The Anti-Manichaean Polemic and Beyond
Introduction: The Scriptural, Patristic, and Philosophical Background of St. Augustine's Doctrine of Creatio ex nihilo 1
Introduction The Scriptural, Patristic, and Philosophical Background of Saint Augustine's Doctrine of Creatio ex nihilo By the fourth century, A.D., the doctrine of creatio ex nihi/o had received an explicit formulation by a number of prominent Church Fathers. One of its most technical and detailed expositions is found in the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. But Augustine's understand- ing of this doctrine can be viewed as the outgrowth of a long series of developments which span the first four centuries of the Christian in- tellectual tradition. Accordingly, Augustine's approach to creatio ex nihilo must be viewed within the larger Patristic context in which it emerged. But the very Fathers upon whom Augustine might have drawn for inspiration and guidance were themselves influenced by two major traditions: on the one hand, that of Sacred Scripture; on the other hand, that of the Graeco-Roman speculation on cosmological origins. An introduction to the present study, then, demands an investigation of the process whereby Christian thinkers refined and clarified the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. This investigation will further isolate some of the basic presuppositions that underlie this fundamental Chris- tian teaching, and assess its possible philosophical sources. Such an investigation will provide a means of determining (at least on a tenta- tive basis) the influences that might have been operative in Augustine's treatment of the doctrine of creation in his commentaries upon Gen- esis, in his extended polemic against the Manichaeans, and in a broad range of theological deliberations. Let us begin...
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