Taken from: Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review
By Rev. Samuel Hopkins, Milton, N. Y.
§ 6. Light.
The first potential act of creating is expressed by the divine word, "Let light be." We know no definition of light so complete, terse, and unexceptionable as that given by a Christian apostle: " Whatsoever doth make manifest is light" (Eph. v. 13). Without any philosophical pretension, it covers all applications of the word. We accept it. We are content with it — the more readily and perfectly, because philosophers themselves have so remarkably failed, differing among themselves in their own definitions. We say, then, that the light here introduced to our notice was the somewhat which made material objects manifest or visible.
"Let light be." In all languages the verb of existence is more often used to denote some qualified or some local existence than to denote it only in the abstract, or irrelatively. When the verb and its subject stand alone, — without surroundings, precedents, or sequences, — it then denotes existence merely. As in the statement "God is," in distinction from this, "God is good"; or from this, "God is in this place." In the case before us, the verb and its subject do not stand alone, but with qualifying surroundings. Place and condition of place are its immediate antecedents, essentially qualifying its import: "the waters," place; the waters in "darkness," condition of place.
At this point the writer limits himself to the field of this our own world in its then condition — earth-solid and water-deep and darkness. The next statement, therefore, is not that God called light into being, but that he called it to be here — on the face of the waters — in the place where the darkness was. A definite presence, in a definite locality, and in lieu of a definite light-absence, is the simple idea presented. Standing, as the words do, in close sequence to the statement of a contrary and preceding state, they legitimately signify only, let light be in the place of that darkness. They do not present the idea that there was no light in existence; and therefore we have a right to say that there may have been light elsewhere, when upon "the deep" there was none. At least, we have no right to reverse our supposition, and to interpret the phrase as signifying that there was no light elsewhere; no right to suppose that the "thick darkness" — the world's "swaddling-band" — was "thick" as infinite space. Indeed, the invocation intimates, if it does not signify, that there was light somewhere else, and that the foreign light should come.
Thus, for aught which yet appears in the text, there may have been light elsewhere at the very moment next preceding the invoking word. If the words indicate anything on this point, they indicate that there was; and if any reader or interpreter be disposed to exclude all idea of light existing away from the surface of the deep, he should at least pause and ask himself: "How do I know that there was none?
"This interpretation detracts vastly from the grander and electric idea of the birth of light, — of cosmic light, of universal light, — commonly considered to be here expressed; and, as we are aware, it must seem almost profane to those who have hitherto clung, with reverent awe, to the traditional and sanctified interpretation. But we cannot, for we may not, read here, " ubiquitous, first-born light " for the writer himself forbids us. He does so by expressly defining our horizon, the narrow limit of our own world. How can we extend the horizon? Would not this be "profane"?
Let light be — whence?
1. Scientific experts tell us of "cosmical light" — a light co-extensive with the universe. We have no disposition to question their philosophy; as little, to question that so great a light was sufficient for the case in hand. But, if we under stand them correctly, their doctrine is this: That the primal state of universal matter was that of inconceivably boundless and minute diffusion, and also of absolute quiescence; that, moreover, the first grand orgasm of this universal matter was productive of a flash of light co-extensive with itself. Be it so.
Now it has been assumed, somewhat axiomatically, that this light was the light which came in obedience to the invocation here recorded. Was it? or was it not? We think that the assumption disproves itself; and for this reason, — that the sacred historian here brings to our view not primal matter universally diffused and unindividualized, but a specific portion of universal matter already solidified and individualized, — viz. our own world, — and which had also attained to its solidity and individuality long before. Therefore cosmical light, which must have been evolved long before any condensation and separation of world-bodies, could not have been produced at the time when this creative drama opened. To say that it was, is simply to perpetrate a very great anachronism.
2. Again. Was this light an entity latent in "the deep," or in "the darkness" on the deep, a light which God commanded to come out thence literally? (Lange, pp. 130, 165.) Sometimes called "auroral," because the polar night (!) is presumed to "give rise to the northern aurora"!
We have two grave objections to such statements. First, they are purely conjectural. They have no more support from the text than any other conceivable possibility has. We cannot allow ourselves to admit conjecture to the office of interpreter. Secondly, the statements are inconceivable. To us it is not conceivable that light, which " makes manifest," should be where there is no manifestation; that it should be hidden within an opaque body, except in the sense of being boxed up, as "under a bushel" — a sense too low and puerile for a theme so august. It is also inconceivable that light should be in darkness, which is simply a nonentity — the absence of light. The statement is equivalent to this — that light is present where it is absent!
If any one cites that expression of Paul, referring to this same event, — "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness" (2 Cor. iv. 6), — we have only to reply, that this is English, and not Greek. Paul's words are: "Οτι ὁ Θεὸς ὁ εἰπών · ἐκ σκότους φῶς λάμψει. The Greek particle ἐκ, "out of," like all particles, very variable in its significations, resents being made to represent an absurdity. There fore we select for it one of its meanings which is not incongruous to its position here. We read it thus: "God who commanded the light to shine after darkness"; the particle denoting simply succession of time.
