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De Moor VIII:22: The Time of Creation, Part 4

With respect to the Day of Creation in particular, one may certainly assert concerning this, that Night preceded Day.  Whoever dares to doubt of it is obliged to be exceedingly incredulous, against, 1.  the altogether clear narration of Moses, who, α.  expressly relates in Genesis 1:2, 3, that there was Darkness before the creation of Light.  β.  Evenings, the beginning of nights, he repeatedly orders before the Morning time in the history of the six days of Creation, Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31.  These things are so clear, that it is strange that PERERIUS, on Genesis 1:5, page 27b, is able to conclude for the contrary opinion, and even to appeal to the assent of some among the Fathers.

2.  Against the authority of Paul, confirming this narration of Moses, 2 Corinthians 4:6, in which to produce Light out of Darkness is commemorated as an eminent work of divine Power; which excludes all antecedent Light, as much as the true Light, as far as it is supposed the same in number, antecedently to this illumination is denied to be in the hearts of those, whom God had illuminated by His grace.

3.  Hence that ancient and persistent practice of the Jews, of beginning the νυχθήμερα/night-day from the Night, and of reckoning the same from evening to evening, which God willed also to be observed in all the Feasts, Leviticus 23:32.  The custom of the ancient and more recent Arabs is the same, ascertaining their seasons by the motion of the Moon; of the Numidians of Libya; of the Athenians, whence in the term νυχθήμερα/night-day νύξ/night also precedes ἡμέρα/day:  but also concerning a number of Nations in the East the same is recorded, that they, attending to the motion of the Moon in the reckoning of times, also began their νυχθήμερα/night-days from the Night, namely, the Celts, Germans, Gauls, Britons, Danes, Saxons, Bohemians, Silesians, and some Americans:  hence the Arabs in their Histories recount that something was done, not on what day, but on what night, how many nights passed, etc.:  which Historians also observe concerning the other peoples just now enumerated; thus concerning the Gauls, CÆSAR, de Bello Gallico, book VI, chapter XVIII, “The Gauls…define the intervals of all time, not in a number of days, but of nights, and they observe birthdays, and the beginnings of months and years, in such a way that day follows night.”  Concerning Thales[1] DIOGENES LÆRTIUS relates, book I, section XXXVI, page 22, Πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον, τί πρότερον ἐγεγόνει, νὺξ ἢ ἡμέρα.  Ἡ νὺξ, ἔφη, μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ πρότερον, a man asked him which was made first, night or day, and he replied, Night was made first by one day:  compare GROTIUS, de Veritate Religionis Christianæ, book I, § 16, page 37; SPANHEIM, Chronologia Sacra, part I, chapter VIII, column 27, chapter XIV, column 66; CALOVIUS, Chronici Biblici, section I, question I, page 56.  From this very common opinion recedes ALPHONSUS DES VIGNOLES, contending at length, that of old the Jews began their civil day from the Rising of the Sun; see him in his Chronologia Sacra, tome I, book III, chapter I, § 6, pages 580-589.

While other peoples begin it differently for a variety of reasons.  Thus the Romans, like the Egyptians in Pliny, began the νυχθήμερα/night-day from the middle of the night, when the Sun approaches us again; which modern usage among us also accepts.  The Babylonians in Censorinus, Pliny, etc., and the more recent Greeks in Theodore of Gaza,[2] take the beginning from the rising of the Sun.  The peoples of Umbria,[3] like a great many Astronomers and Mathematicians, following Ptolemy,[4] began the day from non, with the Sun appearing directly overhead:  see SPANHEIM in the passage just now cited, Chronologia, column 66.

It is nothing but the most inane sport, that Darkness, as indicating a Privation of Light, presupposes this.  Thus, for example, REIZIUS,[5] in his notis ad Godwini Moses et Aaron, book III, chapter I, § 3, does not dread to write, although the express contrary is evident from the Sacred books on this point:  “Day naturally precedes, because night is not able to be grasped, without the concept of light or day….  Light precedes in Creation; night follows; and then again day or light.”  Upon which false hypothesis he then builds his barren emblems or types, which he rashly seeks in this arrangement.  But we advise to the contrary, α.  that to us the Belief of Moses and Paul is preferable, who in the passages cited, expressly set Darkness, which Moses asserts to have been called Night, before the Light, than that we should desert them on account of this sort of human rule of art.  β.  That rules of this sort, concerning Privation supposing Habit, and those that are similar, presuppose nature as constituted; but in constituting nature through Creation all things are in an extraordinary manner, since the Creator was not at all bound by Laws thereafter given to created nature.  γ.  Even in nature already constituted Privation does not always presuppose the actual Presence of the contrary Habit; but often only its Propriety, as Blindness in one born blind does not presuppose that vision had been actually present.  δ.  Why might not the original Darkness be able to be called the Negation, as much as the Privation, of Light, which presupposes no Light hitherto?  And, whether in this or that manner that Darkness ought to be conceived, it is sufficiently plain to us from the divine narration, that it was truly present:  thus nocturnal darkness is granted, and darkness obtains in the day in an underground pit; but, whether it is of this or the other sort, Darkness is and abides.

[1] Thales (c. 635-c. 543) is among the oldest extant Greek philosophers.  It was Thales’ position that the most basic component of all material substance is water.

[2] Theodore of Gaza (c. 1398-c. 1475) was a Greek humanist, translator of Aristotle, and instrument in the revival of learning in the fifteenth century.

[3] Umbria is a region of Italy, east of Etruria, extending all the way to the Adriatic coast.

[4] Claudius Ptolemæus (c. 90-c. 168), of Roman Alexandria, was a scientist and thinker of great profundity; and his contribution to the fields of geography and astronomy in the Western world has been enormous.

[5] Johann Heinrich Reitz (1665-1720) was a German Reformed pastor and theologian, influenced by Pietism, and given to some theological extravagance.

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