Ancient Perception of Day and Night

By Wayne O

[1] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
[2] And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. [3] And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
[4] And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
[5] And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
[14] And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
[15] And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
[16] 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.
[17] And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
[18] And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
[19] And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

I’ve seen this topic danced around, with no particularly plausible explanation offered for the three cycles of daylight and darkness (day and night) transpiring before the appearance of the sun. For us today, who have grown up learning modern cosmology from an early age, the first explanation we hear of day and night is that it’s the result of the rotation of a spherical world; the side exposed to the sun experiencing daylight, while the opposite side falls in the sphere’s own shadow, or night. That explanation hasn't always been available to everybody.

Left to their own powers of observation, how might a primitive people perceive the cycles of darkness and light? We can try forgetting about the knowledge we possess today and make some "primitive" observations of our own.

Anyone who is up before sunrise knows that the sky is already light by the time the sun appears on the horizon. Likewise, in the evening the sky remains light for a while after the sun drops below the horizon. Furthermore, entire days may pass without the sun being visible at all from the ground when the sky is cloudy or overcast, or in the presence of fog, for example. Granted, the day is not as bright without direct sunlight, but there’s still plenty of light. Inside a hut or tent or the entrance of a cave we may also be cut off from direct sunlight, but the interior can still have plenty of light, depending on the nature of any openings to the outside. Similarly, at night there are differing degrees of illumination, depending on the phase of the moon, or whether it is visible in the sky at all. The sun will cast shadows, but so does the moon. A full moon seems very bright in the night sky, yet it is night nevertheless. Often the moon is visible in the daytime along with the sun, although not nearly as bright.

So, without knowledge of the real cosmological relationship between the sun and Earth, our observations might tell us that the sun merely accompanies day, without causing it, reasoning as follows:

  1. It can be daytime without the sun being visible in the sky. This can result from cloudy, foggy, or overcast conditions, or with the sun obstructed from sight by a mountain, a forest canopy, or the side of a ravine.

  2. Daytime lasts longer than the time the sun is visible in the sky. It begins a little while before the sun rises and ends a little while after the sun has set.

  3. Interiors of huts, tents, caves, gorges, forests, etc., can be illuminated from skylight. It is not necessary for sunlight to shine directly on something to have sufficient illumination to see it.

  4. It is brighter in the daytime when the sun is visible, but it is also brighter at night when the moon is visible (and brightest at night when the moon is at its fullest).

  5. The moon may appear in the daytime as well as at nighttime. On some days it appears both in daytime and at night, so there’s no apparent cause-effect relationship between the moon and night.

  6. The sun may provide light and heat, but so does a fire. A fire can even provide more heat than we feel from sunlight. Yet a fire does not turn nighttime into day. Why should the sun, being of a lesser intensity than a fire, be expected to do so? We know from our experience with campfires, torches, and oil lamps that heat from a fire is most intense in close proximity, and the warmth drops off with distance. Therefore, the sun must be pretty close, since we can feel its warmth.

  7. The sun occupies a very small area of the entire sky dome, yet the sky is uniformly lit on a clear day. Why should one assume that a tiny spot in the sky is responsible for lighting the entire expanse?

Might we not conclude from simple observation that daytime and sunlight are two separate and distinct phenomena, just as nighttime is separate from moonlight? And just as a fire can provide light and heat, yet not change night to day, cannot the sun be merely a supplement to daylight and daytime warmth--a "greater light to rule the day"--but not a cause of the day, while the moon provides light at night without causing the night?

From a primitive perspective it could very well seem that day and night could exist without need of the sun. And that’s about as good an answer for origins as you’ll get from any of Genesis.


BornAgainAtheist said...

This is GREAT! Thanks a lot.

Christianity Revealed said...

THINK! Use your head!

** Time does not need the sun!!! **

** The sun is just a clock. **

This article's thrust is like a guy who didn't go to work because his clock stopped - therefore time stopped.

In the process of creation - the 24 hr period had to be set FIRST - BEFORE the sun was created.

Every beginning student of Kabbalah know this!

lothartx said...

xainity revealed....


That's the sound the post made as it went completely over your head...


SpaceMonk said...

"In the process of creation - the 24 hr period had to be set FIRST - BEFORE the sun was created."

And what was the Earth orbiting for 24 hours at a time before the Sun was created?

Use your head!

Lsettr said...


Sounds to me like everyone needs an elementary science lesson. Um, let's see, a day (24hours) is the time it takes the earth to rotate on it's axis. A year is the time it takes the earth to orbit the sun. I hope that's right. I always hated science.
And why did a 24 hour period need to be set first before the sun? That post, to me, makes no sense...not the original post.

But, as to the first posting, it's a valis idea. You might could use it as an argumentative essay at some point. Unless you've gotten through Anthropology classes, it can be difficult to seperate yourself from this world and consider what people in other cultures or even other time periods thought of events that we take for granted. Very clear thesis.


J. C. Samuelson said...

An interesting and imaginative trip into the perceptions of ancient peoples. Whether it's accurate or not, it is certainly a plausible explanation for the wording used in ancient documents like the Bible. Also, it adds to the plethora of material with which to debate those promoting the Y.E. 24/7 creationism, if one finds that to be an enjoyable pastime.

Christianity Revealed.....

Wow, thanks! I needed that! Kudos for coming up with the most idiotic statements I've read in a single post so far today.


intrepid_iam said...

I find it funny the length some people go, to explain the so call inspired word of GOD, if as they say god is omniscient then he should at least have the common sense. To make his word clear and easy to under stand, Wayne O should not be god expert explainer guy. One quick note Mr Wayne the sun and the stars was not made until the fort day (GEN 1 14-19.) God creates light and separates light from darkness, and day from night, on the first day. Yet he didn't make the light producing objects, the sun and the stars until the fourth day. How could there be the evening and the morning on the first day if there was no sun to mark them?

lothartx said...

intrepid iam..

