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Genesis 1:3‭-‬5 ERV

Then God said, “Let there be light!” And light began to shine. He saw the light, and he knew that it was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God named the light “day,” and he named the darkness “night.” There was evening, and then there was morning. This was the first day.

Genesis 1:14‭-‬19 ERV

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky. These lights will separate the days from the nights. They will be used for signs to show when special meetings begin and to show the days and years. They will be in the sky to shine light on the earth.” And it happened. So God made the two large lights. He made the larger light to rule during the day and the smaller light to rule during the night. He also made the stars. God put these lights in the sky to shine on the earth. He put them in the sky to rule over the day and over the night. They separated the light from the darkness. And God saw that this was good. There was evening, and then there was morning. This was the fourth day.

If the sun and the moon weren't created until the fourth day what was that which had been lighting the earth for three days?

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    Different Christian traditions understand this passage differently. As it stands, this question is too opinion-based. It can probably be answered if you request a specific group's interpretation. There is some relevant discussion in this question, but it might not be from the viewpoint you are expecting. – bradimus Oct 26 '17 at 15:51
  • christianity.stackexchange.com/q/1177/23657 This question got a lot of attention early in this sites infancy. you may like to take a look at it even though it was closed for being off topic. Explaining the closure we read: "General philosophical or sociological questions are off-topic unless clearly asking for a doctrinal answer." – Kris Oct 26 '17 at 16:01
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    Consider framing this question to fit within the following guideline: Are questions on a Creationist explanation for scientific observation on topic here? Ask something like "How do literalist creationists explain light existing before the Sun?" – 3961 Oct 26 '17 at 19:23
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From an old Earth creationist perspective, the key lies in Genesis 1:1-2, which reads in part (NASB) "1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void..." Did God create the earth formless and void? 1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us that "God is not the author of confusion", so one would assume that God did not create the earth formless and void. The Hebrew word translated as "was" in verse 2 can also be translated as "became". So it appears that at some point after "God created the heavens and the earth" the "earth became formless and void". This can be accounted for by Satan's rebellion, which had to happen sometime before he tempted Eve in the garden.

  • I can verify that a lot of Baptists agree with this. We just discussed it as a Baptist distinctive. – disciple Oct 30 '17 at 18:38
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As the OP did not specify a tradition, let us look at the matter from three different viewpoints.

From a pre-modern literalist viewpoint, author Scott Elledge comments on the view of the universe that informed the seventeenth century poet John Milton when writing his famous Paradise Lost:

From man's point of view the most compelling of all the parts of his universe was the sun, in which on the fourth day of Creation God concentrated the light that he created on the first day . . .(1)

From a standpoint attempting to harmonize Genesis with modern science, another writer has speculated that there may have been an obstruction preventing the sun's light from reaching the earth prior to the fourth day:

We are not to understand that the earth was created long before the sun was. The sun is the center of our solar system, and the earth was probably revolving around it all this time; but the clouds about the earth were so dense that the direct light from the sun could not penetrate them. (2)

Yet another thought is that of divine accommodation, that God communicates to humans on the level of their current understanding. This is presented by historian Rodney Stark:

This premise holds that God's revelations are always limited to the current capacity of humans to comprehend - that in order to communicate with humans God is forced to accommodate their incomprehension by resorting to "baby talk." . . .

Consider that the ancient Jews would have been utterly mystified had God revealed creation in terms of Newtonian mechanics and an extensive discussion of genetics and mutation. (3)

So here are three views. There are probably more.


(1) Elledge, Scott. Paradise Lost: John Milton. W.W. Norton & Company: London. 1993, 1975. Page 463.

(2) Van Amburgh, W.E. The Way to Paradise. People's Pulpit Association: Brooklyn, NY. 1925. Page 38.

(3) Stark, Rodney. The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, NY. 2011. Pages 292-94.

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