A while ago I began a personal Bible study to help me identify and clarify some of my “whys” in photography. I was interested in finding out what the Bible might have to say about photography.
Say what? How many times do you supposed the word “photography” appears in the Bible? Um, ZERO.
But there are many concepts in the Bible which do apply, either directly or indirectly. These concepts provide a deeper and richer meaning for me as I go about my business and consider my work as a form of worship.
To begin my study, I began to thinking about what photography really is. So I turned to good ole Webster who provided this literal definition of photography:
“the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface”
The components of photography then are radiant energy or light and a sensitive surface and they result in an image.
These keywords are driving my study, and two of them DO appear over and over in Scripture. The third keyword can be inferred in an abstract way.
I looked up the word “light” in my Bible study app and found that the word is mentioned 272 times in the English Bible. And then there are 85 more variations of the word bringing the total mentions to 357.
Since we know that the Bible was originally written primarily in Hebrew and Greek and later translated into English, it’s interesting to note that there are different words in the original languages which are then translated into our word(s) for “light.” In different contexts, the Hebrew and Greek words carry many shades of meaning from literal and concrete to abstract and metaphorical. Here are some examples of the different nuances represented as “light” by several different Hebrew and Greek words found in the Bible.
Nouns: The sun, moon, and stars, luminary, lightning, daylight, fire light, a portable lamp, candle
Verbs: to shine, to make manifest, to ignite, to kindle, to set on fire, to burn, to consume, to beam, to radiate, to give light
Adjectives: bright, clear, luminousness
From Genesis we learn that God created light on Day 1 of creation. So naturally, we can infer that God created every form of light. When God said, “Let there be light” in Gen 1:3 the Hebrew word can have all of these meanings–illumination, luminary, happiness, brightness, clarity, daylight, morning and sun. It’s amazing to think that He created all of that when he said,
“Let there be light.”
When we read in I John that God IS light, we can understand that God encompasses all of these things, yet is not limited to any one of them or defined entirely by any one. For example, to say that God IS the sun would be to limit him to that thing or that concept alone. That train of thought could then lead to the pagan practice of worshipping the sun…or the moon or stars as some civilizations and cultures have done.
Scripture is clear that we are not to worship anything that is created, but the Creator. We worship a divine person. Not representations, attributes, or metaphors. So I believe that when we say that God is Light, we are not to worship light itself, but God, and realize that he encompasses all of the various aspects of light without being limited by any of them. This should cause us to worship HIM.
What exactly might that look like? Well, let’s practice that right now…
Lord, we worship YOU as the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars. You provides these lights out of your goodness and provision to give us light, heat, energy, joy, and to cause things to grow and flourish. We thank you that we can enjoy the natural cycles of day and night to balance work and rest and mark the times and seasons.
We thank you for candles and luminaries. We love the beauty of their warm glow around our tables where we cherish intimate moments with family as well as the candlelit banquets halls where we enjoy holiday celebrations and social occasions with friends and loved ones.
We thank you for firelight. We gather around the fireplace in our homes to relax together in relationship and enjoy the warmth and the soft crackle while we watch the flames dance. Thank you for bonfires and campfires that draw us together with friends and loved ones for fellowship, food, relaxation, and song.