Hello, Readers! Welcome to another post on darkness.
Part of my word study process is reading every scripture where my study word appears. I did so with both the Hebrew and Greek words translated “darkness” and did read some things that made me wonder: what does this passage mean? Once such passage is in Luke’s Gospel: “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (11:35). I’ve been turning this verse over and over in my mind for weeks all the time wondering just what Jesus is saying here.
The verse occurs within a point Jesus is making about the eye. He says, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light” (Luke 11:34-36)
This same speech is quoted a bit differently in Matthew: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)
Having already read these passages, they were foremost in my mind when I read through the “darkness” entry in the Dictionary of New Testament Theology and found this: (on skotos) “The words are given a clearly negative sense in those passages which contrast a sound eye (as the organ which guides) in a body full of light with an evil eye in a body full of darkness (Matt. 6:22 f, Lk. 11:34-36). By looking in the wrong direction the body succumbs to the power of darkness.”
The idea expressed here made more sense to me when I looked at the same passages in the King James Version where “good” as in “if your eye be good” is translated “single”. Having a single eye must mean an eye undivided, meaning not having our attention divided, meaning gazing always and forever into the face of Jesus and thus being full of light. If we look away from Him and focus our attention on the things of this world, then our eye is no longer single and we are full of darkness. It’s like the song says: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will go strangely dim…”
This idea of the body succumbing to the power of darkness because the eye looks in the wrong direction also made sense when I considered how the human eye works. Our eye is complex and functions by bending and focusing light rays. The light rays enter the eye via the cornea which is curved so the light is bent slightly. Light then passes through the pupil, which is actually a hole surrounded by the muscular structure of the iris which contracts and relaxes to let in more or less light. Behind the pupil is the lens where the fine focusing is done. The lens is a clear disc held in place by suspensory ligaments and ciliary muscles which contract to bend the light more or relax to bend the light less. All of these parts of the eye serve to focus light on the retina which responds to the light by sending electrical impulses to the brain via the optic nerve. There are two types of light sensitive cells in the retina: rods and cones. Rods are found mostly in the periphery of the retina, are used in peripheral vision, are more light sensitive than cones but cannot distinguish colors. Cones are concentrated in a small, central area of the retina, provide color vision, and work best in bright light. The eye, if deprived of light, does not properly function.
All of this reminded me of a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne titled The Great Stone Face. This story is about a rock formation in the mountains overhanging a village. The rock formation is shaped like a wise and noble face. There’s a prophecy among the villagers that, one day, a man would come who would be the exact image of the Great Face. There’s a young boy fascinated with the Face and the prophecy and spends as much time as he can gazing at the Face. As he grows, there are some who come to the village who are proclaimed as the embodiment of The Face but that proves to be false. The young boy grows to manhood and then old age, always waiting for the One prophesied to come, always gazing on the Great Face, not realizing the he himself was growing into the same image. It’s a beautiful story and, again, the idea expressed does seem to make sense of the scripture passages.
The Greek word translated “single” in the KJV and “good” in the NKJV doesn’t mean undivided or focused. The word is haplos (G573) and the definition in Strong’s is “folded together, single, clear.” Haplos is a compound word comprised of alpha and pleko. Pleko (G4120) is a primary word meaning “to twine or braid.” When I read this, I was reminded of one of the Hebrew words translated “wait” in the OT. The word is qavah (H6960) and one of its meanings is, “to bind together by twisting”. This particular word is the one used in Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” This isn’t a twiddling the thumbs sort of waiting: it’s being intertwined with the very life of God.
I am not saying fixing our attention-our sight, if you will-on Jesus Christ is wrong. There is a moment in our lives when the light of Jesus Christ shines into our darkness and we see what we never saw before. And yet, there is so much more to the passages in Matthew and Luke. Ephesians 1:18 says, “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” This passage is not speaking of our physical human eyes or our ability to fix our attention on Jesus but is referring to a kind of seeing possible only by the action of the Holy Spirit. I think the passages in Matthew and Luke are making the same reference. They are not speaking about us gazing at a Jesus located outside of ourselves but rather being knit to Him so that we don’t see with our eyes only but our vision is intertwined with His. The best quote I’ve found that puts into words what I am seeing in this passage is one I copied from Malcolm Smith’s teaching series The Search for Self Worth. He says, “In that moment of miracle (meaning the moment the light of the truth of Jesus Christ shone in my life) I have been taken out of the darkness. Now, that process begins of taking out of me the ways of darkness.”
Skotos, the Greek word for darkness, carries the meaning of obscurity and the Greek word for “single” or “good” also means clear. When I looked at the Hebrew letters comprising “darkness” in my original study passage of Isaiah 45:7, I saw the picture of God joining Himself to us and transforming us. I see the same picture in the passages in Matthew and Luke: Jesus Christ Himself coming into our darkness and joining Himself to us. His life is formed in us. In Him we are a New Creation. This life that He is in us is ours through His Spirit in us. We are full of light when we abide in Him and His Spirit is the river of life within us. It is my firm conviction this light becomes darkness when His Spirit is quenched. Truly, how great is that darkness.
I meditate on all of this and no longer think the question I am asking myself is “what are you looking at?” but “how are you seeing?”
I see Jesus.
Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Brown, Colin, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume I, Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967-1971, Pages 420-425
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Great Stone Face, Greatest Short Stories, Volume I, P.F. Collier & Son Corporation, New York, New York, 1915, 1940, Pages 89-120
Pilcher, Dr. Helen, Mind Maps Biology: How to Navigate the Living World, Unipress Books Limited, China, 2020, Pages 74-75
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990