Feedback archiveFeedback 2000 and before

Latin lapse?

From R.M. of California, USA (indented); response by Dr Jonathan Sarfati, Creation Ministries International, Queensland, Australia (interspersed as per normal email fashion).

I wanted to point out that the title of “Creation ex Nihilo” is incorrect Latin.

The only thing ‘incorrect’ is the first word, which would be Creatio in the nominative case, which I’m surprised you didn’t pick up. But this was not intended to be Latin anyway. The historical background explains this. The original title was just Ex Nihilo when Dr Carl Wieland founded the magazine in 1978. But this was regarded as too fancy for a family magazine when CMI realised that this was the way it should read, so the English word ‘Creation’ was added. Now we mostly refer to it as Creation magazine, and keep ex nihilo just for historical reasons. In fact, if you examine the cover, you will notice that the words ex nihilo have a greater slope, indicating that it should be read Creation ex nihilo. This is accurate, because it follows the usual convention of normal type for an English word and italics for foreign words.

Even if you don’t translate “creation” to “genesis”, nihil is a non-declinable noun.

Yes, nihil is — but nihilo is the ablative case of nihilum which definitely is declinable — see the Oxford Latin Minidictionary. This even gives de nihilo = ‘for nothing’ or ‘for no reason’. Anyway, the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has an entry for ex nihilo meaning ‘out of nothing’ just as we say.

It would be “Creation ex Nihil”.

No, as I said above, it’s Creatio ex nihilo. This phrase meaning ‘Creation out of nothing’ has been used by theologians for centuries to refer to the biblical teaching that God didn’t create the universe out of any pre-existing matter. Many of these theologians wrote mainly in Latin, so would presumably have known the correct case endings. And this standard theological phrase is of course the reason Dr Wieland named the magazine as he did.

Jonathan Sarfati


Published: 1 February 2006