Thursday, February 28, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Two Recent Books

If you are visiting this blog for the meaning of holy, it is a shame you and I cannot enter into a face to face conversation.  I am discovering relevant new material everyday.  It is impossible for me to express something about every discovery I make.  But every once in a while, I make discoveries that may tip the balance in understanding the meaning of holy. 

Whatever background you have grown up in, whether in church or synagogue, you have not seen or heard of some of the most profound books on the topic of the meaning of holy and on the topic of biblical interpretation.  The volume of them is beyond one person's reach. 

The issue is that holy or sanctification could mean one of the following definitions: 1) pure/purity, 2) set apart/separate, or 3) whole.  I want to introduce two books that advance the discussion considerably whatever position or positions you hold.

The first is: Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences.  It is written by Saul M. Olyan.  If you want to learn more about the book itself, click on:

The reason I recommend this book is because it touches by implication on the issue of holy means whole.  It has a great deal to say on the topic of holiness along that line.  He also expands on the work of the anthropologist Mary Douglas who says the same about the meaning of holy.

The second is: Conceptualizing Words for "God" Within the Pentateuch: A Cognitive-Semantic Investigation in Literary Context.   The author is Terrance R. Wardlaw.   If you want to learn more about the book itself, click on:  

I know the book looks daunting.  So does the link look that way as well!  What I will say is that its topic is great, since it is A1 on the list of high priorities in dealing with God's name.  It ranks first before the importance of this blog.  But my interest in the book is that the outline the author uses nearly mirrors the argument that I must make for the meaning of holy.  I won't have to write quite so densely, but the use of linguistics in the book for finding meaning in the biblical text is highly important.   It puts a method out there that is ready to use for good biblical exegesis. 

So I recommend both.  One for its development of the argument for the idea that holy means whole.  The other for its development of exegetical or interpretative method.  They are both raising the bar for those who want to really know the meaning of holy.  Thank you for taking time to read this entry.  It is my hope that it benefitted you today.

In Christ,


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better on the Map (the Bible)

So you are exploring the meaning of holy as it is found in the Bible.  That is wonderful.  It is extremely important, as is pointed out by those famous words  in Isaiah: "Holy, holy, holy ...."   Perhaps the best way to think of words is to think of them as tools to map out the territory.  In tandem, the territory equals real life.  Imagine having to go to new locations all the time with no map let alone without your GPS!  Worse yet, let's say your map was dated a bit and MapQuest did not show the street that you were looking for but instead a close equivalent!  I know the experience with MapQuest personally.  It can be frustrating, because it was supposed to make the trip easier rather than more difficult.  If we misunderstand the meaning of holy, then frustration and difficulty will be the outcome.  That is why the meaning of holy is not only important, but also relevant.  What if we are losing our way?   Let's look at the maps that are available for finding your destination. 

Well, there are three maps out there that have been used for the last 500 plus years.  The first map put in the bin historically grew out of the Protestant Reformation.  The definition of holy on that map is that holy means morally whole, but there is also a secondary definition.  The primary (or broad) definition is moral wholeness.  The secondary (narrow) definition is set apart.  The second map to be put in the bin historically was made mostly by Puritans.  The definition of holy on that map is pure.  The third map was made popular at the end of the 1800s and became more popular during the 1900s (20th century).  The definition of holy on that map is set apart.  This map also remains the most popular at the present moment.  That is what you find in most of the books and on most of the internet as you search.  There are other maps available with other definitions, but I have given you only the top three to simplify your decision-making. 

Understanding the Bible correctly is very important, when you consider that the effect of errant maps.  You can get lost, frustrated, or arrive late.  It is important to know the implications or effects isn't it?  This is the "why" behind my blog. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that even the best of us will face affliction.   Life is difficult enough without adding to the territory of life a bad map! 

So please know that these three maps are out there.  I am presently testing each one for accuracy.  The one that I have tested the most experientially since 2004 is the idea that holy means whole.   Before that and from my childhood, I was given the map that said holy means set apart.  So I was unintentionally testing that option the entire time.  I guess that I also tested the idea that holy means pure in my first 3 years of college.  I am also testing these three maps through writing a scholarly paper, where I will be using a linguistic and grammatical synthesis as my method. 