Rejecting, therefore, and most decidedly, these two modes of answering our question, we repeat it: Whence came the world's light, when invoked? We will seek an answer which shall be in harmony with the obvious purpose and language of the writer, and independent of our previous interpretations.
1. The writer states, very simply: There was darkness on the deep; God commanded light to be on the deep ; light was on the deep.
This was written for the purpose of giving information. It was written to be understood, to be understood by us — gentle and simple, learned and unlearned alike — who know of no other light to the world than that which comes, directly or indirectly, from the world's sun. Consequently, if we have no preconceived and-pre-judging theory upon the subject (and we ought not to permit it to come in here, if we have), we are at once given to understand that the light invoked came from the only light-source which we know. To us this is the normal teaching of the words. They are certainly adapted to convey the idea to persons situated as we are. We have a right to adopt it, because they are fitted to excite it, and because, unless we beg the question and stiffly deny a sun, the idea is excited, without fail and without process of reasoning. It requires some pre-judgment to exclude it; we having gone only so far in the text, outside of which, or of its co-equal authority, we have no right to go as interpreters.
2. We suggest, however, another analogous consideration. If we suppose that this light came from any other source than our sun, we place the writer in a very singular position. Men utterly ignorant of any other possible world-light, — that is, the mass of men, for whom the narrative is intended, — such men could not understand the text thus far as indicating any other than sunlight. But if so, then the writer has made a great mistake. If he did not mean sunlight, and wished to express what he did mean, he has made a great mistake in using so little language. Or, if he did not mean sunlight, and yet uses such language, plainly fitted to suggest sunlight, there is a negative duplicity. Not writing a literal untruth, he has acted an untruth.
3. Again, if we suppose that this light came from any other source than the sun, we place ourselves in a very singular position. None of us pretend that the writer assumes to teach natural science. It is admitted, on all hands, that he did not, and that we ought to interpret him accordingly. And yet, denying sunlight, we make him a teacher of natural science, and of very abstruse science, too, if we make him to represent light as inhering to a body not luminous (dark), or as an element present where itself was absent — a sort of science which baffles our under standing. We present him under a popular mask, and using popular language in a popular way; and yet represent him, by our "cosmical light," as using a purely scientific phrase; and, by our "auroral light," as using a term of deepest mystery — in each case terms which belong to the schools, and not to the people. And thus, as expounders also, we are in a very singular position; for we must first take a child or an untutored Indian to a college and through a laboratory before we can help him spell out the opening words of the Bible.
4. Another point. We make much of the fact that there is here no mention of a sun. Instead of arguing from it that there was none, we argue from it that there was one. (1) If there was none, it seems to us remarkable, and even unaccountable, that, instead of using language liable to mislead common readers, — the mention of world-light, — the writer should not have put them on their guard by distinctly stating that the world-light was not sunlight. (2) We consider this silence a negative indication of the sun-fact. Under the circumstances, we consider it equivalent to a declaration emphatic that the reader takes that fact for granted; that it is understood and admitted by both parties; that it was to be by each so clearly presupposed — light being announced — that to state the sun's existence in due form were superfluous — somewhat like a puny tautology. Thus we regard silence upon the point as a tacit recognition of the fact, and as having both the more of force and the more of dignity because tacit.
Not saying that there was, is not saying that there was not. We have therefore as good a textual right, at least, to say that there was as any one has to say that there was not. We have given reasons for thinking that we have a better. Light; no mention of a sun, because no mention needed, supposing there was one.
Light; no statement of no sun, unaccountable, supposing there was none. But:
5. "God separated between the darkness and between the light." We give the literal rendering of the Hebrew words. That is to say, darkness and light were co-existing — co-existing on the deep. For co-existence is involved in "separation," as much as in co-presence. Co-existing somewhere else than on the deep? somewhere else in the field of bound less space? This is not affirmed or denied. But it is expressly excluded by the very terms of limit which are employed. Co-existing, then, upon the face of the world; for this is the field of vision to which we are restricted. Not co-present, however; for that could not be. Not co-present ; for they were separated between — a place for the one and a place for the other, — a place where there was light, a place where there was none, — both on the world — different localities at the same time. This is clearly expressed by the word " separation," and yet more sharply by the word "between," and by its repetition. So, and for the same reason, do we repeat, two localities at the same time upon the same world. Light and darkness both on the world; the one on some one part of it, the other (none of the one) on some other part of it.
Reduced to a simpler form, the statement of the text is clearly this: Light was on the world, but was not all over the world.
