Friday, December 31, 2010

Holy Means Whole (or Set Apart): According to Solomon's Wisdom

There is an under-appreciated piece of Solomon's wisdom that I recently recovered in Ecclesiastes 9:4. It says that there is hope for the living "because a live dog is better than a dead lion." Its application to the debate over the meaning of holy in the Biblical text is important.

It suggests a wiser approach than I have taken previously to defining this word. It seems appropriate at the very end of 2010 to do a little reflection. As I reflect back to creating my two blogs on the meaning of holy, I realize that I lacked some of Solmon's wisdom. I think I could have made a wiser decision by seeing that "a combined certainty of both possible definitions is better than a singular uncertainty of one definition."

Here is what I mean. Recently, I have run across a lot of admissions by great scholars and great minds that the idea that holy means "set apart" is "probably" or "possibly" the correct understanding. The problem for them, quoting some famous translators, is that: "they are wise [that] rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated by one, when it may be the other."

That would make these scholars potential fools for choosing just one definition "when it may be the other." I too have been a fool at times, thinking I must be decisive and choose one even in the face of real uncertainty.

Martin Luther explained Solomon's advice this way: "Better a sparrow in hand than a crane in doubt." What is not doubtful is that holy means either "whole" or "set apart." Both together with differing probabilities may not look like a majestic crane, yet it is a sparrow without doubt.

My problem is that I cannot say today that I can remove some important doubt about holy means whole. Internally, I have more certainty, but the important thing is the evidence I have been able to present to others. I can say that I am at 70% sure that holy means whole, but that leaves a significant 30% chance I might be wrong on a very important word to define correctly. Better to be aware it might be another meaning than to kid myself.

I am choosing to go with Solomon's dog and Luther's sparrow. I want to be wise. I want to avoid a situation of uncertainty that risks "throwing out the baby with the bathwater." Past scholarship has thrown out some bathwater. Let's proceed with caution and make sure the next toss is bathwater too.

From this position of wisdom, learning and studying can then create a stronger and stronger argument for one or the other definition. Then and only then may one definition take a singular place without the other. The nice thing is that I can relax and commit myself to understanding rather than to making sure I don't look like a fool.

So when you see that my title says "Holy Means Whole (or Set Apart), know that I am wiser than I was before. I am wiser and I am hopeful, because "a [sure] dog is better than a [doubtful] lion." Be wise and have a Happy New Year!

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to the Possibility that Holy Means Set Apart

I have never noticed before, like I have recently, how many times writers qualify their definition of holy with words like: “probably,” “possibly,” “ plausible,” “seems,” “ assume” and “controversial.” Keep in mind that this kind of language is not material you will find in any lexicon or a dictionary entry for holy. In those places, you find a summary of already drawn conclusions. But in those books that look at the evidence and then draw a conclusion, there is the ability to say that whether you define holy as whole or as set apart, it is controversial or plausible.

It is difficult to say with full confidence what the meaning of holy is in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek according to the greatest experts of the 20th century. Whether you read Rudolph Otto, Norman Snaith, Rabbi Dr. Klein or lesser lights in the 21st century on the internet, you find hesitancy among them to say that the definition proposed is definite. That is because trying to determine its root meaning is difficult for them. There are two different directions they can go, because of two possible roots for its meaning.

This problem would not matter, except that holy is the primary word for expressing God’s character whether you read Isaiah’s “holy, holy, holy” or Revelation’s (John’s) “holy, holy, holy.” Its importance is what causes some people to simply slam their Bible shut and say its meaning cannot be controversial. It is too important. But things are what they are regardless of our response. You can’t avoid difficulty by closing the book. There is a way though to conquer it.

I suggest that we open the book and see the reasons for hope that the controversy can be resolved. Ezekiel 45, for example, is a passage which could yield great results with skills of effective interpretation. In a longer space, I think I can prove that “holy” and “all” parallel each other significantly. Yet this is not the place or space for that extensive argument. Like a lexicon or dictionary with limited space, only so much ground can be covered here.

What argument does fit this space is the significance of great scholars using words like “probably”, “possibly,” “plausible,” “seems,” “assume” and “controversial” rather than words like “is” or “is not.” Their significance is that they all point toward a position of hedging one’s position between saying what something is and what something is not.

The lexicons and dictionaries pretty much create the impression rather than the reality that the definition of holy is a strongly held position. Yet the top scholars like Otto and Snaith say something a little less strong than that, as does the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, a highly regarded tool in evangelical circles. They also don’t say their definition is a weak one, only pointing out what holy does not mean. They clearly are confident beyond that point.

On a scale from strong to weak, people typically make themselves clear as to how strong they hold a position by either saying something is so, saying something seems to be so, or saying something is not so. The first position is the strongest and the most positive. It takes the greatest amount of strength to say. The second is the one that says something between strong and weak. The last is the weakest one, saying only what something is not. Saying I am incompetent in one thing is not as strong as saying I am competent to do another thing.

The key in action for producing strength is skill in wisdom. Daniel and his three fellow Jews possessed skill in all wisdom, as one reason that they rose to a place of prominence in their day according to Daniel 1:3-4. What great scholars are telling us is that their skills did not take them to a point of making a strong statement of what holy means. They felt they could only make a semi-strong statement.

That is being confident to the level of actual strength. I value their actual strength, rather than the strength that seems to be there when you read just lexicons and dictionaries. Again, that is part of the limit of tools like lexicons and dictionaries. That is not the same as an intentional exaggeration of strength. We must realize too that these tools also cover a whole language, not one word like holy in-depth. Their strength does lie in that ability, to survey an entire language in a handy volume.

The reason I am hopeful for the future is that I think the skill of these past scholars can be eclipsed by the skills already developed by those who have both learned and studied language, as my two professors in college had done. I wish I had the time to use the skills that they gave me to their full strength in this small space right now. It is only a matter of me having enough time in my schedule to do more than I am currently able to do. I have the skills, yet not the time.

I am convinced that their skills and the skills of other scholars I have been fortunate to study under mean that someday I and others with me can say confidently that either holy means whole or holy means set apart. We won’t have to hedge. I look forward to the day that our greatest scholars and our greatest ordinary learners can say confidently what it means.

In the meantime, I can say “probably” means strength is needed and in turn skill in wisdom is needed. The key is skill. Skill gives strength. It gives leverage. It gives us the advantage others didn’t have. I learned this in the classroom, the sports field and in the office. It lets you say realistically something strong rather than something semi-strong or weak. So I can end this day with a great amount of hope in my heart that the strength that skills give will one day get fully used. God willing, it is only a matter of time.

In Christ,


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Its Hebrew Etymology (Sort of)

I have read that Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) believed that holy means whole from a secondary source. Recently, I found another secondary source that takes me closer to what his view was on the meaning of holy and in another later blog, I will add to these comments from Hirsch's own primary sources, when I have more time for research. His definition in this secondary source is interpreted to be "to prepare." This is seen as in contrast to "sanctified" or "separate."

