What is Light? This is the question I am working on here.
Even though, according to my family, I am rather wordy when it comes to descriptions, I would have thoroughly enjoyed a simple one sentence description of what light is. Seeing , however there are so many different uses of the word, definition becomes rather broad and wide.
This question for me originally came up in a bible study group I attend, and it was on the beatitudes of Jesus. In the gospel of Matthew chapter 5:14-16 Jesus extends the unbelievable idea to his disciples; "you are the light of the world". An astounding statement that I'm sure they would have struggled with.
What exactly did Jesus mean with this statement of poetic imagery he conveyed? What did it mean to the disciples and to me(us)? This is what I want to discover.
I want to begin this study not with a definition, but with a beginning statement that brought time into being. Genesis 1 says this; "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was empty and formless, darkness was over the surface of he deep and the breath(spirit) of G-d was hovering over the waters. And G-d said let there be light. G-d saw the light was good and separated the light from the darkness. G-d called the light day and the darkness he called night; and there was evening and morning,the first day."
That is GREAT!, SUPER!! What great imagery of G-ds creativity and masterpiece if ingenuity in starting the time clock. And He does it with light. But what light is this passage talking about? If this is the first day of creation and there is no sun or moon, no stars in the sky, for they do not enter existence until the fourth day. What is this light?
Maybe G-d really did create the sun and stars on the first day and didn't flick the switch until the fourth day. After all, plants and vegetation were created on the third day and plants need sunlight and water to produce photosynthesis.
To investigate further on this idea of the first creative act of light so as not to come up with kind of grasping at straws answers.
1. G-d as light of revelation
I'm finding this idea of a theology of light a little deeper than I anticipated. If however there is anything worth investigating time into, this, at least for me is necessary and valuable.
The scriptures repeatedly use metaphors for G-d in images that we can somewhat understand. It is not a full representation of the One True G-d, but rather the language is earthly more so than spiritual terminology. It helps to describe the undefinable essence of G-d.
Light is used in varied terms for G-d, so we must uncover some passages that might reveal this luminous G-d. The first idea of light or illumination I would like to draw from is from the account of Moses arriving at the mountain of G-d in Exodus 3:1-3. After many years in the backside of the desert, Moses, who had fled from Egypt and royalty became somewhat of obsolete from society. He became a husband, father and a shepherd, and yet there remained a light from the past to shine forth towards the future.
The account in Exodus says that" an angel of the L-rd appeared to him in a blaze of fire amid the bush. He saw and behold, the bush was burning in the fire, but the bush was not consumed.".
This is a theological reality that I struggled with as I read this, and that is the idea of omnipresence. This is a word that theologians use to describe G-d in terms of being in all places at all times and that there is no place where G-d is not. With this idea given however, how does the invisible G-d illumine in one place and not elsewhere? If there is a theophany(appearance of G-d), is He no longer present elsewhere? How can this be?
Moses encountered G-d in many occasions, probably more so than others in scriptures. In this first stark meeting is in and by an angel in a blaze of fire. So many question arise in my mind with this statement, such as why a fire?; was the angel the fire?; and why a bush?
So as not to get off track, I want stay with this idea of G-d, the omniscient and omnipresent One, containing himself in the light of fire.
As a kid I remember being rather interested in fires, as young boys are. I remember taking a magnifying glass into the side yard of my house. I would get some paper or some dried grass in a pile and would try setting it on fire by the little ray of light that would be captured through the glass. I could usually only get the paper to start to smolder.
I am trying to understand this revelatory idea of an omnipresent G-d through the mind of my childhood so bear with me. Maybe G-d when He chooses, concentrates his light and radiance like a magnifying glass. He is still ever present and everywhere, but has for special purposes concentrated His light and pinpoints himself for special revelation.
This angel that is spoken of in v.2 of Ex. chapter3 could very well be the light of G-d pinpointed in the blaze. His light is in the lowly thorn bush which very well could be a picture of Israel in bondage. With the presence of G-d, the light of the fire, and thus Israel even though in bondage and exile is not consumed.Moses coming upon this wondrous occasion "saw". Moses saw and beheld this phenomenon . Because of time, distance and maybe comfort had forgotten the anguish of his brothers and sisters in suffering.Through the light of fire, he now saw and it was only because of light that anything came to his mind.
As in the beginning, the first thing to ever come into existence and invade the earth was G-d and is the light , the light of revelation. Light is the illumination of G-ds essence and expression and of his righteousness and goodness.
I believe this is what that first light was; It was the ethereal light of G-d Himself.
And G-d said let there be light.