But does Genesis 1 really teach that the universe was created ex nihilo (out of nothing)? Craig maintains that it does and since an effect must have a cause, the universe must have been caused by a necessary and uncaused being, namely God.
Genesis 1:1-2 states: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (NIV).
Stephen C. Meyer, one of the founders of the Intelligent Design movement, in an article on the Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies website argues:
The opening paragraph of Genesis depicts the situation before creation begins in verse 3. It does not tell us the ultimate origin of the darkness or the abyss. I think Delitzsch is correct in the meaning of the first verse when he says, "His point is not that heaven and earth had a beginning, but that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the beginning of all history"(Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 1994, p. 98).Meyer maintains that creation ex nihilo was not taught until the 2nd century CE. He writes:
The first mention of "out of nothing" is in 2 Maccabees 7:28 which says, "look upon heaven and earth and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also" (Douay Version, or DV). The Greek is "ex ouk onton." This phrase "out of nothing" is best understood as "out of non-being" or "out of invisible matter" because at that time they still believed in the preexistence of matter. Matter was consider eternal (Goldstein, 1983, pp. 307-10). The Wisdom of Solomon 11:17 states, "For thy almighty hand which made the world of matter without form" (DV). This verse teaches that God made the world out of formless (eternal) matter (Winston, 1971-2, 185-202; Goldstein, 1984, 127-35). In chapter 7:25 wisdom is seen as a "pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God" (DV). Philo sees Genesis 1:1-3 through platonic eyes. This is the creation of the invisible world of ideas (On the Creation, 26-37, compare Plato’s Timaeus 29E). The book of Hebrews also seems to follow platonic ideas. The visible world comes from invisible matter (Heb. 11:3). Philo sees preexistent matter alongside of God at the beginning. This invisible matter was eternal (On the Creation, 12). God is the active principle, the formless matter is the passive principle (May, 10). Philo even uses the phrase "ek mh ontwn," meaning "out of non-being," and not "out of nothing" (Allegorical Interpretation III. 10). Clearly, there is no ex nihilo creation in Philo. . . . May concludes, "a firm, unambiguously formulated doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is not worked out in ancient Jewry" (1994, 23).Meyer maintains that it is misguided to try to find scientific information in the Genesis account. He says:
Another great Jewish thinker who came after Maimonides was Gersonides (1288-1344 AD) Gersonides asked some probing questions like "When were the waters created?" Because there was no mention in Genesis of the creation of water, he rejected the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (Burrell and McGinn, 6; Staub, 1982). The early church fathers seem to believe the platonic idea of eternal matter from which God fashioned the world. Justin Martyr is an example. In The First Apology of Justin he says, "He in the beginning did of His goodness, for man’s sake, created all things out of unformed matter" (Chapter 10). Justin and Plato in Timaeus both agree that everything came into being through God (Apology I:20, 4). Justin says that Plato took his ideas about God making the world out of unformed matter from Genesis. Justin states, "Plato borrowed his statement that God, having altered matter which was shapeless, made the world (Apology I:59). The world was made out of preexistent matter. The successor of Justin Martyr was Athenagoras who was an Athenian philosopher who became a Christian. His Apology or Embassy was presented to Emperors Aurelius and Commodus about 177 AD. He explicitly believed in the pre-existence of matter (Chadwick 1966, 12, 47). Clement of Alexandria three times "declares that the world is made 'out of nothing', but in each case the phrase he employs is "ek me ontos," not "ex ouk ontos;" that is to say, it is made not from that which is absolutely non-existent, but from relative non-being or unformed matter" (Chadwick 1966, 46). May in his book Creatio ex Nihilo argues very persuasively for the second century AD development of the doctrine of "creation out of nothing" (1994). It was not until the second century AD that the church fathers saw a theological problem with eternal matter. It was their conflict with the Gnostic and middle platonists that developed the idea of God creating "out of nothing."
I see Genesis one as a polemic against the surrounding heathen nations, who worshipped many gods. It also seems to be etiologically in nature, explaining the Sabbath as a day of rest. One must understand the ancient Near Eastern background in order to properly interpret Genesis. The genre of Genesis one seems to be half way between poetry and prose. Cassuto argues that Genesis one goes back to an original poetic prototype (1961, 8, 10). Genesis two seems to reflect an earlier tradition than Genesis one. Genesis one demythologizes ancient creation stories. I see it as wrong to try to draw out scientific data about the creation of the universe from Genesis one. Both young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists are guilty of pouring modern scientific terms back into Genesis. God could have written in scientific terms like E=Mc2, but He did not. I believe God had to accommodate himself to our limited knowledge, and limited language to communicate with us. God did not choose to use technical scientific terms to communicate with us. God used the common language, and familiar phrases of their day. God could have told us that the sun does not rise nor set, but that the earth is spinning around the sun. God instead used the common language of sunrise and sunset which was literal to the writers back then, but which modern concordists excuse as phenomenal language that we still use today. God is trying to communicate absolute spiritual truths, not shifting scientific theories.Meyer maintains that Genesis 1:1 can be seen as a dependent clause or an independent clause. If it is an independent clause then it is a summary statement or heading for the story contained in Genesis 1:1-2:3. If it is a dependent clause, then it is modifying verses two and would be rendered something like this: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.
As a dependent clause, it would lend no credence to the idea of creation ex nihilo and as an independent clause, it doesn't have to indicate creation ex nihilo. Whether one takes Genesis 1:1 as a dependent or independent clause, one thing is certain, creation does not start until verse 3 with light .
Meyer further claims that the Hebrew word translated "create" (ברא, bara) does not demand creation ex nihilo as some have argued. He says the word
may come from the root which originally meant "to cut, or separate." Most of creating involved a separation of things. "bara" does not imply ex nihilo creation since it is used in parallel to "make" (New International Dictionary of OT Theology, 1997, Vol. 1, 731). . . . Van Leeuwen states, "This root begins in the OT with a theologically rich wordplay. But it also, in a punning way, accents the manner in which God gives order to his creation: he divides its various cosmic components from one another through a series of 'cuts or separation'" (Ibid., p. 732).John Walton, Professor of OT at Wheaton College, agrees:
In the ancient world and in the Bible, something existed not when it had physical properties, but when it had been separated from other things, given a name and a role within an ordered system. This is a functional ontology rather than a material ontology. In this view, when something does not exist, it is lacking role, not lacking matter. Consequently, to create something (cause it to exist) means to give it a function, not material properties.("Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology," The Bible and Interpretation).
The Hebrew word translated “create” should be understood within a functional ontology—i.e., it means to assign a role or function. This is evident through a word study of the usage of the biblical term itself where the direct object of the verb is always a functional entity not a material object. Theologians of the past have concluded that since materials were never mentioned that it must mean manufacture of objects out of nothing. Alternatively, and preferably, it does not mention materials because it does not refer to manufacturing. Bara’ deals with functional origins, not material origins.
In Genesis 1:2 the “before” picture, as throughout the ancient Near East, is portrayed in non-functional, non-productive terms ("tohu" and "bohu") in which matter already exists. If this were an account of material origins, it would start with no matter. As an account of functional origins, it starts with no functions.
If the word bara refers to cutting or separating, then Genesis 1:1-2 is saying that in the beginning God divided the heavens and the earth and darkness was over the face of the water . The first act of creating was in v. 3 when God said: Let there be light. Nothing is said in the passage about the ultimate origin of the heaven and the earth.
Thus, it seems that Craig is wrong in his assessment of the data. Genesis does not teach creation ex nihilo and therefore the big bang cosmology does nothing to validate the accuracy of the Bible.