Just before, the darkness was all over the world. Now, a change, as described. This new state of things — co-existence, separation — was an effect. Of what cause? The divine power or will, throughout the narrative expressed by "God said." But, contrary to the analogy of the narrative, this effect is not preceded by the formula. That is, it is not stated that God said: "Let there be a separating." Therefore (reasoning by the analogy) he did not say it. This effect was not from such words; yet it was an effect — this separating — and (analogically) must have been an effect of some divine and causal word. What word? The only word recorded, of course: " Let light be." By that word, two effects — two effects coalescing and agreeing — an effect within an effect — the one comprising the other — two effects simultaneous. That is to say, the invoking of the light was the cause of its coming, and the coming the cause of the separating. Another decree would have been but a repetition. By its coming the light was here; there, not. Such is the purport of the record's analogy.
But it contains another testimony of the same purport. The Hebrew particle Vav (וְ), when standing between a stated cause and its stated effect, is more than a conjunctive particle. It is declarative — this was produced by that; a significance pervading the narrative, and which must not be overlooked. "Thus did God make the expanse, and did separate between the waters under and the waters above," that is, by his speaking. So here, " God said, Let light be. Thus light was (and God saw the light that it was good). Thus did God separate between the light and between the darkness," that is, by his speaking. The coming and the separating were the co-effects of the same potential cause. The analogy and the pregnant particle concur.
These things being so, — antecedent and consequents, cause and effects, — the light which fell upon the world could not have been a surrounding light, in which the world was merged as in a sea. To suppose it was is only flat contradiction to the world-separating between the light and the no-light. This light did not fall upon the entire world at once.
Where light is and remains, there is no possible way of effecting darkness (or of making a separation between the two) but by the interposition of some opaque body which shall cut off the light from beyond itself (the body); thus serving as a partition or "separating" wall between the two; no light where otherwise light would be. So, too, and for the same reason, where light falls from a luminous body upon another not luminous and not translucent (being, by consequence, itself a "separating" wall), there must be light on one side of the latter (no matter what its shape), and at the same time no light (from the luminary) upon the other side, and there is no possible way of effecting such co-existence upon such a body other than the coming of such a light as described. Therefore, if it was not a surrounding light which fell upon the world, — as it could not have been, — then it must have come from some foreign source opposite that part of the world on which it was. Therefore such a fact, and such only, is consistent, in our understanding of things, with light and no-light co-existent on the world, and also with the fact that the very coming of the light effected this co-existence. Conversely, too, the fact of this co-existence (as stated in the text) being admitted, the other fact (a foreign source) is inevitably admitted also. It seems to us, therefore, that the language before us discloses the existence of a sun; that it compels us to recognize its existence, and to recognize it as the fountain of that light.
In brief, our reasoning stands thus: The fact that there was no distinct decree for the separating indicates the only decree which is stated as its cause; the analogy of the record does the same; the local force of the Hebrew particle (וְ) — an imperative index-finger — does the same. Therefore the coming of the light involved the separation, and the separation involved the presence of a sun.
Another point. God invoked the light to come where the darkness was. The light came. But the entire object of its summons had not yet been answered; because (at the very first) on the one part of the deep there was yet no light, as is proved by the separation-fact. Therefore the luminous body whence light came must itself have been in motion so as to throw light upon the entire world (that is, so as to fulfil the decree), the darkness receding as the light moved from part to part; or the world must have been in motion so as to produce the same effect; that is, so as to keep up the separation. But — addressed, without any explanation, to us who have only our own knowledge to guide us to an understanding of the writing — the statement "God separated" is equivalent to a statement that the luminous body did not move around the world to its great whole, but that the world so moved as to present its whole toward the fixed luminous body. In other words, " God separated " tells us not only that there was a sun, but also that the world was revolving on itself to get the light, according to the scope and purpose of the edict, from that sun.
A fixed luminary. A revolving world. Astronomical arrangement.
Be it observed, however, that it was only sun "light" which had reached the surface of the deep, not the sunshine in its strength. The text authorizes us only to say "light," only to understand that the "cloud-garment" (Job xxxviii. 9) had become less "thick"; that it was only translucent. This is confirmed by the fact that neither sun nor moon had yet been " set in the expanse — the heaven." And thus we may recognize only an imperfect light upon the deep — a light like that of dawn.1
Thus, for the several reasons given, we cannot resist the conviction that the statements about "light" and the "separating" — standing as they do without any explanation, and addressed as they are to all people of all times and classes, who know no other world-light — do quietly point us to our sun as that light's source.
Yet we do not rest our opinion upon this particular textual reasoning alone. It stands here as on distinct and independent ground, to be sure; but it has also another basis to which we religiously adhere — the reasoning which we have pursued from the previous statement, that the world, before this point of light, was but one in the present astronomic family, and had once borne its burden of created life.
The two textual indications are harmonies. Each points out a harmonic system, glorious, of old, and never broken up. Each points out the same mute, but eloquent harmony of brilliant planets having a common central sun; one only blighted and shrouded, but not lost. We say, then, that " in the beginning " there was a sun. We do not say it presumingly; we do not say it rashly. We say it upon authority, interpreting our authority by itself, honestly and as well as we can.
