Michelangelo Buonarroti, Il Giudizio Universale (1536/1541)

Roma, Musei Vaticani, Cappella Sistina

Particolare: La creazione dell'uomo




(Ludwik Kostro)


Specialists: philosophers, theologians, biblical scholars, and religious experts - both believers and non-believers - deal with the research on the evolution of the most essential notions of world-view. Catholic universities talk about the evolution of Revelation when a given notion was a subject to changes in individual books of the Bible, and the evolution of a dogma when the notion was changing in the post-Biblical period. The notion of creation was also a subject to such changes. Roman Catholic Church believes at present that God created the world out of nothing. In Latin it is defined as 'creatio ex nihilo sui et subiecti'. According to this description God created the world neither out of himself, nor out of any material.


  1. Doctrine of creation of the univers out of nothing is post-Biblical one

The Bible does not contain the doctrine of out-of-nothing creation although sometimes two texts (2 Macc. 2; Rom. 4,7) are indicated as recognising such doctrine. These texts will be examined later. The Old and New Testaments maintain the notion rooted in Sumerian times; according to the Sumerians everything emerged out of everlasting and boundless waters. The creative activity of the Bible God is presented as separating some waters from the others. To find this out it is enough to read the first chapter of Genesis which shows how God created the heavens and the earth:

"(…)And God said, 'Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters'. So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. (…)

And God said, 'Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let dry land appear'. And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas." (Genesis, 1:6-10) [1]

The Bible assumes the existence of everlasting and boundless waters. Nowhere in the Bible can we find the line: "And God said, 'Let there be waters and so the waters were'." Old Testament term 'bara' reserved to God only and translated into other languages as 'to create' never bears the meaning of 'to create out of nothing'. According to the Great Catholic Biblical Encyclopaedia [2] the basic etymological meaning of the term 'bara' is best reflected by the English 'to separate'. Many biblical scholars show that we are not allowed to translate the Hebrew verb bara by the verb "to create out of nothing". For exemple, according to J. St. Synowiec OFM Conv., the statement that bara means 'to create ex nihilo' is erroneous because in the Bible the verb bara is used parallel with the the verbs asah - 'to make', jasar - 'to form', which , obviously, were used to indicate acivity transforming mater. Even in Genesis 1 the verbs bara and asah are used in a parallel way. [3, p. 15-17] Also the word bore - 'Creator' does not mean anyone who creates out of nothing. [3, p. 16]

Also the New Testament supports the opinion from the Old Testament. The Second Letter of St Peter reads:

"(…)by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water." (2 Peter, 3:5)

First post-Biblical Christians were also convinced of the emergence of heavens and the earth by God's word out of water and by water. Tertullian, who lived at the turn of the 2nd and 3rd century A.D., in his work On Baptism where he presented his cosmological speculations, he tried to prove why water had been selected for this sacrament. According to him, water had existed 'at dawn' [Tertullian Bapt. 3-4]. Another representative of patristics, Cyril of Jerusalem says briefly:

"Water exists in the beginning of the world, as Jordan is in the beginning of the Gospel." [Cat., 3, 5]

The origins of the faith in the creation out of nothing reach back to the middle of the 2nd century A.D.. In his 'Shepherd' written ca 150 A.D., Hermes said that the first commandment is:

"(…)to believe that there is only one God, who created and put to order everything, and who created all out of non-existence." [Hermes, Pastor, Praeceptum 1,1]

He mentioned, however, the primeval waters again:

"(…)with his mighty word did he spread the heavens and fixed the earth upon waters." [Hermes, Pastor, Visio 1,3,4]

The expression 'ex nihilo' - out of nothing - can be encountered at the writings of Theophilus of Antioch (ca 180 A.D.):

"(…)out of nothing does God derive and did derive, what He wanted, and in the way He wanted." [Ad Autolicum, 2,4 (POK 4)]

Irenaeus (also the 2nd century A.D.) forcibly states:

"(…) people really cannot do anything out of nothing, but only out of the matter that has existed before them. God is superior to people mostly because He supplied Himself with the matter for his act of creation, altjough it had not existed before." [Adversus haereseos, 2,10,4]

Another apologist, Athenagoras (ca 177 A.D.) still imagined, however:

"(…) Providence as a shaper of the matter existing before." [4]

Athenagoras was expressing here - as we shall see later on - a notion included in the Old Testament's Wisdom of Solomon.


