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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

HOLINESS. —The word ‘holy’ is etymologically connected with ‘whole,’ ‘hale,’ ‘healthy,’ etc. (cf. Ger. heilsam, heilig ). Modern lexicographers hesitate to speak with certainty in regard to the primitive meaning of the root whence this group of words is derived. Murray’s English Dict . is content to equate ‘holy’ with the Lat. sanetus, sacer , on the ground that ‘we cannot in Old English get behind the Christian sense.’ It is probable that the sense-development is either from hailo, i.e . inviolate, inviolable, that which must be preserved whole  ; or from hail in the sense of health , well-being.

In all the passages to which reference will be made, the Greek word is ἅγιος or one of its derivatives, with the exception of  Acts 2:27;  Acts 13:35,  Luke 1:75,  Hebrews 7:26, where ὅσιος or ὁσιότης is found. In Acts the words of  Psalms 16:10 are quoted twice; ‘thy Holy One’ is a title of the Messiah to whom pre-eminently belongs the OT designation of the theocratic nation,—οἱ ὅσιοι τοῦ θεοῦ, God’s pious ones. ‘The ὅσιος, the German fromm , is one who reverences the everlasting sanctities and owns their obligation’ (Trench, Synonyms of the NT , § lxxxviii.). In  Luke 1:75 ‘holiness’ and ‘righteousness’ are closely associated, as is frequently the case both in classical and biblical usage. The words are complementary, though the sharp distinction drawn by Plato ( Gorgias , 507 B) cannot be maintained: in the NT ‘righteousness’ cannot be limited to duties toward men, nor can ‘holiness’ be restricted to duties toward God. Righteousness is the manward, as holiness is the Godward aspect of pious character and conduct. Hence Jesus, our High Priest, is ‘holy’ ( Hebrews 7:26); in His filial reverence and in His devotion to His Father’s will there is no flaw; He is, therefore, fitted to appear in the presence of God to do priestly service on our behalf. The LXX Septuagint usually renders חָסִיד (‘godly’ or ‘beloved’) by ὅσιος ( Deuteronomy 33:8,  2 Samuel 22:26,  Psalms 4:4 etc.), but קָדו̇שׁ is generally translated ἅγιος ( Exodus 19:6,  Numbers 6:5,  Psalms 15:1, etc.).

Both ἅγιος and קָדו̇שׁ are used when holiness is ascribed to God as well as to persons and things. The question, therefore, arises—What is the primary meaning which underlies and connects these different applications of the word? If the fundamental idea is , the progress of thought is from the negative to the positive, from men and things to God, from the cleansing which is an essential qualification for use in the service of God to purity as the central attribute of God Himself. But if the fundamental idea is Divinity, separation becomes a derivative conception; the progress of thought is then from the positive to the negative, from God to external things and persons. Every devoted to God must be separated from profane or common uses; and every devoted to God is not only thus set apart, but is also under moral obligation to fit himself for drawing near to God by separating himself from all that is sinful.

Those who regard separation as the radical meaning of ἅγιος make it almost synonymous with ἁγνός, which signifies pure , and sets forth a negative conception of holiness. Stevens (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ii. 399) follows Trench, and interprets  1 John 3:3—ἐκεῖνος ἁγνός ἐστιν—of God. But, as Westcott ( Com. in loc .) points out, ἐκεῖνος in this Epistle always refers to Christ; it is in respect of His true humanity that it can be said ‘He is pure,’ and not only ‘He was pure.’ In His glorified state ‘the result of the perfection of His earthly discipline ( Hebrews 5:7 ff.) still abides.’ According to St. John, a ‘hope set on’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885) Christ is a constant incentive to strive after holiness; and the standard by which the disciple will always measure his attainments is the perfect purity of his Lord. Few will doubt the soundness of the inference which Westcott bases on his exposition of this verse and on his study of the words:

‘Both ἁγνὸς and καθαρός differ from ἅγιος in that they admit the thought or the fact of temptation or pollution; while ἁγιος describes that which is holy absolutely, either in itself or in idea. God can be spoken of as ἁγιος but not as ἁγνός, while Christ can be spoken of as ἀγνός in virtue of the perfection of His humanity. A man is ἅγιος in virtue of his Divine destination ( Hebrews 10:10) to which he is gradually conformed (ἁγιάζετκι,  Hebrews 10:14); he is ἁγνὸς in virtue of earthly, human discipline.’

This clear and helpful distinction assumes that the primary meaning of ἅγιος must be sought in the revelation of the essential nature of God; the various meanings of ἅγιος may thus be traced in orderly sense-development from its root το ἅγος, ‘religious awe,’ ‘reverence.’ ‘Holy is his name’ ( Luke 1:49) is the starting-point; things and persons are holy by reason of their being destined for Divine uses; the secondary meaning of separation from defilement arises at a later stage, as clearer perception of the nature of God also reveals the need of preparation for His service by cleansing from all impurity.

This conclusion must be tested by a brief study of the Jewish conception of holiness. The etymology of קָדו̇שׁ (LXX Septuagint generally ἅγιος, sometimes καθαρός, never ὁσιος) is disputed. Little can be learnt from the use of cognate words by non-Israelitish peoples. The profound and indeed unique meaning of holiness in the religion of revelation can be ascertained only from a careful investigation of the phraseology of the OT writers. An excellent sketch of the probable history of the word, which assumes that its fundamental idea is separation, is given in Sunday-Headlam’s Romans (note on 1:7); but it is acknowledged that ‘there is a certain element of conjecture … which is inevitable from the fact that the earlier stages in the history of the word had been already gone through when the Hebrew literature begins.’ There is, therefore, scope for further inquiry.

Kittel ( PR E [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] vii. 566 ff.) maintains that the root-idea of the word is positive. Things are not holy because they are separated from other things; they are separated from other things because they are holy. When holiness is ascribed to vessels, animals for sacrifice, etc., either order of thought is suitable. But this is not the case when, e.g. , the temple, Zion, and heaven are called holy; they are holy because they are the abode of God. If the primary meaning of holy is that which belongs to God and is devoted to His service , persons may be called holy who stand in a close relation to God, inasmuch as they are in a special sense His servants. Very instructive is  Numbers 16:5 ‘In the morning the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy.’ As applied to persons and to the nation, holiness acquired a deeper significance. In the Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17 ff.) the command. ‘Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy’ ( Leviticus 19:2), is seen to involve both external requirements referring to ritual, and inward requirements referring to moral character.

The holiness of God means, if the positive idea is primary, His ‘essential Divinity.’ Kittel’s exposition accords with Bengel’s saying that God’s glory (כָּבו̇ד) is His disclosed holiness, and His holiness (ק̇סֶשׁ) is His inner glory. God’s holiness is ‘that which proves Him to be God; that which is worthy of God.’ Cf. ‘The Lord God hath sworn his holiness’ ( Amos 4:2), with ‘The Lord God bath sworn himself’ ( Amos 6:8). If it be said that this definition is vague, the reply is that ‘the Divine essence cannot he expressed in a single formula which is suitable for all stages in the development of the OT idea of God.’ It is a manifest advantage of this view that the evolution of the idea of holiness finds its explanation in the historical evolution of the idea of God. An early stage is seen in  1 Samuel 6:20 ‘Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?’ None may approach Him save those who have complied with the prescribed regulations (cf.  1 Samuel 21:5). As the moral nature of God was more clearly apprehended, the conception of His holiness was spiritualized; in  Hosea 11:9 ‘I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee,’ the Divine holiness is the ethical motive of the resolve, ‘I will not come in wrath ((Revised Version margin)) into the city.’ Kittel rightly distinguishes God’s glory from His holiness: ‘Olory’ is a cosmic predicate of God, and refers to the outshining of His attributes, which may be metaphysical or moral; but ‘holiness’ has always a tendency to acquire an ethical significance, and becomes at last solely His moral glory.

