Monday, March 31, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Levitics 19 (Translate Amounts - Part 1 of 5)

Leviticus is one of the most overlooked books in the entire Hebrew Scriptures.  To the Jews traditionally, this is the most important of the 5 Books of the Law.  Yet in Christian circles today, it is the most forgotten book of all the 5 Books of the Law and maybe even of the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures.  When was there a rush to the Christian bookstores to get the latest commentary on Leviticus?  Did I miss it? 

How is it that the most important Book of the Law of Moses can become the least?  Pastor Ray Stedman, a number of years ago, tried to explain this in a commentary on Leviticus titled The Way to Wholeness (published posthumously).  His explanation of the lack of interest in Christian circles had to do with the popular understanding of holy as set apart rather than as wholeness.  While most scholars would disagree with his definition, most scholars agree with Stedman that holiness is a key concept in the book of Leviticus.  So what does it mean?

Where there is a difference between Stedman and the majority of scholars is the translation of the Hebrew qadosh (holy in most translations).  The current difficulty with holy is that it is amendable in English to either the idea of "set apart" or to the idea of "whole".   There is a silly argument that the scholar James "Too Far" Barr once tried to present that holy in the Bible does not mean "whole", based on the English etymology where it clearly is connected to hale, healthy, and whole.  First, in all of my reading on holiness (and it is extremely extensive), I have never read someone argue that because an English word means something in its etymology, therefore the Hebrew means the same. 

I think it what we used to call a "wet paper sack" ("he can't even fight his way out of a wet paper sack") argument.  Who would ever think that?  It is absurd. 

The logic does not go this way:

Holy is the translation for qadosh (the original in Hebrew) and hagios (the original in Greek),
therefore if holy means whole in English,
then therefore qadosh and hagios mean whole in their respective languages. 

No, that logic does not work and none of those like Ray Stedman, Leonard Ravenhill, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon ever would have dreamed up such a notion.  What they are trying to say is something that does make sense.  Here is what I think they are trying to argue when the point out that holy means or is connected to whole.  One of their major premises is being skipped over by Barr.

Their logic does go more like this:

The King James translators (and English translators before them) chose the word holy primarily to translate qadosh from Hebrew and hagios from Greek into our language.
The King James translators chose the word holy, because they believed that qadosh and hagios had connections to moral wholeness.
When we point out that holy means whole in its etymology, we mean to point out what was obvious to earlier translators when they chose holy as the word for their translation into English of qadosh and hagios. 
Therefore, since I am not questioning their translation of qadosh and hagios from their respective languages by these earlier translators, then I am supporting their translation into my language that holy means moral wholeness.

What Barr does not make explicit in the other parties' argument is the highlighted line and also his own line that:

We, as Biblical scholars, do not take seriously earlier Biblical scholarship or translation work relying or dating back at least to the Middle Ages.

That is what the argument is really about with regard to the translation from the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.  It is about the reliability or quality of earlier translation work.  Without really making it an explicit premise, there is an assumption than older scholarship is inferior. 

I, as a translator, take a much more objective view now that it is possible to stand apart from the arguments about scholarship that were at their peak near the end of the 1800's and continued throughout the entire 20th century.  I don't by default automatically consider an older viewpoint the inferior view.  Rather I like to look at the evidence for both sides in arguments over a translation.  I keep my choices open and then only by the evidence do I close doors to those choices. 

I keep my choices open

and then only by the evidence

do I close doors to those choices. 

I think that David J. A. Clines, the editor for the most up to date Hebrew dictionary called The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, possesses a keen mind when he says two things about the challenges for making an adequate Hebrew dictionary:

First, he says, regarding the challenges of constructing a Hebrew dictionary including Biblical Hebrew:  "It takes a long time to make a Hebrew dictionary that is more than a recapitulation of dictionaries of the past" (p. 88).   This is a critical point.  The number of dictionaries that say the same thing about the meaning of Hebrew qadosh does not mean that each dictionary has evaluated the work of the previous dictionary.  Instead, due to time constraints, it may only be "a recapitulation of the dictionaries of the past".  This totally makes sense, since they are trying to cover some 300,000 words in Biblical Hebrew alone according to Cline (p. 90).  That does not even consider the next 100,000 Non-Biblical Hebrew words that Cline also mentions.  It would be a massive task to re-evaluate every word's meaning and translation. 

Second, he says regarding one further challenges for more recent Hebrew dictionaries including Biblical Hebrew :

    How to draw upon the rich resources of mediaeval Hebrew lexicographers [dictionary
    makers], which are almost totally absent from all our contemporary lexica.  I do not
    mean to suggest that all philological [linguistic] observations by these mediaeval
    authors deserve a place in a modern dictionary of Hebrew, but that some undoubtedly do. 
    The systematic evaluation of such proposals would be a highly technical undertaking, and
    stands as a challenge to lexicographers of the future (p. 92).

Here I believe that Cline is much more objective than James "Too Far" Barr, who in all likelihood would see no value in the task that Cline has suggested.  Notice too how careful Cline is to avoid two errors and not just one error as in the case of Barr.  He avoids saying that "all [linguistic] observations by these mediaeval authors deserve a place in a modern dictionary of Hebrew".  But he also thinks that "some undoubtedly do". 

