In case this is your first time with us here on Beautiful Words allow me to welcome you, and to take just a moment to explain what we are all about. We take one word, each week, from the Greek Text of the New Testament, the language in which the New Testament was written, and examine that word in some detail.
So let’s look at one of the most common words in language, a word that can be traced all the way back to the very first pages of the B
ible, the Word φως (pronounced 'fos'), or light. The portion of Scripture th
at we are going to start with is John 1.6-9:
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
φως is quite the word. It occurs more than 100x in the LXX, the Greek translation of the OT that was completed in the centuries just before the birth of our Lord, and more than 70x in the NT. More importantly, the word φως is found at some of the most important places in both the OT and the New.
The word φως was used by the rabbinical scholars who translated the LXX at Genesis 1.3,4 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.
So here at the very beginning of Creation God created light. Note that light was not only created first, it also played an essential role in the continuing account of Creation, light, by its association of day and night, providing the framework or order by which we understand the sequence of Creation.
φως was also used in the earliest Greek writings to express the idea of that which was morally good. It stood in contrast to darkness, which was associated with evil. Light was also used to express the idea of life itself, as in dwelling in the light meant to be alive and to dwell in darkness meant death. Here we also find the very beginnings of understanding of light, φως, as energy. The association of light with the heat of fire can be traced back to the story of Prometheus. Light was thought of as being found in the abode of the gods, so when it was stolen, in the form of fire, we read of Prometheus, “He kindled the light of fire for mortal men.” All of these ideas can be traced back to the earliest Greek writings.
So φως, the word we translate as “light”, was laden with meaning well before we come to the New Testament. The writers of the NT used φως in
many of the same ways the ancient Greeks did and in ways that we use the word “light” today. Paul used it to describe the radiance of the sun. In Luke’s Gospel it describes the illumination that comes from a lamp. In Mark it describes the combination of illumination and heat that comes from a fire. In the account of the Transfiguration light, φως, indicates the presence of the Father and describes Jesus’ own presence. In the Book of Acts Jesus’ presence is indicated by light.
It is in the writing of John that φως reaches its highest point. John wrote that Jesus was “the light of the world,” who “illuminated every man.”
Let’s talk for a moment about these two statements. First, that Jesus was “the light of the world, ὦ φῶς εἰμι τοῦ κόσμου .”
Jesus used the verb εἰμι. Literally, the “I am.” Jesus was speaking not of a role or task, but of His being. Everything that can be said of light, every true and positive attribute of light, is an emanation of His being. Just as light could not be said to be equal to the Father in the Genesis Creation account, so Jesus cannot be limited to or defined by light. It is but one aspect of Who He is.
Jesus said “I am the light.” The light that emanates from Jesus’ character is true. It is true in and of itself and the illumination that it brings serves to identify truth. This is in stark contrast to the false light that is produced by the masquerading efforts of the evil one. This “false light” conceals rather than reveals. It produces confusion rather than clarity. It brings death rather than light.
Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus is the light that illuminates the cosmos. Everything that is expressed in the creation account expresses Jesus. His very presence not only brings the light of illumination but also the light of order. His presence warms the cosmos and is the source of all life within the cosmos. Every other source of light in the created world can at best be a reflection of His light, or an expression of His creative work.
The simple observations of the earliest writers pointed out that light illuminated, both naturally and intellectually, warmed the earth and ultimately was the very energy that drove the universe, the cosmos. From this we understand that God was and is both Creator and Sustainer of everything, that Jesus, our Lord and Savior is both Creator and Sustainer of everything.
Simply put, He is the Light of the World. No one else. Nothing else. Jesus.