God is joyful and majestic light; God is never overshadowed

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (Reference: 1 John 1: 5)

Lots of words below, but the essence is here:

God is light; nothing overshadows God. God’s light is joyful and majestic.

Light radiates from a source, following a path perhaps until it hits an irradiated object; the object cast a shadow following a path, perhaps until it hits a shadowed object. According to Leonard Talmy, this is the physical basis of light metaphors. With this in mind, consider today’s verse. The author of 1 John says the message of Jesus is this: God is the light source, and nothing casts a shadow on God.

One of the potential problems with theories like Talmy’s is that the don’t capture the complexities of metaphors. In general, the cognitive semantics approach is to create simple equational statements (LIFE is LIGHT) and look at the mixtures and interactions to capture the complexities. Miyazaki Kimie, in the article Light and Darkness in English and Japanese (pdf), describes some of the similarities and differences between English and Japan language and culture. For example, one way of describing Buddha is as the “Twelve Light Buddha:”

Buddha of Immeasurable Light, Buddha of Boundless Light, Buddha of  Unhindered Light, Buddha of Incomparable Light, Buddha of  Majestically Flaming Light, Buddha of Pure Light, Buddha of Joyful Light, Buddha of Wisdom Light,  Buddha of Unceasing Light, Buddha of Inconceivable Light, Buddha of  Ineffable Light, and Buddha of Light Outshining Sun and Moon.

I find interesting the similarities between Christian images of light and these images. Christians say God is Infinite (immeasurable, boundless, incomparable, unceasing, inconceivable, ineffable), All-powerful (unhindered, outshining sun and moon, majestically flaming), All-wise (wisdom) and the Source of every good (joyful), and Goodness itself (pure). I find the foreignness of some of the language helpful in understanding and enjoying and worshipping God. God, the Light, is a Joyful Light. God, the Light, majestically flames.

About Will Fitzgerald

I work on recommendation systems and lexical resources for Wordnik.

One thought on “God is joyful and majestic light; God is never overshadowed

  1. wilderness says:

    o may his joyful flames burn away all that is chaff of me and leave only the good kernel that is his!

    o lord forge me


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