Genesis 1:3 is the third verse of the first chapter in the Book of Genesis. In it, God (the Hebrew word used for God, like in all of Genesis 1, is Elohim) made light by declaration ("God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light"). It is a part of the Torah portion known as Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8).
"Let there be light" (like "in the beginning" in Genesis 1:1) has entered into common usage as a phrase. It is the motto (sometimes in its Latin form, fiat lux) for many educational institutions (using light as a metaphor for knowledge). The University of California is one example. The phrase also forms the chorus of John Marriott's hymn about Creation, "Thou, Whose Almighty Word."
By a word
Augustine of Hippo, in his City of God, sees the verse as indicating "not only that God had made the world, but also that He had made it by the word." The words "let there be light" are the first divine words in the Bible. The Latin for "let there be light" is "fiat lux," and this description of creation by command has led to the theological phrase "creation by fiat." In the words of Peter Kreeft, God "simply spoke... and it came to be."
Gerhard von Rad considers the implication to be "the most radical distinction between Creator and creature. Creation cannot be even remotely considered an emanation from God; it is not somehow an overflow or reflection of his being, i.e., of his divine nature, but is rather a product of his personal will."
The divine "fiat lux" in this passage has "exerted a powerful influence on the English poetic tradition." The many examples include John Dryden's lines "Thus Britain's Basis on a Word is laid, / As by a word the World itself was made."
St Basil emphasises the role of light in making the universe beautiful, as does St Ambrose, who writes: "But the good Author uttered the word 'light' so that He might reveal the world by infusing brightness therein and thus make its aspect beautiful."
The light is described as being created here before the sun, moon, and stars, which appear on the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19). In some Jewish interpretations, the light created here is a primordial light, different in nature from (and brighter than) that associated with the sun. The light has also been interpreted metaphorically, and has been connected to Psalm 104 (a "poem of creation"), where God is described as wrapping himself in light.
Various translations into English of the Hebrew text "Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or" include:
|American Standard Version||"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."|
|Bible in Basic English||"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."|
|Darby Bible||"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."|
|God's Word Translation||"Then God said, "Let there be light!" So there was light."|
|Holman Christian Standard Bible||"Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light."|
|Jewish Publication Society (3rd ed.)||"God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light.|
|King James Version||"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."|
|The Message||"God spoke: "Light!" And light appeared."|
|New International Version||"And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light."|
|New King James Version||"Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light."|
|Webster's Revision||"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."|
|World English Bible||"God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."|
|Young's Literal Translation||"and God saith, 'Let light be;' and light is."|
- University of California website, accessed 25 August 2012.
- Morgan, Robert J., Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns, Revell, 2010, ISBN 0800733959, p. 141.
- Augustine, City of God, Book XI, Chapter 21.
- Worthington, Jonathan D., Creation in Paul and Philo: The Beginning and Before, Mohr Siebeck, 2011, ISBN 3161508394, p. 79.
- Hamilton, Victor P., The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, 7th ed., Eerdmans, 1990, ISBN 0802825214, p. 119.
- Kreeft, Peter, Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, 2001, ISBN 0898707986, p. 48.
- von Rad, Gerhard, Genesis: A Commentary, Westminster John Knox Press, 1973, ISBN 0664227457, pp. 51–52.
- Jeffrey, David L., A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, Eerdmans, 1992, ISBN 0802836348, pp. 275–278.
- Ambrose, Hexameron, Paradise, and Cain and Abel (tr. John J. Savage), CUA Press, 1961, ISBN 0813213835, p. 39.
- Albl, Martin C., Reason, Faith, and Tradition: Explorations in Catholic Theology, Saint Mary's Press, 2009, ISBN 0884899829, p. 82.
- Schwartz, Howard, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0199879796, p. lxxii.
- Reno, R. R., Genesis, Brazos Press, 2010, ISBN 1587430916, p. 46.
- Phillips, John, Exploring Psalms: An Expository Commentary, Volume 2, Kregel Academic, 2002, ISBN 0825434939, p. 131.
- Zorn, Walter D., Psalms, Volume 2, College Press, 2004, ISBN 0899008887, p. 266.
- Schwartz, Howard, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0199879796, p. 85.
- Cootsona, Gregory S., Creation and Last Things: At the Intersection of Theology and Science, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002, ISBN 0664501605, p. 49.
- Gasperini, Maurizio, The Universe Before the Big Bang: Cosmology and String Theory, Springer, 2008, ISBN 3540744193, p. 195.
- Jammer, Max, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology, Princeton University Press, 2011, ISBN 069110297X, p. 255.
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