Understanding 2 Macc. 7:28 & Creation from nothing?


#1

Hi,
I have a question about the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, and its basis in Scripture. 2 Macc. 7:21-28 (RSV Catholic Ed.) reads:

She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.” Anti′ochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Anti′ochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his fathers, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs. Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: “My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. 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. Thus also mankind comes into being.

Now this verse clearly states that God did not create heaven, earth, and their contents from pre-existing materials, HOWEVER, it then likens their creation to the creation of human beings. This is some what problematic because both Scripture and science refute the idea that men are created from nothing, but rather the Bible tells us “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7), and Biologically we know humans form from a sperm cell and egg fusing to form a zygote which grows into a fetus, is born a baby, and grows up. So in short, what gives? Is this verse of scripture saying everything, WAS NOT created truly from nothing, but from basic primordial pre-existing materials akin to how a baby is formed from sperm and an egg, or is the verse simply wrong in comparing human origins to the origins of heaven and earth, or is the verse describing the origins of man in a grand cosmic way seeing man as a part of the overall creation: and isn’t speaking to the specific creation of Adam or more modern people, only to man’s place among God’s creations. Or something else?

Thanks,
Matt


#2

The first thing I would note is the phrase in question: “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. Thus also mankind comes into being.” – Now this phrase appears on the surface to say that mankind comes into being in the same way that the universe did. But that is not the only possible interpretation. It can also mean by the same Creator, by the same will, or with the same intricacy, and there are probably other possible interpretations that aren’t coming to mind right at the moment.

Now with that in mind, the question ought to be which interpretation has the best evidence for it. I would say that the interpretation you gave, and which appears from a surface-level reading, is very, very unlikely, for several reasons, a few of which come to mind immediately. The most obvious being this: everyone knew then as well as now that babies require sperm (seed). They don’t spontaneously generate. Seed (sperm) has to be “planted” in order for the baby to exist. And so, I think it is very, very unlikely that this woman, who had seven children, would not realize what went into that each time; and that she would be ignorant of what was really common knowledge; and would have forgotten all the Scriptures that connect babies to seed. Therefore I think the real meaning has to be one of the other options that I mentioned above.

I hope that helps. God bless!


#3

…or is the verse describing the origins of man in a grand cosmic way seeing man as a part of the overall creation: and isn’t speaking to the specific creation of Adam or more modern people, only to man’s place among God’s creations?

This would be my supposition.


#4

[quote=MattofTexas] I have a question about the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, and its basis in Scripture. 2 Macc. 7:21-28 (RSV Catholic Ed.) reads:
[/quote]

First, I would suggest that the account of creation found in Genesis gives an excellent example of ex nihilo creation (God said, and it was - what could be simpler?). Second, I don’t think the context of the verses you’re looking at really address creation. The woman is clearly encouraging her son to stand firm, using (as the verse states), her “woman’s reasoning”. I don’t see any indication that she had received any Biblical/Rabbinical training, so to accept this as an example of creation of any kind doesn’t carry a lot of weight (IMHO)… Finally (and more of a personal note), I don’t accept the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, and so would refer you back to my first point.

Hope this helps!

Pax!


closed #5

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