Monday, April 28, 2008

Holy means Whole: According to Biblical Parallels (Genesis 1:28-29,30; 2:3) (for the future)

When I was young, I understood the idea of parallels through the analogy of railroad tracks since I grew up crossing a set of tracks quite a few days, as a child walking home from school. Since we are talking about basic things like railroad tracks, I have a confession to make. I am a person who loves to deal with the basics, even after having gone beyond them for a while. That is the reason I am a pastor and not a scholar. I am a middle person who stands between those who see only the forest and no trees and those who see only the trees and no forest. In other words, I stand between the lay person and the scholar. I am trying to make my argument to both sides from the middle. The scholar knows it is relevant to talk about Hebrew parallelism. The lay person knows that parallels are relevant to not just railroad tracks, but to life in general. Parallels in Genesis 1-2, like the two rails for train tracks, turn out to be very important for how I understand holy. It is now part of the reason I am convinced holy means whole.

I have shown earlier that there is a parallelism of seven rails forming one track between the seven days of Genesis 1-2, but I think there is another set of tracks that must be considered. In Genesis 2:3 we have two parallel tracks in "blessed" and "made holy." These two tracks are joined by "and." Yet what has been overlooked is that we may have a similar parallel set of two tracks in Genesis 1:28-29,30 where we read: "God said" and "God said." These two tracks are also joined by "and."

We have a further indication that they could be parallel in the words that show the relationships between portions of the passage. Both texts have "Then" at the opening and "and" in the middle. In addition, both texts have the word "blessed." This word is the reason why the parallels could be very relevant to the meaning of holy.

Genesis 1:28 reads, to begin: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ...." It is common sense to recognize that what God says following explains what it means when it says that "God blessed them." What He says to them is: "`Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth." So Scripture gives us a great definition for blessing that can be applied elsewhere to other things.

So does the context give us a definition for "made holy" as well? It just might. Genesis 1:29 reads, to begin: "And God said, ...." This follows after the "Then ... God said, ...." of Genesis 1:28. Notice the parallels with Genesis 2:3, which reads: "Then God blessed ... and made ... holy...." Note first the "then" followed by "and." Then note that "blessed" comes before "made holy." The first instance of "said" in Genesis 1:28 explains "blessed," the second instance in 1:29 could then explain "made holy." There is one other possible parallel. In both texts, there is an explanation attached at the end. Genesis 1:29 reads: "to you it shall be for food." Genesis 2:3 reads "because in it He rested from all His work ...." It could be that one addresses our food needs and the other are rest needs.

So here is how the parallels chart out for a visual:

First parallel:
Then God blessed them and said to them, ..... (Genesis 1:28a)

Then God blessed the seventh day ..... (Genesis 2:3a)

Second parallel:
Then ... God said to them .... And God said .... (Genesis 1:28b-29a)

Then God blessed the seventh day ... and [God] made it holy (Genesis 2:3a-b)

Third parallel:
to you it shall be for food (1:29g)

because in it He rested from all His work .... (Genesis 2:3c)

If these tracks are parallel, and I think I have provided good evidence that they are, then we can discover what holy means from a biblical explanation like what we find for blessed. The key concept in what God says, appears to be that of "every," since it is found twice in relationship to both herbs and trees. The stress on what God has given is that He has given not just these two kinds of things to eat, but that He has given so extensively of each. We read in Genesis 1:29: "And God said, `See I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food." But if "every" occuring twice isn't enough for you, in addition, it occurs four times in Genesis 1:30. It reads: "Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food.'; and it was so."

The meaning of "every" is literally "ever each" according to Webster's New World Dictionary. It also means "each and all." So each herb and all herbs that yield seed are included. No kind is left out and no one is left out among those that yield seed. So each tree and all trees whose fruit yields seed are included. No kind is left out and no one is left out among those that yield seed. This concept of "every" has close ties to the meaning of whole.

"Whole" has for one of its definitions that it something "containing all the elements or parts." In other words, each of the parts and all of the parts are present. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the greatest Baptist preacher, gave wholeness this definiton years ago. So "every," or "each and all" could be a great definition for what wholeness is.

