"Light" was created on day 1 - Genesis 1:3-5. However the sun was created on day 4 - Genesis 1:14-19.

How can a day-night transition occur when the sun (which is the primary cause of this variation) had not yet been created as it was created on the fourth day?

  • If you believe in Geocentrism, a day could be one rotation of the body of the universe. The movie "The Principle" explains it nicely.
    – Grasper
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 16:15
  • When the universe was about 370,000 years: "before there were stars or planets, a fog of hydrogen plasma and radiation filled the universe. As the then very hot, very dense universe expanded, things cooled enough for protons and electrons to combine to form atoms. This made the universe transparent for the first time, allowing light to travel relatively unhindered over great distances" [1]. So basically there was the step from untransparent hydrogen plasma to light and now compare Genesis 1:1-5. [1]: symmetrymagazine.org/article/july-2013/…
    – Hjan
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 8:02
  • @rpeg - "and they need no candle, nor light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever" Revelation 22:5. God made sure there was neither sun nor moon nor stars until the 4th day, and after life had been created because He knew that there would come a day when all the heavenly host would be idolatrously worshipped. The sun was especially worshipped in Egypt, the sun god Ra. To draw attention to the sun merely being something created God told how it was not created first. The sun & moon are not even mentioned by name in the account of the creation. Commented Mar 27 at 19:56

7 Answers 7


Let's look more closely at your linked verses:

5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5)

This verse implies the creation of light and the implementation of it to create the first day. Darkness already existed, so only light was needed.

16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.

This verse implies the creation of the sun and moon—notice the "greater" and "lesser" lights.

These lights—the sun and the moon, which were created three days after light itself was—are simply vessels to carry greater and lesser versions of the previously created light which govern the limits of the day and of the night.

And if we read a bit further:

16 cont. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Stars were created to be vessels for light as well, but to separate this greater light (the sun) from this lesser light (the moon), and to govern both day and night.

Before questioning the bible (and God, by extension), always look more closely at what is being said and you will understand. This is especially true for scripture, because many times we find it to be ambiguous, but upon closer examination it just comes to us.

  • well said. I like it.
    – RolandiXor
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 22:13
  • 6
    Do "morning" and "evening" refer to the rising and setting of the sun, or something else?
    – Andrew Vit
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 10:23
  • 1
    @AndrewVit morning is the beginning of the light of day, and evening is the end of it. The ambiguity is intentional, it seems, but it is trying to say that light isn't the sun, but that the sun is a particular carrier of light. No clearer way to show this than to explain that light - and day and night - exist before the sun and moon.
    – user304
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 18:41
  • @AndrewVit The bible is only to be taken literally. When it says "morning" or "evening", it means "morning" or "evening". If you don't understand that, then it's your problem ;)
    – user1054
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 19:46
  • 3
    The fact that 'light' was created before the Sun/Moon/Stars (other Suns!) suggests that some very interesting and unusual things (to particle physicists) were happening. Personally I've always wondered if 'light' is potentially a stand-in for all energy (so, Day 1, matter and energy?), something the original writers wouldn't necessary have had an abstract concept for (or a better one than light, anyways). Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 22:43

The key to this question is to recognize the point of view from which the story is being told. The point of view is established in Genesis 1:2:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

If we read the rest of the account from the point of view of "hovering over the waters," the order of creation makes perfect sense, according to a modern scientific understanding of the formation of planets:

  • Day 0 -- Formless void

    As the Earth condensed out of the primordial disk, it appeared just as the Genesis writer says, "formless and void."1

  • Day 1 -- Light

    The atmosphere of the Earth thinned and changed to the point that light from the sun could penetrate, and be visible from the surface of the Earth--although the atmosphere was not yet thin enough (transparent) for the sun to be seen directly.

  • Day 2 -- Separation of water

    As the atmosphere continued to condense, water gathered "above" (clouds) and "below" (sea), leaving a "vault" (of air) between them.

  • Day 3 -- Dry land and first plant life.

    As the planet continued to take shape, masses of dry land began to appear as distinct from the oceans. At this point it finally becomes possible for basic plant life to exist, distinct land vegetation, as well as water vegetation

  • Day 4 -- Sun, moon, stars

    Finally, as the atmosphere continued to develop and thin, heavenly bodies--the sun, moon and stars--became visible.

1 Taken from Genesis 1: A Scientific Perspective, by Hugh Ross, Page 5.

  • 1
    Plant life, or life in general could not exist without the light and warmth of the sun.
    – Andrew Vit
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 10:26
  • Also we now know that plant life was not the first to exist and neither it is very 'basic'. Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 14:30
  • Is this answer intended to fit with gap theory/evolution in some way?
    – RolandiXor
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 16:07
  • 1
    @Andrew Vit: This answer agrees with that statement.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 20:37
  • @Alexei Averchenko: 1) How do "we" know this? 2) I would say this answer doesn't necessarily disagree with that. Again, if we interpret the story from the perspective of the surface of the planet, where only observable phenomenon are being reported, the earliest life forms would probably be unobservable, so would go unreported.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 20:39

What's written in the Bible is not necessarily intended to be used as a science textbook. While what's written is entirely true and reliable, we do have to read it in the way it was meant to be understood.

