Friday, February 28, 2014

Holy: Understanding It Better Through Understanding Persuasion Better

We can all be really gullible sometimes.  The discussion surrounding the meaning of LORD/Yahweh, blessed, and holy all clearly demonstrate the danger.  This danger is aggravated or heightened by the fact that each of these words are critical to understanding God's Word as a whole.  When I ask people around me about how they discern an expert opinion from one that is not, they tell me they are very confused by all the different opinions.  I personally know the feeling, but I also know a way out from all the different views and how to find a viable agreement among the experts. 

Let me first remove some gullibility by explaining how you and I are persuaded by others.  When you know how people persuade you, then it dramatically reduces your gullibility and makes you able to make your own decisions.  How you are persuaded is not necessarily evil.  It is like someone who knows any skill.  It can be used or abused.  It can be used for people's own selfish ends or for ends that advance not only selfish ends but the other's ends as well.  Any skill can become something that conforms to love your neighbor as much as yourself.  So persuasion as a skill does not always have to lead to love myself more than I love my neighbor.  So what we need to know is when people are abusing persuasion skillfully and when they are using persuasion skillfully.

In The Complete Idiot's Guide to Persuasion, the author uses the analogy of a cascade to illustrate how persuasion works.  He identifies this sequence to bring about a communication cascade toward persuasion.  The steps are:

1) reception
2) processing
3) response, and
4) behavior.

So if these are the steps, let me give you the simplest explanation of each.  I will get you a one sentence definition of each.  Here is each one:

1) reception - it is the first dawn of awareness that there is something new out there and it needs to saturate communities with its message  (ex. 2004 is when I first heard something new about holy - that it can mean moral wholeness and I found it in lots of communities of faith)

2) processing - it is discerning whether the light bulb in your receiver's mind is bright or dim and realizing that sometimes people are highly willing (the light bulb burns brightly) and other times not so much so (the light bulb burns dimly), so you have to move the dimmer switch to burn more brightly before there will be willing processing to maintain and make time for what is needed (ex. for the next 10 years, I processed the idea of moral wholeness and other ideas related to holy)

3) response - it is that point when the processing turns to action through demonstrating a favorable outcome through key motivators like easy, fun, and popular.  The author here recognizes that we are adults, so the geek speak or adult equivalent for each of these is self-efficacy, attitude, and norms.  The message has to create strong intentions or goals and strong motivators.  (ex. it was easy [I could do it] using Eugene Nida's word classes to play around [attitude] with possible meanings for holy looking for the one that ought to be popular [fit the norm of biblical])

4) behavior - this is where a TACTful view is required according to this author by getting very specific about behavior, not just a generic response.  Unfortunately, the author is not specific enough to satisfy a high school level mind, so I will add to their "TACTful view" a more "TACTFUL VIEW".  Here it goes:

T) Target - who?
A) Action - how?
C) Context - where?
T) Time - when?
F) Fun - why?
U) Uncommon - which?
L) Label - what?
V) Vigorous - whole?
I) Intense - how many?
E) Enough - how much?
W) Way - all the way through all 10 of these or persuasion behavior will fail

Unfortunately, many people are persuaded even with huge gaps in answering these questions that the mind requires answers to before it finds what it is looking for ultimately.  So if you want to avoid gullibility, then avoid persuasion that leaves you feeling these are not questions they answer, but questions they leave out.  Even today, as I write, this one entry should not a case make.  You need to read other of my entries too (read the newest first!).  The only case I am making today that might be fully persuasive is that this is how persuasion works for the good (and unfortunately sometimes to the bad). 

So each step of the persuasion cascade is how our words as persuaders cascade all the way into full blown behavior on every level - heart, soul, strength, and mind.  So let me move from this common communication cascade of persuasion to one of the specifics of the meanings of LORD/Yahweh, blessed, and holy,  It does no good, if nothing if I am not specific at this point about my behavior.

As I look at things, I sense right now (and I am gathering wise counsel at this point) the need to write a book and a paper on the topics of the three most important words in the Bible - LORD/Yahweh, blessed, and holy.  The reason is because even though the internet is a wonderful way to gain reception in the world, it does not gain reception in some of the places that I would like my writing to gain reception.  I would like scholars to hear what I have to say.  I would like pastors to hear what I have to say.  I would like lay people to hear what I have to say.  Especially the last, since they are so numerous and I want heaven filled with people!  Reception is a little harder to get than just writing on the internet alone.  You also have to be persuasive! 

