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I am studying what Jesus means when he said that he is the light of the world in John 8:12. Light as I understand it is used in the bible to contrast with darkness. Darkness being the deeds of evil and light being the deeds of life. So is Jesus saying he is the good of the world. Or he is the one with the answers? Based on John 1:4

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [b]comprehend it.

I know that this light has something do with having life. What do you people say?

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  • Can you think of a better metaphor for good and evil, than light and darkness? People say "how can God allow evil", but if evil is the default, and God is the opposite, I find it easier to comprehend.
    – Dagelf
    May 17, 2023 at 9:56

5 Answers 5

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Jesus made much of being the light of the world and this was emphasized by John:

  • John 1:4 - In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
  • John 1:9 - The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world.
  • John 8:12 - Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • John 9:5 - While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Throughout Scripture, light and darkness are used as metaphors of truth and eternal life vs untruth and death. Thus, light is constantly associated truth, enlightenment, eternal life, etc. Note the following:

  • Job 33:30 - to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life.
  • Isa 53:11 - After the anguish of His [Messiah's] soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.
  • Isa 56:13 - For You have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

The OT also makes clear who is the source of the "light of life" -

  • Ps 27:1 - The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—whom shall I dread?
  • Ps 118:27 - The LORD is God; He has made His light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
  • Micah 7:8 - Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will arise; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.

The connection between these OT passages and Jesus' claims is rather obvious. Jesus is our light and salvation; Jesus is the Light of life. Thus, John could confidently declare:

1 John 5:11, 12 - And this is that testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Not only does this reflect OT teaching, it also reflect Christ's teaching about Himself:

John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

and

John 11:25 - Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies.

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There is no simple answer, as light itself is complex. The Church Fathers explained variously that He is light in the sense of true enlightenment; light that brings illumination to one's conduct and leads to a virtuous life; light that brings spiritual understanding and deliverance of sin:

Augustine (354-430):

He calls Himself the Light, that thou mayest not think that the light of the flesh, but the light of the heart is the true Light. For thou hast not the light of the eyes within, but without; but the heart has its own light within, where Christ dwells, that is, charity (Tractate 33 on John)

John Chrysostom (349-407):

What the sun is in the world, this He Himself is in the order of virtue, and much more, not shining by His rays upon bodies, but by His own Light enlightening the soul (Homily 58 on John)

Cyril of Alexandria (366-444):

He calls Himself the Light of the world, to intimate that He is the Sun of Righteousness, the Giver of heavenly light, dispelling the darkness of ignorance, and making the knowledge of the truth to dawn upon the souls of men (Commentary on John)

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  • Helpful answer! Thanks! Jul 16, 2023 at 19:08
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παλιν ουν αυτοισ ελαλησεν ο ιησοῦς λεγων εγω ειμι το φωσ του κοσμου ... (Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world" ...; cf. John 8:12 in your preferred Greek New Testament [GNT]).

  1. Earlier, Jesus referred to his followers as “the light of the world” (MT 5:14), but that light came from (was given off by) him. Also earlier, Jesus was called the true light of men (JN 1:9, 3:19). Jesus' claim of being the "light of the world"; i.e., the world then known to the Jews in Jesus' time and place, both startled and challenged the authority of the Pharisees (cf. Robertson's Word Pictures (RWP) entry, loc. cit.).

  2. The illuminating light seen in Jesus' teachings and examples is revealed via the Gospels; his and their purpose is to help men and women to also become spirit-illuminated disciples who demonstrate their spiritual enlightenment [see Note, below] via their kind words and good deeds to and toward other people (cf. Vincent's Word Studies (VWS) entry, loc. cit.).

  3. In the evening of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, either large candelabras or multiple lamps hanging from large golden lampstands were lit in the Temple. Their light could be seen all over Jerusalem. But on the last night of the Feast, they were not lit. That is when, it’s thought by some scholars, Jesus declared “I am the light of the world.” Why? Because the people missed seeing the light emanating from the Temple (cf. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges entry, loc. cit.); Jamieson-Fausset-Brown (JFB) commentary entry, loc. cit.).

Note: Education that results in their personal understandings of Jesus’ words and the spread of spiritual knowledge/wisdom mined from the Gospels.

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Light of the World (τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου) occurs three times in the New Testament. Here:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12, ESV)

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4–5, ESV)

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:14–16, ESV)

Matt. 5:14 seems like a contradiction to the two passages in John, except John 9:5 has “as long as I am in the world,” opening up an extension in Matt. 5. Note that both Matt. 5:16 and John 9:4 mention good works, and John 4 has “we.” 1 John has a good explanation and clarifies the good works.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5–10, ESV)

While the above mentions walking, the next gives more detail about the good works.

... whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:6–11, ESV)

Notice the similar wording to here:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12–13, ESV)

This discussion could go on and on, but it is when we show this love to people that our works glorifies God or shows to them who God is. This is the light to walk in.

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What did Jesus mean when He said 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'

In this context, "light" alludes to being illuminated or enlightened, it can also be said to acquire Divine knowledge, revelations concerning the attributes, virtues, character, and function of God, and his kingdom structure, how the many aspects of His kingdom operate. "Darkness" means to remain in ignorance, especially when it pertains to Divine doctrines. "Light of life" refers to eternal life through the acquisition of Divine wisdom, counsel, knowledge, insight, discernment, holiness, and the understanding of God's awesomeness.

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