It’s not intuitive, but I think Chris is right. See the post (218) above for some scholarly documentation.
The wording of Genesis would be pretty much a slap in the face of anyone who believed that the Sun was the only source of light.
It is neither proper cosmology nor proper physics.
Here are some interesting verses that reflect the light of the sun.
The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven days. Isaiah 30.26.
I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’" So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down. Isaiah 38.8.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Sam 23.4
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. Prov 4.18
Fascinating. Reminds me of the recent visitor who refused to believe that the ancients did not associate thought or emotion with the organ we call the “brain.” No matter how many references to “kidneys” or “heart” or other organs as the seat of reason and emotion, he refused to believe that people would be so “stupid” as to not notice “what was going on in their heads.”
And that one is not actually that bad of a deduction. Even in modern English we talk about having a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, butterflies in your stomach, your stomach jumping into your throat to describe emotions of anxiety, anticipation, fear, because that is where you feel the effects of adrenaline. We also talk about knowing something in your gut. There is actually something called the “gut-brain axis” that neurologists use to describe the 100 million neurons that link the brain to the stomach and intestines. So it’s not that the ancients were too dumb to make observations, they just drew inaccurate conclusions from them.
True. I would point out, though, that the “how can there be light without the sun” question is not entirely a modern worry, since Origen and several other patristic commentators reflect on the problem.
And that’s why I am quick to remind Bible researchers (those who are quick to put a modern spin on old words) that even the wise Egyptians disposed of the “icky” brain matter of the Pharaoh’s skull as totally useless (emptying the brain cavity as completely as possible), compared to the valuable organs stored, eternally, in four canopic jars (though, during the Old Kingdom, it seems they were not filled, but used symbolically:
To support your comment. The ancients had a minimal data set from which to draw conclusions. They had no microscopes, possibly a dissection taboo , minimal writing material with which to accumulate knowledge and so on. About the only way they could have understood the function of the brain was to observe concussions and even here serious blows to the chest are also serious and potentially fatal. Certianly personal experience is no adequate to the task
It is interesting that many cultures bored holes in the skull, so perhaps they had some idea that the brain controlled something, though perhaps it was related more to the release of evil spirits. In any case, they must have thought it had some significance.
That is a reasonable conclusion. Just what they thought the brain did probably varied by culture.
In all of this we should be respectful of the ancients intellect and thankful for the accumulated body of knowledge to which we now have access. Good results requires good data requires good experiments and good thinking. Access requires that the knowledge exists, it be generally available and our personal situation give us the chance to read it.
This is cautionary to those who would disrespect present day cultures for their backwardness by our standards. For them it is not generally available since it is in a (to them) foreign language and if one works 12 hours a day there is little time to read it anyway
Science writer Carl Zimmer has written an excellent book on the “discovery” of the brain. I highly recommend it!
Amen! I grew up in West Africa, the son of missionaries. The folks there are extremely intelligent and have all sorts of innovations for farming, metalworking, etc that I don’t see here. In fact, some tribes (the Igbo, for example), are widely known for their academic prowess. Culturally, they value as many university degrees as possible. They seem to do better than the average upper class American, for example.
I took the time and read aforementioned JOT article and, for starters, noticed there’s a conflation in Christy’s statement. The article’s author, John R. Roberts, a Genesis 1-11 specialist, is the one who concluded from reviewing ANE literature that, “daylight is independent of the sun". The statement about sun only providing only, “warmth”, and not light, was the conclusion of Aalen, one of the scholars cited.
And as it turns out, neither conclusion is justified, at least not IMHO.
First, a refutation of the conclusion that the ANE held that daylight was independent from the sun. In all, the evidence is a mixed bag. Robert states that the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish has days before the sun was created. He states that in one of the Egyptian accounts, “From there the creator, the sun god, Ra, the embodiment of all life and energy, all light and warmth, rose for the first time casting his radiant light on the world.” But that to me says that the author of the account sees the sun as providing light for the earth. Some Sumerian accounts, not all, have daylight as independent of the sun. So, according to the evidence presented, there really is no overarching ANE view of, “daylight independent of the sun”.
