Creatio ex nihilo

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Creatio ex nihilo ( Latin : creation out of nothing or creation out of nothing ) denotes the creation of the world or the universe out of nothing .


The term originated in early Christian theology ( Tatian and Theophilos of Antioch ) in conflict with Greek philosophy . Since Melissos , this has presupposed an eternal and disordered material ( chaos ), since nothing is impossible to become something (“ ex nihilo nihil fit ”).

From a monotheistic point of view, God is the sole cause of the creation of the world. Even space and time are only entered with the creation of an extra-divine reality in appearance. Since God is or lives absolutely over time, without any duration, one cannot say of him that he existed “before” the world emerged , but “only” that he was “without” the world. By being created out of nothing , every extra-divine being is in the real relationship of dependence on God, is essentially a relative being (cf. contingency ).

In the creation story ( Genesis 1,1 ff.) It says: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”. The Hebrew word “bara” (ברא) for “create” used here is used exclusively for divine activity. The only passage in the Old Testament that explicitly speaks of a “creation out of nothing” can be found in Book 2. Maccabees (7:28) ( apocryphal depending on the canon ); it says: “I ask you, my child, look at heaven and earth; see everything that is there and realize: God created it out of nothing, and this is how people come into being. "

In the New Testament of the Christian Bible it says in Hebrews 11: 3: "By faith we know that the world was created by God's Word, so that everything one sees became nothing." In the Christian theological interpretation, the origin of all extra-divine reality is traced back to God himself as the sole all cause ( Causa prima ). With “heaven and earth” the totality of all extra-divine things is meant. The word “ in the beginning ” is intended to express the absolute beginning of all things and the world time.

The assumption that a Creatio ex nihilo is already contained in the book of Genesis (1,1–2,4a) is contradicted by Old Testament scholars. Oswald Loretz denies that this idea can be read from the text. In Judaism , the idea of ​​a creation out of nothing was first formulated by Maimonides (1138–1204) in his main work Leader of the Indecisive .

The biblical presentation differs significantly from other ancient oriental doctrines of the origins of the world ( cosmogonies ), which always speak of the origins of gods ( theogony ).

The theological sub-discipline natural theology believes that with the help of natural reason (without supernatural, divine help, i.e. revelation ), the same result can be reached: Since everything being is contingent, it refers to an absolute , in other words God ( id quod omnes dicunt deum - Thomas Aquinas ). The all-powerful , perfect and absolute God is within and without completely independent in all of its files; before his creation there is nothing but himself.

The philosophical counter-position to the theological assumption of creation out of nothing is often traced back to Melissus ; but Parmenides already taught:

"Also, the power of conviction can never admit that something other than the non-existent can result from non-being."

From these ideas later the formula Ex nihilo nihil fit (“nothing arises”) emerged, which can be found either way or in the sense of Aristotle (Physics I 4), Lucretius , Thomas Aquinas and other philosophers.


In philosophy, dealing with “nothing” in the tense relationship to “ something ” is one of its basic questions . If the world does not last indefinitely in time (and that's what it looks like), then there must have been nothing before it began. It is precisely this transition from nothing to being that is thematized in the "Creatio ex nihilo", albeit less from the perspective of possible dynamic structures of nothing, but more metaphysically : "Why is something at all and not rather nothing?"

There were attempts to answer not only in antiquity, but also with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz , Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , Arthur Schopenhauer and many others, not least Martin Heidegger .


In modern cosmology , the "creatio ex nihilo" is an important epistemological instrument. Accordingly, the big bang must have taken place in a way that, on the one hand, does without a creator god, i.e. describes dynamic structures of nothingness (see vacuum fluctuations ), and on the other, creates all the essential conditions, to enable an evolution of the universe until today.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Oswald Loretz: Creation and Myth . Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 32nd Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk , Stuttgart 1986, pp. 85f
  2. Parmenides of Elea : Fragments, from "About Nature", B 8