But our conclusions involve the astronomical arrangement of the world in the fullest sense. They involve not only the presence of the sun, but of the moon and stars in their present relations. They involve, too, the same veritable relations on the eve of the light's advent — to go no farther back. Yet while the cosmos, in all its fulness and strength, was round about, the world itself was then in darkness. The light, glowing all around, did not reach it. This indicates some light-excluding medium; and, if we do not misread, the testimony of God himself is, that the light-excluding medium was a cloud-garment, or an envelope, in its position and effect like a cloud (Job xxxviii. 9).
Are we wrong? Do we mistake our premises? Do we misread our authority? Do its words mean that there were a sun and a sun's satellites and a revolving world? Or do they mean that there were not? We confess that we cannot read them otherwise than as we do, having gone only thus far in the Article before us. And this our conviction we shall feel bound in all honesty to retain, unless herein-after some thing shall appear to disprove or to qualify it. In such a case, we shall be afloat and bewildered as we look back upon the text we have examined; and in such a case we shall ask some questions hard to be answered in consistency with the record. Indeed, doubting, the while, whether we shall have such occasion, we will ask them now.
Here was fresh light upon the world. What light, save a sun, ever did give, or ever could have given, light to the world? What light precisely? What light, while yet on part of the world was no light? When any other such world-light shall have been proved (not conjectured) to have existed, or even to have been possible, then will it be time to discuss the possibility of its having been the light introduced to us here. Then will it be time to work up that light (if we can) into harmony with this previous and succeeding context.
An after-thought here occurs. It is conceded, we think, by all, that the first development of cosmic light was coeval with the first movement of cosmic matter. This is equivalent to saying that the first act of cosmic creating was the development of cosmic light. Very well.
Now, if the first sentence of this document expresses the creating of the cosmos, then does it deny that the words "Let light be," uttered long after, on the first of the six days, express the creating of light. Or else, if these words do express the creating of light on that "day," then do they deny that the first sentence expresses the creating of the cosmos. Either supposition makes the writer self-contradictory.
But if "Let light be" does not express the creating of light, and if the first sentence does not express the creating of the cosmos, then we have a narrative consistent with itself and also in harmony with a chief rudiment of cosmic science.
§ 7. Day.
We have largely anticipated the opinion of many meditative and gifted minds, that the creative text is laden with " wonderful language — strange, mystic talk." The opinion is radical. A corresponding interpretation (" strange") springs from it as a pure necessity.
A mystic "day " is one of its necessities. According to the foregoing exposition, be it right or be it wrong, — instead of common words, household words, with strange meanings attached to them, and "above the common sense," we have only the common words, with the common meanings, and in the way of common sense. We hold that our mode of exposition is textually justifiable in its application to the word "day." We shall try to show this, so that we may be disentangled from this particular and acknowledged " mysticism " before going farther.
The mystic theory about this word (it is, confessedly, only theory) seems to claim that the creative days were "not common days," solar or natural; that they were "ineffable," "not comprehensible in their nature, only divisions in the great creative work." Be it so. What then?
1. Of course, the light here spoken of was ineffable, and not comprehensible; for God said that " day " and " light " were one. The light was not solar light, nor cosmical light, nor phosphorescent light, nor auroral light, nor electric light, nor any other "common" or "natural" light. It was ineffable, which neither of these are.
From this it follows that so far as the words "day" and "light " are concerned, the writer, — whom we regard as in loco Dei, — ostensibly teaching us, gives us no teaching at all. By the confession involved, we do not know what the "light" was, that is, what the "day" was. Indeed, we do not know that the אוֹר, "light," was light at all, or anything like light;2 and, following out the word-anomaly, we do not know the meaning of any of the words here employed. For aught we know, every one is " strange, mystic talk."
2. If the ineffable days were not natural-light days, then they were not topical days. But God commanded the light (day) to come where there was none — upon a definite topos, the surface of the deep. Whereas the ineffable light (day) was not there in any conceivable sense; being itself " not comprehensible," or being itself only "a division of a work." We cannot understand that it had any topos whatever. Thus the non-natural light or day and God's light or day do not agree.
3. If day or light was not natural-light day, then there was no natural-darkness night, either before or at or after the coming of the light. If the light was not natural light, then it had no natural negative, nor any other negative. "A division of a work" can have no negative; for a part has not a negative. But the creative light had a negative. It was on the deep. It was darkness — natural darkness; it was night — no-light. It was a negative pregnant, affirming the co-existence of light or day, such as does not exist for the confirmation of a non-natural light or day. Therefore the creative light or day was not this light or day, incomprehensible, non-natural.