The fact that the conception of holiness varies with the conception of God explains the occasional deterioration of the idea. When stress was laid upon the transcendence of God, stress was also laid upon ritual purity. But, in general, later Jewish teaching has insisted upon moral as well as ceremonial purity as being essential qualifications for the service of the Holy One of Israel. Rightly to understand the meaning of ‘holy’ as used by our Lord and His contemporaries, it is needful to remember that for rabbinical Judaism holiness became ‘synonymous with purity of life, purity of action, and purity of thought’ (see Jewish Encyc . vi. 441b). Holiness is ‘an ideal state of perfection attained only by God’ (Jerus. [Note: Jerusalem.] Ber. ix. 13 a ); but ‘man grows in holiness the more he aspires to the Divine will, rising above the sensual’ ( Yoma , 39 a ). Dalman says ( Words of Jesus , p. 202) that ‘the Holiness’ (הַקּדִשׁ) became a Divine title ( Siphre , Num. 112, ed. Friedm. 33 a ).

The NT passages which fall within the limits of this article may be classified according as (1) holiness is ascribed to things, places, or persons by ( a ) the Evangelists, ( b ) our Lord; (2) holiness is ascribed to Christ ( a ) in the Acts, ( b ) in the Epistles.

1. Holiness in the Gospels. —( a ) The Evangelists speak of ‘the holy city’ ( Matthew 4:5;  Matthew 27:53), ‘the holy place’ ( Matthew 24:15), ‘his holy covenant’ ( Luke 1:72): Jerusalem and the temple are holy, as being the abode of God; the covenant made with Abraham is holy, as being a revelation of the gracious purpose of God in choosing a people to serve Him in holiness ( Luke 1:75; see above on ὁσιότης). Persons are described as holy, because they are devoted to God’s service: in the Gospels mention is made of ‘the holy angels’ ( Mark 8:38,  Luke 9:26), ‘his holy prophets’ ( Luke 1:70), and Herod is said to have recognized the holiness of John the Baptist ( Mark 6:20); in such uses of the word there is included an assertion of the moral purity which is an essential qualification for the service of God. In  Luke 2:23 an OT quotation ( Exodus 13:2) explains that the offering of the parents of Jesus, when they presented their child to the Lord in the temple, was a recognition of the fact that every firstborn son was holy as belonging to God. The ascription of holiness to the Divine Spirit ( Matthew 1:18 etc.) will be considered in paragraph ( b ); but here it may be noted that in the story of the Annunciation ( Luke 1:35), Mary is told that the Holy Spirit shall come upon her with the result that her child shall be holy (τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον); and that once ( Luke 4:1) Jesus is described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit.’ In  Mark 1:24 =  Luke 4:34 the man with an unclean spirit calls Christ ‘the Holy One of God,’ and according to the true text Simon Peter uses the same title ( John 6:69). The phrase is a designation of the Messiah, described by John ( John 10:36) as ‘him whom the Father consecrated’ (ἡγίασε. For this and other uses of ἁγιάζειν see art. Consecration). Finally, holiness is ascribed to God in the Magnificat , and the whole context (‘his mercy,’ etc.) shows that ‘holy is his name’ ( Luke 1:49) is a declaration of the moral glory of God.

( b ) Our Lord never speaks of any person , save the Father and the Spirit, as holy; and only once does He describe any thing as holy. His command, ‘Give not that which is holy to the dogs’ ( Matthew 7:6), is a proverbial expression whose origin is probably some Jewish exclamation of horror at the thought of profaning altar-flesh, which had been offered in sacrifice to God ( Leviticus 23:6 ff. LXX Septuagint τὰ ἅγια). A similar saying is quoted from Aristotle: ‘Do not fling wisdom into the street’ (μήτε ῥίψαι σοφίαν εἰς τοὑς τριόδους, ap . Themist. p. 234).

The application of our Lord’s words need not be limited to preachers of the gospel; and it is certain that they do not sanction any doctrine of reserve in the statement of truth; their obvious meaning seems to be that holy themes are not to be exposed to the contempt of the profane. John Wesley’s comment ( Sermon xxx.) is both pithy and pertinent: ‘Beware of thinking that any deserve this appellation till there is full and incontestable proof.’ But ‘great and glorious truths’ are not to be forced upon those who ‘contradict and blaspheme.’ ‘Do not begin a discourse with these upon remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.… The most probable way to make Felix tremble is to reason with him of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.’

In each of the four Gospels there are passages in which our Lord speaks of the Holy Spirit, viz.  Matthew 12:32;  Matthew 28:19,  Mark 3:29;  Mark 12:36;  Mark 13:11,  Luke 12:10;  Luke 12:12,  John 14:26;  John 20:22. In so speaking He definitely ascribes essential Divinity to the Spirit. Not in this way could He have spoken of ‘a created Intelligence above the angels’ but inferior to Himself. Moreover, this Divine agent is distinguished both from the Father who sends Him, and from the Son in whose name He is sent; and in the NT the phrase which normally describes Him—‘the Holy Spirit’—ascribes to Him the essential attributes of Deity, the moral glory of God.

In this sense Dalman’s words ( op. cit. p. 202f.) must be understood when he says, ‘As regards content, there is no difference between “Spirit of God” and “Holy Spirit.” ’ He is careful to point out that, as ‘the Holiness’ had become a Divine title, ‘it might readily be supposed that in the term דוּתַקֽדְשָׁא “the Holy Spirit,” the word קֽדְשָׁא became in reality a name for God, so that τὁ τνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ would represent it more accurately than τὁ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. But in that case terms like רוּתַקֽדִשְׁךָ “thy holy spirit” ( Psalms 51:11), רוּחָארְקֽדְשָׁי “my holy spirit” ( Targ. Is 42:1), would be impossible. And yet it must be maintained that the addition of קֽדִשָׁא is expressly meant to specify Divinity as an attribute of the Spirit.’ See, further, Holy Spirit.

The last recorded example of our Lord’s use of the word ‘holy’ is in His intercessory prayer. He who never called any human being ‘holy’ prays that His disciples may attain unto holiness. His petitions are both negative and positive: from the corruptions of the world He asks that they may be kept in the name ( John 17:11 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885) which in its fulness it had been His mission to reveal. But it is not enough for them to be kept from entering the domain of the Evil One ( John 17:15 ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, cf.  1 John 5:19 ‘the whole world lieth in the evil one’). If they are to continue Christ’s work, they must be partakers of His holiness, for only in complete devotion of all their powers to the service of God can they share their Master’s joy. Hence He also asks, as in absolute self-sacrifice He consecrates Himself, that ‘they themselves also may be consecrated in truth’ ( John 17:19). In these petitions the love of Christ for His own finds full expression, and they are fitly introduced by the unique phrase ‘Holy Father’ (cf. ‘Father,’  John 17:1, and ‘righteous Father,’  John 17:25). In this glorious name of God ‘all excellences meet’; purity and tenderness unite, majesty and pity combine. Christ regards this all-sufficient knowledge of God as ‘an ideal region of security,’ in which His disciples will be safe from harm. As long as they are ‘in the name,’ it will be impossible for thoughts of God’s holiness to suggest that it is dangerous to approach the Holy Father (cf.  1 Samuel 6:20;  1 Samuel 21:5, and see above). Nor can the revelation in Christ of His ‘pitying tenderness Divine’ lead to sinful presuming on His grace, and to neglect of moral purity, without which none may hold communion with the Holy Father. Therefore, as in the OT the conception of holiness varies with the conception of God, so in the NT the climax of the revelation of the Father in the Son is reached in the harmonizing of the ‘many-hued’ manifestations (cf. πολυποίκιλος,  Ephesians 3:10) of His glory in the pure, white light of His holy love. The opening petitions of the Lord’s Prayer teach that His Kingdom will come and His will be done ‘as in heaven, so on earth,’ when in His Church on earth as in heaven the name of the Holy Father is hallowed ( Matthew 6:10 Ἁγιας θήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου … ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς).

