Whoever opens the Bible at the beginning is immediately confronted with primordial creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). The creator of all things not only made the earth, but even thought of the entire cosmos. Before the world came into being, there was “madness and chaos,” according to Martin Buber’s translation of the Hebrew expression tohu wa-bohu. One would think, therefore, that everything that came afterward could well be well-ordered and understandable. Whoever looks at the starry sky could be convinced of the order of all things: every planet is in its place; many stars with a name. In Genesis we read: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (Gen 2:1). But is the idea that the cosmos is ordered right? Has chaos really been overcome?
Whereas Greek thought is based on the concept that something new can only come into being out of what already exists – no matter how chaotic it may be – in early Christian theology, in contrast to this belief, the concept, and hence the idea, of a creatio ex nihilo (“creation out of nothing”) arose. This becomes clear already in the second book of Maccabees: “Behold the heavens and the earth, and see all that is in them, and know that God made them not from things that existed before; such also is the origin of the human race” (2 Mac 7:28). Only the creative hand of God can make something completely new without depending on something pre-existing, which is the literal translation of “nothing.” No one can create something new out of nothing. Christian theology exalts the idea of creation, and from the beginning God has seen in Christ the glory of the new creation (cf. Rom 8:18-23).