“Light of Light:” The Biblical Basis of the Creed (Sat. March 12)

Most of the time, we fix our gaze downward on the challenges and struggles of the fleeting moment and tiny space we occupy in this life.  But today’s reading invites us to lift our eyes to the heavens and to consider the majesty of the Eternal God and the equal splendor of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our reading of Hebrews 1-12 proclaims that the Son of God is far greater than the angels in authority,[i] dominion,[ii] eternity,[iii] agency in creation,[iv] and divine status.  In the Creed, we profess that the Son of God, the Only-begotten of the Father, is “Light of Light” (Nicene Creed).   These magnificent phrases come from the image in our reading that the Lord is the “radiance” of God’s glory (doxa).  The “glory” of God is the divine splendor that was shone on Mt. Sinai, that dwelt in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, and that both Ezekiel and Stephen saw in their vision.  It appeared to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth and transformed Jesus’ garments into light at His Transfiguration.

The Brightness of God’s Glory

The apostle writes that the Son of God is the “brightness” of this glory.  The Greek term refers to a “shining forth,” a radiance from a supernatural source (Strong’s  #541,33).  Both The Orthodox Study Bible and the New King James Version translate this term as “brightness” (OSB; NKJV vs. 3).  However, The New Revised Standard Version translates the word as “reflection” (NRSV vs. 3).  But this is an inferior interpretation because a “reflection” consists of light that returns from a surface.  The idea of “brightness” or “radiance” suggests the direct streaming of light from its source.  In this way, the Son of God is “Light from Light.”

The Imprint of God’s Essence

This phrase is a compelling image that we confess in worship, often without realizing its source or importance.  But the apostle goes on to teach that the Son is “the express image of His [God’s] person” (NKJV vs. 3). The Greek term is derived from an engraving tool.  Yet, it refers more broadly to an impression that is made by a stamp or seal.  The imprint thus is an accurate replica of the original (Strong’s  #5481,269).  Like The New King James Version, The Orthodox Study Bible translates the thought here as “the express image.” Along the same lines, The New Revised Standard Version translates, “He [the Son] is the exact imprint of God’s very being” (vs. 3).

This sentence then speaks precisely of the Son’s relationship to God.  The Greek word for “person” (NKJV, OSB) or “being” (NKJV) refers to the substance, essence, or intrinsic nature of God (Strong’s  #5287, 260).  The phrase, therefore, means that the Son relates to God just as an imprint is impressed on a coin or piece of paper.  The design left on what is stamped faithfully duplicates the figure on the stamp.  In the same way, the Son is a precise duplication of God’s essence, His intrinsic, eternal nature.

In both images, there is both distinction and likeness.  The brightness is not the same as the glory, but it shares fully in its character, its nature.  The image is not the same as its stamp or seal but shares fully in its nature and being.

The Creator and the Agent of Creation

Moreover, the Son bears the same kind of relationship to God regarding the creation and its preservation.  The Orthodox Study Bible says that through the Son, “the worlds were made” (OSB and NKJV) or created (OAB vs. 2).  Then too, The Orthodox Study Bible and The New King James Version say that He is “upholding all things by the Word of His power (OSB and NKJV vs. 3) whereas The New Revised Standard Version says that “He sustains all things by His powerful Word” (NRSV vs. 3).

In short, we can say that the Father is the Creator of the universe; the Son is the Agent of Creation.  The Father is the Providence that cares for the universe; the Son is the upholder or sustainer of the universe.

God Spoke to Us by the Son

We have established the nature of the Son in relationship to God.  But here is the apostle’s key point as the Book of Hebrews begins:  God has “spoken” to us by this Son of God.  He is “Light of Light” and “True God of True God.”  He is the One who is begotten of the Father and of one essence with Him.  Yet He has revealed Himself to us, and in manifesting Himself, He has made God known to us.

The Greek word for “spoken” is a form of the word that means “to make oneself heard,” “to speak,” “to tell,” or “to talk” (Strong’s  #2980, 148-49).  Why is this word used to say that the Son has revealed Himself to us?  The connotations of the word are that what is said needs to be heard.  In the Son, we hear the “living voice” of God and that proclamation demands a response.  God speaks in the Son, divulging His mind and His heart.  Therefore, we have every reason to pay attention to this Living Word of God, to put our faith in Him, and to follow Him.

For Reflection

Today’s reading deepens our insight into the mystery of the Incarnation.  The eternal “very God of very God,” the everlasting “Light of Light,” became man.  He is now the Crucified One whose blood purges us of sin (NKJV vs. 3).  We could spend a lifetime of praying, fasting, and almsgiving, but it would not save us or heal us of the passions.  The apostle writes, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).  Accordingly, by His sacrifice, the Incarnate Son of God released us from the sentence of death and corruption, wiped away the stain of our sin, and restored our sinful human nature to the image of God in which it was made.

So as we struggle against the passions during this Lent, let us look to the grace of the Son of God who became human for our sakes.  For He is not only the perfect revelation of God and the caring sustainer of the universe.  But He is the healer of our souls.


[i] OSB Hebrews 1:4. The Name represents His Person and authority.

[ii] Hebrews 1:5-8,

[iii] Hebrews 1:10-11

[iv] Hebrews 1:10

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