Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

134 Darkness


The absence, privation, or want of natural light. In Scripture language it also signifies sin, John 3:19. trouble, Is. 8:22. obscurity, privacy, Matt. 10:27. forgetfulness, contempt, Ecc. 6:4. Darkness, says Moses, was upon the face of the deep, Gen. 1:2. that is to say the chaos was plunged in thick darkness, because hitherto the light was not created. Moses, at the command of God, brought darkness upon Egypt, as a plague to the inhabitants of it. The Septuagint, our translation of the Bible, and indeed most others, in explaining Moses’s account of this darkness, render it “a darkness which may be felt;” and the Vulgate has it, “palpable darkness;” that is, a darkness consisting of black vapours and exhalations, so condensed that they might be perceived by the organs of feeling or seeing; but some commentators think that this is carrying the sense too far, since, in such a medium as this, mankind could not live an hour, much less for the space of three days, as the Egyptians are said to have done, during the time this darkness lasted; and, therefore, they imagine that instead of a darkness that may be felt, the Hebrew phrase may signify a darkness wherein men went groping and feeling about for every thing they wanted. Let this, however, be as it may, it was an awful judgment on the Egyptians; and we may naturally conclude that it must have also spread darkness and distress over their minds as well as their persons. The tradition of the Jews is, that in this darkness they were terrified by the apparitions of evil spirits, or rather by dreadful sounds and murmurs which they made. What made it still worse, was the length of time it continued; three days, or as bishop Hall expresses it, six nights in one.

During the last three hours that our Saviour hung upon the cross, a darkness covered the face of the earth, to the great terror and amazement of the people present at his execution. This extraordinary alteration in the face of nature, says Dr. Macknight, in his Harmony of the Gospels, was peculiarly proper, whilst the Sun of Righteousness was withdrawing his beams from the land of Israel, and from the world; not only because it was a miraculous testimony borne by God himself to his innocence, but also because it was a fit emblem of his departure and its effects, at least till his light shone out anew with additional splendour in the ministry of his apostles. The darkness which now covered Judea, and the neighbouring countries, beginning about noon, and continuing till Jesus expired, was not the effect of an ordinary eclipse of the sun, for that can never happen but at the new moon, whereas now it was full moon; not to mention that the total darkness occasioned by eclipses of the sun never continues above twelve or fifteen minutes; wherefore it must have been produced by the divine power, in a manner we are not able to explain. Accordingly Luke (chap. 23:44,45.) after relating that there was darkness over all the earth, adds, “and the sun was darkened;” which perhaps may imply that the darkness of the sun did not occasion, but proceeded from the darkness that was over all the land. Farther, the Christian writers, in their most ancient apologies to the heathens, affirm that as it was full moon, at the passover when Christ was crucified, no such eclipse could happen by the course of nature. They observe, also, that was taken notice of as a prodigy by the heathens themselves.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary