Light and Space in Genesis 1

In: Vetus Testamentum
Author: Cory Crawford1
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  • 1 Ohio University
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I address here the still-vexing problem of why the Priestly narrator in Genesis 1 separates the fiat lux that opens the process of creation from the creation of sun, moon, and stars three days later, on day four. I organize ancient and modern explanations under four rubrics (polemical; functional; phenomenological; mystical) and find them relevant but ultimately insufficient to explain the way light operates in the logic of the Priestly creation narrative. I argue instead that we must attend first to the logic and narrative irregularity of the text itself in order to discern compositional motivations. The structure of Genesis 1 points toward an understanding of the nonsolar light (and its separation from darkness) in spatial terms, analogous to the separation of waters on day two and dry land on day 3, the sun, moon, and stars populating their spaces as do the birds, fish, land animals and humans.

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