Friday, December 27, 2013

Holy: Understanding Better the Resistance to Changing Definitions

I love the following opening lines from Thomas Paine's Common Sense:

     Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable
     to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial
     appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.  But
     tumult soon subsides.  Time makes more converts than reason.

Perhaps the view that I have expressed that holy by definition means moral wholeness does not seem like much in relationship to the long history of people assuming it means set apart, but as Paine says custom and its outcry of defense will eventually subside.  The need for time as well as reason is not an optional need.  People do need soak time with new ideas before they will set aside old ideas. 

I also agree that reason means something less than more time.  The reason for my position on the definition of holy is solid in regard to reason, but time honored custom is very hard to break.  So let's not be influenced so much by custom and by the superficial appearance of what is right.  Let's consider other options and then give time for these options to prove themselves right in more than a superficial way. 

John A. Lee's comments, as a biblical scholar on the status of Biblical lexicons, as sometimes preservers of tradition more than a producer of higher quality definitions is worthy of consideration.  He too warns about the superficial appearance of authority by the sheer number of lexicons that say the same thing.  But quantity is not the same as quality. 

Perhaps in time, Lee's wisdom and that of Paine's common sense will be taken more seriously and what first appeared right as a definition might then also be considered wrong.  That though will take time.  I only hope not too much longer. 

In Christ,


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Handel's Messiah

I love listening to Handel's Messiah this time of year.  Every year for many years, since going to a live performance of Handel's Messiah at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN, I have made a habit of listening to it before Christmas day.  I find it very uplifting.  This year it is even better and that is true though I will not be able to attend a live performance of it this year.  It is better, because I better understand the pattern of greater, lesser, greatest in Scripture.  Which means ....  It is also helping me see even better what holy then means. 

[to be continued - mental health is the key here]

In Christ,


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holy: Understanding It and other Great Things Better

You've heard of the "Greatest Show on Earth".  You've probably also heard of the "Greatest Commandment".   The thing in common between both of these is "Greatest".  My quest to determine the definition (the primary meaning) of holy has a lot to do with the idea of "Greatest".  I thought at one time that "holy" might be the most important word in the Bible and in one sense it is .  Well, it is one half of what is "greatest", so not way off.  It is clearly as important as "holy, holy, holy" indicates in both Isaiah and Revelation.  There are two words though that eclipse it in importance and they are:  "Yahweh" and "blessed".  So "holy" is for me the third greatest word in the Bible. 

Let me add a bit more to this to drive home my point about holy's position of greatness or importance.  "Yahweh" as in "holy is Yahweh" is more important than "holy".  Also  "Yahweh" as in "Blessed be His Name" is more important than "blessed".  We also see holy combined with blessed in in "blessed and sanctified" or "blessed and holy" as found in Genesis 2:1-3 and in Revelation.   What is missed is that in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek" there is a pattern in the order that shows importance. 

In Hebrew as in Greek, the "greater" precedes the "lesser".  That makes perfect sense even in English, but there is a VERY GREAT distinction that must be drawn.  In English we often place a greater in front of a lesser in the sense of a greater number and a lower number on the same level plane.  So we place 5 ahead of 4 on a numerical scale of what is greater.  That is not the way "greater" and "lesser" and even "greatest" is being used in Hebrew, (likely Aramaic), or Greek.  In this case it would be a good idea to draw from our memory of geometry where there is a vertical axis and a horizontal axis.  In Hebrew, the idea is that of the "greater" corresponding to the vertical line and the "lesser" corresponding to the horizontal and the "greatest" corresponding to where the two lines intersect with one another.  At that point the "greatest" may be at the point of 0,0 rather than out at 5.1, etc. 

I first got wind of this in the early 80s from an article on righteousness and justice and learning that they were not the same thing.  This was first brought to my attention by a Hebrew scholar, but he never fully convinced me as to what they each meant in that case.  That came 20 years later, when I was working in carpentry and noticed that Isaiah pointed out that righteousness corresponded to the plumb line and justice to the level line in carpentry.  This was an astonishing confirmation of what the Hebrew scholar had convinced me of 20 years prior, that the two words were not entirely synonymous.  This great scholar and my homely parable of carpentry experience verified a greater grasp of what these two words meant in definition.  I also learned that when both righteous and justice were meant then the Hebrew for justice was used and then translated into judgment to mean both together.  This was the practice that the early KJV translators saw practiced in the Old Testament by the Jews or Hebrews.

There is more to this.  In Greek, they refer to narrow definitions for a word and broad definitions.  This discussion is found in Aristotle among others.  Righteousness would be a narrow definition.  Justice would be a narrow definition.  Judgment would be the broad use of the word for justice meaning both righteousness and justice altogether. 

I think the thing that is holding the church back from anything "Great" happening like a "Great Awakening", another "The Reformation", another incredible revival, or another wonderful renewal movement is a failure to know and teach what things are great and what words point to that greatness in the Bible.  The last example I would like to use is that the Bible in the opening creation story speaks of great things God created.  Among then were the "greater light" to the light the day and the "lesser lights" to light the night.  To me the greatest thing about each is that the combination of them both is what makes God's creation the "greatest" we can imagine or think.  I hope and pray that the church especially can find its way back to the greatest things with admiration for both the greater and the lesser.  We need to pay attention to those things that are truly greatest and avoid the distractions of lesser things in life.  Poor judgment has become too common.  Thank you for reading my humble thoughts that attempt to point others to the greatest things. 

In Christ,


[I will be re-visiting this and making improvements as possible.12/11/13]

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Holy: Understanding It and Other Key Words Through the Analogy of Identity Theft

We all know about identity theft.  It is, I believe, the # one crime worldwide at present.  (Feel free to correct me, if I am wrong.)  In either case, I thought it was happening to me today when an unexpected charge ended up in my checking account.  Can we say bounce!   Fortunately, with the trouble that occurred the day before in my account, I had transferred nearly all my money elsewhere.  But something dawned on me.  I think this is what has happened to God's identity, the God of the Bible that is.  Not only is the identity of His holiness stolen, but  many other key words that identify who God really is, are also stolen.

Here is what I mean in terms of specifics.  The #1 most important word in the Bible is God's personal name.  His name, Yahweh, is usually seen as "LORD" and so is defined as lord in many Bible readers minds.  This is not actually who God is in terms of identity in those passages.  You might get the impression He's over-consumed with lordship.  The #2 most important word in the Bible is blessed.  This is usually defined as prosperity, but that is not accurate in Hebrew.  That is not who God is, when the Bible says "Bless Yahweh" (usually "the LORD" in translation).  The #3 most important word in the Bible is God's character summary, holy.  This is usually defined as set apart, but I can now make a tremendous case that this misses the mark by substituting holy's significance for its definition.  It is like getting not only the cart before the horse, but also in front of the driver in importance too.   The definition of holy is the greater party in this case before significance.  The #4 most important thing is not one word in English, but a group translated as "I am who I am".  This is the real key to understanding God's name, Yahweh, and what blessed means correctly.  #5 is a set of words that equal what holiness is and one of them is badly misunderstood and that word is love.  Its relationship to faith and hope is badly misunderstood.  Also in that same set of words that equal the part of holiness, the words righteousness and justice are treated wrongly as synonymous.  I wish I could present the argument for this last one right here. 

I know I have not given a great deal of evidence here.  You can find that elsewhere on my blog or you will have to trust my character for the moment, but later you will also be able to see the evidence for what I am saying.  What I am giving here is a brief summary of my conclusions.  I want you to see the results of my search and research in summary form, so you know that identity theft may have occurred and so you should be alert to what is happening.  Again, this is not the entry where I try to prove it.  That requires chapter and verse analysis.  You could call this my opening statement. 

So with these five mistaken notions, I think we can say that the identity of God in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of what is called the Bible is stolen.  You don't get the right identity, if you don't know the meaning of his name and his character.  Someone else has stolen His and He is not getting what he truly deserves for His real identity.  If you confuse these 5 words or groups enough, then you end up with a very sad picture of who God is in the Bible. 