Please pray that God would grant me more resources to finish this task yet this spring (before May).  Then I will announce to everyone the results of that work.  Don't threw out any of the above maps away quite yet.  There are elements of truth in each one.  I'll let you know when you can settle in with the best one or a better replacement than any of the three. Do wisely as the ancient Jewish copyists did.  Place one definition as central in your life and keep the other two in your life's margin.  Thank you for reading this post. 

In Christ,


Friday, February 22, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through the Biblical Words for Whole

I'm sure you have arrived at my blog in search for the meaning of holy.  Let me say this from the top.  If you want your questions answered like "snappy answers to stupid questions", then you have arrived at the wrong place.  It is my intention to give thoughtful answers to great questions.  The answer to your great question: "What is the meaning of holy in the Bible?" requires more than a snappy (clever) answer.  It requires that you be aware of more than one option (pure, set apart, whole), that you research the topic, and that you draw a conclusion based on principles (not banners or bandwagons).  This entry, I think, will be one of the most important entries, because it is not just important to understand the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek behind the words translated as holy; but it is also important to understand the biblical meanings for each of the three options listed above.  The option that  I will explore in this case is the biblical meaning of whole and the biblical words for it. 

Let's start out with the Hebrew word kol (Strong's # 3605) and Greeke word holos (Strong's # ...).  

(I'll get back to this as time allows.  Thank you for your patience.  Please examine some of my other entries.  Thank you.)

Holy: Understandin the SAFEty of Each Definition

In my previous entry, I discussed an analogy for rating the possible biblical definitions of holy.   The top three candidates (in alphabetical order to avoid bias) are: 1) pure, 2) set apart, and 3) whole.  I now want to also discuss each definition from the standpoint of the SAFEty of each definition.  I want to use safe in two senses.  First, for its usual meaning as in safe versus dangerous option and then also as an acronym for how safety is produced in the case of definitions. 

If I were to suggest that I could help you be healthy, then I would have four goals for your physical health.  They are:

1)  Stable
2)  Aware
3)  Flexible
4)  Energetic

The first letter of each is where the acronym SAFE comes from as you can now easily see.  In the case of a healthy body it is likely that no one would argue with the value of each of these outcomes.  Well, let's see how that works out when comparing the 3 most likely candidates for the meaning of holiness or sanctification. 

First, I want to re-arrange this list to point out how I see each of these on the most basic level of the kinds of different meanings.  Those classes of meaning are: 1) whole (I will not comment on this, but assume it as a combination of the other four), 2) amount, 3) relationship, 4) action, and 5) thing.  (If you want to understand each of these better, please see my communication basics blog or search on-line for the TEAR method made popular by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), Dr. Eugene Albert Nida of the United Bible Societies, or by Wycliffe Bible Translators.)

1)  Stable - I see this as related to amount.  An ankle for example you want to have a certain range of motion, but also not too much or too little.  The first suggests a sprain or tear and the second suggests an ankle that is now supported by a brace or by the presence of inflammation that holds an injured joint in a condition of rigidity.  Neither a sprain nor rigidity is helpful. 

2)  Flexible - I see this as related to relationship.   Every professional athlete understands the need for stretching.  It is not just important that joints have a range of motion, but also that muscles not be bound too tight and that they maintain some flexibility.  Now here again, flexibility can be overly pursued at the expense of muscle development or muscle development can be pursued with a lack of flexibility.  For movement from one place to another and at all speeds that means the changing of one's relationship to other objects.  Let's not over-pursue strength or flexibility, so we can move from one position to another in a way that is helpful.

3)  Energetic - I see this as related to action.  Professional athletes know the importance of healthy carbs for performance.  Their bodies need fuel to play or compete at the highest level.  We can overdo it with carbs and leave our body in a state of excess energy which goes to waste in the form of excess fat.  The body also needs protein to energize the building of muscle.  In an anabolic state muscle can grow effectively without robbing other muscles.  In a catabolic state the body feeds on other muscle to get the muscle building capability it needs elsewhere (this is not good).  We can also fall into a deficit state during competition, because of all the demands for energy that our body must meet.  Let's not be guilty of excessive carbs or a lack of sugars to energize or power our bodies.

