The Deception of Darkness

How Some Misunderstand The Darkness In Genesis 1:2

Timothy S. Morton

There are some that teach the "darkness" found in Genesis 1:2 must a result of sin and judgment on a previous earth. They are proponents of what is known as the Gap Theory. We will show below that the darkness in that verse is not in any way negative or a result of judgment but it reflects the natural and default state of the physical reality at the beginning of creation.

We will be critiquing a work by brother Jeffery Mardis which can be found here.

Brother Jeffery Mardis said this in his paper, Genesis Gap Notes,

"For the biggest part of my Christian life I DID NOT believe in a Genesis Gap. The "clincher" for me that "fully persuaded" me was simply a KJB study of the word "darkness"...The weight of this Scriptural evidence shedding light on Genesis 1:2 convinced me, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that WHATEVER was going on within that verse, it could NOT have been something GOOD." 

Brother Mardis then quotes the following verses to show what he believes to be the nature of darkness, Job 10:21-22, 30:26; Psa 88:6; Isa 5:20; Amos 5:18, 20; Nah 1:8; Zeph 1:15; John 3:19; Acts 26:18; Eph 6:12; 1John 2:11. Then he says,

"While none of these verses are speaking of Genesis 1:2 directly, they ARE instructive. Many, many more examples could be given, but I challenge anyone to find ONE SINGLE VERSE in the JKB (sic) that portrays "darkness" in a strong, POSITIVE context... and, as far as I can tell, the evidence is overwhelming that [darkness is] never in relation to something GOOD."

Later on Brother Mardis makes a blanket statement saying, "...darkness ALWAYS connotes something BAD."

Your author contends that Brother Mardis is mistaken on several levels. Also, notice where he says above that "none of these verses are speaking of Genesis 1:2 directly." That is a key admission that shows none of the verses speak in creation context. Moreover, we believe we can show where he is wrong not only contextually, but also semantically, symbolically, and hermenutically.

First, concerning Brother Mardis' challenge to find a single verse that portrays darkness in a positive context, the very verse he is trying influence, Gen 1:2, is the first and most positive one. When one reads Genesis 1 in a normal, straight-forward manner without bringing any presuppositions of negativity with him, he will not see anything negative in the entire chapter. Creation is a very positive action. The chapter begins with God creating and ends with him declaring "every thing" He created as "very good" (Gen 1:31).

Brother Mardis can only insert a negative inference into the verse by reading implicit passages about spiritual darkness that occur AFTER the "very good" declaration of Gen 1:31. This is a grave contextual error. Two key Bible study principles are at work here. The first, "Explicit statements ALWAYS take precedence over implicit statements" proves that the explicit declaration of 1:31 overrules any number of implicit statements or inferred beliefs. Second, "Bible statements in context ALWAYS take precedence over statements apart from context" also proves that verse 31 rules the understanding of the passage. Brother Mardis violates both rules by inserting implicit passages that are outside the context in an attempt to overthrow a clear, explicit verse within the context!

For a more detailed look at how Genesis 1:31 makes the Fundamentalist idea of a Genesis Gap impossible, see our article The Verse That Disproves The Genesis Gap.

What About Spiritual Darkness?

Another serious issue with Brother Mardis' treatment of "darkness" is his failure to acknowledge the distinction between physical darkness and spiritual darkness. The darkness in Gen 1:2 is physical while many uses of the word later refer to a spiritual or abstract "darkness." Physical darkness is an absence of physical light while spiritual darkness is a lack of inner illumination or understanding about sin, self, judgment, etc. It is easy to distinguish spiritual darkness from physical because they speak of entirely different concepts. For instance, look at John 3:19,

"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

Notice how the verse says "light came into the world." This is not physical light but a reference to Jesus Christ who is the "Light" of the world (John 1:9). When Christ came He brought light or illumination about God, Himself, and truth with Him. The rest of the verse says "men loved darkness rather than light," that is they do not want the light of Christ illuminating or making manifest their evil deeds. They would rather stay in darkness. Luke 11:34 also speaks of this,

"The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness."

A person's body is not filled with physical light or darkness. These are clearly abstract, spiritual concepts.

Confusing the Physical with the Spiritual

During a brief discussion about darkness in a Facebook group your author made a remark to some who were trying to apply characteristics of spiritual darkness to physical darkness that in their arguments "physical darkness was being conflated with spiritual darkness" leading them to faulty conclusions. To this Bother Mardis replied,

"Literal light typifies spiritual light, just as literal darkness, typifies spiritual darkness. If the literal does not reflect the spiritual, what's the point?"

He then quotes Romans 1:20.

