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,