4)  Aware - I see this as related to thing.  My reasoning is this.  The athlete at any level must know or be aware of the game they are playing.  The rules of soccer and the rules of basketball are different.  In one you use your hands primarily and in the other you use your feet primarily.  That also means that being aware of how to kick a ball into a net may not be very helpful for sinking a ball through a hoop and net in basketball.  But also there are fundamentals that are helpful.  Working hard, playing as a teammate rather than a ball hog, etc.   Let's not then assume that all of our awareness is helpful for a different kind of thing or on the other hand that none of it is helpful.  Both of these views show a lack of awareness. 

I've laid out each of these analogies, as I have, in order to now speak to the issue of the three major options for defining holy.  Let's look at each in the same order

1) Stable as an amount - In our day, it is clear that the last 100 years have been predominately controlled by the idea that holy in the Bible means "set apart".  It has been the one option!  Please keep in mind that this is only the last 100 years and not for all time (it is found in parts of the Rabbinic tradition as well).  Before that and for at least 400 years (I'm still researching the prior 1500 years), the predominate definition was "whole" and "set apart" was seen as the secondary definition of holy in Protestant and Christian circles.  "Pure" was also in the same time period in Reformed, Presbyterian, or Puritan theology (but not always, including Calvin and Edwards), more than in any other denominational tradition.   The amount of time and the amount of people who held these definitions teaches an interesting lesson.  If we are to measure each in terms of their stability and hold on people's interpretations, the new order would be historically from most stable to least stable based on Protestant history): 1) whole, 2) set apart, and 3) pure.  Remember this is only a measure of stability in terms of amount of adherents and staying power (both forms of stability).  We cannot from this alone say that one definition is safer than another as far as likelihood of being the right or justified definition.  What it does do is put our judgment into a right framework.  Also we must avoid either too great of a range of motion (likely the case with set apart in liberal circles) or the rigidity of range of motion to protect a supposed sacred position (likely the case of conservatives since the late 1800s related to the infamous "Downgrade Controversy".) 

2) Flexibility as a relationship -  In our day, set apart is usually the meaning giving to holy without much give as to a secondary meaning.  Many other words are used also as words to define holy like consecrate, sanctify, separate, hallow, etc. depending on the context.  Normally, there are 5 major contexts including holy persons (names), holy things (temple), holy actions (sanctify), holy places (sanctuary, holy of holies), holy amounts (holier).  So this definition does show ample flexibility.  Likewise holy defined as whole had flexibility, even to the point of a secondary definition depending on the context.  There was a broad definition of holy that applied to contexts in which both sanctification and justification appeared (Lutherans primarily promoted this view).  But there was also a narrow definition that applied when there was not a context of justification.  I find this flexibility very awkward and it is likely a flaw in understanding, since it is hard to see how the core idea of whole is flexible enough based on context to mean set apart.  A flexibility based on context would have to be constructed differently for whole to be a possible definition for holy.  This can be improved.  Purity has flexibility much like set apart, so I will not say too much on that.  One thing about context though is very important.  This definition relies heavily on the presence of the meaning of pure in other words in the context of the biblical words usually translated as holy.  So I would conclude that whole as a definition has the most struggles with context in the older 500 year tradition, but this may be amendable, so that it can be considered along with the other 2 options as flexible in context.  Remember we are looking for a core definition that can be flexible when needed, but only based on context (not on arbitrary ideas). 

3) Energetic as an action - In our present time, set apart is a double-edged sword, when it comes to energy.  There is no question that this definition has a lot of energy behind it in its research and in its proclamation both from the pulpit and from books in the last 100 years.  For many evangelicals, this kind of holiness is needed for revival.  The other side of that sword is that it has had ample time and investment (including money) to where it should have produced results by now.  It by far dominates the lives of Christian believers around the globe as their paradigm and perception.  The question arises:"W hat would happen on an energy level were the other options given the same resources and energy?"  Let's say for example, that holy means moral wholeness.  During past revivals from Luther to Spurgeon, this was the predominant definition (with set apart secondary) and we see revivals of historic and classical proportions.  Purity on its side has set off smaller revivals like that among the Puritans in particular.  It never had the larger scale effect, but in its narrow sphere it energized believers.  The question is how much time will be committed to set apart to see a revival come again or rather should more time be dedicated to it?  Should we be considering other options for an energetic revival or reformation? 

