equal with God. It would not be a great thing, if God made the world out of pre-existent matter. 'Even a human artisan, when he obtains material from someone, makes whatever he wishes out of it. But the power of God is revealed by his making whatever he wishes out of the non-existent (exouk onton).' God's unique power of creating out of nothing has its parallel in his unique ability to give life and motion to human beings. God 'made whatever he wished in whatever way he wished'.
In this anti-Platonic passage, Theophilus assembles the basic arguments for creation out of nothing. If matter were unoriginate like God, it would be another God. And if God had made the world out of pre-existent matter, there would be no difference between him and a human craftsman. The model of shaping matter is transcended by God's inexpressible power. This is the meaning of creation out of nothing. The Greek idea that there are natural limits to God's activity does not apply to the God of the Bible. Up to the time of Hermogenes, the central difficulty in the debate about creation was the eternity of matter. From Theophilus onwards the will of God is emphasised as the ground of creation. Creation out of nothing, originally a vague description of God's omnipotence as creator, becomes with Theophilus and Irenaeus a precise statement about the incomparable power of God.61
The main part of book 2 of Ad Autolycum is an exposition of Genesis 1-11.62 This lengthy commentary presents Judaeo-Christian theology, as R. M. Grant has often pointed out. The first statement is: the prophets first taught us unanimously that God made everything out of non-being.63 The biblical foundation for creation out of nothing is, as could be expected, Genesis 1:1-2. Theophilus follows the order of the days of creation, as the Hexaemeron literature since the second century does.64 Concerning theological opponents, Theophilus is not very outspoken. The polemic against Platonic teaching about God and the world could be aimed at Hermogenes and his Christian Platonism. There are, however, few parallels between the language and thought of Hermogenes, as read in Tertullian, and that of Theophilus. Nevertheless, it is highly probable that for some time in Antioch a battle was fought about the legitimacy of Christian Platonism between Theophilus and Hermogenes. We would like to know more about Theophilus and his writings, but even what we have leaves no doubt that by fostering the idea of creation out of nothing he played an important role in its success.
61 Dihle, Theory of will.
64 van Winden, 'Hexaemeron'.
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