In Genesis 1:3 (ESV), it is written,

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

The Hebrew word which is translated into English as "light" is אֹור (or) (Strong's H216).

Is this "light" to be understood literally or figuratively?

  • If literal: Does this include both non-visible & visible light found on the Electromagnetic-Spectrum (Radio to Gamma) / Wave & Particle?

  • If figurative: What is the light symbolizing?

  • If both: What is the complete light?


6 Answers 6


Light has both physical and philosophical aspects. And we have no reason from the language of Genesis 1 to demand that this light was EITHER one OR the other. Every hermeneutic I know of would insist on interpreting this as BOTH physical AND philosophical light. In fact, I suggest that the light created here was nothing less that the very knowledge, word, power and righteousness of God shining forth as His word was uttered.

And this light that was spoken was not created, per se, but a sudden revelation or translation of the knowledge, goodness, power, love and righteousness of very God into the physical medium we call light.

If there ever actually was anything like a "big bang", this was it, when all the matter and energy of the universe was created instantaneously from and through the word of God. It is why the Apostle John says,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. [John 1:1-5]

He equates God's word with God and personifies the Word with the pronoun "him", because God's Word is fullest the expression of Himself.

The Psalmists give the same interpretation of the light as God's word:

The entrance of Your words gives light. Psalm 119:130

and the lights of the heavens as proceeding from His word:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. Psalm 33:6

God's creative power is His Word, and that Word is the very expression of Himself made intelligible to the mind of man. The light is God's medium to convey his knowledge to his creation, particularly to man.

So, turning to your three questions:

  • If literal: Does this include both non-visible & visible light found on the Electromagnetic-Spectrum (Radio to Gamma) / Wave & Particle?

Yes. What we define as "light" is that energy which the sun and stars were created to generate on the fourth day of Creation. The sources of light were created by God, but the light itself is the product of His word, whether by the direct speaking of God or the objects he created to perpetuate that light. I would argue that the light produced by the Sun and stars is less in effect and power than the light that shone on the first three days. But the sun's light is no less the effect of God's word.

  • If figurative: What is the light symbolizing?

If the light is symbolic of anything, it symbolizes God's Word. To Christians it is a symbol of the Messiah, who said, "I am the light of the world" [John 8:12 and 9:5]. But even more than figurative, it is rich with philosophical meaning, as an expression of God's power, love and desire to fill the world with life. Light is often used as a symbol for knowledge. But that would imply that light is something less than knowledge (of which it is a mere symbol). This light is not only a symbol of knowledge, but the medium of all knowledge: we would have no knowledge without the light, as there would be no medium to convey knowledge to our eyes and our mind. The Greek philosophers, Hellenistic Jewish and early Christian philosophers worked this out long ago.

  • If both: What is the complete light?

The "complete light" is that "true light that gives light to every man", which has come into the world in the person of Jesus [John 1:9]. Jesus said of himself "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world". He also said to his disciples, "you are the light of the world" [Matthew 5:14]. Moses' face shone after he had been in the presence of God, so he was "the light of the world" in the same fashion. This light reflected from God in his face was not Moses' own light, but God's light in him. Likewise, Jesus' face shone like the sun on the mount [Matthew 17:1-2]. He is the One who God sent, who was like Moses, bringing God's word and covenant to God's people:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear... Deuteronomy 18:15

The darkness did not "comprehend" God's light, but neither has it in any way "overcome" the light. ("Comprehend" and "overcome" are two of the most common translations given of the Greek word katelaben in John 1:5.)

  • Jesus as light runs throughout the Bible. Ezekiel has a number of cases as well. It's also interesting to note that Sunday is the first day we see in Genesis 1:3, and just as Jesus gave his light to the world upon the Father's command, Jesus rose from the grave at the Father's command on a Sunday.
    – Joshua
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:37
  • I agree, @JoshuaBigbee, though I'm not sure why you say the Lord rose "at the Father's command". Could you provide some references that connect the resurrection to a command from the Father?
    – C. Kelly
    Feb 16, 2016 at 21:48
  • I could show that it was certainly the Father's will but there is not an explicit command like we see in Genesis , I know of, true. Though you could almost take the command on the first day of creation as the foretype. Acts 2:32 says that God raised him up. And certainly the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb at the Father's command.
    – Joshua
    Feb 16, 2016 at 22:33

What is the “Light” of Genesis 1:3?

1 "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters."

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, this means that long ago, possibly many thousands of millions of years God ago created the heavens , that is the luminaries- the sun-stars- moon - galaxies and the earth , long before his first day of creation on the earth.

