Monday, March 31, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to the Bible in Exodus 30:13

Remember the game of hide and seek. It was fun as a kid. It is not so fun sometimes as a pastor, trying to find what was in the original text. Holy is one of the words that gets hidden a lot from the average reader. It is translated by numerous other words where the person may not realize that it is from the same word in the original. It is hidden from them, even if not intentionally, like in the game of hide and seek.

It is easy to see the same word each time it is translated as some form of holy. But I didn't know for large portions of my life that it is the same word behind the use of sanctify, sanctification, sanctuary, hallow, wholly, saint, saints, consecrate (set apart) and probably a few I forgot. That is even after I sat through bible school and seminary. What about the poor guy with neither?

I would like to say something about the translation and use of sanctuary in Exodus 30:13. I think it hides holy. I think instead it should reveal that holy is there.

"This is what they shall give: all who pass by of the counted [shall give] half a shekel of the holy shekel; ...." (Exodus 30:13). Holy shekel usually is translated "sanctuary shekel" which hides the fact that the word for holy is present. But "half" makes a lot of sense in the context of "whole" as meaning for holy. It would be an example of a quantitative part and whole. Half is an amount and whole would be the full amount. Whole would be each half and all of two half shekels to make a full or whole shekel.

I am in favor of revealing more from the Bible and hiding less. The reason is that God has revealed Himself in His Word. It does not say He has hidden Himself in His Word. Holy also is a very important word about who He is. Are we really supposed to have to play hide and seek so much, when He hasn't hidden what we need to know and He wants to be found by us? He is not worried about being told He's it. He is it! God bless your day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to the Bible in Genesis 1:1-2:3 (Part 2)

This piece of writing is a follow up to the previous piece I wrote on Genesis. I recommend reading the previous piece first, if you have not already done so. This piece of writing is meant to add to the same line of persuasion. Genesis 1:1 starts with the famous: "In the beginning," yet an important part of that beginning is found at the end of the first week, in Genesis 2:3: "because in it [the seventh day]." All through this story of our beginning, is the chronology of a series of seven days. What adds to my previous discussion is evidence for continuity between the seven days rather than discontinuity between the seven days. In other words, I think the section does not point toward separating off the seventh day from the first six.

In an important dissertation that I found on the internet, the author states that when there is continuity in communicating, then there is a certain form that will be associated with it, as shown by five factors. Those five factors of form that are associated with continuity are: 1)Parallelism, 2)Focus, 3)Recency, 4)Goal status and 5)Subjecthood. Obviously, the absence of these factors would argue for a discontinuity in what is being communicated.

Let's look at the five factors and whether they are present when speaking of the seven days of Genesis 1:1-2:3. I will deal with each factor separately and in the order of the 5 factors above.

The parallelism of the first six days is extremely obvious down to use of nearly the exact same words minus the number of the day. The seventh day is also parallel, as far as being yet another numbered day like the other six. They all run side by side like parallel railroad tracks. In the previous piece, I argued for why there is a change in terminology and I will let that piece speak for itself. Yet add to it that there is clearly a parallelism in the numbered days from Genesis 1:1-2:3. So I believe there is evidence for continuity through the entire section. Yet let's wait for the weight of all the factors.

The background for this section is clearly on "in the beginning." As a result, reference is made to "the first day, the second day, etc." rather than on a first day or one of many first days of the week. Here the focus is on "the first day," "the second day," etc. of "in the beginning." It is a very focused section with lots of use of the word "the" to demonstate that the writer is refering not to many days, but to one particular day. The focus is like the focus that happens when I tell you: "That is the dog I am talking about." Here again we see evidence for continuity in the section.

The recency of references should be understood as how long has it been since a reference to the same thing. The references to "day" as the same thing is rather high. As I said in the last piece I wrote, the word "day" occurs every 11 phrases on average and in the last portion of 2:2-2:3, it occurs every 1 phrase, so one after another. It becomes such a recent reference in the end that the pronoun "it" is introduced in that day's place, because confusion over what is most recent in being referred to is not a problem. It's like a recent conversation that you are more likely to recall than one that occured a long time ago. Yet again we see evidence for continuity in the section.

Goal status should be understood as whether or not a goal or intention has been accomplished or not. The goal status, for the intention of communicating with the audience, is well accomplished in making sure the audience understands what is said. Six times it is said: "So the evening and the morning were the nth day." By the seventh day I am sure the original audience had grasped the point of what a day is or how it is to be measured. The unit of time called a day is established. So it could very well be that by the seventh day, "the evening and the morning" can be dropped since now everyone understands what a "day" consists of as a unit of time. We do this all the time when we communicate. Once someone understands what a word means, we don't go back to things like pointing out: "That is a dog" to an already educated listener. So all of this would clearly argue for continuity, because with a break or discontinuity between chapter 1 and 2, no one would be sure what "day" refers to, without the context, when speaking of a seventh day.

