Monday, December 31, 2012

Holy: Understanding Its Implications for 2013 and Revival

If you are checking out this blog to find the definition of holy, then I had better not waste any time in first addressing that question.  The definition of holy, you will quickly learn, if you search the internet is less than 100% certain.  If I were to rank the three major options you will find in your search, then they would be as follows (based on the scholarship as 2012 draws to a close):

"Set apart" - {B}
"Pure" - {C}
"Whole" - {D}

The letter grades are parallel to what you would find in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament written by Bruce M. Metzger.  If you are not too familiar with that book, then you can simply imagine the grades that you received on your school tests.  That will be close enough for you.   My main concern is that the {B} grade for "set apart" is usually treated like it is an {A}.  That ranking I regard as unjust to the other two greatest options.  Remember the grade above only rank the current state of things on Dec. 31st, 2012. 

Now looking into the implications of these meanings for 2013, I want to look back in time a little bit.  I was a big fan of Keith Green in my college years, so I became familiar with another name, Leonard Ravenhill.  This may not quite be accurate, but to the best of my knowledge he was Keith Green's primary mentor.  He also was quite a spokesman on the topic of revival.  So I want to present what he had to say on one occasion about holiness and its implications for revival. 

You can find the audio sermon yourself by going to:   It is a considerable way into this sermon before he defines the word holy, but what he had to say about its definition is very significant for the issue of the implications from the definition of holy.   Each of the most likely three possible definitions also mean something different, when it comes to their significance or implications. 

He has five major points that he makes about holiness (in no particular order):
1) he defines it  as healthiness or the soul's health (this is closest to the meaning of whole above)
2) there is something attractive about holiness
3) there is nothing more beautiful than holiness
4) the passage says to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, not worship the Lord in his holiness
5) the beauty of holiness is in contrast to supposed cranky holy people

Bill Hybels once wrote a book titled Becoming a Contagious Christian.  Could it be that Christians have lost their trait of attractiveness, beauty or contagiousness, because they are no more attractive than a cranky person?  Does the focus on being "set apart" or "purity" alone have in fact very different implications than does Ravenhill's definition?  Could a changed definition of holy be the reason for Why Revival Tarries (Ravenhill's most famous title)? 

I think we should all pause and consider that the implications from the definition of holiness can be as great as the difference between beautiful and ugly (cranky), attractive and unattractive, and fast versus slow (tarries).   It could be that revival is being slowed by a poor definition of holy.  Ravenhill was not a great biblical scholar, so that we can argue he understood the definition of the word holy is better on his biblical basis.  But we should pause and consider that a {B} ranking for "set apart" means that he also could have been right even if that does not mean he is right. 

We also have to remember that we are to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness".   When is the last time you saw God's holiness as beautiful?  May we all have a blessed 2013, filled with the beauty of Yahweh God's holiness!

In Christ,


Friday, December 21, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Sound Method and Key Biblical Texts

I am willing to guess that you are visiting my blog to learn the meaning of holy.  I will not disappoint you.  The first question is how many (quantity) possible definitions are there and then of those which one is the right one?  The second question is how much (quality) is the support for each definition and can one gain all the support while the others lose their support?   My answer to the first question is three (out of twenty+) that deserve consideration: "set apart", "pure", or "whole".   The answer to the second question of how much (quality) is the support for each of these definitions is why I am writing posts for this blog.  The quality of support for one of these three definitions I believe can be higher.  I also am convinced that through a better exegetical method or word study or linguisic analysis, one definition can be presented with a higher quality of support rather than the worst case scenario of the wrong one, a little better option of still having three possibilities, or better still just two possibilities.  The one with high quality support is what I want.  This post will begin to answer the question of the definition of holy in the Bible at a higher level of quality by introducing the outline or arrangment of my method of exegeis or analysis that will increase the support for one of these three definitions. 

One of the five canons (rules) of rhetoric for public speaking is arrangment.  In grammar, the parallel rule for writing or journalism is outlining.  Mrs. Buchberger tired to teach me English grammar in junior high and Mr. Rass tried to straighten me out further on outlining in high school.  Today, I want to introduce a probable arrangment or outline for the thesis I am currently writing.

It is as follows:

Preface: The How Many and How Much

     The Scope of this Paper: Using One Method over All the Others

Part One: Method - The How and the Why


          Looking at the Total Picture: It is About More than Translation

               Nehemiah 8

     Unit One  

          Translation  and Semantic Analysis

     Unit Two
          Transfer and Structural Analysis

     Unit Three

          Total and Linguistic (or Grammatical) Analysis

     Unit Four

          Train and Syntactic Analysis

     Unit Five

          Teach and Lexical Analysis

     Conclusion: A Total Method is Superior to a Translation Method

Part Two:  Biblical Texts - The What and the Which: Testing Three Theories Not Just One

     Introduction: We Cannot Rely So Much on One Method

          Etymology is in the Bible?

          Introducing Complete Linguistic Analysis

     Unit One: The Linguistic Analysis of Isaiah 6 (and Revelation 4)

     Unit Two: The Linguistic Analysis of Genesis 2:1-3 (and Deuteronomy 5)

     Unit Three: The Linguistic Analysis of Leviticus 19 (and 1 Peter 1)

     Unit Four: The Linguistic Analysis of Exodus (?) (and Acts (?))

     Unit Five: The Linguistic Analysis of Deuteronomy (?)

    Conclusion:  One Definition from Multiple Possible Definitions for Holy

Part Three: The Significance and Implications - The Where and the When (Relevance)

     Introduction: The Defining of Significance and Implications
     Unit One: The Significance and Implications for Our Priorities

     Unit Two: The Significance and Implications for Relevance

     Unit Three: The Significance and  Implications for Yourself and Life

     Unit Four: The Significance and Implications for Work

     Unit Five: The Significance and Implications for Learning

     Conclusion: One Definition that is Biblical Can Change Many Things

Epilogue: The Who and the Whole

     Who is the Holy One (what is His name)? 

     Who are the Saints (the Holy Ones)? 

This I believe is the arrangement thats is growing within my thesis paper.  Throughout this blog you will be able to read preliminary parts and pieces of what eventually will be a complete mosaic or tapestry on the definition of holy.  Right now these bits and pieces do not have the advantage of full arrangement, but I am looking forward to the day to say that the above is complete.  In this blog, I am also trying to produce a better definition of holy in the sense of better support.  But part of that is keeping all the top possibilites on the table until my thesis paper is complete and reviewed by a committee.  May God grant me speed in this process!

In Christ,


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Textual Studies

I want to begin with an examle from what is today called textual criticism.There are four books that are critical for examining the underlying New Testament Greek text.  They are:

1)  The Greek New Testament, published by the United Bible Societies
2)  A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, written by Bruce M. Metzger
3)  The Text of the New Testament, written by Kurt and Barbara Aland.
4)  The Identity of the New Testament Text, written by William Pickering

The final one is a controversial addition, because it disagrees on the level of principles with with first three.  I've added it, because I believe in fairness toward competing views.  The more important issue though is a practice that is common to textual criticism that is unfortunately lacking in biblical translation. I read this recently in Bible Translation and the Spread of the Church: " ... the United Bible Society attempts to help translators by providing a graded evaluation for textual variants that are cited"(p. 42).   I would like today to provide grade for he translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words behind the English translation of "holy".

First, I have to add one further point from the book that I mention in the previous paragraph about textual critics providing options with grades:  "Kurt Aland writes that this feature [a graded evaluation for textual variants; was `insisted upon by Eugene A. Nida against the whole editorial committee, if I may speak out of school, and in retrospect I believe he was right'" (p. 42).  I too believe he was right and that the principle can carry over to translation.  When there are variants or variations in how a word is translated, why not grade them as a group rather than insist on one option alone without grade A evidence? 

Here is what I insist that we need to do in translating holy - we need to show the variations in how "holy" in the original is translated rather than present the evidence as though there is only one option, when we are speaking of more than one possibility.  Based on my reading, here is what the committee of scholars would like assign for grades for the different possible translations of the original text whether in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. 

There grades for a committee of scholars (if they know the evidence well):

"set apart"  B+
"pure" B-
"whole C-

This I think would be the graded evaluation for translation variants.  I want to point out that these are not my personal grades on these variants.  Notice that I do not think that the best scholars on this topic assign an A grade for any of these definitions.  I draw this primarily from the most prominent theologians on the topic in the 20th Century: Rudoph Otto "wholly other", Norman Snaith "set apart" and Klein "probable" for "set apart". 