4) Awareness as a thing - Maybe, it would be better to say awareness of things (or awareness of possible definitions).  I grew up with almost no awareness of what holy meant as a young Christian.  I do recall at least one instance of being bored as the pastor droned on and on about being holy and I had no idea what he meant.  I wasn't usually bored in church, but when you have no idea what they are talking about, it is hard not to be bored.  I also really had no awareness of moral wholeness as a definition (the combining of righteous and just, true and humble, love and perfect, and goodness and maturity).  I also had no awareness of the idea that hesed (Hebrew for steadfast kindness) might also be a rich form of whole kindness (the combining of mercy, grace, compassion and slowness to anger - see Exodus 34, etc.).  That awareness began for me in 2004 with my eyes opening to qadosh in Strong's dictionary and in finding many advocates on the internet (both past and present).  Set apart I think was a given in my Christian experience, though the connection with holiness was not real clear.  I grew up in an occasional fundamentalist atmosphere that certainly pursued being "set apart" from sinners.  Some adults around me were among those who lived by the banner of "come out and be separate", which was the banner of the Downgrade Controversy in the late 1800s.  This view is also supported in the older Jewish Rabbinic traditions supported by Rashi.  I will not say that all Jews agreed with this definition, since some have protested and presented other views.   Purity was in my awareness, once I hit college.  It was then that I was introduced to the Puritan tradition and to theologians like Charles Hodge (his father by the way, believed holy meant moral wholeness while Charles thought it meant pure).   One of the major reasons for my blog in the beginning was just to create awareness that there are two (later three) major options, not just one and also to diminish the excessive number of possible definitions and calm people's minds about the other 17 or more options (you can see all the other options I found in one of my entries in either 2011 or 2012). 

So now that I have covered the SAFEty of each option, I hope you will consider the safety of your choice for the definition of holy.   I have done my very best to try to be as fair as I could be to each one.  I am currently working on a paper on the meaning of holy, beginning with ancient Hebrew all the way up to its translation of hagios in the Septuagint and in the New Testament.  My goal is to make the choice of a definition among the top 3 options safer in both senses that I started with in the beginning of this blog entry.  May you feel safer already and may God grant me success in making the choice for the meaning of holy even safer!  Thank you so much for reading my humble views on the meaning of holy.

In Christ,


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Skill and Outcomes

Knowing the definition of holy is second in importance behind only knowing God's personal name.  This blog is not about what is God's personal name or  how to say God's personal name (I have a separate blog dedicated to that project), but it is still about a very important topic.  It is about the definition of the biblical words for holy.  The words that are critical for this study are the Hebrew word qadosh, the Aramaic word qaddiysh, and the Greek word hagios (and each of their derivatives - words that originate from them).  In this post, I want to talk about the skills necessary for determining the meaning of holy and the outcomes from those skills.

I want to being though with an illustration from last evening (2/18/13).   I heard a very good presentation on four skills for health and the four outcomes from those skills.  The presentation was well done.  I wish everyone concerned with their health could have attended, because the speaker did a much better job than I can of presenting the skills to improve one's health.  Let me introduce his ideas for health, as a way to illustrate the ideas behind a healthy definition of holy.

The four key outcomes (the "why?") for health were listed as (with my re-arrangement):

1)  Stable
2)  Flexible
3)  Energetic
4)  Aware

The four skills (the "how?") for these four outcomes were listed as (with my re-arrangement as corollaries):

1)  Reducing inflammation
2)  Journaling a coherent narrative
3)  Increasing energy
4)  Increasing complicated movements

If I were a doctor and I could tell you that you can have the four improved outcomes related to your physical health, then you would likely be overjoyed.  If I could introduce the same for the definition of holy, then we should be even more overjoyed.  What if we had a stable, flexible, energetic, and aware definition for holy? 

Some may think we already have just that after consulting a number of the major lexicons on-line, but that is a bit short-sighted.  Sometimes the internet is a great resource, but also it can vary in the quality of information that is available.  If you had a few dusty volumes from a traditional library, then you would discover that some lexicons and other books on the topic of holy acknowledge that there are aspects of defining the word for which we are uncertain (unaware) and that the current most popular definition of "set apart" is actually controversial (unstable).  

