Myths about the creation of the world out of nothing are found in all regions of the world. The Latin word to describe the world coming from void or nothingness is ex nihilo.
The book of Genesis says 'In the beginning,
God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form and void,
and darkness was over the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over
the face of the waters.
So the God exists before the creation of the world. It’s not clear where it exists, but there was void and water only. Ex nihilo type stores can also be found in the east. The birth of the Abrahamic religions were mostly in the Mediterranean region, the Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Egypt was connected to this region and one of the myths originating from Egypt also tells about the world coming out of nothing.
‘I am the eternal spirit; I am the sun
that rose from the primeval water.
My soul is god and I am the creator
of the word. Evil is my abomination,
I see it not. I am the creator of the
order wherein I live. I am the creator
of the word which will never be annihilated,
in this my name of soul.’
Both the Genesis story and the Egyptian one have a similarity where there is one eternal god and there is water.
All these points out that before creation there was chaos, until the god or the deities came and provided order. This has been put as bringing light out of darkness. The Kono people of Guinea believe that the darkness was inhabited by death named Sa, his wife and daughter. As they had no place to live so Sa through his magical power created a sea of mud and from that mud built a hut. The god Alatangana visited them. He decided to give them a better place to live so he made the mud solid, what we call the earth. Then he made plants and animals to give company to Sa. This also has similarity with the Egyptian one, both tell of a vast sea, but one is of water and one is of mud. In both a god is existing already who is outside this darkness and void. The Kono myth has the additional input of death as if death is the only constant that existed even before the creation of the world.
The water is the constant in all the above. But what is this water? Maybe those ancient people when imagining about something vast and eternal could compare it with the sea and ocean only or could have taken the sky. But comparing it with sea seems to go well with the creation of life as evolutionary creation came from the sea.
The Mayans had their creation myth too. As per them, creation occurred four times. Here also the creation began with the word. According to them the world began in a place called Quiche, where the Quiche people lived. There were no birds, fish, animals, mountains, forests, absolutely nothing. There was sky, the sea and the invisible earth. There was nothing to make sound. There was darkness. Yet within that darkness was a god and a sea serpent. They brought their words together and planned the creation. Their thoughts and words were so clear that whatever they thought became real. They started with earth and then the other features of earth like mountains, rivers, forest and animals etc. But the wild animals were not able to speak the name of the feathered serpent and god and therefore unable to praise the gods. So the first experiment failed.
So the maker started the process all over again. This time they made the animals at a lower level. Now the animals would have to stay in the jungles and canyons and mountains where they will kill each other or be killed for food. They will be a lower form of life as they could not praise the god. This has similarity with the Genesis where Adam names the animals and established superiority of humans over animals. Though this myth doesn’t directly talk of a void before creation bit implies that there was nothingness before creation happened. This way the Mayan myth of creation goes from 1 to 4 until it took the final form as we see today.
I will quote here two verses from the Rig Veda the oldest texts of Hindu religion. These also point towards the ex nihilo.
“Then was neither non-existence nor existence:
there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.
Death was not then, nor was there anything
immortal: no sign was there, the Day’s and
Darkness there was: at first concealed in
darkness this All was indiscriminated chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless:
by the great power of Warmth was born that One.
Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
Gods came afterwards, with the creation of
Who then knows whence it has arisen?
Whether God's will created it, or whether
He was mute;
Perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps
it did not;
Only He who is its overseer in highest
Only He knows, or perhaps He does not know.
Let’s take it to the modern times, the big bang. It says that from a time before the time we had the origin event, just like the darkness before the light. Though big bang doesn’t have the water and the god but there are some similarities in the fact that everything that is now was there at the time of origin event though in a different form. Just like those gods creating everything out of nothing. The basic underlying similarity of there was void and nothingness and chaos before the creation.