His principles tell me that his material is worthy of more research. I'll deal with two of his principles in this blog. In the Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew: Based on the Commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the compiler, Rabbi Matityahu Clark, mentions in his introduction that "by using his etymological system, Hirsch provides unusual insights on common Biblical words and phrases" (p. xi). To quote him further, using holy as one example of unusual insights, he says:

The word [qadosh] is usually translated as `sanctified' or `separated.' But Hirsch explains (in his commentary to Num. 11:18) that the root [qadosh] means `to prepare'
or `to be at the very height of being absolutely ready for all that is good' (p. xii).

This is very close to my understanding of holy as whole, because this is a major implication from it. To further this argument, it fits well with the ideas of the 1800s scholar, Richard Trench, when he develops a group of Greek words that are related both to preparedness and to being whole. I can't develop this fully now, but after reading Hirsch's commentary and going back over Trench's insights, I hope to develop this further in a later blog.

At this point, what I find most fanscinating is the description of Hirsch's principles for understanding the meaning of Hebrew words. Clark says that Hirsch repeatedly said that one should not look to foreign languages to find the meanings of words in Torah (the Law in Hebrew). It is also said that he does not deny borrowing from other languages, but he insists that Hebrew is a "self-contained entity" (p. xii). He also believed Torah (the Law in Hebrew) contained clear and not obscure language.

When I studied LAMP (Language Acquistion Made Practical), one of the most important aspects of the course was the emphasis on connecting with others. Some succeeded at this while others failed, as primarily illustrated on the mission field and as outlined by Dr. Donald Larson, one of the key thinkers behind the LAMP method developed by the Brewsters.

Larson recognized five core principles toward success or failure in connecting: 1) connection and disconnection, 2) someone else and you, 3) insiders and outsiders, 4) ease and difficulty and 5) learning and studying. Each of the these five areas has two options and principles that were reflected by both those who succeeded and by those who failed.

Those who emphasized the former principle in each case, as in connection rather than disconnection, succeeded in connecting with others. Those who emphasized the latter principle in each case, as in disconnection rather than connection, failed in connecting with others. Now relevant to our purpose are two of these success principles. The principles of insiders and outsiders and the principles of ease and difficulty.

Rabbi Hirsch recognizes an insider or internal integrity in Hebrew. He recognizes the need to connect with the language from an insider's perspective on their language rather than relying too much on an outsider's perspective on their language. I think the advantages are perhaps best illustrated by the dangers of an outsider's interpretation.

For example, Moses Ibn Ezra is a significant interpreter of the Hebrew language especially preceding the Middle Ages and the state of Hebrew scholarship in his day. He clearly asserts at that time that the greatest breakthroughs in scholarship of Biblical Hebrew are attributable to Arabic influence. His method relies heavily on Arabic and Aramaic cognates. Some of this was likely due to Arabic being a living language at that time, while Hebrew was not a living language. That means Arabic had the advantage of being a language you can learn and not just study. This advantage according to Larson's principles may have resulted though in a distortion in violation of other principles of connecting. That may be why some say Moses Ibn Ezra overstated a shared Hebrew-Arabic cultural heritage. Hirsch is able to avoid this overstatement by taking more seriously an insider's perspective.

Rabbi Hirsch also reflects a commitment to the idea of ease in his idea that Scripture is clear rather than obscure in its language. This means that one understands that for the native speaker things are not as obscure as they seem to the foreigner. But the foreigner must maintain a firm belief that another person's language is an easy as their own, given the same circumstances. Otherwise motivation drops and a connection with another culture is compromised. That person who is failing in connecting then relies more and more on the ease of their own language while stressing also the difficulty of another's language. Hirsch is able to avoid this problem as well.

Through these twin commitments, Hirsch's work reflects more of an insider's view of Hebrew and an ease of working with the language itself rather than a commitment to other languages being easier or less obscure. I think that is why his etymological system and his commitment to the meaning of individual letters needs to be taken seriously. It has an ease about it in using the language. Hebrew's etymology may not be like our own, but instead easier to use for those who grew up with it.

In any case, his study of etymology opens a new door to understanding Hebrew that may move us from an obliviousness about what holy means, beyond controversy over what it means and finally to an obvious position on what it means. If the ease at which he arrives at some definitions is any indication, then an easy insider meaning of holy may be just around a near corner.

In Christ,


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to the Best (Not the Good)

One of my professors had a saying he was fond of repeating: "The good is the enemy of the best." Just yesterday I witnessed another episode of the truth of this saying. I think the same holds true for the discussion of the meaning of holy. Many good people hold the position that holy means to set apart or to be separate. Yet the problem is that being good is not good enough.

The best reformers of the past 500 plus years in my tradition were: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, John Wesley and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. These were the best in the respective denominations of: Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist and Baptist. Many good men and women preceded them and followed them. Yet when it comes time for renewal to happen again, the good can become the enemy of the best.

One of my favorite biblical examples of this comes from the biblical story of Israel's kings. Following David, it is not uncommon to notice that he has set the bar for all future kings including his son Solomon. Following David and Solomon (both who are recognized more than the others because they are also biblical authors), there is this succession of leaders: Jeroboam (arose first but didn't become a king till the time of Rehoboam), Rehoboam, Asa and Jehosophat.

Each of these kings at least started good or were good except in the case of certain issues. But none was on the level of the best in King David. Following these kings, there were a series of bad kings before once again good kings arose. They were: Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah and Jotham. Finally following these kings we hear of two of the best kings, who are compared to David favorably: King Hezekiah and King Josiah. During their time we read about festival events that exceeded those times of the good kings.

Generations struggle that follow even the best generations. There is always the dangers for generations that wise Solomon outlines:

There is a generation:
1) curses it's father
and does not bless it's mother (Proverbs 30:11 )
2) pure in its own eyes
yet is not washed from its filthiness (Proverbs 30:12)
3) oh, how lofty are their eyes!
and their eyelids are lifted up (Proverbs 30:13)
4) whose teeth are like swords
and whose fangs are like knives
to devour the poor from off the earth
and [to devour[ the needy from among men. (Proverbs 30:14)

These may seem like they only apply to the evil ones on earth, but they can also apply to the good people and movements as things degenerate after them or to the remnant of evil that is pointed out during their lifetime. For one example, Jehosophat is given warning by Elijah during his lifetime of this ties to King Ahab. He is not like his "father" King David in this regard.

Another book of wisdom, the book of James, points out the importance of the meekness of wisdom (James 3:13). This is in contrast to the bitter envy and self-seeking of the generations found in Proverbs 30 (James 3:14).

What I have noticed more and more as a Christian is that bitter envy and self-seeking are on the rise rather than the meekness of wisdom. In Jesus' day, his sect, either during his lifetime or following, became known as the Nazarene sect. He tried to convince four other sects to show the meekness of wisdom: the Sadducees, the Essenes (the Qumran community), the Pharisees and the Zealots. Yet they were very reluctant and only after his crucifixion to we read in Acts that many Pharisees believed and joined the Nazarene sect.

