The famous anthropologist, Mary Douglas, reached the conclusion, from examining certain biblical texts, that one of the two meanings for holy is whole. Her other definition was that of separate, but this was not based on her own work, but on the scholarly lexicons, which I doubt she felt qualified to challenge. What she was qualified to challenge, as an anthropologist, was any conclusion that came from an outsider's view of a culture as opposed to an insider's point of view of a culture. When it comes to a culture or a religion, anthropologist's try to find out the insider's view.
I find it very exciting that Douglas concluded that the insider's view, from certain biblical texts, is that holy means whole. One of the reasons this is interesting is because science and natural revelation have been speaking, even if science from sometimes strange views of wholeness, to a general need for wholeness. It sees that addressing the partial man is not enough, instead we must address the whole man.
In my undergraduate education, I had the privilege of sitting under former missionaries, who tried to apply the insights of anthropologists to their work in the field of reaching others for Christ. One of their major focuses was on arriving at the story as told by insiders versus a story told by outsiders. They even had technical terms for the difference. What other cultures wanted was to be able to tell their own version of their story from an insider's point of view. Once the missionary would grasp this story or point of view, often doors of evangelism would open up, because now the outsider was no longer seen as a threat, but as a friend.
The danger for scholars and pastors in interpreting the biblical text is imposing our ideas onto the biblical text. It may be that separate is just such an imposition on the biblical text. It may be that we are not listening to it, but to outsiders from Arabic culture, from Roman culture and from German culture. We must be careful to not impose outsider ideas on the insider point of view.
The etymology for separate is not conclusively from an insider point of view. In fact, by open admission of prominent scholars like Norman Snaith, it is controversial. The roots for separate come from Arabic. Also the history of Roman culture produced the idea of sanctification, which may not be the best interpretation of holy or may have itself changed meaning over time, due to cultural change. But last, many of the scholars, who did the work on holy in the late 1800s through early 1900s, arose out of German culture, that sometimes gloried in its separation or superiority over other cultures. Could these outsider's points of view been imposed on the interpretation of the Bible? Let us hope not! We do not want to be a threat to biblical culture or worldview, but a friend to it!
The idea of whole is the reverse of things falling or being torn apart. Please with me, let us test the idea of separation to see, if it makes or fails the test of being from an insider point of view. We owe to the science of anthropology and to the natural revelation of God's creation to test this point of view. Maybe Mary Douglas' work points us toward a very helpful insider's point of view. May God bless your day!