  1. The doctrine of creation out of nothing found its substantiation in erroneous translation of The Second Book of the Maccabees 7:28 done in the 4th century A.D.

In the 4th century A.D. a Vulgate, i.e. a Latin translation of the Bible, was produced. It was then, when St. Jerome (to whom the Latin version of the Bible is usually attributed) erroneously translated the 2nd Book of the Maccabees. This ancient Biblical scholar instead of precise translation the original Greek text of the address of Maccabee mother to her seventh son before his martyrdom, created a text being actually mere interpretation.

Instead of using the words "cognosce quod non ex ea quae erant fecit illa Deus (caelum et terram)" [5, p. 121] which means "Recognise that not of the things that had been created them God (i.e. heavens and the earth)", St. Jerome used the words "intellige quia ex nihilo fecil illa Deus" [5, p. 121], which means "understand that out of nothing created them God". St. Jerome recognised, that before the heavens, and the earth, and all the things included in them were created, nothing had existed. However, in the times when the Books of Maccabees were written, there existed a conviction that when God started to create the world, there had been everlasting and boundless primeval waters, which constituted something like primeval material. Out of these waters, upon God's Word, there emerged heavens and the Earth. Italian translations are usually accurate as far as the original text is concerned: "Sappi che Dio non li fece da cose preesistenti" [6, p. 851 ], which means "Understand that god had not created them out of the things that had existed before". According to Georges Auzou [5], a Biblical scholar, those words must be understood in a context of the then books of the Bible and we must stick to the Biblical tradition. In his opinion, St. Jerome originated a new tradition of non-Biblical character. Let us quote here an excerpt from the Auzou's book:

"(…)in the 2nd Book of the Maccabees we can find a text which was overused a lot of times. Let us place this text in its own context. I mean persecutions ordered by Antiochus IV. Seven young men were sentenced to torture because of their disobedience to royal decree. Their mother boosts their courage. She addresses the last one with the following words: "Please, son, look at the heaven and earth(…), and notice the fact, that God created them not out of the things that had existed before and that the human race was created in the same way". (The 2nd Book of the Maccabees 7:28)

This text is written in Greek. It was disseminated in the West over the centuries in its Latin version; the translator, however, instead of translating exactly the excerpt under discussion, the translator transformed it into the form we can find in the Bible at present: "Notice, that out of nothing created them God". It is the creation "out of nothing", ex nihilo! A new tradition was born which disrespected all other traditions, Biblical one included, disdaining other texts, and imposing against them a new concept of time and matter. The first words referring to creation [Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth - L.K.] in particular were interpreted in coherence with this tendency, as we shall see, against their real contents.

Even if we recognise this error, we still preserve certain conviction: some indefinable ancient reality (waters, according to myths) had existed before the heavens and the earth were created. The text of the 2nd Book of the Maccabees neither confirms, nor denies it: it only says that the world was not created out of any known elements. It says that "God called into being" non-existent before heavens, the earth, and everything they contain; this does not necessarily mean the rejection of the thesis that some kind of matter had existed before. The case of the existence of the mankind in our text confirms this explanation.

The Old Testament [and the New Testament as well, as we shall see later - L.K.] will maintain its uniform vision of creation and the "beginnings". The last of the living Biblical authors, who wrote ca 70 years before Christ (a contemporary of a Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius) confessed that God created the world out of "disordered matter"( Wisdom of Solomon 11:7). The concept is rather Platonic than Jewish, it confirms, however, the existence of some ancient matter preceding the divine act of creation". [5, pp. 121-122]

The 2nd Book of Maccabees with the text in question was written in the 2nd century B.C., and the Wisdom of Solomon, including the words "Your omnipotent hand, which created the world out of disordered matter"(Wisdom of Solomon 11:7) was created, as we already know, a century later, in the seventies B.C.. The 2nd Letter of St Peter, including the words: "long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water" (2 Peter 3:5) was written in the 2nd half of the 1st century A.D., i.e. two centuries after the 2nd Book of Maccabees, 7:28 had been written. If we assumed, following St. Jerome's translation of Vulgate, that the world ("the heaven and the earth" according to the 2nd Book of Maccabees, 7:28) was created out of nothing, we would also have to admit, that one hundred, and two hundred years after the Books of Maccabees were written the old concept was restored, that it emerged out of "disordered matter", or - using more concrete terms - "out of water and by water" by the power of God's word.