Going beyond just parallels for a moment, there is a lot of common sense in all of this. As I said earlier, I am not a scholar and a good percentage of this world's population is not. I don't know how many Ph.D.s there are, but I would imagine the percentage is small, maybe 5%. It is not to say that scholars are bad or unnecessary, its just that the percentages will likely never be real high. This means if God intends to reach the general population, the meaning of words must be more easily accessible than just what is accessible to scholars examining numerous trees rather than the forest. The great news is that an English speaker with an English translation can find this definition of holy right alongside a great definition for blessed. In Genesis 1-2, it falls within the immediate context of made holy itself. It is right there in an immediate context without the use of a dictionary by a lay person or without the use of a lexicon by a scholar. This is tremendous news.

Please allow me to extend the scholarship argument just a little further. There are those who are great at details. We need scholars for some things in life. It is indespensible in some cases. But for many of us, we can rely on the person who knows the details rather than know them for ourselves. Yet we must also be able to check on their conclusions or work and Genesis 1:1-2:3 gives us an opportunity to check on the work of scholars in a way that does not require detail work, so much as being generally knowledgeable about English. Every, each and all, be fruitful, multiply, etc. are not tough words in our vocabulary, but basic words in our vocabulary. This raises the status of a Bible accessible to all of us; and lowers, but does not destroy, the status of dictionaries and lexicons. See, it is great that someone knows Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. It is even better that someone knows Ugartic, Akkadian, Babylonian, etc., but this mastery will always elude the majority of us. In this case all a person needs is to be able to read is 3 verses from Genesis 1:28-29 and Genesis 2:3. That is a lot less detail to know. This is a boost to common sense from another angle.

So made holy means made whole and it makes a great deal of sense in this context. It makes common sense too, because it is so accessible to lay people just like the meaning of blessed. Pull down your Bible and read it for yourselves. And then rejoice that God has made the meaning of holy available in such a close proximity to the word itself. May God bless your day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to the Most Immediate Context in Genesis 1:1-2:3

In a game of horseshoes the winner in any one round goes to the one whose horseshoe lands the closest to the peg. As the saying goes "close only counts in horseshoes." Best of all is a horseshoe that lands as a ringer and is touching, so that it is nearly connected to the peg. Deciding whose horseshoe is closest is sometimes easy to determine and sometimes hard to determine. Likewise sometimes the issue of deciding in communication who or what is closest or connected in the context is very important to understanding what a person is trying to communicate.

Take for an example a couple who misunderstands one another because one person changes the subject without the other one realizing it. I hope this has never happened to you! The listener thinks the previous immediate context is still the immediate or connected context, when in fact other things are now closer or connected in the speaker's mind. This can spell disaster! This is a good thing to avoid when disagreeing.

I am concerned that the most immediate context or the closest thing is being overlooked, when we read: "Then God blessed the seventh day and made it [the seventh day] holy, because in it [the seventh day] He rested from all His work which He had created and made" (Genesis 2:3). I think most people read this passage as though the most immediate thing being referred to is that "God rested from all His work" rather than the most immediate thing being "the seventh day." My eyes tell me this is a reversal of what lands closest to the action peg of "blessed ... and made holy."

Let me be even clearer. I think God "blessed" not "rested from all His work," but "the seventh day." Likewise, I think God "made holy" not the "rested from all His work," but "the seventh day." This does not mean that rest is not blessed or made holy, it only means that it is not the immediate thing that God is blessing or making holy in this context. This is very important for the meaning of "made holy" or "sanctified."

This is because the immediate thing of "the seventh day" is in continuity with the six days before it, because it is yet another day, while the action of "rested" is in contrast to the thing and action of work, because it is an action quite different from work. Whether we see a continuity or whether we see a contrast as closest in the context, influences largely how we see the meaning of holy.

Let me outline the difference another way:

If God blessed and made holy the day, then He:

1) blessed the seventh day and made rest to re-occur through the seventh day being fruitful, multiplying and filling time on earth, and

2) made holy the seventh day and made rest to occur the whole day through the seventh day being a whole day of observance.

On the other hand, if God blessed rest, then He:

1) blessed His rest from all His work and made the seventh day the day to observe it.

2) made holy His rest from all His work and made the seventh day the day to observe it.

