Sept. 14, 2009
Holiness, part 3
Using Blue Letter Bible, I’ve begun to do a little research into the word holy. My first question is: is it the same as the word “sacred?” Is there a difference between the two concepts? Doing a quick search, I’ve found three words: qadash (172 appeareances in the Hebrew OT), qadowsh (116 appeareances), and qodesh (468 appearances). Qadash seems to be used more for sanctify and it is a verb, and qadowsh is used more for holy, and it is an adjective. Qodesh is a noun with a variety of meanings.
The three words
Qadash (sanctify) seems to be used in terms of “sanctify something or another,” as it is a verb. It is used for sanctifying priests, a firstborn, or the sabbath day. It seems to me that the meaning of this word (or the English sanctify) is to make something holy.
Qadowsh (holy) seems to be used in terms of a holy place (in the temple), God as being Holy (Isaiah 6), Israel as a holy people, more or less as an adjective. It also describes God (in English) as the Holy One of Israel and is used for OT references to “Saints.” Interestingly, Exodus 29:37, the people are ordered to qadash the alter to make it qadowsh. Sanctify it to make it holy. So, from a quick reading, it seems that sanctifying is the process of making something holy. Therefore, a sanctified thing, like the alter, is a holy thing.
Qodesh is our noun. It’s used to describe holy gifts or holy things (which are literally, “qodesh”, or “holies”). It’s used as a word that we translate sometimes into sanctuary in the English (when referring to the tabernacle or temple), meaning that the sanctuary was literally the “holy” of God. There’s also another word used about half the time for sanctuary which seems more literally to mean “sanctuary.” As near as I can tell, when something in the Bible in English is “most Holy” (like the holy of holies), it’s qodesh qodesh (holy holy). I suppose this makes the holy holy holy of God (despite being three Qadowshes) rather significant: even one more level of holy.
I believe it’s interesting to point out that God is often described as qadowsh, but He is never quadashed. God has no need of sancifying (being made holy), because He is inherently holy. Because He is holy, nothing can be done to make Him more holy. However, things that are sanctified are sanctified TO HIM.
In short, in the Hebrew, I think that these are all different forms of the same word: holy, holiness, and to holy (adjective, noun, and verb).
But what does it mean?
These words have a strong nuance of seperateness. This makes sense: when you make something holy, you seperate it to a god. So, the meaning of holy itself implies seperateness. Perhaps this is even the root meaning of it… not sure, gotta research that one some more.
However, I’m going to place a theory that all true holiness is derived from the holiness of God. All seperateness is derived from the separateness of God. Hmm… interesting when you put it that way. Because there’s lots of other serparateness in this world. Separate tubes of toothepaste for married couples; doors that separate different rooms. A very big wall to separate the US and Mexico. There are all kinds of separateness in this world. However, I wouldn’t describe the wall between the US and Mexico as a sanctifying wall. It’s just a separating wall. I wouldn’t describe my shoes as holy because I’m the only one who wears them. They’re just separated to me. So, there is a difference between separateness and holiness.
Indeed, there is a different Hebrew word used for “separate” when it’s used in the plain sense (not holiness). This is parad and comes out 26 times in the OT. It’s used for rivers that part in Genesis 2. It’s used for nations dividing and covering the earth in Genesis 10. Abram and Lot parad. And the like. In my very quick survey, I find a suspicious lack of the word from Exodus to Deuteronomy, where holiness and sacredness are used all over the place. So, in short, there is a separate word for separate, so holiness, despite being separateness, means something far, far more.
Back to the point
Anyways, about all holiness in the world being derived from God’s holiness. I’m going to use “separate-plus” as a running definition for holiness. This separate-plusness exists as a primary atribute of God. And things, such as those in the temple, are called holy. In this case, I think what’s being said is that when a person is made holy (like a priest), they are pulled out from unholy things (things that are unified, not separate) and united with God in his holiness.
In other words, picture a line. To the left of the line is everything. To the right of the line is God and only God. When something is sanctified, is is taken from the everything-side and put on the God-side (separated). A holy thing is something that is on the God-side of the line, meaning that it is cut off or separated from all other things.
So, where have I come?
I’ve come to the conclusion that sacredness and holiness are the same thing but different parts of speech.
Holiness is separate-plusness.
However, I don’t understand what that “plus” is. What is it that makes holiness different from separateness? I believe that as I find that, I will get to the point where no word (in any language) can accurately describe holiness. That “plus” is what I’m seeking more than anything and where I believe a great blessing lies.
My working theory is that holiness is inherent to God and that all holy things are holy because they are separated to Him from other things. This will probably have some significant meaning when it comes to Christian sanctification the command that we should be holy.
One of the next things that I plan to do is to do a similar word search to this of holiness as it appears in the New Testament.