Wouldn't it be better, if we could reduce the controversy about the meaning of holy like reducing inflammation?   Wouldn't it also be better, if we have a narrative addressing all the facts on the history of defining holy like journaling a coherent narrative?   Wouldn't it be better still, if more people were devoted to the project like giving increasing energy?   And finally, wouldn't it be better yet, if we define the word with a more complex process like being able to do increasing complicated movements that test a brain's awareness? 

One problem is that assumed stability in the definition of holy does not substitute for stability without a crutch.  It is a crutch to say that their is no controversy about the meaning of holy.  That is like saying that my sprained ankle is stable, while I move down the hall using crutches.  There is inflammation there rigidly preventing my joint from bending until full healing occurs.  The problem is also that without true stability, my ankle join is also chaotic.  It can be re-injured very easily since it lacks stability still.  The ankle is still unstable, until I am able to remove the crutches during the time of rigidity and until I go through therapy to restore the ankle's own stability that can stand on its own without assistance.  It is a crutch to say that the meaning of holy is stable.  There exists disagreements.  Disagreements or injuries tend to produce fire in the body of those who disputing.  Holy has competing definitions that have been offered and it has at least two or three serious competitors for its definition.  I am writing this blog, because I think it can be stabilized to one biblical definition that was intended by the original authors.  But this comes about by reducing the fire of disagreement and by restoring things to a stable state.  Acute disagreement can be a good thing provided chronic disagreement is not acceptable.  The first does good like the ankle's inflammation when it is injured.  The second is harmful as a problem fester's into a chronic state.  I am afraid this is where things are stuck without effort to dislodge disagreement. 

Another problem is that collecting the facts of the history of the meaning of holy does not substitute for a coherent narrative of the history of the meaning of holy.  Most books I have read on the definition of holy do not include a narrative, but begin from a supposed "true" etymology.  The problem is that the etymology involves more speculation than it does contemporary historical record for its meaning.  This does not mean etymology is irrelevant as some seem to suppose or that it is worthless as others suppose.   (James Barr and D. A. Carson seem to go a bit too far in their criticisms of etymology.)  What it does mean is that the narrative for the definition of holy should include not only a speculative narrative about the meaning of holy in ancient times, but also a narrative of meanings given to it over time that is coherent rather than a collection of facts.  Concordances and lexicons usually only give a collection of facts of how a word has been translated rather than giving a true definition or a narrative for how each meaning connects with another.  A coherent narrative would show more connections over time, rather than just a vast leap back in history or a mere pile of facts (called "glosses" by Eugene A. Nida).  That means that the definition of holy as "set apart" has connections that are relevant that need to be disclosed through a coherent narrative as does "whole" or "pure" or even "holy" itself as chosen by early English translators as a perceived connection between Hebrew culture and English culture.

Still another problem is that there does not seem to be an increase in energy in studying the meaning of holy, but a reduced energy.  Work and investment to define holy don't seem to have the energy it once had.  Exegetical method, however, does seem to have a lot of energy going into it, which is a positive.  It is not energetic work to look up the meaning of holy through on-line lexicons.  The work has already been done.  What is work is carrying out a skillful process of testing the three major different definitions side by side ("pure", "set apart", and "whole").  What is also missing is lively interest and the different kinds of investing.  The speaker last evening has written in his notes: "No action, no good outcomes".   I don't see how we will get to a better place of defining holy without interest, action, and investment as energies.  People need activities that excite them, not that just give them a chance to rest.  Rest is our activity for the better part of one day each week, not every day.  One of the major objects of my research has been to uncover the basic process used in Nehemiah 8 that should give us new zest and energy for the possibilities that were once impossible.  Maybe we just need to believe more in the possibilities of present and future energy.  I find Nehemiah's 8's: 1) Translate,  2) Transfer, 3) Total, 4) Train, and 5) Teach process to be energy producing.  The body's cellular ability to produce energy declines by 1% per year and is irreversible up to this point, but I don't see that has to be the case with exegetical, interpretative, or hermeneutical method.  Let's be energized rather than lethargic. 

Finally, another problem is that awareness can slip away easily.  A kind of brain fog can overcome the church as well as individuals.  It goes beyond just amnesia and Alzheimer's Disease.  A person who is totally sleep deprived may fail a test due to their sleep deprivation, but they at least are aware that they failed.  More dangerous are those who get a few hours each night and fail the same test, but are not self-aware when failure happens.  These results came from a recent study of differing kinds of sleep deprivation.  Doing exegesis properly is a complicated process, but it need not be too complicated.  It does not consist of just etymology or just word usage.  One or the other of those is too simple.  The process consists of the total basic method as found in Nehemiah 8.  And it is important to be aware that these steps in Nehemiah 8 are basic steps.  It is also important to be aware that there are more complex steps like textual criticism that may or may not be necessary in exegesis or interpretation in discussing a particular word's meaning.  The basics are themselves complicated in that there is more than one differentiated component to the process, but these basics are also integrated into one total process.  The ways to test our brains is by the use of increasing complicated methods.  While we might be clumsy at first with complicated movements, our brain can learn new tricks and be better at becoming aware and developing awareness.  Let's be aware of outcomes rather than being failures and unaware of our failures.  Let's also be wide awake and aware of successes.  Greater awareness is available. 

In summary, it is important to integrate all the differentiated outcomes of: 1) stability, 2) flexibility, 3) increased energy, and 4) awareness to get health.  These combine together to produce not just physical health, but as illustrated above, a healthy definition as well.  This is the kind of definition that I am working toward.  I believe that the method of translation gives stability to a definition.  I also believe that the method of transfer also gives flexibility (as in context) to a definition.  I further believe that the basic four or five step method of Nehemiah 8 gives energy to a definition.  I finally believe that using a more complicated method than just etymology (with plausibility) or just usage (with possible parallels) is greater in awareness than those methods alone.  The brain should be tested for its awareness of differentiated components through a complex method that is able to grow into even more complex methods, as needed.  It should never stop at just two possible components for a word study.  That shows a general lack of awareness for how language works as a system with differentiated components that need to be integrated together.
Now let's return full circle to my earlier layout on the outcomes and skills for physical health, but this time I will replace the skills with those relating to studying meanings in the Bible.  The four key outcomes (the "why?") for definitions were listed earlier as:

1)  Stable
2)  Flexible
3)  Energetic
4)  Aware

The four skills (the "how?") for these four outcomes were listed earlier as ("Total" [see above] refers to the four integrated into a whole):

1)  Translation
2)  Transfer
3)  Train
4)  Teach

So I was energized by last nights presenter, not just because of insights into my physical health, but also for insights into the health of defining the word holy.  In particular, he offers another way to look at outcomes like those I hope to produce from writing in this blog and in my post-graduate paper.  I am very committed to a definition of holy that deserves the categorization of it as healthy: one that includes all the four outcomes, not just one or two. 

So, if you don't find me giving you the one definition for holy based on a scholarly study right here and right now, it is only because there is a process that I have to follow like anyone else to deserve the name of contemporary scholarship.  This does not mean that I don't think that some prior studies are adequate.  I think exactly the opposite.  But it is important to understand that prior church history (before the last 100 years), gave the definition of "whole", that still deserves recognition, for its classic definition.  "Whole" is likely the primary reason why "holy" was chosen to translate qadosh, etc. by early English translators.  I prefer to fall back on the well-established (with its two best competitors as still considered) and then move forward to a contemporary study, as a way to prove or disprove the well-established (stable).  I prefer not to go with a definition (like "set apart") that is not as highly stable, until I have first completed a contemporary study of holy that has scholarly merit.  But make no mistake, I am not waiting without any options for the here and now. 

I believe firmly in a "now and not yet" status not only for the kingdom of God, but also for what I know in this present age.  The "not yet" completed nature of my study does not hold me back to the point of having no position today.  It only means that improvements in stability, flexibility, increased energy, and awareness are potential opportunities in the "not yet" future.  That is what I would like to contribute, Lord willing.  Many thanks to you for taking time to read my blog.  My hope and prayer is that you have benefitted from it. 

In Christ,



Monday, February 11, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Understanding Perfect Better

At times the biblical word for holy is defined by scholars and theologians by the word "perfect".  This is a word many people have come to avoid, if not to also hate.  They will recite perfectionism and the harm it did to them personally.  The way we define it in English, it is something unattainable.  But what if biblical perfection is something different from our definition and what if that can help us understand holy better?  So what I want to do in this post is to define perfect and also relate it to holy. 

Perfect means per-the-goal.  Perfection is relative or absolute depending on the goal attached to it in a particular context.  It is not always referring to a final goal.  It can refer to other goals along the way to a final goal. 

Perfect in this life 

Perfect in the next life 

Love and perfection

Perfect love 

Perfect is related to Hebrew words translated as whole. 

[This is still in process  ... please check other entries in the meantime. ] 

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Understanding Uncertainty

The fiscal cliff that we are told will arrive at the beginning of this next year is causing a lot of jitters and volatility in the markets.  But even now it is wrecking havoc due to the uncertainty of whether it will happen or not.  The main concern of the financial experts is that what is weighing on things now is the uncertainty that exists until this issue is addressed.  People are waiting until all the uncertainty is out of the market.  So it is not just the fiscal cliff that is harmful, it is also the uncertainty associated with it.  This is also true for the uncertainty about the meaning of holy.  It can be paralyzing.  It can make things volatile.  It can cause people to wait and to wait and to wait, when action is needed.  So why not address it? 

I have tried to address the issue of uncertainty on the topic of what holy means, yet still the issue is pushed off to the future based on the scholarly activity that is not happening to address the uncertainty.  Some Christians are unwilling to commit to any course until the uncertainty is removed.  It is not just financial markets that function this way.  It is also influencing the spiritual atmosphere as well. 

There is a time for concealing and there is a time for revealing.  I have chosen to see our time as a time for revealing and removing the uncertainty that exists about the meaning of holy rather than concealing it. 

Many books cover the topic of holy and conceal the uncertainty by default.  But in many ways this is like pushing the fiscal cliff further out there.  Spiritually, Christianity is being faced with its own dire spiritual cliff.  The uncertainty can't be concealed once it is let out the hat and yet some scholarship by default conceals the uncertainty of the meaning of holy by trying to push back into the pandora's box after it has been opened. 

People are waiting for the uncertainty involved in the meaning of holy to be addressed and removed.  They can see the attempts to push it back into the box as a failure.  The point is they are waiting for a solution.  So they are not committing, not acting and not choosing.  That is harmful.  We cannot ask people to wait forever.  When will scholars get together instead of forcing onto others an endless waiting game where uncertainty itself is dangerous?   

We cannot afford to endlessly wait anymore than an economic system can keep pushing back a fiscal cliff.  At some point that is sooner rather than later, a solution must be drawn up that eliminates at least a good measure of uncertainty and volatility among those who hold to differing views.  Can we afford to not know the meaning with certainty for the second most important word in the entire biblical text? 

I don't think we can do this endlessly and yet how different is our situation from that of the economy in relation to an uncertain fiscal cliff?  Can we say that 7%, 25%, 55%, etc. certainty is good enough?  Would it not be better to remove the uncertainty, when it can be done in fairly quick order?  That is what I wish I could do and yet so often I see the uncertainty of the situation lead to delays rather than fast action.  Endless, endless, endless delays without and end in sight.    

When will the uncertainty end?   When will we have exhausted the many days of that are given to us?  I don't know, but I think it best to think of today as the day to at least commit to end the uncertainty and not tomorrow.  Tomorrow might be too late and waiting and waiting and waiting is not the thing to do, when tomorrow may be just that.  It is not wise in the area of economics.  Is it any wiser in the area of spiritual salvation? 

Do you enjoy the idea of maybe falling off a cliff?  I don't.  I'm out to avoid it.  I want not only to know what holy means, but to also end the effects of the weight of uncertainty.  I want to end  it as soon as possible.  Let's join together and get it done.  Thank you for taking the time to read this entry on my blog. 



Holy: Understanding it Better Through the Hebrew for Whole

If you want to know the definition for the word holy, it is important that you also understand the words that are used in its definition.  There are a number of words like hallow for the word holy.    Some scholars would call "hallow" a gloss (how a word is translated in a particular context) and not a definition.  But there is also words that are suggested as its definition that we must also understand clearly from the biblical text.  The  most important three are: 1) pure, 2) set apart, and 3) whole.  These are not just possible definitions for holy, but also words that are found elsewhere in the biblical text in an English translation.  What I would like to in this post is help people understand the word "whole" better as a translation for the Hebrew word "kol" (Strong's #s 3605, 3606, [see 3634]). 

