Creatio Ex Nihilo [Genesis 1:1–3 Study]

An introduction to the book of Genesis and an examination of Genesis 1:1–3. God created everything out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo).

Creatio Ex Nihilo [Genesis 1:1–3 Study]
Photo by Harshit Sharma / Unsplash

Introduction to Genesis

  • Genesis is the first book of the Torah or Pentateuch
  • Torah is viewed as one literary piece

Author of the Pentateuch

  • OT passages attribute the Torah (Law) to Moses
    • “Book of Moses” (2 Chronicles; Nehemiah 13:1)
    • “Law of Moses” (Kings; Ezra; Daniel)
  • Early Jewish and Christian sources accept Moses authorship
    • Luke 24:27; John 7:22-23; Acts 15:1
    • Philo, Josephus, Talmud and Mishnah
  • Three evangelical views on authorship
    1. Moses is the exclusive author of Genesis
    2. Moses is substantial author of Genesis (Our View)
    3. Anonymous final compiler of Genesis using sources written by Moses
      • Moses wrote narrative, law, and poetry in Torah, but he was not the final author or compiler.
  • Conclusion: Moses is the substantial author, and God is the ultimate divine author.

Date of the Pentateuch

  • before Moses’ death in 1405 BC
  • after book of Job (written by Elihu, Eliphaz, or Job himself in 2000 BC)
    • some argue Israelites were not literate until 8th century BC
    • writings on walls of Egyptian Turquoise Mines by slaves in 1900 BC.

Genre of Genesis

  • Primarily prose narrative
  • Genesis 1 is not poetry
    • Lacks parallelism
    • Not the grammar of Hebrew poetry
      • Poetry does not commonly use of Hebrew definite article.
      • Poetry has limited use of relative pronoun “which.”
      • Poetry has limited use of sequential verb forms
      • Hebrew word Wayyiqtol relatively infrequent in poetry.
      • accusative marker relatively infrequent in poetry.
    • No metaphors
    • No imagery except in Genesis 1:2
  • We believe and assume the divine inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture
    • We believe that Genesis 1-11 is history, not myth.
    • We believe Genesis 12-50 is history, not legend.

Ancient Near East Worldview vs. Hebrew worldview

  • polytheism vs monotheism
  • Physical images vs iconoclasm
  • Eternal matter vs eternal spirit
  • Low view of god vs high view of god
  • Low view of humanity vs high view of humanityœ
  • Everlasting conflict between good and evil vs no conflict
  • No uniform standard of ethics vs one standard of ethics

Geography of Genesis

  • 1-3: Eden
  • 4-6: East of Eden
  • 7-9: Ark and Mountains of Ararat
  • 10-11: Babel and Babylon
  • 12-36: Ur and Canaan
  • 37-50: Egypt

Structure of Genesis

  • Introduction with creation of mankind (1:1 to 2:3)
  • 11 Toledot sections

Outline of Genesis

  • Genesis 1-11: Primeval history
    • Creation (Genesis 1-2)
    • Fall (Genesis 3-5)
    • Flood (Genesis 6-9)
    • Babel (Genesis 10-11)
  • Genesis 12:50: Patriarchal history
    • Narrative of Abraham (Genesis 12-24)
    • Narrative of Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 25-36)
    • Narrative of Jacob’s descendants (Genesis 37-50)


Genesis 1:1

  • Biblical Christianity vs atheism, naturalism, humanism
  • Beginning
    • There was the beginning. Time has a beginning.
    • History has a beginning point. History and time is linear.
    • Myth of eternal recurrence (Ancient Greek philosophy)
      • cyclical view of time
      • “the sun sets, and the sun also rises.”
      • No purposeful beginning or end point in history
      • All is vanity. All is meaningless.
    • There was a time when the universe did not exist.
    • Question: How did the universe get started? What was its origin?
    • Contrast between creaturely existence and its author
    • There was a time when nothing existed, but there was not a time when no one existed.
  • God
    • There is no argument for the existence of God.
    • There is the simple bold assertion of the existence of God.
    • There is the necessity of something that preceded the universe that is self existence.
    • “ultimate reality”
  • Created
    • God does the fantastic work of creation.
    • Man has a mediated creativity using medium that is already in existence.
    • God created without the existence of a medium.
    • ex nihilo
    • The active power that God alone possess, creating something out of the nothing.

Genesis 1:2

  • Barrick - disjunctive clause that is parenthetical
  • static stative perfect verb (to be - Hebrew verb hyh)
  • without form (formlessness)
    • chaos
  • void (emptyness)
    • imagine not just an empty house but an empty universe
  • darkness
    • pure negative term (absence of light)

Genesis 1:3ff

  • active imperfect verb (becoming - Hebrew verb hyh)
  • The voice of God speaks for the first time, “Let there be light.”
    • Literally, “Let light come to be.”
  • Mode of creation: Divine Fiat (divine command, divine imperative)
    • God’s transcendent majestic holy command
    • God speaks into the void: “Let there be…”
      • Jesus called out to Lazarus saying, “Lazarus, come forth.”
      • Jesus calmed the storm saying, “Peace, be still.”
  • God is the author of creation, and He has authority.