It seems sensible to me that the creation account in Genesis is not an attempt to describe in precise detail exactly how God created the universe. Rather, it is an expression of a far more important idea: God created the universe out of nothing merely by speaking it into existence. As finite beings, we are not likely to fully understand the mind of God or the full complexity of his creation, and so it's entirely likely that what is expressed in Genesis is simplified so that we can understand some important feature(s) of the underlying facts. In that sense, I think it's possible to read precision into what is written. The thrust of this idea is that we should understand that we should have a healthy amount of skepticism of the quality of our own understanding of something (presumably) very, very complex, and that we should focus on the ideas we think God is trying to get across to us.

That aside, it seems entirely plausible that in the early portion of creation, natural laws had not yet all been implemented. We're told next to nothing about such things directly. If you don't create the entire universe simultaneously, then it makes some sense to me that portions of it would not function the same way as they do now and that not until it was completed should we assume that it would closely resemble the universe we observe today (regarding physical laws, in this case). I see no reason why certain natural laws could not be circumvented or ignored by the Creator during this process. Speaking things into existence is not something I think I can grasp at a scientific level because I have no such power to recreate that phenomenon, nor can I observe it happening (to my knowledge).

Rather than read contradiction into the details of the creation account in Genesis, I think it makes much more plain sense to accept it for what it does say (because it's not incorrect) and attempt to answer those questions that the ultimate author of text intends to address.

I don't know how light can exist without a source, but then again, I don't know how you could create light out of nothing. God's power to accomplish all these things is quite beyond me.

I don't fault you for wondering how God accomplished all that he did, and I think it's possible to find an answer. I'm just not convinced that Genesis 1-2 is an attempt to provide a detailed answer to that question.


It is unfortunate that this concept is often used to make the Bible seem to contradict itself.

However, contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn't waste words.

The fact that God tells us how many days, also gives us time periods; in other words, God began to measure time cycles (such as day and night) before the sun ever appeared.
Furthermore, there is no need to try to explain it away as "ancient philosophies". The Bible was written under inspiration of the one who created everything, therefore, it's kind of hard to argue with Him (no joke intended).

He said first, let there be light. Then according to the Bible he separated darkness from the light. This doesn't have anything to do with a sun/moon cycle, but rather with light and darkness, and time periods.


Another point to bring up is that "God is Light". This is told to us by the Apostle John in two places, with the second being in the book of Revelation 22:5:

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them

  • It seems to me that you also have to look at John 1:3-5 to see that John clearly uses the word light in a different sense than to mean the visible energy emitted from the Sun.
    – jcohen79
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 2:18
  • So god created itself?
    – rpeg
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 23:44
  • 1
    @rpeg, you might say that God is the "uncaused first cause," that he has always existed and was never created. This seems paradoxical, but there might be a limit to how well finite beings (like me) can understand an infinite god.
    – mojo
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 14:14

God created light on the first day of creation. The sun is just something that produces light.

The underlying assumption of many is that the sun defines day and night, so day and night cannot exist without the sun. However, that assumption is perhaps incorrect from a biblical perspective.

If the sun is supreme, then the sun would, indeed, define day and night. However, the Bible teaches that God created day and night first. God, as Creator, is certainly powerful enough to define a "day" independent of the sun. The earth could have spun prior to their being a sun around which to orbit. We certainly aren't given enough information to know for sure, but it certainly is a possibility.

Later, the Bible indicates that God created the sun, and perhaps the revolution of earth continued, but now had hours of light and dark due to the light produced from the sun.

Again, we can't know for sure, the assumption that the earth could not have been rotating or have a definition of day and night prior to there being a sun could be invalid. Mankind has only existed after the creation of the sun, so our perspective is limited and it is perhaps difficult to envision something outside the box that we are in.

  • God separated light and darkness and the two very well could have been spinning around following each other electromagnetically (evening and morning) before God set the sun and moon in orbit inside the firmament of heaven which is the same space the birds fly :) not 92 million miles away as scientists/NASA claims Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 3:14

In the cosmology of the raquiyah, the dome separating the waters from the waters, it is perfectly comprehensible that the day could exist without the existence of the sun.

For us post-Enlightenment folks, it's interesting to think about our wondering and confusion about that. We have an ingrained mental model of the solar system. It's fairly clear to you and me that the sun isn't just a light in the sky, but it's the source of the energy that warms the earth and makes the atmosphere glow blue.

So, for you and me to wonder about the Genesis 1 cosmology, and how it could be so, is to get in touch with our ancestors who wondered how it could be so. Watch the film The Truman Show to get a sense of what this dome cosmology might have been like.

There's another cosmological model besides the dome in the Bible: the circles-of-heaven model of antiquity. St. Paul talks about ascending to the "third heaven." That's part of a cosmological model that puts God in the seventh heaven. We have echos of that model in the hymn verse "immortal, invisible God only wise, with light inaccessible hid from our eyes."

For a biblical take on all this that reminds us of our contingent and limited human perspective, I strongly recommend that you read Job Chapter 38. Any translation will do. http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Job+38

  • Your mention of The Truman Show and Job 38 make this an awesome answer. The idea that God runs the backstage stuff is humbling and encompassing, though of course many people won't be satisfied with this unprovable theory.
    – ZX9
    Commented May 20, 2017 at 23:23

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