Welcome, Readers, to the Month of May and the return to my study of Isaiah 45:7.
I am still looking at the second part of the first line of this passage: “I create darkness”. I’ve already looked at the meaning of the Hebrew letters comprising the word translated “darkness” and was curious what I might discover in the Greek.
A brief recap: the Hebrew word for darkness in Isaiah 45:7 is choshek and, in the OT, is used for the darkness of night as well as metaphorical darkness. The NT does use separate words to express these concepts. In a previous post, I mentioned there are five different words for darkness in the New Testament. I ought to have been more specific and I will endeavor to be so in the future. There are five reference numbers for darkness in the Strong’s Concordance but only two unique words used: zophos and skotos. The other three words corresponding to the Strong’s numbers are all related to skotos. They are skoteinos, skotia, and skotoo. “Night” is nyx (or nox-pronounced noox). I looked up “darkness” in the Dictionary of New Testament Theology and found nyx can also have the metaphorical meaning of “darkness” equivalent to skotos in some passages (John 11:10, 9:4, 1 Thess. 5:5-7) which made me wonder just which word would correspond to choshek in Isaiah 45:7. I purchased a copy of the Septuagint and found the word was skotos.
The Dictionary of New Testament Theology says this about skotos: “In classical Greek, darkness applies primarily to the state characterized by the absence of light (phos) without any special metaphysical overtones. The thought is chiefly of the effect of darkness upon man. In the dark man gropes around uncertainly (Plato, Phaedo, 99b), since his ability to see is severely limited. Thus the man who can see may become blind in the darkness and no longer know which way to turn. Hence darkness appears as the “sphere of objective peril and of subjective anxiety”. (H. Conzelmann, TDNT VII 424). Since all anxiety ultimately derives from the fear of death, the ominous character of darkness culminates in the darkness of death which no man can escape (cf. Homer, IL., 4, 461). Darkness is therefore Hades, the world of the dead, which already reaches out into our world in the mythical figures of the Eumenides, the children of Skotos and Gaia (Soph., Oedipus Coloneus, 40).
A little further into the entry for “darkness”, I found a mention of Gnosticism and read; “Here the concept of darkness goes beyond the purely relative to become an independent force, seen as the unlimited ruler of the earthly world. This world is so filled with darkness that even its luminaries are but skoteinon phos-dark light (Corp. Herm. 1, 28). In radical contrast to this world of darkness shines the transcendent world, the priority of which is stressed in Gnostic literature. Man has been endowed with a soul, coming from a spark of light. It is his task by means of gnosis (knowledge) to attain to enlightenment.”
I went through a period of time where I was fascinated by the stories of the Greek gods and goddesses and read everything I could get my hands on. Thus, I was already aware Nyx was the Night goddess but did not remember coming across Skotos. Darkness was deified by the Greeks as Erebus and such was the information I could find in the volumes I have. Once I went online I did find websites that told me Scotus (or Skotos) was another name for Erebus. I find this fascinating. It’s important to remember the Bible was not written in a vacuum. These Greek words were part of a vibrant culture and had ideas and belief systems connected with them far and beyond the way they were being used by the writers of the NT.
So many passages in the NT equate darkness with a way of thinking. Looking at two examples; Romans 1:21 says, “they…became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened” and Ephesians 4:18 says, “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” As I read the section on darkness in the Theology Dictionary, I thought about the belief systems the NT writers were so steadfastly against: Gnosticism, Pantheism, etc. One of my Bible Teachers recently spoke on the way our thought processes come down to us from our ancestors as well as being formed by the world around us. I have been thinking about how true that is. I believe words mean certain things because of how I’ve heard them used. There are words spoken that evoke pictures in my mind and these pictures come from movies or books. Anyone who has seen my bookshelves know I am not one to eschew books or movies because of the messages contained in them but I think making the realization is important. Everything I hear and see affects my thought processes. It is only through careful study and learning to discern the voice of Jesus Christ in the midst of innumerable other voices that I come to see which of my own thought processes are resting on a foundation of lies. This is true of the world at large: age-old thought processes are still with us. I read sermons preached today that sound a great deal like the excerpt on Gnosticism. I hear fellow believers saying things that sound a great deal like Greco-Roman Pantheism.
Isaiah 45:5 says, “I am the Lord and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” This is a truth universally recognized among believers except when it comes to talking about Satan. Satan is spoken of in terms that infer he is somehow God’s opposite. He is said to be the Prince of Darkness and ruler over hell. I do understand where these ideas come from. John 12:31 and John 14:30 speak of the “ruler of this world”. Ephesians 2:2 uses the term “the prince of the power of the air” and then there is Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” I acknowledge there are spiritual powers of darkness at work but let us who know the Living God not give Satan more power than he is due and let us never in our words equate him with God.
The Theology Dictionary says, “The key to the OT view of light and darkness is faith in God as Creator who stands above both. He is not only the Lord of light; darkness also has to bow before Him.” In the NT, in the very Day we are living in, we see Jesus who, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:4). Finishing out the passages in John, we find the ruler of this world is “cast out” and “has nothing” in Jesus. Whatever usurped rule the devil might have had, he is utterly defeated. He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short and it is Jesus Himself who holds the keys to death and hades (Revelation 12:12, 1:18).
The entire NT proclaims Jesus Christ’s total victory and it also speaks against this Gnostic idea that we attain enlightenment. We cannot because “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7) and “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Left to ourselves, we would forever walk in darkness. Praise God our Father and the precious Lord Jesus Christ that we are NOT left to ourselves! “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
What about the Gnostic idea that darkness is the ruling force here on Earth? All I have to do is turn on the news to see that much is true, right? No. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). There is no other power beside Him. Why then are people still in darkness? The Strong’s defines skotos as “shadiness, obscurity”. Skotos comes from the root skia which means “darkness of error or an adumbration”. I had to look up “adumbration” and found it means, “shadow or faint image…concealment or overshadowing.” The darkness obscures and mars what is true. Its power is based in lies but, again, I do not discount it. Human beings are capable of terrible things when they believe a lie.
“Test everything,” Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, “hold fast to what is true.” What is true? Jesus Christ Himself is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) and each one of us must know Him for ourselves. Study is important. The Bereans in Acts took everything Paul said and compared it to the scriptures to see if it was true. I cannot stress how important it is not to accept anything anyone says, especially if they are telling you who Jesus is, and to search the scriptures for yourself. More importantly, know Him. It is the will of God for everyone to know Him (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11). You do not need someone with a long string of letters attached to the last name to tell you who He is. The Holy Spirit does that. (John 15:26, John 16:13).
Let us ask to know Him and trust His promise is sure that in asking we will receive. Let us trust in our Glorious Heavenly Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children. Let us know that, having received His Spirit, the same mind that was in Christ Jesus is in us. And then, let us marvel at how He transforms us as He renews our minds.
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
Bulfinch, Thomas, Bulfinch’s Mythology, Avenel Books, Crown Publishers, Inc., USA, 1978, Page 4
Cotterell, Arthur, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hermes House, Annes Publishing Limited, London, UK, 2005, Pages 41, 55
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990