Question from a reader:
Without knowing what BaRa meant, I looked at the context of other uses in the Bible and also saw that BaRa referred to the creation of Man, which was clearly not "creation ex nihilo".
But I have a question: does BaRa really mean "creation ex nihilo"?
English does not have a word for "creation ex nihilo" and we have several orders of magnitude more words than Hebrew. It seems odd that this concept could be included in one word. In my knowledge, "creation ex nihilo", can ONLY occur when God does it. So, use of the word BaRa, if it only meant "creation ex nihilo" would be limited to God being the creator.
From a layman's point of view with no training in linguistics or Hebrew, my feeling is that BaRa means primarily "creation". The "creation ex nihilo" meaning would have such limited use that the word wouldn't exist, just as in English. It would be interesting to trace the history of the "creation ex nihilo" definition to see what reasoning was used to conclude such a definition.
So here is a question. Can "creation ex nihilo" be said in Hebrew by adding to a sentence using BaRa or ASaH to make the meaning unambiguous? If so, why was that sentence not used in Genesis 1?
Answer from Julia (Stager) Mayo (Former EPM staff):
I’m sure this passage in Genesis could have been further clarified, but perhaps it doesn’t need to be. God must have created out of nothing because there was nothing before he created (otherwise he would not be God). Everything apart from God was, at some point, “BaRa”ed by him. Can there be an alternative explanation that retains the utter supremacy of YHWH?