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. 

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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,