Either way, the first favors holy means whole. The second favors holy means separate. But remember, He didn't bless rest, he blessed the seventh day. Remember, He didn't make holy rest, He made holy the seventh day. The seventh day is what falls closest to the peg of holy, not the rest. I think it is important to also remember that keeping things whole is no less important than keeping things separate in God's earlier process of creation. May God bless you and keep you whole this day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Holy Means Whole: According to John (Johann) Albert Bengel

I am now fulfilling an earlier promise to publish what is very valuable material on holy's meaning, but which has been inaccessible to the average English reader. I owe a great debt in this regard to a person who wishes to stay anonymous and who lives in Sheboygan County. That person did the hard work of translating. My role has simply been that of trying to locate where Bengel has published some of his richest material on the subject of holiness. I finally did find a portion of that, in Bengel's commentary on the book of Revelation, which was separate from his most famously translated work which is referred to as the Gnomon. By the way, I will also have to get more things translated later, based on what you will read below.

I must mention, as a side note, that the major portion of what Bengel has to say was never published and is called The Holiness of God. I will be making efforts to see if it is laying somewhere in a dusty room in Germany and to see if it could be published some day. But I am afraid without funding, this could be a long way out from happening, if it is even possible. Now on to the translation of Bengel's comments relevant to holiness in Revelation 4:8.

It reads in part:

1. (Holy, Holy, Holy) in Hebrew and Greek, we find that there are two very different words, which we however both use in German as holy. Namely Hebrew (Kadosh) which is holy and we are considering here and the Greek (Hagios) which is grace or favor. The difference between the two words will be explained at a separate time in Chapter 16, which has been observed at many levels and is correct.

2. Then (merciful) is what God is called when we observe his works, which combine his justice and mercy. But intellectuals, who understand that there is so much more, call Him holy.

3. I have previously authored some writings about (The Holiness of God), and I am not alone as there have ben reports of various others reaching the same, and intellectuals have made speeches on the subject, that God's majesty comes from Him, therefore I am obligated, to include the thoughts of forenamed readers, and I want to bring it out here and in other places of Revelations and the remaining books of the New Testament.

4. The words of praise about His godly majesty in the entire writing, is this, that God is called holy by even those who are there with Him, and His holiness is the sum of all the praises brought to the Almighty Creator, for all that He does, and makes Himself known, until the new suffering, that will bring out the wider interepretation for deliverance.

5. (Holy) in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and German is approximately similar and when God is named Holy, which means that His whole excellence, and His godly characteristics flow together and illuminate His works from within, everything from Him is a dim brilliance, and that He is and remains removed not only from all, that are dishonest, but from all creatures, and His manner is incomparable or unique or incomprehensible.

6. God is separated from everything. He is and works alone, by Himself, for Himself (His pleasure) and through Himself of His own will. For that reason, He is the first and the last, the only one and the eternal one, the living and the blessed, unending and unchanging, almighty, all knowing, wise and truthful, just and true, merciful and compassionate.

There is much more of Bengel that could be quoted, but this is a helpful place to end, because it gets to the very heart of his defining holy. It also makes clear from the use of the word "and" that there is two conjoining meanings of holy in Bengel's mind, with one that links to our concept of whole and the other that links to our concept of separate. In part 5, Bengel focuses mostly on the wholeness aspect, but he also links both meanings in that section. In part 6, he focuses on the separation aspect.

Historically, I think I can say that holiness was defined in this way, with both meanings recognized, from at least the 1500s through the 1800s with wholeness and separateness going their separate ways mainly in the 1900s. In that latter era, the 20th century, the separateness concept has been predominate whether among liberal scholars or fundamentalist separatists. This is ironic, since Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the greatest Baptist, in the late 1800s was making wholeness its primary meaning, when he said: "holiness is wholeness."

So I want to say that I am not sure the right choice was made in the 1900s between the two meanings handed down by traditional scholarship and by Johann Bengel. I think a choice needed to be made, based on the possible roots for the Hebrew word that is translated as holy, but I think we chose incorrectly. I am willing to face into the wind, if that is what it takes for us to reconsider and make sure that we are grounded in reality and not in our own assumptions. God's Word requires that lofty standard. God's blessings on you.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon