Creatio ex Nihilo: The Doctrine of “Creation Out of Nothing” in Early Christian Thought

The original German text of this book appeared in 1978 with the title Schöpfung aus dem Nichts: Die Entstehung der Lehre von cler creatio ex nihilo. Only minor changes occur in the English text. The thesis focuses on the origin and roots of the doctrine of creation “out of nothing.” However, Gerhard May also emphasizes the interplay between ideas about creation and other facets of theology. The key players in the debates are philosophers, theologians, and clerics.

In the second century A.D., many Christian doctrines were unsettled. Even God’s omnipotence and the question of whether he existed alone or in company with other gods were debated. Was the creator the supreme God or a lesser god? Would an omnipotent god create evil? Similar debates concerned the nature of creation. Are man and the cosmos evil or good? Could matter be eternal without itself possessing godhood? If matter is eternal, isn’t God merely an artist? Each of these issues impacted on the doctrine of creation.

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