This leaves the door open then to considering the work of people like Johannes Reuchlin, the influential Hebrew scholar in the case of Martin Luther's and Phillip Melancthon's scholarship.  It does not by default register an endorsement, but rather an evaluation.  That is what I want to plead for in the case of trying to decide the meaning of holy.  Too often older scholarship by default registers the opposite of an endorsement, a denial. 

I also want to support Cline's statement that this "would be a highly technical undertaking", because I have tried to do this on the just the meaning of holy and knowledge of Latin is a major requirement, besides the fact that footnotes were not popular with the Reformers like Luther, who do not always point out whether it was Reuchlin, one of the Kimchi's, or Nicholas of Lyra who was his source.  The difficulty of the job, however, does not mean it should not be undertaken, but rather undertaken with a due sense of  qualifications for doing it well. 

Having said all this about translation, you probably have guessed already that I will be focusing primarily on statement from Leviticus 19:2 New King James Version (NKJV):

“Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."

The key words to look at in terms of translation in this passage are the following:

1) "all" - more properly translated as "the whole of" in this verse
2) "holy" - no surprise here: "What does it mean in the original text?"
3) the LORD - more properly translated as "Yahweh", the question is: "Why is it not transliterated as Yahweh as found in the original text?"

So my personal translation of this verse would read:

 “Speak to the whole of the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I Yahweh your God am holy."

The remaining question will be, during the 5 steps of 1)translation, 2)transfer, 3)total, 4)train, and 5)teach; whether holy should be understood as 1) morally whole, 2) pure, or 3) set apart.  As I go through the series of steps, I hope at each step the issues will be clearer and clearer as to which definition the text supports.   Remember to keep your choice of definition open long enough to evaluate the evidence.  Also an additional word to watch for is the Hebrew word for blessed.  I will be examining that also in the context of holy.  May you have a great finish to the rest of your day. 

In Christ,



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Holy: Understanding It Better Through Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a (Teach Things - 5 of 5 parts/days)

This post may be the most important of the five posts for Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a.  Despite or perhaps because of the level of education available in the United States, the more important part of education has been neglected.  I like to call that part "common sense".  Now note carefully my choice of "more important" and not most important.  My reason is because the most important thing is common sense together with a specialized sense.  The ideal education is both of these together.  The creation story itself supports this distinction.   What was really missing for me, as I came up through the educational system called school, is the more important part called common sense.  That is where I want to begin to define three key words in the passage I am examining, but first let's examine the big picture in picture form. 

[I had problems with the picture for this post. I think I have resolved it and will finish this post on Monday.  I had to help out someone today which was a good thing, but I ran out of time today.]



Friday, March 28, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Genesis 1:1-2:4a (Training - Day/Step 4 of 5)

The thing that cannot be overlooked is that the meanings of words can in fact determine what we must do practically as well.  If "blessed" in the Bible means prosperity, then we will take someone's prosperity to mean that they are "blessed" and we will flock to hear them speak.  If "blessed" in the Bible instead means integrity, as in a person being consistent between their perception of themselves and who they actually are, then we will flock to hear the person who demonstrates integrity the most.

Likewise with the meaning of "holy" in the Bible.  If it means set apart, we will flock to meet or hear the person that demonstrates a morality that is out of this world.  If it means moral wholeness (holy consists of more than righteousness, but also includes truth, etc.), then we will try to live morally healthy lives consisting of more than one moral character trait.  If on the other hand, it means pure, we will practice keeping ourselves pure from contamination as one of our highest goals and activities. 

My next post (planned for tomorrow) will point to what blessed and holy are.  In this post, I will assume [if you are uncomfortable with assuming temporarily. then jump to the next post] the meaning of "blessed" as being integrity, based on a working definition.  A specific example of this is: "I am who I am".   In this post, I will also assume [again, jump ahead if you like] the meaning of "holy" as being moral wholeness.  The next post will answer the question of definition, but for this entry I hope you will allow me some indulgence in working out the practical actions with regard to treating the beginning days of generations and the six days of work and the Sabbath rest appropriately.

The first thing in deriving practical applications from this unit of Scripture is to be aware that this is primarily a relationship text.  In turn, this also means it has a large portion of the text that is narrative.  Genesis as a whole is laying out for us the beginnings and endings of some things and also the ongoing relationship of many generations in places and times.  In telling us about the opening days of generations for the heavens and the earth and ourselves, it tells us also what God did and also what we should do.

Besides the practical relationship advice a person can pick up from the stories of Biblical characters in Genesis, there is in this story of creation the opening of work or action by God.  He both creates and makes.  So here is where we might be able to learn some great action lessons. 

First, I wonder, if the creation story does not mean that each time we work we are creating and we are making and that without our working, the world reverts back to a kind of chaos and void.  Is that perhaps why the world of neglected buildings tells a story of reverting back to chaos and nothingness to the point of needing even demolishing?  Is our work part of the necessary part of sustaining creation beyond its beginning?  Are we in any way supposed to be imitators of God and pumped up about going to work rather than reluctant to get to it?   What obviously separates us from God is that we in no way started things at the beginning.  Rather we ourselves are a part of the beginning.  But should we see human work in a much more positive manner? 