One of the most significant things about the Hebrew for "whole" is its enormous frequency, but you would not be aware of it unless you know what I am about to explain or you know Hebrew and have checked it out in an exhaustive Hebrew concordance or computer concordance.  The difficulty of seeing "whole's" frequency or importance arises out the Greek Septuagint's translation of "kol" from the Hebrew.  It uses two Greek words for what is in the original Hebrew one word.  This was not necessarily a problem for the original readers or hearers of the text in Greek, but it may now be a problem for us who speak English. 

It is always interesting to hear or read something by someone who is writing or speaking in a second language that they learned after their first language.  They struggle a little with English grammar.  Maybe even more than you or I!  This is because the grammar of English is not universal to all languages.  There are changes that must be made or adapted to in order to say things fluidly in English. 

Likewise in moving from Hebrew to Greek, there are changes in the grammar and not just the change in what word or words is going to express an idea from another language.  In the case of translating "whole" from Hebrew to Greek we read in Gesenius' lexicon the following regarding the first definition of kol as "whole": 

     ...  in English this has to be expressed either by 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 makes perfect sense to me personally, because I had been practicing putting "the whole of" in place of "all" each time I ran across "kol" in the Hebrew.  Gesenius was aware that sometimes in one language adjustments must be made by necessity ("has to be rendered" - a quote from elsewhere in his entry) from another.  In this case, the Greek Septuagint and apparently other Western languages like English had to render things differently than the Hebrew text does.  But the issue also goes beyond just the translation or rendering to what did the people who read the translation understand.  Did the Greeks, Hellenists, or Hellenized Jews understand that "all" can also refer to "the whole of"? 

They may have understood that idea.  The meaning of "all" may also have been used to refer to the "whole" and the readers may have been aware of this.  As an English speaker this does happen where we use "all" to indicate the whole.  If someone asks me whether I have finished re-assembling my bike I might reply: "It is all done" rather than stating: The bike is once again whole".  "It is all done" does not mean that I would be unaware that the bike is also now "whole", but it could mean that I am weakly aware of it rather than strongly aware of the reference to being whole.  Maybe the Hebrews and the Greeks were strongly aware in the biblical text where "whole" is found while we are only weakly aware of the same.

The problem for us in English is that though I may have a slight inclination toward realizing I just said something about the bike being whole, I may not be as aware as those who spoke that way in Greek or in the context of speaking in both Hebrew and Greek.  The idea of "whole" may have been more explicit to them than it is to us future Westerners who speak English.  So maybe we need to re-think using the word "all" now, though it made perfect sense from the time of the penning of the Septuagint and at least until the first century,  So what about the twenty-first century?

I think in the twenty-first century we may need a re-introduction of "the whole of" in place of "all" in our translations.   The other alternative would be to train people explicitly that "all" is sometimes used in place of "the whole of", but that might be far more difficult.  In any case, if you are reading an English translation, you might be missing "the whole of" as you are reading, even while people in the first century did not. 

Here is an example.  The word for catholic coming out of the Hebrew and made up of Greek morphemes that are transliterated into English is literally "according to the whole".  When you look at the Greek Septuagint translation, you will tend to see it as "according to all".  One of the reasons that I prefer catholic over universal is because it shows "whole" in the morpheme (part of a word with meaning) "hol" and universal shows "all" in the morpheme "al".   Catholic is properly "according to the whole", when you read the original Hebrew text.  I do think that "according to all" could have meant the same thing as "according to the whole" in the first century.  I am not sure though that this works in English.  We are at least twenty centuries removed!

So let's tend toward clarity and toward being meaningful.  Let's say "the whole of", when we mean "whole" and then "all" may have to become a narrower word; unless we can make it clear to English speakers that "all" is also in some contexts a way to speak of the "whole" and we must know the difference.  Let's realize that "whole" is very frequent in the Hebrew and that "all" in Greek "pas" sometimes means in the Hebrew "kol", "the whole of".  By separating these two ideas by assigning one as part of the part-whole semantic domain (a group of words that are similar in terms of meaning) and the other as part of the amount semantic domain, we may also gain a great deal more meaningfulness behind using the word "whole" in a biblical context and in an English translation.  It may also help us see better in the original Hebrew (and translated Greek), if there is a close relationship between "holy" and "whole" not only in English, but also possibly in Hebrew.  That is the Hebrew's kol's significance in relation to Hebrew's qadosh.  Thank you for taking time to read my post.

In Christ,