True to its function of trying to facilitate faith and science discussion, Biologos asks the question: What did God mean by “let there be light” in Genesis 1:3? http://biologos.org/blog/genesis-creation-and-ancient-interpreters-let-there-be-light/
I would prayerfully answer as follows: In Genesis 1:3 God created a physical light source distinct from the sun/moon/stars for the purpose of illuminating His burgeoning creation. Or as Tom Bodett would say, “we’ll leave the light on for you”. From my perspective the key to understanding the nature and role of light in Genesis 1 is to define from whose perspective 1:5b should be seen, God or Moses, and to ask if the physical light of Genesis 1:3 is still shining.
A. Why physical (and not intellectual (as Augustine) or spiritual) illumination? In Genesis 1:3, the light (note singular) was created in time after the creation of heaven and earth and thus had a beginning. God’s light (1 John 1:5) was certainly present but is eternal. Genesis 1:3 light was separated from darkness, explained by God putting the earth into its rotation with respect to this physical, singular light source. From God’s perspective the evening and morning of 1:5b is the rotating cycle of light/day and darkness/night of the earth with respect to this light source. If we look at 1:5b from Moses’ perspective the evening and morning are a part of a normal “revelatory” day from which Moses received the creation revelation from God.
B. Why illuminate a burgeoning creation? Plants grew before the sun was created through the energy source of this light (1:11-12). The addition of new lights (plural, understood as sun moon and stars) were added to the 1:3 light for the initial purpose of setting signs, seasons days and years as well as to be lights in the heavens and earth as well as additional “structural markers” for the already created and separted light/day and darkness/night.
The big question…Is the Genesis 1:3 light still shining. What do you think?