My take take on Wayne's post. Condensed to one paragraph.

Primitive people did not understand gravitional theory or how the solar functions or what or how far away the sun is or the moon. No understanding of physice beyond what goes up, must come down. Based on that, the made up something that sounded good based on the knowledge (or lack there of) available at the time.

Gensis is simply someone sitting in a hut or tent, ignorant of modern physics trying to explain where the earth, moon and stars came from. It's myth, a fairytale, complete and utter B.S. It's a childs point of view. The only thing more unbelievable is that otherwise apparently educated people still insist on believing it. Come on, grow up and get out of the cave.

Rot8ing Anode said...


Call me crazy, but that looks like 2 paragraphs to me. but that is just my take on it.

More than anything I think this explores how you can examine the bible and find that the writers were not writing with evem a shred of the knowledge of the natural universe we have today. Could the "divine inspiriation" that christians tout be so obviously flawwed and still be taken seriously without a total disregard for basic logic?? Wouldn't have god told the author that the sun came first, and that it was the entity causing all illumination on our planet, day and night. So much for writings "directly from god"



Faith, oh shoot.. Next thing you know some sheep will post stating that he/she actually believes that the seperation of day and night occured before the creation of the sun. With faith, anything is possibble.. IN YOUR IMAGINATION!!!

Here is another morsel:

Thunder and lightning-

we all know that we see the strike before we hear the report, and that it is one instance causing the observed events. But thinking with a primitive mind this must have been viewed as 2 seperate events as they did not happen simultaneously. So what was a raging storm to a desert wandering nomad like Moses. Do you think that there might be a remote possibility that he may have been off on his analysis of the event? Can any christians reading see why we shouldn't really trust ancient accounts on natural events, let alone the creation of the universe??

But but but... Yeah, I know, thick as brick

BornAgainAtheist said...

And yet another morsel...

Imagine, if you will, mankind before he learned to use fire. Fire would seem to him as if a piece of the sun came down amongst him, threatening his existance. He would see smoldering ruins and see Hell.

Yet, it seemed to him, fire provided warmth and warmth provided comfort. In order to get fire, he would have to go to hell and risk his life and beg god for his grace. Or he would have to climb a volcanic mountain to talk to god directly, asking how god may allow his comforting presence among his people.

One day a man discovered, one way or another, how to bring fire out of thin air!!! Imagine the hominds bowing down to worship this man! No, he must be a god! No, he is half god, half man! No, he is the son of god, sent to redeem us from cold and the terror of night!

He gathered disciples around him. Those that learned this trick of 'making' fire were sent forth on an apostolic mission: "Go forth unto the ends of the earth! Bring my salvation (fire) to all the peoples! If they accept it, they will be warm and safe and comforted (Saved!). If they reject it, they will be cursed to the cold and outer darkness to weep and gnash their teeth.

"I have come to send fire on the earth, but how can I, if it be already kindled?" (Luke 12:49)

Wayne O said...

There are so many things explained by science that we accept without question anymore, the ancient views of the world that form the basis of so many stories in the bible just don't make sense. The fundies have bent over backwards so severely, trying to fit those old tales into commonly accepted modern science, that it's warped their thinking processes. Something that undermines the very foundations of their belief system, like evolution by natural selection, is still fought tooth and nail. The idea that the earth was not really the center of the universe once threatened their beliefs because their bible said otherwise. Nowadays they've managed to swallow that concept, but at the cost of certain bible passages no longer making any sense, like the sunlight/daylight dichotomy.

I also have a lot to say about spirit = breath.

Tim Simmons said...

Basically, I don't agree. These verses, which you posted yourself, don't leave much room for your theory.

[16] 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.
[17] And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

God made two great... LIGHTS! A light emits... um, light?

If I had time, I'd research it a bit but I don't think people who lived 3000 years ago were so dumb they didn't make the connection between sun and daylight.

What about when the sun goes behind a cloud? Hmmmmmm? Suddenly, no sun - less light.

Anyway, the concept of ancient ignorance holds true but I am not convinced this is what most people believed. If the sun and daylight always happened together, what would anyone conclude? The sun was the source in some way.

Anyway, nice try but a more comprehensive study would probably reveal it to be false.


freeman said...

Least we not forget that god created light and dark loooong before he created the "two great lights"!

What a dumb ass!

BornAgainAtheist said...

The dumbass is the one with barely a second grade science education. Care to guess wihich one I mean?

SpaceMonk said...

"Um, let's see, a day (24hours) is the time it takes the earth to rotate on it's axis. A year is the time it takes the earth to orbit the sun."

Aw, dammit. I knew that.
Now this reminds me of a saying I've heard: "Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level then beat you with experience."

Wayne O said...


It looks like you kinda read my posting, but you didn't retain much. Or else you skimmed over the rest of it once you started whipping up counterarguments in your head. Go back and check out items 4 and 6 again.

It's obvious that the cosmological order we understand today wasn't that easy for primitive man to figure out. It took CENTURIES, after all, and it passed through MANY iterations (often in more recent history with the help of God's Word providing false leads). It seems self-evident to us today for no other reason than we were exposed to it that way from the beginning of our own lives. Primitive man had no such advantage. And we're not talking about what most of mankind understood about the cosmos; merely a small, backward, mideastern Hebrew group who had no astronomical science until their contact with the Babylonians... long after the origins of their own creation stories (with emphasis on the plural).

You also pose the question, "If the sun and daylight always happened together, what would anyone conclude? The sun was the source in some way." You're still thinking with the benefit of modern knowledge. The simple fact is, as stated in my article, the sun and daylight DON'T always happen together. Go back and read it again.

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