Nothing puzzles me more than time and space,” wrote Charles Lamb to a friend; “and yet nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them.” As usual, the gentle, stammering little man with the tragedy-scarred face speaks for most of us. And yet (again as usual) he hints at neither the heights nor depths of man’s agelong confrontation of these two imponderable realities, for man has always been space-haunted and time-haunted. Nor has modern thought reduced the mystery. Instead, it has deepened it, for it asserts, among other things, that there is a sort of incredible interchangeability between the two concepts, and between them and motion. The lay mind is increasingly inclined to agree with certain modern physicists who declare that the ultimate nature of reality is, quite explicitly, unthinkable.

These words, therefore, are not written in any hope of shedding broadly philosophical light on the mystery of time. Their purpose, rather, is to point to one or two beams of light shed on the subject by Scripture.

Time The Shadow

Because it is impossible to define time (although it seems easy when one first sets out to do so), most of our inner awareness of it is expressed in the form of similes and metaphors. Time is said to creep with petty pace or to rush like a winged chariot; to flow silently like a dark river or to blow upon our faces like an interstellar wind; to drift down like snowflakes or to blow over man’s habitations like sands of the desert. Or it may be personified: “Old Time the clock-setter, that bald sexton, Time,” writes Shakespeare; time the reaper; time the devourer; time the dart-thrower; time the shadow at our elbow.

Some simply deny its existence. To the nominalist, “time” is no more than the word we have ...

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