2. The holiness of Christ. —Outside the Gospels holiness is ascribed to Christ in the Acts and the Epistles.—( a ) The Acts . St. Peter ( Acts 2:27) and St. Paul ( Acts 13:35) see in the resurrection of Jesus proof that He is God’s ‘Holy One,’ in whom is fulfilled the Messianic promise that He should not see corruption ( Psalms 16:10; (Revised Version margin) renders חָסִיד ‘godly or beloved,’ see above on ὄσιος). In the prayer of the early Church, Jesus is twice described as Jehovah’s ‘Holy Servant’ ( Acts 4:27;  Acts 4:30), and it is probable that St. Peter has in mind Isaiah 53 when he speaks of Jesus as ‘the Holy and Righteous One’ ( Acts 3:14, cf.  Acts 3:13). In these passages ἅγιος is applied to the ideal Servant, in whose consecration, even unto death, God’s moral glory was revealed.—( b ) The Epistles . Our High Priest, for ever ‘separated from sinners,’ is ‘holy’ ( Hebrews 7:26). Here ὅσιος is a comprehensive summary of those inward qualities which were manifested by our Lord’s dutiful submission to His Father’s will: pre-eminently He was ‘pure in heart,’ fitted to exercise, in the presence of God, His ministry of intercession. In  Romans 1:4 ‘the spirit of holiness’ is not a synonym of Holy Spirit; holiness is ascribed to the spirit of the Incarnate Son. The πνεῦμα of Christ was human; in this respect He was ‘made like unto his brethren’ ( Hebrews 2:17); but His spirit was holy, and in that He was ‘without sin’ ( Hebrews 4:15), He was unique among men. His ‘spirit of holiness’ was ‘the seat of the Divine nature’; He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and being ‘essentially filled with God’ was ‘full of Divine unpolluted life’ (cf. Meyer, Com. in loc .). St. Paul declares that it was in complete accord (κατά) with the transcendent holiness which was the characterizing quality of the spirit of Christ that His Divine Sonship should be visibly manifested in the miracle of His resurrection. In  1 John 2:20 ‘Ye have an anointing (χρῖσμα) from the Holy One,’ the reference may possibly be to God the Father; but almost certainly the Holy One is Christ (cf.  1 John 3:3 ‘He is pure,’ and see above). The true reading in  Hebrews 7:27 (αὐτοῦ not τὸ αὐτό), ‘His anointing,’ seems to remove all ambiguity. St. John says that Christians have a chrism from the Christ; and there can be little doubt that the predominant reference in chrism is to the Holy Spirit. It is ‘a faint prelusive note,’ and in  1 John 3:24 ‘the full distinct mention of the Holy Spirit comes like a burst of the music of the “Veni Creator,” carrying on the fainter prelude’ ( Expos. Bible , p. 170).

The chief contributions to the formal exposition of the NT doctrine of holiness lie beyond the limits of this article. It need occasion no surprise that even to His disciples our Lord should not speak directly concerning holiness until in His farewell prayer He asked that the men called to continue His mission might share His consceration. The reason for His reticence is that ‘in Him, and for them, holiness imported something—far more and other than it did in the religion of the day.… Only as they saw their Lord devote His person in the consummating sacrifice would they be prepared to realize what their Christian consecration involved’ (Findlay, Expositor , vi. [1901] iv. 5). It is also significant that the prayer for His disciples’ holiness should immediately follow the discourse in which our Lord expounds in welcome detail what is involved in the promise of the Spirit whose gracious indwelling is the secret of holiness.

The Gospels are, however, the supreme revelation of holiness. The imitation of Christ is the royal road to holiness; His teaching concerning union with Himself and the bestowment of the Holy Spirit reveals the secret of holiness. The writers of the Epistles, under the guidance of the promised Teacher, unfolded the implications of their own experience and the purpose of the Incarnation, the Passion, and the abiding Priesthood of the Son of God.

The stress laid on the positive idea, which is probably the primary conception of holiness, may serve to guard Christians against the error of supposing that holiness may be acquired by withdrawals and negations, or by compliance with external regulations. Holiness means the attainment of the Divine likeness, and this consists in moral qualities which are all comprised in holy love. The motive to holiness increases in strength as God is more perfectly known. In proportion as the Holy Father is known as He is, will he the gladness of our response to His claims, and the ardour of our desire to be like Him in this world. Into the world Christ sent the men for whose consecration He prayed, and His promise, ‘Ye shall know that ye are in me’ ( John 14:20), conveyed to them His assurance that ‘in the world’ they should attain to holiness. Life in Christ is holiness.

Literature.—In addition to the books mentioned in the body of the article, see the Comm . on the various passages, and works on Theol. of NT  ; also Grimm-Thayer and Cremer, svv . ἅγιος, ὁσιος; art. ‘Holiness’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible; Issel, Der Begriff d. Heiligkeit im NT  ; Askwith, Christian Conception of Holiness .

J. G. Tasker.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [2]

Holy, Holiness, Most Holy

In Scripture language, strictly and properly speaking, these terms are only applicable to the Lord. In short, the very term means Jehovah himself, for he, and and he only, is holy in the abstract. Hence it is, that we so often meet with those expressions descriptive of his person and character. "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. Thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, I dwell in the high and holy place." ( Isaiah 57:15) Hence the term is applied to all the persons of the Godhead distinctly and separately, and to all in common; the Father speaks of it with peculiar emphasis, yea, confirms his promises by the solemnity of an oath, and does this, by pledging his holiness as the fullest assurance of the truth: "Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David." ( Psalms 89:35) The Son of God is also spoken of with peculiar emphasis, as essentially holly in himself, in his divine nature, "being One with the Father, over all God blessed for ever, Amen." ( Romans 9:5) Thus in special reference to the Lord Jesus, as the Son of God, when the prophet is speaking both of the Father and the Son, he joins in one verse the person of each, and gives to each the distinguishing character of the GODHEAD. "Fear not, thou worm, Jacob, and ye men of Israel: I will help, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel." ( Isaiah 41:14) In like manner, God the Holy Ghost is peculiarly and personally considered under this Almightiness of character, his Holiness; and the same divine perfection declared to be essentially his, in common with the Father and the Son. Indeed, as if to define the glory of his person, Holy is the essential and incommunicable name by which the Eternal Spirit is known and distinguished throughout his sacred word. Hence, in his offices it is said of him, that by his overshadowing power acting on the body of the Virgin, at the conception of Christ, that Holy Thing, so called, should be born. (See  Luke 1:35) So again, at the baptism of Christ, the blessed Spirit seen by Christ, decending like the hovering of a dove, and lighting upon the person of Christ, and thus distinguished in point of personality from God the Father, whose voice from heaven, in the same moment, declared Jesus to be his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. ( Matthew 3:16-17) And holiness is essentially and personally ascribed to God the Holy Ghost, in that gracious office of his, when it is said of the Lord Jesus, that God the Father anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power. ( Acts 10:38)

