Some concepts are so heady that they are difficult to put into words.  For example, how does one talk about what God was doing before creation, when creation marks the beginning of temporality?  There cannot be a “before” the beginning, and yet we can conceive of God’s existence before time began.  While it is difficult to put this into words, one way of doing so is to speak of God existing “without the universe.”  Problem solved. 

There are other concepts, however, which are impossible to put them into words.  Consider “nothing.”  It is impossible for us to even imagine nothingness, yet alone to reduce it to words.  For example, according to the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins our universe came into existence from literally nothing about 13.7 billion years ago.  But to say our universe came into existence “from” nothing treats nothing as if it were somewhere from which the universe emerged.  It isn’t, and that’s not what scientists mean to say, but that is the picture that emerges when we try reducing this concept to words.  

We might even conceive of a “time when nothing existed,” but this too is unintelligible.  There cannot be a “time” when nothing existed, because a state of nothingness includes the absence of temporality.  I’ve done it again.  I referred to nothingness as a “state,” but it is not a state.  It is nothing!  The fact of the matter is that no matter how we choose to refer to the concept, the moment we do so, we reify it in the process.  We do the same thing for other concepts.  Consider darkness.  Darkness, as such, does not exist.  It is the absence of all light.  And yet the moment we refer to “darkness,” we reify it, as if it were an existent.  This is a shortcoming of language we have to live with, but we need to be cognizant of the fact that speaking of nothingness, or of something coming from nothing, does not mean nothing is something.  It means no-thing.