I'm only interested in one God, the one in "The Book".   Have we gotten that identity right?  I think we have failed much more than many scholars and Christian leaders like to acknowledge.  The last I checked, identity theft is still a crime.  We need to catch the thieves and put them on trial for what they have done.  Then we can restore God's actual identity, so he can say again, "I am who [my name, etc.] says I am".   We might even begin to realize why God said what He did to Moses. 

In Christ,

Jon Westlund

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better through Undersatnding it Follows a Horizontal Axis like Justice

When we see a pair of words in the Bible joined by "and", it is very common for some scholars or non-scholars to interpret them as a kind of synonymous parallelism.  There needs to be another option as well. Not everything joined by "and" is connected in the same way.  To illustrate, in carpentry it is understood that there is a plumb line and a level line.  These are not synonymous and yet they still are similar in that they are both measurements performed by a tool called a "level(er)" .  What if this perpendicular connection also happens in the world of words and not just in the world of carpentry?   

In reading Martin Luther years ago I ran across the idea of a broad definition and a narrow definition for word.  This was a bit confusing for me at first, but gradually I was able to grasp what he meant by such a distinction. 

It is more like perpendicular parallelism. 

[under construction]


Holy: Understanding it Better by Understanding the Order of Driver, Horse, and Cart.

There is a very old analogy in which someone says to someone else: "You are putting the cart in front of the horse".    I would add also this following saying: "You are putting the horse in front of the driver".  The idea is that the driver initiates the entire process, then the horse follows, and then the cart follows the horse.  I think this pair of sayings fit very well with the three most promising definitions of holy.  I am convinced they follow a similar pattern of priority. 

The three most popular definitions for holy in alphabetic order are: 1) pure, 2) set apart, and 3) moral wholeness.  These three in popularity have easily outdistanced any other possible definitions for holy.  Could it be that they are related like the driver, the horse and the cart?  If this is true, then it helps explain how it is that these three have each been seen as the definition of holy.  Currently, "set apart" enjoys the greatest popularity following the scholarship of the 20th century. 

In scholarly circles, it is known that a person must distinguish what kind of meaning a person is referring to whether it be: 1) definition, 2) implication, or 3) significance.  Dr. Robert Stein, one of my teachers from my undergraduate and graduate years refers to: 1) meaning, 2) implication, and significance.  "Is" may only have one definition perhaps, but "means" clearly has more than one meaning.  A lot has been written on what meaning means.  Rather than debate that issue, I think it is sufficient to realize that definition is more definite than meaning, so that is why I use it in place of Dr. Stein's "meaning".  Eugene Nida also wrote extensively on the need to define words much as our English Dictionaries do, rather than simply listing a full list of words used in translation to replace the original. 

[ in process]


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through the Cart Before Horse and the Level without Plumb

Conceal and Carry

I can no longer support "conceal and carry" by committing two different mistakes.  First, by"putting the cart in front of the horse" and second, by "measuring level without measuring plumb".  Here is what I mean.  It is not helpful for us to conceal the meanings of the top three most important words in the Bible and then carry that Bible with its incorrect definitions to others. 

Both mistakes conceal the meanings of holy, blessed,Yahweh and to some extent the top 20-25 words in the Bible in terms of importance.  So what do I mean? 

The Cart Before the Horse

The cart before the horse picture should be pretty clear.  There are lots of humorous photos on-line illustrating its absurdity.  I tried to find a picture of a trailer in front of a truck to modernize the analogy, but it seems we are all too smart to make that mistake in our day.  So why is this allowed in studying the meaning of words and by the people called lexicographers who put together lexicons? 

[photo insert]

Here is what I have observed.  Scholars when they have read some of the older writings on the meaning of words have not been careful to separate: 1) meanings, 2) implications, and 3) significance.  This is a rule in Dr. Robert H. Stein's A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible.  He was one of my best teachers during my college and seminary education.  Stein's "meanings" is what people like the translator Eugene Nida mean by "definition".  The other two are not definitions.  The reason I am concerned about holy and the other two words is because of their significance to the meaning of the whole text of the Bible, but that does not indicate their definitions.  Likewise neither does their implications define the word. 

For example, we separate people in a hospital because of the danger of the well becoming ill through at least some of the sick.  We do not separate people due to an arbitrary rule of separation, but rather we separate the unhealthy from the healthy in some cases to keep the healthy from also becoming unhealthy.  The central point and definition that needs to be known is the difference between healthy and unhealthy.  The definition of healthy is not separate and yet it seems to me that we have defined holy through the same error.  When Rashi (a early Jewish teacher) says that holy means separate, does he mean it implies separate or that it is defined by separate.  Second, has he himself switched an implication into the role of definition.  You see the horse is the meaning, the implication is the cart, and the farmer or whoever is driving operating this machinery is the one who can explain the significance of what the horse and cart are for. 

The Level without the Plumb

When a carpenter measures, they measure both vertically the walls to see if they are straight (plumb) and also the floors to insure they are straight (level).  They would never consider it adequate to operate in building a structure without both vertical and horizontal measurements combining for a convergence of perspective.  It simply makes no sense, because these meanings have been concealed by not seeing the difference between a horse and its cart. 

[insert photo]

What I have discovered is that the meaning of 1)Yahweh, 2) blessed, and 3) holy have been concealed by the mistaken move of substituting the implications of a word for the definition of a word.  Holy just happens to be one of the most important (#3). 

[A work in process as I have time.  Thank you for your patience.]


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Hesychius

You have come to this site to find the meaning of holy.  I will not disappoint you in that regard, but before I give an answer to that question you need to know that the definition of holy or qadosh (Hebrew) or hagios (Greek) requires a little extra research, to put it very kindly.  Fortunately, the high quality options are only three.  They are: 1) moral wholeness, 2) pure, or 3) set apart.  The lexicographer Hesychius is not a household name, but he has been very important in trying to determine the meaning of holy.  His lexicon written around the third to fourth century time range is regarded as a great treasure for determining the meaning of many Greek words.  In this case, we are talking about the meaning of hagioi or hagios.  I want to tell you what I have found in examining the evidence from his lexicon. 

[Under construction]



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Digging (like an archaeologist)

It is unbelievable some days what I discover through digging through old books rather than old rocks.  I consider what I am doing a little like digging through the layers that archaeologists dig through and indicate in their photos.  Today, I found another incredible discovery.  It is a book by John August Henry Tittmann.  Its title is: Remarks on the Synonyms of the New Testament

It is an older book, but I am not ashamed to say that I like digging through the old as well as the new.  What I have found is that many things obvious to previous generations have been lost due to a simple bias against the old.  In this case of trying to discern the meaning of holy, it is a bias against older scholarship.  I think instead what scholars, students, and pastors should do instead, is dig through the older layers and recognize all the layers in the process, not just the top soil of our present time.   John A. L. Lee's work on lexicography shows how danger it can be to operate without a knowledge of layers and a blind trust in authority rather than trust and verify. 

Here is a link to what this older scholar, Tittmann, has to say, so you can dig for yourself a bit:  Check out especially pages 35-46.  And also if you really want to get right to the heart of what holy means, you can examine pages 45-46 for  his summary. 

If I may summarize what he says here, he says: "hagios (Greek) is that which, on account of integrity of mind and morals, is sacred to God and revered."  What is most interesting to me in my investigations is his use of "integrity ... of morals".  This would fit very well with the idea of "moral wholeness".  But perhaps what is more valuable is that he also places purity and being set apart alongside of his "integrity of morals".  He says that "ieros" (Greek) has a connection with the idea of "consecrated to, or set apart for God".  He also adds that katharis (Greek) is connected to the idea of "pure" as would also "agnos" (Greek). 

