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Dictionaries :: Holiness

Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Holiness:

ho'-li-nes (qadhosh, "holy," qodhesh, "holiness"; hagios, "holy"):

I. IN THE OLD TESTAMENT MEANING OF THE TERM

1. The Holiness of God

(1) Absoluteness and Majesty

(2) Ethical Holiness

2. Holiness of Place, Time and Object

3. Holiness of Men

(1) Ceremonial

(2) Ethical and Spiritual

II. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT: THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION

1. Applied to God

2. Applied To Christ

3. Applied To Things

4. Applied To Christians

(1) As Separate from the World

(2) As Bound to the Pursuit of an Ethical Ideal




I. In the Old Testament Meaning of the Term.

There has been much discussion as to the original meaning of the Semitic root Q-D-SH, by which the notion of holiness is expressed in the Old Testament. Some would connect it with an Assyrian word denoting purity, clearness; most modern scholars incline to the view that the primary idea is that of cutting off or separation. Etymology gives no sure verdict on the point, but the idea of separation lends itself best to the various senses in which the word "holiness" is employed. In primitive Semitic usage "holiness" seems to have expressed nothing more than that ceremonial separation of an object from common use which the modern study of savage religions has rendered familiar under the name of taboo (W.R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, Lect iv). But within the Biblical sphere, with which alone we are immediately concerned, holiness attaches itself first of all, not to visible objects, but to the invisible Yahweh, and to places, seasons, things and human beings only in so far as they are associated with Him. And while the idea of ceremonial holiness runs through the Old Testament, the ethical significance which Christianity attributes to the term is never wholly absent, and gradually rises in the course of the revelation into more emphatic prominence.

1. The Holiness of God:

As applied to God the notion of holiness is used in the Old Testament in two distinct senses:

(1) Absoluteness and Majesty

First in the more general sense of separation from all that is human and earthly. It thus denotes the absoluteness, majesty, and awfulness of the Creator in His distinction from the creature. In this use of the word, "holiness" is little more than an equivalent general term for "Godhead," and the adjective "holy" is almost synonymous with "Divine" (compare Da 4:8,9,18; 5:11). Yahweh's "holy arm" (Isa 52:10; Ps 98:1) is His Divine arm, and His "holy name" (Le 20:3, etc.) is His Divine name. When Hannah sings "There is none holy as Yahweh" (1Sa 2:2), the rest of the verse suggests that she is referring, not to His ethical holiness, but simply to His supreme Divinity.

(2) Ethical Holiness

But, in the next place, holiness of character in the distinct ethical sense is ascribed to God. The injunction, "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (Le 11:44; 19:2), plainly implies an ethical conception. Men cannot resemble God in His incommunicable attributes. They can reflect His likeness only along the lines of those moral qualities of righteousness and love in which true holiness consists. In the Psalmists and Prophets the Divine holiness becomes, above all, an ethical reality convicting men of sin (Isa 6:3,1) and demanding of those who would stand in His presence clean hands and a pure heart (Ps 24:3 f).

2. Holiness of Place, Time and Object:

From the holiness of God is derived that ceremonial holiness of things which is characteristic of the Old Testament religion. Whatever is connected with the worship of the holy Yahweh is itself holy. Nothing is holy in itself, but anything becomes holy by its consecration to Him. A place where He manifests His presence is holy ground (Ex 3:5). The tabernacle or temple in which His glory is revealed is a holy building (Ex 28:29; 2Ch 35:5); and all its sacrifices (Ex 29:33), ceremonial materials (30:25; Nu 5:17) and utensils (1Ki 8:4) are also holy. The Sabbath is holy because it is the Sabbath of the Lord (Ex 20:8-11). "Holiness, in short, expresses a relation, which consists negatively in separation from common use, and positively in dedication to the service of Yahweh" (Skinner in HDB, II, 395).

3. Holiness of Men:

The holiness of men is of two kinds:

(1) Ceremonial

A ceremonial holiness, corresponding to that of impersonal objects and depending upon their relation to the outward service of Yahweh. Priests and Levites are holy because they have been "hallowed" or "sanctified" by acts of consecration (Ex 29:1; Le 8:12,30). The Nazirite is holy because he has separated himself unto the Lord (Nu 6:5). Above all, Israel, notwithstanding all its sins and shortcomings, is holy, as a nation separated from other nations for Divine purposes and uses (Ex 19:6, etc.; compare Le 20:24).

