The Challenging Mystery of Light
Question: I’ve had several atheists challenge me with the very first chapter of Genesis – not with the usual arguments about the universe being created in six literal days, for which I think there are scientific answers, but with one I can’t solve. Verses 14-19 say that God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. Yet on the very first day, “God said, Let there be light, and there was light….And the evening and the morning were the first day” (verses 3-5). Where did the light come from on the first day if the sun, moon, and stars weren’t created until the fourth day?
Response: These are among the favorite verses used by the critics as one more “proof” that the Bible contains contradictions and thus could not be the Word of God. As usual, however, they are too eager to come to such a conclusion. In fact, this passage presents one more unique evidence of the Bible’s authenticity and inspiration. Let us think about this problem logically for a moment.
If this is indeed a contradiction, it is certainly so obvious that whoever penned these words would have become immediately aware of it and revised the order of creation to correct it. And if the original writer inexplicably failed to take care of it, then that inexcusable blunder would surely have been “corrected” by a later scribe. But neither revision occurred. The very fact that this apparent contradiction remains in the text to this day forces upon us a logical conclusion.
Obviously Moses, who originally wrote these words and certainly was too perceptive and intelligent not to notice the problem, must have believed he was inspired by God and therefore put the account of creation down exactly as it was revealed to him even though he probably did not understand all that he recorded. Moreover, as we have already noted, the subsequent scribes, too, who painstakingly copied and preserved this ancient record must have been so certain that it was the Word of God that they dared not tamper with it, even leaving intact what might seem to be a number of blatant “contradictions.”
Whether or not Moses himself fully understood what God inspired him to write is a question about which we need not concern ourselves. The prophets whom God inspired to record His Word dared not second-guess God on the basis of their imperfect understanding or of the myths current in their day. For example, at the time of superstitious explanations of earthquakes, from the belief that the earth was sitting upon the shoulders of the god Atlas to the theory that it was resting upon a tortoise floating in a huge sea, the Bible declared that God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job:26:7). The Bible, unlike other religious or even ancient scientific and philosophical writings, far from reflecting the limited knowledge and popular superstitions of the culture and time in which it was written, contains truth and understanding neither known by nor available to mankind at the time of the writing. That fact alone is one of the great proofs that the Bible was inspired of God.
Revealing Knowledge beyond the Times
As further evidence of its divine origin, the Bible contains hidden wisdom (1 Corinthians:2:7) that was not fully revealed even to those “holy men of God” (2 Peter:1:21) who were inspired to write it. Though its writer probably didn’t understand what he had been inspired to declare, Hebrews:11:3 stated centuries before science came to that conclusion that the universe was made out of something invisible. We are specifically told that those who wrote the Old Testament announced things that they didn’t fully understand (Romans:1:1-2; 16:25-26; Ephesians:3:3-5). So Moses, too, may not have understood all that was meant when he wrote, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”
In keeping with the mystery surrounding light in Scripture, to this very day science has been unable to explain it. Light acts like both a wave and a particle, which is impossible – but it’s true. What is light? We still don’t know.
We are given a glimpse of a truth in these first few verses of Genesis, which is revealed more fully only in the last chapters of the Bible. The secret of the “light” that surrounded the earth prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars is made known in this description of the new creation after this present universe (with its sun, moon, and stars) will have been destroyed and replaced:
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away….And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it….
And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life….
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light…. (Revelation:21:1-2, 23-24, 27; 22:5)”
The Bible tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John:1:5). That light pervaded the universe from eternity past. Before sin entered the world and until the celestial bodies were created that supernatural light was apparently directed by God to illuminate this earth. After sin has been removed, the light that God is, and that Christ, who is God, also is, will fill the new universe once again.