This is how sects that perhaps even had a good beginning can become the enemy of the best. In our day, the sects of liberals, conservatives, evangelicals and higher life movements (includes charismatics and holiness movments) are satisfied with holy means set apart or separate.

I would ask them to show the meekness of wisdom. I would also ask these generations to consider that while they may be good in many regards, their goodness may be the enemy of the best in hindering an objective hearing of the evidence on the definition of holy. James 3:14 warns against boasting and lying against the truth. This is sometimes more subtle than blatant for the good rather than the evil. King Asa and King Jeroboam were good kings, yet they should not be smug just because they are not like King Ahab. The good often does not like to acknowledge the best, because that requires a lack of envy and a supply of meekness. It is easier instead to boast that we are better than someone else. That requires no lack of envy and there is no need for meekness to show up.

I myself would rather meekly see the wisdom of the best of God's servants and then find a new reformation coming to us once again, than defend some sort of goodness and hinder another day like that of a King Hezekiah or a King Josiah. We had our warnings in the 20th century from people like Keith Green and Leonard Ravenhill. We also had warnings from people like Francis Schaeffer, Ray Stedman and R. A Finlayson, where we witnessed a desire for something better than these present day sects had to offer. What has happened to that longing?

Have we fallen into apathy? Has the good become the enemy of the best? Have we only eyes to see the faults of the best (I understand David had one)? Why can't we hear the evidence about the meaning of holy objectively? Why has no one from these sects called for an objective hearing of reformation views on holy to test the controversial position these four sects hold and to see if it can hold up under a challenge? Why are the originally good sects so quick to hold to a definition that has had over 100 years to prove itself effective and yet has little fruit to show for it?

I have no axe to grind. I have no desire for the latest new thing. I have submitted to a type of discipline unknowingly that helps me avoid envy. I have investigated the best of the Reformers and found that and found it crushes envy. How can a person who is putting on armor boast before people who have taken it off?

So I now wonder out loud: "How much is envy driving these contemporary sects right now?" Only actual actions that show the "meekness of wisdom" carries the answer. I am calling for an open objective hearing of all the evidence as I create my posts on the internet. That is all I ask for from our present Christian leaders. Will the good once again be the enemy of the best? Or will we see again the meekness of wisdom in action and see reformation? Time will tell the truth.

In Christ,


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Proof, Proof, Proof

If you read through my blog you will notice in the titles "according to." The reason is because the purpose of this blog is to offer evidence for the meaning of holy. It offers all different kinds of proof. It essentially offers four separate kinds that combined form a very strong proof for why I think holy means being morally whole. They are: scriptural, traditional, experiential and reasonable.

Scriptural means that I have a high regard for the rule or measure of Scripture. I regard that measure as the standard in all things. It is a standard that stands alone.

Traditional means that I have a high regard for connections with other Christians over time. In other words, I would consider it very strange if I could not find Christians since the time of Christ/Messiah, who held the same viewpoint I am expressing. I would find it especially troublesome, if I could not find my views being held by fellow believers in Christ/Messiah during times of renewal as opposed to periods of degeneration.

Experiential means that character produces outcomes. It says in Scripture: "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, then I will heal their land, etc." The condition of certain actions produces certain outcomes. I am troubled by our lack of good outcomes at present and it causes me to ask the question whether our understanding of God's character, and therefore what we imitate, is correct. Could it be that our definition of holy that is instrumental to character could be flawed?

Reasonable means that reason has a role. We are not to throw out our minds, but use them. We are to be as diligent for proof as the myriad of popular shows like CSI Miami. We are to desire proof from the evidence of our senses. We are to avoid nonsense. At present we are in trouble because the standards of proof are being lowered, not raised. I want to keep the standard up and look for proof that is valid to our minds. That is why I use tools related to language and not tools that fail to take language into account.

The troubling issue right now is that proof has fallen into disrepair when you look at the evidence for the ideas that holy means set apart or holy means separation (to). First, it does not have a myriad of evidence from many witnesses, but primarily from one witness. Second, it is not persuasive in the sense of conclusive, but instead is in a state of controversial when it comes to the evidence.

On the first point, I would like to quote Richard Hooker, the great Anglican writer, who once said: "Though ten persons be brought to give testimony in any cause, yet if the knowledge they have of the thing where they come as witnesses, appear to have grown from some one among them, and, to have spread itself from hand to hand, they are all in force but the one testimony" (Richard Chapman, Law and Revelation: Richard Hooker and His Writings, Norwich, UK: Canterbury Press, p. 28).

The great number of lexicons, who give witness to separation or set apart, fall under this problem. They are but one witness in most cases, because they have fed off of one source. The other witnesses that have tried primary investigation, also admit that their position is "controversial." This includes people like Rudolph Otto (author of The Idea of the Holy) and Norman Snaith (author of The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament). It is also admitted by the writer on qadosh (holy) in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. (The latter does attempt a further proof, the other two did not).

On the second issue, I would like to quote Richard Hooker again: "... inasmuch as if it [that God's spirit did reveal] did come of God and should for that cause prevail with others, the same God which revealed it to them would also give them power of confirming it to others, either with miraculous operation, or with strong and invincible remonstrance of sound Reason, such as whereby it might appear that God would indeed have all men's judgments give place to it; whereas now the error and unsufficiency of their arguments do make it on the contrary side against them a strong presumption, that God has not moved their hearts to think such things as he has not enabled them to prove" (Chapman, p. 102-3). The last part is the most powerful in this quote: "to think such things as he has not enabled them to prove."

This really spoke to me when I read it, because it challenged me to consider what God has enabled me to prove. It also challenged me to think through what all writers on the subject of holy have been able to prove. It is a real challenge for parties on both sides. The right response is to meet this challenge rather than shrink from it. It does not solve the problem to avoid the problem. That is my issue with too much of what is written in the last 100 years. With little more than a controversial proof, big assumptions have been carried forward.

I think the better posture is to hit our knees, humble ourselves before God and ask him for the proof of what holy means. I myself desire greater proof for the point of view I have argued for. I realize I need further revelation from God that might convince a greater number of people that the proof is there in Scripture and that it is consistent with the other kinds of proof. Pray to God with me that he would bring the consequences of "proof, proof and proof" to our land.

In Christ,


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Dr. John Piper

For a seminary class I am taking as part of my post-graduate degree program, I ran across the following quote from one of my professors in college, who is now pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. He, in The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, says:

The reasoning goes like this: The ultimate value in the universe is God - the whole panorama of all of his perfections. Another name for this is God's holiness (viewed as the intrinsic and infinite worth of his perfect beauty) or God's glory (viewed as the out-streaming manifestation of that beauty). Therefore, "right" must be ultimately defined in relation to this ultimate value, the holiness or the glory of God - this is the highest standard for "right" in the universe. Therefore, what is right is what upholds in proper proportion the value of what is infinitely valuable, namely, God (p. 64).

