Creatio ex nihilo is explicitly taught in 2 Maccabees 7:28 above and other passages such as John 1:1-3, Hebrews 11:3, Romans 4:17 and 2 Enoch 24:2. Philo, thus, correctly stated that “God, when he begat all things, not only brought them into manifestation, but made things which did not exist before, being himself not only a Demiurge but also a Creator” (De Somn. 1. 13).
The question I concisely addressed in this article is whether Genesis 1 is also communicating creatio ex nihilo. I think it does not. Genesis 1 does not articulate the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. This is why I think it does not:
The cosmological origin in Genesis One reflects a cognitive environment of the ancient Near Eastern cosmogony yet with its own uniqueness. Example the lack of attention of the heavenly realm (Sarna 1989:2-3), the creation of the tanninim (the great sea-serpents/creatures cf. Psa. 74:13) as good (Genesis 1:21) &c., marks Jewish cosmogony unique.The regions to which Genesis 1 reflects a common ancient Near Eastern worldview is the notion that beings came into existence when they were given function, a role to play often through separation and naming, in the ordered cosmos. Non-separated and unnamed beings did not “exist” (Hornung 1982: 180, 182). John H. Walton correctly explained that “ancient Near Eastern literature is concerned primarily with order and control of functions of the world that exists rather than with speculations about how the material world that exists came into being.”(Walton 2011: 8)
Bruce K. Waltke carefully observed that unformed state, primeval darkness and water (Genesis 1:2), is never said to have been brought “into existence by His[God’s] word”(1975: 338) The author of Genesis 1 presupposed the already material existence of primeval water (cf. 2 Peter 3:5). Since these beings did not yet have function, they did not “exist” in ancient Near Eastern worldview.
When Genesis 1 is read as ancient Near Eastern cosmogony, then it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the initial stage of creation is not lack of material but function. Genesis One is an ancient Near Eastern cosmogony and thus the genesis account it records is of functioning cosmos, not of material cosmos, namely matter (Walton 2011).
Hornung, E. (1982) Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Sarna, N. M. (1989). Genesis. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
Walter, B. K (1975) ‘The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1-3: Part IV: The Theology of Genesis 1,’ Bibliotheca Sacra, 132(528), 326-342.