Steven DiMattei: Creation ‘Ex Nihilo’ a Foreign Concept

Steven DiMattei, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (Wipf & Stock, 2016), 10-11.

In general terms, then, the authors and cultures of these ancient Near Eastern creation myths, Genesis 1 included, did not conceive of creation as an act of creating matter, but as an act of creating order, form, purpose, and habitable land with tamed and separated waters out of an initial primeval state of untamed waters, darkness, and an unformed and uninhabitable earth mass. Whether speaking of the Babylonian ‘Enuma Elish,’ Egyptian cosmogonies, or Genesis 1, the emphasis falls on presenting the creation of a habitable orderly world from an initial state of formlessness, darkness, and untamed waters, through the creator deity’s act of separating this initial primordial matter, assigning functions or setting boundaries to the separated elements, and naming or calling into existence each component of the world as it was perceived by the peoples and cultures of the ancient Near East. The idea of the creation of matter out of nothing was simply not a perspective adopted by the cultures of the ancient Near East, the Israelites included. The closest thing we have to the idea of creation out of nothing are a couple of Egyptian creation myths that pose a single creator deity as the origin of life, and from whose body, sky, earth, and water emerge. In other words, the idea that the world originated through the creation of matter from nothing simply did not exist. Such an idea would not only have been inconceivable to the peoples and cultures of this ancient landscape, but inferior to the views they did hold about the creation of the habitable world.

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