He says this in the context of defining what righteousness means. In the end, I think his definition of righteousness falls a little short, because he leaves out the idea of holiness and only speaks of God's glory, but in this portion of his paragraph I agree wholeheartedly with his meaning for holiness.

On careful reading, his definition is: "the whole panorama of all his perfections" as the other "name for this is God's holiness." This sounds like it could have come right out of Jonathan Edwards, who I know Dr. Piper is fond of reading, and likely also from the influence of Edwards' writing, The Religious Affections.

Notice also that he says that "this ultimate value" is "the holiness or glory of God," if you read carefully. So I could not agree more with him as one of my early teachers in college on his understanding of holiness. Yet the unfortunate thing in the end is that he does not develop his meaning for holiness further in his final definition of righteousness, but drops it in favor of the word "glory."

This is likely due to his commitment to the words from the Westminster confession that: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." This apparently causes him to veer slightly from good exegesis and powerful biblical theology. Yet he comes so close.

That in turn would seem to cause him to miss out on all the implications that are possible from his definition of holy in understanding the whole of Scripture and in the actual understanding of ourselves and our lives. This is why our commitment must be to God's word as our final authority, even while understanding the value of a connection with other believers accross the ages. Notice that I value both. Both can assist each other as long as we understand that our first commitment is to God, but also that it would be silly to think of ourselves as only ones with that commitment.

In Christ,


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Holy Means Morally Whole: According to the Elementary Level

In the end, I suppose everything is in one sense elementary. If I was asked to give one of the most important arguments for the idea that holy means whole, I would have to include the argument from the elementary level of language. Holy is not on that level, but whole is certainly near to the elementary level.

There are generally four levels ranging from the elementary up to the advanced level for communication or language development. The level that the majority of us clearly complete is that of the elementary level.

Mortimer J. Adler lists four levels when it comes to reading as a part of communication or language development. He lists:

1) elementary reading
2) inspectional reading
3) analytical reading
4) comparative reading

When it comes to the mastery of vocabulary, whole most likely falls into the inspectional reading level and holy into the comparative reading level. But I think what is interesting is what word would be below both of them at the elementary level.

If you agree with the idea of levels like Adler, then you might see the levels of vocabulary in the Bible as follows:

1) elementary - body (ex. human being) and members (head, arms, legs, trunk, etc.)
2) inspectional - whole (ex. uncarved stone) and parts (lost no pieces by not shaping)
3) analytical - self and heart, soul, strength, mind
4) comparative - holy and righteous, true, loving, good

If you agree with the stance that it means to be set apart or separate, you would follow one of two patterns:

1) elementary - this and not that
2) inspectional - God and not man
3) analytical - sinless and sinful
4) comparative - set apart from the ordinary things (ex. that, man, sinful, etc.) (like taboo items)

1) elementary - and and but
2) inspectional - connection
3) analytical - relationships
4) comparative - set apart toward (and - connection ) or set apart from (but - disconnection)

My greatest problem at the elementary level is that these later two patterns don't fit with the importance attached to holy as God's greatest character trait. Let me show you why.

Holy, if it is parallel to whole at the inspecitional level of language, matches up with the greatest aspect in that pattern:

Whole, made up of -
Part 1 Amounts
Part 2 Relationships
Part 3 Actions
Part 4 Things

Holy as set apart though either ends up contrasting things like the elementary level of specifying this and not that or it specifies on an elementary level "and" as in a connection like "mommy and daddy" or "but" as in a disconnection like between "mommy, but not daddy." Neither idea tells us about his whole person, like a personal name at an elementary level.

I think on an elementary level the set of: body and members makes a great case for being the greatest, because the body exceeds the value of any one member. How can it be, in the case of set apart that is only a member, that it could exceed the value of the body?

It makes no biblical sense according to Jesus, who says we ought to sacrifice a limb to save the body. It also makes no elementary sense. To quote Holmes: "It is elementary my dear Watson."

In Christ,


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Holy Means Whole_According to John Howe (1670)

"This may be said to be a transcendental attribute, that, as it were, runs through the rest, and casts luster upon them. It is an attribute of attributes."

Howe partly argues for his from the statement "the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 110:3). He was apparently well known in Reformed or Presbyterian circles.

In Christ,


Friday, May 28, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Golden and Greatest

Sometimes Christians are guilty of saying things are OK, when they are not. I remember one such instance, when I was around 10 years old. Our Sunday School teacher asked us this question: “What does love mean?” One thing still stands out to me. I wasn’t as sure I knew what love meant leaving the class as I was when I had come into it. I’m afraid that sometimes children's and adult's experiences with knowing the meaning of holy can be equally unsettling. That is not OK.
There is a number of possible reasons for why I felt uneasy and I am sure my teacher may have felt like saying: "Oops, I left my students a bit overwhelmed." She might have seen it in our faces.

Maybe I misunderstood the teacher, though it is doubtful based on me offering what she considered the best attempt at defining it. I think the rest of the class was overwhelmed too. Then again, maybe I was daydreaming and missed her great answer right at the end. I suppose I’ve done that once in a while. Maybe the teacher used a bad technique in teaching. I suppose this is possible because I have had wonderful experiences in the Sunday School on other days. Maybe one of my classmates was a bad distraction that day. Actually, I think we were pretty well behaved that day. Or maybe the ultimate culprit is my feeling of comfort before we tried to define holy. Maybe my understanding just wasn’t that good (“caring” was my definition), so I needed to be challenged. This could produce a hot debate.

Trying to figure out the culprit that day is not easy. It is made even more difficult by the fact that this is a 40 year old cold case. I’m not sure even Agatha Christie could make this story come alive. I think if I ask the question of what went wrong that day I would hear as many reasons for why as I would definitions of love on that Sunday morning 40 years ago. So things can get worse through this line of investigation rather than better. Likewise, if we can’t agree on the meaning of love or what went wrong in trying to define it, what hope do we have that we can define holy?
There might be a clue in the Bible itself that might allow us to solve this 40 year old cold case, even if the facts are not all that clear compared to years ago. Maybe we can find a clue not investigated 40 years ago.
Many people are likely familiar with 2 lines in the Bible. They are: 1) The Golden Rule and 2) The 2nd Greatest Commandment. The Golden Rule (a clear English translation) reads: “Do for others what you want them to do for you.” The 2nd Greatest Commandment reads: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

At first glance these two statements may seem equally easy, but I would argue that it is more likely someone would reach for a dictionary more often on the 2nd Greatest Commandment than on the Golden Rule. For some pastors, the dictionary is the first tool in their tool box. What if they didn’t need to reach for a dictionary as often or you didn’t have to either? What if the definitions for the words of the 2nd Greatest Commandment were in the Bible itself, only hidden from our view by our culture’s educational practices and brought to our view by the Bible’s own educational practices?
In the letter to the Hebrews, part of the the Biblical pattern of education is disclosed. The teacher is to move from milk to solid food, not from solid to food to milk. Likewise, the central point of the statement is that a person should not be satisfied with milk. Another implication is that a person is not a teacher unless they can handle solid food.
One specific example of solid food is “the word of righteousness.” It is pretty well known that this is not initially an easy word to understand. I would argue that the word of love has the same status even though we consider it to be simpler to understand. Here is my reason why. It is that they are both, at a minimum, complex ideas. They require more than just one word to define them. That is why care is not quite adequate to define love, even if it is a step in the right direction. This has big implications for our 40 year old cold case.