And despite the above quote stating Ra provided light and warmth at creation, Roberts states the following:
The ancient Egyptians believed that at the end of the day, Nut swallowed the sun god, Ra—and gave birth to him again the next morning. They had a book of the day and a book of the night. The day and the night were each divided into twelve hours. The book of the day described the passage of the twelve hours of day and the book of the night, the passage of the twelve hours of night. Ra is depicted travelling through the day and the night. The day and the night are therefore independent of the sun god Ra.
Ra gets swallowed up by Nut, which gives birth to night, then gives birth to Ra the next morning, giving birth to day. But Roberts still concludes that, “Ra is depicted travelling through the day and the night. The day and the night are therefore independent of the sun god Ra.” Again, I just don’t agree with Robert’s conclusion, which actually seems to contradict not only the above but the following statement as well.:
There are two openings in the sky—the East Gate and the West Gate. The sun enters through one in the morning and exits through the other at dusk. During the night it follows the dark path of the underworld back to the East Gate.
This common worldview, as Roberts calls it, of the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptians, shows that daylight, which disappears when the sun is following the dark path, is in fact dependent on the sun.
Turning to the biblical evidence that the sun only was thought to provide warmth and not daylight, Aalen says:
I find that Aalen is simply being misleading here. He’s trying to make the point that light in these passages comes from all the heavenly bodies, not just the sun. However, that point is simply not valid per the evidence.(Passages below from the NIV)
The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted. (Isaiah 30:26)
This passage does in fact mention sunlight on its own. It only compares the moonlight to sunlight, but they are presented as separate entities.
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. (Isaiah 60:19)
In this passage Isaiah not only sees sunlight and moonlight as separate entities, he also clearly sees the sun as being the, “light by day”.
'This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is his name:' (Jeremiah 31:35)
Again, sunlight is presented as distinct from moonlight and starlight, and is presented as the source of light in the day, and the moon and stars the source of light at night, as stated in Genesis 1:14-8. If anything, these passages show evidence FOR the ancient Hebrews seeing the sun as being responsible for daylight.
Here are supposed evidences from the Brown, Driver and Briggs OT Lexicon (1906):
“However, passages such as Pro 4.18; Ecc 12.2; Isa 5.30 suggest that in the biblical worldview the day has its own light independent of the sun.”
The 3 passages in the NIV are, in order, as follows:
The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
In that day they will roar over it like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks at the land, there is only darkness and distress; even the sun will be darkened by clouds.
In these poetic passages, first, the path of the righteous is compared to the morning sun, “shining ever brighter until the full light of day”. Translating the Hebrew, ‘or’ as “morning gleam” (as in other translations) instead of, “morning sun” doesn’t change anything, because the morning gleam, or sunshine, can only be due to the sun. The second passage can be interpreted any number of ways. The third merely says that the clouds will darken the sun. I guess he means to say that there is no sunlight with clouds according to the passage, but that’s not what it’s saying. It’s clear - these passages simply don’t support the conclusion that, “the day has its own light, independent of the sun”.
And isn’t the whole point made moot by the first chapter of the bible itself, which says in Genesis 1:14-8:
‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.’
It’s clear that the author saw the sun as the source of daylight, and the moon for night-time light (presumably the stars for night-light as well, from the way the verse is worded and Jeremiah 31:35). There is no other light source.
Having given up on concording Genesis 1 with science, I adopted the Framework Theory as an explanation for the text, which I see as wholly theological in nature. The framework schema is:
(That is from my apologetic paper that argues against concordance, which you may read here here if you like.) According to the theory, God created 3, “kingdoms”, in days 1 through 3 then filled them in with their ruling, “kings” in days 4-6. If this theory is correct, then the light in vs. 3-5 is to create the kingdom for it’s rulers, the sun, moon and stars. It doesn’t relate to anything that happened in the physical world, which should be sensible in the non-corcordist view. If you want to concord that text with science, then you have 2 discomforting options. One, that there was some sort of light God provided for the the first 3 days that disappeared in day 4, which theologically is semi-absurd. Or, which is popular now, that the sun, moon and stars were already in existence but appeared on day 4 when the methane haze disappeared, causing the sky to form which allowed the lights to become visible. But then why does the text state that the luminaries were, “created” on day 4? That just shows the impossibility of Genesis 1 to be concorded.