3. 2nd Letter of St. Peter, Chapter 3, Verse 5 - closer analysis of the text

Let us have a closer look at the words of the 2 Peter: "long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water" (2 Peter 3:5), which may be understood as only the earth was formed out of the water and by water. The original text in its Greek construction points both to the heavens and the earth. Rev. F. Gryglewicz, a Biblical expert, confirms it in the following way:

"The creation of the world is presented by him [i.e. by the author of the 2 Peter - L.K.] on the basis of the description included in Genesis. 'God's word' is the word which created the whole world. The verbs 'existed' and 'was formed' refer to both elements, i.e. to the heaven and the earth (…). 'Water' out of which the word of God created the earth is the chaos, which, as Genesis tells, had existed before it was separated into the heavens and the earth. The waters of this chaos, when the Spirit of God was hovering over them, were separated into the water over the expanse and the water under it. Thus the sky beyond the firmament, which - according to the ancient - held the waters, comprises the stars. The waters under were gathered to one place and the dry ground appeared." [7, p. 300]

Thus the words "out of water and by water" refer both to the heavens and the earth. And here St. Jerome did a good translation work.


  1. Does the text Rom 4,17 mean creation out of nothing?

According to the author of the letter to Romans Abraham believed in God who calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom 4,17). If we interpretate these words in the framework of the doctrine creatio ex nihilo then we can recognise in them such a doctrine. But when we interpretate them in the framework of the biblical tradition then they do not mean necesserly "a creation out of nothing" because God calls into existence the things that do not exist also when he ordered: 'Let the eart put forth vegetations: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear the seed in it'. And it was so. Here the calling into existence does not mean creatio ex nihilo. We have also to add that Abraham did not believe in creation out of nothing because in his times (19th century B.C.) nobody believed in such a doctrine. The doctrine creatio ex nihilo appeared for the first time in the 1st century B.C. It was held by the neo-pythagorean thinkers [8, p. vii].


5. The first sentence of the Bible says nothing about creation out of nothing

The text of Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 discussing the creation of the world by God, which constitutes today the beginning of the Bible, and to which refers 2 Peter 3:5, is translated into contemporary languages in the spirit of the 2nd Book of Maccabees 7:28 as understood by Vulgate. This means that the Hebrew term Bereshit is translated as the absolute beginning of everything. This translation, however, is done against the grammatical rules applied while writing the first sentence of the Bible, i.e. "Bereshit bara Elohim et hashshamaim weet haaras" which, according to present translations means "In the beginnings God created heavens and the earth". Appropriate translation uninfluenced by the future conviction that everything was created out of nothing is completely different and does not mention absolute order. What should the translation of the first sentence of the Bible look like then?

Although Rev. St. Lach, a Catholic Biblical expert, is a supporter of the later tradition of God creating everything out of nothing and finds this meanings in the first sentence of the Bible, he also notices, however, that that there are some Biblical experts who translate the first sentences of the Holly Script disregarding that tradition. According to the latter ones, this tradition was unknown at the time Genesis was written. This can be substantiated by the lack of an article before the word "Bereshit" and the word "bara" should be pronounced [bero] when we consider the fact, that ancient Hebrew did not use vowels in spelling.

"Scholars dispute whether the first word of Genesis, i.e. bereshit is a noun in its active or passive form (…). N. Ridderboss mentions Ibn Ezra, A. Dillman, and W. Allbright as the followers of the first interpretation (Genesis 1 und 2, OTS 1958, 227). If we accepted this opinion, verse 1 should be treated as side subordinate clause, verse 2 as a non-restrictive clause, and verse 3 would finally contain the main clause. Thus we would obtain the following interpretation of the verses:

'When God started to create (instead of bara the word was pronounced bero) the heaven and the earth, and the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of chaos and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters , God said then: Let there be light.'

This interpretation can be supported by the analogous construction of the second Biblical history of creation (cf. Genesis 2:4b) and the Babylonian poem Enuma Elish" [9, p. 182]

The correctness of the above translation of the Bible can be confirmed by its further sentences which present how God created the Heaven and the earth by separating vast waters (Genesis 1:6 - 2:4), which have been quoted in the beginning of this paper.