This would mean that the teacher was not asking us 10 year olds (maybe only 8 or 9) a milk question, but a solid food question. This would further mean that because we were at most only 10 years old, we were probably not yet equipped to handle the question. That’s probably the real reason I felt unsettled, not because my answer was unsatisfactory and as a 10 year old I needed to be challenged more. My classmates and I had been introduced to a topic over our heads. I would say further that the word of holy is in the same class as righteousness and love in terms of complexity. It can likewise overwhelm us at stages in life.
So what can be done? In our Christian education growing up, we were most likely introduced to the Golden Rule and the 2nd Greatest Commandment around the same time. In fact, I hear fairly often the 2nd Greatest Commandment declared basic even now. Yet, if one is milk and the other solid food, they should not be introduced at the same time in one’s development. Also, what if Golden is a clue to the value of this rule as a youthful statement of meaning? What if we are to tach the Golden Rule first and the 2nd Greatest Commandment second, so it follows the first and is seen as not basic but at the pinnacle of Biblical education? What too are the implications for understanding holy, if it too is on the solid food level?
Let’s experiment with the method of placing the Golden rule in the place of milk and the 2nd Greatest Comandment in the place of solid food. Let’s see if the milk of the Golden Rule helps us later digest solid food of the 2nd Greatest Commandment.
The way I am going to display this method is to write out the 2nd Greatest Commandment/solid food and then write in parentheses behind each word of the commandment words from the Golden Rule/milk. In a 2nd stage I will add block parentheses for words to give a fuller meaning to the commandment.
The 2nd Greatest Commandment reads:
Love (do for) your (you) neighbor (others) as (what you want them to do for) yourself (you).
Notice the simple definitions you can equip people with for understanding more complex ideas. And these definitions are right out of the Bible itself. Please don’t throw any of your dictionaries quite yet.
The 2nd Greatest Commandment reads again (now with added block parentheses):
Love ([all kinds] do for) your ([of] you) neighbor ([nearest] others) as (what you want them [others] to [all kinds] do for) yourself ([self {all of hearts, soul, strength, mind}] of you).
Notice this even better demonstration of the complexity of the 2nd Greatest Commandment over the Golden Rule. While the Golden Rule is very good at explaining the basics it is not equal in greatness to the 2nd Greatest Commandment. It is like comparing milk and solid food.
Yet moving toward a solution to our earlier problem in Sunday school requires moving in the opposite direction and seeing the hidden value of something golden or something that is called milk. Love is far easier to grasp, if you begin by defining it with “do for.” Your and yourself are much easier, if you begin from “you.” As is far easier to grasp, if you think of “what you want them to do for you.” It expresses equality and justice at a pretty basic level. So likewise I would argue that we need to know the milk word behind the solid meat word to really understand what holy means. Holy is solid food. What would be its parallel milk word?
Let me share with you some baby steps or should I say milk steps in the area of what might be the gold before the greatest when it comes to holy. I believe the place to begin to understand holy is with the simpler concepts of the body and its members. That is what I believe is the milk of the Word that needs to precede the solid food of the Word. These need to precede holy and its parts.
My strongest argument for this idea right now is the frequency of the words involving these topics – body, members, feet, foot, eye, hand, finger, etc. and that frequency in writing can point to its level of importance in language. I also believe that this is a popular analogy with Paul and Jesus. Likewise we know holy is very important and very frequently used involving – holy, holiness, sanctification, sanctify, hallow, etc. We also know its importance from: “holy, holy, holy.” So they could have a connection like the Golden Rule and the 2nd Greatest Commandment, because of their equivalent importance on their respective levels.

To use actual Biblical texts as a starting point, I think the Bible moves from milk to solid food or from Golden to Greatest in the following:
“… the body is one and has many members and all the members, though many, are one body….” (1 Cor. 12:12 – in part).
“Because it is written, `Be holy for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:16 – in part)
Let me demonstrate how this works out through a process similar to what I did before:
Be holy (one and has many members) for I am holy (all the members, though many, are one).
In plain language, this is all I have ever been saying in anything I have written previously in trying to define holy. It is that basic on the level of milk.

These texts above may not be the most important texts in the Bible for what I am saying, but I do think that they are at least baby or milk steps in the right direction. When I get more time, I will come up with the best two texts to use.

A major part of my confidence is in the idea that both milk and solid food have this is in common, that they are both healthy. Holy should produce healthy consequences like the importance of the body and not just singular members. They should have things in common like that of the Golden Rule and that of the 2nd Greatest Commandment.

So in summary, I believe we need to do the following:

· Proceed from milk to solid food, from golden (least) to greatest
· Use milk words as the Bible’s own internal dictionary for solid food words
· Don’t overload or overwhelm children with solid food nor let adults be satisfied with milk
· Use this method of milk to solid food to clarify solid food words like holy, righteous or love
· Lastly, discover the culprit who has reversed the order to solid food to milk.
I don't think my teacher was the primary culprit since she probably was not the first nor the last. Besides this I am convinced she loved us in the truest sense, so I doubt she reversed things intentionally.

Please be aware that my confidence in writing about holy does not come so much from my grasp of greatest things as in my grasp of least things. My understanding of “this little piggy went to market,” apparently from Mother Goose origin and definitely from my mother, has a lot to do with my confidence. I got what my mother was trying to teach me about my body and its members. So I understand very well the healthy teaching of the concept of the body and its members. It is my best explanation for the meaning of holy I have argued for up to this moment. This is what I mean when I say holy means whole.

I am suggesting that holy is a healthy continuation from body like love is from do for. Like moving from milk to solid food there is a healthy continuation from the stage of childhood to adulthood. The food needs change. Milk alone is a very poor diet and unhealthy. But the solid food choices in this world are inexhaustible, so not as easy as an early diet. I think likewise love, righteousness and holiness are inexhaustible ideas that have a complexity to them that simple ideas alone do not grasp. You can use a number of these simple ideas to define them, but one alone does not suffice.

