“God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.” (Genesis 1:16, NASB)
These two great lights are the sun and the moon (Psalm 136:7-9). Their description is specific in order that they be correctly identified as creations of God. They are not named in the text. There may be two reasons for this. First, God did not name them when He created them. Or, second, God did not reveal the names to Moses because of the high degree of idolatry concerning worship of the sun and moon. The first is more likely, yet still avoids the distraction of God’s people away from God by idolatry.
An interesting suggestion is made in the NET Bible notes about the stars being made. The suggestion is that the text uses phenomenological language. This use would allow for a scientific answer to the question concerning the young earth and larger amount of time needed for light to travel such great distances. Phenomenological language does not fit the text though. The text around the creation of the stars is actual – the actual creation of the two great lights. Actual creation is what the chapter sets out to teach. We see phenomenological language elsewhere, as in orientation, because that is not the purpose of the teaching. The chapter does not set out to teach orientation. That is why we see phenomenological language in the orientation of the lights. It is not “where” that is important, but “Who” created the sun, moon and stars that is important. The orientation is vague due to the repeated use of the word translated as heaven (v 1, 8, 14), heavens (2:1), air (v 26) etc. Because the orientation is not the direct teaching and because the orientation is vague, phenomenological language is not being used. Also, the NET note gives only two or at most three days extra for the light to travel (light having been created on day one, v. 3). Two extra days is not a significant enough span of a time to allow for the complete traveling of light from stars to earth. The Bible and science speak of the same truth, God’s truth. They do not diverge. The question of the traveling of light must be explained by science within the teaching of sacred Scripture.
Another point builds on the above. When the church (yes, even Luther and Calvin) believed that the universe was geocentric (the earth at the center), science eventually discerned the correct orientation of universe. The point is that the Bible’s interpreters were wrong. The Bible was not wrong and is not wrong.
To delve more deeply into the Bible, let us consider 1 Corinthians 15:40-42. Here Paul, inspired by God, used the sun, moon and stars as an analogy of the resurrection of the dead. He speaks about the varying degrees of glory, one glory in our present bodies and another far greater glory after our resurrection from the dead.
Lastly, the creation of light for the earth fore-shadows the final light of the new earth. Jesus Christ is that final light (Revelation 21:23), which will light the city of those who believe in Him such that no other light is needed.