If you read what he says carefully, then you can see its parallelism with the proposal (by Andrew Murray many years later), that there are other possible words for being set apart rather than the words qadosh (Hebrew) or hagios (Greek).  This proposal is worth considering and I must give credit to Richard Trench for his volume on synonyms for alerting me to this once renowned scholar.  Its it too bad that often awareness gets buried by generations and time?  I rejoice in another discovery and another opportunity to make people aware and bring knowledge to a sometimes darkened world.  Digging has its rewards!

In Christ,


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Holy: Understanding It Better By Uncovering the Hidden

When I was a child my parents had two sets of books below our television in the living room.  One was a set of books about the stories in the Bible.  The other was a set of books about science.  I actually now possess both sets.  For me what was most intriguing in the science books was the things that had been recovered through archaeology about dinosaurs.  These discoveries uncovered the hidden knowledge of dinosaurs.  Likewise in studying the meaning of holy, what is intriguing is what I have uncovered about the meaning of holy that I never knew before and still millions of people do not know. 

Before I go any further, I want to include a visual of what I am saying. 

The bones of dinosaurs are not the only hidden truths in our world and often these hidden truths can become "bones of contention".   The first real discovery for me in 2004 pointed out to me that there exists bones of contention when it comes to the meaning of holy.  There is not only one possibility for its definition.  At that time, I came to terms with the idea that there might be two good possibilities (three later): "set apart" and "moral wholeness".  I added "pure" later.

So let me disclose a few "hidden truths" for you.  Here is a partial list:

1) Strong's dictionary (lexicon) in the back of his exhaustive concordance lists "wholly" as one of the glosses or translations for the meaning of holy.  This is quite different from the other glosses or translations that he lists.  This was my first hidden truth that started me out on my quest.  Please see that the start of things is not that complicated.  We can all do this, if we can read and have a library to draw books from. 

2) What you discover after learning that the KJV uses "wholly" as a translation for qadosh, hagios, etc. is that this translation accurately reflects prior scholarship and prior theology in the Reformation traditions of Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Wesley, and Spurgeon.  Each of them are historically famous because they each uncovered something hidden, so it would not be surprising if the  next Great Awakening or revival began with another discovery of something hidden. 

3) You will then discover that one of the most important historical documents on the meaning of holy is no longer accessible and appears to be likely laying on a shelf in Germany.  Johann (John) Bengel had an introductory presentation on holy he offered his students.  I have not been able to find even a German copy of this and to the best of my knowledge it remains hidden.  This scholarship may be critical to understanding a lost view of the meaning of holy.  He understood qadosh and hagios in the sense of moral wholeness.  You will discover too that due to the lack of footnotes in the older tradition of scholarship, it is hard digging to know where older Protestant Reformers have gone when it comes to word definitions. 

4) You will also discover that the meaning of "wholly" attached to the translation of "holy" in English does have a legitimate etymology in English and in terms of having to do with the concept of being whole.  You will also discover that this is why some people consider the meaning of holy as whole as relevant as far as what a translations means (not what the original means).  They are stating their case not from the Hebrew original, but from a tradition of translation going back to 1611 and beyond.  By itself, this is harmless as long as we understand that we then must also examine the original words of qadosh, hagios, etc. after examining differing translations. 

5) You will discover that the lexicons we use for determining the meaning of qadosh, hagios, etc. are largely built off of a single tradition of earlier lexicons.  So while there is a large QUANTITY of lexicons for N.T. Greek for example, the QUALITY of the entries does not change too much.  The best evidence for this is found in A History of New Testament Lexicography by John A. L. Lee.  You will find this further reinforced in Studies in New Testament Lexicography by David S. Hasselbrook.  I am currently working on the same issue from the Old Testament side and so far much appears the same.  More will be said on this in future blog entries.

6) You will discover that the etymology for the meaning of qadosh or hagios are not certain and are controversial in some of the better lexicons like Clines' lexicon of Hebrew.  You will also find that this is not the case in most lexicons.  They list meanings as though they are certain.  That I discovered is misleading, based on deeper study.  So lexicons don't help as much as could be hoped. 

7)  You will discover that lexicography is such a large task covering so many words that word studies are more helpful than lexicons.  They go deeper on one word rather than wider over many words.  This is a real advantage. 

8) You will discover that when you read the various word studies (which I am collecting as a set currently) that they still rely more on etymology than they realize and that by testing only one option, the word studies are limited in their value.  Because JUSTICE to all three major possible translations: is not done, the QUALITY of both lexicons and word studies are compromised while QUANTITY  of lexicons and word studies is still growing. 

9) You will now have reached a point that you realize that there is a lot you did not know that has been hidden from you and others.  You will realize that you where unaware of CATEGORIES  of meaning that are possible for holy.  You will realize that there is more than one KIND that is possible.  This is shock you, if you have been kept in isolation from information.  Why were you not informed from the start about three possible meanings for holy as a translation rather than just one?  I found the internet to be valuable in breaking out of a view that only gave me one option to consider rather than various KINDS.  God after all created variety and different kinds of things, not one kind of thing.  So when it comes down to words and their meanings, it is good to test the best options of different KINDS that you can.  You may have known two ("set apart", "pure") from contemporary lexicons and word studies, but not all three (adding "moral wholeness" to the first two).  Fortunately, Strong's Concordance (and dictionary/lexicon) is easily found by anyone.  You just have to slow down and read it carefully. 

10)  You can also discover that while some panic at the possibility that Christians and Jews may misunderstand the meaning of holy that this is a false panic or worry.  With three possibilities you simply need to make sure you don't exclude any of them as possible, while functioning with what you consider the most probable and then follow this up by test, test, test to uncover what is currently hidden.  This is done with textual variants all the time dating back to ancient copiers of the Hebrew text.  Why not do this with definitions too?  Can't we play safe, by considering all three until there is stronger evidence?  I haven't discovered yet why we can't.  . 

11)  You will discover that advances in linguistics gives us an advantage over Reformation exegesis provided you also understand and don't lose or hide the strengths of their method.  What I have discovered is a careful balance of continuity and change is what should apply to biblical exegesis and to scientific linguistics as working together.  James "Too Far" Barr, opened the door to linguistic semantics, though he overstates himself at times in favor of change.  Still this is a move forward in the majority of instances where semantics or linguistics has been applied.  I learned this largely from Dr. William A. Smalley, Dr. Donald N. Larson, and Dr. Daniel P. Shaw.  You can discover this for yourself if you read David Alan Black, Moises Silva, etc  There writings relevant to word meanings are listed all over the internet. 

12) You will discover my one major caveat with James Barr and his book Semantics and Biblical Language is his remarks directly concerning the etymology of holy.  He creates a false logic in saying that some are moving from holy to whole and then back to qadosh and its meaning as the original in Hebrew.  He implies that some were arguing that qadosh means whole based on the meaning of the English word holy meaning whole.  What he misses (lies hidden from his view) is that holy as meaning whole is what earlier English translators meant in choosing holy as a translation.  This was not as a way to determine the meaning in the original, but as a way to express its meaning in English.  It may not be an accurate translation, but it could be.  The major caveat also means that Barr is hiding from our view (whether intentional or not - I think it is the latter) the historic (diachronic) meaning of the word holy in English that was hidden from my generation at least.  I never knew it had ties to another English word whole as in "moral wholeness".  What Barr does is block this from people's view, right when they had a chance to be more aware rather than less aware.  I like to think that this full knowledge or better yet fuller knowledge or above (previous) knowledge is helpful as long as we remain committed to the original text.  This is one of the reasons, I am so happy to have studied under Daniel P. "Fuller Knowledge" Fuller rather than "too far Barr".  Better yet would have been studying under both at the same school.   So equipped with a fuller knowledge of the English word holy's meaning in translation,  the problem of qadosh's meaning should be solved by testing holy's English meaning as one of the possible meanings in the original text, and not by keeping it hidden from being one of the possibilities.  It is ironic that Barr in this instance hides knowledge from our view rather than advancing it as he does with the introduction of linguistic and semantic principles for word studies, etc.  WE must remember that not all progress or change is progress just because of the progress of time. 