A more popular book for pastors is where I think I should begin, since that type of speech communication comes easiest to me.  The next would be the write to the scholarly community, because they are critical in a discussion of who really has expertise.  And by expertise, I hope part of it is persuasive expertise.  Finally, I want to speak anytime I can and write to the average person, because there is a lot more of them than the first two categories making them immensely important.  But I think that they have the right to see me earn my wings of expertise too.  It does no good if they see me ducking the tough (fun!) road of ministry professionals and seminary scholars.  There may be other means, but so far it appears those two pieces are needed to be specific enough to get the job done. 

In the meantime, keep in your mind the three major scholarly opinions for the biblical meaning of holy: 1) moral wholeness, 2) purity, and 3) set apart.  Treasure all three and do not let anyone take any one of the three from your mind of discovery.  Receive it don't let anyone steal any of them.  I'll need something a little longer to make my case for the biblical understanding of holy (and the others), but Lord willing it is coming given time.  May God bless your day.

In Christ,


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Holy: Celebrating Its Definition being Viewed 40,000 Times!

I believe it is a good time to celebrate the visiting of this blog 40,000 times plus.  When I began this effort, I received a lot of help from a pastor friend, Jeremiah Fyffe.  He allowed me to learn what Google and other search engines are looking for, so that my blog would not get lost in the search. 

I am extremely grateful to him, because this blog has continued to be at or near the very top of the search engines entries, when people enter the words "definition of holy".  I want to also celebrate the fact that this now means that 40,000 times people have taken time out of their day to read my humble thoughts.  I feel very fortunate to see this even further benefit from one fellow pastor's sage comments. 

I also want to re-commit myself to continuing to writing much more and producing better quality entries to read.  I know on one level that I am getting better, but I do wish I had more time to add diagrams and pictures to make my entries even clearer and  more interesting. 

A big "thank you" goes out to Jeremiah (and other helpers) and to all who have spent part of the their life reading what I have to say.  Your time is precious, so hope you feel you have spent your time wisely.

In Christ,


P. S. I want you to know that the definition of holy that I propose is that it is "moral wholeness", but check out my other entries for what I do with "set apart" and "pure".  You might find my treatment to be a new insight for you and very viable in terms of solid scholarship.  Thank you again. 

Holy: Understandigng it Better Through Understanding the Translation of Whole and All in the Bible

I love translations and translators.  They deserve a lot of credit in making the Word of God accessible to millions of people who will never find the time to learn other languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  So please, if I offer a correction or a challenge to them, then remember too that at the same time I challenge them using their own principles that would not be known to me if it wasn't for their hard work.  I am not someone that enjoys challenging others.  It is just that sometimes the way things are requires it.  Also recall that deceased translators can't tell us now what they would do without us speculating somewhat from their principles.  The really good ones always aim at clarity and meaningfulness, so let's not sell the deceased short.  They knew what they were doing more often than not.  That said, I must offer a clarification and meaning correction on the broader topic of wholeness.  The latter part of this entry will connect that wholeness with the meaning of holy.   

In the case of the common word for whole in Hebrew (kol) or even Greek (meros), it is often inserted into our English translations as "all" rather than "whole".   The reason is that translators tend to follow the Greek translation of the Hebrew, since English is part of the Indo-European family of languages.  While there is no doubt that is true on the surface level of language, I have a problem with the way things are then translated based on the broader level of philosophy or worldview. 

In translation, the most important thing is to be clear and to be meaningful.  To be clear and meaningful, sometimes we need to go beyond the "etymology" of a language and look also at cultural influences on the level of worldview.  The United States especially is a link between East and West, when it comes to the two worldviews colliding.  It cannot any longer claim one influence as being primary for everyone and everything. 

Hebrew is not just a language, it also has a worldview that places the "whole" before "all" the parts in its language's tendency.  In Greek, it is the opposite.   That language starts from "all" the parts and then arrives at the "whole".    They seem to head in opposite directions. 

The easiest way to imagine the opposite directions is to imagine the Greek arrow as beginning from the left and moving to the right and the Hebrew arrow as beginning on the right and moving to the left.  To match these two up in terms of meaning, I think it is essential to alert Greek speakers explicitly (Hebrew speakers know it implicitly) that the "whole is greater than the parts".  This makes the Hebrew dynamically equivalent through Greek without altering its language tendency.  There is a different grammar and layout, but the two messages are essentially the same in both clarity and meaningfulness.  All should understand that the whole is greater than the parts, but that neither is to be favored to the extent that the other is excluded. 