But what I beg the reader particularly to observe with me, under this glorious distinction of character, belonging to each and to all the persons of the GODHEAD, is the very peculiar manner in which the holiness of JEHOVAH is spoken of in Scripture. While each person of the GODHEAD is thus plainly said to be holy, in the abstract of the word, and in a way of holiness that can be ascribed to no other; the worship and adoration of the Holy Three in One is peculiarly offered up in this very character. When Isaiah saw Christ's glory, (see  Isaiah 6:1-13 compared with  John 12:41) the acclamations of the heavenly host resounded to the praises of JEHOVAH, under thrice ascriptions of the same, to the holiness of the Lord. So in like manner in John's vision. (See  Revelation 4:8) Certainly (this Trisagium,) this peculiar adoration of JEHOVAH in the holiness of his nature, rather than to any of the other perfections of the Lord, must have a meaning. Wherefore this divine attribute should be singled out, rather than the faithfulness of JEHOVAH, which we know the Lord delights in, (see  Deuteronomy 7:9) or the eternity of JEHOVAH, which the Lord describes himself by, (see  Isaiah 57:15) I dare not venture even to conjecture. We are commanded to worship the Lord, indeed, in the beauty of holiness. ( Psalms 96:9) And Moses's song celebrates the Lord's praise, in being glorious in holiness. ( Exodus 15:11) And no doubt, as in the portrait of a man, to behold it in its most complete form, we should take all the prominent features of beauty, so the holy Scriptures of God, when sketching the divine representation, do it in all that loveliness of character, so as to endear the Lord to every heart, Hence David made this the "one great desire of his soul,"to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple." ( Psalms 27:4) I must not forget, under this article yet farther to observe, that the thrice ascribing holiness to JEHOVAH in the song of heaven, hath been uniformly and invariably considered by the church, as the suited adoration to each person of the GODHEAD, and, at the same time, to all, collectively considered, in the one glorious and eternal JEHOVAH, existing in a threefold character of persons,"Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. ( 1 John 5:7)

Having thus briefly considered the subject, as referring to the holiness of JEHOVAH in his own eternal power and GODHEAD, the subject must now be considered in reference to the person of the God-man Christ Jesus, and then to the church in him.

As strictly and properly speaking, the term "holy" can belong to none but JEHOVAH, and so the song of Hannah beautifully set forth, ( 1 Samuel 2:2) so none but the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Christ of God, can be holy. The highest order of created beings, angels of the first magnitude, have only a derived holiness from the Lord, as the moon's brightest light is only borrowed from the sun. The holiness of creatures can be no other than as the shadow to the substance. Hence we are told, that in the very moment of adoration "angels veil their faces," as if to testify their nothingness in the presence of the Lord. ( Isaiah 6:2) But, by the union of that pure holy portion of our nature which the Son of God hath united to himself in the GODHEAD of his nature, he hath communicated an infinite dignity to that nature, and made it holy as himself. In fact, it is truly and properly himself; for in Christ, God and man in one person, dwelleth "all the fulness of the GODHEAD bodily." ( Colossians 2:9) And hence, in proof, we have these blessed Scriptures. Daniel, when speaking of Christ as coming "to finish transgression, and to make an end of sin," saith, that this is "to anoint the Most Holy." ( Daniel 9:24) And another prophet calls Christ, as Christ, the Holy One. "Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." ( Psalms 16:10) And the Lord Jesus had this name specifically given him before his incarnation, the Holy Thing. ( Luke 1:35) And Peter, in his sermon, peculiarly denominates the Lord Jesus Christ, in his mediatorial character, the Holy One, and the Just. ( Acts 3:14) All which, and more to the same amount, are expressly spoken of the Lord Jesus Christ, in his person and character as the Head of his body the Church, God and man in one person. "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." ( Hebrews 7:26) Such, then, is the personal holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ—an holiness higher than the angels, be cause the infinite holiness of the GODHEAD in him is underived. Hence of angels, it is said, the Lord "chargeth them with folly;" ( Job 4:18) that is, with weakness, and the possibility of sinning. But of the Son, he saith, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;" that is, his mediatorial throne, as is plain by what follows: "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore, God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." ( Hebrews 1:8-9) Here is a double proof that this is said to Christ, as Christ; for in the first place, the anointing of the Lord Jesus could not have been as God only, but as God and man in one person. And, secondly, this anointing with the oil of gladness is expressly said to have been, "for, or above his fellows," that is, his body the Church; evidently proving hereby, that he is considered, and here spoken of, as "the glorious Head of his body the church, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." ( Ephesians 1:22-23)

Next, we must take a view of the term holy and holiness; as relating to Christ's church, made so only by virtue of her union with him. And this becomes a most interesting part to be considered, because without an eye to the Lord Jesus, nothing in the creation of God can be farther from holiness, than poor, fallen, ruined, undone man. I beg the reader's particular attention to this, as forming one of the sweetest features of the gospel. The whole Scriptures of God declare, that the great purpose for which the Son of God became incarnate, was to destroy the works of the devil, and to raise up the tabernacles of David that were fallen down, and to purify to himself "a peculiar people, zealous of good works." One of the apostles, in a very interesting and beautiful manner, describes the Lord Jesus in this endearing character, as engaged in the great work of salvation. "Christ (saith he) loved the church, and gave himself for it: that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." ( Ephesians 5:25-27) And hence, in conformity to this gracious design of the Lord Jesus, we find the church of God, beheld as in oneness and union with her glorious Husband, spoken of, in all ages of the church, under this precious character. "Ye shall be (saith Moses to the true Israel of God) a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." ( Exodus 19:5-6) And hence the gospel-charter, corresponding to the same as the law by Moses had typically represented, makes the same proclamation. "Ye are (saith Peter) a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." ( 1 Peter 2:9) And if it be asked, as well it may, how is it that the church of the Lord Jesus, which in every individual member of it is continually complaining of a body of sin and death, believers carry about with them from day to day, how is it that such can be called holy before the Lord? The answer is at hand, and perfectly satisfactory: They are so, from their union with, and their right and interest in their glorious Head; for if he was made sin for them, who knew no sin, it is but just that they, who in themselves have no righteousness, should be made "the righteousness of God in him." ( 2 Corinthians 5:21) And if the church be commanded, as that the church is, and by God the Father himself; to call Christ "the Lord our righteousness," equally proper is it, and by the same authority also, that the church should be called the Lord our righteousness, as the lawful wife bearing her husband's name. (Compare  Jeremiah 23:6 with  Jeremiah 33:16) And all this because the Lord Jesus hath married his church, hath made her holy in his holiness and is become to her, by God the father's own covenant-engagements, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." ( 1 Corinthians 1:30) Such, then, are the beautiful Scripture views of holy and of holiness, in the lovely order of it. First, as beheld in the persons of the GODHEAD, in the very being of JEHOVAH. Secondly, as the same in the personal holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Christ of God, and the glorious Head of his body the church. And thirdly, as making holy the whole body of the church in Jesus, and from Jesus, and by Jesus, united to him. And hence, from this union, every thing that is called holy in Scripture, derives that sanctity. The temple, the holy of holies, the vessels of the sanctuary, the ordinances, sacrifices, and all that belonged to the Jewish church. And, under the Christian dispensation, every thing found in the simple services of Christ's church is no otherwise holy, than as it derives that purity from Christ's person; Christ is all, and in all. Yea, heaven itself, into which Jesus is gone as the forerunner of his people, hath all its holiness and blessedness from him. John tells the church, that "he saw no temple there, for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it." ( Revelation 21:22)