Georges Auzou, the Biblical expert who has already been mentioned before [5, pp. 133-135], is convinced that the idea of creation out of nothing is absolutely alien to the text of Genesis 1:1 - 2:4. In the footnotes he quotes other authors who come to similar conclusions of their research:

"Famous mediaeval Rabbi Rashi of Troyes (1040-1105) translated these lines in the following way: 'In the beginning of creation of the heaven and the earth', 'in the beginning, when God created' (La commentaire de Rashi sur le Pentateque, vol. 1, Comptoir du livre Keren Hasefer, Paris 1957, p. 4). In our times, having analysed the meaning of reshit in all the texts the word appears in, P. Humbert came to the 'conclusion that in every case when the word bears the temporal meaning, it does not have the meaning of absolute beginning'. [Therefore](…)'the only correct translation is: While God started to create the world… The idea of creation out of nothing is completely alien to the text' (Opuscule d'un hebraiant, Neuchatel 1958, p. 195). The same conclusion is drawn by W. R. Lange in his The Initiation of Creation, in: Vetus Testamentum, Leiden, vol. XIII, No 1, January 1963, pp. 62 - 73: 'There are only two translations based on solid grounds - either First God created, or When God started to create." (p. 72) [5, p. 134-135]

Anna Świderkówna is one of the Polish Biblical scholars who claim, that the notion of creation out of nothing is non-existent in Genesis 1:1 - 2:4. She does not know, however, that the text of the 2nd Book of Maccabees was wrongly translated, therefore she thinks that the notion of creation out of nothing already exists in here.

"God created… Does that mean that He created out of nothing? This question would bear no sense for P, [the priest author of Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 -LK] as he did not know the notion of nothingness… The words speaking clearly about "creation out of nothing" appear in the 2nd Book of the Maccabees, in the already Hellenistic world of the turn of the 2nd century (2nd Book of the Maccabees 7:28). [10, p. 49]

Let us see then how Rev. Krzysztof Niedaltowski from Gdañsk presents the contents of the first Biblical sentences:

"Bible in the first sentences of Genesis speaks of the vast waters sunken in the darkness in the beginnings of time (…) God separates the waters of the deep, putting them in order and giving them borderlines. From now on the sea want cross those borders without His prior consent. The act of creation appears in the Bible as getting the sea-chaos in order. This is how further books of Isaiah (51:9) and Job (7:12) present it." [11, p. 57 ]

In the excerpt quoted above I have missed the following words on purpose: In the Bible, however, the sea is an ordinary creation. There is no struggle here between God and the waters of chaos. [11, p. 57 ] These words contradict the rest of the text. The creation of the sea in the Bible may be discussed in the context of getting into order the sea-chaos, not in the sense of creation out of nothing, which might be suggested by the words ordinary creation. The words Let there be waters, and there were waters can nowhere be found in the Bible. As for the struggle of God with the waters of chaos, this is in contradiction to the above mentioned text of Isaiah (51:9), which clearly refers to the fight with the monsters of the sea of chaos.

The role of ancient waters in various religions is presented by Rev. Niedatowski in the following way:

"The most important motif of meaning emerges in religious tales of numerous ancient cultures who treat the sea as the beginnings of all the existence, life, or even man. The waters symbolise general sum of potentiality and they precede every form of existence. The island emerging from among the waves is an image of creation. The ancient set of waters is shapeless and formless. The emergence from them becomes the beginnings of some form. Thus the sea appears to be fons et origo (the source and the beginning) of every existence." [11, p. 56-57]


6. The basin called 'the sea' symbolised the ancient waters in the Temple of Jerusalem

The idea of emergence of everything out of vast and ageless ancient waters was also reflected in the cult of the Temple of Jerusalem. Since the unification of the Canaanite cult of God called El (who had been worshipped by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and other ancient Israeli patriarchs) with the cult of God called Yahweh (adopted by Moses via his father in law, Jethro, form Midians and Kenites) there had been placed in the Temple of Jerusalem a large water basin called "the sea" which symbolised the ancient waters. The main stage of the unification of the two cults ended in the times of Solomon when God Yahweh takes over some features of God El, who was believed to have been the creator of the world and to have conquered the monster of ancient waters, Leviatan.[12, p. 126]

It was then, when Solomon placed in the Temple the symbol of ancient waters, a basin called "the sea". "The sea" cast out of copper and filled out with water is described in the Bible twice: in 1st Kings 7:23 - 7:26, and in 1st Chronicles 4:2 - 4:6. Both descriptions differ between themselves a little. Since the Israel of the then did not have the actual access to the sea, and was not a maritime state, the experts believe that the "sea of copper" in the Temple was a symbol of the vast timeless "ancient sea" well known from Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and other mythologies.