Let me give you a classic example from my own love of nature as to how work has become a negative rather than a positive.  When I was in my junior high years, I acquired a book from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  That pamphlet is my Bible on trout stream habitat.  In there, it showed how to do thing with regard to developing trout habit and how not to do things.  But in the last decade or more, the DNR has taken a much less active role in creating trout habit in trout streams.  As a result, just the other day, I witnessed a former trout brook that no longer supported even one trout in its entire stretch of water.  I mean not even one!  The entire day that I spent walking (not fishing) the stream, as I scouted this stream for good opportunities to fish later, I never witnessed one fish darting from my approach.  What I did  see were three major and old "log jams" that I knew would prevent trout from being able to survive in the stretch that I was investigating.  By doing no work on this stream, rather than basic regular maintenance, it had led to the death of that stream in terms of trout.  It was an instance where our fear of working and of making a mistake on behalf of the trout had led to our entire failure to work and therefore create and make habit for a species who would thrive in these waters.  That is a great illustration of why work needs to be seen more positively, like what I saw in playing football where doing something correctly was supposed to replace doing something incorrectly rather than either being replaced by doing nothing.

Second, I think this passage teaches a relationship component, when it comes to work.  There should be a limit on the work week or better perhaps a line drawn between weeks.  Work it appears is not supposed to be endless.  The other day, I ran into a person who bragged to me that she worked every single day.  She was a great person and I admire her hard work ethic.  But I think one danger is like the danger for Jack in the old saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".   Another danger is that one becomes a slave.  Working all seven days in ancient times was considered to be the mark of a slave.  Right now, this person is being enslaved without seeing it. 

A further danger is the obvious danger of burnout.  For me, working six days a week for about seven hours per day seems to be the best schedule.  That one day break is just enough to re-invigorate me and also only seven hours per day allows me other things in each day besides work.  I don't have any idea that I would ever work something like ten to eleven hours per day for four days and take the next three off.  I find that when I work that long each day, things like my capacity for quality work diminish.  I can work, but the mind is not there.  So I think that God's work pattern should be ours.  Six days on, one day off is  my personal favorite and I think I like it because God liked it.  Again, I love work as much as I loved playing football.  As long as I accomplish something in reasonable time, leaving time for other things every day, what is not to like?  And this little vacation each week maybe is the pattern for all the longer ones as well.  Check out the Hebrew Old Testament sometime for all their times off.  I think ample time off is part of the practical outcome of the creation story. 

Third, because God blesses and makes holy the Sabbath Day, we should do the same.  If bless means to call a person by a name that fits them (or has integrity with who they are), then that action likely needs to be part of our day.  I would think that it would have the effect of what we call affirmations.  God in this day, called his rest day by a name that means rest day.  Maybe we should be more thoughtful in choosing names for children or nicknames for friends. 

God in this day, called his rest day

by a name that means rest day.

Also in making the day holy, if holy means moral wholeness, this would then mean observing the whole day as a day of rest without any mixture of work in it (impurity), and as seeing it as distinct (set apart) from the others in that they are work days while this is a rest day the entire day and maybe not just the better part of it like our work days.  I think the idea of keeping the Sabbath a Sabbath for the entire day can do the whole of who we are a lot of good.  God seemed to be pleased by it in not doing any work that day.  He did not seem the least displeased with having to end his work for the week, before moving on to the next week.  I got a feeling God is not done working or making each week until his own Sabbath arrives.  The question is not what God is doing now however, but what are we doing.  Do we work and rest?  Or do we work and work?  Or do we rest and work?  Or do we rest and rest?  Are we like God in our actions? 

So ask yourself first, "Do I love working - creating and making?"  Ask second, "Do I know when to work and when to take a break?"  Ask third, "Do I affirm others in a way that fits with who they are?  And do I not work at all for a whole day as far as my wage earning job is concerned? " 

I hope you have answer affirmatively to some of those questions, because then you are living out this passage, not just reading it and never looking in the mirror at yourself.  Take a good look.  Do you have God's demeanor when it comes to creating and making?  Get out there and do something! 

In Christ,



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Holy: Understanding It Better Through Gen. 1:1-2:4a (Total)


The definition of holy has certainly seen its share of conflict and controversy in the last 100 plus years.  But also it has high level of importance in the Bible and in terms of personal interest and its potential connection to a very timely topic - healthy.  The personal interest is seen in its close connection with a person's name, as for an example, God's name of Yahweh.  "Holy be your name" is part of the opening in the Lord's Prayer.  The topic of being whole or being healthy is currently one of major importance.  With the possible definition of "moral wholeness", it could tie directly into healthy as one of the hot topics of the 21st century.   So the overall or total approach to determining a word's meaning is looking at all four areas of interest or concern: 1) translate to an equal, 2) transfer from and to a location and time, 3) total to avoid need gaps, 4) train in the skills for application, and 5) teach what is what. 