13)  You will discover that while Louw and Nida made some mistakes in their Greek-English lexicon, they also performed a great service.  You can also find much of their work on-line.  They were smart enough to distinguish between "definitions" and "glosses".  You will then discover what this distinction is.  In an English dictionary, we are given a full definition and not just synonyms, antonyms, and the parts of speech.  The tendency in lexicons is to given a list of "glosses" or words that are used in English translations and then identify their contexts.  The problem is that sometimes these short examples from translation can be misleading, because they are very dependent on the language the word is being translated into.  My favorite example is kol in Hebrew.  It properly or seminally means "whole", but in English it is mostly translated into "all".  Gesenius and others point out that this is because of the nature of Western languages (including English), where we like to speak of "all the parts of" rather than "the whole of" which is more awkward grammatically for us.  This awkwardness, however, is changing to where we might be able to more frequently list the proper or seminal meaning as "whole".  That would help more people uncover the hidden presence of "whole" in the original Hebrew. 

14)  You will discover that taking a more historical (diachronic) approach to both Hebrew and Greek and including their modern usage for some words can be fruitful.  This is demonstrated in my own personal experience of learning Hebrew from Dr. William Bean and from Hasselbrook's book that I mentioned previously.  I think Hasselbrook has clearly uncovered something like Dr. Bean did for me personally. 

15) You will discover that future lexicons need to take into consideration even more later discoveries in both Hebrew and Greek of sources more closely tied to oral speech on the street.  Older lexicons tend to rely more on literary Greek rather than koine or oral Greek.  I still am investigating Hebrew in this regard to see if there is a parallel issue. 

16) You will discover that Louw's and Nida's method of using domains has a great deal to commend it.  While their execution of it in their lexicon can be confusing, it was progressive according to scholars like Lee.  I personally think that it would be more helpful to return to an alphabetic listing and then put the semantic domains organization in the back of the book.  Their reversal of that order is I think what keeps many of my fellow scholars from using it more frequently.  What is more needed is to uncover their underlying four major semantic or reference categories that are used listed as: 1) things, 2) events, 3) attributes, and 4) relations.  These two men used a new terminology in their book that explains their lexicon which perhaps made their discussion less understood rather than more understood.  I have been able, through students in my bible classes, to simplify their terms down to: 1) things, 2) actions, 3) amounts, and 4) relationships.  I also have re-ordered them to match with the order of heart, soul, strength, and mind from Luke's gospel; so that now I list them as:         1) amounts, 2) relationships, 3) actions, and 4) things.  I also have added identity as a way to unite all four kinds together as self does the various parts of heart, etc. in Luke's gospel.  That identity would also reflect the whole of kinds or classes of meaning or referents.  Discovering that this is the foundation of Louw's and Nida's work is critical to understanding the greatest possible advance from their work and their lexicon.  By the way, I have discovered that it is much wiser to judge Nida by this foundation of four classes of meaning and by his lexicon than by his work on the issues of translation that played out in the TEV (or Good News Bible). 

So after reading this blog entry, I hope you sense that I have uncovered a lot that you did not know previously.  Keep in mind that I too once was not aware of this full list of hidden things.  It has taken a lot of digging, but I feel that my digging through new books and old books is beginning to really pay off.  I sense a fruitful end to a long journey may not be that far off in "discovering the hidden past" of the meaning of holy.  If you want to join with me in digging, please feel free to contact me.  I am sure you can find me through the web.  Otherwise, I hope you will do some digging of your own.  It is safest to observe for yourself, when you can and it is possible to make rich observations that you previously missed just by extending the time you allow for observation.  Give my findings "soak time".  If you decide to be a discoverer yourself, then you can start with your own translation and Strong's concordance.  It is a good point from which to launch your initial search.  Happy digging and uncovering of hidden things.  Take care. 

In Christ,


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better through Awarness

For anyone coming to this blog, I am sure the #1 question is: "What is the meaning of holy?".  But I think there is also a second question behind the first question: "Why are there different definitions for this central word of the Bible?"  For example, this evening I heard a member of the Christian band, Petra, define holy as "totally unique" on YouTube.  It is maybe a more contemporary version of Rudolph Otto's definition of "wholly other" from early in the 20th century.  So, do I think these definitions are correct?  The simple answer is that I think they fall wide of the mark despite their agreement.  The lack that I see is a lack of awareness.  The more and more I research the topic of the meaning of qadosh (translated into English as holy), the more aware I have become of things that I was not aware of previously.  So let me tell you about some of these new discoveries. 

The first is that the quality of a Hebrew-English, Aramaic-English, or Greek-English lexicon is not improved by the number of them that agree with each other.  Rather this may rather indicate that one source is behind the many lexicons.  While the many agreeing is a positive quantity, the many does not change the quality of the first that is copied by all the others.  John A. L. Lee (A History of New Testament Lexicology) has probably argued this the best.  So Petra's agreement with Rudolph Otto does not mean that the quality of Otto's argument for his meaning of holy is improved. 

The second is that the etymology of qadosh in Hebrew is both over-rated and under-rated as a tool to learn the meaning of holy.   James Barr, as a scholar, really helped biblical scholarship by making a great argument for the need for the insights of linguistics and semantics.  In the case of what is called etymology (the true history of a word), though, he throws the baby out with the bathwater.  On the other hand, many scholarly articles begin with etymology and then after downplaying its value don't really downplay it in fact.  They do not test its meaning beyond that point, but rather use a plausible meaning from the etymology that is uncertain.  The best example of this is in Jo Bailey-Wells' argument that the etymology of qadosh as being "set apart" is no longer supported by recent scholarship and yet she uses that definition in the following discussion without a different kind of test to determine holy's meaning. 

The third is that the method needed for determining the meaning of holy goes beyond a lexicon.  A lexicon is an enormous project and falls under what is called lexicology.  The problem is that when a lexicon is constructed, it cannot look into every word entry with great depth.  What is needed for that is what is called a "word study".   Here though there is another distinction that must be made.  There are small-scale word studies and then there are in-depth word studies.  If you look on-line you will find numerous shorter word studies on qadosh (the Hebrew behind the English word holy) like that of the scholar, Dr. Allen P. Ross.  I studied under Dr. Ross and he is a top-notch biblical scholar, but the study he offers on-line is not on the depth of word studies like those offered by TDOT (The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament) and NIDOTT (New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology (William A. VanGemeren, General Editor).   What is needed is a focused study on the set of words that are translated into English as "holy".  These books mentioned have studies that have the right depth and length, but also need a solid method added to them.  What I now realize is that I need to use the method of doing a word study to really contribute something on the meaning of holy.  It will likely be in the 80-100 page category and so be enough in-depth to really contribute something to the discussion.  Unfortunately, most lexicons with the exception of Klein's do not mention the quality of the definition that is offered.  It would be nice to someday have a letter system like that associated with textual variants that makes explicit a quality rating. 

The fourth is that awareness is itself a very important value.  Lack of awareness is the primary reason for the need for education.  Yet with all the education that is offered, there can still be large gaps in awareness or the need to slow down and really consider what is taught.  Many of the things that I was taught at the university level, I did not realize until later what was meant.  In other words, I finally became aware of something that I was not aware of previously, though I was already taught the topic.  The need to really observe and keep observing as part of inductively studying the Bible was taught to me at the university level and then in Seminary by three great teachers: Tom Stellar, Dr. John S. Piper, and Dr. Daniel P. Fuller.  The latter is the one who most applied this principle of observation.  I was fortunate to have hung on to old notebooks from my college years, so I could re-read what I read before and have continued observation pay off.  I then got the pay off of greater awareness!

Finally, it takes awareness of all four of these to really have a great opportunity to understand the meaning of holy in our English translations.   They again are: 1) quantity though it comes before quality, does not replace it when it comes to lexicons, 2) that etymology has value though it must not be allowed to have undue influence on how holy is defined, 3) a word study of some length is what is needed at present to resolve the problem of differing definitions for qadosh, and 4) awareness is itself the value behind each of these things I have learned through "getting an education". 

