The Bible and the Speed of Light

And it came to pass that your Curmudgeon decided to see what the bible has to say about the speed of light. After all, the speed of light is one of the most fundamental features of the universe, so — inspired by the teaching of creation scientists — we figured that the Good Book would surely provide some information about it.

The result of our exhaustive search is that we found nothing — nothing at all — which was disappointing. Well, there’s the implication that it’s instantaneous, as the light of the newly created stars was immediately visible on earth. But we’ve already discussed that, so we won’t deal with it here. If you missed those posts, one of the last of them, with loads of comments, was Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper: Jupiter’s Moons.

Aside from that, we did find a few interesting passages — out of 235 which mention the word “light.” Most are obviously poetic, or metaphorical (e.g., a substitute for glory or righteousness or understanding), or the word may appear in reference to lamps and candles and such, so we’re ignoring those. We were looking for passages that had scientific implications, and we found only three. Here they are, in the King James version, of course:

[From Genesis 1:3]
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Very nice, but somehow it seems to lack detail. Moving along:

[From 2 Kings 20:9-11]
And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?

And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.

And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.

Neat! The Earth rotated backwards! What else did we find? Here you go:

[From Job 38:18-20]
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.

Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,

That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

Also neat — light and dark have separate dwelling places! Science hasn’t discovered them yet, but we’ve hardly been looking.

Anyway, that’s all we were able to find. We admit that we have no theological training, so our crude research certainly isn’t authoritative — except that we went to the source and searched it thoroughly. Perhaps someone more steeped in such things than your humble Curmudgeon can … ah, shed some light on the subject.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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9 responses to “The Bible and the Speed of Light

  1. To embellish your comments, the software permits only a few formatting codes. The comments feature is a bit primitive in other ways too — there’s no preview feature and there are no buttons for formatting. The usual codes for subscript and superscript won’t work (you’ll have to write those as 10^3 or something).

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  2. Tomato Addict

    Perhaps slightly off-topic, but this is a pretty good read for the non-physicist:
    Why is there something instead of nothing?

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    So moving down a few verses we find in Genesis 1:16 (KJV still)

    “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”

    Which as even a Sunday school child should be able to inform the clerics, the moon and the sun are essentially the same diameter, so the quoted scripture is describing a completely absurd way to distribute the honors of ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ between sun and moon.

    Obviously the moon is the much more important orb, because it shines at night when it is dark outside, and the extra light from the moon can come in handy. On the other hand the sun shines during the day when there is already plenty of light around anyway, and all the sunlight just goes to waste.

    It is apparent that this lightness/darkness dichotomy hadn’t been all that very well planned out before the Great-Designer Creator (or GD Creator) had provided his scribes with pen and ink to take down his rambling mutterings for all posterity. Chalk messages written on the sidewalk often make more sense. And even the ones that don’t have the wisdom to just vanish in the next rain, and not bother innocent passers-by ever again.

  4. “greater” could mean “more intense”, so I’d not twit them about that. But if the Moon is there to rule the night, why is it up in the daytime 50% of the time?

  5. Gabriel Hanna asks: “But if the Moon is there to rule the night, why is it up in the daytime 50% of the time?”

    After Eve and the apple, everything was out of sync. The sun is up at night too, but you probably think it’s still daytime.

  6. Ceteris Paribus

    I’m hypothesizing that the stars represent Libertarians, and they don’t really pay much attention to which ruler is thought to be greater or lesser.

  7. The real puzzle about the Sun, Moon and stars appearing on the fourth day is that their purposes (so the Bible tells us) were to divide the day from the night and to mark the passage of time. So how were there days (and nights) 1, 2 and 3?

  8. retiredsciguy

    [From Genesis 1:3]
    And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

    But it wasn’t ’til day four that the sun was put up into the sky [Gen 1:16], so where did that light come from?

  9. retiredsciguy

    Oops! Sorry, TomS. I was so intent on posting, I didn’t see your nearly identical comment. (Maybe I was blinded by the light.)