Or if on the deep there was natural darkness notwithstanding, yet it was in no degree mitigated, much less dispersed, during or by the days of non-natural light; more especially, if they were only so many "divisions of a work." A light which is not natural has no antagonism to a darkness which is natural. Ineffable day or light cannot come where effable night is, to drive it away or to neutralize it. Indeed, we cannot conceive of incomprehensible light or day as doing anything, changing anything, or bringing anything to pass. It is simply incomprehensible; of course, to the understanding, non-competent; and that is all we know about it. It certainly must be incompetent to take the place of darkness, to extinguish it, or to take any other place, or to demolish any other thing. It certainly is neither entity nor non-entity; therefore without place, without prowess, without potentiality.
4. If day was not natural light, making manifest natural things; if it was neither solar nor auroral, — as it could not be, not being natural, — then during those not-natural days there were no corresponding nights, effable or ineffable.
We do not mean to repeat, exactly, what we have already said. We mean, particularly, to confront these non-natural days with the fact, before commented upon, that in God's separating between the light and between the darkness, in his doing this by the very coming of light, there were produced on the world co-existing day and night. If the light which then came was non-natural, then it did not make manifest any natural things. And if it did not make manifest any natural things, then it did not leave unmanifested, at the same time, any other natural things. It did not effect, and could not have effected, any separation between itself and the natural darkness. It could not occupy in part the place of darkness, and leave another place-part unoccupied. Only some natural light was competent to this. Thus the theory of a light (day) non-natural is in conflict with the separation-fact predicated of light. Indeed, it is itself a negation — a " light " which does not "make manifest."
This sort of day, if it be a sort, is unpleasant to us, repulsive, because it is so harshly inharmonious with different statements in the text, with both the letter and the spirit of what we are trying to interpret. It perplexes us. It saddens us; and the more, because all shadow of reason for supposing " day " to have been " ineffable," or for supposing it to have been of immense duration, vanishes when we reduce our view from a universe to a speck.
So much, in our view, for incautiously wandering from the true creative field, and thus becoming bewildered in the vast and the incomprehensible.
"And God called the light day." This divine definition is clear, simple, explicit, obligatory — involve what it may, exclude what it may. We have no right to add to it, to subtract from it, to question it, to cavil at it. The light was day; the day was light. That is all.
Therefore throughout the narrative day means light — nothing more, less, or any other than the same light, the same day, as here; unless, indeed, some other kind of light or day be herein-after signified. This proviso, always.
Light is not time. Day is not time. Light, or day, does not present the idea of time. We mean pure light, pure day; that is, light alone. Time and light are as diverse as time and typhus, as time and water, as time and darkness. Light no more gives us an idea of time than darkness does, than water does, whether we think of a second, or of twenty-four hours, or of a thousand years, or of the vast cycle of eclipses. Therefore it is not for us to say that the God-day is any definite or indefinite part of duration. It was not. It was light, and only light.
Yet light or day affords us a measure of duration (ineffable light does not); that is, it marks out to us so much or so much time. In connection with something else it does; but not alone. Give us motion, in connection with light or day, and then we may get an idea of time, or we may not. Hence it is that the technical "ineffable day " has utterly and confessedly failed to give us any idea of time; because no motion has been associated with it, or could be. Standing, in the disciple's eye, all alone, without anything moving, or even which could move, he has been utterly at a loss to say how long it was, and utterly unable to find any co-existing and corresponding night.
Give us motion with light, even though the light itself be motionless, and perhaps we get an idea of time — a definite portion of duration. We say "perhaps," because there must be not only movement, but regularity of movement, some where, and having a relation to the light — a relation so patent and intimate that we might almost say the two are in combination.
And yet it is not true that exact regularity of movement in association with light is the only way by which to get an idea of time, or to measure time. A watch, when it moves, gives us time. But in such case light or day has nothing to do with the problem. So with darkness, equally; for the watch moves as well and tells as much in the darkness as in the light. The sand in the hour-glass, the regular motion of anything else, effect the same measurement; but light, or day, does not enter into the process at all. Thus, with light we get an idea of time, and without light we get it. As we have said, the two are independent.
We should be careful, then, when reading of our God-day that we do not confound the two. Light is that which "maketh manifest"; nothing more. Day is that which "maketh manifest"; nothing more; nothing else.
If, then, no motion, no regular motion, was associated with the creative days, — that is, the creative lights, — they give us no idea of time. They do not pretend to. The element of time is not in them, and in them we cannot find it. And it is as irrational, as unphilosophical, to predicate of them immense time as to predicate of them a second of time, and vice versa. We wrong the light, when we call it time; we wrong "day," when we call it time. If, agreeing with the text, we say that light is only day, and that day is only light, then we exclude time, and have no right to talk about it.