The difficulty for the last entry of "whole" and the reason it receives only a C- is that while the English word for "holy" has a root meaning in English of whole, this only proves what the early English translators and some of its earlier readers thought the Hebrew meant "whole" according to their English translation efforts.  That is significant, but it is not the final conclusion in the discussion.  The English word "holy" cannot be used to prove what the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek means.  It is a translation and not the original.  We have to retrace the evidence for "holy" as a valid translation.  For myself, if qadosh in Hebrew or hagios in Greek does not mean whole, then I think holy might be better replaced for the sake of meaningfulness and clarity, consistently by the English words "set apart" or "pure".  It makes little sense for the sake of meaningfulness to have to always explain what holy means.  Holy has historical value, but does it have contemporary value in that case? 

The other problem for the meaning of "whole" is that the scholarship of that earlier era going back to at least Tyndale in the history of English transaltion, it does not leave us clear footnotes to trace where the idea of "whole" comes from.  We know know what they thought (their conlusions), but we are going to have a hard time knowing why and from what source (their support).   

So moving forward from here, it is not only ancient copiers of the text that preseved marginal readings, so do contemporary textual scholars.  The old copyists graded their options according ot in the text (higher grade) and in the margin of the text (lower grade).  We need to do the same with those words that are translated in most English translations by "holy", "sanctified", or "hallowed".  We need to presently grade the different meanings openly for the readers.  Give people the graded options they deserve, ratther than one option that suggests a higher certainty than there is in reality. 
Reality is refreshing.  Anything less is draining.

In Christ,


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Quantity and Quality

Have you ever read a copy of Consumer Reports, or have you ever examined customer comments on-line, or have you ever paused in front of your television to listen to the latest evaluation of a side by side comparison of products?   I would guess that the majority, if not a super majority, of us have done such a thing.  Two of the hot button topics for products are quantity and quality.  Comparisons usually boil down to the specifics of market share and product quality.  Apple, the number one seller, is compared to the other top sellers like Samsung for quality.  People often try to persuade another person of their "brand" being superior due to its market share among customers and experts and/or due to its product quality as recognized by customers and by experts.   The definitions suggested for holy, as found in the Bible, in many ways are evaluated in much the same way.  I don't say this in any way to trivalize the importance of the definition of holy.  Its definition is more important than your cell phone brand.  I say this only by way of making one point by this illustration about comparisons.  We often do compare things including the possible definitons of holy based on our assessment of the quantity and quality of a definition, whether we are aware of evaluating it based on quantity and quality or not. 

I have noticed both in my reading and from the comments of others that the leading brand definition for holy is "set apart".  The second most popular brand is the definition of "pure".  The third most popular definition is "whole".  They are the top they in market share or popular support among "believers" whether Christians or Jews in relationship to the Hebrew word qadosh.  The remaining brand definitions are out there, but their market shares are so small that scholars most often don't even mention them.  One example among about twenty other possibilities is "worth (or value").  Another has the idea of "preparation" as its core meaning.  These definitions come from renowned scholars, but they just haven't gotten any foothold among the other possible definitions for people including myself.  The definition of holy as "worth" was important for me initially, because it taught me that there could be a meaning out there other than "set apart".  It proved not to have much value beyond that despite coming from one of my favorite professors.

Definitions of ancient biblical words have a type of market share among "believers" and scholars and the quality of expertise associated with them.  Just today I read this regarding the evaluation of a commentary in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (p. 267):

     A commentary does not fully inform you unless the author discusses all ... possibilities, gives
     reasons for and against each, then explains his or her choice. 

     ....  ..., especially how well it discusses all possible meanings.

In the case of the first line in this quotation it was referring to 3 possibilities for a particular text, but the point about "all" is telling as a principle.  I would quallify this a bit to all the top possibilities, when it comes to actually writing about them and trying to persuade others.  While it is important to have examined all the twenty some meanings that I have run across initially for defining holy in the biblical text, as I have listed in one of my earlier posts, they don't equally deserve fuller examination after their initial first examination.  Some possibilities immediately show up as fairly marginal selections.  This will always be slightly controversial, but I think it is still fair.  Every definition just like every person has to earn or prove their way to the top.  Surviving a test is critical to being part of the last definition standing. 

But my blog I hope is at least better than many sites where you are only informed of 1 possible definition rather than at least the top 3 possiblities.  So Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart should at least give me high marks for providing my readers with all 3 (or at least all 2) of the top possibilities.   This is one of the chief values of this blog.  It gives you options. 

But beyond just the quantity or number of possibilities is the question of quality in a definition.  You note above that even though I may have eventually found 20 some definitions, some of them were likely not to have more than a sliver of people willing to stand up for them. 

Now let's look at the issue fo the quality of a definition.  The quality of a definition should be based on the quality of the method used in determining a word's definition.  Since James Barr's Semantics of Biblical Language, there has been a general disregard or distrust for the etymological method for determining the meaning of a word.  He was by far not the first to be critical of this method (that began to receive criticism at the hands of the historical and comparative traditions in biblical exegesis), but he certainly dealt etymology are harsh blow.  I like to remind myself that "Barr goes too far", even when he makes an otherwise valid point.  I think his criticism of etymology does go too far.

Etymology became eventually one of the four chief divisions of grammar.  It dates back a long way as a method for defining words.  We know that the Greek philosopher Plato used it as one and maybe the worst example.  There have been in history some fanciful definitions for words drawn from supposed etymologies.   But not every etymology has to fall into that category. 

Let me give an example of this.  The word "mouse", as it is used for a device associated with my computer, does have a relationship to the mouse that my neighbor trapped a few weeks ago in his house.  In this case, the story goes that an actual visual connection was behind the language connection between these two uses of mouse.  By the way, if the original mouse was wireless (and so lost the appearance of a tail), then it may have never been called a mouse.  I can only venture guesses at what it might have been called then!  So the meaning of mouse as in an animal, that can be sometimes found unwanted in a house, does have a true connection to a mouse that moves as point and click tool or feature on my computer. 

For myself, my linguistic analysis includes etymology as one part of the lexical analysis of a word.  Individual letters and morphemes (small meaning units) can carry meanings that can help us define words.  They can assist in tracing a true meaning, but grammatical letters and small units of meaning cannot function alone for determining the meaning of a word.  It requires something bigger than an etymological method alone, it also requires something more than a lexical analysis as well.  It requires a linguistic analysis as a whole as a minimum method for us to have reasonable certainty that a word is understood correctly.

In come cases, a person has to go beyond grammatical (letter) analysis or linguistic (language) analysis, but they are the most direct ways to get at a word's meaning.  There can be historical factors that are important to finding out a word's meaning.  The actual story of how the computer mouse was named gives real proof that the meaning behind the object does have something to do with a little furry creature.  That is the sense in which the association beween two mice can be considered to have a true connection.  Etymology has as part of its meaning in Greek, the idea of a "true" root or meaning.  But beyond historical factors are literary factors, cultural factors, etc.  There are other methods when there is a "distance" of any of these kinds that might be more or less relevant in each situation.  That is where the exegete or the linguist must determine if there is a better tool to use beside linguistic analysis.  This covers the issue of quality in some detail.

Let me now come back to linguistic analysis as a method in terms of its quality as a method.  I am convinced that it surpasses etymological method mainly because it includes it, but does not rely upon it excessessively or exclusively.  It also is a method that is not so dependent on trying to figure out a history that might have been lost, because it is more strictly a method rooted in the general principles of language.  You might say it is more purely linguistic. This is a major reason for this blog and my thesis paper that I am writing.  I am convinced that the highest quality method of linguistic analysis needs to be used to surpass the etymological method not through just pointing out the weaknesses of etymology, but also by providing new strengths by avoiding having to re-construct a meaning rather than relying on the most immediate evidence availalble.  A full linguistic analysis has a lot of advantages. 

So in conclusion, this blog has a very definite purpose: It is my attempt to define holy with more certainty.  But it also is more than its purpose that gives it value.  It is also not content with testing just one possible definition of holy in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek text of the Bible, but with at least two being tested and more likely the top three being tested.  That is its quantity advantage!   By the way, when it later gets down to one option through allowing three options, that would be even more valuable!   It also is valuable, becuase it uses a method that surpasses the over-reliance on the etymological method or the over-criticism of the etymological method (which I am not sure where it intends to leave us).  That is is quality advantage! 

Please check back at least monthly and maybe even weekly and sometimes even daily for further developments.  I hope you feel the energy of greater quantity and greater quality as reachable goals in the short future.  Take care. 