Please join with me in proceeding from the least to the greatest, but don’t lose the gold of the least or lose yourself in the idea that only the greatest words deserve your attention. Then it will be alright for Christians to say things are OK, when it comes to education in the church. It will also assist the church in seeing that holy means whole. Then things will truly be OK.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker are to Anglicans or Episcopalians what Martin Luther and Philip Melanchton are to Lutherans. The parallels are not at all exact, but the importance of each pair of leaders is very close. There are two reasons why I think Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker both recognized holy as meaning whole.

First is that historically both were very close to our earlier translators like Wycliffe and Tyndale, the latter who clearly used holy to replace an earlier English word that clearly meant whole to every single etymologist I have ever read. I have developed this argument elsewhere in talking about earlier dictionaries and I won’t develop that argument more here. Second is that the word that is often translated “healthy” or “sound” in our translations today was translated by “wholesome” by Tyndale at the time of Cranmer.

What I want to do is introduce you to this word “wholesome,” because it is popular in early Anglican writers like Cranmer and Hooker and because it also has an effect much like the word whole. So let me quote Cranmer in some key instances, Tyndale’s translation of Titus a few times and Hooker once at least.

So here is Cranmer in his own words (wholesome in italics and bolded):

Will you faithfully exercise yourself in the same holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer, for the true understanding of the same; so as ye may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?

It is from what is called as late as 1928: “Form and Manner of Ordering Priests." I have not located a great source on the internet yet. I will do more research and add an internet source later.

XI. Of the Justification of Man. We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
XXV. Of the Sacraments. Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.
XXXV. Of the Homilies.
The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may he understanded of the people.

Selections from: The Thirty-Nine Articles of 1801 (still showing Cranmer’s influence) found at:

Therefore now to come to the second and latter part of my purpose. There is nothing so good in this world, but it may be abused, and turned from unhurtful and wholesome, to hurtful and noisome.

Selection from: Thomas Cranmer’s Preface to the Great Bible found at:

From William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament we read:

Titus 1:9
and such as cleaveth unto the true word of doctrine, that he may be able to exhort with wholesome learning, and to improve them that say against it.

Titus 2:1
But speak thou that which becometh wholesome learning:

Titus 2:8
and {with} the wholesome word which cannot be rebuked, that he which withstandeth may be ashamed, having no thing in you that he may dispraise.

Selections from: THE NEW TESTAMENT (Tyndale, Rogers, Coverdale, Cranmer): Titus found at:

Then from a sermon by Richard Hooker in two places:

The reason whereof being not perceived, but by greater intention of brain than our nice minds for the most part can well away with, fain we would bring the world, if we might, to think it but a needless curiosity to rip up any thing further than extemporal readiness of wit doth serve to reach unto. Which course if here we did list to follow, we might tell you, that in the first branch of this sentence God doth condemn the Babylonian’s pride; and in the second, teach what happiness ofc state shall grow to the righteous by the constancy of their faith, notwithstanding the troubles which now they suffer; and, after certain notes of wholesome instruction hereupon collected, pass over without detaining your minds in any further removed speculation. But, as I take it, there is a difference between the talk that beseemeth nursesd amongst children, and that which men of capacity and judgment do or should receive instruction by.

But as unruly children, with whom wholesome admonition prevaileth little, are notwithstanding brought to fear that ever after which they have once well smarted for; so the mind which falleth not with instruction, yet under the rod of divine chastisement ceaseth to swell. If, therefore, the prophet David, instructed by good experience, have acknowledged, Lord I was even at the point of clean forgetting myself, and ofn1 straying from my right mind, but thy rod hath been my reformer; it hath been good for me, even as much as my soul is worth, that I have been with sorrow troubled: if the blessed Apostle did need the corrosive of sharp and bitter strokes, lest his heart should swell with too great abundance of heavenly revelations2 : surely, upon us whatsoever God in this world doth or shall inflict, it cannot seem more than our pride doth exact, not only by way of revenge, but of remedy.


It seems to me as I read Cranmer, Tyndale’s translation of Titus or Hooker that “wholesome” easily fell from their lips, as if it was a major theme for them. I know I did not hear it, when I was growing up in an evangelical and Baptist tradition. This pursuit of being "wholesome" like the pursuit of being healthy or sound from our modern translations, seems to have lead to a similar outcome to what you would see with holy meaning whole. You could say the parallel is that healthy means “wholesome” for them. I should note also that the letters used for spelling "wholesome" in the Greek original are very similar to those used for "holy" in the Greek original. This is worthy of some serious study, if not already consideration.

I think this lends some support to the historic idea of historica Anglican comprehensiveness being an expression of being "wholesome" or being healthy or sound. I wonder too if this word “wholesome” isn’t the root from which the Anglican and Episcopalian idea of comprehensiveness first grew.
If so, then I would have to back off from my earlier idea that possibly its main root was holy. While that proposal was made by an Anglican, my further research has not shown much fruit or much support among those with the experience and credentials to know.

I wonder too if "wholesome" is not also a strong idea alongside of holy supporting the concept of the importance of being whole. The nature of Hooker’s writing itself has a style that strives for completeness or wholeness of thought.

As I make these observations, it strengthens my idea that this is one of the key areas where Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church have gone astray. It seems that they have lost track of their biblical moorings dating back to Cranmer, Tyndale and Hooker.

It also convinces me that I need to study this more with Anglicans and Episcopalians by my side to see if in fact these things are true. That is why I have enrolled in studying this tradition on a post-graduate level. With the Lord’s provision, which I am still waiting on, I hope to being studying these things more this summer. Please pray that He may guide my steps, even as I get my feet wet in trying to follow His will and in studying His Word.

In Christ,


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to the Plain View of Things

Words are absolutely awesome aren’t they? I mean right now I am able to communicate with an incredible number of people through the means of words. I don’t have to send the stuff I am communicating about across the worldwide web, just my words. But sometimes things get hidden in plain view. In other words, there is a downside to using words rather than things to communicate. The meaning of words can become hidden to listeners or readers, when the meaning was in plain view of the speakers or writers. Things on the other hand, can clarify what our words mean. I remember probably the first time I ever spoke from the pulpit in church. I used a simple object lesson to make my meaning plain. I think we need to understand the importance of making the meaning of holy plain, not only through words, but also through its own object lessons of things.

If we look at the history of trying to define holy, much of the method focuses on words to the neglect of things that could make things plain. Quite often, scholars look for a definition for holy among the writings of previous times. Occasionally, if one is fortunate, one finds just such a thing. But ironically, the Bible does not have a straight-forward definition for holy in the dictionary or lexicon sense. Instead, one has to make plain what was meant by the word, using other means.

In the past, you can see a few different approaches to this task. One of them is to quote definitions from older Jewish sages like Rashi or Rambam, used often by Jewish rabbis. Another is to research the languages that may have had ties to Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek for language parallels or for languages that may have preceded or followed it closely, used often by contemporary scholarship. Another method, used by Johann Bengel, a German scholar of a few centuries ago, is to look for parallels within the Biblical text. He derives his meaning for holy from this method of connecting parallel passages regarding name and holy. A further elaboration of this method was to again see the connection between the concept of a name and holy and recognize that this was a Hebrew or Jewish cultural understanding of a name that was operating rather than an English concept of name that was operating. This seems to be where C.H. Spurgeon got his definition of holy. Yet in the end, all of these methods rely on words to make plain other words rather than using words tied to things.

