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‘Creatio Ex Nihilo’: A Context for the Emergence of the Christian Doctrine of Creation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

Frances Young
University of BirminghamDepartment of Theology POB 363 Birmngham B15 2TT


Confrontation with our culture has recently been put on the agenda by Lesslie Newbigin, in Beyond 1984 and Foolishness to the Greeks. Broadly speaking his position theology has sold out to Western culture, and the opposing perceptions of the Gospel need to be reclaimed and affirmed against prevailing assumptions.

Research Article
Copyright © Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 1991

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1 WCC publications, 1983 and 1986.

2 Quoted by Dillon, John, The Middle Plalonists, Duckworth 1977, p. 207Google Scholar

3 E.g. Wiles, M. F., ‘In Defense of Arius’.JTSNS XIII, 1962, 339347CrossRefGoogle Scholar; The Nature of the Early Debate about Christ's Human Soul’. JEW XVI no. 2, 1965, 139151Google Scholar; and The Unassumed is the Unhealed’, Religious Studies 4, 1968, 4756CrossRefGoogle Scholar; all republished in Working Papers in Doctrine, SCM 1976. R. Gregg and E. Groh, Earty Arianism, SCM 1981; et mult, al

4 Pagans and Christians, Viking 1986 (Penguin 1988).

5 Jaki, Stanley L., Creator and Cosmos, Scottish Academic Press, 1980Google Scholar, and Torrance, T. F., Divine and Contingent Order, OUP 1981.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6 Loc. cit. and The Trinitarian Faith, T. & T. Clark 1988.

7 See Gerhard May, Schöpfungaus aus Nichts, De Gruyter 1978; following Weiss, H.-F., Untersuchungen zur Kosmolagie des hellenistischen and pleastinischen Judentums, 1966.Google Scholar

8 Sorabji, Pace Richard, Time, Creation and the Continuum, Duckworth 1983.Google Scholar

9 See May, Op. cit. p. 23. This ‘apparent natural logic’ leads Walter Eichrodt to attribute an absolute beginning to the Priestly authors of Genesis 1: ‘In the Beginning: a Contribution to the Interpretation of the First Word of the Bible’, first published in Israel's Prophetic Heritage: Essays in honor of James Muilenburg, ed. Anderson, Bernhard W. and Harrelson, Walter; New York 1962Google Scholar; republished in Creation in the Old Testament, Bernhard W. Anderson, Issues in Religion and Theology 6, SPCK 1984. However, the article is addressing the fact that Jewish commentators of the Middle Ages, notably Rashi, have understood the text as meaning, ‘In the beginning, when God…’ so as to harmonise the first verse with the chaotic primitive state ofthe earth in v. 2.

10 The Beginning: a study in the Greek philosophical approach to the concept of Creadon from Anaximander to St John, Manchester University Press 1968.Google Scholar

11 Jaki, Op. cit. p. 75 also finds this explanation unacceptable.

12 Op. cit., p. 6 tf.

13 Op. cit., p. 167.

14 Nothing’, Theology Today vol xxxix (1982), pp. 275289.Google Scholar

15 Quoted from the translation in Foerster, Werner, Cnosis A Selection of Gnostic Texts, ET ed. Wilson, R. McL, Oxford 1972, vol. 1 Patristic Evidence, p. 64.Google Scholar

16 See further my paper ‘The God of the Greeks and the Nature of Religious Language’ in W. R. Schoedel and Robert Wilken, Earty Christian Literature and the Greek Intellectual Tradition. Festschrift for R. M. Grant, Theologie Historique no. 53, Paris 1979.