Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The familiar noun νυξ (nux) means night. It stems from the widely attested Proto-Indo-European root nekwt-, meaning night, from which also comes the Latin nox, and hence the English "night" and Spanish noche and so on. Our word describes the part of the day when the sun is not directly visible; the counterpart of ημερα (emera), meaning day.
Although night is the counterpart of day, darkness is not the opposite of light but the absence of it. This is why daylight has a source, namely the sun, while at night there is not some anti-sun radiating out the darkness. Light is energy but darkness is not anti-energy but the absence of energy. Light comes in different colors but darkness has none. Light can contain information but darkness can't. Light moves, clarifies and instructs but darkness doesn't. Light (or more generally: electromagnetism) comes before all matter and holds all material and living things together (Colossians 1:17). This is why all sustained material structures, all soul of all living things, and all society of all social beings essentially consist of light (or more generally: electromagnetism). And this is why darkness equals the collapse of society, the death of a living thing and the turning-to-dust of anything material. Despite claims to the contrary, the ancients were well aware of light's electromagnetic properties and also of what today is called relativity theory (see our article on the Hebrew verb נהר, nahar, for more on this).
In antiquity all constructive labor was performed during daylight (John 9:4), so the night was the period of absence of labor but not the opposite of it. Intellectual enlightenment was associated with light, and ignorance was recognized as the absence of wisdom (not the opposite of it). Likewise, hate was recognized as the absence of love rather than the opposite of it, and fear as the absence of confidence rather than the opposite of it. Leaders who aim to control their subjects need their subjects to believe that their leaders are somehow better than they, which can only be achieved through ignorance and fear. This is why such leaders invest much of their resources in spreading ignorance and confusion (Luke 22:53).
"Look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them" (Gen 15:5)
Despite claims to the contrary, God is the Creator of everything, and that includes light and its ability to be absent (Genesis 1:5, Isaiah 45:7). Without a daily period of darkness, we would never have been aware of a world beyond the clouds and the unimaginably vast expanse of space we live in. Stars are the biggest, brightest and most distant things anyone has ever seen, and since Einstein we know that they don't simply sit in space; they form space. A star is not only the familiar shiny dot but also the sphere of space that sits around it — just like you are not only your body, but also the sphere of things you are aware of; the things that sit in your head as much as in your surroundings.
In our article on the word κεφαλη (kephale), meaning head or skull, we note that the head was regarded as the seat of the senses and suggest that it was recognized to be as mobile as the moon in the sky — and note that from the Hebrew noun גלגלת (gulgoleth), meaning head or skull, comes the name Golgotha.
The moon lights up from the light of the sun in the same way that our senses can only detect what our heart says there is. One's personal world-forming conviction in its broadest sense — including scientific certainties, skills, social norms, language; all you know — constitutes the sun of one's worldview. That explains why the emergence of Jesus' star was such as big deal (Matthew 2:2), since in him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
But it also means that the phenomenon that psychology calls Theory of Mind equals a kind of night vision, when one's personal sun has temporarily sunk below the horizon and the stars (other people's suns) become visible. This Theory of Mind, this calm awareness that other people have other knowledge in their brains and thus have other opinions, tastes, concerns and motivations, is crucial to human psychology and all properly functioning societies.
This psychological phenomenon is absolutely fundamental and is therefore discussed at every key point in the Bible: at the creation: Genesis 1:14; at the institution of the Covenant as well as international trade (Genesis 15:5; see our article on Abraham for more on this); in general reflection upon a perfect society (Daniel 12:3); during the restoration of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:21), which clearly precurses the formation of the New Jerusalem as envisioned by John the Revelator, who saw the New Jerusalem as a city with no need for the sun and moon (Revelation 21:23).
Our noun νυξ (nux) is used 65 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the common preposition εν (en), meaning in: the adjective εννυχον (ennuchon), meaning nocturnal or when used adverbially: nocturnally. This ominous word was used in the classics mostly to denote gloom and unsavory doings and was even an epithet of Hades the "Night King" or "Dark Lord." In the New Testament our word occurs only once, in Mark 1:35, where it applies to Jesus "rising and going out" which is an obvious allusion to his victory over death.
- Together with the adjective μεσος (mesos), meaning middle: the noun μεσονυκτιος (mesonuktion), meaning midnight; not exactly twelve o'clock (only the day had hours) but rather in reference to the midnight shift or midnight watch. It's the counterpart of the noun μεσημβρια (mesembria), meaning mid-day. It's used 4 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
- Together with the noun ημερα (emera), meaning day: the noun νυχθημερον (nuchthemeron), or night-and-day; a full solar day (2 Corinthians 11:25 only).