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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: How Could There Have Been Light before the Sun?

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Don Stewart
One of the difficulties found in the first chapter of Genesis is the mention of light-apparently before the creation of the sun. On the first day we are told that God created light.

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day (Genesis 1:5).

The sun, it seems, was not created until the fourth day.

Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years (Genesis 1:14).

How could such a thing be? How could there have been day and night without the sun? Were plants and vegetation (created on the third day) done so without the existence of the sun?

Possible Answers

There are a number of different possible ways to explain how there could have been light before the sun. They include the following:

1. Begun But Not Completed

Some Bible students believe the sun was begun on the first day but not completed until the fourth. The idea behind this view is that God's creation was a process. The problem with this view is that there is no evidence to indicate that this is what happened. In the Genesis account there is no indication of a process of creation that overlapped the days.

2. Did Not Appear

It has been suggested that the sun was created the first day but did not appear until the fourth. The Scofield Reference Bible says:

Neither here nor in verses 14-18 is an original creative act implied. A different word is used. The sense is, made to appear; made visible. The sun and the moon were created in the beginning. The light of course came from the sun, but the vapour diffused the light. Later the sun appeared in an unclouded sky (The Scofield Reference Bible, edited by C.I. Scofield, New York, Oxford University Press, 1909, p. 3, note 4).

3. Special Creation

There are many who believe that God created another light source before He created the sun on the fourth day. John Whitcomb writes.

God created a fixed and localized light source in the heaven in reference to which the rotating earth passed through the same kind of day/night cycle as it has since the creation of the sun (John Whitcomb, The Early Earth, Revised Edition, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1986, p. 31).

This was some sort of cosmic light that is different from the light given by the sun, moon, and stars. It was a special creation of God.

4. Light From Empty Space?

Even modern science has theorized that light can come from empty space such as black holes. One of the effects of black holes is that they emit light. P.C. Davies writes:

The radiation being described here is not coming out of any kind of matter-the usual source of light energy. The region around the black hole is quite empty of matter Instead, this radiation is coming out of empty space itself! (P. C. Davies, Uncensoring the Universe, The Sciences, March/April 1977, p. 7).

Donald Chittick comments on this matter:

If modern scientific theory insists on the possibility of light coming out of empty space (in other words, without light bearing objects), it is inconsistent to criticize the biblical idea that light existed on the first day of creation without sun, moon, or stars . . . The fact that Genesis talks about light existing before the appearance of the sun, moon, and stars seem rather to be evidence of divine authorship of the Bible. It was inconceivable to pagan thinking that life could exist without the sun and its light. Hence pagan religions worshiped the sun as the source of light and heat . . . The Bible is unique in stating that the sun is of secondary importance (Donald Chittick, The Controversy, Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1984, p. 151).

If the text forces us to understand that light came before the sun, then it would demonstrate the writer did not copy from other creation stories, for all others had the sun as the source of all light. This would make the Hebrew story unique, for only the Hebrews believed light came before the sun.

5. Wrong Understanding Of Text

There is one other possible solution to this problem-the Bible doesn't say there was light before the sun. It is quite possible that when the author of Genesis 1:1 said In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth the phrase heaven and earth included the sun.

Entire Universe

As we have already mentioned, the Bible consistently uses the phrase, heaven and earth, to refer to the universe or cosmos. The prophet Joel wrote:

The sun and the moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel (Joel 3:15,16).

This would mean that Genesis 1:1 refers to the creation of the entire universe, including the sun, moon and the stars. Old Testament authority John H. Sailhamer writes:

In v. 14 God does not say, Let there be lights . . . to separate, as if there were no lights before this command and afterward the lights were created. Rather the Hebrew text reads, And God said, 'Let the lights in the expanse of the sky separate.' In other words . . . God's command assumes the lights were already in the expanse and that in response to his command they were given a purpose, to separate the day from the night and to mark seasons and days and years.. . . It suggests that the author did not understand his account of the fourth day as the creation of lights; but, on the contrary, the narrative assumes that the heavenly lights had already been created in the beginning (John H. Sailhamer, Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, Frank E. Gaebelein General Editor, Grand Rapids Mi: Zondervan, 1990, p. 34).

Thus it is not necessary to assume the sun was not part of the heaven and the earth created on the first day.

6. No Sun In The Future

We must also note that the Bible says there will be light without the sun in the future New Jerusalem.

And there shall be no night there: They shall need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 22:5).

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness the moon shall give light to you; but the Lord will be your everlasting light (Isaiah 60:19).

Since there will be no need for the sun as a light source in the future, it is certainly possible that there was no need for the sun as a light source in the beginning.


There is no reason to assume the Bible is in error when it seems to say that God created the light before He made the sun. There are a number of satisfactory explanations to this question.

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