Light of the World

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This article is about the saying of Jesus. For other uses, see Light of the World (disambiguation).
Detail on stained glass depicting Jesus: I am the light of the world, Bantry, Ireland.

Light of the World (Greek: φώς τοῦ κόσμου Phṓs tou kósmou) is a phrase Jesus used to describe himself and his disciples in the New Testament.[1] The phrase is recorded in the Gospel of John and again in the Gospel of Matthew. It is closely related to the parables of Salt and Light and Lamp under a bushel.

Gospel accounts[edit]

Referring to himself[edit]

In John 8:12 Jesus applies the title to himself while debating with the Jews and states:[1]

Jesus again claims to be Light of the World in John 9:5, during the miracle of healing the blind at birth, saying: [2]

When I am in the world, I am the Light of the World.

This episode leads into John 9:39 where Jesus metaphorically explains that he came to this world, so that the blind may see.[2]

In the Christological context, the use of the title Light of the World is similar to the Bread of Life title in John 6:35 where Jesus states: “I am the bread of life: he who comes to me shall not hunger.”[3] These assertions build on the Christological theme of John 5:26 where Jesus claims to possess life just as the Father does and provide it to those who follow him.[3][4] The term “Life of the World” is applied in the same sense by Jesus to himself in John 6:51.[2]

Referring to his disciples[edit]

Jesus also used that term to refer to his disciples in Matthew 5:14:[1]

This application of "light compared with darkness" also appears in 1 John 1:5 which applies it to God and states: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all".[6]

Johannine Dualism[edit]

Examples of Dualistic concepts in the Gospel of John:


Light Darkness
Known Unknown
Jesus Christ Moses
Heavenly Earthly
Above Not Above
Spirit Flesh
Sight Blindness
Insiders World
Day Night
  • Light & Darkness
Light and darkness in John’s gospel is an antithesis that has symbolic meaning and is essential to understanding the author of John. The fourth ::gospel expresses certain ideas using the antithesis more frequently than any other writings in the New Testament. The Johannine community may ::have borrowed the symbolic use of the antithesis Light-Darkness from Essene literature, “which considered History as a permanent conflict between ::Good and Evil, using Light as a symbol of Truth and Righteousness and Darkness as that of Falsehood and Evil”[7]


The following are antithetical quotes from John:


  • Known & Unknown
  • John 12:35
You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness over takes you. Whoever walks in the dark :::does not know where they are going.
  • John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
  • Jesus Christ & Moses
  • John 3:14
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up
  • John 4:6-8
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
  • John 20:31
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name
  • Heavenly & Earthly
  • John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 4:6-8
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
  • John 20:31
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name
  • John 3:13
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.
  • John 3:15
That everyone who believes may have eternal life in him
  • Above & Not Above
  • John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full :of grace and truth.
  • John 3:13
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.
  • Spirit & Flesh
  • John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 3:08
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
  • John 4:24
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
  • Sight & Blindness
  • John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the ::Father, :::fill of grace and truth.
  • John 12:35
You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness over takes you. Whoever walks in the dark :::does not know where they are going.
  • Insiders & World
  • John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the :Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 3:19
Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
  • John 9:5
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
  • John 10:30
I and the Father are one.
  • Day & Night
  • John 9:4
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Darkness in the Fourth Gospel[edit]

"In John's writings, walking in darkness does not mean committing acts of sin but rather, rejecting God's message of eternal life through Christ"[8] Those who define darkness as sin also define light as good and righteous. However, in the Gospel of John light is never defined as righteous. Light is defined as life, as seen in John 1:4, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men”. Those have faith through Him will have eternal life. This “life” is a gift Jesus brought from God into a dying world. In John, “darkness is present in the absence of light; the absence of eternal life,” and darkness referring to death, spiritually.[9] Those who walk in darkness do not have eternal life because they are unknown to God. The only way to receive "life" is to be known of the light through God and his promises.

Extra-biblical sources[edit]

In the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, a used similar phrase appears, "There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness".[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Names and Titles of the Lord Jesus Christ by Charles Spear 2003 ISBN 0-7661-7467-0 page 226
  2. ^ a b c New Testament christology by Frank J. Matera 1999 ISBN 0-664-25694-5 page 235
  3. ^ a b Christology in Context by Marinus de Jonge 1988 ISBN 978-0-664-25010-2 page 147
  4. ^ The person of Christ by Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer 1954 ISBN 0-8028-4816-8 page 163
  5. ^ Matthew 5:1416, New International Version
  6. ^ John by H. A. Ironside 2006 ISBN 0-8254-2915-3 pages 199-202
  7. ^ Trocmé, E. (1995). Light and ::Darkness in the Fourth Gospel. Disdaskalia (Otterburne, Man.), 6(2), 3-13
  8. ^ Baylis, Charles P., "The Meaning of Walking "In the Darkness" (1 John 1:6)." Bibliotheca Sacra 149, no. 594 (1992). 214-22.
  9. ^ Baylis, Charles P., "The Meaning of Walking "In the Darkness" (1 John 1:6)." Bibliotheca Sacra 149, no. 594 (1992). 219
  10. ^ Gospel of Thomas, 24