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]



The Heb. words connected with the Semitic root qdsh (those connected with the root chrm may be left out of the inquiry: cf. art. Ban), namely, qôdesh ‘holiness,’ qâdôsh ‘holy,’ qiddash , etc. ‘sanctify, the derived noun miqdâsh ‘sanctuary,’ qâdçsh qedçshâh ‘whore,’ ‘harlot’ occur in about 830 passages in OT, about 350 of which are in the Pentateuch. The Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] qaddîsh ‘holy’ is met with 13 times in the Book of Daniel, qâdçsh and qedçshâh have almost exclusively heathen associations, qaddîsh is used in a few passages of the gods, but otherwise the Biblical words from this root refer exclusively to Jehovah, and persons or things connected with Him. The primary meaning seems at present indiscoverable, some making it to be that of ‘separation’ or ‘cutting off,’ others connecting with châdâsh ‘new,’ and the Assyr. [Note: Assyrian.] quddushu ‘pure,’ ‘bright’; but neither brings conclusive evidence. In actual use the word is always a religious term, being, when applied to deity, almost equivalent to ‘divine,’ and meaning, when used of personsorthings, ‘set apart from common use for divine use.’

1. Holiness of God . For all the Ancient East, PhÅ“nicians and Babylonians as well as Hebrews, a god was a holy being, and anything specially appropriated to one, for example an ear-ring or nose-ring regarded as an amulet, was also holy. The conception of holiness was consequently determined by the current conception of God. If the latter for any people at any time was low, the former was low also, and vice versa . In the heathen world of the Ancient East the Divine holiness had no necessary connexion with character. The ethical element was largely or altogether absent. So a holy man, a man specially intimate with a god, need not he a moral man, as in Palestine at the present day, where holy men are anything but saints in the Western sense of the term (Curtiss, Primitive Semitic Religion To-day , p. 149 f.). In ancient Israel the holiness of Jehovah may in the first instance have been ceremonial rather than ethical, but this cannot be proved. In the so-called Law of Holiness (H [Note: Law of Holiness.] , contained chiefly in   Leviticus 17:1-16;   Leviticus 18:1-30;   Leviticus 19:1-37;   Leviticus 20:1-27;   Leviticus 21:1-24;   Leviticus 22:1-33;   Leviticus 23:1-44;   Leviticus 24:1-23;   Leviticus 25:1-55;   Leviticus 26:1-46 ) a document which, though compiled about the time of Ezekiel, probably contains very ancient elements the ceremonial and the ethical are inextricably blended. The holiness which Jehovah requires, and which is evidently to be thought of as to some extent of the same nature as His own: ‘Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’ (  Leviticus 19:2 ), includes not only honesty (  Leviticus 19:11;   Leviticus 19:36 ), truthfulness (  Leviticus 19:11 ), respect for parents (  Leviticus 19:3 ,   Leviticus 20:9 ), fair dealing with servants (  Leviticus 19:13 ), kindness to strangers (  Leviticus 19:34 ), the weak and helpless (  Leviticus 19:14;   Leviticus 19:32 ), and the poor (  Leviticus 19:9 f.), social purity (  Leviticus 20:11 ff.,   Leviticus 20:18 ff.), and love of neighbours (  Leviticus 19:18 ), but also abstinence from blood as an article of food (  Leviticus 17:10 ff.,   Leviticus 19:26 ), from mixtures of animals, seeds, and stuffs (  Leviticus 19:19 ), and from the fruit of newly planted trees for the first four years (  Leviticus 19:23 ff.); and, for priests, compliance with special rules about mourning and marriage (  Leviticus 21:1-15 ). In other words, this holiness was partly ceremonial, partly moral, without any apparent distinction between the two, and this double aspect of holiness is characteristic of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] (in which H [Note: Law of Holiness.] was incorporated) as a whole, stress being naturally laid by the priestly compiler or compilers on externals. In the prophets, on the other hand, the ethical element greatly preponderates. The vision of the Holy Jehovah in Isaiah, which wrung from the seer the cry ‘Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips’ (  Isaiah 6:5 ), leaves the ceremonial aspect almost completely out of sight. The holiness of Jehovah there is His absolute separation from moral evil, His perfect moral purity. But there is another element clearly brought out in this vision the majesty of the Divine holiness: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’ (  Isaiah 6:3 ). This aspect also comes out very distinctly in the great psalm of the Divine holiness, perhaps from the early Greek period, where the holy Jehovah is declared to have ‘a great and terrible name’ (  Psalms 99:3 ) and to be’ high above all peoples’ (  Psalms 99:2 ), and in one of the later portions of the Book of Isaiah, where He is described as ‘the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy’ (  Isaiah 57:15 ). The holiness of God in OT is characterized by stainless purity and awful majesty.

2. Holy persons and things . In ancient Israel all connected with God was holy, either permanently or during the time of connexion. He dwelt in a holy heaven (  Psalms 20:6 ), sat on a holy throne (  Psalms 47:8 ), and was surrounded by holy attendants (  Psalms 89:7 ). His Spirit was holy (  Psalms 51:11 ,   Isaiah 63:10 f.), His name was holy (  Leviticus 20:3 etc.), His arm was holy (  Psalms 98:1 ), and His way was holy (  Isaiah 35:8 ). His chosen people Israel was holy (  Leviticus 19:2 ,   Deuteronomy 7:6 etc.), their land was holy (  Zechariah 2:12 ), the Temple was holy (  Psalms 11:4 etc.), and the city of the Temple (  Isaiah 52:1 ,   Nehemiah 11:1 ). Every part of the Temple (or Tabernacle) was holy, and all its utensils and appurtenances (  1 Kings 8:4 ); the altars of incense and burnt-offering (  Exodus 30:27 f.), the flesh of a sacrifice (  Haggai 2:12 ), the incense (  Exodus 30:36 ), the table (  Exodus 30:27 ), the shew-bread (  1 Samuel 21:6 ), the candlestick (  Exodus 30:27 ), the ark (  Exodus 30:26 ,   2 Chronicles 35:3 ), and the anointing oil (  Exodus 30:25 ). Those attached more closely to the service of Jehovah priests (  Leviticus 21:6 , H [Note: Law of Holiness.] ), Levites (  Numbers 8:17 f.), and perhaps to some extent prophets (  2 Kings 4:9 ), were holy (with ceremonial holiness) in a higher degree than others. The combination of merely external and ethical holiness as the requirement of Jehovah lasted until the advent of Christianity, the proportion of the elements varying with the varying conception of God.


