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,