Monday, December 17, 2012

Holy: Understanding It Better Through the Sinking of the Titanic

     Can you believe it?  He thinks there is a comparison between the definition of holy and
     the sinking of the Titanic!   Where does he get that idea?

I can hear some of my readers saying that in their heads, as they read this post's title.  But I do.  I really do.  There is no denying it.  There is a possibility that the comparision could prove helpful.  The comparison is this.  It comes from the infamous line that the "Titanic is unsinkable".   Today, we know that it was not unsinkable.  Before hand, however, it did not seem so obviously ludicous as it does today.  I can tell that when I suggest that "set apart" might not be the meaning of holy, some scholars think that the definition is "unsinkable".  It is impossible that this definition for the biblical term for holy will not continue to float!  This is where caution I think is the better virtue. 

The boast that "set apart" is the definition of holy in the biblical text is unsinkable is too great.  It is premature.  It is lacking in objectivity.  I have read, read, read, read and read again scholarly articles on the topic of holy.  In my reading, I have run across "etymological studies" or "word studies" for its meaning, but not a full linguistic analysis.  Sometimes quite close, but still a little short of a full analysis.   But because of this lack, I think a full linguistic analysis is required of all those who want to have reasonable certainty that their definition can stay afloat and not sink. 

Both scholars Rudolph Otto and Norman Snaith hint that there is a level of uncertainty with regard to the etymology of the biblical Hebrew word for holy that must be acknowledged.  Later, you see other scholars, like Klein in his lexical work, acknowledging that the etymological method is not certain.  Yet it still remains quite forceful in that it usually means one option for the definition of holy is the only one taken seriously after the method is applied.  In other words, more than one view is considered prior to an etymological study, but not two or more afterward.  That means that despite any cautions about this method expressed by scholars, they simply haven't considered both equally both before and after the use of the etymological method.  This goes for some people that I admire. 

So what are we to do?  Well, how about floating the ship of "set apart" with due caution?  Let's not be like the boastful captain of the ship, before the voyage was over.  Let's take the voyage and see instead whether it is true that a definition is unsinkable.  Let's watch out for icebergs along the way toward using linguistic analysis which includes etymology, but goes beyond as well.  (By the way, that is my view.  Some are so critical of etymology that their view is that it is nearly totally unreliable.)

I want to float the definition of holy (qaodosh in Hebrew, hagios in Greek) as "set apart" careully with two other ships along side that one.  The other two ships are: "pure" and "whole".  I want to have two other options in case the first one fails.  I don't want to venture out so far on the etymological method, that does sometimes fail, that I have no other options in the case of it sinking in the North Atlantic.  I am not afraid of risk, but I think there is a difference though between it and recklessness. 

Why not do as the ancient Jewish scribes did in preserving the Hebrew text before Xerox?  Why not  keep the other still possible options in the margin alongside the primary option that is placed in the body of the textual copy?  Sometimes, textual margin readings end up being the right ones when more evidence comes to light.  With other boats nearby, chances are reasonable that the passengers on-board the Titanic could have survived in at least greater numbers than they did otherwise in the frigid waters, as they watched the unsinkable sink. 

So I say "beware".  Watch out for pride!  It can deceive us way too easily.  Even among otherwise humble scholars, this is possible.   That kind of over-confidence can become your scholarly and spiritual undoing.   It can lead to a lot of regret.  That is why the Titanic is still remembered.   It is remembered in infamy, because of the boast of one man and the great lost it caused.  There was a lot lost!  Please avoid with me a repeat mistake that involves a lot more passengers.  Take care everyone!



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better from a Prior Example

We've likely all heard someone utter those hope dashing words:"We've seen this movie before".  The connotation is that "the movie" is not worth our time, since it has been seen before.  It doesn't have to be the exact same movie, it may only follow the same plot, etc.  We've also probably also heard someone else say: ""We've seen this [movie] a hundred times before".   Sometimes when these phrases are said, they have nothing to do with a movie, but a proposed solution that led to nowhere exciting before and will lead to that same place again.  In any case, the point is negative.  The point is that this is a waste of our time.  The problem is that people today are suffering from the "we've all seen this movie before" syndrome, where proposed solutions are the same thing all over again and so will fail to live up to their claims again.  In contrast, I am claiming that defining holy has the potential to be a movie we have never seen before.  It can live up to its promised implications.  It can eventurally make a big difference. 

I also want to say something positive about something that I've personally seen before that has made a substantial difference in my life.  In my last entry, I spoke about doing linguistic analysis on the words in the Bible translated as "holy".  Years ago I read a linguistic analysis that changed my view on the definitions for the Hebrew words of righteousness and justice.  Then later this same point was driven home by a carpentry illustration in the book of Isaiah.  I am anticipating that my linguistic analysis of holy will provide a similar scholarly argument and that the anthropologist Mary Douglas has already provided in her writings the illustration in Scripture that provides the concrete illustration of its meaning.  So I am going to happily watch the same movie again!  These two movies will be similar I believe and therefore I am filled with anticipation rather than dread.   Not only that, but since holy is a higher moral character trait, it can have an even greater impact!

Instead of being deflated, I will be delighted if I get to see the same movie a second time with only the "names" that are changed.  This time instead of "justice and righteousness" the names will be "holiness and purity, set apaart, wholeness, etc.".  Just today on 12/12/12, I ordered from the library the book that I read some time ago: Justice and Righteousness: Biblical Themes and their Influence.  It is edited by Benjamin Uffenheimer, Henning Reventflow and Yair Hoffman.  The volume contains a chapter written by Moshe Weinfeld titled: "Justice and Righteousness - The Expression and Its Meaning".  I read this article a long time ago, so I need to read it again.  But what I clearly got from the article is that in Hebrew justice and righteousness are not synonyms like we think of them in English. 

Just yesterday I read Romans 5 with my eyes open to the fact that the two words do not mean the same thing in Hebrew and for Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews in the 1st Century.  Reading the passage with those eyes, I recognized that translators too often use justice related words rather than using righreousness related words when the Greek indicated that would be more consistent.  But if a person thinks the terms are synonymous this certainly makes sense.  But if you read righteousness rather than justice you can better understand Paul's use of the words "one" and "many" in the context much better. 

Let me explain this further through Isaiah 28:17 and Luke 10.  -----   I have chosen two of the most popular translations and one very literal one to demonstrate my point from mostly eliable translations of the Bible.  You may want to consult the NET Bible, if you have further questions. I have consulted the Hebrew directly to insure that I'm satisfied with the translations, but a blog entry of this size is not the place for further details.  Let's begin with looking at Isaiah 28:17 through the NIV, the NKJV and NASB.  It reads:

I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.

Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place.

"I will make justice the measuring line And righteousness the level ; Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies And the waters will overflow the secret place.

For anyone like myself, the experience of being a carpenter makes this passage abundantly clear.  The NAS muddies thiings a little bit with their attempt, so I can assure you that the person translating could not have been a carpenter.  On a standard level today a person can use a level to measure the accuracy of construction on two planes.  The one is a horizontal measurement and the second is a vertical measurement.  In Isaiah 28:17, the plumb line obviously fits with the role of measuring the vertical axis or plane.  The "measuring line" could then fit with horiztontal plane.  I have seen pictures of devices used in Egypt that used the plumb line to determine the vertical axis and then using 90% could also plot the horizontal access.  I myself have used a "measuring line" with a level hanging from it to determine the accuracy of a horizontal measurement.  I am not sure of their device then, but this concrete analogy fits with the scholarly view of Weinfled that the two are distinct from each other. 

Let's now also look at the implications of this discussion of righteousness and justice for other portions in Scipture.  I want to look us to look at the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments in the Bible (not the 1st and 2nd greatest laws!).  It is found in Luke 10:27 and among the other Gospels.  It reads:

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' "


This cross section of versions is pretty agreeable in this case.  The greatest or first commandment is part of what the Jews call the Shema.  In that context, the Jews recite the words: "Hear O Israel, the LORD your God is one ...".   (The words "the LORD" substitute for the name of God, Yahweh.)   The key point for our purposes is the word "one".  If you have "one" God, it makes perfect mathematical sense to love him with "all" repeated four times for each of the vital members of oneself or yourself.   You can literally think of it along the lines of a plumb line.  If there is "one" axis point, then "all" 100% of the weight on the plumb is supported is supported from that one point.  If you add further gods, then no longer is "one" supporting "all" of the weight of the plumb line's weight fastened to its end, but two, etc. are now supporting the portions of weight.  If two, then 50%, etc. rather than "all".  If all of us could remember that one God is the right thing and herefore it makes good mathematical sense to then love him with our all, then this world could be a better place.

