Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – Light and Darkness

To see other posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.

Next in Ray Comfort’s Scientific Facts in the Bible, the apologist asserts that Job 38:19 (“Where is the way to the dwelling of light?” [NKJV]) is speaking of the speed of light: 

Man has only recently discovered that light (electromagnetic radiation) has a “way,” involving traveling at 186,000 miles per second.[1]

Literate persons, attuned to the way sentences are structured and how their elements function, can no doubt detect Comfort’s fundamental error: the text does not speak of “the way of light” but rather of “the way to the dwelling of light.”[2] This is confirmed by the wider context in which v. 19 appears: 

19“Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
and where is the place of darkness,
20that you may take it to its territory
and that you may discern the path to its home? 
21Surely you know, for you were born then,
and the number of your days is great!”
(Job 38:19-21)[3]

It is clear that v. 19 can be divided into two parts, creating a kind of parallelism in which the second line compliments the first. Coupled with v. 20, Yahweh is asking Job if he knows where it is that light (Hebrew, ʾôr) and darkness (ḥšek) reside.[4] The sarcasm in v. 21 reminds the reader that Job is wholly inadequate before the creator of the universe to answer such questions. Comfort has therefore committed two errors: he has altered the text to fit his own apologetic narrative (as he is wont to do) and he has ignored the context in which the passage appears.[5]

Since Comfort’s take on the passage is dubious, what does the text mean when it refers to “the dwelling of light,” “the place of darkness,” and their “territory” and “home”? As modern people understand that light is comprised of photons and that it does not have a “territory” or “home.” Furthermore, darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. But the Joban author did not live in the modern era and was instead an Israelite living in the ancient Near East. What he meant by “light” and “darkness” is different than what we mean by those terms. 

Back to the Beginning

To understand what the author of Job meant in vv. 19-20, we need to go back to the opening chapter of the Hebrew Bible. In that narrative, before God intervened “the earth was a formless void, and darkness [ḥōšek] covered the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). Then the god of Israel speaks the first words uttered in the Hebrew Bible: “Let there be light [ʾôr]” (v. 3). Through divine fiat, God brings light into the world, set in direct contrast with the darkness that had covered the world. Each is given its own purpose: light is “Day” and darkness is “Night.” The fundamental activity of God on the first day of creation is the formation of daylight and the repurposing of darkness as night. However, as has been noted by atheist critics of the Bible,[6] the sun does not come into existence until the fourth day (vv. 14-19). How can there be light without the sun? After all, the light that illumines the world comes almost entirely from the sun. If there is no sun (our modern scientific sensibilities tell us) then there is no light.[7] Moreover, without the rotation of the earth with relationship to the sun, there can be no “evening” or “morning” as the narrative repeatedly tells us there was (vv. 5, 8, 13). How can this be? 

The answer is simple: the author of Genesis 1 did not believe that daylight was produced by the sun any more than he believed night was caused by the sun’s absence. This explains why the sun and (mistakenly) the moon are said to “give light [lĕhāʾîr] upon the earth” but are not themselves ʾorōt (“lights”). Rather, they are mĕʾōrōt, luminaries or light bearers. Their threefold function per the author of Genesis is to “give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness” (vv. 17-18). Whence this perspective? Why would the ancient author believe that light (ʾôr) existed separately from the sun? Nahum Sarna opines, “Most likely it derives from the simple observation that the sky is illuminated even on cloudy days when the sun is obscured and that brightness precedes the rising of the sun.”[8] In other words, “the source of day’s light is an inherent and essential property of day itself; its source is not the sun.”[9]

Light’s Dwelling 

In the mind of the ancient authors of Genesis and Job, light and darkness “are elements that have existed since the creation, independently of the heavenly bodies.”[10] Consequently, when it is daytime the darkness must have vacated the premises, having returned to its own “home” (Job 38:20). Conversely, when it is nighttime, light must have returned to “its territory.” Their alternation explains the cycle of day and night while the presence of the sun, though it provides light, does not serve in the role of providing day light but functions as the ruler of the day. This is admittedly a perspective very foreign to modern readers, but it nevertheless seems to be that of the ancient authors. By treating these texts as products of their ancient cultural milieu we are better equipped to understand what they were communicating to their original readers. When eisegetes like Comfort rip these texts from their contexts, they not only grossly exaggerate the meaning of those texts, but they also devalue the intentional ways in which these authors wrote. Our goal in dealing with these texts should be fundamentally at odds with this. Steven DiMattei offers sage advice: 

Our goal should not be to impose modern truths onto this ancient document, nor attempt to harmonize the text with our modern scientific knowledge about the world. Rather, our task is to understand the text on its terms and as a product of its own unique cultural perspectives, and to be able to reproduce this understanding as faithfully and honestly as possible. We should allow the text to invite us into its ancient worldview and belief system, not impose ours onto the text.[11]


[1] Ray Comfort, Scientific Facts in the Bible: Amazing Truths Written Thousands of Years Before Man Discovered Them (Bellflower, CA: Living Waters Publications, 2016), 8. 

[2] The word translated in the NKJV as “dwelling” is the verb yškn, used frequently in the Hebrew Bible to refer to the establishment or residence in a location like a city or home (e.g. Genesis 14:13; 16:12). In the book of Job, the verb is used consistently in this way (see Job 3:5; 4:19; 11:14; 15:28; 18:15; 26:5; 29:25; 30:6; 37:8; 39:28). 

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all citations of biblical texts are from the New Revised Standard Version.

[4] It is telling that Comfort cannot come up with some scientific fact about which the second half of v. 19 speaks. This is another sign that his take is fallacious.

[5] See “Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – Lightning and Light” (8.18.19), amateurexegete.com.

[6] See, for example, The Skeptics Annotated Bible: The King James Version from a Skeptic’s Point of View (SAB Books, LLC, 2013), 4.

[7] This difficulty is noted by evangelical scholar Gordon Wenham who writes that “the existence of day and night (v 5) before the creation of the sun is more difficult to understand on a purely chronological interpretation of this account of creation” (Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987], 18). 

[8] Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 7. Cf. Steven DiMattei, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016), 20; Zev Farber, “If the Sun Is Created on Day 4, What is the Light on Day 1?” (2016), thetorah.com.

[9] DiMattei, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, 39.

[10] David J.A. Clines, Job 38-42, Word Biblical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1107. 

[11] DiMattei, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, 19.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

5 thoughts on “Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – Light and Darkness

Add yours

  1. What is the distinction between a light bearer and a light source here? Is the sun like a torch that is lit off the edge of/under the earth and then brought up into heaven?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that is exactly what it was thought of in the ANE/Israelite cosmology. The Hebrew word is also used to describe the lamp in the tabernacle and given that Gen 1 is from P and much of Leviticus is from P it seems they are seeing their function as something similar.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s pretty cool. Are there other Biblical texts that elucidate this idea? Did the Greeks have a similar concept? Particularly that day exists separate from the sun?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In his commentary on Job, Samuel Ballentine mentions a Greek text which depicts Atlas as lifting up the world and revealing the home of day and night. One comes into the house as the other exists, alternating between day and night, independent of luminaries. How wide spread that cosmology was, I have no idea. But it is an interesting parallel.

        Liked by 1 person

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