Friday, December 27, 2013

Holy: Understanding Better the Resistance to Changing Definitions

I love the following opening lines from Thomas Paine's Common Sense:

     Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable
     to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial
     appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.  But
     tumult soon subsides.  Time makes more converts than reason.

Perhaps the view that I have expressed that holy by definition means moral wholeness does not seem like much in relationship to the long history of people assuming it means set apart, but as Paine says custom and its outcry of defense will eventually subside.  The need for time as well as reason is not an optional need.  People do need soak time with new ideas before they will set aside old ideas. 

I also agree that reason means something less than more time.  The reason for my position on the definition of holy is solid in regard to reason, but time honored custom is very hard to break.  So let's not be influenced so much by custom and by the superficial appearance of what is right.  Let's consider other options and then give time for these options to prove themselves right in more than a superficial way. 

John A. Lee's comments, as a biblical scholar on the status of Biblical lexicons, as sometimes preservers of tradition more than a producer of higher quality definitions is worthy of consideration.  He too warns about the superficial appearance of authority by the sheer number of lexicons that say the same thing.  But quantity is not the same as quality. 

Perhaps in time, Lee's wisdom and that of Paine's common sense will be taken more seriously and what first appeared right as a definition might then also be considered wrong.  That though will take time.  I only hope not too much longer. 

In Christ,


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Handel's Messiah

I love listening to Handel's Messiah this time of year.  Every year for many years, since going to a live performance of Handel's Messiah at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, MN, I have made a habit of listening to it before Christmas day.  I find it very uplifting.  This year it is even better and that is true though I will not be able to attend a live performance of it this year.  It is better, because I better understand the pattern of greater, lesser, greatest in Scripture.  Which means ....  It is also helping me see even better what holy then means. 

[to be continued - mental health is the key here]

In Christ,


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holy: Understanding It and other Great Things Better

You've heard of the "Greatest Show on Earth".  You've probably also heard of the "Greatest Commandment".   The thing in common between both of these is "Greatest".  My quest to determine the definition (the primary meaning) of holy has a lot to do with the idea of "Greatest".  I thought at one time that "holy" might be the most important word in the Bible and in one sense it is .  Well, it is one half of what is "greatest", so not way off.  It is clearly as important as "holy, holy, holy" indicates in both Isaiah and Revelation.  There are two words though that eclipse it in importance and they are:  "Yahweh" and "blessed".  So "holy" is for me the third greatest word in the Bible. 

Let me add a bit more to this to drive home my point about holy's position of greatness or importance.  "Yahweh" as in "holy is Yahweh" is more important than "holy".  Also  "Yahweh" as in "Blessed be His Name" is more important than "blessed".  We also see holy combined with blessed in in "blessed and sanctified" or "blessed and holy" as found in Genesis 2:1-3 and in Revelation.   What is missed is that in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek" there is a pattern in the order that shows importance. 

In Hebrew as in Greek, the "greater" precedes the "lesser".  That makes perfect sense even in English, but there is a VERY GREAT distinction that must be drawn.  In English we often place a greater in front of a lesser in the sense of a greater number and a lower number on the same level plane.  So we place 5 ahead of 4 on a numerical scale of what is greater.  That is not the way "greater" and "lesser" and even "greatest" is being used in Hebrew, (likely Aramaic), or Greek.  In this case it would be a good idea to draw from our memory of geometry where there is a vertical axis and a horizontal axis.  In Hebrew, the idea is that of the "greater" corresponding to the vertical line and the "lesser" corresponding to the horizontal and the "greatest" corresponding to where the two lines intersect with one another.  At that point the "greatest" may be at the point of 0,0 rather than out at 5.1, etc. 

I first got wind of this in the early 80s from an article on righteousness and justice and learning that they were not the same thing.  This was first brought to my attention by a Hebrew scholar, but he never fully convinced me as to what they each meant in that case.  That came 20 years later, when I was working in carpentry and noticed that Isaiah pointed out that righteousness corresponded to the plumb line and justice to the level line in carpentry.  This was an astonishing confirmation of what the Hebrew scholar had convinced me of 20 years prior, that the two words were not entirely synonymous.  This great scholar and my homely parable of carpentry experience verified a greater grasp of what these two words meant in definition.  I also learned that when both righteous and justice were meant then the Hebrew for justice was used and then translated into judgment to mean both together.  This was the practice that the early KJV translators saw practiced in the Old Testament by the Jews or Hebrews.

