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Following the Judeo-Christian belief in one God, creator of heaven and earth, and carrying on the Jewish interest in biblical cosmology, expressed esp. in Genesis see Theoph. New York Metro Metro Map Ant., Autol. II, 10-32: first Christian commentary, patristic theology gave a tremendous amount of space to the doctrine of the origin of the world: considering the wholly free action of God the Creator, stressing the universal extent of this divine action and admiring the goodness and harmony of the whole universe, created and preserved by the one God. Indeed, they presented this doctrine, perhaps not always with the same conviction, as one of the characteristics that distinguished Christianity from paganism. It is quite true that the great dogmatic debates of the 4th and 5th c. were not directly concerned with the creation of the world, but the Christian idea of God the Creator was nonetheless their all-important background.

Worked out substantially during the 2nd c., it was an undisputed part of the patrimony of faith of those times. This is attested by the primitive confessions of faith which, inspired by biblical formulas but not without suggestions of Hellenism, profess God as the Father Almighty, i.e., sole author and preserver of all things Justin, 1 Apol. 61; 67: DS 1; 10; Iren., Adv. haer. I,10,1 etc.. Later confessions merely explain the same truth with new variations cf. the forms of the Roman creed, and the Eastern formulas: DS 11-76, esp. that of Nicaea: DS 125; 150, keeping the economic orientation of the primitive formulas.

It is notable that the idea of creation of God’s free, potent action is applied by the Fathers, as in the Bible, to the establishment of the church, the conversion of sinners and the final perfection of all things. The evolution by which the simple repetition of the biblical doctrine of creation, with the aim of motivating praise of God see Did. 10,3; 1 Clem. 60,1, right living among the faithful see Did. 1,2; Barn. 19,2 or order in the community see 1 Clem. 19,2-20,12, developed into a conscious and methodological development of themes, effected through the categories of Greek cosmology demiurge, father of the universe and explored through the theory of the Creator-Logos, can be explained primarily by the polemic against gnosticism and against philosophy, considered the basis of gnosticism see May 151-152. Against the Marcionites and Valentinians, in some sense Justin but still more Tatian, Theophilus and Irenaeus, while recognizing the creative mediation of the Word, made clear that the God of salvation was himself the creator of all things, while rejecting the Platonist idea of the eternal existence of matter and elaborating, in line with the Bible and the Judeo-Christian tradition see esp. Herm., Mand. 1,1, cited by Iren., Adv. haer. IV, 20,2, the theory of creation ex nihilo. Thus Tatian, in response to certain debates raised at Rome, was the first to declare that God also created matter Orat. 5,3. Theophilus went further, not only stressing that God created everything through the Word and Wisdom Autol. II, 18, but also using, in a philosophical perspective, the idea of creation ex nihilo Autol. I, 4; II, 4,10.13; May 159-167. Irenaeus, finally, was the most complete. He declared more clearly than Theophilus that God had no need of anything to create the world, which he did by his own power, the Son and the Holy Spirit Adv. haer. IV, 20,1. Reinterpreting in a clearly voluntarist way, he insisted still more on the fact that God created everything by his will see May 170-171, 178-179.

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