I have also written elsewhere about another approach that appears to have begun due to some critical work by William F. Albright, where pictures of things are connected to words or rather the letters that now make up Hebrew words. This does go beyond relying just on words to elaborate other words, because of the introduction of the pictures of things. But I have said more on this before. It also may get a boost from what I am going to say about words and things below.

Recently, I was introduced through a phone call to someone, who is a Mayan scholar or anthropologist. They are working on the idea that stones that are shaped like mushrooms in Mayan culture were intended to stand for mushrooms. But there is a problem. This seems plain enough and yet it is not, because, as his father states, scholars are so prone to routine, they have blinders on. So the point this scholar makes “is hidden in plain view.”

I sense that the same thing has happened to the meaning of the word holy. I imagine that to the ancient Hebrew people, the meaning of holy was pretty much in plain view, it is just hidden to us. And I think there is a reason for this. We have done a good job of separating words and things, which goes contrary to our everyday existence. Also we have been using a method for studying language that tilts the balance towards words over things. Whether you are talking a Jewish rabbi, a liberal scholar, a fundamentalist pastor, an evangelical professor with a Ph.D., a Johann Bengel or a Charles Spurgeon, they all are relying on a method that is focused on words making plain other words.

One thing that has helped us move beyond this some in our own time, is the fields of archaeology and anthropology, where things help to make plain the meaning of words. This may be why Mary Douglas, an anthropologist, is one of the pioneers in our time in relying less on words and more on the objects spoken of in a text, to make plain the meaning of holy. Likewise my professors of linguistics in college would probably better be called anthropological linguists, because of their grounding their ideas not only in a multi-dimensional approach to language, but also in an approach that took seriously not just words and studying, but also things and learning.

Saul M. Olyan, of Brown University, took Mary Douglas’ insights that “holiness was given an external, physical expression” and applied it to stones as referred to in Exodus 20:25 and Deuteronomy 27:5-6. He states:

My focus was the stones of the altar in Exod. 20:25 and Deut. 27:5-6, as well as the stones of the temple in 1 Kgs. 6:7. Exod. 20:25 forbids an altar made of ashlar (cut stone), warning that working altar stones with a tool profanes them: “If you wield your tool upon it, you profane it (wattehaleleha). This statement indicates that accorind to Exod. 20:25, altar stones, like most sacrifices and like priests, are sanctified. If this were not the cse, the stones would not be subject to profanation. (Profanation transforms that which is holy into that which is common). Deut. 27:5-6, elaborating Exod. 20:25, also forbids the use of a took (explicitly iron) on the stones; it refers to the uncut stones from which the altar is to be built as “whole stones” (abanim selemot). Thus the unworked “whole stones” of Deut. 27:6 parallel the uncut holy stones of Exod. 20;25. This suggests a connection between the wholeness of the uncut altar stones and their holiness, which is lost according to Exod. 20:25, if they are worked with a tool. If I am correct about this connection, then we can compare Deut. 15:21. Just as the male first-born sacrificial animals with a “defect” are not sanctified according to Deut. 15:21, so altar stones that lose their wholeness lose their holiness. In both instances, that which is whole is understood to be holy, and that which lacks wholeness is treated as common. (p. 5-6, See my link for Mary Douglas to see his full article).

There isn’t much here that I cannot whole-heartedly agree with. I especially would like to re-iterate his statement: “that which is whole is understood to be holy, and that which lacks wholeness is treated as common. “ But what is most revealing to me is the thing called “stones.” They are something we can plainly get our minds around, even if the word “holy” seems elusive.
A whole stone versus a cut stone, that is no longer whole, shows us through things what holy means. The word holy that was plain to the Ancient Hebrew can also be plain to us, if we will see that the meaning of holy is simply hidden from us in plain view.

What I mean by that, is that the physical manifestation of holy is plain and obvious. What is not plain is our method of understanding communication when we are in school. Our focus in school is on a system of communication that focuses not on things, but on words. So the obvious is in effect hidden from us. We search not among the objects like an archaeologist, but only among the text like a linguist or more rather a literary critic. It is as though we only have texts and no objects. We simply don’t ask the right questions.

If you want to learn more on this go to my link on communication and see my March entry. In there I will explain what is hiding things from us and how we can bring things out into plain view by teaching communication basics differently.

So I want you to look at two pictures of stones. One is a whole stone on the left. The other on the right is a stone that is no longer whole, but broken in two parts. You tell me from the picture on the left, isn’t the meaning of holy quite plain? I hope it is plain to you like it is plain to me, because it is as plain to me as a stone.

In Christ,


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holy Means Whole According to a Multi-Faceted Process

This piece of writing is inspired by one of the comments left on my blog. It made me realize that perhaps I need to outline the process that I use in determining the meaning of holy. Sometimes we work with a process that is not out in the open or is no process at all. So let me make mine very out in the open.

The most significant thing to say is that it is good to have a systematic process rather than no process or one that fails to do anything. To put it bluntly, it is a battle between process and no process. My process is multi-faceted. It is important that a person not lock in on one part of the process I use and think that is the system that I use in proving the meaning of holy. I think this might have been the thing that misled the reader who make the comment I referred to earlier.

The first part of my process deals with the status of the Bible. The Bible (66 books) is for me the greatest measure in all that I do. I consider it to have the status of full growth. All other writings are smaller in status than that one collection of writings. I consider some of them to have healthy, even if a lower status of growth. Yet they have a measure of weight. It is like big and little. A mother cat is bigger than its kitten and yet the kitten still has status. But the kitten must be ranked as less and not equal to the mother cat in size. So translators and translations do matter, they just matter less. The English language studies matter, yet they matter less. Theologians and theologies matter, they just matter less. They can be helpful, but not on the status of the Bible itself. They also need to be corrected by the Bible. Yet it is dangerous to ignore English language studies or the opinions of other translators or the history of English translation. It is dangerous to kill the kitty to only have a vacuum in its place. I wish I had time to describe what I think has filled the vacuum, but that is a longer discussion. So in the end I am want to be careful to establish where I try to forge continuity due to full growth and where I think change will take place due to the need for growth.

The second part of my process deals with the status of the original text as opposed to later texts. I see the original as that text to which I have the greatest bond. I think the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate that what I have in hand is pretty reliable and connected in regard to the original. I think it is also important to understand that both prior texts and later texts are connected to the original, but not with the bond and connection of the original itself. So languages and texts prior to and following Ancient Hebrew or Aramaic or Koine Greek have a connection, but not the connection that the text has internally with itself. Likewise tracing root word meanings or etymologies need to be seen as primarily trying to determine what was connected with the original over what came before or what came after. It is the bond or connection in the original that we are looking for and we are trying to avoid instances where in the process something is introduced that was not connected, but instead was at liberty from the original text or meaning. Later meanings in other languages can be misleading and I think have misled some scholars of Hebrew.