The subjecthood (or subject) is not first of all time, yet clearly "In the beginning" sets the tone for background units of time like "day" being a subject matter or topic in the narrative. The topic of "day" runs its course through the entire section. It is never lost from view, as the chronology of "the first day" to "the seventh day" marches forward. It remains a part of the narrative as much as the time left in a game does in a football game. It remains the primary background topic as part of "in the beginning." So yet again we see further evidence for continuity rather than discontinuity in the section.

These five factors lead me to conclude that the seventh day should be seen as primarily in continuity with the other six, rather than being seen as divided off from them. Moving from establishing a clear definition for day to vivid words about the seventh day should not shake us from the continuity that this section oozes from its every pore. So it makes sense, with the recognition of continuity in the section, to see that holy means whole. May God bless your day and make you whole.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Holy is Whole: According to the Bible in Genesis 1:1-2:3 (Part 1)

If there is any key passage as to the meaning of holy, I believe it is Genesis 2:3 in its context. This is supported by many passages like Exodus 20 and Exodus 31. This morning, I did two things toward making the meaning of holiness clearer. First, I tracked the word "day" through the first clearly recognized section in Genesis, Genesis 1:1-2:3. Second, I looked at what makes effective communication and whether Genesis is an example of that effectiveness.

First, if we take the word "day" and track it only where the meaning is the same, and not changed according to context, we end up with the following list.

1:5 So the evening and the morning were the first day.
1:8 So the evening and the morning were the second day.
1:13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
1:19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
1:23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
1:31 So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work
2:2 and He rested on the seventh day from all His work
2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day
2:3 and made it [the seventh day] holy
2:3 because in it [the seventh day] He rested from all His work.

Relationally, in this entire section of Genesis, the "day" is mentioned 1 time about every 11 phrases. But the relational distance between them goes way down as "day" is mentioned 1 time in every 1 phrase in Genesis 2:2-2:3, as the passage appears to climax at the seventh day which we understand today to make up the end of a week.

Second, when it comes to effective communication, what changes is not only relational distance, but also how things are expressed. The sentence: "So the evening and the morning were the nth day" is missing when it comes to the seventh day. So the question becomes: Why is it missing or is it missing?

A short time ago, I was told by an experienced English teacher that the ultimate classic grammar is: English Grammar and Composition by John E. Warriner. In that book, it suggests this rule for more effective communication. It says to choose the most vivid words. This means, more specifically, that you are supposed to avoid general, colorless, dead and inexact words and instead replace them with specific, colorful, vigorous and exact words. Now while this rule is overstated, if you think you must apply it all the time, it still applies as a good rule for effective communication.

So I believe that since God would try to communicate to us in an effective way, it is possible He may apply this method. I also believe I see evidence for Him using it especially in Genesis 2:2-2:3.

Notice that a day is defined over and over by general, colorless, dead and inexact words as: a day is an evening and a morning. The only specifics we are given for the first six days is "first, second, third, fourth, etc." and the word "day" is inexact except through the repeated context of "the evening and the morning" and the use of "the," otherwise it could mean day as in our idea of day time or the light of the day, as it is in a portion of Genesis 1. To summarize we seem to get mostly a definition that is repeated over and over in the same format: "So the evening and the morning were the first, second, etc. day." Definitions are very helpful, but left alone they can come across as general, colorless, dead and inexact. And that is the key, if they are left alone.

I believe the definition gets a real boost in Genesis 2:2-2:3. In 2:3 it says: "Then God blessed the seventh day and made it [the seventh day] holy." We see here specific, colorful, vigorous and exact words. And I think we also see them replacing the former words used for the first six days. Originally we see: "were the first, second, etc. day." Now we see: "God blessed the seventh day." Originally we see: "the evening and the morning were the nth day." Now we see: "made it [the seventh day] holy." Notice the replacement of the dead "were" with the vigorous "blessed." Notice the replacement of "the evening and the morning were," as a definition for day, with the vigorous "made it holy."

What I believe has happened is a replacement of `to be' verbs with an action verb in each case to summarize again the concept of a day. I believe what also has happened is a desire to climax the end of what we call a week by avoiding the overuse of single words by using varied words. So now it is specific, it is colorful, it is vigorous and it is exact. First, we see that it must be specific, because now a pronoun works in the context; it is colorful, because in close proximity and side by side the seventh day gets repeated; it is vigorous, because it is active; and it is exact, because seventh day follows after six times it being defined as "the evening and the morning were the nth day."

So made the seventh day holy means the day includes the evening and the morning, the whole day with both parts. And blessing means that this day and the others are fruitful as shown by work or rest, they are multiplying as we see in the days being listed numerically and they are filling as they fill up the whole story of the beginning and set the pattern for all of time until the end.

I think God communicates effectively, we just haven't realized how effectively. Hopefully, I have been effective too and you will meditate on these words and especially Genesis 1:1-2:3. May God bless you richly and make you whole.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon