Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Study of Early Christianity: Creation from Nothing


Creation from Nothing – “Maker of All That Is”

Again it is helpful to remember the Jewish background of Christianity. Though Christian responses to contemporary Judaism were sometimes less than congenial[1], and though as far as we know (in contrast to the writers of the New Testament) all of the Apostolic Fathers were Greek, the church never lost sight of its roots in the law and prophets. Christian doctrine did become increasingly distinct from Judaism as it continued to develop in the centuries following its birth.[2] Nevertheless, the religion remained monotheistic and continued to affirm that the Almighty God created everything out of nothing. 

The oldest of Christian writings are found in the New Testament. They declare that God “created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:9)[3]. Peter calls the Lord a “faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19). Heavenly worship is described by John as including the confession “You created all things” (Rev 4:11). There is no hint in the New Testament of any competing Christian belief regarding creation. Gnostic views ascribing the work of material creation to a lesser and evil deity only developed later.[4]

Ante-Nicene Christians continued to affirm, in unmistakable terms, that God created everything from nothing. Take Irenaeus’ statement (c 180) for instance:  “While men, indeed, cannot make anything out of nothing, but only out of matter already existing, yet God is in this point preeminently superior to men, that He Himself called into being the substance of His creation, when previously it had no existence.”[5] Clement of Rome (writer of I Clement) knows God as “Creator and Lord of all.” [6] Hermas says that God not only created everything, He “brought all things from non-existence into being.”[7] Here again, witnesses could be multiplied.[8]


[1] See Epistle of Barnabas
[2] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (University Of Chicago Press, 1975), 11–27.
[3] See also John 1:3
[4]  González, A History of Christian Thought, 126–41. Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Expanded.; IVP Books, 2006)
[5] Irenaeus Ag. Heresies  2,10,4 ANF II p. 370; see also Iren Frag. VI ANF II p.569
[6] I Clement, XXXIII, ANF I p. 13
[7] Shepherd of Hermas Book Second Commandment First, ANF II p. 20
[8] Theophilus of Antioch Theophilus to Autolycus 2,4 ANF II p. 90 “all things God has made out of things that were not into things that are”; Tertullian ANF III p. 493; Tatian ANF II p. 66



[1] See Epistle of Barnabas
[2] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (University Of Chicago Press, 1975), 11–27.
[3] See also John 1:3
[4] Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Expanded.; IVP Books, 2006)
[5] Irenaeus Ag. Heresies  2,10,4 ANF II p. 370; see also Iren Frag. VI ANF II p.569
[6] I Clement, XXXIII, ANF I p. 13
[7] Shepherd of Hermas, Book Second Commandment First, ANF II p. 20
[8] Theophilus of Antioch Theophilus to Autolycus 2,4 ANF II p. 90 “all things God has made out of things that were not into things that are”; Tertullian ANF III p. 493; Tatian ANF II p. 66