So far in my entries this week, I have dealt with translation and transfer.  Today, I will be spending some time beefing up 1) translate and 2) transfer.  I will also use today to look ahead to 3) training and 4) teaching elements.  This is what I call the total.  It keeps me from leaving gaps in my attempt to persuade others of the meanings for Yahweh, blessed, and holy. 

In the Western world, we usually associate the total of something with the opening and closing of what we say, but I want to take a more Eastern approach and place it primarily in the middle.  This approach I learned from Mary Douglas, a rather famous anthropologist, who has written on the different structural pattern found in Hebrew writings in the Bible.  This does not mean that I will not also have the total of all the parts in the opening and closing, as is usually found in the West.  Rather it means I will keep my eye on the whole of the process also in the middle of my writing like the Hebrews. 

I value the total so much, because without it things are not complete or total and can therefore easily fail.  One writer in speaking of the persuasion cascade pointed out that his method would not work, if it was not completed through the whole of the steps.  He understood that there would then be gaps in the persuasion process which then could lead to persuasion failure.  I think this also applies to defining words and trying to make a good case for a particular view. 

The greatest example of the opposite of what I am saying is the view that the context is THE key to understanding the meaning of a word.  Now that the etymology of holy in the Hebrew, the Aramaic, and the Greek is seen as a matter of conflict and controversy; context is now being promoted as THE way to resolve its meaning.  I find that very unsatisfactory.  It is only one part of at least four perspectives in the total reading and understanding process of reading the Scripture. 

That is critical to understanding my approach.  Context alone for defining a word will not work in my view.  It requires a much more comprehensive approach.  Then from that larger perspective, a person can see the convergence of perspectives hopefully all pointing to the same thing. 

My goal through this blog is to give people another choice in the area of meaning that they have not previously been aware of as people, who desire to know the meaning of key words in their Bible.  I am trying to shed light on the topics of God's name, blessing, and holy that have been hidden in the darkness.   Beginning with a choice is critical in reaching the ultimate goal of celebration.

The 5 step persuasion process is like this for the one trying to persuade others:

1) choice by helping people see,
2) chance by enabling people to do,
3) connect by a willing opportunity,
4) change by filling empty hands to satisfaction, and
5) celebrate by people enjoying the experience of not having gaps in fulfilling their needs.

My goal through these 5 steps is to get people to seeing, able, willing, and ready.  It takes all of that to reach full blown personal eagerness. 

Here's another way to express in words what is desirable for those seeking answers to questions:

1) A choice that you see,
2) A chance for you to be able,
3) A connection that you willingly embrace,
4) A change that fills you up to ready, and
5) A celebration that is all that you need rather even one need short. 

Here's Jesus' purpose and goals for similar kinds of things (in Luke 4:18):

1) to restore sight to the blind, who are  those not seeing,
2) to free the oppressed, who are those unable,
3) to liberate the captives, who are those unwilling,
4) to tell the gospel to the poor, who are those unready, and
5) to fulfill the whole of the purposes or goals (ex. Jesus' bucket list or ministry goals), and not even one less than this to those suffering, who are those not eager due to a purpose gap. 

If you are not eager, then you are suffering.  If every one of the criteria is met: seeing, able, willing, and ready, then suffering is relieved.  The point is that you only have to be missing one of those things to suffer and not be eager. 

If you are not eager,

then you are suffering. 

So why are you not eager for work?  Have you ever thought about it lacking one or more of these goals or purposes?  Why are you not eager to go to church?  Could it be that this organization that is supposed to be built around Jesus' goals has lost its bearings? 

If you fulfill all these things on Jesus' bucket list of goals, then you will eliminate or at least alleviate suffering.  So you might ask this: "So how do I become eager?"  It is through finishing the goal list that Jesus laid out. 

If we changed all things to the direction of Jesus' goals, then I believe people will be so eager they will be breaking down the doors to churches.  We can then return to standing room only and people waiting outside to get in. 

Here's how you can become eager (based on the rewards for not just you but others equally):

So now, let's lay out the choices :

20th ct. choice - the definition of holy is set apart, and it has less to do with purity or with wholeness compared to what was previously thought. 

21st ct. choice - the definition of holy is moral wholeness, the implication is purity, and the significance is that this is what sets us apart (the definition and the implication altogether).

Let's lay out the chances:

20th ct. chance - not much of a chance, but the only real chance we have to draw people back to the church is through being contemporary in terms of music and technology. 

21st ct. chance - the practical aspect of making things morally whole or physically whole means that we can do things that were impossible previously

Let's lay out the connections:

20th ct. connect - the various denominational and non-denominational teams on the landscape will continue to be tied to the same leaders of the past in Protestantism and there will be little future hope of reconnecting in a tightly formed team

21st ct. connect - there will now be a real chance to join together in a way that is tightly bound to one another rather than in a loose alliance

Let's lay out the changes:

20th ct. change - the continued changes in technology will drive us to the greatest changes we are capable of making

21st ct change - the change will happen on a personal level with human beings and their moral character resting on a new quality standard and accomplishment. 

Let's lay out the celebration:

20th ct celebration - the best of that optimism happened in the 1950s and is unlikely to be revived to a higher pitch going forward

21st ct. celebration - the biblical stories of "it felt like we were dreaming" will be the same kind of reason we are celebrating. 