So now, returning to the topic of moral wholeness, I want to point out that a lot of "wholeness" may be invisible or not seen in our translations that is screaming out in the original text to be seen.  I have even seen cases in my interlinear Bible where the Greek translators used meros for "whole" and the translators decided to translate it as "all".  .What if we translated each of these as whole instead? 

I think we are also going to need to take some of the Hebrew texts (around 5000) that even the Septuagint translated as "all" and put "whole" back in because of the need to address or match  the worldview question having to do with being wholistic or reductionistic or both. 

This would then demonstrate how common the idea of something being whole arises.  Also with holy not being understood as "moral wholeness", there might be plenty of other times that it is not recognized (seen!) that the Bible addresses the Age of Healthy (Rick Warren's idea) in the 21st Ct.  To miss this opportunity to address the entire world's problems may turn out to be the great tragedy of the 20th Ct.   We'll wait an see if the worldview watchers and the movement watchers like Peter Drucker and Rick Warren are right about healthy.  But I for one want to have the full power of the English translation behind me, if they are right!

In Christ,


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Understanding Context Errors

Perhaps no other discipline than anthropology warns about importing outsider ideas into insider ideas to interpret a context.  Just yesterday, I read a fascinating article on how the Ancient Hebrew alphabet of 22 letters could possibly have been expanded into 66 letters at one time in its history.  In other words, each letter could have been written 3 different ways to enhance communication.  I don't think we do that in our context (English in my case).  We can easily miss patterns like this one and then substitute our own. 

My special concern when I mention that is the idea that we see words as synonymously parallel that may instead have a different relationship.  I first became aware of this through a commentator (I'm sorry this older commentator now eludes me -- it could have been Adam Clarke) who explained the way our English translators dealt with the translation of righteousness and justice from the Hebrew and which contexts would the form for justice be translated instead as judgment and that judgment meant both righteousness and justice altogether. 

The pattern here is somewhat rare in our contemporary thinking.  I know I never was made aware of this pattern before.  I had heard of the idea that the lesser can be used to refer to or mean the greater, but I had never thought of things in quite this way. 

Then add to this that a Hebrew scholar years ago that had pointed out that righteousness and justice were not the same things.  Suddenly, I began to see a pattern that did not come from my culture. 

Two different words side by side that were not synonymous.  That is not Shakespearean.  Then these two words, I later discovered were actually perpendicular measurements to one another, not synonymous measurements through the analogy of carpentry and the plumb line and level line. 

Then add to this the context of Hebrew where righteousness seems so far to always appear before justice and then Aramaic where justice seems to appear first instead.  Here I am reminded how the Bible is able to cope in translation with grammatical systems that have different requirements and yet still send the same message. 

All of this adds up to a different context than my own, with the danger that my context cannot be read into theirs.  It appears now that there is a pattern that Hebrew at least likes to honor even on the surface level: 1) greater, 2) lesser, and 3) greatest (the two altogether).  Righteousness would then be the greater, justice the lesser, and judgment the greatest.

So now let's apply that context rule to holy.  What if blessed is the greater, what if holy is the lesser and what if "holiness" (the two altogether) is the greatest.  Could that be the contextual rule that we have been lacking in place of synonymous parallelism too frequently applied?  Could we be missing a major contextual indicator?  I'm just asking in the spirit of my anthropology professors.



Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better through Better Understanding the Greater, the Lesser, and the Greatest

The problem with a lot of Biblical scholarship is that it presumes the principle of synonymous parallelism in the Hebrew language too often.  It is assumed that to witness something parallel in a text is to witness the synonymous supposedly.  While in some contexts this may in fact be very true, I think it has been over applied to texts that actually are not trying to present a synonymous pair, but instead a set of two or three that are based on the distinctions between greater, lesser, and greatest. 

My favorite example of this error is the idea that righteous and just are the same thing.  Sometimes the greatest enemy to knowledge is not ignorance, but presumed knowledge.  It is a laughable error, because no contemporary carpenter would argue that plumb and level are the same.  The most novice carpenter quickly learns the obvious lesson that plumb and level are not the same thing.  In Isaiah, the level of the carpenter is the illustration for the principle of justice.  Likewise, the plumb line is used to illustrate the principle of righteous. 

