Friday, January 31, 2014

Holy: Understanding It Better Through Understanding the Word Studies

We live in the age of studies.  You know we do, because you hear all the time on the morning news about this study or that on a new medication or an established supplement to use the most common example.  It can be mind boggling, but it does not have to be.   The same goes for word studies for biblical words.  They don't have to be mind boggling either.  The key is to know how to distinguish between a good word study and a bad word study. 

I am not sure how many word studies have been performed on the meaning of holy, but the number is staggering.  I eventually will have a bibliography that I can publish that will list the vast majority.  What I want to do is save some of the trouble of sifting through all of them and letting you know about the key ones. 

Some of the key ones are these:

Published studies

Wells, Jo Bailey.  A Holy Nation: Israel's Call to Holiness in Canonical Perspective.

Botterweck, TDOT



Douglas, Mary

Clines, David J. A.

VanGemeren, Willem A.

Kittel, Gerhard.  Theological Dictionary New Testament (TDNT)

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT)

Brown, Colin.  The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 

Cremer, Hermann.  Biblio-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek,

Studies in Pre-Publication (Dissertations, etc.)

Wells, Jo Bailey.  A Holy Nation: Israel's Call to Holiness in Canonical Perspective.

Studies in Progress (Blogs, etc.)



Ross, Allen P.  Old Testament Word Studies: Qadosh

Word studies in General  (How to do a Word Study)

Lee, John A. L.

[This is the very beginning of what I will be an important entry.  I am now going to be able to resume having more time after life events have made things difficult since last spring.  I apologize for all the delays.  Thank you for your understanding.]


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better Despite the Hype or Conspiracy Theory

I was taught a great principle many years ago.  It is that it is best approach to a would-be customer is to "under-promise and over-deliver" rather than the reverse.  Despite this good advice, many people still make the same mistake - they over-promise.  When you do that you open yourself to the charge of just offering a lot of hype along with broken promises.  But hype is not the only danger.  You also have to avoid the conspiracy theory - the idea that all promises are made to be broken.  This is the fear of promises being there just to bring you aboard before you discover that the attitude of promises are made to be broken and that high expectations are meant to crumble.  So how do you know if you have got a legitimate promise from a scholar or non-scholar as to what holy means in the Bible? 

First, I know from experience the meaning of being over-promised.  One thing that happens in Christian circles is that Christians over-promise what God's promises are for this life.  Bad things never happen to good people.  The truth is that this life includes the promise and guarantee of persecution.  To say that your life in this life will be changed dramatically needs to be qualified.  It is not an over-promise when it comes to eternity, but it is a dangerous promise for this life.  We live in a day when manic-depression is becoming more and more common place.  Could it be that people are becoming more manic though over-promises that they take seriously?  They think everything will have a fairy tale ending.  How much better if we promised people promises that can be kept?  

Second, I also know from experience the meaning of every opportunity being seen as a conspiracy.  Good things never happen to good people.  We're always under attack from the persecutors.  Good things happen only to those who compromise their principles and avoid persecution.  I've heard my fair share of this kind of talk as well.  I call it the radio talk show host syndrome.  Drum up enough sentiment that the end is near and that all is going not well.  Everyone knows the great conspiracy is winning without our seeing it.  But is that a promise that is for sure?  Do we really know the secret will of God?  I thought so.  We don't.  And maybe depression could be lifted too if people did not experience so often the broken promises of fairy tales and conspiracy theories?  Who knows. 

So now let's look at the definition of holy.  Scholars promise people that they will help people become consciously aware of what the Bible in the original languages is saying to us.   If they are not, then they promise to be open about their uncertainty and be real with us.   So far, so good it seems.  But some Christian scholars even promise that in God's secret providence they know that on the major things in the Bible that the church cannot be wrong.  As good evangelicals or otherwise, they know God would not let us down in this way.  I find this over-promise very interesting, because if that is true, then God would never allow the church to not have the definition of holy wrong.  The problem is that the church has contradicted itself over time as to what holy means in the Bible.  So some Christians (those who call themselves by that name) must be wrong on a major topic. 

I have proven many times before that at least since the Reformation, the primary definition of holy for the five major Protestant Reformers is that holy meant moral wholeness.  The problem is that today many evangelical followers of these leaders have a different definition for holy. They say it means set apart.  In between these two periods there were also some who claimed it meant pure.  So if God keeps us always aware in His providence of the meaning of major words in Scripture, then how are these contradictions possible?   There is another example of a major in Scripture having a problem the church is not sure how to solve. How can the Greatest Commandment (a major in the Bible), be quoted differently in Scripture?  I thought we always know the majors?  Returning again to holy, you can find the idea of set apart with moral wholeness in the older literature, but moral wholeness was the primary then unlike now.  Up to this moment, you usually find set apart as the definition with little or no mention of moral wholeness.  It is not even treated as secondary.  It is treated as blatantly mistaken.  I think we have an over-promise being made about God's providence in hat case.  Majors in the Bible do not automatically mean that the church is not making any errors in its understanding through history.  Not only that, but it flatly contradicts biblical history with its ebb and flow of God's people understanding God Himself correctly.  That Biblical history to me is the real promise in history that should be promoted.  Despite errors in understanding and elsewhere, the Jews survived.  So can Christians today, based on God's providence for the Jews. 

If biblical history was our guide for how much God really promises rather than our thinking we know the secret things of God in history, then I think we would not be so afraid of admitting our errors.  Right now, to admit our errors is tantamount to saying God has let us down, because we have created a false promise or an over-promise that has people saying the church is all hype.  That in turns can create a great deal of conspiracy theorists who realize that people are then disillusioned.  The over-promise of understanding the Bible on major things all the time has got to get out of the way for God's real promises to be fulfilled.  

Luther discovered a misunderstanding, Calvin a misunderstanding, Cranmer a misunderstanding, Wesley a misunderstanding, and Spurgeon a misunderstanding within the church's theology or teaching.  Don't think that our generation of Christian's is automatically an exception to the rule of what God has done previously.  He has let the church drift away through its own failure.  He does not guarantee that we are right, because He is right.  He guarantees to right us when we seek His face.  Not on everything, not on the majors, not all the time, not to equal perfection, and not just because we think we are consciously aware of what God is secretly doing.  He does it all according to His will including both what we know and what we don't know. 

If I had to guess the #1 reason that few people today (who knows about tomorrow) take seriously the definition of moral wholeness, I would say it is because of all the false hype. The promises that have been promised that have not been kept.  People everywhere are disillusioned by the over-promises of the past.  Here is what I can promise.  I will trust God that whatever level of understanding He gives me of his Word, He gives it to me in accordance with His promises and not according to some excessive hype nor due to some conspiracy that all churches are liars about God's promises and Christian understanding of Scripture. 

Christians need to do the work. God never promised good fruit without a good tree.  And a good tree comes from a good gardener who works his orchards.  He does not just assume what the weather will be like.  He trusts God through the wind and the rain as well as through the calm and the sunshine.  Good Christians know that the question is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on His side, because He does not guarantee that we always fight for what pleases Him.  He only promises that He always fights for what is right and will give us light as He sees fit to give us light. 

Please let go of over-promises and find the great promises of God as we come up on that season where God's Son rose from the dead even as He promised.  Ah, a real promise that is kept.  Now that's how we all ought to like it.  God that time really over-delivered!