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Late in the Gospel of Luke we read:

Luke 23:44-46: "It was now about the sixth hour [noon], and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour [3 pm], 45because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.' Having said this, He breathed His last."

The text reads "the sun was obscured." But no mere eclipse has ever lasted for 3 (or more) hours. Might we interpret this darkness as Christ, the Light of the world, being extinguished through His final hours of death?

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    Jesus only claims to be "the light of the world" in John, so it's odd that Luke wouldn't mention this if that's what he had in mind here. I'd avoid taking a conclusion to the text and then trying to substantiate it.
    – Steve Taylor
    Sep 20 at 20:03
  • @SteveTaylor It's true that this identity ("light of the world") appears in John, but I would argue that the four-fold perspective of Christ from all the Gospels (combined) often expects us to understand what each of the others is relating. There are many instances in which a single account just doesn't tell us the full story and we need to read one or more others to fully grasp the intended message. This may be one of them. Just some thoughts.
    – Xeno
    Sep 20 at 23:02
  • Definitely yes, it is a good point really. Those authors present symbolism as literal events.
    – Michael16
    Sep 21 at 2:24
  • @Xeno - exegetically speaking, if there's no evidence from the text of the interpretation you're seeking to justify, won't any answer in favour of this position be inevitably opinion-based?
    – Steve Taylor
    Sep 21 at 5:11
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    @Steve Thanks for your comment. It seems to me that there is. Matt. 27:51-54: "And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many." The centurion (and others) became very frightened saying: "Truly this was the Son of God!” All of these events are miraculous. Thus, as with the darkness, I presume this must have been yet another act of God.
    – Xeno
    Sep 21 at 5:35
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The darkness was from the sixth hour to the ninth hour.

At the ninth hour, light returned.

At the ninth hour, Jesus cried 'It is finished !'

Thus the (very real) darkness, figuratively obscured what was happening. But once what was happening was 'finished !' - light returned.

As I understand these events, the darkness was figurative of the darkness of nature which does not (and cannot) perceive what was occurring within Deity as Jesus was crucified.

Later, with the enlightenment of the apostolic writings we learn, if we have faith to learn it, that 'he bore our sins in his body on the tree'. And 'he was made (or 'effected') sin for us'.

Only if God grants us the light of revelation will we see through the darkness of unbelieving nature and perceive what truly occurred in the three hours of Christ's passion.

Otherwise, it is obscure.

But with his cry, all is resolved, and in his death, sin is eradicated.


I would see the 'Light of the world' as being something different, something other than the light returning after Christ's sufferings were complete and his expiry imminent.

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NIV Luke 23:

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

I read this literally. For some atmospherical reason, sunlight was obscured. It was a sign but there was more in a parallel account in Matthew 27:

51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and e went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

There was also a geological event/sign. Both signs were physical.

Can we interpret darkness falling over all the land as Christ, "the Light of the world" being extinguished during His death (Lk. 23:44-46)?

Sure but there is no need to deny the atmospherical and geological signs.

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We must be careful here to distinguish between the literal and the metaphoric.

  • Luke 23:44-46 describes a literal (physical) event of darkness
  • Jesus as the "Light of the world" (John 1:4, 8:12, etc) is a metaphoric declaration involving spiritual illumination (see Rev 5:6 and Zech 4:10).

Now, it is true that literal/physical things are very often used to teach spiritual lessons as per Jesus' frequent use of parables. However, such a connection between any specific literal phenomenon and a corresponding spiritual/metaphoric meaning should only be drawn where the Bible text does so. If this rule is not observed we run the risk of mythologizing all of the NT narratives as Origen and the Kabbalists were infamous for doing. See 1 Cor 4:6 where Paul instructs not to go beyond what is written.

[Note: Jesus being crucified at Passover on the 14th of the month means that it would have been full moon and thus a lunar eclipse was impossible.]

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  • I believe there is significantly more occurring here. Matt. 27:51-54: "And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many." The centurion (and others) became very frightened saying: "Truly this was the Son of God!” All of these events appear to be miraculous. Thus, as with the darkness none of this could have been mere coincidence.
    – Xeno
    Sep 20 at 23:13
  • @Xeno - I agree - none was coincidence and all were miraculous but they were still literally true and not metaphoric.
    – Dottard
    Sep 20 at 23:56
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The symbolical interpretation perfectly explains that account. Definition of Imagery as a literary device:

Imagery is a literary device that refers to the use of figurative language to evoke a sensory experience or create a picture with words for a reader. By utilizing effective descriptive language and figures of speech, writers appeal to a reader’s senses of sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound, as well as internal emotion and feelings. Therefore, imagery is not limited to visual representations or mental images, but also includes physical sensations and internal emotions.

The Biblical literature is full of mysticism, idioms, symbolism, figures of speech and imagery. However, when the religion was received by the pagans or nations, they had a hard time understanding the Jewish literature & theology. Something which is still unchanged to date, it seems. For instance, the Gentile "Christians", after completely breaking off from the authentic Jewish Church teachings, did not understand the concept of Sonship or begetting of the Son.

According to the Eastern Orthodox view, the Son is derived from the Father who alone is without cause or origin. In other words, the Father physically begot and caused the Son into existence from his own nature or, say his body. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Nicene creed says, "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father." Both of these early Gentile creeds apparently proves that they believed God the father at some point physically begot the Son. One divine person reproducing two others from himself. Thereby turning the nature of God no different from the beasts. These pagans' imagination and intellect did not exceed beyond their background of mythology, that they turned the God of the Bible as an asexual beast.

Asexual reproduction is a type of reproduction that does not involve the fusion of gametes or change in the number of chromosomes. The offspring that arise by asexual reproduction from either unicellular or multicellular organisms inherit the full set of genes of their single parent.

It is a travesty that the modern mainstream Christians, even the Evangelicals who claim to be independent of any tradition and trace their doctrine upon the Bible alone, maintain the same paganized misinterpretation of the Jewish Scriptures. It is wrong to assume that such interpretation as proposed by the topic leads to reductio ad absurdum. That we fear such an approach is a slippery slope which will reduce the core historicity of the Gospel into symbolism, turning Jesus into a myth, like what some atheists like Robert M. Price argue. One must forgive the new-age atheists on their misunderstanding of the Bible, when the Christians themselves do not know much.

If we truly believe in the Bible alone, rather than basing our theology on some tradition of ignorant Gentiles, who were uneducated and unwise on every manner of the scripture. We should have no problem that the reference in Luke 23:44-46, is an imagery by the author to depict the significance of the death of the true light. This is very similar to the account of Matt 27:51-54. True exegesis is one that takes into account of the overall text and the literary genre. If the author meant the account as a dramatic imagery, he would not present it with a disclaimer or explanatory note within the text. We don't find any such disclaimer that says, "this is a figure of speech" within the text, yet we know of the figures of speech from the nature of the literature.

A modern parallel to such an imagery is the depiction of Jesus crushing a serpent in the Gethsemane, in the movie Passion of Christ, capturing the allusion to Gen 3:15. Think about various details such as the song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55; a naive man who forces the absolute documentation view upon the text would imagine that such personal thoughts and words were recorded by Luke in a revealing personal interview, perhaps, as in the Oprah Winfrey show.

People believe that divine inspiration means the God literally wrote the scripture. This ignores the true meaning of inspiration and removes the human aspect of the literature. John is not alone in using the symbolism of light of the world for Christ. The narrative of the Gospels contain many theatrical portrayals of the accounts not actually happened, but meant as an exposition of the actual events. It is for the purpose that the readers may believe. The purpose of such dramatic literary device is the forceful emphasis. It is not a modern documentary.

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