creatio ex nihilo

Cees van Veelen ceesv at
Sat Feb 3 09:00:31 EST 2001

** Reply to message from "Jonathan D. Safren" <yon_saf at> on Sat, 03 Feb 2001 11:00:15 +0200

> I can't find my Machzor Kol-Bo, but Shlomo Tal, _Rinat Yisrael High Holiday
> Prayer Book_, interprets the verse "only according to God's command". I too
> have always understood the verse the way you did, and maybe that is the
> correct interpretation, but in the 3rd line of the piyyut (medieval
> liturgical poem), we read: hu' sax wayyehxi, wetsivvah wenivra'u, "He spoke
> and it came to be, and he commanded and they were created", which is a
> reiteration of the Rabbinic doctrine of beria'ah bema'amar, "creation by the
> word", equivalent to creatio ex nihilo. Actually both hemistichs are taken
> from Psalm somewhere.

Yes, it is Psalm 33. 
There was some discussion on the list about creation ex nihilo earlier, and I could not quite gasp why this theme seems to be a jewish-christian question (I can see that the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 is one - other years discussions would last the whole month of december, but now it is februari and we are still talking about it).
So I dug up my textbook on dogmatics. This textbook mentions both interpretations of Genesis 1:1 - the 'traditional?' : In the beginning ... and the Rashi translation: when God began to create...
Then it says: whatever translation you prefer, the last (rashi) translation does not imply matter existed from eternity.
According to the book the whole point of 'creatio ex nihilo' is: You cannot glorify another god for creating matter in the first place nor is matter a deity of its own.

Earlier you wrote:

> The question of creation ex nihilo doesn't seem yo me to be related. Aside
> from which, from the first few verses, we learn that there was already
> matter, but it was all mixed up (tohu wa-vohu)  and after God "Turns on the
> light" so that he can see to work, the first thing he does is to separate
> between the water and the dry land, I.e., the materials already exist. 

When you talk about 'creation by the word' the first thing He does is not separate between water and dry land, but the 'turning on of the light' is a creative word/deed by itself. There is no other deity or whatever who put a switch somewere.
When a division is made between the creation of matter, but all mixed up (tohu wa-vohu) and the creation of all things in their proper form, the words used are: creatio prima and creatio secunda. But the whole point of the creation is the sabbath.

Cees van Veelen, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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