Catholic authors do not exclude this meaning of the "copper sea", they use, however, the expressions of 'perhaps' or 'probably'. The Dictionary of Biblical Theology reads:

"The Sea" of copper (1st Kings 7:23 nn) perhaps introduced to the Temple cult the cosmic symbol of the ancient ocean, provided it really did represent this ocean." [13, p. 507]

The Practical Biblical Dictionary has the entry:

"THE SEA OF BRONZE, or THE SEA. Huge container cast out of bronze containing the holy water placed in the yard of the Solomon's Temple (1st Kings 7:23 - 36:44). Initially probably a symbol of ancient sea as a source of life and fertility, afterwards was used by priests for ablutions (2nd Chronicles 4:6)." [12, p. 762]

And here we have the description of the symbol of the ancient sea as presented by the 1st Kings:

"He [King Solomon - L.K.] made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. Below the rim, gourds encircled it - ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the sea. The sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the centre. It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths." [1st Kings 7:23 - 7:26]

"Bath" used to be a Hebrew measure of liquids approximately equal to 45 litres. Thus the Sea contained approximately 90,000 litres of water.


7. The "ancient sea" in the religions of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Canaan

Our civilisation is rooted in the Mesopotamian civilisation and in its oldest form known by us in this area, i.e. in the Sumerian one. A renowned religious expert, Mircea Elliade describes the first moments of the act of creation according to the Sumerian religion in the following way:

"We have never discovered any cosmogonic text in the strict sense of the word so far; certain hints, however, let us reconstruct the most important moments of the act of creation as understood by the Sumerians. Goddess Mummu whose name can be found in the pictogram designating "the ancient sea", where she is displayed as "mother who gave birth to the heaven and the earth", and the one who in the beginning gave life to gods". The motif of ancient waters understood as the cosmic and divine entity is quite frequent a phenomenon in archaic cosmogonies. In this instance, as well, the water mass is identified with the ancient Mother, who thanks to parthenogenesis gave birth to the first couple, the Heaven (An) and the Earth (Ki), incarnating the male and the female principle. This first pair united up to the absolute unification into hieros gamos [sacred marriage-L.K.]." Out of this marriage Enlil, god of the air was born. Another excerpt teaches us, that Enlil separated his parents: god An raised the sky up high, and Enlil took his mother, the Earth, with him. The cosmogonic topic of separating the heavens and the earth is also widely spread: we can practically find it at various cultural levels. It seems, however, that the version written down in the Middle East, and the version from the Mediterranean region [i.e. in the region of the Biblical world - L.K.] can be derived from the Sumerian tradition." [14, p. 42].

In the 3rd millennium B.C. Semites settled down in the central Mesopotamia; they are also called the Akkadians, or - more generally - the Babylonians. They were to some large extent the inheritors of the Sumerian civilisation, and they took over the Sumerian cosmogony. They presented it, however, in their own way in a more detailed manner. The ultimate source of everything were the vast and ageless ancient waters. In the ritual Babylonian song, some parts of which managed to survive, we can read:

"The whole country was the sea. Everything was under the sea depths (…) and Marduk lived among the ocean… Marduk decorated the surface of the waters with reed. He created the particles of the earth and covered the plait with them, so that gods would live in an enjoyable place. He created mankind; he did that together with his spouse, Aruru. He made the human sperm. The farm animals are also his creation; he created Tigris and Euphrates, and assigned their place to them; the herbs, the rushes, the reed - he made them; the cow and the calf, the ewe and its baby…" [5, p. 43]