The First Day.

3 "Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day."

However the light from the sun, the stars and the moon did not reach the earth, obviously the dense mist of water or clouds prevented the light from reaching the surface of the earth. On the first creative day God said "Let there be light" so diffused light from the sun ,the stars and the moon became visible on the surface of the earth.

The Four Day.

The stars , the sun and the moon however were still not visible to an observer on the earth until the fourth day. Note that verse 16 says "God made the two great lights and not created them.

Genesis 1:16-19 (NRSV)

16 "God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day."


If literal: Does this include both non-visible & visible light found on the Electromagnetic-Spectrum (Radio to Gamma) / Wave & Particle?

"Light" is to be understood literally in this verse , since the luminaries were not visible on the first day and only diffused light reached the surface of the earth, similar to that of a cloudy day, I am not in a position to say that all types light you have mentioned reached the surface of earth, but most likely -Yes.



The light is to be understood as figurative.

Genesis 1:3 KJV (3) And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

The light (And God said, “let there be light…”) symbolizes the fullness of the knowledge of God as presented by the words of spirit and life by Jesus who comes to speak to our once darkened hearts (darkness was upon face of the deep).

We respond to the hearing of His words with light (and there was light).

And there was light” = our responding to the dawning light within our hearts is to be with His righteousness… with light. We are to become children of light when we have that light within.

When we hear His living words, that light shines within in our very own once-darkened hearts as the light is commanded to shine out of darkness.

This light shining within our hearts (as the morning dawning of the sun in the darkness) is the personal witness of God within us that testifies to us that this is His Son speaking to our ears whom we are to hear.

We respond to that light (let there be light) with light (and there was light).

We show we know the Son (in the face of Jesus Christ = knowing Him) by doing His commandment to have brotherly love towards those who come speaking His living words. We glorify God by doing His commandments and are able to enter in to know His full knowledge. This light shines within our own earthen vessels and is our own personal witness of God’ s power.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 KJV (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

He comes to open up our once darkened minds to the full knowledge of God and we respond to the light with light (His righteousness).

We are to believe in the light (that shines within our hearts) so that we may become children of the light (not continuing to walk in the “darkness” of envy, strife, hatred, wrath, etc). We are to be found walking in the light as children of light.

John 12:35-37 KJV (35) Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

The sun goes down so-to-speak on those who will not believe in what they hear the Spirit saying and will not be found behaving with His righteousness…with light towards the light. God divides the light from the darkness....the believers from the unbelievers for what communion does light have with darkness. And so we must no longer sit together with them.

They will not respond to the light with light but rather with darkness….evil speaking in wrath. Don’t let the “sun go down” upon your wrath…as Jesus did depart and did hide Himself for those who did not believe on Him. Their light goes away and they do not rejoice in what they hear and cannot enter in to know the full knowledge of God. Even what they had (what little light they had within them) is taken away.

(36) While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (37) But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

This morning light….the day dawning within our very own hearts at the hearing of His voice opening up the full knowledge of God…testifies that this is God’s Son speaking to us whom we are to hear.

We are to take heed unto a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the “day star” (the Morning Star) arises in our very own hearts.

Jesus opens up the Scriptures to our once-darkened minds and we are to take heed on how we hear until the full light of day arises in our hearts and there is no more darkness…no more lack of knowledge of God.

2 Peter 1:18-21 KJV (18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

He opens up the Scriptures to our hearing ears via those sent by Him who are moved by the Spirit to speak (the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters). Men always have and continue to speak (the “waters” of people, words, languages) as they are moved by the Holy Spirit (the living waters).

(21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

This “morning star” within our very own hearts is the personal witness of God of His Son toward us and this is His Son whom we are to hear. We may receive the testimony of men sent by Jesus to speak His of life and spirit but the witness of God of His Son within our very own hearts is greater and we are then to take heed on how we hear.

Jesus is the Morning Star. The morning star is the sign within our very own hearts of the Son of man speaking to us from Heaven…and we are to hear Him.

The Son of man speaks to us from Heaven and those who are dwelling in those things above (love, peace, patience, etc) shall rejoice. The “morning stars” shall rejoice in what they hear.

But those who dwell on the earth (in earthly wisdom of envy, strife, wrath, hatred, etc) will mourn what they hear as the darkness comes upon them as their light goes away in their unbelief of what they hear.

Matthew 24:30 KJV (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

We are to be found of Him keeping His sacrifice and die to sin (not speaking evil) at the hearing of His living words. The Son of man must be lifted up…as the dawning sun arises in the sky until the darkness completely disappears.

