Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Darkness and light: from Genesis to John

To go to a baby of mine, let's look at the first chapter of Genesis. "Now the earth was without form and void ('tohu', used only one other time in the pentateuch); and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters....And God said 'Let there be light.' "

First off, this is the primal theophany. I will simply leave it at that, as I don't want to get sidetracked.

Secondly, and this is where I'm headed, this section is alluded to by (you could even say "interpreted by") John several times, most notably in John 1: "In the beginning was the Word (logos)...He is the true light which lightens every man which cometh into the world..." and in First John 1: "That which was from the beginning...This is the message that we have heard from Him and declare to you: that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all..."

An interesting theory is put forward by Peter Leithart: "John uses the word "darkness" seven times in his first epistle. Assuming that he uses the imagery in the same way he does in the gospel, I surmise that the light/dark language of 1 John is about the conflicts of Judaism/Judaizers and the church."--http://www.leithart.com/archives/002348.php

Assuming Leithart to be correct (generally a safe assumption) gives more weight to the interpretation in John "And the light shines into the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not...".

Also, without going into the Hebrew, I'm going to descend from the abstract and touch on the practical implications (which are very interesting) of the creation in light of this typological reading of John.

First, God did not destroy the darkness, but rather divided it from the light. In the same way, He does not destroy His enemies as we might expect, but calls us to be separate from them. But this is not universalism by any means: "And there shall be no night there..." --John in Rev. 22:5.

Second, as there is no cosmic battle between light and darkness, there is no great battle between God and the enemies of the church. Light is, dark is merely its absence. There is God, Who Is, and there is lack of God; God and God-less. The sun rises and the darkness is no more. God speaks, and His Words come to pass. Why do we view God as though He were an impotent version of His creation?

Finally, what does darkness do for us aesthetically? I would hold that it makes us appreciate the light. And what does Scripture say? "...the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining..."

There was evening (then the Morning Star) and morning, then the first day.

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