So as I go forward the next couple of days I hope I can demonstrate the value of training and teaching in terms of new capabilities and possibilities and also new sight and a reduction in blindness.  May God bless the remainder of your day and please visit all 5 blog entries this week to grasp the whole picture. 

In Christ,


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better According to Genesis 1:1-2:4a (Transfer - Day/Step 2 of 5)

When dealing with relationships it is important to orient oneself through the transfer of place and time.  Far too often an interpretation of a text can be off the mark, because the person doing the interpreting is not understanding either their place and time or worse yet the place and time of others.  This is also where context can be either very important or very distorted.  Our task is to find the where and when of the past and transfer its story into our this place and time.  We need to understand its relevance to us, but also not at the expense of a prior generations place and time.  We have to stay oriented, true and humble, in the face of place and time. 
This need to be oriented and not disoriented begins at a young age with a child asking their parents, while they are driving, "Where are we going?" and "Are we there yet?"  It all boils down to: 1) "Where?" and 2) "When?". We also see this in the adult question for any relationship as to whether another person is "there" for you "when" you need them. 
Genesis is a book that begins with the where and when.  It begins with "In the beginning, God created the heaves and the earth".  It begins not just with a time - "in the beginning", but also with a place - "the heavens and the earth".   It orients us for our travel through the history of who we are and who others were, who came before us, - the "generations".   
There are three broad places where we can be and there are three broad times where we can be.  For place, we can be either "there, or here, or elsewhere".  For time, we can be either "before, during, or after".  The places fit well with the real estate advice and mantra: "location, location, location".  The time fits well with the decision makers rule that "timing is of the essence".   
We see too the tragedy of their neglect.  Think of the sad story of Amelia Earhardt, who likely perished in the middle of the Pacific Ocean maybe less than 100 miles from her destination.   There are four basics to flying: 1) calculate (ex. fuel needs), 2) navigate (ex. by the stars and maps), 3) aviate (ex. know how to fly a plane), and 4) communicate.  The experts believe that she and her navigator got somewhat off course due to the errors of maps they were using and the invisibility of celestial markers during bad weather.  Only then it appears that they likely exceeded her calculations for fuel due to extra time required to reach their destination.  It was also true as well that they had not realized the kind of communication equipment needed on board to communicate with those on the island they were attempting to reach.  But all would likely have been OK, if only their navigation got them to the right place and the right time. 
I'm afraid that too often Genesis 1:1-2:4a, is not used for its primary purpose to orient us in place and time to help us navigate as in Genesis 1:1, but rather is used to calculate (how old is the earth), or how to aviate (how does God create), or how to communicate (what are things it says we are to eat).   All these things are not invalid concerns, but the primary questions of where and when are often lost in terms of focus by the device called distraction. 
So to begin, let me say this about transfer from one place and time to another.  The best way to discover the relevance of the past is to lay out the connections that are made explicit in a passage.  Below you will see a diagram that does just that.  It highlights not the measures, not the actions, not the things or persons, but the connections by placing each line in a context where the connecting words come first.  
I have found over many years of its use going back to 1979, that it is a very helpful tool for the one purpose of highlighting the connections between things, people, etc.  I will later this week be adding what is a more detailed way of seeing the connections, but let me say this at this point.  The break up of sentences below, should help you see the bonds and breaks between things better.  That is my goal in helping us be oriented to the actual context. 
This is not the only reason that is important, but the meaning of words can be greatly enhanced by understanding the context or the connections and disconnections far better.  It orients us and that is part of what makes up meaning.  So whether you think holy means "moral wholeness", or "purity", or "set apart"; pay attention to context. 
Genesis 1-2:4

New King James Version (NKJV)

The History of Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the

The earth was without form, and void;       

and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep.

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the

Then God said,     
“Let there be light”;  
and there was light.  
 And God saw the light;                                                          
that it was good;

and God divided the light from the darkness.

God called the light Day,

and the darkness He called Night.                             
So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Then God said,

“Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,
and let it divide the waters from the waters.”

Thus God made the firmament,

and divided the waters

which were under the firmament from the waters
which were above the firmament;

and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven.

So the evening and the morning were the second day.

Then God said,

“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together
into one place,

and let the dry land appear”;

and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth,

and the gathering together of the waters

He called Seas.

And God saw

that it was good.

11 Then God said,

“Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb

that yields seed,

and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind,

whose seed is in itself, on the earth”;

and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb

that yields seed according to its kind,

and the tree that yields fruit,

whose seed is in itself according to its kind.

And God saw

that it was good.

13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 Then God said,

“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens
to divide the day from the night;

and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and

15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the

to give light on the earth”;

and it was so.

Then God made two great lights: the greater light
to rule the day,

and the lesser light to rule the night.

He made the stars also.

17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens

to give light on the earth,

18 and to rule over the day and over the night,

and to divide the light from the darkness.

And God saw

 that it was good.

19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 Then God said,

“Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures,

and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the
firmament of the heavens.”

21 So God created great sea creatures and every living

that moves,

with which the waters abounded, according to their kind,

and every winged bird according to its kind.