Likewise the second commandment can be explained fairly well by thinking of the level horizontal line 90% from the vertical line.  We are told to love our neighbors "as" ourselves.  That is not more than, not less than, not in contrast to, but equal to ourselves.  That seems pretty just to me.  If all of us could remember that is the just thing to do, this corld would be a better place. 

Now turning to holy, I think the famous anthropologist may have stumbled onto holy's best illustration in the Bible as is the carpenter's tools for justice and righteousness.  She found that in parallel texts that the Hebew word for "whole" stones is parallel to "holy" in a parallel context.  This is extremely significant.  That is because the Hebrew word for "whole" shows up a few times next to holy that makes it a potential parallel to holy in other passages.  I can't wait to check this all ou thoroughly.  Here is another great reason to not dread seeing this kind of movie all over again. 

So I am looking forward to the future or just the rest of today with anticipation.  If "holy, holy, holy" is more significant in Isaiah and Revelation and many other parts of the Bible than righteousness or justice, then there is a reason for anticipation.  We should not look for a future understanding of holy using linguistic analysis with dread, but with anticipation.   So threw away your holiday dread this holiday (holy day) season and instead have holiday anticipation.  Maybe it would be good to find Carly Simon's "Anticipation" song and play it to get you into that type of cheer. May God bless you this holiday  and Christmas (Christ mas) season. 

In Christ,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better from ALL Lexicons

Your primary reason for visiting my blog is most likely that you want to know the meaning of the word holy in English as a translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  (The latter is important, even if person does not recognize the importance of the New Testament, because the Old Testament was translated into Greek also.)  I wish I could give you the stock answer of "set apart", because one possibility is simpler than multiple possibilities.   But that would make me dishonest.  Based on my reading of the lexicons and dictionaries out there, I think there are three great possible answers. The first is "pure", the second is "set apart", and the third is "whole" (listed in alphabetical order to avoid bias).  The reason for that is that I am basing my research on "all" the dictionaries and lexicons that are available.  I will further explain what I mean by "all", so I don't appaer unrealistic. 

My reason or motivation for this method of using "all" dictionaries and lexicons is simple.  It is the method to follow for the person who is trying to make sure they understand a word in another language correctly.  Mildred Larson, a trained linguist, has this to say about dictionaries and lexicons:

       Dictionaries "unpack" the meanings of words.  That is why a good translator will use all the
       dictionaries and lexicons available in his study of the source language text.

Please note carefully her use of the word "all".  This is of course the ideal or the goal, but sometimes it is simply not possible at the time, so a person has to settle for a little more modest goal until a later time.  Quite honestly, I could not possibly examine "all" the lexicons for Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek that are out there at this time even with a focus only on the words that are translated as "holy".  With a greater access using computers this might be possible someday, but not today.  So in place of "all" of them, I think I have found a worthwhile way to achieve Larson's goal. 

My method toward her goal is to make sure that from among "all" the dictionaries and lexicons, I at least begin from representatives for "all" the major definitions of holy.  Jesus once said in paraphrase form: "Do the greatest first, but also do not neglect the least."  . So "all" has to come later rather than suffer neglect with the greatest things first.  That is how I understand that Larson's goal might eventually be reached.  You've maybe seen the illustration of a jar and different sizes of things to put in that jar.  Usually there are large rocks, smaller rocks, sand and water.  The person who does the greatest first is able to fit more of the "all" possible things into the jar than those who start with the smallest objects first.  So that is my strategy.

I am beginning from dictionaries and lexicons that pre-date our time and that of the late 1800s.  I want to go beyond Gesenius' Hebrew and English Lexicon.   This is my way of including "all" the major lexicons and possibities in my research toward Larson's high end goal.  Those who leave out Moses Kimchi's/Kimhi's work, David Kimchi's/Kimhi's work or Johann Reuchlin's work on Hebrew are not even aiming at getting the biggest stones in the jar first.  They instead are assuming advances at the end of the 19th century and later through the 20th century that make Gesenius' work and that of those following the greatest rather than anything previous.  They assume this made the other prior lexicons obsolete.  Why not instead include "all" the major optoins and test them instead in the 21st century?  Why assume correctness rather than testing it?  Is testing now that difficult for us?  So now you should understand my motive behind my method. 

I want to see "all" dictionaries and lexicons to be considered.  That (eventurally) also goes for Jeff A. Benner's The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible.  I'm not saying by including him in the list of "all" that the credentials of a scholar don't matter (he seems to lack them and to have been a self-study person in his final product), but I am saying that he has proposed some things that those credentialed as scholars need to consider as part of "all" lexcions, because he is handling words as "bundles" of meaning as Larson says in her title for the section that I quoted earlier.  What he is bringing to the table, that sometimes is not made explicit in other research, is the issue of letters being bundled together to form meanings, and not just other morphemes made up of more than one letter.  He's not the only one to ever do this, but he is the only one to take a comphrensive approach like his to the whole language of Hebrew.  He at least makes explicit what others are doing implicitly in their etymologies (the study of the true roots of words).  Also he is not wrong just because he uses the older method of etymology rather than lexical analysis.   The fact that he could sometimes be wrong from the use of the etymological method does not say that he is always wrong. 

So what you will find in my research is an attempt to deal with "all" the dictionaries and lexicons with the greatest being placed out front.  That is a critical part of my method.  Though I am not a Latin scholar, I do know what conclusions were drawn from Reuchlin, the Kimchis and the others.  There was a meaning given that in English means "whole".  That is why I consider it an important option.  Now as I say elsewhere, it is only a matter of finishing my exegetical paper using what is called or named "Linguistic Analysis".  Please pray that I can finish this soon!  My goal is to graduet in May 2013.  Thank you for your prayers. 

In Christ,


Monday, December 10, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Linguistic Analysis

The first question for anyone searching on the internet for the definition of holy is:  "What is the definition of holy as it is used in the Bible?"  Let me give first a short answer to that question.  It means one of three major possible definitions: 1) pure, 2) set apart, and/or 3) moral wholeness.  (These are listed in alphabetical order to avoid bias.)  I know you want the one definition.  So do I, but I have to complete my linguistic analysis before I can say its meaning has been re-discovered accurately in the 21st Century.

"There's a method in his madness".  The definition given for this saying is that there is often a plan or method hidden behind a person's apparently inexplicable behavior.  In my last entry, I explained that part of the method behind some of my entries was to remove both presuppositions and historical fallacies about what "holy" (quadosh or hagios) means.  This entry is to lay out explicitly what method I am going to use to define holy in its biblical context.  The method is called "Linguistic Analysis", if we use the terminology of Michael Gorman in his book Elements of Biblical Exegesis.

The first question is the right question: "What does holy mean?"  But another question is also important.  That question is this: "What is your method for determining the meaning of holy?"  You can go to many places on the internet and you will find a definition for holy in the biblical text, but you quite often are left in the dark as to how they re-discovered that meaning found in the Law of Moses and in Ancient Hebrew (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).  So ltet's replace a little of the madness in trying to define holy with some clarity of method. 

The Linguistic Analysis method consists of the following parts:

1) Semantic Analysis
2) Discourse Analysis
3) Grammatical Analysis (another word for the method, included within Linguistic Analysis)
4) Syntactical Analysis
5) Lexical Analysis

The order in which these are placed and the breaking out of some of these into separate parts is not the work of Michael Gorman.  Instead, he provided me with a very good list from which I forged these 5 distinct parts in my method.  I re-worked all of Gorman's categories based on 5 classes of definition: 1) Amount, 2) Relationship, 3) Whole, 4) Action, and 5) Thing. 

Let me say a little about each part of my method.  In each case, I will be using insights from linguists like Eugene Nida and from biblical exegetes like D. A. Carson and others. Here is each of the methods separately:

1) Semantic analysis normally has focused on meaning.  I will be pursuing a course that considers first clarity and then second meaning.  This is a course correction from Nida's dynamic equivalence that primarily looks at meaning.  I will use his insights, but as a first step also take steps to preserve clarity where possible.  A balance of both needs to be maintained.  It is like using a plumb line for the vertical axis and then also using a level for the horizontal axis.  That analogy is in fact how I picture the relationship between clarity and meaning and in that order. 

