BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (47) – What has God told us about the world and ourselves?

[照片來源] Peggy Choucair at Pixabay

– Rev José Mario O. Mandía

The answers to our questions about where we came from and why we are here can be found in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. That is why these chapters are of utmost importance to every human being (cf CCC 289). In Genesis 1:1-3, it states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” 


“‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1): three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: [1] the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; [2] he alone is Creator (the verb ‘create’ – Hebrew bara – always has God for its subject). [3] The totality of what exists (expressed by the formula ‘the heavens and the earth’) depends on the One who gives it being” (CCC 290). 

“In the beginning” refers to the start of time and of history which has a final goal. The book of Revelation tells us about the final goal: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). When it says “In the beginning,” what the Sacred Scripture means is that the world was not created in eternity by God – unlike God, the world is not eternal, it has a beginning. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that creation from eternity is possible, but God’s revelation in the Bible teaches us that this was not so, that the world was created in time.


Only God can create. We say that God created the world “ex nihilo” – out of nothing. God did not need any previously-existing raw material to fashion the universe. He started from zero! “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). He created “the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1): absolutely every single thing (from the smallest subatomic particles to the biggest star in the universe) were created by Him. Moreover, this also means that he needed no helper (what Saint Thomas calls “secondary cause”); He did it all by Himself! Only God is Creator and Lord; man can only develop or change something that already exists.

Where does the expression “ex nihilo” come from? It comes from II Maccabees 7:28 (a book written around 200 BC and written in Greek). A Jewish mother was encouraging her children not to fear martyrdom: “I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed.”


“The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:2-3). A more careful reading reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Word (“God said”). Creation is a work of the Blessed Trinity. This is why, the CCC (291) tells us: “‘In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God … all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made’ (John 1:1,3). The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him ‘all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:16-17). The Church’s faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the ‘giver of life,’ ‘the Creator Spirit’ (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the ‘source of every good.’” (Cf CCC 292).

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