The word ‘holiness’ in EV [Note: English Version.] stands for hosiotçs (  Luke 1:75 ,   Ephesians 4:24 ), hagiotçs (  2 Corinthians 1:12 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , ‘AV [Note: Authorized Version.] having another reading;   Hebrews 12:10 ), hagiôsynç (  Romans 1:4 ,   2 Corinthians 7:1 ,   1 Thessalonians 3:13 ), hagiasmos (in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ,   Romans 6:19; Rom 6:22 ,   1 Thessalonians 4:7 ,   1 Timothy 2:15 ,   Hebrews 12:14 , but in the other 5 passages in which the word occurs we find ‘sanctification ‘; RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘sanctification’ throughout), and for part of hieroprepçs (  Titus 2:3 ), ‘as becometh holiness,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘reverent in demeanour.’ The idea of holiness, however, is conveyed mainly by the adjective hagios ‘holy’ (about 230 times) and the verb hagiazô (27 times, in 24 of which it is rendered in EV [Note: English Version.] ‘sanctify’), also by hosios (  Acts 2:27;   Acts 13:34 f.,   1 Timothy 2:8 ,   Titus 1:8 ,   Hebrews 7:26 ,   Revelation 15:4;   Revelation 16:5 , not in the text of AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) and hieros ( 1Co 9:13 ,   2 Timothy 3:15; RV [Note: Revised Version.] has in both passages ‘sacred’). Of these words by far the most important is the group which has hagios for its centre, and which is the real equivalent of qôdesh, qâdôsh , etc., hieros referring rather to external holiness and hosios to reverence, piety, hagios , which is freely used in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , but is very rare in classical Greek and not frequent in common Greek, never occurring (outside of Christian texts) in the seven volumes of papyri issued by the Egypt Exploration Society, is scarcely ever used in NT in the ceremonial sense (cf.   1 Corinthians 7:14 ,   2 Peter 1:18 ) except in quotations from OT or references to Jewish ritual (  Hebrews 9:2-3;   Hebrews 9:8;   Hebrews 9:24;   Hebrews 10:19 etc.), and in current Jewish expressions, e.g. ‘the holy city,’   Matthew 4:5 etc. Otherwise it is purely ethical and spiritual.

Three uses demand special notice. 1. The term ‘holy is seldom applied directly to God (  Luke 1:49 ,   John 17:11 ,   1 Peter 1:15 f.,   Revelation 4:8 ), but it is very often used of the Spirit of God (‘the Holy Spirit’ 94 times, 56 of which are in the writings of Luke: cf. art. Holy Spirit). 2. The epithet is used in 10 passages of Christ (‘the Holy One of God,’   Mark 1:24 ,   Luke 4:34 ,   John 6:69; also   Luke 1:35 ,   Acts 3:14;   Acts 4:27;   Acts 4:30 , Heb 7:26 ,   1 John 2:20 ,   Revelation 3:7 ). 3. It is very often used of Christians. They are called ‘saints’ or ‘holy ones’ ( hagioi ) 60 times, 39 in the Pauline Epistles. The expression is no doubt of OT origin, and means ‘consecrated to God,’ with the thought that this consecration involves effort after moral purity (cf. Lightfoot on   Philippians 1:1 ). In this use the ethical element is always in the foreground. So we find hagios associated with amômos ‘without hlemish,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.]   Ephesians 1:4;   Ephesians 5:27 ,   Colossians 1:22; and with dikaios ‘righteous,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.]   Mark 6:20 ,   Acts 3:14 . The three words hagiotçs, hagiôsynç , and hagiasmos designate respectively the quality of holiness, the state of holiness, and the process or result. For the sphere and source of holiness, cf. Sanctification.

W. Taylor Smith.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

The Hebrew word usually translated ‘holy’ had a much wider meaning than the English word ‘holy’. To most English-speaking people ‘holiness’ usually indicates some ethical quality such as sinlessness or purity. To the Hebrews the word originally indicated the state or condition of a person or thing as being separated from the common affairs of life and consecrated wholly to God. (In Hebrew, also in Greek, the words ‘holy’ and ‘sanctify’ come from the same root.)

Ideas of separation for God

God was considered holy, because he was separate from ordinary people, and indeed from all created things ( Exodus 15:11-12;  Psalms 99:3;  Isaiah 6:3;  Isaiah 8:13;  Revelation 3:7;  Revelation 4:8). Israel was holy, because it belonged to God and was cut off from the religions and customs of the surrounding peoples ( Exodus 19:6;  Deuteronomy 7:6). The Sabbath and other religious days were holy, because they were separated from the common days of the workaday world ( Exodus 31:15;  Leviticus 23:4;  Leviticus 23:21;  Leviticus 23:24).

People who were removed from secular life and consecrated to the service of God were holy ( Leviticus 21:6-8). Places and land withdrawn from common use and set apart for sacred use or given to God were holy ( Leviticus 6:16;  Leviticus 27:21). Besides obviously holy things such as places of worship, less obvious things such as clothing, oils, food and produce were also holy if they were set apart for God ( Exodus 29:29-33;  Exodus 30:25;  Exodus 40:9;  Leviticus 27:30;  Matthew 7:6;  Matthew 23:17;  Acts 6:13). The relation of a person or thing to God was what determined whether it was holy or common (see also Uncleanness ).

Ideas of moral perfection

Because holiness signified separation from all that was common and everyday, the word naturally developed a wider meaning that included ideas of excellence and perfection. When applied to God this carried with it ideas of moral perfection. God’s holiness meant that he was separate not only from the common everyday world but, above all, from sin ( Habakkuk 1:12-13).

As a result holiness developed the association with ethical qualities that we are familiar with in English. Because God was holy, his people were to be holy ( Leviticus 11:44-45;  Isaiah 57:15;  1 Peter 1:15-16). God’s holiness meant also that one day he would judge sinners (see God ; Judgment ).

The preaching of the Old Testament prophets was very much concerned with this ethical aspect of holiness. The prophets emphasized that it was useless for people to be ritually holy before God if they were not ethically holy in their daily lives ( Isaiah 58:13-14;  Amos 2:7). Likewise in the New Testament the writers emphasize this moral aspect of holiness. The holiness of God is to be reflected in his people in lives of purity, uprightness and moral goodness ( Mark 6:20;  Ephesians 1:4;  Ephesians 5:27;  1 Thessalonians 4:7;  Titus 1:8;  Hebrews 12:10;  Hebrews 12:14).

Holiness, however, is not something people can achieve by themselves. All are defiled by sin ( Romans 3:10;  Romans 3:23), but Christ, the perfect one, died to take away their sin. God can now accept repentant sinners as cleansed, because of what Christ has done ( 1 Peter 2:22-24). God declares believers in Jesus Christ holy; that is, he sanctifies them ( 1 Corinthians 6:11;  1 Peter 1:2). Having been declared holy, believers must make it true in practice. They must have lives of practical sanctification ( Romans 6:8-11;  Romans 6:19-22; see Sanctification ).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

Holiness has been described as "a nature that delights in purity, and which repels evil." Adam and Eve were 'innocent,' not holy; for though they might have delighted in purity, they did not repel the evil of Satan. God is ever holy; in heaven there is no evil to separate from, and He was holy, consistent with His perfection in everything, before there was any evil. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit though He is down here where sin is, and the Lord Jesus when in this sinful world was holy, harmless, and undefiled. God is called 'the Holy One of Israel,'   Isaiah 30:15 , etc., and the Lord Jesus 'the Holy One.'  Mark 1:24;  Acts 3:14 .

The Israelites having been redeemed out of Egypt, and separated to God, it was said to them, "Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."  Deuteronomy 7:6 . Theywere viewed as the chosen of God, as set apart for Him. This should have led to practical holiness, as God said, "Be ye holy, for I am the Lord your God."  Leviticus 20:7 . The Christian also is sanctified and justified, and Christ is made of God sanctification to him ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 ), referring to the separative call of God, and the means and measure of his sanctification. As new created in Christ he partakes of the divine nature, so that holiness is followed. He is chastened also by the Father of spirits in order to his being partaker of God's holiness.