I could have made this response much longer, every passage I checked out from the article, and there were probably 10 more that I did, didn’t say what the author said they did. But the lesson for this post is not what to believe the light in Genesis 1:3-5 is, it’s that just because a scholar (or scholars, Roberts and Aalen in this case) says he/she proved something from a list of passages, it doesn’t mean they did. Everyone has a bias - Roberts, the author, is on the conservative side, wanting to accept the traditional interpretations whenever possible, though he shows stout objectivity with the, ‘raqia’, stating that it can only mean a solid dome (though I’m not sure what Roberts’ presupposition would be for, “light before the sun”, other than wanting to avoid a logical incoherence or that the bible mentioned something that has no correlate in the real world). That said, it’s easy to commit bible eisegesis, reading our presuppositions into a text, rather than exegesis, or proper, objective interpretation, and that’s what I believe Roberts and Aalen (and others in the article) did with passages on the sun and light in the bible.
Obviously we can’t speak definitively about what goes on in other people’s brains, but it is my impression that the article was meant to counter concordist arguments like one finds at RTB where the sun is created before Day 4 but the atmosphere is obscured so only the light gets through until Day 4 where the sun “appears” from an earthly perspective. I would guess a good percentage of the Journal of Translation audience doesn’t think ANE cosmology should have much to bear on how we read Genesis and that the Genesis account must be reconciled with our modern view of reality in order to uphold inerrancy. Roberts advocates the framework view of Genesis and has argued that Genesis describes a different reality (stemming from a different concept of the cosmos) than our modern scientific one, so there is really nothing we need to “reconcile” when we see light before the sun, (just like we don’t need to postulate a pre-Flood physical canopy holding back water.) I agree with this approach. If the idea that light before/independent of the sun was not a conceptual hangup for the ancients, it is not something we need to reconcile with our scientific reality. I concede that saying the ancients could easily conceive of light independent of the sun and saying they did not know the sun was the source of light are two different assertions. I think the passages strongly suggest the first, though you are right they do not prove the second.
It is hard to forget what you already know but just try to imagine what people back then would think. Consider what they could observe for themselves.
At night with no moon just stars there is very little light available. It must be coming from the stars as they are the only sources of light that are visible. This they got right.
Now the moon rises and there is more light available. Source must be the moon. The moon evidently doesn’t provide warmth. Almost right but the moon just reflects sunlight.
Consider just before dawn. The sky begins to turn from black to blue. There is more light available than at night so the source must be the sky. So the daytime sky does provide some light. Wrong, but understandable. They were unaware of the scattering of sunlight.
Now the sun comes up and there is even more light available. You can also stand in the sunlight and feel the warmth so the sun must also provide warmth. Back to being right.
Additional observation. During a solar eclipse the Sun is hidden but it doesn’t become as dark as night so again the sky must be providing some light.
This would be the science (observations that form the basis for an understanding of how things work) for that time period and is what the Bible uses. Which results in light before the sun is created.
The science, or world-view expressed in Genesis 1, is the ANE idea of a 3-tiered universe, where the sun rises in eastern horizon and travels in the raqia to disappear under the western horizon. During that time it’s easy to see that it radiates light in all directions, so it would have been easy for ancients to conceptualize light radiating from the just-hidden sun, which they knew was about to rise or had just disappeared, onto the raqia. The same would similarly be true with an eclipse.
I think that ancients could have conceptualized light as an independent entity, but I don’t think they could have seen daylight as coming from anything other than the sun.
Then you have to explain what was intended by the presence of light … even before the Sun was created?
As I stated above (in the post you liked so much ) I don’t think that Genesis 1:3-5 refers to anything in the physical world. It’s a theological statement that light is one of the essential elements in the functioning earth, it’s good, and is a theoretical placeholder for the luminaries which come in on day 4.