From Darkness to Light – an Excerpt from Conversion in Luke-Acts

The following is an excerpt from Conversion in Luke-Acts, by Joel Green.

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Luke presents conversion as the movement from darkness to light above all in Acts 26:17–18. In his testimony to King Agrippa, Paul represents his commission by recalling the words Jesus spoke to him on the way to Damascus: “I [that is, the Lord Jesus] will rescue you from your people and from the gentiles—to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified through faith in me.”

Cover Art“Darkness” and “light” appear to be universal metaphors in which language and conceptual structure from the source domain of vision, a bodily function, are used to depict the more abstract concepts of the presence or absence of knowledge, understanding, or even wisdom. Accordingly, someone might complain, “Why was I kept in the dark about that decision?”

The biblical tradition presses this metaphor further by associating it with knowledge of God, or with living in God’s light. In Exod. 10:21–23, for example, one of the disasters the Lord brings on Egypt involves three days of darkness, during which time the Israelites enjoy the light. For Isaiah, God forms light/prosperity as well as darkness/doom (45:7), and, at Israel’s restoration, God’s people are told, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (60:1–3, emphasis added).

….Light and darkness can refer to the presence or absence of sunlight, but even when they do their metaphorical senses are not far from view; (2) light and darkness can be understood as realms to which people belong and according to whose rule people behave; (3) light is typically associated with divine revelation more generally, as well as with the coming or message of salvation more particularly, and thus with illumination, health, the age of salvation, and the Lord’s coming or presence; and (4) darkness is typically correlated with divine judgment, and more particularly with death, disease, the devil, cataclysm, and blindness.

Conversion, understood in terms of movement from darkness to light, is thus easily understood as movement from a less desirable to a more desirable life situation.

 

©2015 by Joel B. Green. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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