One has said, "The Christian is called holy because he is set apart for God absolutely, according to the rights won by Christ in His death, and made good when he is born again, and thus set apart in a real way; and more perfectly, and with more intelligence, when he is sealed by the Holy Ghost, as cleansed by the blood of Christ." Upon this are based the practical exhortations: "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation."  2 Corinthians 7:1;  1 Thessalonians 4:7;  Hebrews 12:14;  1 Peter 1:15;  2 Peter 3:11 .

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [6]

Freedom from sin, or the conformity of the heart to God. It does not consist in knowledge, talents, nor outward ceremonies of religion, but hath its seat in the heart, and is the effect of a principle of grace implanted by the Holy Spirit,  Ephesians 2:8;  Ephesians 2:10 .  John 3:5 .  Romans 6:22 . It is the essence of happiness and the basis of true dignity,  Proverbs 3:17 .  Proverbs 4:8 . It will manifest itself by the propriety of our conversation, regularity of our temper, and uniformity of our lives. It is a principle progressive in its operation,  Proverbs 4:18 . and absolutely essential to the enjoyment of God here and hereafter,  Hebrews 12:14 .

See Sanctification. Works

King James Dictionary [7]

HO'LINESS, n. from holy. The state of being holy purity or integrity of moral character freedom from sin sanctity. Applied to the Supreme Being, holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes.

Who is like thee, glorious in holiness?  Exodus 15

1. Applied to human beings, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions sanctified affections piety moral goodness, but not perfect.

We see piety and holiness ridiculed as morose singularities.

2. Sacredness the state of any thing hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship applied to churches or temples. 3. That which is separated to the service of God.

Israel was holiness unto the Lord.  Jeremiah 2

4. A title of the pope, and formerly of the Greek emperors.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Isaiah 6:3 Revelation 15:4 Romans 6:19,22 Ephesians 1:4 Titus 1:8 1 Peter 1:15 1 Corinthians 1:30 2 7:1 Ephesians 4:23,24Sanctification

Webster's Dictionary [9]

(1): ( n.) The state or quality of being holy; perfect moral integrity or purity; freedom from sin; sanctity; innocence.

(2): ( n.) The state of being hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship; sacredness.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

( קֹדֶשׁ , Ἁγιοσύνη ), prop. the state of sanctity, but often used of external or ceremonial relations (the more prop. Ὁσιότης ).

I. Intrinsic Idea. "Holiness suggests the idea, not of perfect virtue, but of that peculiar affection wherewith a being of perfect virtue regards moral evil; and so much, indeed, is this the precise and characteristic import of the term, that, had there been no evil either actual or conceivable in the universe, there would have been no holiness. There would have been perfect truth and perfect righteousness, yet not holiness; for this is a word which denotes neither any one of the virtues in particular, nor the assemblage of them all put together, but the recoil or the repulsion of these towards the opposite vices-a recoil that never would have been felt if vice had been so far a nonentity as to be neither an object of real existence nor an object of thought" (Chalmers, Nat. Theol. 2, 380). Krauth, Fleming's Vocab. of Philos. p. 217.

II. Applications Of The Term.

1. In the highest sense, holiness belongs to God alone ( Isaiah 6:3;  Revelation 15:4), because he only is absolutely good ( Luke 18:19), and thus demands the supreme veneration of those who would themselves become good ( Luke 1:49;  John 17:11;  Acts 3:14 [ Acts 4:27;  Acts 4:30];  1 John 2:20;  Hebrews 7:26;  Revelation 4:8). (See Holiness Of God).

2. Men are called holy

(a) in as far as they are vessels of the Holy Spirit and of divine power, e.g. the prophets; and also in as far as they belong to an organization which is dedicated to God. In the N.T. Christians are especially holy, as being wholly consecrated to God's service. (Comp.  Romans 8:27;  Romans 12:13;  1 Corinthians 6:2;  Ephesians 2:19;  Ephesians 5:3;  Ephesians 6:18;  Colossians 1:11;  Colossians 3:12;  2 Peter 1:21;  Revelation 13:10;  Judges 1:14.) Men are also called holy

(b) in so far as they are or become habitually good, denying sin, thinking and acting in a godlike manner, and, in short, conforming, in their innermost being, as well as in their outward conduct, to the highest and absolute law or the will of God ( Romans 6:19;  Romans 6:22;  Ephesians 1:4;  Titus 1:8;  1 Peter 1:15;  Revelation 20:6).

The grounds of this sanctification, according to outward appearance, are twofold, viz.:

(a) Holiness is given of God by the mediation of Christ, conditioned upon faith and an inward surrender, which are themselves likewise the gift of God.

(b) Man from within, by a proper purification of the heart, may attain this sanctity. Although the last cannot occur without the assistance of God, yet the personal activity of man is necessary and almost preponderant. Still, even interior holiness is, as above implied, the direct work of God.

3. As everything dedicated to God partakes in a certain manner of his holiness, so even things (e.g. the Temple), forms, and ceremonies (e.g. sacrifice): hence "to hallow" means also To Dedicate To God, To Offer Up, To Bring As An Offering, To Present One'S Self As Dedicated To God Through Christ ( 1 Corinthians 6:11;  Ephesians 5:26;  Hebrews 2:11;  Hebrews 10:10;  Hebrews 10:14;  John 17:17). In the N.T., where the merciful assistance of God in customary purity or objective holiness appears prominent, the expression to "sanctify one's self' is used only concerning Christ, and means here the same as To Offer Up Himself as a sacrifice for human sin ( John 17:19). But as man may make himself holy, i.e. under the assistance of the Holy Spirit, he may work for his own purity; similar phraseology is used of Christians ( Matthew 23:17;  John 17:19;  1 Timothy 4:5).

4. That by which God reveals his holiness, e.g. the Law, is also holy ( Romans 7:12).

III. Progression. Complete holiness, as applied to men, designates the state of perfect love, which exhibits itself in this, that every thought of man, every emotion and volition, hence also every deed, is determined by the will of God, and thus the old man, who has been fainting under the burdens of worldly lust, and has been carrying the chains of the flesh, is cast off, and the new man is fully put on. This sanctification is both a work of God and of man. This divine grace comes through Christ, first at conversion, and by successive steps thereafter under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Man must seize the proffered hand of God, use the means of grace afforded him, and by the assistance of God perfect holiness. Thus, on the one hand, everything comes from God, and, on the other, the personal work of man is necessary. Whatever the good man is, he is through God and his own will; the evil man, however, is so only through his own will, for evil is falling away from God. Goodness consists ultimately in susceptibility for the divine work of grace, while wickedness has its final ground in the free hardening of the heart against the divine influences.

Personal holiness is a work of development in time, frequently under a variety of hinderances and backslidings, and even with the possibility of entire ruin. Hence the admonitions to watchfulness, to continual prayer, to perseverance in faith, in love, and in hope, are abundant ( 1 Corinthians 1:30;  2 Corinthians 7:1;  Ephesians 4:23-24; comp.  Romans 12:2); hence also the apostle's prayer that the love of the Philippians might abound yet more and more ( Philippians 1:9). But while the laying aside of the old, and the putting on of the new, are thus referred to man, of course it is not the meaning of the sacred writer that sanctification is accomplished by our own power. Christ is our sanctification, as he is our righteousness ( 1 Corinthians 1:30); yet all that Christ through the Holy Spirit works in man may become in vain, because man by his unfaithfulness can hinder the operation of the Spirit.