This statement exposes Mardis' error. Physical darkness is not a type of spiritual darkness, it is a symbol of it. A symbol is defined as,

"Any object, typically material, which is meant to represent another (usually abstract) even if there is no meaningful relationship."

That is exactly how physical darkness represents aspects of the abstract spiritual darkness. It is obvious to all that physical darkness hinders physical sight. When it is "pitch dark" one cannot see anything. It is not that the darkness is evil or even negative in its own essence, it simply hinders sight. This fact of darkness can be a negative from man's perspective since he relies very much on physical sight, but the darkness itself is not negative at all. As we have seen, it was actually decreed to be "very good" in Genesis 1:31, plus a complete "day" could not exist without it.

As for physical darkness being a symbol or representative of spiritual darkness, the symbol fits very well. As physical darkness hinders physical sight; spiritual darkness hinders spiritual sight or light. Notice how the direction of the representation goes only one way; from the symbol to what is symbolized. It never goes from the symbolized to the symbol. To do that the roles would have to be reversed. Examining some other Biblical symbols will better illustrate this.

The Bible uses many symbols in various ways. Here are a few,

Notice the last three where the Holy Spirit has the symbols of wind, fire, and a dove. If there is anything as negative as spiritual darkness in the Bible it would be fire which is also used as a symbol of judgment and hell. But in this case fire is a symbol of a manifestation of God Himself through His Spirit. The key to understanding this is to realize the symbolized object usually only carries one key characteristic of the symbol. In the case of the Holy Spirit having the symbol of wind, a key characteristic of wind is its universal presence. One cannot tell "whence it cometh or whither it goeth" (John 3:8). So it is with people born of the spirit; you can't tell how the Spirit rebirths them. With "tongues as of fire" the key characteristic of fire used is how it spreads. The Holy Spirit spread to all those in the upper room in Acts 2. (Fire's other uses as a symbol speak of how it consumes and purges, Mat 3:10-12.) With a dove the key characteristic here is the dove's appearance of purity, cleanness, and peace.

However, reversing the symbol with the symbolized can get one into a false analogy very fast. Just because elements of wind, fire, and a dove, can be a symbol for a work of the Holy Spirit, that does not mean the reverse is true, and that is where Mardis and others make their mistake. The Holy Spirit is NOT a symbol of fire, wind, or any animal. To say so would require these objects to carry a characteristic of Him. This would be like saying a physical ladder ("Jacob's ladder") gives one access to God (Gen 28:12) or every time it thunders it must be God speaking (Psa 29:3). We may be able to make this even more clearer by using another key symbol in the Bible for sin and corruption: leaven.

The Parallel Symbol of Leaven

Leaven is an expanding agent, and is known today primarily as yeast or baking soda. Physical leaven is put in bread and other baked foods to make it rise or expand. Spiritual or figurative leaven, however, represents the spreading of something inside something else. Matthew 13:3 shows both aspects,

"Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."

Here the Lord describes the well known practice of putting leaven in meal or dough until it spreads throughout the whole batch. He uses this analogy as a picture of the "kingdom of heaven" spreading from its small start with His ministry throughout the whole world.

Moreover, in the spiritual sense, leaven is most often used in the New Testament as a symbol of spreading corruption. The Lord makes this clear in Matt 16:

Then Jesus said unto them,  Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them...How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Mat 16:6-12)

The intent of the passage is obvious. The Lord tells the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, but the disciples miss the spiritual application and can only think of physical bread. Once the Lord explains it to them, then they understand.

Leaven is used as a negative symbol in other places as well. Paul said,

"Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened." (1Co 5:6-7)

"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (Gal 5:9)

So just as physical darkness is used as a symbol of spiritual darkness, physical leaven is a symbol of spiritual leaven. Now since spiritual leaven speaks of spreading corruption and sin, does that in any way apply back to physical leaven making it somehow corrupt or even representing corruption? Nonsense. Except for the feast of Unleavened Bread where the Israelites were not to put leaven in their bread in remembrance of being quickly thrust out of Egypt (Ex 12:39), they were told to normally put leaven in their bread (Lev 23:17, Amos 4:5).

Thus we can conclude physical leaven is not evil or corrupt in itself even though it can be a symbol of evil and corruption. The leaven in a loaf of bread is serving its intended purpose and is thus good. There is not a hint of evil or corruption linked to it at all. In the same vein physical darkness is not evil or even negative even though it can be a symbol of those things; the darkness at the beginning of creation does not have a hint of sin and judgment associated with it either. Even though leaven and darkness can be a symbol of negative things, that in no way means they are ALWAYS is such a symbol every time they are mentioned.

A great lesson these Bible symbols teaches us is one cannot legitimately apply symbols, types, or figures in the Bible in a reverse manner.

