Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Daylight in the ancient world

In ancient times Daylight was thought to be independant of the Sun.

The enitre universe was believed to have a Day/Night cycle. It was thought that the sun just so happened to be in an orbit (around Earth) such that it was only in the sky during the day.

If you think about it, such a view is not surprising. The sky is blue during the day, and the sun is yellow - so how can one be causing the other? Also the sky gets light before the sun rises and doesn't darken until noticably after the sun has set. Also clouds can block out the sun but the rest of the sky is still light.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the Sun was not believed to be the cause of the Day/Night cycle. The sun was just the brightest of the 7 bodies (Sun, Moon, 5 planets) that orbited the Earth.

This view can be seen exemplified in the creation account in Genesis 1. God creates the Day/Night cycle on the First creation day, and the Sun on the Fourth creation day. Since they were considered independent entities, there was no problem with this.


Blogger Nathan said...

Are you going to comment on the relevance of this to joshua chapter 10?

Blogger Andrew said...

I wasn't going to, no. ;)

Take your pick as to what is described in Joshua 10. It says the Sun and moon stopped in the middle of the sky and didn't go down for a day.

Does that mean:
a) That God stopped the entire universe's cycle (ie Sun, Moon, planets, Daylight, Stars) for some fairly long period of time, approx 24 hours?
b) That God stopped the 7 planets (ie Sun, Moon etc) while the Daylight cycle continued, performing a full revolution? (If you take it literally it says the Sun didn't go down for a day, which suggests the daylight cycle carried on as normal and completed a cycle while the sun remained in place)

Blogger Fraser Dron said...

Maybe God had one of those orbiting mirrors?

Blogger Andrew said...

Oribiting mirrors?!?

Blogger Scott said...

It's interesting that the 'lights of the sky' are still said to separate the day from the night though (vs14-18) - as if they did have some sort of influence, and were not completely independant

With the sequence of Light/Dark > Sun/Moon/Stars, it seems like the greater concern is to show the orderliness of creation... in that the pattern is of forming a domain, and then filling it (i.e. the whole parallelism between Days 1-3 and 4-6.)

Blogger Andrew said...

Yeah the phrase "to separate the light from the darkness" occurs both in Gen 1:4 and 1:18. It is the function of both Day/Night cycle and the Sun & stars to distinguish light from dark.

And yeah, the pattern of forming a domain then filling it is a well known pattern in the Gen 1 creation story, I suppose the Daylight cycle/Sun fits in as follows:

Creation of spaces:
Day 1 - Day / Night cycle of universe
Day 2 - Sky / Sea
Day 3 - Land including plants

Subsequent filling of spaces in order they were created:
Day 4 - Sun to fill the Day, and Moon and stars to fill the Night
Day 5 - Birds to fill sky, and creatures to fill sea
Day 6 - Creatures to fill land including Man

So the Sun and Moon and stars are like the living entities that fill the other spaces. In fact they were exactly that - the ancients thought the Sun, Moon, Stars were living beings and truly alive like humans or animals. The Sun lives in the Daylight space, the stars in the Night space.

Blogger Scott said...

Although Genesis 1 avoids the usual terms 'sun' and 'moon' and opts for 'lights' to counter pagan ideas about sun worship etc.

We studied Genesis 1-12 at CU last term. It really struck me, while looking at the creation account, that when people are absorbed by the common creationist debates, they are distracted from what is really being communicated in those chapters. We miss the orderliness and purposefulness of creation. We miss the goodness and provision of God. We miss the climax of the account in the 'rest' of God which speaks of relationship, and which provides the basis for the promissary signs of Sabbath etc in the Law. Not to mention the place of mankind in the world, and male-female relationships - so much richness has been neglected because of debates about lesser things.


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