.
  • Fifth, the language of verse one seems to preclude this interpretation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. But it seems clear from the rest of the chapters that “heavens and earth” refers not to simply matter, but to something like we would the formed and functioning earth in its cosmic setting (see 2:1). The use of the term “heavens and earth” in other Old Testament passages never refers simply to matter, but to the whole cosmos.

Thus, for me at least, thinking through this issue leads me to believe that the days of Genesis chapter 1 do not refer to a scientific description of the physical process and sequence of the creation of the universe, for that would deny the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

I am open to being corrected in this analysis, but I would rather work through the disjunctive options above (there may be others) rather than weaken a foundational doctrine in my understanding of God.


  1. I have to agree with you, Daniel. I’ve always read Genesis 1:1 as sort of the intro to the story…a summary of the more detailed events we’re about to read. I think if we look at the narrative as a two-part creation, or apply gap theory, it throws the idea of God’s sovereignty as a creator off-kilter.

    I’ve recently been reading NT Wright’s “Surprised by Hope”. I would love to read your thoughts on eschatology in this forum at some point.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Because The Beginning and The End tend to attract a LOT of flakes and One True Way types.

      • HUG, Wright’s book isn’t the typical “end times” LaHaye/Lindsey kind of fodder. Instead, he takes a hard look at scripture and redefines how we should view life after death, eschatology, etc. Even for a non-believer, I think this is an interesting read.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I know N.T.Wright wouldn’t be a typical “end times” guy. Bishop Wright has a reputation for being a thinker. But I lost 10 years of my life to the Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and am very gun-shy.

          There are so many flakes out there crowded around The Beginning (Genesis) and The End (Revelation) that I can only keep my sanity by avoiding anything to do with both.

  2. I agree with your conclusion: we’re doing violence to the text if we read poetry as if it’s a science textbook. They’re entirely different genres. It’s the same as when other poems in the Bible say that God stores the waters of the deep in jars or has storehouses full of hailstones.

    The whole YEC issue comes from us reading the Bible while locked into the mindset of modernity and the Enlightenment era. The Bible is not a theology textbook designed to present propositional truths about God; it is a millennia-long conversation designed to draw us into dialogue, to supply us with stories that reshape how we understand ourselves, and to help us to fall in love with a God who is beyond understanding or description.

    At the end of the day, “fundamental doctrine” is considerably less important than whether we know and love God. The Devil, after all, has all his “fundamental doctrine” correct. And if we think for a moment that our doctrine, no matter how well-reasoned, presents a complete understanding of God, or even a fully accurate one, we’re just deluding ourselves. We should talk about doctrine; we should try to understand; we should care about how we speak about God. But at the same time we need to have enough humility to recognize that our finite minds cannot hold an infinite God – we have to trust instead in a God who holds us. If we approached God with more of that humility, these debates wouldn’t keep dividing us.

  3. While I think you did a nice job here, I think you have oversimplified the statement of both the YEC and OEC views. Gen 1:2 is rarely taken as a ore-existent state of the universe in such views. Gen 1:1 shows God creating both time and all matter (heavens and the earth). All matter which would ever be used thus existed at the moment of the Big Bang. This happens also to be cosmologicaly accurate in modern physics models. So 1:2 proceeds quite naturally from 1:1; in verse 1 God creates all matter, and yet in verse 2 we are told that the earth had yet to be formed or filled (ie., was “formless and void”).

    Most argue that 1:1-2 are the introductory statement and then each “day” of creation begins with “And God said…” and ends with, “evening and morning, the X day.” So it is misrepresenting this view considerably to put v2 as the “starting point” of their interpretation.

    I agree with your point that if any YEC or OEC is reading this as a pre-existent Earth then they are way off base; your commentary on the importance of ex nihilo is dead on. But I have never had a conversation with either of these who state that verse 2 indicates a pre existent earth; rather they say that verse 1 shows God creating everything and verse 2 shows that God has not yet formed anything, then we proceed into the “days” of the text. So it does not seem to me that either YEC or OEC argues against ex nihilo.

    • I may be mistaken on this, but my impression of Daniel’s argument is that he is saying, not that YECs or OECs deny creation ex nihilo (I think it’s clear that they don’t), but that a YEC or OEC reading of Genesis 1 is insufficient to defend the doctrine of creation ex nihilo against alternative readings that assume pre-existent matter. If I’ve understood that correctly, I do think it’s an interesting argument to make, though I think some of Daniel’s points here could be put more persuasively.

      What interests me most about this article, however, is the approach Daniel is taking, made explicit in the very last sentence, of taking a doctrine as foundational and judging between different scriptural interpretations based on how well they measure up to it. I don’t think Daniel can be accused of eisegesis as such- he’s not trying to prove the doctrine from this passage, nor is he just foisting his own ideas on it (there’s a range of different interpratations he’s willing to entertain), but he is taking the doctrine as axiomatic. I suspect this approach, taken in its general principles, might make some people uncomfortable.