But do we not get our idea of time — our most accurate idea — from day? We do. To us, therefore, is not day time? By no means; not day, but day and motion; from both, the idea. Our luminary, coming and going at regular intervals, would give us the idea, and afford us a measure, of time. But it does not come and go. Relatively to us, it has no motion; yet in association with its light, there is motion — motion of the world's surface under that day, at regular pace, into it, out of it, at regular intervals; the light or day itself one and perpetual. It is thus only that we get our idea, or take our measures, of time from day. A sun and no motion — no time-metre.
Accustomed as we are to find our chief and most accurate idea of time from " day," we have come to use the word, conventionally, but not truthfully, as a very synonyme of time. We forget — the motion being imperceptible — we forget to what we are indebted for our time-idea. We speak an untruth so often that we have come to think it truthful.
The practical point of all which is this: Unawares and intensely we have transfered to the God-day our untruthful idea of man-day. Can we not correct ourselves? Ought we not? — thus sparing ourselves the perplexities and mistakes into which we must run, if guided by an untruth.
We may here notice another fact. Nothing is said about time in the whole narrative. Things said, to be sure, which could not have been said, except as there were all the while light and motion, indicators of time. Still, no word about time actually marked out. This because, as we think (and may yet show), time was of no importance, having no partnership in creating; because God did not take time in creating. Creatively, he did not use it.
Confining ourselves to the record, this is all we know about the creative "day" — it was light. To us the divine definition seems good enough; and it seems very plain, very simple. Good enough, without adding or pruning, without stretching or contracting. Good enough, just as it stands, for "all the earth," for "the end of the world," for the wise man and the simple, for the man-mind and the child-mind, for all alike.
Outside the writing, we find "strange talk" about a "God-divided day" and a "God-divided night." The words are, confessedly, suggested only by an " impression," an impression which our own interpretation wonders at, "an impression of strangeness, of vastness, as coming from the account itself — an impression of wonderful things told out of the common use of language."3
God divided — separated — between the light and between the darkness. But he never divided the light; he never divided the darkness; and we ought not to say that he did.
What, now, is the signification-difference between a world-light and a world-day? None at all. The different words express the same reality — pure synonymes. Therefore, if at any time we use the word "day " to express anything else than light, — and conventionally or philosophically or rhetorically we may very properly do so, — we surely use it to express something else than a creative day. In such a case, our word is not the divine word. And we would seriously suggest to the many who speak of the mystery of this revelation (!) whether they may not have been led astray in their conceptions of what is written, by applying (perhaps unconsciously) some meaning to this important word other than that which it here bears — some meaning other than light? Whether, if they keep rigidly and constantly in mind this divine definition, they may not find reason materially to modify their conceptions? We have tried to show, in some particulars, wherein we are all liable to hasty and wrong conclusions, through lack of sufficient care and of sufficient scrutiny of the textual language. We hope we have not erred.
We say — and our reason for it is patent and potent — that "light" and "day," in this account, should be held as pure synonymes; and yet, while world-day was only "light," it was also light in certain phases or conditions. As we have said, light on the world, not in heaven; light on the world, not in the sun, supposing there were one. Light sufficient to displace the very darkness which had been on the entire world, not merely light enough to make manifest a single drop or a superficial inch of the deep.
Rigidly holding that day creative was only light, we take up the modifying phase of that light as expressed in the text: " There was evening and there was morning — one day "; descriptive of the light which was a day. The whole of the light was the day; the day was wholly light; yet the day was evening and morning. Evening and morning, therefore, were light, each of them. The two — that is, light-evening and light-morning — constituted one day, or, if one please, a day; for the simple force of our indefinite article is familiar to the Hebrew cardinal. Whatever, precisely, "evening" and "morning" may mean, "a day" was light under these conditions, or having these characteristic aspects.
Now, what was (עֶרֶב) "evening"? What was (בֹּקָר) "morning"? We stand here as simple inquirers, not taking into consideration at all our previous conclusions, not affirming or denying that there was now a sun, not perplexing ourselves with any outside considerations, as of etymology or philosophy. What do these terms mean, in their belonging to the light, the day? They belong to it here; and we may not apply them to anything else, conceivable or inconceivable, but to the light. We say, then, that in their application to the light or day — the world's light or day — they mean precisely the same as our corresponding English words in the same application. Respectively, the lessening or declining, and the increasing or shooting forth, of that light. Topically, the faint light growing fainter, and the faint light growing stronger. "Evening," light decreasing; "morning," light increasing; "day" proper, the entire light so conditioned. So, in the same application, are the words uniformly used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the text we have an evening-and-morning day. For the sake of perspicuity only, let us now transpose the synonymes before us. " There was evening and there was morning — one light." We have the same reality, the same idea. What, then, was an evening-and-morning light? light fading, light growing? (It was on the world, remember!) We answer: The whole light from that world-point, on the one extreme, where it was at its minimum, increasing thence to its maximum, and thence decreasing to that world-point, on the other extreme, where also it was at its minimum. Or, more simply, the whole light from its feeblest presence on the one extreme to its feeblest presence on the other extreme — the whole world-light; light upon the world; light, with a geographical application; light, with a geographical measurement; light, with a geographical reach; light, within that reach. This, exactly, was "day" — a world-day — a day to be measured not by time, but by geographical degrees, by leagues, by miles. Wherever, between these two extremes, the light touched the deep, there and that was one world-day. Such, in part, is the idea expressed by light or day, with an evening and a morning — by light or day in a condition of simultaneous decrease and increase.