And God saw

 that it was good. 22 And God blessed them,


“Be fruitful

and multiply,

and fill the waters in the seas,

and let birds multiply on the earth.”

23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 Then God said,

“Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to
its kind:

cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each
according to its kind”;

and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its
kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that
creeps on the earth according to its kind.

 And God saw

 that it was good.

26 Then God said,

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our

let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the
birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth
and over every creeping thing

that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in His own image;

in the image of God He created him;

male and female He created them.

28 Then God blessed them,

and God said to them,

“Be fruitful

and multiply;

fill the earth

and subdue it;

have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of
the air, and over every living thing

that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said,

“See, I have given you every herb

that yields seed

which is on the face of all the earth,

and every tree

whose fruit yields seed;

to you it shall be for food.

30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the
air, and to everything

that creeps on the earth,

in which there is life,

I have given every green herb for food”;

and it was so.

31 Then God saw everything

that He had made,

and indeed it was very good.

So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of
them, were finished.

And on the seventh day God ended His work
which He had done,

and He rested on the seventh day from all His work
which He had done.

Then God blessed the seventh day

and sanctified it,

because in it He rested from all His work

which God had created

and made.

This is the history[c] of the heavens and the earth
when they were created, in the day

that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,




Genesis 1:2 Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Hebrew or Aramaic.

Genesis 1:26 Syriac reads all the wild animals of.

Genesis 2:4 Hebrew toledoth, literally generations

I will be returning to this yet this week (as early as tomorrow) to put the passage into context.  Thank you for your patience and make sure you re-visit this post because its value will expand immensely.

In Christ,


Monday, March 24, 2014

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a (Translation - Day One of Five)


Welcome to a place where you can learn what holy really means rather than what it supposedly means.  I write about the meaning of holy with due seriousness, because it is one of the three most important words for God's identity.  This will be my initial post on a Monday for what is now to become my weekly habit.  Each week, I will write 5 posts in the following order on a particular biblical passage: Mondays - Translation Topics, Wednesdays - Transfer Topics, Thursdays - Total Topics, Fridays - Training Topics, Saturday - Teaching Topics.  Each time you return to this blog, you will grasp even better what I am saying.  Rome was not built in a day and neither can the persuasive arguments for the meaning of holy, etc. be built in a day.  It will ultimately take a book, like the one that I am writing. and that I hope will be published before the end of the year to straighten out a lot of confusion and blindness. 

Each time you visit or receive an email through signing up for emails each time I write, I will explain in greater detail the entire process of understanding a complete unit of Scripture and the meanings of the big three words in Scripture: 1) Yahweh/the LORD, 2) blessed, and 3) holy.  None of these three can stand entirely alone, though I have listed them in the order of priority.  Each Biblical passage will be able to stand alone as an argument for the meanings of the big three including holy, but also each passage will add more strength and power to the persuasive arguments that came before it. 

So today I am going to look at the primary translation issues in our text for today.  Every text in translation has an enormous amount of consensus related to it that I will not discuss.  There is no point in re-inventing the wheel in places where translators have done a wonderful job.  My experience says that the majority of times, they do pretty well.  But also my goal is to find those key words that function as very important to the unit of Scripture being explained and where there is some disagreement among translations and then to try to make improvements in those areas. 

First, it is important to put my view of translation into context.  I believe the goals of a great translation (in its strict or narrow sense) are two primarily: 1) clarity, and 2) meaningfulness.   What I mean by strict or narrow sense is that the total of communication is summed up in: 1) translation, 2) transfer, 3) total, 4) train, and 5) teach.  So here I am dealing with translation as a PART of the total communication process rather than as the WHOLE of the communication process.  You can see the difference? 

There is a great way to accomplish each one of these goals of clarity and meaningfulness.  For clarity to be enhanced, it is important to keep one word for one thing as much as you can, if it is that way in the original.  Unfortunately, it is seldom that this can be done entirely the way it is in the original unless we stick to every use of the original being translated by the exact same word which creates a very literal translation.  That ideal may be great in a study bible, but it is not really possible in most cases when we are also talking about being meaningful. 

There is also an important issue that needs to be cleaned up.  This brings me, to the argument between literal or figurative being the best kind of translation.  If these are two opposing opposites, then balance would be admirable.  That is the case with the NKJV and the NIV, for the most part.  My distinctive view is that clarity is the vertical and greater axis of what we strive for and meaningfulness the horizontal and lesser axis of what we strive for.  They are not opposite poles on a horizontal line.  Clarity is the more important of the two, but also the lesser is not to be neglected for the sake of only the greater.  The greatest translations accomplish both effectively.  So literal translations are the greater for clarity, figurative translations are the lesser for meaning, but the greatest is a translation that accomplishes both altogether.  That is why I will be using both the NKJV and the NIV, because they come closest to the ideal.  What I think would clean up the mess we have with so many translations is to base them on clarity and meaningfulness in the picture I suggested.  Clarity is best accomplished when we can answer the question of "How many? with the quantity of "One"  .  Meaningfulness is best accomplished when we can answer the question of "How much?" with the quality of "Equal".  The NKJV accomplishes a bit better clarity, while the NIV accomplishes a bit better meaningfulness. 