The third part of my process deals with the status of the rules for meaning. I follow the rule of looking for possible meanings and their context as opposed to assuming a meaning through its plausibility. I use context to determine whether a possible meaning is also convincing, credible or defensible much like my Grandmother did when a professional translator requested her insights on Swedish. I look at the rule in language that words can ordinarily have more than one possible meaning and that that the convincing meaning is ordinarily determined by the context. So it is important to demonstrate first the possibility of a meaning, that a word is free to mean that and that it is equally important to follow the rule that context will demonstrate (if the writing is effective) the convincing meaning that is being used in that context. Much of what I have written is simply arguing that whole is a possible meaning for holy. Sometimes writers assume it is not even a possible meaning. But I also try to show from the context that whole is also convincing over the plausible meaning of set apart. Yet plausible is never good enough for me. The context has to be convincing for me. So linguistic or language study rules are very important to me. They determine what is convincing.

The fourth part of my process deals with the status of what makes sense versus what is nonsense. We have to determine what something is rather than what it is not. Here is where I use a method that helps determine what something is by determining which class of things it fits with much like the game on Sesame Street. This is where scholarly argument is very important. Yet I don’t allow myself to be swayed simply by scholarly consensus in lexicons, but rather by what something really is when it is examined in the light of like things. I use a method with the acronym WARAT. It is primarily developed from the method called TEAR re-developed by Eugene Nida and the American Bible Society. It is also used by Wycliffe Bible translators. Without going into any detail, it is a method of classifying words and outlines the universal categories of meaning. Also relevant here is biblical theology and systematic theology, because they have tried to define what things are. It is helpful to examine not only lexicons for meaning, but also theology in light of WARAT. So what is ultimately important is what makes sense rather than nonsense rather than whether an idea came from a lexicon as opposed to a theology text.

So that is my out in the open process. I am trying to use the various parts of this process and as I go I hope to make it more systematic, because it may actually make it also do more. My latest system of Process and Non-Process consists of four parts: 1) Continuity and Change, 2) Bond and Liberty (Barrier), 3) Rule and Freedom and 4) Sense and Nonsense. The basic point is for me to do something rather than for me to do nothing. It is also hoped that I can teach others to do the same. Thank you for your patience with me and with the the attempt to clarify the process.

In Christ,


Friday, February 26, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Some Contemporary Scholarship

Sometimes contemporary scholarship is assumed to entirely favor the view that holy means separate or set apart. This isn’t quite true. It is easy to overlook some of its views on the meaning of holy. Mary Douglas, a rather well known anthropologist, apparently is responsible for a number of scholars considering that holy means whole. I mention her and others, because I do not want people to think I am alone in my view from a scholarly perspective.

Other mentionable scholars beyond Mary Douglas include:

Saul Mitchell Olyan @ Brown University
Ronald S. Hendel @ the University of California, Berkeley
Jacob Milgrom, Emeritus @ the University of California, Berkeley
Ralph W. Klein @ Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Gordon Wenham @ Trinity College Bristol
Philip J. Budd @ ??
?? @ Macalaster College, St. Paul, MN
Ronald E. Clements (a possible supporter)

Each of these scholars comes with numerous credentials, when it comes to recognition for their scholarship. Philip J. Budd for example has written the Numbers volume in the Word Biblical Commentary series. Gordon Wenham is well recognized in Evangelical circles as well for his writing.

With Ronald Hendel, I found an extensive Curriculum Vitae (if you know what that is) through the internet. Ralph W. Klein has an extensive web site dedicated to his work. Jacob Milgrom is known for a tremendous Jewish commentary on Numbers. While I cannot endorse everything that these writers each believe, I think there scholarly credentials still have merit on the subject of the meaning of holy.

So I just want those, who think that through surveying a few lexicons that the issue is settled, to realize that humility is required. Those lexicons are not settling the issue so easily for some very credible scholars. I think that is significant. In the future, I will try to address the issue of the evidence from the Hebrew language more directly, but this will have to suffice for now. What I am currently working on is simply taking more time, because I have less time than I wish to work on it. Stay tuned. Thank you.

In Christ,


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holy Means Whole According to Stephen Charnock

Stephen Charnock (1628 - 1680), Puritan divine, was an Engllish Puritan and Presbyterian clergyman. He is most renowned for a book that was likely published after his death. It is titled: The Existence and Attributes of God. Apparently it was originally a series of sermons.

In this book that I mentioned, he has a very profound pair of quotes that I think are rather significant. They read:

“Power is God’s hand or arm, omniscience His eye mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty.”

“His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction is `holy.’”

The most significant of the two is the second, because it may be an important part of the foundation for later thinkers, like Charles Spurgeon, who loved the Puritans, for being convinced that holiness is wholeness. God's name and God's holiness were seen by Spurgeon as being parallel to each other in particular biblical texts and that is one of his reasons for believing that holiness was holiness. It was because it was "all of his attributes in conjunction." That was understood to be the basic idea of a name in Hebrew thought.

Having understood this idea of a conjunction of attributes the following quote about Stephen Charnock himself may prove interesting. To understand his character as a whole, the following quote may best summarize it.

It reads:

But that which gave the finish to Charnock's intellectual character, was not the predominance of any one quality so much as the harmonious and nicely balanced union of all. Acute perception, sound judgment, masculine sense, brilliant imagination, habits of reflection, and a complete mastery over the succession of his thoughts, were all combined in that comely order and that due proportion which go to constitute a well-regulated mind. There was, in his case, none of that disproportionate development of any one particular faculty, which, in some cases, serves, like an overpowering glare, to dim, if not almost to quench the splendour of the rest. The various faculties of his soul, to make use of a figure, rather shone forth like so many glittering stars, from the calm and clear firmament of his mind, each supplying its allotted tribute of light, and contributing to the serene and solemn lustre of the whole. As has been said of another, so may it be said of him—"If it be rare to meet with an individual whose mental faculties are thus admirably balanced, in whom no tyrant faculty usurps dominion over the rest, or erects a despotism on the ruins of the intellectual republic; still more rare is it to meet with such a mind in union with the far higher qualities of religious and moral excellence."

Charnock's concept of a person's name and the idea of holiness being connected with both beauty and a combination of all of God's attributes seem to have played out in his life. They also seem to have been, from my reading elsewhere, part of the foundation for holiness means wholeness, because of the idea of a combination of attributes. This idea is more than a mere folk theory. Even among some scholars today, it is recognized as having this significance in the world of Hebraic thought. When we approach another culture, we must remember that their thoughts may not be our thoughts. So understanding Hebrew culture regarding names is important.

In Christ,