      • Glenn, it could very well be that i have misread. It happens a lot. :). I suppose the key point for me is that in the paragraph which begins “quite frankly…”, he states that the only way to believe in ex nihilo and that verses 2-31 have some scientific validity is to teach a two stage creation.

        However, this statement seems misleading, for YEC/OEC see verse 2 as being grouped with verses 3-31. Thus this sentence is arguing against a situation which no one actually believes. They see v1-2 as being the summary of what will follow, with the six days giving specifics. In that case, there is no need for a two stage creation at all, thus rendering that particular point moot. Snce v2 is seen as explaining the state of v1 creation, rather than (as assumed in the post) being the first stage of the second creative act, this eliminates his point.

        That said, I think it is a very strong point and totally think it is an intriguing and worthwhile discussion. I just think that it is overly simplistic to say that the YEC/OEC view somehow requires a two stage creation. It only requires that if you place v2 in with v3-31. If v1-2 are summary statements and the six “days” are specific statements, then this supposed tension seems to me to go away.

        • Michael

          Thanks for you pushback, and I am glad you are interacting with the most important textual point.

          First, in my years of Bible college and seminary the YEC teaching I got did indeed view verse one as a summary statement, while the rest of the passage was a description of the process.

          Second, I am not sure I quite understand what you mean about making verses 1-2 a summary statement and then the rest of the chapter as giving specifics. If verse two shows the results of verse one, with the days following after, then there does indeed seem to be a two-step creation. Step one is creation of a unformed and unfilled earth, and step two is the days of forming and filling. Or did you mean something else by saying that “verse 2 is seen as explaining the state of creation”?

          • Ah, now I am starting to see your point. My apologies for confusion (not being a YeC myself I perhaps misunderstand their views as well).

            Essentially what I have traditionally heard from OEC (haven’t honestly discussed it much with YEC) is that Gen 1:1-2 is in their views similar to the toledots through the rest of Genesis, a summarizing statement which introduces a passage of Scripture. I see now what you mean though; where traditionally I have heard vs 3-31 as “gradual” completion of the same act from v1-2 (when God creates all matter, but in a formless way and then proceeds through the rest of the verses to form it) is what you are calling a secondary creation act.

            In that case yes, your comment is accurate to the viewpoint; I had just never heard it referred to as two stage creation, as it is typically described as one gradual but continuous creation in the OEC teachings I have heard.

            So, following the logic then, you are arguing that a gradual/multi-stage creation undermines ex nihilo, and, therefore, the reader must either choose a “single moment” creation of everything simultaneously or a poetical understanding (i.e., not to be read scientifically in any form). I apologize for the confusion; I get where you are coming from now. It was a semantic misunderstanding on my part.

      • Glenn, you are correct in your first paragraph about my intention.

        As regards to your second paragraph, my main point was to simply point out the incompatibility (imo) between the usual YEC interpretation of the passage and the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Obviously the text comes first, so if the YEC interpretation of the text seemed persuasive to me, and I still believed it inconsistent with the doctrin of creation ex nihilo, then I would have to jettison belief in that doctrine. But when a text has a number of competing interpretations, it seems worthwhile to have the discussion about which of them are consistent with a very important and long-held doctrine.

        • Oh yes, I quite agree. When I said some people might not be comfortable with your approach, I wasn’t including myself. I actually think Paul often does similar things with his use of OT passages. There’s a dynamic tension between our doctrinal frameworks and the raw data of Scripture, and it’s worth examining the interplay between them in this way. And anyway, as a Papist, I have passages like 2 Maccabees 7 to fall back on when it comes to creation ex nihilo :).

  4. Richard Elliott Friedman in his Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text says in his comment on Genesis 1:2:

    “…This verse rather means that ‘the earth had been shapeless and formless’ – that is, it had already existed in this shapeless condition prior to the creation. Creation of matter in the Torah is not out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), as many have claimed. And the Torah is not claiming to be telling events from the beginning of time.”

    • Objection! With this interpretation, Friedman shrinks God to a manageable size and then drowns him in the bathtub.

    • Friedman seems to agree with my view that viewing verse 2 as the start of a description of the sequence of creation nullifies the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. As the link to my blog shows, I think there is a better way to understand the intent of the chapter.

  5. “God created…”


    ‘Nuff for me.

  6. Joshua T says

    Thirdly, the logic behind the two-stage creation seems non-existent. If God is capable of forming all things instantaneously (as creation ex nihilo affirms) and if nothing limits that power, then why the two-step process?