Marduk, the creator mentioned in the song quoted above, belongs to the younger generation of gods. He overthrew the ancient old gods, and took the power over. Since, according to the then ideas, creation was a constantly contemporary act [5, p. 50], by taking the power over he was actually creating everything by his active presence. He had to combat the old ancient gods and the water monsters, including the idol of salty waters, Tiamat. Ancient waters that had existed before the heavens and the earth emerged were divided into freas and fertile waters called Apsu, and the abyss of salty and stormy waters called Tiamat. Thus while creating, Marduk had to lead a battle with Tiamat. During the combat he made use of destructive winds, typhoons, and stroms. Following the discovered texts, Biblical expert Auzou presents it in the following way:

"Terrible strife begins: in the open jaws of the furious Tiamat Marduk casts his "Malicious Wind"; the distended body of the monster is pierced with an arrow, destructed, torn into pieces while other monsters are loosing the battle and are captured prisoners." [5, p. 48]

I quoted this excerpt, because later Yahweh, God of the Hebrew would be presented in the Old Testament as the God fighting with the sea monsters like Leviatan, Rachab and generally called "Sea Dragon".

Also according to the Egyptian mythology everything emerged out of primeval waters: it was believed that the universe emerged out of the ancient ocean. The Sun which was worshipped in Egypt as the most important god-creator "emerges every day out of the water which is ageless, ancient, and vast" [5, p. 28]. Primeval ocean is called Nun, and god-creator is called either Atum, or Re. In one of the oldest Egyptian cosmogonic books, "The Book of the Dead", we can read:

"I am Atum, I was alone in Nun. I was Re, when he shows as the first. (…) What is he? It is just him - great god, who became out of himself, he is Nun - father of gods." [5, p. 29]

Canaan (today's Palestine and Syria) was situated between Mesopotamia and Egypt. "A short time before 3,000 year B.C. a new civilisation, a civilisation of the Early Bronze Epoch emerges in Palestine - this denotes the beginnings of the settled life of the Semites. We may call them the Kannanites after the Bible . We can reconstruct the Kannanite mythology on the basis of the Ugarit excavations (ca 20,000 inscripted clay tablets from the 14th century B.C.) and the excavations of Ebla (also ca. 20,000 tablets from ca. 2,300 year B.C.).

Also the Canaan mythology mentions "primeval waters" and the strife between the idol and the sea monster. The highest god called El used to live "at the source of two water abysses" and was called the "creator of creatures". Asherah (Asherot), the mother of gods and the goddess of the seas, was born out of himself. El begot 70 sons and several daughters with her. Baal, the god called "He who Rides on the Clouds", the god of Storm, the Lord of Rain and Dew, thus the Lord of Fertility, was the most active of his sons. According to some texts, he was a son of Dagan, El's brother. As we can see, El the Creator, like Marduk, was not a member of the first generation of gods: he defeated his father Eliun, and took over his power and creative activity. In the Canaan mythology Baal is fighting the sea idol Jam.

"As it seems, this mythical tale is Siro-Phoenician or Canaan version of the fight of Marduk, the creator of the human world, against Tiamat, the monster representing the oceanic forces of chaos and destruction". [5, p. 52]

El is the God worshipped by Abraham, the Patriarch of the Israeli nation, when he arrived to the land of Canaan. His sons and grandsons bear the names with "El" roots: Ishma-El, Issac-El, Jacob-El, (Isra-El), etc.

After the unification of the El's and Yahweh's cults which was completed in the times of King Solomon, who introduced to the Temple cult the "copper sea" as the symbol of primeval waters, and after the cult of God became monotheistic, taking in the Israeli nation the form of the cult of Yahweh in the times of Josiah, and after the Babylonian bondage (the 7th century B.C.), Yahweh is often presented as the one, who shaping the world by separating the waters had to fight the sea monsters Leviatan, Rahab, and the sea dragon as such. Let us see a couple of texts that confirm this theory:

"Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, o Arm of Yahweh; awake, as in the days gone by, as in generations of old. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that Dragon through? Was it not you, who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep(…)?" (Isaiah 51:9 - 51:10)

"It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters; It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan(…)" (Psalm 74:13 - 74:14)

"O Yahweh, God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, o Yahweh (…) You rule over the surging sea, when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth." (Psalm 89:9 - 89:12)