There are no negative "overtones" whatsoever associated with darkness until AFTER the fall of man in Genesis 3. Any inclination to make "darkness" in Gen 1:2 negative in any way is a presupposition the reader inserts into the text.

Forcing Characteristics of a Type to Its Anti-Type

A close relative of a symbol is a type. A type is "a grouping based on shared characteristics." There are many types in the Scriptures, and of course, one of the most "typified" persons is the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, the Brazen Serpent of Numbers 21:9 is a type of Christ. He said so Himself (John 3:14-15). The tabernacle of Moses is another type (Exo 40:2 ,34 ; Heb 9:11 ; Col 2:9). Some have claimed to have found up to 21 persons in the Old Testament who are types of Christ. That may be a little excessive but several OT characters are types of Him, such as,

Adam (Rom 5:14),
Abel (Heb 12:14),
Abraham (Eph 3:15),
Aaron (Heb 5:4-5),
David (Psa 89:18-19; Phil 2:9),
Isaac (Heb 11:17-19),
Jacob (John 11:42),
Joseph (Gen 15:19-20),
Joshua (Heb 4:8-9),
Moses (Act 3:20-22),
Noah (2Cor 1:5),
Solomon (2Sa 7:12-13, Luke 1:32-33),

All of these men have at least one characteristic that typifies them with Jesus Christ, who is their "anti-type." However, it would be a grave error to try and use the types in a reverse manner. That is, a legitimate Bible type only works if the corresponding truth is known to be true to the anti-type. What that means is we know that Jesus is a descendant of David and that Solomon is also his descendant. Thus Solomon is a type of Christ in that regard. But if one goes back to Solomon's life and claims certain things must also apply to Christ that are not already identified with Christ, then that is an open door for error and even heresy.

Consider this revealing example. Nearly all the types of Christ have a couple significant "life experiences" in common. They were married and had children. If one wanted to devise a doctrine that claimed Christ also was married and had children it would be easy to do with types and symbols. One could put together a list of all of His types that were married, show all the places where marriage is good, show how whole books like the Song of Solomon typify a married Christ, and make a compelling argument on the surface...but it would all be smoke. The types would have been used in an invalid manner. Remember, types and symbols only flow in one direction and are limited to what is known of the anti-type or the thing symbolized.

Thus the error of confusing something symbolized with its symbol is a major flaw in Mardis' argument. The fact that the Bible later uses darkness to symbolize evil, judgment, and sin does not mean that darkness itself has or is a result of those characteristics or that every time the word is found it is representing the spiritual counterpart. As another wisely said,

"The fact that a physical reality is used to represent something spiritual does not mean that every time this physical reality is mentioned, it must be representing that spiritual entity."

As we have seen above with "leaven," this statement is true and especially true in Genesis 1:2

Can Darkness Ever Be Positive or Good?

Besides the clear and explicit statement that darkness is included in the "very good" statement in Genesis 1:31, there are other passages in the Bible where it serves a good purpose. In Joshua 24:7 Joshua reminds the Israelites of how God used darkness to protect them from the pursuing Egyptians,

"And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians...."

This refers back to Exo 14:20 where the Lord put a "cloud and darkness" between them. This was indeed negative to the Egyptians but very positive and good for the Israelites. Also in Exodus we find where God dwelled in the "thick darkness" (Exo 20:21, 1Ki 8:12, 2Ch 6:1).

Another name for darkness is "night." The Lord named the darkness night in Genesis 1:5. That does not mean every instance of darkness refers to night time, but it does mean that there is physical darkness when it is night.

When the passover of the Israelites occurred in Egypt (Exo 12) it was at night. That is why the Lord told them "It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt" (Exo 12:42).

Manna also fell at night to feed the Israelites (Num 11:9). If you don't think that is a positive blessing, you have never been hungry.

Psalm 19:1-2 speaks of how the heavens show the "glory of God" and "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." So both day and night in a sense speak to mankind, with "night" bringing "knowledge." And, of course, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge..." (Pro 1:7).

The Scriptures are clear that physical darkness and night are not evil or even negative in themselves. That both can spiritually refer to negative things is well known and the Bible often uses them that way, but as we have already shown, to try and force the spiritual applications back into the physical object is not sound and even dangerous.

Darkness the Opposite of God?

During the previously mentioned discussion Brother Mardis said,

...Darkness, in and of itself, is not “evil.” The Lord created it, yes. But He did so to connote or to MARK THINGS which were THE OPPOSITE OF HIMSELF. Like the “evil” which God creates (Isa. 45:7), darkness did not exist, nor was it necessary, until AFTER LUCIFER’S FALL...."