The light that shines within our own hearts is the sign of the Son of man who is in Heaven speaking to us from there.

False prophets do not have this internal sign of the Son of man appearing (arising as the morning star/sun within our hearts) within us as they must "arise" by using outward signs and wonders to deceive us into believing their words.

Matthew 24:24-27 KJV (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before.

They perform outward signs of supposed inward realities (behold, He is in the secret chambers…within the heart now).

(26) Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

Yet, we are told that the sign of the PRESENCE (coming) of the Son of man is the light breaking within our very own hearts and is very apparent as compared to false prophets who do not have this effect upon our hearts.

The morning sun shines…flashes…in the darkness of the early morning from the east (rising of light) unto the west (in the darkness where the sun had gone down once). We readily know it is Him speaking then as that light is within us shines in the once-darkened place of our hearts.

(27) For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.


Currently, scientists believe that light appeared before stars were formed. Compare Genesis with a Wikipedia description of the early chronology of the universe, the initial “cosmic dark ages” that are believed to have lasted several hundred million years:

Before decoupling occurred, most of the photons in the universe were interacting with electrons and protons in the photon–baryon fluid. The universe was opaque or "foggy" as a result. There was light but not light we can now observe through telescopes. The baryonic matter in the universe consisted of ionized plasma, and it only became neutral when it gained free electrons during "recombination", thereby releasing the photons creating the CMB [Cosmic Microwave Background]. When the photons were released (or decoupled) the universe became transparent.

Thus, according to current scientific theory, the universe was initially dark and fluid. Then, the universe went through an inflationary stage or two, changed from opaque to transparent, and light became visible. At a later point, stars were able to form.

While I don't advocate attempting to sync the Bible with current scientific theories--after all, they do change as new discoveries are made--but rather accept Biblical narratives without scientific skepticism. The Bible might turn out to be true after all . . .


See the appendix below for an outline of Gen 1 creation account. Before answering the question, let me observe several things about this creation account

  1. God does not create light on day #1 - He just says, let there be light. Presumably, since God has always existed, so has light according to 1 John 1:5.
  2. Gen 1:1 (creating the heavens and the earth) is merely a summary of what follows. More specifically, the "heavens": (or better Heb: shamayim = atmosphere here, where the birds fly, Gen 1:20, etc) were created on day #2 (V7, 8) out of the expanse between the waters above and the waters below. The earth/land was created on day #3 (V9, 10) when the waters were separated from the seas.
  3. The record does not state that the sun and moon were created on day 4. Despite Hebrew having perfectly serviceable words for sun and moon, these words are not mentioned. Day four simply says that the light from these bodies appeared on day #4. Further, the records does NOT say that God made the stars on day #4 - here is my very literal translation of the Gen 1:14-16 -

And God said, let there be lights in the expanse of the sky/heavens to divide between the day and between the night, and let them be for signs and seasons for days and years. And let them be for lights in the expanse of the sky/heavens to shine upon the earth and it was so. And God made two great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night and the stars.

Thus, the stars appear to provide light along with the light from the moon to rule the night.

  1. The record in Gen 1 is written entirely from a phenomenological point of view, ie, what a person would have seen if on the earth at the time these events took place. It is entirely possible that the sun and moon (and stars) existed prior to creation week (created at an earlier time by God) but that their light became visible on day #4.

  2. (For completeness only) there is no record of the creation of what we now call "planet earth" in this record. Indeed, before the events of day #1 as recorded in V3-5, the earth appears to have already existed, presumably being created earlier at an unspecified time. Further, there is no record in Gen 1 of the stars being created either.

Thus, there is no contradiction between light appearing on day #1 and the light from the sun and moon appearing on day #4.

APPENDIX - Genesis 1 Outline

Understanding the creation account in Genesis involves the three key concepts listed in Gen 1:2

Now the earth was (1) formless/chaotic and (2) void/empty, and (3) darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Note the three significant words here:

תֹּהוּ (tohu) = formlessness, chaotic בֹּהוּ (bohu) = emptiness חשֶׁךְ (choshek) = darkness

See also Jer 4:23. The succeeding account of creation of our world, God sets about giving it form/shape, filling it and banishing darkness.

Thus, God's first act is separate light from darkness by providing light.

[Note: I do not think God actually created light at this moment because light has always been integral to God's existence as per 1 John 1:5.]