I like to put awareness on the level of the traits of being "ready, willing, and able".  I say a person needs to be "ready, willing, able, and aware".    If any of these is missing, then a decision is likely to falter in the future.  If they are all present, then the future is likely to match with the present.  I hope what I have written today has at least raised your awareness about the meaning of holy.  I am presently working on sorting out which of three English words best defines holy: 1) pure, 2) set apart, or 3) moral wholeness.  Please check back to see my further work on my word study for this incredibly important word. I would also appreciate your prayers that I have ample time and that I use my time well to finish a large word study on qadosh and its translations down to the English language and beyond. 

Thank you.

In Christ,


Friday, August 30, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The top 10 of frequently asked one or two word questions are:  1) How many?, 2) How much?, 3) Where?, 4) When?,  5) Who?,  6) Whole?,  7) How?,  8) Why? ,   9) What?,   and 10) Which?.   Using these as the starting point for questions about the definition of holy, let’s look at the answers to 10 frequently asked questions.


1)How many definitions of holy have been proposed (or denied)?  (i.e. quantity)

At one time, I listed somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 proposed definitions for qadosh (Hebrew) or hagios (Greek) usually translated as holy.  Obviously, not all 20 are right!  Many people assume wrongly, there is only 1 – set apart.

2) How much?  Are each of these definitions worth considering (or not worth considering)? (quality)

The 3 that seem to have the most credibility are: 1) pure, 2) set apart, and 3) moral wholeness.  These are listed in alphabetic order, but there quality can be measured by the comparative quality of these proposals.  “Set apart” is currently seen as the # 1 proposal. 

3) Where?  Is the definition of holy to be found (or lost)?  (place)

It should be found in the texts originating out of primarily two cultures: 1) Hebrew and 2) Greek.  Aramaic is also a source, but there is comparatively less text to compare. 

Some arguments point out that the meaning of the English word holy does not matter.  This is true in the strictest sense.  But there is also an overstatement of this argument that should not be tolerated regardless of who makes the argument.  The truth is that holy does have a connection to moral wholeness in the English language, even if qadosh or hagios may not.  The meaning of holy in English is irrelevant in terms of where the meaning of qadosh or hagios originated.  Where the meaning of holy as moral wholeness is relevant is in understanding the origin of the meaning of holy and why it was chosen by early English translators. 


When?  Is the definition of holy found (or lost)? (time)

It is important to realize that the time periods of when the texts containing qadosh and hagios were recorded are primary.  Texts that come before or after that time have less value.  A variety of contexts can matter, but the most immediate in terms of time matter more than those that come before or those that follow.  It is important to realize also that qadosh precedes hagios in time and that hagios like holy is a translation of qadosh.  This would also be true for the Aramaic word for qadosh.  Qadosh and its time period must be kept primary. 


Who? Is identified with the definition of holy (or who is not to be identified as holy)? (identity)

Yahweh and his name are identified in Scripture over and over as holy.  It is said that he is the only one that is holy.  Unfortunately, this is extended beyond comparison to other gods and it is said humans too are not holy.  The last I checked “saints” are holy ones and they are human.  So overstretching the comparison with Yahweh to knock human holy ones is not in agreement with Scripture.    


Whole?  Of who a person is complete in the definition of holy (or only a part of who a person is)?  (makeup)


How? Are we able to determine the definition of holy (or do we not know how to determine its definition)?  (Method)


Why?  Work on the definition of holy (or why not work on it)?  (Purpose)


What? Is the definition of holy (or is not the definition for holy)?  (Likeness)


Which?  Of the different kinds of definitions for holy is the right kind (or which is the wrong kind)?  (Kinds)

[This summer I have been particularly busy.  I apologize for delays in getting things complete.  As fall approaches I expect this to change.  Please be patient.]

In Christ,


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through the Biblical Method of Defining Words

I doubt that I am the only one to ever have this question: "Why doesn't the Bible have its own internal dictionary?"  For the English language there are a host of dictionaries available to consult, if a person does not understand a particular word.  Why does the Bible lack the tool of its own internal reliable dictionary?  But what if it does have one?  What if we are looking for the wrong kind of dictionary? 

Using the example of dictionaries for the English language, the majority are written in a format where words define other words.  Good examples are: Webster's New World Dictionary and Black's Law Dictionary.  But there are dictionaries that follow a different format.  I could point out a host of them on-line, but for my examples I'd like to look at my own dictionary shelf.  It contains The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, The Magic World of Words: A Very First Dictionary, and Ultimate Visual Dictionary.  For my purposes, I want to point out that the last two use illustrations or pictures as a primary way to define words.  This raises the question whether the Bible could have its own format for a dictionary that does not follow only the format of words defining words.  It doesn't use pictures either, but this does not rule out word pictures. 

A number of years ago I ran across a scholarly article that ruled out the idea that the Hebrew words zedekah (translated as righteousness) and mishpat (translated as justice or judgment depending on the context) are synonymous.  I mentioned this to a Christian teacher, who travels worldwide, and when he tried to present the same idea in Germany, Lutherans there protested that Luther saw them as synonymous.  So how are we to solve this problem?

The first clue came for me from my experience of working in carpentry and reading in Isaiah that righteousness is like the plumb line while justice is like the horizontal leveling line.   The top picture of a plumb line level combo is especially relevant, since it is very similar to the tool thought to have been used in building the pyramids in Egypt. 

Since that time I have read a similar comparison from the context of streams and rivers found in the book of Amos.  Here's one way it is translated:

This is no surprise, since he was previously a shepherd and would have needed to water his flocks.  Finally, I recently ran across another example of comparison using the example of light in Psalm 37.  This comparison comes the field of astronomy or from the observation of daylight 

Another easy way to think of the distinction between righteousness and justice is to think of the difference between the answers to two similar, yet different questions.  They are:

How many?  (Quantity)

How much?  (Quality)

Note here that the quantity is this passage is: "light" as one, but it also has a quality: "As the noonday [light]".  The difference between the two things are clear since the comparisons are not exactly the same.   The point is their difference though they are both measures or amounts.  Can you clearly see this?  "Light" and "noonday" are distinct and not synonymous though related. 

FINALLY, a light shone brightly in my own mind.  What if the Bible instead of defining words by other words, defines words by concrete comparisons that are well-known?


This also explains Jesus' motivation with parables to insure people understood the meaning of his words.  It also agrees with the concept that I learned years ago that a knower and a teacher are distinct from each other and also a complement to each other.  The knower is focused on experience or the referent  (thing referred to in communication) and the teacher is focused on words. Ideally in communication the two work in tandem.  It would seem that the Bible's definitions for righteousness and justice do just that.  It ties the real world to the vocabulary world. 

So now part of my task is to find the contexts that connect Yahweh and holy to a comparison much as righteousness and justice are compared to no less than three concrete things.  This is now a critical part of my quest for a definitive definition for holy.  May the righteous and just God of all eternity bless your day. 

In Christ,


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Holy: Understanding It Better Through Understanding Another Biblical Concept

[Please note that due to time constraints this piece needs lots of editing with citing sources and it is likely to be divided into parts, but I think this first half of part one is valuable, as it stands alone.  I will eventually be adding more source references, citing them and Scripture, and I will finish the part on meaningful.  I expect it to be very helpful when complete.  Thank you for your patience.   Glean what you can for now.]

There are only three primary possible meanings for holy as the English translation of qadosh (Hebrew), qad …. (Aramaic), and hagios (Greek) in the Biblical text.  They are: 1) set apart, 2) pure, and 3) (moral) wholeness.   I find that those who have resolved it down to one definition are a bit premature at this moment in time (we still have to wait for a better resolution) and that those who keep coming up with more definitions outside the main three (twenty plus) are a bit post-mature (I hope the resolution to the meaning of qadosh, etc. is not as far off as they make it appear).  But before we define a biblical term by any of these English words, we need to also make sure we understand these popular English ideas in their Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek biblical context.  In this blog entry, I am going to start with looking into the meaning of wholeness, because it is such a hot topic in popular education and in the realm of worldview discussions among philosophers, anthropologists, futurists, theologians, and church planters.   So here is the opening question: “How is the concept of being whole viewed in the wider biblical context outside of the words qadosh, qad …, and hagios?”  

