In his book on "Rhenish mysticism" (La mystique rhénane, Paris : Le Seuil, 1994 [1984]), Alain de Libera quotes Psalm 35:10 : "nous voyons la lumière dans la lumière" ("we see the light in/within the light")

1. Reference. This passage appears to in Psalm 36:9, but it is in various publications referenced as 35:10, and I would like to know the reason of that (probably a naive question). Here is the passage (NIV) :

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

2. Mystical knowledge and exotericism. According to De Libera, this expression ("light in the the light") is quoted by Ulrich of Strasbourg, for whom mystical knowledge does not consist in seeing the concealed (the dark, the hidden) but in seeing the "light of/in/within the light". The original expression, in context, does not seem to express something like an "awakening" to "exoteric" knowledge, does it ? Is there something I'm missing, which could feed Ulrich's reading ?

3. Broadening. Are there similar expressions in the biblical corpus, where light appears to be two different things, if not itself "divided" ? Here, there seems to be on the one hand as a divine source ("your light") and an operation (light illuminates, embraces), and on the other hand something that "exists", is "visible", is graspable as such.

Thank you for your answers.

  • I think you mean Ps 36:9 NOT Ps 35:10?
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 1:28
  • If the light that is in a man is darkness, how great is that darkness, Matthew 6:23. We need light within us to see the Light that is outside. That's why John was sent : to be a witness (a burning and shining light, John 5:35) to the Light that men could not see.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:09
  • @Dottard Well it is often quoted as 35:10, but I find it online as 36:9. Once, I found this reference : "35:10 (36:9)", which made me think there might be two versions or two reference systems.
    – Arntjine
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 10:52
  • @Nigel J So the God's Light, or God-as-Light would be the environnemental light so to say, the luminous orb, the common condition of knowledge/lucidity, allowing us to acknowledge the light in itsel (not just its "operation" of making things visible) ?
    – Arntjine
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 10:52
  • @Arntjine No, I would not say so. Mankind is in darkness because of the Fall, because of sin. It is a new birth which brings God into the soul, then Light is within. An in that light, one sees light.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 12:26

1 Answer 1


On the meaning of Ps 36:9, "For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light", Ellicott suggests:

In thy light.—Better, by thy light. … It contains the germ of that moral and spiritual teaching which had its highest development in the Epistles of St. John. But the original intention of the words seems to be that the favour and bounty of God commend themselves as divine in origin, especially to those in the covenant relation.

Benson further suggests:

In thy light — In the knowledge of thee in grace, and the vision of thee in glory; especially in the latter; in the light of thy countenance, or glorious presence, which then shall be fully manifested unto us, when we shall see thee clearly and face to face, and not through a glass and darkly, as we now see; shall we see light — The light of life, as it is called, John 8:12; light in this clause being the same thing with life in the former: pure light without any mixture of darkness; knowledge without ignorance, holiness without sin, happiness without misery. The word light is elegantly repeated in another signification; in the former clause it is light discovering, in this, light discovered or enjoyed. His final sentence is the best summary. The Psalmist uses the term, "light", in the sense of spiritual illumination. John 8:12ff has a very similar use and contains an extended discussion on this topic.

My own Christo-centric view of the Bible strongly biases me toward see Jesus' comment in John 8:12 as a direct reference to this passage: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life."

Jesus' further illustrated this in the enacted parable of John 9 (the healing of the man born blind). There is a fascinating exchange between Jesus and some Pharisees at the end of the chapter (V39-41) where we read:

Then Jesus declared,

“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they asked Him, “Are we blind too?” “If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

This throws great "light" on Ps 36:9.

Final comment about the reference: In English Bibles the above text is Ps 36:9. However, in the LXX, it appears as Ps 35:10 for some complicated reasons that need not distract us here.

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