The Bible never says that God created the water or the waters. He only divides them into upper, lower, and the ones surrounding the earth. When the Holy Scripture says about creating the sea, it means the separation of the already existing waters:

"And then Elohim said, "Let there be expanse between the waters to separate water from water. So Elohim made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. Elohim called the expanse 'sky'." (Genesis 1:6)

"And Elohim said: "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." Elohim called the dry ground 'land' and the gathered waters he called 'seas'." (Genesis 1:9 - 1:10)

The excerpts quoted above prove once again that the Bible does not recognise the notion of creation out of nothing and that the first chapter of Genesis does not contain such an idea. Werner Steinmann, a Biblical expert, writes about this chapter:

"While attempting to explain [this chapter - L.K.] we must consider the following aspect: first of all the issue is to contrast 'chaos vs. world in order', and not 'nothingness vs. creation'. The appropriate task of the first description of creation is to show the power of God, which brings out what is created out of the state of chaos." [15, p. 18]

Vast water chaos is called in Genesis 1:1 tohuwabohu, and the Spirit of God which was hovering over the waters - Ruach Elohim.



In Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythologies, in which the Bible is rooted, the ancient Existence and Absolute is displayed as the primeval waters, as the endless ancient sea or ocean, personified as the ancient Mother Mammu or ancient Father Nun. God and gods emerge from those ancient waters, and they are always the personifications of the forces of Nature. Gods-creators Marduk, El, Elochim, and Yahweh are usually not the representatives of the first generation of gods, who came into power by taking the creative function from the first-generation gods.

The Biblical bara - to create - although assigned to God, never means to create out of nothing.

After the cult of El, Elohim, and Yahweh became monotheistic (the 7th century B.C.) there still existed, besides the eternal primeval waters, the ancient God El Olam. In other words, we deal in the Bible with two primeval beings: primeval waters or shapeless matter, and the ageless El-Elochim-Yahweh.

It was not until the middle of the 2nd century A.D. that God gradually turned in the ideas of some patristic apologists into the exclusive Absolute who creates everything out of nothing. Although the Biblical substantiation of this doctrine is related to a certain error in translation, it must be noted, however, that the teaching about the creation of the Universe out of nothing had somehow been prepared, when the cult of El became monotheistic, turned into the worship of Yahweh, and became universal. In the 7th century A.D., Biblical God becomes the God of all the nations. The Apostle Paul of Tarsus presents his panentheism: Everything is in God (pan en Theos). "In Him we live, in Him we move."

After the erroneous translation of the Book of the Maccabees, the teaching on creation out of nothing rapidly developed. This happened so, because the notion had developed earlier within the concept of the universal, eternal, and omnipotent Only God, which we may contribute to the prophets of the Babylonian bondage period and the New Testament. The concept was developed and preached by Saint Augustine, a little younger than Saint Jerome. The Catholics are obliged to believe in creation of the world out of nothing by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The authors of the Catechism, however, seem to be absolutely unaware of the erroneous translation of the 2nd Book of the Maccabees 7:28 and present the teaching on the creation out of nothing as the truth revealed by God in the Holy Scripture.

This paper aimed at presenting the evolution of the concept of creation, and it was not to enter into a dispute on which stage of its development the concept became correct or true. This paper was also not intended to solve the dispute which of Gods-Creators was the true God: was it the God who in the Bible bears the name of El, Elochim, Yahweh, or perhaps Babylonian Marduk, or Egyptian Atum. Nor does it attempt to answer the question if the world was created or not, and if it was - in what manner. The paper's intention was solely to present a glimpse on the history of the concept of creation; it is just a glimpse and therefore it is full of gaps.

