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.]