There is more to this.  In Greek, they refer to narrow definitions for a word and broad definitions.  This discussion is found in Aristotle among others.  Righteousness would be a narrow definition.  Justice would be a narrow definition.  Judgment would be the broad use of the word for justice meaning both righteousness and justice altogether. 

I think the thing that is holding the church back from anything "Great" happening like a "Great Awakening", another "The Reformation", another incredible revival, or another wonderful renewal movement is a failure to know and teach what things are great and what words point to that greatness in the Bible.  The last example I would like to use is that the Bible in the opening creation story speaks of great things God created.  Among then were the "greater light" to the light the day and the "lesser lights" to light the night.  To me the greatest thing about each is that the combination of them both is what makes God's creation the "greatest" we can imagine or think.  I hope and pray that the church especially can find its way back to the greatest things with admiration for both the greater and the lesser.  We need to pay attention to those things that are truly greatest and avoid the distractions of lesser things in life.  Poor judgment has become too common.  Thank you for reading my humble thoughts that attempt to point others to the greatest things. 

In Christ,


[I will be re-visiting this and making improvements as possible.12/11/13]

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Holy: Understanding It and Other Key Words Through the Analogy of Identity Theft

We all know about identity theft.  It is, I believe, the # one crime worldwide at present.  (Feel free to correct me, if I am wrong.)  In either case, I thought it was happening to me today when an unexpected charge ended up in my checking account.  Can we say bounce!   Fortunately, with the trouble that occurred the day before in my account, I had transferred nearly all my money elsewhere.  But something dawned on me.  I think this is what has happened to God's identity, the God of the Bible that is.  Not only is the identity of His holiness stolen, but  many other key words that identify who God really is, are also stolen.

Here is what I mean in terms of specifics.  The #1 most important word in the Bible is God's personal name.  His name, Yahweh, is usually seen as "LORD" and so is defined as lord in many Bible readers minds.  This is not actually who God is in terms of identity in those passages.  You might get the impression He's over-consumed with lordship.  The #2 most important word in the Bible is blessed.  This is usually defined as prosperity, but that is not accurate in Hebrew.  That is not who God is, when the Bible says "Bless Yahweh" (usually "the LORD" in translation).  The #3 most important word in the Bible is God's character summary, holy.  This is usually defined as set apart, but I can now make a tremendous case that this misses the mark by substituting holy's significance for its definition.  It is like getting not only the cart before the horse, but also in front of the driver in importance too.   The definition of holy is the greater party in this case before significance.  The #4 most important thing is not one word in English, but a group translated as "I am who I am".  This is the real key to understanding God's name, Yahweh, and what blessed means correctly.  #5 is a set of words that equal what holiness is and one of them is badly misunderstood and that word is love.  Its relationship to faith and hope is badly misunderstood.  Also in that same set of words that equal the part of holiness, the words righteousness and justice are treated wrongly as synonymous.  I wish I could present the argument for this last one right here. 

I know I have not given a great deal of evidence here.  You can find that elsewhere on my blog or you will have to trust my character for the moment, but later you will also be able to see the evidence for what I am saying.  What I am giving here is a brief summary of my conclusions.  I want you to see the results of my search and research in summary form, so you know that identity theft may have occurred and so you should be alert to what is happening.  Again, this is not the entry where I try to prove it.  That requires chapter and verse analysis.  You could call this my opening statement. 

So with these five mistaken notions, I think we can say that the identity of God in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of what is called the Bible is stolen.  You don't get the right identity, if you don't know the meaning of his name and his character.  Someone else has stolen His and He is not getting what he truly deserves for His real identity.  If you confuse these 5 words or groups enough, then you end up with a very sad picture of who God is in the Bible. 

I'm only interested in one God, the one in "The Book".   Have we gotten that identity right?  I think we have failed much more than many scholars and Christian leaders like to acknowledge.  The last I checked, identity theft is still a crime.  We need to catch the thieves and put them on trial for what they have done.  Then we can restore God's actual identity, so he can say again, "I am who [my name, etc.] says I am".   We might even begin to realize why God said what He did to Moses. 

In Christ,

Jon Westlund