No idea of darkness is here expressed, no idea of motion, no idea of duration, no idea of cessation, no idea of "pause," no idea of succession, no idea of number, other than "one." One light, one day, one evening, one morning, one world, one part of the world. This is all.
Now, excluding what is excluded and grouping what are expressed, — decrease, increase, the world, and reach, — how shall we reason about this light, this day? Of what light can we conceive which could have " made manifest " the deep, and which could have fulfilled only and all the conditions nominated in the text? What light is suggested by the evening-and-morning condition, — to say nothing of the others? What light is peremptorily indicated by a world- light in a condition of evening and morning? The thought which comes to us irresistibly is this — that light or day, so conditioned, must have come from some source beyond the deep and distant from it. In other words, we cannot conceive of any light fulfilling such conditions, unless we accept as a fact the presence of a sun — a natural luminary, emitting a light which could "make manifest" the natural-deep surface, and exist there as morning and evening. In this case, and only in this case, we can conceive of an evening-and- morning light — of an evening and morning " they twain one," they twain one day. We may go farther, and say: Natural light, "making manifest" a natural object, — the deep, — and in an evening-and-morning condition, could not have been furnished in any other mode. And thus the language of the text thrusts this fact upon us. Accepting as verities these avowed conditions of light which made it a world-day, they themselves appear natural and simple when we also accept the presence of a sun as a fact in them involved. Then, and then only. We therefore accept the fact. We cannot help it.
Thus, by a route other than we have before followed, and independent of it, we are again brought face to face with a sun; by other language of the same text too. If there were no sun, is not this a little singular?
Reasoning, as we naturally and properly do, from "evening and morning" to a luminary competent to such evening and morning, we accept also all which is involved in the deduction. Particularly, that the virgin evening-and-morning light or day was produced in the same way as the like light of our own "day"; conventionally speaking, by the setting and rising of the sun. This, we think, is indicated fairly and even cogently by the language employed for our instruction. And we must so hold, until it shall be proved that we are wrong. But this, as well as what we have said before, involves the axial movement, and, of course, the astronomical arrangement, of the world when the light-edict was issued. But observe, we have come at this result, also, by another route.
We have said that light, in a condition of decrease and increase within a certain reach, expresses the creative day only in part. Let us explain.
When God invoked light, he invoked it to "be" on the place of darkness, that is, on the entire deep. But the light falling upon the deep was "separated" from the deep's darkness. The light on the world was where it fell, and elsewhere on the world was yet darkness or no-light. Thus and there the two co-existed. Therefore, when light first came upon the deep, the edict had been fulfilled only in part, — only on that part of the world where light was, and not on that part where as yet no light was. Now, how and when was the light-edict fulfilled? How and when did light get at the whole place of darkness — the whole face of the deep?
Light, conditioned as evening and morning, presents only the idea of a fixed condition. It does not give us any idea of light retiring and advancing from point to point along the surface of the world. And yet this idea of movement is involved in that of evening-and-morning light, when taken in connection with the divine order that it should visit the whole place of darkness. To accomplish the order and to maintain the evening-and-morning condition, there must have been movement. But light, with its evening-and- morning condition, was fixed; for the very separation, as we have shown, declares this. Or, if such declaration be doubted, our compulsive deduction of a sun declares it. Well, the light a fixture, the edict accomplished, and movement essential to the accomplishment, — what follows? The movement must have been an axial movement of the world. Which brings us once more — but this time on the footprints of the day — to an astronomical arrangement of the world, and, of course, to the presence of a cosmos. So, as we read along, every once in a while we are brought up again to the same great underlying facts.
So much for the how the light-edict was accomplished. But the when — when the world-revolution was accomplished, — whether twenty-four minutes, or twenty-four hours, or twenty-four years, as we reckon time. But on this point the record is silent; for God did not use time, and nowhere in the account is time brought to view. At this point we may figure it out if we can. But we cannot do so from the data given; we must get our data elsewhere.
When the world's first revolution after the moment when the light first touched it, which was (as we may show) the very moment when the edict first touched the light, — when the world's revolution after this was exactly accomplished, — then was exactly accomplished one day to the world. And thus, although day was light and light was day, we get the idea of a true world-day only in part, when we think only of the arrival of evening-and-morning light. There is no need of words to show that, as the day was perpetual, and as this revolution was also, therefore the darkness was perpetual also; receding as the day or light advanced; and each, by blending עָרַב), producing evening and morning.