2) Discourse analysis is used all the time by many linguists and biblical exegetes.  Linguistics usually refer to the method they use as structural analysis.  Biblical exegetes usually use a method that combines sentence diagramming and outlining.  I also am aware of the method called arcing that was first developed by Daniel P. Fuller and later made more popular by Dr. John S. Piper (today a well-known pastor known mainly through Desiring God Ministries on-line).   Arcing is mainly an off shoot from biblical exegesis and traditional grammar.  I prefer myself the method referred to as disourse analysis or structural analysis, because it is more comprehensive than the other methods.  It's main weakness in the past came from its prior step of semantic analysis.  I have already suggested what I will change in the previous paragraph on semantic analysis to correct the weakness there.

3) Grammatical analysis is all the other types of analysis combined.  Traditionally this was the method that was taught in most of our earlier years in learning "grammar".   Its traditional major categories or divsions are:

a) orthography
b) etymology
c) syntax
d) prosody

I was not taught about these major divisions when I was in junior high school, but I do know that there are much longer lists of what grammar includes and there is a lot  more detail.  This often tneds toward confusion!  I will be handling linguistic or grammatical analysis on the level of its major divsions as:

a) semantical analysis
b) discourse analysis
c) syntactical analysis
d) lexical analysis

These categories I consider to be much better major divisions for understanding grammar and they also include the older categories.  They are not necessarily anti-grammar as some suppose from reading things written by scholars like James Barr in Biblical Semantics.  I would say it this way:  "The problem with Barr is that he goes too far".  I mean this in the context of his criticisms of things like etymology.  While etymology has weaknesses for word study, it can be helpful as one part of the larger picture of grammatical analysis. 

3) Syntactical analysis is very important and it is often shown using sentence diagramming.  This method is often useful, because it helps in isolating the actions or events of the text and those aspects that fit around that action in the form of a sentence.  But I also like to use another tool for analyzing action in a text that looks wider than the sentence level.  It does this by looking at the pre-state and post-state of an action.  I learned this method from James J. Odell.  He is a unique source, because he is neither a linguist nor a biblical exegete, but he is a very important computer search engine expert.  You can find some excellent things written by him on-line.   But the best way to understand this method will be the results from the fruit of t his method as I put this method into action on the meaning of qadosh and hagios as actions and in their usual translation of "sanctify".

4) Lexical analysis will be where the majority of work needs to be done including insights from etymology.  But etymology cannot be used alone separate from the other forms of analysis.  That has been the major weakness of etymology in the past as well as in the case of lexical analysis.  Word studies, as they are sometimes referred to in exegetical literature, often do not take seriously enough the need for accurate discourse analysis.  I see this especially, when words are seen as parallel without examiing the connective words in the text.  So no etymologies or word studies without context!  Context needs to be examined through discourse analysis! 

Now that I have  mainly layed out the positive methods I will be using, let me say a little about the weakness in previous methods in general.  The biggest issue has been the presumpotion of meaning using the traditional grammatical analysis method of etymology as opposed to a more complete  lexical analysis .  Lexical analysis includes etymology, but it is also on guard against errors made using this method.  In some cases, such as those of the Greek philosophers like Plato, there are some significant examples of errors from etymology alone.  Lexical analysis also does not stand alone nor should word studies and therefore also has more than just a contextual (discourse analysis) advantage over etymology.  It is designed to work with support from the other forms of analysis alongside of it.  In some cases, it is not necesary to do these others, but that is only when the other methods and results are already well-estbalished. 

So in conclusion, while I will be doing a study of the meaning of the words in the biblical text that are translated by holy, etc., I will be careful to include all the major forms or divisions in my study.  One of these methods or divisions by itself has value and can sometimes stand alone when the other parts are already well-established, but the checks and balances of the other methods are needed whenever there is a question of parallels or context or meaning or clarity, etc.  That is why my overall method is best called linguistic analysis for my fellow linguistis out there or grammatical analysis for my fellow biblical exegetes.  Please keep watching for my conclusions as my desire it to finish things by the late spring 2013. 

In Christ,


Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better through Avoiding Presuppositional and Historical Fallicies

"Don't confuse the unlikely with the impossible."  This is one of those great lines from the fictional character Sherlock Holmes.  Quite often when it comes to understanding the meaning of holy, people are guilty of decidiing against one definition rather than another, because that definition at this point in time looks "unlikely".  That is where presuppositions are dangerous.  We always begin where and when we are here and now.  We also have to understand that despite what we hear, we may be hearing reports that are an historical fallacy.  Another great line from Holmes is:  "It may be more possible than you think."   So what I want my readers to do is for a moment forget the presupposition you have about the meaning of holy and to also consider whether you have been hearing an historical fallacy about what holy means. 

Most visitors to this blog come with the presupposition that holy means "set apart".   They are likewise likely to have the presupposition that holy does not mean "whole".   They are generally convinced that the latter meaning is a result of what D. A. Carson calls "Word-Study Fallacies".  He talks about this kind of fallacies in his book Exegetical Fallacies.  But he goes beyond that and also talks about other fallacies as well including what he calls "Presuppositional and HIstorical Fallacies". 

In much of what I wrote in my early entries on this blog were efforts to overcome people's presuppositions about what holy could even possibly mean and also to overcome people's historical fallacies about what holy means. 

I had always presupposed myself, until I was nearly 44 years old, that holiness had no connection to wholeness.  It turns out that this may only have beem a presupposition on my part and not a proven fact.  That was the first obstacle I had to overcome.  It was to avoid confusing the unlikely with the impossible, as Holmes had warned in the quote above.  Every bit of new evidence I orignially gathered still left me a bit leary of what initially appeared so unlikely a possibility -- that holy could mean whole. 

I also had been guilty of an historical fallacy.  It did not at all seem likely that those who called themselves fundamentalists on the one hand or others who called themselves conservatives on the other, could be guilty of not being conservative.  If you are not conservative on the meaning of holy for the Protestant Reformers, how can you be called a conservative?  But they were not conservative!   They did not know or teach that for all the Protestant Reformers from Luther to Spurgeon, the primary meaning of holiness was the concept of a moral wholeness.  I was guilty of my historical fallacy, because I thought I could be sure a conservative was a conservative for sure on at least the big things.   And believe me holy is big!   It is the biggest of God's moral traits with steadfast kindness sitting directly across the isle from it!  Thank goodness for the latter, so I can be forgiven for my historical fallacy. 

Many of my early entries contain accurate historical quotes of past Reformers including a great number of conservatives.   It is a good thing for present day conservatives that they are not alive now.  They would be deeply critical of the historical fallacy that earlier Reformers taught that the primary meaning of holy was "set apart".  Check my early entries and you will see great quotes from Luther, from Calvin, from Edwards, from Wesley and from Spurgeon.  The historical truth is that they taught based on the scholarship of their day that holy meant whole (in a moral sense).   It was "the attribute of attributes" as some of them called holiness. 

The other problem is that on the liberal side of things there is a deep presupposition.  It is that exegetical reliability is equivalent to modern technological improvements.  We are told that like modern technology moving forward and surpassing past technology in at least some significant ways, that likewise biblical scholarship has moved forward in the same fashion.  I think this too is a presupposition that is not real helpful. 

I do think that one of the dangers of scholarship in Luther's days is that there are not very good "footnotes" on where the idea of holy meaning whole came from.  I cannot find who where the chief scholars behind these definitions.  It could be Kimchi, or Nicholas of Lystra, or Reuchlin, or Melanchton, or Erasmus, etc..  Trying to find the scholarship behind the meaning is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  It is there, but it is nearly hopelessly lost and it is likely not going to be too fruitful trying to recover where the idea that the biblical words for holy mean whole comes from in that time period.  So our footnotes today are clearly an advance over the past, even if sometimes they also can become clutter.  Hopelessly lost is the past scholarship compared to the present scholarship in this one area of technology.  So I am not anti-technology or anti-progressive.  It is just danger to presuppose it all the time!

So drop the presupposition that holy means "set apart" is the final destination in progressive improvements.  Also drop the historical fallacy that there is a direct connection between present day conservatives and the theologians from the 1800s and back when it comes to the meaning of holy.  There is not that connection.  They are building up a historical fallacy by being selective in their quotes.  Check any of my past entries for accuracy (I will provide footnotes if you ask!) and you will find my presentation of history is no fallacy!

Have a great season of Christmas cheer!  You now own two less fallacies.

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Knowing AND TEACHING

I had a great conversation yesterday with one of my college professors in the philosophy department of Bethel University.  His name is Dr. Stanley D. Anderson.  The thing that made it exciting was that he is the author of a book that now goes out to all Bethel University freshman called Becoming Whole and Holy.  It can be found through Worldcat as published in 2004, the same year I began my work on holy in earnest.  If you have read any entries for this blog previously, then you will know why I am interested.  But what was different in my discussion yesterday was that I was able to say I agree totally with him and with Bethel University on a knowledge level and from the perspective of life that their order of "Whole and Holy" is correct, as they define the word holy as "set apart".  This agreement is important. 