Maybe we need to bring carpenters into seminaries and lecture the Biblical scholars rather than the reverse.  What do you think?  In the early 80s, the idea that righteous and just are not synonymous, was expressed by one lone scholar of Hebrew.  Now we can use one concrete example drawn from carpentry and publicized by the Bible to overturn what is not very good scholarship. 

In Scripture, there is a set of principles that clear up some of the confusion both in determining the meaning of righteousness, etc. and also in determining the meaning of holy.

[This piece will be continued tomorrow.  Sorry for the slight delay.  Please stop back late tomorrow.]

In Christ,


Holy: Understanding it Better Through Understanding the Meaning of Meaning

No, the title may sound like a riddle, but it is really a fact.  There is not one meaning of meaning and it is very important for understanding the meaning of holy.  So what does it mean you ask?  That is a loaded question.  Which kind of meaning are you referring to in your question?  Are you asking for its definition?  Or are you asking for its implication?  Or are you asking for its significance?  Or maybe you want to know all three meanings.  That is what I want to discuss today is all three meanings, because all three are found in the Bible. 

Exodus 19:10- 12 is where you see a great example of this.  In it, it suggests three meanings for holy in the order of definition, of implication, and of significance. 

Moses is first told to go to the people and make them holy today and tomorrow.  We are later today about the people that "the whole of the people in the camp trembled"  (Exodus 19:16).  It could be that to make holy or sanctify the people meant to assemble the whole or all of the people. 

Then we are next told that Moses is to have the people wash their clothes.  Further on, it is said that "they washed their clothes"  (Exodus 19:14).  Then they are told to be ready for the third day and to "not approach a woman" (Exodus 19:15b). 

Finally, we are told that Moses is to set limits to the people so no one would touch God's holy mountain.  To the trained observer there are three different meanings here rather than three synonymous meanings here.  Years ago, Dr. Robert H. Stein trained us to think of all three kinds of meaning and not just definitional meaning. 

I see three meanings for holy here corresponding to the three kinds of meaning mentioned above.  First, I am persuaded that the definition of holy is seen first in the call to assemble "the whole of the people" as a parallel to "make holy the people".  Second, I believe the implication is next brought up with the instructions to have the people wash their clothes and for the men not to have sexual relations with a woman.  These both relate to the implication of holy being purity.  Finally, the last section discusses a boundary or a limit to the holy mountain.  It is set apart from other mountains as unique. 

Let me illustrate from my own personal experience how definition, implication, and significance can occur together in a situation.  I am now for the first time (this once would have been a big deal) going to reveal a strategy that I used as a football coach to turn around a game at half-time where we were trailing 18-0.  What I did not realize then was that I referred to all three kinds of meaning in speaking to my players.   First, I realized on my way to our team huddle at half time that I had to keep things simple.  I had to make sure that they would purely focus on one thing to correct for the second half.  Then I realized I must help them realize that it was possible to have a second half that was entirely different from the first half.  And finally I assumed that I was talking to the whole offensive line and the whole defensive line, when I gave them my specific instructions on what to fix.  They all had to act together as a whole, not as distinct parts.  So, though not in the same order as in Exodus, I referred to purity (of focus - one only), I referred to significance where they needed to believe they could set apart the second half from the first (they could still win the game after losing it the first half).  Finally, I defined the whole as the four members of the defensive line as having to act as a unit or as a whole rather than separate parts.  In this case, the whole of the lineman needed to discipline themselves to all penetrate to the same depth as a defensive line.   So it is not unusual for all three meanings to occur in one space of text or language.  (By the way, the Green Bay Packers still haven't figured out this idea of penetrating to the same depth as Larry McCarren, a former Packer, has). 

I am going to try my best to publish more entries.  They may as a result be shorter like this one.  But I want to end with the meanings of holy.  I think holy does mean by definition the whole or according to the whole.  I think holy does mean by implication that purity is necessary.  There must be focus, (not duplicity) when this assembly of people comes together.  They must think of only the one thing necessary and not be double-minded or made impure by thinking of many things rather than the one thing necessary.  Finally, the significance of God's holiness is that his holy mountain must be set apart as untouchable on the part of the assembly.  If it is whole, then the whole cannot be violated.  It must then be distinct.  So all three of the most popular meanings of holy are found in one place, but my argument is that only one is the definition and that is congregational wholeness (or moral wholeness in other contexts).  So keep in mind all three kinds of meaning and do not assume that every meaning you hear about is a definition.  May God bless your reading.  And may God also bless those who taught me all that I know.  Thank you.

In Christ,