One point more. It is not said, it is not intimated, that the light or day came and withdrew. It is only written, " it was." Invoked, it came; but it was not revoked. And as it could not come without invoking, so it could not withdraw without revoking (a point reserved for confirmation). It was; and it was; and still and ever it was, and has been, and now is. This we must consider true, unless some voucher of revocation is produced. The same light or day, from the same source, on the same world, having the same reach. A local day, a perpetual day, a fixed day. One day, one light, one source, one evening, one morning, one world — one of each — one, the same, of each, ever since. The light has shone steadily, faithfully, with no ebbing and flowing. Only when and where, and always when and where, light has been, then and there has been day. It is a grand and immutable unit. This has three witnesses — "light was," "the light — day," cosmical physics.
On divine authority, however, there were, in the beginning, days successive, days computative — allotments of indivisible, immutable light into individualities admitting of numerical designation. Day but one, and yet days! Where is the agreement? Just here: Really, day is a unit, a perpetual unit; topically, one or more, according as the topos remains in, or goes from, the light or day, which is always one and always there. Of both these facts the record advises us. Of the day perpetual and one, when it says, " Light was "; of days topical, when it says, " God separated between the light or day, and between the darkness or night," both which continued terrestrially to be. But light or day being perpetual, there could not be succeeding lights upon the world, a plane and stationary; nor upon the world, a sphere, unless revolving. Thus related, the light (the more at its meridian, the less at its evening and morning) was day, sectionally considered. But spherically considered, — that is, truthfully, in the entirety of the truth, — it was but part of one day; for one day, thus considered, was not one light merely, but one world-entire light. The revolution completed, one day had been won to the surface of the deep. Not until then had there been one entire day where before had been one entire night. Therefore, day being a very unit, in the numbering of days in this account, is a sort of mathematical demonstration, under the divine finger, that the world was astronomically arranged (sun, moon, and stars) when this numbering began. So here we are, again, with a revolving world and a cosmos.
Any source of light to any topos must be constant, unless the source is cut off, or moves away, or the topos moves without the range of the source. During these days or lights the source did not dry up nor move away, nor did the topos (the world) move out of range. Yet it did move; for it had upon its entire surface successive days or lights. What, then, was its motion? Not being out of range, the motion must have been upon itself; its surface passing along under and out of the day or light. But this is rotary motion. And this rotary motion involves cosmical arrangement, and particularly the existence of a luminary, before which, to meet its own necessities, it presented itself entire. Are we, then, in fault, — are we going beyond the record, — when we affirm the sun to have been the source of day one, and the succession of days to have been occasioned as were days ever after? We think not; unless, indeed, it can be shown that those days or lights had some other source, or were of some other sort, than ours now. If we cannot demonstrate this, why object to our showing exegetically, as we think we do, that the day or light and the sun were the same then as now? Even if we are wrong, not only show our error, and show it by showing the fallacy of our exegesis, but give us in return a sound and exegetical (not theoretical) substitute. For charity's sake, do not take away our crust of bread, and give us only a stone. If we have now a Mosaic day of twenty-four hours, no thanks to darkness for it. A day "consisting of light and darkness" may be well enough in popular parlance; but in a God-sense, and in common sense, day or light never includes darkness or night — dictionaries and critics to the contrary, notwithstanding. Our days are "after the kind" of the first — their progenitor; each making the circuit of the sphere to accomplish its own entirety, and wiping out night all the way, from its own fading evening to its own glowing morning. In the first day we have a standard measure of all world-days — light sweeping from a given point around and backward to it. It is for a reason, and, we think, for a Mosaic reason, that we say, "backward to it"4
In conclusion, we observe that the object of the Mosaic narrative is, exclusively, to set forth the creative work of God upon this world. Of course, he does not set forth the history of other worlds. But if a sun were in existence, and if astronomical teaching were purposely let alone, then the writer necessarily used only just such language as was consistent with, and, of course, indicative of, a sun. But if, indeed, there were no sun, such language as he has used could not have been used in honesty.
1) To show that we are not over-nice, we refer to Neh. viii. 8; and particularly to Job xxiv. 14 (Moses's writing?) where the same word אוֹר "light" occurs which is here used. In the first text, it is translated "morning"; in the other, it evidently means early dawn.
2) Perhaps it was "herbs." See Isa. xviii. 4, where it has this "strange mystic" translation.
3) Lange, p. 131.
4) A word here in regard to Gen. ii. 4. The writer under very different circumstances, however, suddenly uses the word " day " in a new and very different sense. And he does so without giving formal advisement of the change. But not without a real advisement, an advisement consisting in the tacit assumption that both he and his readers were competent to count six. It is of less importance to scrutinize this change, because it bears equally upon any interpretation of the word "day" as used in the first chapter. It troubles us, if at all, no more than it troubles interpreters who differ from us.