From that starting point, my quest is to find out if holy means "set apart" or if other words in the biblical text mean "set apart" and if fact, holy means "whole".  So he and I know already about "whole" and "set apart" in terms of their priority order in real life.  My quest is also that suggested by Andrew Murray in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  He may turn out to be right on, when it comes to the quest for understanding the Bible

The project that I am currently working on is to qualify to be a teacher of what holy means.  The difference here is the difference that we find in Paul's letters to Timothy, when he says "Pay attention to your life and teaching".  So in paying attention to my life, I find that being whole or being healthy (not just physically!) is a necessary priority.  But that does not mean that being "set apart" goes away.  But also knowing about being whole does not make me qualified to teach that from the Scriptures!  That is a different task.  Teaching is like a map for the territory of real  life.  For that, I study to be an expert not only on territory, but on reading ancient maps like the Bible. 

So my old alma mater and I agree as knowers and as people learning from real life.  But it is important for teachers to know that I am not boasting before I put my suit of armor on for battle as opposed to returning from battle as to what holy means.  This is very important to teachers.  They want to know that a fellow teacher has done the work that they have done to be a teacher.  That is fair isn't it?  I sensed that this was important to Dr. Anderson during the course of our conversation.  Humility is a good thing. 

The task in front of me is to finish my exegetical work for seminary in order to make me qualified as a teacher among teachers or a map user among other map users.  People may already know the truth and that it is life that comes before teaching.  But that does not mean that teaching should not be paid attention to!  Rather it is a very imporant second step!  Remember Paul's words!

One of my friends, after my talk with Dr. Anderson, pointed out that many extremists or exlusivists within the Christian faith community put being "set apart" ahead of being "whole".  He is right about some potentially dangerous implications, if they are not reading the map correclty.  This is precisely where implications for life are built from how people read the map and how they see reality.  So my task is singular.  Solve the map (of the Bible) as fast as I can as well as I can! 

In Christ,


Holy: Understanding it Better As Knowers and Teachers

This is one of those entries where I need to say something about my other closely related blog on communication basics 101.  It is largely the best tool I can recommend for getting at the basics of meaning, as it relates to the meaning of holy.  When it all comes down to meaning, holy is likely one of five major classes of meaning or at least one class is primary. 

So if you want to understand those classes better, please check out my most recent entry:  and some of the earlier ones in that same blog. 

They are very helpful for keeping things as basic as possible, but they also are categories that are supported within the scholarly community of translators, linguists and teachers.  The classes of meaning have credibility and credibility is what I try to add a little more of, in my latest entry.

Please examine the entry and then for yourself decide which one of the five meaning classes you think holy falls into as a word that posses meaning.  Another challenge would be to take the different definitions that are possible and ask yourself as one example, if "set apart" or if "whole" falls into one or more of these basic meaning classes and which one is primary. 

Theologians sometimes mingle these basic meanings, when it comes to "set apart", so see if you can figure out which meaning is primary or not.  Test this method for yourself.  You do not need to be an expert or scholar to test your knowledge.  It will not make you a scholar, but it can make you knower.  Enjoy!

In Christ,


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Holy: Understanding Better Where I am in Studying This Key Word

I want at this point to give all of my readers a better idea of who I am.  The internet provides unmatched ability to give you a better sense of who I am personally without my having to travel to where you are today.  So today I am providing to you a video to watch that sums up where my project on the definition of holy is and where it is going. 

Here it is (simply click on the link below):

I hope viewing the video gave you a little more personal insight into who I am and that it also communicates where I am in the process of studying the meaning of holy in the Biblical text.  My goal from my studies is to be qualified to also teach on the subject from the Biblical text.  Remember from what I said in the video that being a knower is not the same as being a teacher or vice versa.  It takes both. 

If you have insights, questions, or comments; then feel free to respond to this blog entry and my video.  It is my humble wish that this entry is an encouragement to all who need it.  Thank you.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Spelling Things Out

We often assume that our cultural principles are equally valued by everyone.  We speak of the "American Revolution" or of Thomas Kuhn's "Scientific Revolutions".  We also hear calls for "freedom" or calls for "change".  We also hear the words of another Thomas, Thomas Paine, kicked around in pop culture.  We hear the never-ending call for "Common Sense".  But does the church have an organized way to understand its connections to others in the larger society of the church?  And how does this apply to how we understand the meaning of holy?  Our principles for how we connect to others can also determine what definition of holy we are willing to support.  That is why I want to talk about these cultural matters here.   

One of the most brilliant things that I learned as an undergrad was the basic principles of culture and revolution.  People speak often of freedom and revolution, but often without an organized picture of how culture comes or holds together as well as breaks apart into separate communities.  One of the keys to understanding any human society or individual is to understand their principles spelled out in five areas.   The church as a community is also effected by the principles of culture:

1) continuity and change - the amount of these must each be spelled out for people to feel affection for the culture of a society or person

2) bond and barrier - the relationship of these must each be spelled out for people to relate to the culture of a society or person

3) culture and revolution - the whole of these must each be spelled out for people to become part of the culture of a society or person  (these are the overall whole umbrella terms for relations)

4) rule and freedom - the action of rule and freedom must be spelled out for people to get involved with the culture of a society or person

5) sense and nonsense - the thing of sense and nonsense must be spelled out for people to understand the culture of society or person.

NOT one of these can be left out when people are trying to consider how they fit into a culture or how well they fit with another person.   Likewise they can effect how what responds to my comments on the definition or meaing of holy. 

I wish right now I had the time to complete some of my earlier entries, but they require fairly large chunks of uninterrupted time.  This entry is meant to help people see a little better where I am coming from culturally as a part of the larger Christian church and as an individual Christian. It is looking at my work on the meaning of holy from a relational point of view, but also broken into the different dimensions of a relationship. 

Each one of the five combinations above are for me relational or cultural.  A church has a culture as a society and the individual carries with them their cutural principles.  I value all five of the pairs above.  So how then do I see my relationships within the larger church? 

Let's begin with continuity and change. For me, I am concerned about both the lack of continuity and the lack of change in the church.  Recently, I received an email from a major Evangelical writer and he downplayed the place for a list of past heroes of the faith.  I think that individual is in danger of losing their continuity with the past.  My first inkling for the meaning of holy meaning being something other than "set apart" was in the context of the translation of the KJV.  If it were not for a commitment to continuity with past believers, I may have overlooked or under valued the past.  But I also cringe at how many are not able to change their hearts from the current consensus on what holy means as "set apart".  Why is it not possible to change one's position?  Are there not places and times to value change over continuity?   I think there are! 

Next, bond and barrier.  This really gets to the naked simplicity of what culture is all about.  It is about the bonds within a society and the bonds that society members have formed with each other. 

[under construction - please see earlier complete entries]


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Holy: Understanding Better the Value of Education

In Peter F. Drucker's (arguably the best management writer of the 20th entury) writings, you may find that one of his predictions for the future, based on what is already a known fact (a change) and then also what is the pattern of past history (how long it takes before the change takes effect or people recognize it as valid)  is that "we are clearly in the middle of this transformation (from the Knowledge Age), indeed, if history is any guide, it will not be completed until 2010 to 2020".  I find this quote telling, because it shows that though a shift may be present, it may take a long time in coming.  That is important, because we then cannot be simply satisfied with the current majority view in a controversy or in the face of uncertainty.  We must dig deeper into issues to see if the only issue is that the time has not yet arrived in human understanding for what is already acknowledged by others including a minority.

Drucker was referring to the transformation in society that is coming from the G.I. Bill which resulted in a national shift in the level of education beginning with the WWII generation who returned from war and then enrolled in higher education at previously unknown levels.  He seems to think that the effect of this education combined with other lesser events of the time set up the time of transformation or change to begin around 1960.

I am writing about this, because it is also interesting that in the scholarship of determing the meaning of holy, there were also four major names who made major statements about biblical understanding during the '60s.  This might be only coincidence or it could be that the increase in education began a slow movement toward us discovering things that had previously been lost. 

First, there was the biblical scholar, James Barr, who created a major change in biblical exegesis that still has not ceased in its effect.  He introduced biblical scholarship to modern linguistics and its insights into language.  He especially took aim at some exegetical fallicies committed in biblical scholarship.  This is hard for some of the more traditional minds to accept.  Its culmination is still in front of us and part of the reason for the delay in time might also be due to some of Barr's own excesses. 