    I don’t know that this is necessarily problematic, logically speaking. I think this question sounds similar to “if God is good and His power is unlimited, then why does evil persist?” Or, even more in the creation-related realm, “If we are new creations in Christ, how come we still seem very much like the old creations that we were?” Christ did only what He saw the Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also. Does the Christian’s state as a new creation, but not quite done yet (so to speak), lend any credence to this sort of two-stage creation?

    To be clear, I’m not making claims or asserting this view; it just doesn’t seem all that problematic that just God, whose power is unlimited, doesn’t always exercise all of that power all at once.

  7. Daniel, I agree about the importance of creation ex nihilo to our understanding of any kind of theology. But I don’t see how you can assume that the YEC and OEC models extend this to all created beings and things. Genesis 1:1 takes care of ex nihilo quite nicely, but since then all things are created out of pre-existing matter, the “pre-” referring to Gen 1:1.

    The best example of this comes from the creation (NOT ex nihilo) of Adam and Eve. She was created out of pre-existing matter (Adam) and he was created out of the dirt. The YEC and OEC camps don’t deny this. But are you saying that in their not denying this they are being inconsistent? I don’t follow.

    As I understand it, the YEC position doesn’t disagree that things and beings are created out of pre-existing matter but in the amount of time it took God to do it.

    I guess I don’t have a problem with two-stage creation. In fact, I think God keeps on creating today. The maple trees in my front yard are much bigger than when my grandfather planted them, and they have seeded more maples in the woods behind. And my kids weren’t around when my wife and I got married. Creation goes on as ever, but not ex nihilo. That only happened once, call it Genesis 1:1 or the Big Bang, it’s the same thing.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I guess I don’t have a problem with two-stage creation. In fact, I think God keeps on creating today.

      Last year, my writing partner was doing a pastoral visitation in a hospital. Stopping by the hospital chapel, he found an English copy of the Tanakh, a recent Jewish translation, and out of curiosity opened it to Genesis 1.

      He said that the first sentence read “In the Beginning, when God began creating the sky and the earth…”

      • Victor Hamilton in his two-volume commentary takes six pages to discuss whether the verb beresit (beginning) is in the absolute state (“In the beginning”) or the construct state (“began to create”). Both are possible grammatically, but he concludes that the first option is more in line with the theology, syntax and style of the rest of the passage.

      • The JPS Tanakh actually reads:

        1 When God began to create a heaven and earth — 2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from b God sweeping over the water — 3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

        a Others “In the beginning God created.”
        b Others “the spirit of.”

        JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh — Second Edition

  8. I have a problem with taking the creation account as a scientific explanation. The statement that the earth was “formless and void” is not a scientific explanation but rather a statement on its relationship to man as the crown of creation and God’s relationship to him.

    If we want to say it is scientific then how do we square the account of man being formed from the earth and woman from a rib bone? If the previous account is scientific how can we say then that the writer just switched gears and went poetic on us?

    I really can’t take it all as a literal telling of history but, rather , as an account relating God’s dealings with man and his surroundings. Maybe I’m just being theologically inept, but this is not a hill I’m willing to die on.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Then you’d better hide from Ken Ham’s Inquisitors.

      “Swear alliegance to the flag
      Whatever flag they offer;
      — Mike and the Mechanics, “Silent Running”

    • Genesis is a historical description, not a scientific description. It doesn’t make sense to talk about a historical description. Whenever you are talking about God creating, science is irrelevant. God may or may not act within the natural laws he created. The objection to a historical account of Genesis isn’t scientific, it’s theological; why would God create a world that looks much older to us than described in Genesis? God had a different frame of reference, or days means eras, or the account shouldn’t be taken as a literal history. An omnipotent God has no problem creating a world that looks new or old.

      I don’t get why creation ex nihilo matters. Maybe part of a perfect, unchanging God is that he keeps in his mind an eternal material framework. Who really cares? It’s part of God’s hidden nature. What matters is his Word creates new things, with only his Word. It is this principle on which Christ’s resurrection and our forgiveness and new life depends. Forgiveness, the sacraments, salvation, all depends on the power of his Word.

      • ack, doesn’t make sense to talk about a scientific description.

      • “God may or may not act within the natural laws he created.”

        I have heard the very people who accuse evolution of violating the laws of thermodynamics state that God suspended those very same laws in the act of creation. I have difficulty accepting God violating the very laws he established; it calls into the question the immutability of God. I guess God can do whatever he wants. But as I have said before, we need to abide by the same set of rules to which we hold others; if God can defy natural law, then so can naturalistic evolution.

  9. I really enjoyed post 1 in this series. I was reared YEC and my husband still is (a teetering) YEC. All YEC literature, teachers and speakers that I have ever heard would argue that the Earth came from nothing. Although they would not use the “ex nihilo” term (maybe because it is Latin) in any discussions. They would firmly assert that John 1 confirms their belief that God spoke and all of creation came from that. This post smacks of creating a straw man. There is enough to discuss about YEC theology than to put words in their mouths.

