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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Darkness (2)

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DARKNESS.—The word ‘dark’ is used in the sense of the absence of natural light in John 6:17; John 20:1. The darkness that lasted for the space of three hours at the crucifixion is referred to in Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44-45. For a brief summary of the views held as to the nature of this darkness, see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘Darkness.’ It may suffice to remark that, the Passover falling at full moon, there can be no question here of a solar eclipse.

Generally ‘darkness’ is used in a metaphorical sense, but with slightly different significations. Darkness is the state of spiritual ignorance and sin in which men are before the light of the revelation of Jesus comes to them (Matthew 4:16, Luke 1:79, John 8:12; John 12:45-46). This darkness the presence of Jesus dispels, except in the case of those who love the darkness and who therefore shrink back into the recesses of gloom, when the light shines, because their deeds are evil. Those who have a natural affinity to the light, when Jesus appears, follow Him and walk no longer in darkness.

But there is the deeper darkness that comes through incapacity of sight (Matthew 6:23, Luke 11:35). This state results from long continuance in evil (John 3:19). It is the judgment passed upon the impenitent sinner. To love the darkness rather than the light is to have the spiritual faculty atrophied, and this is the Divine penalty to which he is condemned. The light that is in him has become darkness. The gospel contemplates for the human soul no more dire calamity.

And the final fate of the impenitent sinner is to be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30). There is a kingdom of darkness which wars against the light, and which has power at times to prevail (Luke 22:53). This is the darkness of sin, chosen and loved as sin, the instinctive hatred, inwrought with what is radically evil, of the Divine purity and light. It is the negative of all good—outer darkness, the darkness that has ceased to be permeated or permeable by any ray of light.

Darkness is twice used of secrecy or privacy (Matthew 10:27, Luke 12:3). In these cases, however, a metaphorical use of the word is also implied. In the former passage the reference is to the darkness of perplexity and sorrow; in the latter, to the darkness of sin. See also Light, Unpardonable Sin.

In the later mystical theology there is a use of the term that may be here referred to. There is a ‘Divine darkness’ which is the consummation of the experience of the purified soul—the darkness that comes from excess of light. The pseudo-Dionysius speaks of the ‘luminous gloom of the silence’ which reveals the inner secrets of being, aod in which the soul is raised to the absolute ecstasy. It is an attempt to express the infinitude of the susceptibility of the human soul to emotions of either joy or anguish. From the outer darkness to the light which is above light, and therefore inconceivable, the soul of man is capable of responding to every shade of experience.

Literature.—Cremer, Bib. Theol. Lex. s.vv. σκότος, σκοτια; Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life6 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 463 ff.; Phillips Brooks, Candle of the Lord, p. 74 ff.; Expositor, ii. iii. [1882] 321 ff.

A. Miller.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Darkness (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/d/darkness-2.html. 1906-1918.

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