Second, there was a very important anthropologist, Mary Douglas, who tried to better understand biblical laws when it came to things like dietary laws.  She expressed the idea that the laws must somehow be explained better than it had been previously.   She suggested that the underlying concept could be that of being whole as opposed to somehow having a blemish or a shortcoming.  In her initial idea, the idea was that certain animals were less than whole according to a comparison with the animals considered kosher.  She then suggested that holy might mean whole also based on the whole stones used for an altar.  Many biblical scholars will admit, if they are honest, that any writing on Leviticus must now at least take into consideration her view.  Jacob Milgrom, who wrote a major commentary on Leviticus, for one interacted with her though he never seems to quite accept her view entirely.  Yet he understood well Mary's challenge to take these ancient laws seriously and not just write them off as primitive in the same way older schools of anthropology and archaeology tended to do. 

Third, there was a systematic theologian, R. A. Finlayson, who seems to have discovered in Andrew Murray that the so-called conservatives of the 1960s were in fact not conservative or fundamentalist theologians.  Rather they were the innovators when it came to the meaning of holy, based on the writings of Andrew Murray.  Murray wrote during the changes occuring both in the late 1800s and in the early 1900s.  Murray had compiled in his volume Holy in Christ, a very simple history of interpreting holy's meaning up until his own day and pointed out that our popular defintion of holy as separate did not fit with the views of theologians like Jonathan Edwards.  R. A. Finlayson tried to also ground Edwards' and Murray's position in his discussions of the holy's Hebrew etymology.  For a while his ideas caught on in scholarly literature like biblical dictionaries, but then later faded. 

Fourth, a pastor on the West Coast and living in California, recognized that our English word holy, as used by the older translators, had the idea of wholeness behind it when it was selected as the word best qualified to translate the Hebrew word qadosh.  He may have relied on some of the popular etymological insights into English, using an older volume by Sweate.  Whatever he did, he without hesitation made this known to his flock.  As a pastor, he thought that the word holy had been turned into a negative term from the beautiful term it was according to biblical writers.  His commentary on Leviticus, The Way of Wholeness, points out in its title the meaning of holy as whole. 

Each of these people were making an impact in the 60s.  The most problematic impact is that of Barr, because his view in some people's minds dismisses the meaning of holy as whole, simply because  he said so himself, but also because etymology is a tool that must be used with utmost care and he was not sure it was used carefully in the case of defining holy.  Here he seems to differ with the other three.  Yet this is where my own work takes off.  I am trying to take a hard look at the  meaning of holy through his insights primarily.  That may mean learning from his cautions while disagreeing with some of his conclusions.  That might in part in explain the slowness in gaining insight from his ideas.  He was after all a little hyper-critical at times. 

Let me summarize the gains from each of these four people. From Barr and semantics and linguists, we can learn to be more careful with the method of etymology. From Douglas, we can learn to be more careful in judging the past as primitive or nonsensical, instead it is our job to make sense in their terms. From Finlayson, we can learn to not judge a book by its cover. Just saying you are a conservative, does not make you a conservative (or a fundamentalist). From Stedman, we can learn that preacher have a responsibility to preach or herald a concept, even while others might be scornful of the idea. Some may have scorned his idea (including Barr!), but that does not mean he was not correct at the level he was operating at as a pastor (and as a mentor to Chuck Swindoll) in talking to the masses who entered his door. Remember many of us never learned of the remotest possibility that holy in the Bible could mean whole (I learned it in my forties). Isn't that a sad thing, not to at least be aware of the option?  Didn't Stedman do people a great favor by at least giving them another option to look for in the biblical text?  Didn't he in fact enrich their lives more?  Isn't it sad that in many places there was only one option to chose from because the other was an unknown due to higher than mighty attitude?  

So we are now left in the wake of a coming transformation with the task of sorting out this legacy that we have been handed from the 1960s.  I wish I had more time to write about this on-line, but the need for making a living will not allow it.  But given the time the bigger question is this: "Will we benefit from the efforts of these people or will we in stubborn resistance to the past squander a wonderful opportunity?" 

That is yet to be answered.  But somewhere in the world, I expect Drucker's words may prove prophetic though he never claimed to be a prophet.  He just looked at what had already changed and then looked to past history to see how long it took for an idea to become a transformation. 

I personally did not directly benefit from the G.I Bill.  I'm not part of that generation.  But I have stuck with the huge investment in education as a way to move forward in our own time through fresh discoveries (including that of the past).  I have learned a great deal from my studies at the university level, the graduate school level and now at the post-graduate level.  They have all taught  me things I did not know existed before. 

So look out, you might be surprised or excited during the decade we are in and following.  And the meaning of holy may turn out to be the key to all of it.  Please feel free to respond to any of my posts.  I try to be generous in publishing them.  I have only one that I still need to understand before I publish it.  I want more than anything for my blog to be more of a dialogue and less of a monologue.  Take care. 




Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better by Understanding the Times

In the context of Eclessiastes 3:2-8, we read these lines among others:

There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity under heaven;
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

These lines can prove very valuablle, when trying to defuse false accusations in a controvery like the differences in defining the biblical words for holy.  It can also reduce the false name calling that sometimes happens even among Christians and scholars.  You probably have heard someone called a "hopeless optimist" or someone else on the other side of the argument called a "graveyard pessimist".  These are hardly compliments.  You might have also heard someone called a "conservative" or "liberal", based on whether you should accept their views or not.  These are used as ways to lay down a divide between groups of people.  I would like to clarify who I am, as I work on defining the biblical words that we translate as holy, sanctified or hallowed.  My point is not to create controversy, but to create clarity.  Readers have the right to know more about who I am.  I also will try to clarify who some others are in the important discussion of what holy means. 

Let's begin by using the lines from Eccleisiastes to define what I mean first by optimist and pessismist and then second what I mean by conservative or liberal.  It is helpful to begin with a common understanding of what I am saying, even if there is not an agreement with what I am saying. 

First, I define an optimist this way.  They are convinced that it is "a time to search".  I define the pessimist this way.  They are convinced that it s "a time to give up" (as lost).  Neither is good or bad in itself, but there is a question of relevance in relationship to time.  As an example, I remember my mother teaching me, when I was ready to give up on some valued possession as lost, to re-trace my steps.  She was right a fair number of times as I recovered quite a few things that way, but sometimes in the end, the valued possession had to be given up as lost.  Which point of view about the times in which we live is the more relevant or the right match for the times? 

Second, I define a conservative this way.  They are convinced that it is "a time to keep".  I define the liberal this way.  They are convinced that it is "a time to throw away".  Again, neither is good or bad in itself, but there is a question of relevance.  I remember learning a good rule for when to throw away or give away or sell some of my possessions.  It had to do with how long it had been since I had used some things.  Only a few times have I ever regretted deciding that it was " a time to throw away".  But some of those times were a bit hard to swallow later, when I really could have used those things I got rid of.  Which point of view about the times in which we live is more relevant or the right match for the times? 

My general position on defining holy is the following in relationship to the current majority poition on the definition of holy as "set apart" or "separate".  First, I am an optimist.  I believe that regardless of the past attempts to define holy, right now is a time in which it is "a time to search" rather than "a time to give up" as lost the possibility of knowing the meaning of holy with greater certainty.  I believe in the value of searching recent and past discoveries in archaeology, of evaluating further research into general exegesis and linguistics (for example from classic rhetoric), and in applying these types of things to the task of defiing holy.  I am optimistic that the deadlock between the majority position of the prior 350 years of defining holy and the the majority position of the last 150 years of defining holy can be broken.  So that is why I am still searching for answers in this blog and why I continue to produce blog entries. 

Some others are convinced that it is "a time to give up" the definition of holy as "whole" for the previous 350 years as lost in comparison to the last 150 years of scholarship.  They are pessimistic about the value of re-evaluatng the present time, because they believe that those earlier times of 350 yaers belong to a period of a failed searching.  I can't agree.  I think it is a great time for searching.  That says something about who I am. 