The first thing to note is that wholeness or the whole in English translation appears to be quite infrequent in the biblical text, when viewed through an English translation.  This is despite the fact that current worldviews like that of Integral theory, or an integrative vision, or a spokesperson like popular philosopher Ken Wilber indicate that it is a very important aspect of worldview.   Wilber in particular is expressing a form of holism or wholism as opposed to atomism or reductionism in his “theory of everything”.   It is also surprising that it does not show up in the biblical text more frequently, because of the views of Christian writers like Pastor Rick Warren, who see healthy as the theme for the next Great Awakening of Christianity.  I see a little influence on the central theme from his mentor, Peter Drucker, who was a pretty good futurist besides being a management guru.   So does the Bible not address the issue of wholeness as a significant part of worldview or is it not as central as some holists or wholists think?

I think this is a great question.  I was troubled by this question myself.  If wholeness is important and I believe that Yahweh God is the Bible’s primary author, then God would not miss its importance.  So what is going on in the biblical text and in our understanding of the world?  Are they out of sync with each other or not?   Is here a problem with the worldview or the Bible  in relation to reality?  Is there yet another place where the deficiency in addressing the issue of wholeness might arise? 

Since I know Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek well enough to at least spot check the major words in translations, as I read them; I elected years ago to go to an interlinear bible for reading the Bible in my devotions.   This helped me begin to notice that the Hebrew word kol that properly means “whole” according to Strong and others, is not translated as such into English, except infrequently.  So the question arises as to why is it not translated as “whole”, except infrequently when that is its proper meaning?  This also holds true to some extent also for the Greek word holos that means primarily whole.  You might also note that holism or holistic are derived from this Greek word holos. 

So why is “whole” found infrequently in English translations of the Bible?  The answer I found to this question is very intriguing for two reasons.   First, it begins with an historical difference between Eastern and Western languages.    I am not sure this can be placed on a worldview level, but there does appear to be a difference of some kind in speech with regard to tendencies or starting points.  In language or speaking at least, the West seems to begin from the parts making the word “all” as in” all of the parts” central, while the East, in the Hebrew language at least, seems to begin from the whole as in the “whole of the congregation”.  We must, however, be careful and stick to language and not make broader conclusions on worldview quite yet.  Second, the Hebrew word kol (especially) and the Greek word holos are not infrequent words in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek biblical text and in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, so the implications for translation could be significant for addressing worldview concerns.   So the biblical text and the worldviews that say holism or wholism is important may not be deficient except in translation, but not in the original languages.  The problem with not finding texts dealing with the whole in an English translation might have to do more with the loss of total communication, beginning with various English translations. 
The first clue for me on a translation level that something might be amiss came from Gesenius’ Hebrew and English Lexicon.  In it, he points out: “In Western languages it [kol] has to be rendered by adjectives”.  He is also implying by this that in Eastern languages, that this is not the case, and that Hebrew would be included as part of the list of Eastern languages.   Note especially his choice of the words “has to be”.   That is significant, because he is suggesting it is a rule of Western languages including English.  He explains this further in terms of when it is used for one continuous thing and of English in particular: “… in English this has to be expressed either by the whole preceded by the article or by all followed by it; when the noun is made definite by a pronoun suffixed, it must be rendered in English by all without the article, or else by the whole of….”.   This quote is a bit technical, but it caught my attention, because I had begun to substitute “of the whole” in place of “all” in my devotions based on the Hebrew word kol.  I started to do this substitution, because I knew that kol properly meant the” whole, totality” according to Gesenius and not just James Strong.  This substituting process of “the whole of”, worked seamlessly hundreds of times with occasional exceptions due to change in context.

Now I want to go beyond just this first clue and just the process of translation and look at the total communication involved.  I believe translation gets its prominence from the fact that it is the starting point for total communication.  But I also believe that one of my mentors, Dr. William A. Smalley, who was a brilliant translator and teacher, saw that translation of the Bible and the church go hand in hand in the case of communication.  So I want to organize what I refer to as total communication around the following steps, as related to the biblical concepts of the Hebrew  word kol, the Aramaic … or the Greek word holos.  They are the 5 T’s: 1) translation, 2)transfer, 3) total, 4)train, and 5)teach.  We need all five of these for total communication!  Anything less on a fundamental level is less than adequate.  Just think of this process as “Mr. T”, as a memory tool.  He after all regarded himself as the total package.  The five T’s are the total package for communication.  As an aside, I found all five of these in Nehemiah 8, the chief text in the Jewish tradition for the Ezra school of exegetical method. 

So looking at wholeness from a translation standpoint.  The very best way to translate it is to produce clear meaningful communication.   There are two parts to this.  The first is addressed through quantity and the second through quality. 

We arrive at the goal of clear communication through minimizing the quantity of options.  Let me illustrate.  Imagine you enter a room filled with one third of the people shouting “yes”, another thirds saying “no”, and another third saying “maybe”.  Is it likely to be clear what they are saying assuming all voices equal?  The simple answer is “no”.  Now imagine walking into a room filled with all of the people saying “yes”.  Is it likely to be clear that what they are saying assuming all voices equal?  The simple answer is “yes”. 
So now let’s approach the biblical text with the question:  How many? 

In the Hebrew context there is one word used in many contexts.  It is clear to the original audience that it means properly “whole” unless some of the many contexts are clear it is otherwise.  That is how kol can have more than one meaning.  It borrows the clarity of another word or other words in the context.    So the “one” remains clear even with more than one definition in a supposed dictionary, because some other word makes things clear.  That is how I speak to others everyday with near effortlessness and the majority of times my communication is clear. 

In the Greek context of the Septuagint and the Hebrew Scriptures in a synagogue, things get less clear in one sense.  Kol , one Hebrew word, is now translated by two Greek words, pas and holos.  This is where the beginning of clarity can become less clear.  Without the knowledge that Gesenius possessed about the rules of Western languages, some begin to assume that pas is the primary meaning of kol and then say that kol means primarily “all”.  Eugene Nida rightly points out that one language’s glosses (ways of translating a word) are not themselves definitions within the primary or other language.  A word must be defined in its own language system and not in the context of the language it is translated into.  Gesenius and Nida, though separated by time are largely agreeing with each other.   The other key here is to realize that Moses and so the Hebrew was still present in the synagogues to correct any misunderstandings due to translation.  The original continued to keep things clearer. 

In English translation things get less clear and so a little more complicated.  Kol, one Hebrew word , is now translated by three or more.  Kol in the Hebrew is translated by “all” (majority) or “whole” mainly depending on the Septuagint’s Greek translation influence.   In the New Testament the Greek pas and the Greek holos are both used where kol would appear in Hebrew.  Pas is mainly translated as “all” while holos is translated by “whole” or “all” adding another layer of complexity and lack of clarity.  It is now as though kol primarily means “all” and holos means primarily “whole”, but this meaning is further diminished in English translation. 

A concession must be made here so that no one understands me to think that a wooden (without context) literalism (proper meaning) is in order.  The statements above apply to primary contexts mostly.   As the contexts become more marginalized then the use of “holos” or “whole” in English, etc. becomes less acceptable.  In English, “any, every, etc. are very appropriate in the more marginal cases of meaning or definition. 