The other reason that these two translations are my starting point is that many churches with pastors leading them, are using one of these two.  My primary target audience is pastors who stand between the specialist scholars and the common person.  These two translations work the best on that level.  Having said that my primary audience is pastors, I do not mean that many competent common people will find my writing to be over their heads, but rather than occasionally that will be the case.  Likewise a scholar can learn from what I will write, but I will be doing my best to avoid seminary jargon that the common person would have a hard time grasping meaningfully.  So read on all three groups, there will still be great benefit for all.  That is the end of my introductory material today.  It is a bit long today and the rest of this week, but it will gradually shorten as I see less and less need to introduce or explain new materials. 


The first step is to determine a natural unit of Scripture .  In other words, I must use what the writer considers one natural unit, so I can pick up the clues that are most relevant to the words I am discussing.  In most cases, I will be relying on the best sources I have found for what are called (rhetorical) outlines of a text.  In the case of Genesis, I will be using Allen P. Ross' Creation & Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis, as my starting point.  I also was a student of his at one time.  But also this does not mean that I have used only him as a source.  Rather, it means that I found his treatment to be among the best that I have read.  He points out that Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 is a complete unit as do most others.  So I will be dealing with those verses primarily as my one unit of Scripture over the next 5 days. 

In Ross' treatment of themes in Genesis, he believes that "blessing" and "cursing" are the significant theme of Genesis.  In picking the theme, I tend toward what he considers to be only a structural theme in the word usually translated as "generations".  I am convinced that Genesis is a book focused on relationships more than any other general theme and this is manifested specifically through "generations".  In any case, all three words are significant enough that they require attention.  Also God's name does come up immediately after in the opening story in Genesis 2:4, while holy is in direct connection with blessing in 2:1-3.  Also significant is words that have great consensus around them like "divide" that could be seen as near synonyms for the definition of "set apart" that is associated with "holy". 


The opening section or unit of Genesis only tells us "what' kind of person creates the world, God.  Sometimes we speak of God as though it were God's name.  God is not his name any more than my name is "man".  "Man" by the way is not necessarily a term of  endearment, so "God" could have the same chilling effect.  We do not yet find out God's name in the first section of Genesis.  But immediately in the beginning of the second section, we learn who this God is.  This God's name is "Yahweh".   

                                                                                             "God" is not his name

                                                                                             any more than my name

                                                                                              is "man".

Unfortunately, many people end up calling God by a very impersonal name.  We also cannot see God's name in the typical translation like the NIV.  We see something else in its place. 

Here is the explanation from the NIV translators in their preface, p. ix.:

     In regard to the divine name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton,   
     the translators  adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that
     name as "LORD" in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew
     word rendered "Lord," for which small letters are used.  Wherever the two names stand
     together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered
     "Sovereign LORD. "

I note that we are not given a reason for adopting the device used in most English versions, unless the explanation is that they adopted it for the reason that "most English versions" do what they have done.  The problem is that "LORD" in most people's minds means the same thing as "Lord".  Also clarity has dropped significantly, because most people do not distinguish "LORD" from "Lord", but instead place one word or idea in place of two words or ideas.  On Wednesday, under the topic of Transfer, I will discuss further why this may not be the way to go anymore while it may have been the only way to go in the 1st century. 


Back in the early 90's maybe even late 80's, I learned that our definition of blessing as primarily prosperous had a significant problem in its application to certain texts.  I learned this initially from Dr. William Bean at the Center for Biblical Research (CSBR) in Pasadena, CA.  (He now is part of the same kind of ministry under a different name in Redlands, CA.)   The unique aspect of his research was his connection to Dr. David Bivin in Israel along with Dr. David Flusser of Hebrew University. 

At that time, I was not necessarily impressed by the new idea for its translation as I was by the idea that there was clearly a problem in how we understood its meaning in certain contexts, especially those that applied to God.  Recently, I arrived at a new definition that makes a lot of sense in many (but not all!) contexts.  People need to realize that the fact that the primary definition does not apply to all contexts is quite natural.  The average English dictionary demonstrates this fact. 

But also I think this idea that words typically have more than one meaning beyond its first sense needs some explanation as to why.  It may help to realize that ancient alphabets in some cases even developed more meanings from one letter by rotating those letters to different positions.  So more than one meaning from one written object has a long tradition.  The one can be made into the many within a certain span of meaning. 

It is also important to realize that meaning itself has more than one meaning.  I found Robert H. Stein's A Basic Guide to Reading the Bible: Playing by the Rules very helpful in this regard.  If I clarify what he says just one step beyond his own 3 forms of meaning, I think it is fair to speak of 3 kinds of meaning as: 1) definition, 2) implication, and 3) signification or significance.  Now as in any scenario, by having more than one meaning be possible, there becomes room for abuse or confusion, but I as a player in a game of studying my Bible, I always have tried to play within the rules. 

With trying to define blessed, I think it is important to point out the various options for its meaning and not just quickly chose one from a set of suggestions and prematurely eliminate the other options.  What it boils down to is to ask the question: "What if blessed means: 1) integrity in terms of definition, 2) means holiness by implication, and 3) prosperity by significance.  Are we willing to consider what all dictionaries seem to see as inherent, that the great majority of words at least have more than one meaning? 