This paper aimed at showing that the ideas of creation evolved, therefore they differ among themselves; it also aimed at showing that Catholic authors are more and more aware of the fact (while writing this paper I made use of Catholic literature only). In their opinion, it had to be like that. God while revealing his truth adjusted it to the mentality of people at a given stage of their development. This was simply, in their opinion, God's educational methods. At first, people noticed that everything emerged from waters: amniotic waters appeared first, then a human being or some other animals were born; islands and lands were emerging from sea waters; water had a reviving effect with the rainfall. All this was the reason for the belief in everything originating out of primeval waters; it was even believed that gods who were creators of the heaven and the earth were born out of water. At first man could not imagine God without His spouse and His family, therefore it was believed that Marduk, El, or Yahweh must have had their life companions, their sons and their daughters. When people gradually started to become aware of the exclusiveness, eternal nature and omnipotence of God, the concept of Absolute God upon whom everything is dependent in existence was developed. It was then that the concept of creation of everything out of nothing started to grow. As a matter of fact, it is still growing and developing. Saint Thomas Aquinas claimed that God creates by allowing the participation in His own existence. He expressed something like the law of preservation of existence. He claimed that after the act of creation there emerged more beings, not the existence - non plus entis sed plura entia. According to this presentation, the world did not emerge out of some absolute non-existence, but from God, and it exists only due to its participation in God's existence. Therefore when we discuss today the creation out of nothing we mean, that before the act of creation there had existed nothing but God.

Thus we might conclude that the human concepts on creation will evolve and nobody can stop the process. And were are bound to accept the evolutionism in the world of the human concepts.



[1] The quotation is taken from The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments (New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition), Catholic Bible Press a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers 1991.

[2] Grande lessico dell'Antico Testamento, Vol. I (entry: bara), PAIDEIA Editrice, Brescia, 1988.

[3] J. S. Synowiec, Na początku, Pradzieje biblijne: Rdz 1, 1-11,9, 2nd edition Bratni Zew, Cracow 1996.

[4] John N.D. Kelly, Początki doktryny chrześcijańskiej, Pax, Warsaw 1988 [English original: Early Christian Doctrines, Fifth, revised edition, London 1977].

[5] Georges Auzou, Na początku Bóg stworzył świat, Pax, Warsaw 1990 [French original Au commencement Dieu crea le monde, L'histoire et la foi, Les Editions du Cerf, 1973].

[6] La Sacra Bibbia, Marietti, 1966.

[7] F.Gryglewicz, Listy Katolickie, Wstęp-Przeklad z oryginau, Komentarz, Pallotinum, Poznań 1957.

[8] G. May, Creatio ex nihilo, The Doctrin of 'Creation out of Nothing' in Early Christian Thought, T&T CLARK, Edinburgh 1994.

[9] S. Lach, Księga Rodzaju, Wstęp-Przeklad z oryginalu - Komentarz, Pallotinum, Poznań 1962.

[10] A. Świderkówna, Rozmowy o Biblii, PWN Warsaw 1994.

[11] K. Niedaltowski, Żywio morza w religiach świata, in: Universitas Gedanensis, GIT, NR 13, 1995.

[12] Praktyczny Slownik biblijny [Practical Biblical Dictionary], red. A. Grabner Haider, Pax-Pallotinum, Warsaw !994.

[13] Slownik Teologii Biblijnej, red. Xavier Leon-Dufour, Pallotinum, Warsaw 1973.

[14] Mircea Elliade, Historia wierzeń i idei religijnych, Vol 1, Pax, Warsaw 1988.

[15] W. Steinmann, ABC Starego Testamentu, Wyd. Kerygma, Lublin 1992.

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Ludwik Kostro, professor of the University of Gdañsk in Poland, between 1963-1970, studied physics and philosophy in Rome (at the University "La Sapienza" and at Gregorian University). In 1975 he joined the University of Gdañsk until 1994 as a Lecturer and Assistant Professor in the Physics Institute and from 1994 onward as University Professor in the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, of which he served as Director. He is presently Director of the Department for Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science at the same University. Since 1988 he has been a member of the Editorial Board of the Insternational Jourmal Physics Essays (Ottawa, Canada). He is the member of the board of the Interdivisional Group of History of Physics at the European Society of Physics, and serves on the Scientific Committee of the International Conferences Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory, held every two years at the Imperial College in London and sponsored by the British Society for Philosophy of Science. Since 1986 he has been Secretary of the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at the Gdañsk Scientific Society. He is the author of 79 scientific papers in physics and philosophy, as well as several books, e.g., Eros, Sex and Abortion in the Critical Catholicism (Scientia, 1999), and Einstein and the Ether (Apeiron, 2000. He has been awarded a number of major prizes. The French Goverment decorated him with the Les Palmes Accadémiques medal.

University of Gdañsk, Department for Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, 5 Bielañska Street, 80-851 Gdañsk, Poland

e-mail: fizlk@univ.gda.pl