  10. humanslug says

    When that ancient, God-inspired poet first put quill to sheepskin and composed the Genesis creation story, I seriously doubt that the theological issue of ex nihilo versus creation using pre-existing materials was anywhere in his or her thoughts. And regardless of what kind of theological and scientific baggage we try to heap on this ancient poem, we need to keep in mind what it is at its most basic and obvious level — which is a poetic account describing God’s creative work, composed in such a way that it could be sufficiently understood by a child living in the Bronze Age without any added explanations or definitions.
    It fails to satisfy modern scientific and theological critics for the laughably simple reason that they are not its target audience. And if you think about it, it would be dang near impossible to produce a literary work that would fully satisfy all the questions and criteria of today’s readers and still be fully comprehensible to ancient readers and listeners living in the time period in which Genesis was written.
    Like all scripture, I believe the first chapter of Genesis expresses divine truth, and, considering the time in which it was written and that it wasn’t written as a scientific work, it’s bordering on miraculous in its superiority to other ancient creation accounts in other cultural traditions when lined up against what modern science has learned about the origins and formation of our planet. We just need to cut it (and God) some slack, it let it be what it is, and stop weighing it down with absurd expectations.

    • humanslug says

      And cut me some slack and ignore that extra “it” in the last sentence of my comment.

  11. Joseph (the original) says

    i am not sure that the theological doctrine of creation ex nihilo should include the subject of time, since that quality of God is His from everlalsting to everlasting.

    in other words, God exists in a time element without limits (no beginning, no end); a very active & very interactive state. i would say that when what we understand as the cosmos we live in was created, the ‘perception’ of time was part of the crowning work of creation: mankind.

    time didn’t ‘begin’ in the sense it was not pre-existent, it was revealed in a physical dimension at some point for those that wish to measure such things. you could also say that about ‘light’, but some arguments today opt for dismissing any singularity or dramatic Big Bang event.

    the ‘let there be light’ not a creative act as much as a releasing one since God dwells in unapproachable light & is called The Father of Lights. the source of all creation a cooperative effort of the Godhead is implied in the creation account & John’s gospel.

    and if “all things seen & unseen” were indeed created all-at-once, then were emotions created then? moral qualities? i am just rambling here since systematic theology attempts to qualify God’s attributes & character, but they were never created, nor were they re-created for humankind either…

    anyway, back to my 2nd cup of coffee…

    party on Garth… (8

  12. It seems to me that creation ex nihilo is more or less tautological; it is part of an explanation of what we mean by “God”. That is, whatever we might imagine the place where we are being created out of, God is responsible for that, too. The more interesting question is whether, looking back, we come to a “place” that is without order. Genesis 1 clearly says yes, God took what he initially created “without form” and molded it into the world we see around us. Therefore it seems perfectly reasonable to believe that (after taking a Sabbath) God continued to create (eg, the rest of Genesis) and still creates today, refuting YEC.

    I think it’s important that this view is compatible with the modern scientific view; important because I would want God to be the God of the Real World. The Big Bang is taken as an instantaneous creation in a completely disordered, extremely energetic configuration which cooled and separated itself out into the structured place where we are. Genesis is a poetic expression, not a detailed scientific theory/description, but (if you don’t get hung up on 24-hour days) the sequence of things is not so bad. (I think we can take “waters” and “the deep” as embodiments of chaos; the water we see around us is still the chaotic element (compared with earth, vegetation, animals, and so on) partly domesticated. 14ff is confusing.) In particular, early on (after maybe 350,000 years?) the cosmic fireball cooled enough that hydrogen atoms – ordinary matter, “earth” – formed, decoupled from photons … and there was light.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    You know, when I read this posting this morning, I thought Chaplain Mike might have to also file it under “Creation Wars”. So far, we seem to have avoided the vicious knock-down-drag-outs and heretic/witch hunts that Genesis seems to inspire, but I’m so gun-shy I keep expecting it to explode any minute/any comment.

    • Perhaps I move in the wrong theological circles, but I fail to see why any of this should be more than an academic controversy. If someone believed that God created the universe out of cream cheese, that would be…peculiar, certainly, but not heretical. The cream cheese needn’t pose a limitation to God’s power, or constitute a rival divinity.

  14. Perhaps “ex-nihilo” was not as pressing of an issue for the writers of Genesis as it was in the face of Greek philosophers. Byas and Enns in “Genesis for Normal People” emphasizes how Genesis takes the Babylonian story of creation and retells it in a way which exalts the God of Israel over the gods of their captors. It doesn’t mean that ex-nihilo is not true; it just means that it is not an overt truth expressed in Genesis 1.

  15. Can you point me to where I can find a few medieval rabbis discussing the Historical Land hypothesis?