Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Lost and Found

Many people look up the definition of holy in an on-line or conventional English dictionary, hoping to discover an accurate definition for the meaning of holy in their English Bible.  Scholars and their students take this a step further and look in Hebrew-English or Greek-English lexicons.  Both of these tools can help or hinder discovery.  They can block discovery, because many people have built their lives around a definition that they were given and so they are fearful of considering another option.  Discovery or finding the lost is left for people like Albert Einstein, who once said:

     I am thankful to all those who said NO to me. 
     It's because of them I did it myself.

I am also grateful to scholars saying NO to researching the meaning of holy.  Some scholars have built their theologies around the definition of "set apart".  So they are fearful of admitting they might be making nonsense of the biblical text.  Let's look at whether we live in a time of discovery or concealment.  Is what we are given real or fake?  Have we found something or lost something? 

My entire quest for the definition of holy began when a very good professor suggested a different definition for holy than "set apart", based on his inductive approach to Scripture.  It is a method of exegesis or interpretation where Scripture is to speak for itself as much as possible on its own terms without interference from outside sources.  He gave me an awareness of other options for the meaning of holy besides "set apart".  This was the first crack of light for me toward discovery.  

What really caught my attention years later was when I found something that was otherwise lost in other source materials in researching the meaning of holy.  It was the English gloss or definition of holy as "wholly" in Strong's Concordance's dictionary.  I had never seen or heard of that idea before that eureka moment.  It was clear to me that this possible meaning had been lost, since I was then in my forties, I grew up in the church, I attended Christian educational institutions, and yet I had never heard this definition before.  I then discovered further that Strong's Concordance was not alone.  I found it in many other places in short succession through the power of the internet. 

Now something being lost and then found does not mean that the discovery is valuable just because it is found, but it still means that there should be curiosity.  Its being lost means concealment was happening whether intentional or not.  Discoveries can be worthless and they can be extremely valuable, but either way discovery means that something is found that was previously lost.  One of the great motivators behind this blog was to be a place where people could come and discover for themselves the possible meanings of holy and its one primary biblical meaning. 

We need to recall a quote from Aristotle at this point: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."   Unfortunately, the mark of an educated mind today is not the same.  Entertaining a thought is seen more and more as synonymous with acceptance.  I want you to consider "wholly" as a possible meaning for holy without accepting it prematurely. 

We've all heard of "lost and found" where people can pick up lost possessions.  The sequence of lost and found looks something like this: 1) in possession,  2) lost or not found, 3) search or retrace steps, 4) discover or uncover, found, 5) in possession again, 6) lost again or re-lost or not re-found, 7) researched or searched again or retrace steps yet again, 8) re-discovered or re-uncovered, found again, 9) in possession yet again, and 10) etc.  You probably know this sequence experientially.  I hope it is not happening to you right now with things like car keys and house keys!

The hard part is determining which of these 9, etc. situations do we find ourselves in.  The situation or season determines what is the course of action that we should take. 

I mentioned earlier that the meaning I found in 2004 was a new discovery for me.  The meaning of "wholly" had been lost by the time I was on the scene.  You could say at the time of discovery what I was doing was retracing the steps of previous translators in determining the meaning of holy.  This work was largely found in the translation called the KJV (or King James Version).  Translation wars are irrelevant here.  The point is what did they think was the meaning of holy at this earlier time of English translation history? 

The Bible is significant because it represents holy and its meaning as something the people who heard it at the time possessed.  The problem is that since that time, meanings can get lost.  The solution is that they also can be re-discovered or researched. 

Research is what I am currently doing on the topic of the definition of holy.   It is both tedious at times, but also exhilarating.  Discoveries are exciting! 

Research is not needed, if nothing has ever been lost; but losing things and meanings is a too frequent problem.  Because of the problem of people losing things, I am going to do the research only because others who I encouraged to do the research have said "NO" to the project.  Saying "YES" is the goal of this blog.  It is saying, "YES" to researching the biblical meaning of holy to where I can say the findings are valuable.  Please join with me in this quest not for a Holy Grail, but for the biblical meaning of holy as it was once possessed in the time and place the books of the Bible were written.  It is the standard for "in possession".  God bless you this day. 

In Christ,