In Genesis 1:4, the King James Version (KJV) translates the separation of light and darkness differently than mainstream modern versions. Could it be the KJV mistranslates the Hebrew in the first chapter of the Bible? Or could it be it’s the best translation?
For over four hundred years the mainstream English Bible has read in Genesis 1:4 that “God divided the light from the darkness.” This obviously speaks of the separation of light and darkness, but some think it should read “God separated…”
You can translate the Hebrew word here both ways: to separate or to divide. And obviously translators have attempted to do so, selecting the word they believe is best. However, besides the Hebrew word, what basis should they use to make this decision? If we look at the preceding verse, we can get that.
Genesis 1:3: And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
Before a Bible translator can translate the Hebrew as divided or separated, he needs to understand what the light was created as. The Bible says that light was created as one substance: light. This light is different than the light of God, for His light wasn’t created, but rather has existed forever. This light was created, and God is eternal.
The Bible is not a superficial book, and if it’s translated as such, it will produce superficial Christians.The Bible is not a superficial book, and if it’s translated as such, it will produce superficial Christians.Click To Tweet
The problem is many Bible translators approach the Scriptures with the intention of dummying it down. You can see this in their attempt to always decrease the reading level. However, English was established on Bibles like the KJV, so it can’t get any easier…
In order to translate the separation of light and darkness accurately, the translators need to be able to think outside of the obvious. God gave us a brain. We need to use it!
The Separation of light and darkness prevents mixing!
The Bible says that God created light as a stand alone substance. No other place in the Scriptures do you hear of God creating the darkness, but we know there was “darkness upon the face of the deep.” This darkness was to exist separately from the light.
If light was created after darkness, then darkness was the primary agent, meaning it could overtake the light. For example, the Scripture says, “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” This indicates darkness can dim and put out light if mixed.
The same rule applies to the light, because the two are totally different substances. Therefore, God had to divide the two in order to prevent mixing and destroying one.
When the Bible mentions the separation of light from darkness, it implies more than separation. Light and darkness are totally opposites; therefore, God had to make a division between the two. Failure to make a division between light and darkness would have resulted in the two mixing. “What communion hath light with darkness?” — 2 Corinthians 6:14
This is the part most ecumenical Bible translation committees don’t understand. Simply separating light and darkness implies that they joined. However, if light and darkness joined, the light would not have been good. God called it good in Genesis 1:4.
Correcting the Geneva Version
The Geneva Bible (GNV) was the first to mistranslate Genesis 1:4, but thankfully the Authorized translators corrected their mistake. The other Bibles are modern updates that reverted back to the wrong translation.
1599GNV: “And God saw the light that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.”
There are many more, but below are a few versions that returned back to the mistranslation of the Geneva Bible.
1995NASB: “God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
2014MEV: “God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.”
2016ESV: “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”
2017CSB: “God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.”
These are just four Bibles that incorrectly translate Genesis 1:4. There are tons more!
The Modern English Version (MEV) is, like the others, a mainstream ecumenical Bible for modern Christians who prefer colloquial English in the Bible. This version is better than the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), and the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) referenced above. However, it’s only better because primarily it’s translated from the best manuscripts.
The correct readings
The King James Version is not alone here in saying: “God divided the light from the darkness.” Some of the best Bible translators the world has ever seen reads like the KJV.
1526Tyndale: “And God sawe the lyghte that it was good: and devyded the lyghte from the darcknesse.”
1535Coverdale: “And God sawe the light that it was good. Then God deuyded ye light from the darcknes,”
1568Bishop’s: “And God sawe the lyght that it was good: and God deuided the lyght from the darknes.”
1611KJV: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God diuided the lyght from the darkenesse.”
1833CV: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
As you can see, the Bible read “God divided the light…” long before the Geneva translation. Changing it back to something already corrected is the mistake.
The separation of light and darkness was not an act of separating two substances that were. To say separate light from darkness is misleading. However, it’s not misleading to say divide light from darkness, because it indicates two entirely different substances. Those two substances were light and darkness.
When “God divided the light from the darkness,” He made a distinction between the substances. The Scriptures teach us that He classified the light as day, and the darkness, He classified as night. The act alone tells us that the word divided is a better choice than separated. It’s also easier to understand!
The King James Bible did not mistranslate the Hebrew. It provides the most in-depth and accurate view of God’s first creative act. The other versions fail to provide so much information of God’s day one.