Question: How can anyone take the creation account in Genesis chapter 1 literally when it explicitly says that light was created before the sun in verses 3-5?
Answer: It was proper that the light, by means of which the world was to be adorned with such excellent beauty, should be first created; and this also was the commencement of the distinction [among the creatures].
It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon.
To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments — the agency of which he employs.
The sun and moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain.
Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon.
Further, it is certain from the context, that the light was so created as to be interchanged with darkness.
But it may be asked, whether light and darkness succeeded each other in turn through the whole circuit of the world; or whether the darkness occupied one half of the circle, while light shone in the other.
There is, however, no doubt that the order of their succession was alternate, but whether it was everywhere day at the same time, and everywhere night also, I would rather leave undecided; nor is it very necessary to be known.
Answered by John Calvin (1509-1564)