Creation: the beginning of light

The first act of God in creation, after the formation of heaven and earth as described in the Bible, is to summon forth light:

‘God said, ‘Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4).

Light as a guide

This association of light with goodness continues throughout the Bible. God gives light to his people as a sign of his care and grace. When Moses was leading his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt,

by day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light (Exodus 13:21).

Light brings hope

God himself is seen as a light in the darkness (see Big ideas: Darkness), representing hope and deliverance. Light, especially the light of God, is also what enables us to see, and so the Bible also refers to light as bringing understanding, an idea we use in the everyday expression ‘to see the light'. The Psalmist writes: ‘You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light' (Psalms 18:28). God ‘reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light' (Job 12:22). ‘The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes' (Psalms 19:8).

Jesus Christ, the ‘Light of the World'

The Light of the World, by Holman HuntThe light-giving qualities of God are focused in the New Testament in Jesus Christ, describes himself as ‘the light of the world', able to bring those who believe in him from the darkness of ignorance and evil into the light of hope and redemption. ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life' (John 8:12). ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it' (John 1:5). Jesus, however, also saw his followers as called to bring light into the lives of others. He told his disciples: ‘You are the light of the world ... Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven' (Matthew 5:14; Matthew 5:16).


A further idea associated with light is that heaven itself is a place lit by the presence of God. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes heaven as a place where there is no darkness for those who belong to God, ‘There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light' (Revelation 22:5).

Light in literature

A vision similar to that found in the Book of Revelation, is described by the seventeenth-century poet Vaughan when he writes, ‘I saw Eternity the other night, Like a great ring of pure and endless light'.

Hardy's, Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The idea of the pleasantness and goodness of light is one which is familiar, not only from the enjoyment most people have in sunlight, but from many well-known works of literature. In Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, for example, Tess's time of greatest happiness is in summer at Talbothay's dairy, in the section of the novel called ‘The Rally'. There, ‘rays from the sunrise drew forth the buds … lifted up sap in noiseless streams' and promoted love in Tess and Angel; light and sunshine are seen, as in the creation story in Genesis, as ‘good.'

Related topics

Big ideas: Darkness

Other cultural references

Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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