(2) Ethical and Spiritual

But out of this merely ceremonial holiness there emerges a higher holiness that is spiritual and ethical. For unlike other creatures man was made in the image of God and capable of reflecting the Divine likeness. And as God reveals Himself as ethically holy, He calls man to a holiness resembling His own (Le 19:2). In the so-called "Law of Holiness" (Le 17:1-26:46), God's demand for moral holiness is made clear; and yet the moral contents of the Law are still intermingled with ceremonial elements (Le 17:10 ff; 19:19; 21:1 ). In psalm and prophecy, however, a purely ethical conception comes into view-the conception of a human holiness which rests upon righteousness and truth (Ps 15:1 f) and the possession of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa 57:15). This corresponds to the knowledge of a God who, being Himself ethically holy, esteems justice, mercy and lowly piety more highly than sacrifice (Ho 6:6; Mic 6:6-8).

II. In the New Testament: The Christian Conception.

The idea of holiness is expressed here chiefly by the word hagios and its derivatives, which correspond very closely to the words of the Q-D-SH group in Hebrew, and are employed to render them in the Septuagint. The distinctive feature of the New Testament idea of holiness is that the external aspect of it has almost entirely disappeared, and the ethical meaning has become supreme. The ceremonial idea still exists in contemporary Judaism, and is typically represented by the Pharisees (Mr 7:1-13; Lu 18:11 f). But Jesus proclaimed a new view of religion and morality according to which men are cleansed or defiled, not by anything outward, but by the thoughts of their hearts (Mt 15:17-20), and God is to be worshipped neither in Samaria nor Jerusalem, but wherever men seek Him in spirit and in truth (Joh 4:21-24).

1. Applied to God:

In the New Testament the term "holy" is seldom applied to God, and except in quotations from the Old Testament (Lu 1:49; 1Pe 1:15 f), only in the Johannine writings (Joh 17:11; Re 4:8; 6:10). But it is constantly used of the Spirit of God (Mt 1:18; Ac 1:2; Ro 5:5, etc.), who now, in contrast with Old Testament usage, becomes specifically the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost.

2. Applied to Christ:

In several passages the term is applied to Christ (Mr 1:24; Ac 3:14; 4:30, etc.), as being the very type of ethical perfection (compare Heb 7:26).

3. Applied to Things:

In keeping with the fact that things are holy in a derivative sense through their relationship to God, the word is used of Jerusalem (Mt 4:5), the Old Testament covenant (Lu 1:72), the Scriptures (Ro 1:2), the Law (Ro 7:12), the Mount of Transfiguration (2Pe 1:18), etc.

4. Applied to Christians:

But it is especially in its application to Christians that the idea of holiness meets us in the New Testament in a sense that is characteristic and distinctive. Christ's people are regularly called "saints" or holy persons, and holiness in the high ethical and spiritual meaning of the word is used to denote the appropriate quality of their life and conduct.

(1) As Separate from the World

No doubt, as applied to believers, "saints" conveys in the first place the notion of a separation from the world and a consecration to God. Just as Israel under the old covenant was a chosen race, so the Christian church in succeeding to Israel's privileges becomes a holy nation (1Pe 2:9), and the Christian individual, as one of the elect people, becomes a holy man or woman (Col 3:12). In Paul's usage all baptized persons are "saints," however far they may still be from the saintly character (compare 1Co 1:2,14 with 5:1 ff).

(2) As Bound to the Pursuit of an Ethical Ideal

But though the use of the name does not imply high ethical character as a realized fact, it always assumes it as an ideal and an obligation. It is taken for granted that the Holy Spirit has taken up His abode in the heart of every regenerate person, and that a work of positive sanctification is going on there. The New Testament leaves no room for the thought of a holiness divorced from those moral qualities which the holy God demands of those whom He has called to be His people.

LITERATURE.

Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, Lects. iii, iv; A. B. Davidson, Theology of the Old Testament, 145 ff; Schultz, Theology of the Old Testament, II, 167 ff; Orr, Sin as a Problem of Today, chapter iii; Sanday-Headlam, Romans, 12 ff; articles "Holiness" in HDB and "Heiligkeit Gottes im AT" in RE.

Written by J. C. Lambert

See SANCTIFICATION

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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