I hinted at this earlier, but one of the main things translators should consider is the bilingual or even trilingual context of the 1st century.  There are advantages here because the original has more explicit influence than it does in a context today in which most only access an English translation based on their monolingual status.  The proper meaning of “whole” for kol would have had an easier way of sticking around and the people could have known about the difference in rules or tendencies as Gesenius suggests.  Translators or commentators today frequently quote “all” as the first or proper meaning of Hebrew kol.  This betrays their monolingual spectacles.  So how should the word kol be translated now for clarity? 
I personally think clarity would be enhanced by adjusting to two contexts.  The context of the 1st century and the 21st century.  First the two are not the same, kol’s presence would have kept the proper meaning of whole more in focus.  So now I think we must translate kol and even pas and holos with the English word “whole” where appropriate to the Hebrew context and our own.  There is no bilingualism in churches to balance both “whole and “all the parts”.  We might as well realize that Hebrew is not likely to be read out loud at church.  It might still be read at synagogue, but not many (basically none!) Christians know that!  For clarity’s sake, we do not need to follow the wooden rules of Western languages of old.  English is now adaptable to either and “whole” would give greater clarity.  This whole discussion matters because of the goal of clarity.  So what about being meaningful? 
                Change information load
                From three languages to one language
                                Explicit when bilingual and even implicit.
                                Unknown to monolingual. 

 How much? (high quality)

                Kol – poor quality (transliteration) for an English speaker
Holos/holistic/holism – holistic carries a great deal of extra meaning beyond whole.  So this option may have to be tempered. 

All – while necessary in a Western language only context (Greek, Latin, English), in a wider one context of both West and East, it may no longer be the best.  In the latter, it may be more paramount to address wholeness directly in translation following the hippie movement especially. 

Whole – the best understood by English speakers in the context of a debate between wholism (wary of holism overstatement) and atomism, reductionism and fragmentism.  It is also possible because it is not necessary any longer to only speak from the tendency or angle of “all the parts” as opposed to the “the whole of it”.  I think the rules equally allow the latter and to better understand the biblical text it is now superior. 

 Why it matters?  Meaningfulness!  From meaningless (“all [of the parts of the] of the congregation”= the whole congregation) to meaningful “the whole of the congregation”).  The latter is better understood in terms of making everything explicit and of addressing current issues that people understand due to the topic of wholeness being a hot topic of debate.

In Christ, 


Friday, May 31, 2013

Holy:Understanding it Better Through Research

I know you have likely visited this entry to find the definition of holy.  You are doing research.  Others have told you the results of their own research, but now you are doing your own by searching again or "re-searching".  All I can say is:  "Congratulations!"  You are a scholar of the first rank!  By searching out the meaning of the meaning of the biblical notion of holy again, you are researching rather than just searching. 

To know the meaning or definition of the English word holy, as it is used in translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; you must do some research.  It is not a word like the English words dog or cat, where searching or researching is not really necessary even for children.   Trying to understand qadosh in Hebrew, qaddiysh in Aramaic, or hagios in Greek is a different story.  You have to do at least a little research, just like you might do in buying a car.  A little research can lead to big improvements in car buying, but also in understanding the biblical concept often translated into English as holy there can be big improvements in understanding.

You may have read in Leviticus 19:1-2 (based primarily on the NKJV) the following:

And [Yahweh] spoke to Moses, saying,
"Speak to [the whole of] the congregation of the children of Israel
and say to them:
`You shall be holy,
for I [Yahweh] your God am holy.'"

It is obvious that understanding what "holy" means is tremendously important.  There are many concepts here that are easily understood through an English translation, but the meaning of holy has been anything but that.  Think about it this way.  It is obvious the first audience for this passage possessed the meaning of holy.  The question is whether English translators also possess the meaning of holy as intended for that first audience. 

The important question is whether we possess what Moses and the congregation of the children of Israel possessed in understanding or whether their understanding was ever lost.  A great way to think of this is to think of what happens in the case of anything being lost.  Here is the usual sequence from possessing to re-possessing an object:  

1) possessed
2) lost
3a) search (look)
3b) research (search again and again, etc.)
4) find (or discover)
5) re-possess (possess again)

The main discoveries for scholarly searchers for the biblical notion of holy is understood in three ways: 1) "set apart", 2) "pure", and 3) "(moral) wholeness".   This is what your own research would yield through the internet.  If you consult English dictionaries for the definition of holy in English, you will also find references to all three of these meanings. 

Now let's say you look further in your research.  You will probably next consult lexicons.  The top three lexicons in this case would be a Hebrew - English lexicon, an Aramaic (Chaldee) - English lexicon, and a Greek - English lexicon.   Usually when I consult a few lexicons, the possible alternative meanings for a word increase in number.  Ironically, in this case the number of alternatives instead shrinks.  In Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, as translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, you and I discover that qadosh means properly "pure, clean" and not set apart or moral wholeness.  In the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, as written by Jeff A. Benner, one discovers that it primarily or properly means "set apart".  In lexicons since the mid to late 1800s, you will not find the meaning of "(moral) wholeness" listed. 

So in my case, I searched beyond the lexicons.  I also looked in other scholarly texts like commentaries.  There I found that Gordon J. Wenham in his commentary called The Book of Lexiticus does recognize the meaning of wholeness for qadosh.  I also found this in other theological texts like Disability in the Hebrew Bible by Saul M. Olyan find the same meaning.  They each also seem to recognize pure as part of that larger definition of something or someone being whole.  . 

Why do we research the meaning of a word or search again?  Why do a search at all?  Is something lost?  Have we not already found what we are looking for? 

You were probably like me when I was growing up, in that you and I likely lost a few things in the house or elsewhere.  I would usually call out, "Does anybody know where my G.I. Joe is?"  After I made no progress and found no answers in my search, then my mother would usually tell me to either, "retrace your steps" or "go look again".  In other words, she was asking me to "search again" or to do "research", because I still had not found what I was looking for after consulting other family members.  In other words, I was to do "re-search" not in the books, but in the physical spaces where I may have lost my G. I. Joe.  Many times I looked and I found him or something else in my own room or right under my nose.  It was easy to think someone else took it or moved it, but usually I just lost it.  

The same is true in re-search.  We need to look again, because we might have lost something in trying to understand the meaning of qadosh, qaddiysh or hagios with the change in place and in time.  Space and time do not forbid us recovering something lost, but they do require us to search and sometimes search again. 

I saw this for myself in 2004.   I found a definition for holy that I had not found previously.  I found that qadosh or hagios might mean "(moral) wholeness".   Not that much searching later, I found it also right under my nose in the printed sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who I had read extensively during the early 80s.  By re-tracing not just my steps but the steps of other Christians, I found a lost meaning that I had no prior knowledge even existed.  

These discoveries did not prove that holy means whole, but it did prove there were possible definitions to investigate or research that I and many others had never checked out previously.  Like checking out a different room in search for a G. I. Joe, it does not prove that something will be found there.  It only proves that we are willing to fully re-trace our steps and take self-responsibility for loss and discovery or recovery.  I think researching could be a virtue in this case. 

Let me take this one step further.  Recently I saw a video where a pastor was interviewing a man for why he did not "love the church" even while they "love Jesus".  Here are a collection of some of the man's comments relative to "search again", research, and knowledge:

     1) "If you (Christians) believe the Bible, then you should be willing to research (search again)
     2) "[Christians] cop out."  "[They are] using their faith to be lazy."
     3)  "Knowledge can't hurt.  [Implies Christians act like it can.]
     4) "[Christians are] not willing to do the research."
     5)  "They really know nothing about ... [other alternatives]."
     6) "Christians don't do their homework." 
     7) "[They] know so little about their knowledge claims."

Notice how much of this has to do with knowledge and research.  It should cause Christians to pause and reflect.  Maybe we should research our pattern of behavior.  Are we leaving open a question as to whether we are willing to research something and simply let the evidence speak for itself?

One of the professors at Nashotah House (Seminary), where I am working on my S.T.M. thesis, pointed out to me that good research often means you do a good job of citing where things are found.  You make claims, but you tell where you searched and found them.  This insight has grown in importance with the knowledge explosion beyond the time of the Reformation, when citing sources was not their strength.  It is hard to re-trace their steps for how they arrived as a meaning for holy of "(moral) wholeness".  But what we can do is research the steps taken in the last 100 years plus and we can also search again using new exegetical tools that are more rigorous than just the tools of etymology that seem to have had great influence at the time of the Reformation.  