The six days of creation naturally fall into two sets of three:

Days 1-3 - Separation/forming

  • day 1: God separates light from darkness and thus creates day/night
  • day 2: God separates waters above from the waters below and thus creates the "heavens"
  • day 3: God separates dry land ("earth") from seas and creates vegetation

Days 4-6 - Population/filling

  • day 4: God places lights in the day and lights in the night
  • day 5: God places birds in the heavens and creatures in the sea
  • day 6: God places animals on the land and creates humans
  • I was taught 1 John 1.5 and Psalm 104.2 suggest that God intentionally created light to contain his attributes, but this doesn't prohibit creation of light at a later date. E.g. if I say "God is angry" or 'God is my strength" that does not mean he was always angry or that my strength has no creation date. Admittedly this type of metaphysics is always speculative, but a combined reading of 1 John 1.5 and Psalm 104.2 should support it.
    – Robert
    Aug 17, 2022 at 3:30
  • The assumption that comes with your response is that Creation is not in Genesis 1. According to you, Creation happened prior. When it says “let there be” it means there was not, and when it says there was, (this immediately following the statement let there be) that means it didn’t exist prior. God didn’t say, let the lights reveal themselves or let them be exposed or let the light finally reach earth. He said let them exist היה . Or LXX γίνομαι let them come into existence. Why are you twisting the simple reading of the text? What are you trying to force? Modern secular godless cosmology? Aug 17, 2022 at 4:09
  • @NihilSineDeo - I think we have been here before. We disagree. So, when do you believe God created the sun, planet earth and the stars?
    – Dottard
    Aug 17, 2022 at 5:14
  • I believe as it is written! Approximately 6,950 years ago (using Essene Calendar) on day 1 the universe was made, the earth in its raw form and the waters on top together with light, day 2 the firmament separated the waters above the firmament with the waters beneath and on day 4 God placed lights in the firmament, that is two great lights and the stars also. Exactly like the Bible says, a powerful God called into existence everything within six short days. Prior to day one there was nothing, no heaven, no heavenly beings, no spec of dust, no “singularity”, no nothing. Aug 17, 2022 at 10:14
  • @NihilSineDeo - OK. Then (1) how did the light from the stars arrive at earth so quickly across thousands of light-years. Further, (2) how is it that the spaces between the waters above and the waters below (our atmosphere) have the sun and moon in them?
    – Dottard
    Aug 17, 2022 at 21:06

I truly appreciate and respect your faith in the earth being 6995 years, but there is simply way too much evidence that points to the earths earlier existence, and creation by God in a prior age. We simply do not have any written evidence of such historical creation, because it was all destroyed in the apocalyptic event that must’ve taken place prior to Genesis 1:1.
By faith, I, accept, and believe everything written in the word of God, starting with Genesis 1:1, however, dating the earth to be just less than 7000 years old by a Calendar, created by men in my opinion, is no different than believing that there was prior existence of life on the Earth prior to Gen 1:1. You see, both beliefs, run off the pages of the Bible. The difference is that you’re dating of the earth is based on a religious calendar versus the prior existence to earth, as believed by big bang theorists. I’ll give one clue only to back up the reasoning for my belief and again I don’t consider my belief a canon I just believe it to be a theory that we will find out when we are transformed into celestial beings and we become one with God and have all knowledge… It is in the fact that the Earth was in a state that in my belief, according to everything I know about God, God does not create darkness chaos, void desolation, waste, obscurity, sorrow, death, and misery and destruction. What I mean to say, is that the earth’s condition in genesis chapter 1:1 is not representative of God‘s original creation. What I do know is that God takes what is intended for harm, bad, evil, and turns it into good, according to the book of Romans 8:28… Another thought to ponder is the fact that the Earth was covered with water. Water covered the face of the deep. Very similar to Genesis chapter 6, where God made it rain and springs came up from the ground and flooded the whole entire earth killing every living thing with the breath of God. Of course, with the exception of those who were on the ark, along with all the animals that God led to the ark to be saved, because Noah found Grace’s in the eyes of God. And the last question to entertain is, why would God make such a deep promise to never kill life on earth again by water, and even create the rainbow as a reminder of this promise, the eternal covenant that he made to Noah? Could it be that he flooded the earth before? Again, I don’t claim to know, I simply ask the questions that are hard to answer, because we do not have any written evidence of anything prior to Genesis 1:1.

I do believe that a Christian that is blind to the realities of prehistoric existence runs the risk of being called shortsighted, and thus ridiculed by the rest of the nonbelieving world. I believe that more people can be saved if we at least open our minds and our hearts enough to be able to except the fact that we are not all knowing. Only God is, and that with God all things are possible. 🤷🏻‍♂️

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