Again, my general position on defining holy is the following in relationship to the current majority on the defintion of holy as "set apart" or "separate".  So second, I working in my search toward possibly realizing that it is "a time to throw away" the present popular definition.  This would then make me a liberal, as defined above.  But I am not to that place quite yet.  In the present, I am convinced it is "a time to keep" both the definition of the prior 350 years as "whole" and the last 150 years as "set apart" and to evaluate them both again, before a final decision to "throw away" either one.  I could also put "pure" into this mix as a slimmer possibility for a deifnition to keep.  It is not the time to throw any of these away.  It is, however, a time to realize that when my search is over, some of what has been proposed in the past will mean it is "a time to throw away".  That should make my position very clear.  I am not stuck in a particular time, but I am trying to be relevant to the time in which I live.  I think I am moving forward toward and am attaining that goal.  The key now is finishing my thesis paper for seminary.  This clarification though is a part of that.  That says a little more about who I am.

Now let me use a broad brush to say a bit about relevant history that might be influencing our time more than we know.  The past sometimes matters, even through it is the past, like family influence and our own life choices of the past still influence the present.   I know too that sometimes the past can be irrelevant.  Let me try to stick with what might be relevant. 

Near the beginning of the last 150 years was an historic divide between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists.  Today their descendants are each called Conservatives and Liberals.  The sad thing is that the so-called Conservatives in Protestantism did not "keep" the meaning of holy as "whole" as the primary definition from the prior 350 years.  Instead they thought it was "a time to throw away" the primary definition of "whole" and make it only secondary (a descriptive word at best) while at the same time they saw it as "a time to keep" the secondary definition of the past as "set apart" and make it central.  They threw away, while their name says they kept.  These Conservatives were not conservative on the central character trait or quality or attribute of God.  This is one of the greatest ironies of all of Christian history.  How out of character with your name can you be? 

I think the explanation though may not be difficult.  In the late 1800s a Baptist named Charles Haddon Spurgeon (who I appreciate in many ways) was involved in what became known as the Downgrade Controversy.  One of his banner phrases was the passage that reads "come out and be separate".  This in turn became something that later Fundamentalists saw as sort of a creedo and banner statement of their stance .  Members had to agree that it was a time to "separate" from the Modernists.  Their new definition for holy helped support their stance because "set apart" or "separate", became the central character trait for who God is and who a saints is in their primary character. 

I must also say that the Modernists were the ones who primarily dug into how "holy" ought to be defined especially in a Hebrew context.  They searched as scholars.  Their lexicons in the latter 1800s largely influenced, not just the Fundamentalists to define holy as "set apart", but also those within their own camp.  It is another irony of history that their definition for holy helped the Fundamentalists to form and support a creedo of "set apart" or "separate".  I don't know that they intended for this new definition to create a bigger divide between themselves and the Fundamentalists, but that was an unintended consequence at least.  How out of character with their name can they be?  They assisted their opposition. 

So flashing back to the present.  It is important that a person understands the times and what is relevant.  What is most relevant is the present time and what approach fits or is relevant to that time.  It is important not to get stuck in a time that is no longer relevant.  We should not be sticks in the mud or sticks stuck in the mire of another time that is not relevant to our own.  Some times can be relevant even if not the present.  They can parallel the present, but that is not automatic.  It is important to discern when it is a time to be an optimist or a pessimist.  And it is also imporant to discern when it is a time to be a conservative or a liberal. 

Even in wirting this piece, I have had to keep searching for a better word and I also had give up when I wasconvinced that searching further for the right word would not profit.  I have also had to decide when to keep a sentence and when to throw it away. You and I may disagree on some of those decisions, yet they are naturally part of the times of life.  If I were to keep everything, you would consider me a pack rat and my writing would not have faced the editing that it needed.  If I threw out everything, then this page might still be blank and not worth anything at all. You get the picture.  Solomon's wisdom matters. 

These wise principles of Solomon are no less relevant today than they were back then.  So I guess at the present time, I should be described as a optimistic conservative, who at the right time will make the liberal decision to throw away some of the three most likely definitions for holy, as it is found the Bible.  I also at some point may decide, after I have completed my thesis paper at least, that it is time to finally give up writing more for the time being.  Only if it produces results will I then need to once again search for more on its meaning.  Maybe, at least temporarily, I will be able to say, "I have found what what's needed by searching".

May God give guidance from Solomon's principles.  May we also be willing from the results of our decisions on what to do in our times, be willing to evaluate whether our wisdom is God's wisdom, as it was penned by Solomon.  And if not, may we seek God's face for greater relevance and wisdom to know our times.  Don't get stuck in the wrong time!  You don't want to hear that punchy line, "Whatever!" 

In Christ,



Friday, August 31, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Success versus Failure

In the past, there were two typical paths toward learning a foreign or second language for missionaries that applies to learning the meaning of holy in three foreign languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  The methods can be applied to ancient languages and to living ones today.  One path in learning a contemporary foreign languages consists of mainly learning in a real life setting, while another consists mainly of studying in a classroom setting.  But more recently, it has come to light that these two paths should be combined.  This is where learning from missionary experiences in learning a foreign language is helpful to understanding Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  It gives us greater insight into the ideal language learning situation and helps us move still closer to it. 

If either of the two paths are taken exclusively, then the more successful is the living language alone path is better than the classroom setting alone path.  But in the ideal world, it is best to have both paths with both settings: learning and studying.  These ways are how knowers and teachers come to be what they are.  The critical point in all of this is that studies show that the highest level of success in learning a language comes from the combination of both, so I would like to apply this to understanding the meaning of holy.  The second critical point is that real life is better than classroom.  The third critical point is that less than the living learning is the classroom option.  Keep in mind though that it is still better than no teaching in a classroom setting assuming real life learning isn't happening either. 

Before I go too far, I would like to picture what the simple combination of learning and studying looks like, then what overall failure looks like,  and then what overall success looks like in learning another language.  Here first is the simple combination:

The first thing to realize is that it is important for the vertical axis to precede the horizontal axis, but that neither is exclusive of the other.  It is like it is in carpentry, if you want a stable wall you need to know both the vertical and horizontal lines using a level to have a stable form of construction.  Well, the same rules follow for learning a language. 

The next diagram is a combination of factors that lead to an overall greater amount of failure in learning a new language. It s a diagram of classroom learning outweighing the amount of real learning.  This is sometimes why the classroom fails.  There is not the ideal of both in equal balance with each other.  So it looks like this:

So too much of the classroom with all four steps versus only two steps for real life learning moves us away from success and toward failure.  I have a real life example of this in that I remember Greek and Chinese better than I do Hebrew, Spanish, and French; because the former were taught with stronger elements from real life than were the others with mainly classroom input.  By the way, my Hebrew has improved mainly through the use of tools that make the learning of it more like learning in a living language setting.  I owe a lot to three people here: Dr. Donald N. Larson, Dr. Betty Sue Brewster, and Dr. William A. Smalley.  They all had missionary experience and use the tools of real life situations to enhance their knowledge of foreign languages.  William LaSor of Fuller Theological Seminary, also introduced some of these elements in the seminary setting which is why my Greek continues to stay with me. 

The next diagram pictures what overall success (the ideal) looks like in learning any foreign languages including ancient Hebrew that does not offer us "native" speakers.  Dr. LaSor from Fuller also wrote a text that balances things better (moving toward ideally) for Hebrew learning and studying and learning.  It looks like:

I do want to make some concessions about these diagrams to avoid confusing their message.  The diagrams are a little misleading in two ways, if they stand alone and a person does not read my comments.  The first is that the column on the right by itself does not mean failure any more than the left column all by itself means success.  The difference is that in a broken world, where these are not balanced, the failure is greater, if you only possess the methods on the right.  The other correction, that I will correct at a later time, is that my Western World bias comes out in placing things moving from left to right.  If I were to follow Solomon's wisdom texts, the columns would move from right to left in terms of preference. 

So I  hope this has been helpful.  When I am studying the word holy in ancient Hebrew I try to keep in mind that I must look at things from both columns and not just one.  For example, I must ask even though I am an outsider coming into the Hebrew language, "How did they learn this?"  "What does the insider see?"  "What makes them speak this with ease?"  "What things are similar between our languages, so I can effectively associate with their ideas?"  Finally, I always need to ask, "How is my balancing act going?"  All of this applies to learning just one ancient word as well,  "Is my view of holy learned the way they did?"  "Am I standing on the inside or can I see what the insider sees?"  "Is this getting any easier or am I making it all more difficult than it is in real life?"  "What things I know are similar to what they know?"  Finally, I have to ask, "Is the balance getting better (more and more toward the ideal and relying less and less either one column)? 

These questions state implicitly my goals.  The real life column is very valuable, so whenever you can, try to learn and study the biblical languages using a method that consists of both ideal columns.  LaSor and others practice this fairly well.   May God bless all of our efforts to understand ancient languages and the critical ancient words for holy!