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Be Ye Holy
Chapter 1:
Holiness – The Foundation of Separation

Words for Holiness

Old Testament Words

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word qodesh and the words related to it are used for holiness.1 The words are translated as "pure, clean, holy."2 The concepts of purity and separation are universally recognized by lexicographers as the essential meaning of these words. They define the words as "holy, sanctuary, cleanse, apartness, sacredness,"3 or "be holy, withheld from profane use . . . holy things, filled with holiness, therefore to be treated carefully."4

Hebrew scholars generally say that these words derive from root words which mean "to cut or separate."5 There is widespread, but not universal, agreement among them on this point. It is also possible that the words come from a root which means "shining."6 If the latter is the case, the ideas of "purity, newness," and "freshness" are part of the definition of these words.7 Most likely the root "to cut" is the source of the words for holiness, but the issue cannot be resolved beyond doubt. It is clear that the idea of separation is part of the Old Testament words for holiness, regardless of their original root meaning.8

New Testament Words

The Greek verb hagiazo, "sanctify," with its cognates is "the Greek representative of Kadash."9 A related word, hagnos, shares the same root.10 The fundamental idea of the word seems to be separation.11 Two other words are used in the New Testament to convey the idea of holiness. "[Hosios] conveys the idea of piety, while . . . (hieros) connotes consecration."12

The idea of separation is one of the aspects of the words for holiness. The Hebrew words in the Old Testament and the Greek words in the New Testament all involve separation as a part of their meanings. We will see shortly that separation is not all there is to holiness, but it is a vital part of the concept.

It is clear that the idea of separation is inherent in holiness. If a person or thing is positively pure and clean, that person or thing is also negatively set apart or separated from what is impure and unclean. With this fact established, it is necessary to see the important role of holiness in the Bible's teaching concerning the character of God.

The Holiness of God

Charles C. Ryrie defines God's holiness when he says, "In respect to God, holiness means not only that He is separate from all that is unclean and evil, but also that He is positively pure and thus distinct from all others."13 A. H. Strong calls God's holiness His "self-affirming purity," 14 while G. C. Knapp states that it "is his moral perfection."15

Students of Scripture and theology have used several terms and descriptions to describe the holiness of God. Thomas Watson advanced four propositions on the holiness of God. He stated, "God is holy intrinsically. He is holy in His nature. His very being is made up of holiness, as light is the essence of the sun . . . .God is holy primarily. He is the original and pattern of holiness . . . .God is holy efficiently. He is the cause of all that is holy in others . . . .God is holy transcendently. No angel in heaven can take the just dimensions of God's holiness."16

Isaiah 57:15 stands out as a helpful verse for an analysis of God's holiness. It states, "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." This verse outlines three basic aspects of God's holiness. It describes His (1) intrinsic holiness ("whose name is Holy"); (2) transcendent holiness ("I dwell in the high and lofty place"); and (3) immanent holiness ("I dwell . . . with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit").


Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation. By Fred Moritz. ©1994. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address: Please note, due to browser limitations, the Hebrew and Greek words are not displayed in their original languages.

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