I believe that in the context of Genesis 2;1-3, that blessed is being used in the sense of its definition, since its possible implication is directly connected to it.  But I also think in Genesis chapter 1, it can be used in the sense of its significance, where prosperity makes much more sense.  The type of meaning, I believe, would be signaled by the context, just like the 22 letters in an ancient alphabet could have more than one meaning through signaling a change by turning the letters to differing positions.  Same letter, different meaning is possible and I believe that same word, different meaning is also possible; but also with a clear signal of the change.  That is part of the rules.  Changing meaning in a whimsical way or to be clever would be outside the rules except in humor and poetry.  There the whole point of the rules might be to be whimsical or clever. 

Back in the early 90's and again maybe early 80's, I remember Dr. Daniel P. Fuller presenting to a class where we used inductive Bible study tools, the idea that holy did not mean what most scholars thought, but rather it had a connection with the definition of "worthy".  Here again, I was not convinced by his replacement definition, but I was convinced that "set apart" had a problem in the particular verses we were studying. 

I don't know if there is any important word in the Bible other than holy that has suffered more in the effort to find a good definition for it.  As I once mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, I counted something like 20 options for its definition.  The good news is that probably 17 of the 20 deserve little or no more effort applied to them.  The experts in scholarship in times of uncertainty, seem to sometimes take shots in the dark out of their own sense of urgency.  That is what many of the 17 definitions appear to be, but I think they do show up due to underlying uncertainty about what the original text words underlying our English word, holy, mean. 

The largest conflict and controversy as a result is about 3 options: 1) moral wholeness, 2) purity, and 3) set apartness.  The first thing to consider is that most translators have assumed there can only be one meaning as in one definition.  They have not readily considered Dr. Stein's concern that there is more than one kind of meaning, even while there would only be one definition for holy. 

The other aspect of this discussion is that Andrew Murray, a rather famous pastor from South Africa near the end of the early 1800s and early 1900s also raised a similar concern about meaning.  In his little devotional book, Holy in Christ, he added a little word study at the back of the book on various proposed meanings on holy.  He actually labels each definition under a letter of the alphabet A-G (7 possible definitions).  His own favorite is C, but he also sees subsets of his view under 1 - 8.  I have verified my opinion that he favored C. (since he does not say it directly) in his book from the early 1900s in his book Andrew Murray on Prayer.  One of the most important parts of his discussion is where he points out that in general if holy means "set apart", then it does not by itself explain why. 

I liken his argument to that of the difference that Dr. Stein drew between definition, implication, and significance.  What Murray seems to be saying is that "set apart" fits more in the position of significance or implication, but that it does not have by itself a definition for why it is "set apart", because it is not the definition of holy, but moral wholeness does fit that role.  I think that may put Pastor Andrew Murray's point on a more solid footing as far as the rules of interpretation  are concerned.

So much for trying to clarify the meaning of holy.  There are at least 3 good options that have a strong standing.  Now it is important to no longer assume that it has to be 1 of the 3 meanings given.  It could be all 3, if they are related to definition, implication, and significance.  When I come later to looking at the Transfer aspect of holy, then I will make more of the contextual argument and then later under teaching, I will work more on the referent aspect of meaning.  But also I will then make more of the common sense or specialized sense argument for what it is and it is not. 

                                             Now it is important to no longer

                                             assume that it [holy] has to be

                                             1 of 3 meanings.

 Now let's develop its meaningfulness.  I think it is important to define the top 3 proposed meanings for maximum meaning in their usage.

1) moral wholeness - the moral aspect has to do with goodness in conduct or character.  Wholeness here refers to containing all the elements or parts, so that it is a complete morality.  Jonathan Edwards spoke of a moral wholeness that included right, true, loving, and good. 

2) purity - the quality or condition of being pure or clean.  It has the quality of not being mixed like pure water or pure gold. 

3) set apart - to separate and to keep for a purpose as in reserving a seat for someone in particular. 

In each case, these words each have a relatively high level of meaning to us.  It is not the case that they are meaningless words.  Holy on the other hand, can become rather meaningless when you ask people on the street to define it.  In a standard dictionary like Webster's New College Dictionary, we find the idea of dedicated to religious use; consecrated, sacred.  The problem is that each of these ideas are nearly completely religious ideas, making them hard to relate to other parts of life.  This is why holy can be difficult to understand. 


What is really needed is to define holy in terms of the 3 options suggested in order to give it more meaning and clarity.  Each of these is somewhat useful in that they have more contexts for use than the purely religious one.  Holy can still be found to be useful in terms of being meaningful, if we can define it clearly using 1-3 of these words.  Hallow on the other hand and sanctified on the other hand may need to disappear in an English context, because they are even more meaningless than holy is in English.  When is the last time anyone realized that "hallowed be your name" is connected to "holy be your name"?  Halloween be your name might be closer to the common person's thinking.  That is far too meaningless.  And when is the last time I've met someone who knows Latin?  No time that I know of in recent years.    

In Christ,