Notice how Mardis is trying to "have his cake and eat it too" by saying darkness is not evil but yet it marks things which are the "opposite" of God. Since God is holy, righteous, and pure, what would be His opposite? Would it not be unholy, unrighteous, and impure; or in other words, sin?

Also notice the huge presuppositions he brings with his statement. He says the reason for darkness is to "mark things" "opposite" of God, that before Lucifer darkness was unnecessary, that it didn't arrive until after a presupposed fall of Lucifer, and darkness is like the evil God creates. He doesn't prove any of this except that God does create evil (in the sense of negative things, not sin). This is typical for many gap proponents. They treat their opinion and various speculations as fact. They believe their own rhetoric.

With this statement, also, Mardis is confusing the physical with the spiritual. Spiritual darkness could be considered the opposite of God because God is Spiritual light, but as we have seen physical darkness is another matter. It does not carry its spiritual counterpart's characteristics, else when darkness comes every night we would be overshadowed by sin and judgment, and when day comes with its light all would bask in righteousness and truth. Of course, this is silly. From a moral and spiritual perspective, physical night is not any different from the physical day.

Darkness the Most Prevalent Thing in the Universe?

Mardis says in his Gap Notes paper,

"Yes, darkness is currently the MOST PREVALENT thing in the Universe. It is a FALLEN Universe. A Universe cursed by sin, under the sway of "the rulers of the darkness of this world" and under the thumb of the one who betrayed Christ and holds "the power of darkness"."

In his first sentence Mardis is mostly right. Physical darkness along with coldness (they always seem to forget coldness) are the default states of the universe. Light and heat must be introduced to make physical life possible. However, the rest of his quote does not apply to Genesis 1 since that chapter was before the fall of man. Mardis claims we live in a "fallen universe," but again, this is just an invention. The Bible says the ground was cursed (Gen 3), but there is no verse that says the whole universe is fallen or cursed.

We say more about the origin of darkness and how it was the logical result of God's initial creation of the physical reality in our chapter, "Who's Afraid of the Dark" in our book The Genesis Gap Sidetrack.

Misapplied Passages

Unfortunately, Brother Mardis is typical of those who are so desperately trying to prove their doctrine that they sometimes "fudge" a passage to make it conform to their doctrine. One example is what he says about Isa 50:3,

 The heavens (i.e. second heaven) are BLACK for a reason. The Scriptures testify: "I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering." Isa. 3:50 [sic] "Sackcloth" scripturally speaking, is a picture of mourning and repentance. God clothed the "heavens with blackness" BEFORE Genesis 1:2, BEFORE the creation of man.

Notice how he says, without providing any evidence, this occurred before Genesis 1:2, and that the universe is in mourning. This cannot be true for multiple reasons. First, the verse says "heavens," plural, which must be the first (sky) AND second (space) heavens, but he tries to limit it to only the second. When both heavens are black there would be no light at all. The sky would be pitch black. Second, this is exactly what God did in Egypt during the Exodus where He darkened the sky with a "thick darkness" so dark it "may be felt" (Exo 21:22). The context of Isa 50:3 also supports this view. Isa 50:2 speaks of things He has already done, "behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness:" referring to the parting of the Red Sea and drying up of the Jordan and later Euphrates.

As for the claim the universe is in a fallen state and in some sort of perpetual mourning, how does that square with Psalm 19:1 where it says the "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork"? So the "glory of God" is a fallen, cursed heavens which is in mourning? Nonsense. This is part of the same glory believers "rejoice in hope of" (Rom 5:2) and the knowledge of is  in the "face of Jesus Christ" (2Cor 4:6)! Mardis is badly mistaken. It was the earth that was cursed AFTER Genesis 1, not the heavens. See also Psalm 8:3.


We have spent enough time looking at the fallacious claim that the darkness in Genesis 1:2 must be a result of sin and judgment. Darkness is a creation of God just as light is, and He chose to make it part of the default state of the universe. What is ironic for Brother Mardis and others who hold the same view is after the fall of man in Genesis chapter 3 (Rom 8:22), many of his arguments have more relevancy, but they hold none in Genesis chapter 1.

As we mentioned, by far the strongest proof against his view is the explicit, in context statement in Genesis 1:31 stating,

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."

To prevail in their argument the gapists must prove, using Scripture within the context of creation, that "every thing" does not mean every thing or that "very good" does not mean very good. No amount of non-contextual, implicit statements can overthrow this one explicit decree. If they continue to insist the scope of either must be somehow limited to allow for their gap claims without scriptural proof, that makes their opinion a "private interpretation" (2Pet 1:20). It is as simple as that!