Houston Graduate School of Theology

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Creation of Light and Lights

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By Doug Kennard, Professor of Christian Scripture, Houston Graduate School of Theology

The fact of creation implies that whatever is created will a moment later have the appearance of age. If the earth is created then there is the appearance that it has been there for a while. Rabbinic interpretation concluded that the sun and the moon were created with their contemporary characteristics (Num. Rab. 12.8). Thus this account explains how they function as markers for days and seasons. If light is created there is the appearance that it has traveled from a light source. So, if an observer were able to investigate the first evidences of creation, then empirically this evidence would indicate a longer age than creation would entail. I conclude that from Genesis one there are six days of God creating, without a gap or a pre-existent creation (Gen 1:5-2:3; Ex 20:11).

Genesis 1’s days of creation set up a loose textual parallel (separated environs [light, water, air, land; Gen 1:4, 7, 14, 18], and climax) between the structure of days one through four and the contents of days three through six fill up the condition of void with contents (plants, sky lights, animals, humans; Gen 1:2, 14–31).

The creation of light does not occur prior to the creation as in other ancient Near Eastern myths where it is an attribute of their gods (Apsu and Marduk). In this case light is created by God to dispel the chaotic darkness effortlessly obtaining an immediate victory (Gen 1:3–5).  There is no account of the source of the light appearing (as from an object), for the creation account is theological in affirming God is the source of the light and it fits His design.  The separation of light from darkness and the naming of them demonstrate God is sovereign, as von Rad develops.

The ultimate enunciation of this orderly cosmic arrangement and wholesome stabilization is the divine naming of the present darkness as night and the present light as day. The name given by God, is an expression of the essence and a seal of the way it will look henceforth. Thus the accent lies, not on the verbal naming, but on the calling into and fixing of the existence of creation. The precise translation, therefore is ‘And God appointed the light as day.’ But in the ancient Oriental view the act of giving a name meant, above all, the exercise of a sovereign right (cf. 2 Kings 23:34; 24:17). Thus the naming of this and all subsequent creation works once more expresses graphically God’s claim of lordship over the creatures (Genesis, 53).

Light would represent good and salvation as darkness represents chaos, evil, and judgment (Ex 10:21-24; Ps 104:1). Israel would also see here that this same God is sovereign over both light and darkness; goodness and evil.

The parallel creation of lights on day four uses the word for lamps and places it in the sky (Gen 1:14–19; 2 Bar 59:5–11). If any of these lights were named it would conjure up the names for pagan deities but here the word “light” is meant to be prosaic and degrading, to exclude polytheism. These are created objects; sun and moon are not named for the words “sun” and “moon” are also names for pagan deities, namely Shemesh and Yareach. Additionally, the stars are briefly stated as created lights showing no place for astrology. These lights are established as servants in the creation for signs, seasons, days and years. The lights serve God and creation well. How well do we serve God and the creation?

Matt ForsterComment