I conclude with one final thought  One of the things the professor said to me is that with research you just gotta do the work.  It comes down to that.  There are no shortcuts.  In Steve Jobs' (of Apple Computer fame) terms it comes down to not being caught up in great idea like any of the three possible definitions, but being caught up in the craft. 

In the specific instance of defining holy, it is crafting a great argument for the meaning of holy based on the best means for doing a word study.  It is as important as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak being able to build working components and a computer.  I have only found one great book on the meaning of holy that is a great example of a fully crafted word study on holy.  Its one limitation is its reliance on etymology and the testing then of only one of the three possible definitions.  It is God's Holy People: A Theme in Biblical Theology (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), by Jo Bailey Wells.  It just  begins to resemble Jobs and Wozniak's ability to craft a computer.

A word study on qadosh is the thing I need to craft.  The weakness I need to replace is that of the excessive usage of etymology.  Then when you and I do our research, we can find things for ourselves that tell us what Moses and the children of Israel heard when they heard qadosh.  We will be sure we have found what they understood rather than what we understand or we probably understand. 

Please do me one favor.  I want to focus more time on my research, because as I make more and more discoveries, I get more and more excited to get my research out to my fellow researchers like yourself.  Pray that God would grant me more time and more discipline (mainly the latter) to search again for things lost.  I hope your reading of this entry helped you find a few lost things.  May God help you to find other lost things as well.

In Christ, 


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Understanding Weaknesses

In a conversation earlier today, an attorney pointed out to me that: "Understanding your weaknesses makes you stronger".  He said this in relation to the results of tests that I had done recently.  He went on the add that: "Without knowing your weaknesses you are vulnerable in those areas".  Then he added further that "knowledge is power".   In many ways, my desire to work on the definition of holy is an acknowledgement of all of these three principles.  I want my readers to know that not knowing that "holy" defined as "set apart" has weaknesses really leaves a dangerous vulnerability. 

First, "Understanding your weaknesses makes you stronger".  I believe that acknowledging the weaknesses in the church's and Judaism's definition of holy is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength.  For many years, the definition of biblical "holy as "set apart" has existed as though it were invulnerable and without any weaknesses.  The reverse is actually true, but acknowledging this I believe builds strength.  To say that is more a probability than a certainty is far stronger than insisting that the probability does not exist and we are sure it means "set apart". 

Second, "Without knowing your weaknesses you are vulnerable in those areas".  I believe that the definition of holy is a weakness that most Christians and Jews are unaware of, so they are missing the greatest vulnerability of all that exists in interpreting the Bible.  When we are not aware of our weakness, we are very vulnerable.  Let me illustrate.

When I coached football, I believe that one of the reasons I was very successful from the beginning was that I understood the importance of attacking an opponents weaknesses.  Early in a game, I would test a wide variety of plays on offense or I would try a lot of different looks on defense looking for an area of weakness.  If the other coach was unaware of his team's weaknesses and I became aware of them, then the other team was unable to adjust to my taking advantage of their weakness.  On the other hand, if I found their weakness and they knew about it, then they could adjust and adapt to what I discovered.  They were not vulnerable like the coaches who did not know their weaknesses on the field. 

The same does hold true for our faith.  If our enemy is a prowling lion waiting to devour (and Satan is!), then we must know our weaknesses.  We must know that while the Protestant Reformers of the church from 1500s onward possessed great strengths,  we must be also aware of their weaknesses.  Unfortunately, after the Reformers died people emerged who claimed to be their disciples who wanted to claim they only possessed strengths without acknowledging their weaknesses.  This is precisely what brings the initial reforms to a deadly end. 

Related specifically to the definition of holy, there must be a recognition that the classical grammar of the past has weaknesses that fall short of the biblical example of biblical reform in Nehemiah 8.  This does not mean that classical grammar is to be tossed aside as not having value.  That is called throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  Rather it is keeping the baby, but also throwing out the bathwater!.  How can you get a clean baby without also having dirty bathwater? 

My skills in the area of linguistics largely help weaknesses in grammar to be acknowledged, but also it helps to see grammar's strengths as well.  My linguistics' professors were never purely destructive in their criticisms.  Instead, they avoided vulnerability through acknowledging weaknesses.  Are we doing the same?

Third, "Knowledge is power".  I agree that it is a part of being strong.  Ignorance is a form of weakness.  I don't see how anyone can question that.  Yet I was long ignorant of much of what I say about the definition of holy on this site.   Show me another place on-line that admits the weaknesses that I have found in the popular definition of holy. 

I was weak to the degree that I was also ignorant.  If my blog does only one thing (I believe it does more than one!), then it must at least expose the weakness of ignorance tied to the popular idea that holy means "set apart".  By itself, this does not positively prove the meaning of holy as being another definition, but it does open up one's eyes to real weakness.  Then strength can replace that weakness.


We cannot ignore knowledge.  That is real ignorance!  We must embrace knowledge as a friend.  Too much can give us a headache, but that is a lot better than the supposed bliss of ignorance.  That bliss leads to a worse result than King Solomon's headache from much learning.   It can lead to death. 

I hear so many people bemoaning the retreat from the historic Christian faith.  I think it would be far better to try to weaken that retreat by admitting weakness rather than pretending strength.  Then there is an opportunity to adapt to weakness and replace it with strength.  That does not mean all is weakness.  It does mean that there is some weakness.  Who does not have some other than God? 

Today, in my conversations not just with an attorney, but with others I had to admit weaknesses.  The recent examinations exposed weaknesses that I previously did not know existed.  I had a fuzzy idea what my weakness was in my work performance, but now I know it specifically and instead of that making me weaker it makes me stronger.  I can now adapt to where I am weak and minimize the damage.  Before I was very vulnerable, because I never was tested before for what was strong and what was weak. 

I also am being tested on the real life level.  I am not all weakness, but the fact that I am so vulnerable at times shows I am unaware sometimes of my own weaknesses.   My real life testing is not yet over, but in the end I will be stronger if I learn my weaknesses.  I am praying that I do!

The same goes for the definition of holy.  Let me list its contemporary weaknesses, if nothing is joined to the knowledge already possessed in the 20th ct.:

1) Its traditional (20 ct.) etymology is weak.  The good news is that by acknowledging this weakness there is the recognition that there is knowledge in this area that can be added.  How else is ignorance exposed?  It does not come through other ignorance. 
2) Its relation to cognate languages (languages related to Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) is weak.  Those languages do not add strength as much as weakness, because their number of examples are not large enough except for inside the biblical texts themselves. 
3) Its classical or traditional grammar has weaknesses.  Classical rhetoric has a healthier foundation.   Quintilian in rhetoric did a better job of setting the foundations that did Varra in grammar. Why not acknowledge this and  make grammar stronger by learning from rhetoric and linguistics?.  Grammar has strengths, but the weaknesses must also be addressed.  Go classical, but then add further strength.  Add strength to strength.  Don't add weakness to strength. 
4) Its progressive stance of "holy" means "set apart" has produced no measureable revival comparable to previous renewal or reformation movements prior to the 20 ct.  Maybe it is time to work then on the above weaknesses? 

Examine the SWOT chart shown above.  Acknowledging weakness is at first blush hard, but I think in the longer term it will produce the strength that is needed.  It is a threat if only the opposition is aware of it.  Then we are vulnerable.  But when we become aware of weakness, then that weakness can become an opportunity.  To be in a position of unknown weakness is to be vulnerable in the bad sense.  I hope admitting weaknesses today has been vulnerable in the good sense.  It builds opportunity.  Remember those words of the attorney: "Knowing your weaknesses makes you stronger".   It creates opportunity!   It lets you go from strength to strength!

Our problem is that we too often feel it makes us vulnerable, when the reverse is true.  If we can change our attitude from fear to confidence in facing weakness, then we can move forward adding knowledge to knowledge and adding strength to strength.  That is how it is supposed to be.  May God give us courage to cross the river of weakness to reach the shore of strength! 

In Christ,