IV. Metaphorical Representations Of A State Of Holiness. In the Scriptures this sanctification is described in manifold as well as strong and explicit figures as a "putting off" of the old man, and a putting on of the new man ( Colossians 3:9), the subject becoming dead to the old, and having recovered the lost image of God. It is represented as self-denial ( 1 Corinthians 9:26-27); as a cleansing ( 1 John 1:9; comp.  Hebrews 1:3;  Hebrews 9:14;  Ephesians 5:26;  2 Peter 1:9); as a washing ( 1 Corinthians 6:11); as a taking away of sin ( John 1:29); as being filled with the fruits of righteousness ( Philippians 1:11); with the water of life ( John 7:38; compare 4:14); as a shedding abroad of the love of God in the heart ( Romans 5:5); as baptism into Christ ( Romans 6:3;  Ephesians 1:10;  Ephesians 2:5;  Revelation 15:1); fellowship with God ( 1 John 1:3); as being in the Father, and in the Son, and in the light ( 1 John 2:5-6;  1 John 2:10;  1 John 2:24; compare Ephesians 15;  John 14:20); as the having God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us ( John 14:17;  John 14:20;  Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:15;  1 John 2:24;  1 John 4:4;  1 John 4:12-15;  Ephesians 4:6); as a birth unto God and Christ ( 1 John 2:29;  1 John 3:9-10;  1 John 4:4-7;  1 John 5:18-19); as being partaker of the divine nature ( 2 Peter 1:4); children of God ( Romans 8:14;  John 1:12;  1 John 3:1-2); born again ( John 3:5;  John 3:7;  Titus 3:5-6); as being one with Christ and one another ( John 17:22;  John 17:26). Krehl, Neutestam. W Ö Rterbuch p. 356. (See Sanctification).

HOLINESS, as a note of the Church. (See Sanctity). (See Holiness Of God), his essential and absolute moral perfection. Primarily, the word Holy (Sax. Hali; Germ. Heilig, whole, sound) denotes perfection in a moral sense. As applied to man, it denotes entire conformity to the will of God. (See Sanctification). "But when we speak of God, we speak of a Being who is a law unto himself, and whose conduct cannot be referred to a higher authority than his own." (See Holiness), above.

1. "As to the use of the words קָדוֹשׁ and Ἃγιος , some critics assert that they are only used in Scripture, with reference to God, to describe him as the object of awe and veneration; and it is true that this is their prevailing meaning-e.g.  Isaiah 6:9;  John 17:11(ἃγιε πάτερ ) and that accordingly Ἁγιάζεσθαι signifies To Be Esteemed Venerable, To Be Reverenced. Still it is undeniable that these words in many passages are applied to God in a moral sense; e.g.  Leviticus 19:2, Be ye holy, for I am holy;' comp.  1 Peter 1:14-16. Thus also Ὁσιότης ,  Ephesians 4:24; and Ἁγιωσύνη , Ἁγιασμός , by which all moral perfection is so frequently designated, more especially in the New Testament. The different synonymical significations of the words קָדוֹשׁ and Ἃγιος are clearly connected in the following manner: (A) The Being Externally Pure; e.g.  2 Samuel 11:4;  Leviticus 11:43-44;  Leviticus 20:7;  Leviticus 20:25-26 sq. (B) The Being Separate, since we are accustomed to divide what is pure from what is impure, and to cast away the latter; and therefore (C) The Possessing Of Any Kind Of External Advantage, Distinction, or Worth. So the Jews were said to be Holy To God, in opposition to others, who were Κοινοί , profane, common, unconsecrated. Then everything which was without imperfection, disgrace, or blemish was called Holy; and קָדוֹשׁ , Ἃγιος , sacrosanctus, came thus to signify what was inviolable ( Isaiah 4:3;  1 Corinthians 3:17); hence מַקְדָּשׁ , Asylum. They were then used in the more limited sense of Chaste (like the Latin Sanctitas), a sense in which they are also Sometimes used in the New Testament; e.g.  1 Thessalonians 4:3;  1 Thessalonians 4:7 (comp. Wolf, ad loc.). They then came to denote any Internal moral perfection; and, finally, perfection, in the general notion of it, as exclusive of all imperfection."

2. "The Holiness of God, in the general notion of it, is his moral perfection- that attribute by which all moral imperfection is removed from his nature. The holiness of the Will of God is that, therefore, by which he chooses, necessarily and invariably, what is morally good, and' refuses what is morally evil. The holiness and justice of God are, in reality, one and the same thing; the distinction consists in this only, that holiness denotes the internal inclination of the divine will-the disposition of God, and justice the expression of the same by actions. This attribute implies, 1. That no sinful or wicked inclination can be found in God. Hence he is said ( James 1:13;  James 1:17) to be Ἀπείραστος Κακῶν , incapable of being tempted to evil (not in the active sense, as it is rendered by the Vulgate and Luther); and in  1 John 1:5, to be light; and without darkness; i.e. holy, anti without sin. In this sense he is called טָהוֹר , Καθαρός , Ἁγνός ( 1 John 3:3); also תָּמַים ; Ἁπλόος , integer ( Psalms 18:31). The older writers described this by the word Ἀναμάρτητος , Impeccabilis. [The sinlessness of God is also designated in the New Testament by the words Τέλειος ( Matthew 5:48) and Ὅσιος ( Revelation 16:5).] 2. That he never chooses what is false and deceitful, but only what is truly good-what his perfect intelligence recognizes as such; and that he is therefore the most perfect teacher and the highest exemplar of moral goodness. Hence the Bible declares that he looks with displeasure upon wicked, deceitful courses ( Psalms 1:5 sq.;  Psalms 5:5 : Thou hatest all workers of iniquity'); but on the contrary, he regards the pious with favor ( Psalms 5:7-8;  Psalms 15:1 sq.;  Psalms 18:26 sq.;  Psalms 33:18)" (Knapp, Theology, § 29). Howe speaks of the holiness of God as "the actual, perpetual rectitude of all his volitions, and all the works and actions which are consequent thereupon; and an eternal propension thereto and love thereof, By which it is altogether impossible to that sin that it should ever vary."

3. Holiness is an Essential attribute of God, and adds glory, luster, and harmony to all his other perfections ( Psalms 27:4;  Exodus 15:11). He could not be God without it ( Deuteronomy 32:4). It is Infinite and Unbounded; it cannot be increased or diminished. It is also Immutable and Invariable ( Malachi 3:6). God is Originally holy; he is so of and in himself, and the Author And Promoter of all holiness among his creatures. The holiness of God is visible By his Works; he made all things holy ( Genesis 1:31): by his Providences, all which are to promote holiness in the end ( Hebrews 11:10): by his Grace, which influences the subjects of it to be holy ( Titus 2:10;  Titus 2:12): by his Word, which commands it ( 1 Peter 1:15): by his ordinances, which he hath appointed for that end ( Jeremiah 44:4-5): by the Punishment Of Sin in the death of Christ (Isaiah 53); and by The Eternal Punishment of it in wicked men (Matthew 20:46) (Buck). (See Attributes).

The holiness of God, like his other attributes, constitutes the divine essence itself, and consequently exists in him in the state of absolute perfection. It were therefore impossible to consider it as a conformity of God to the laws of right, since God himself, on the contrary, is the idea and principle of holiness. But, on the other hand, we may not say that the will of God simply constitutes the essence of divine holiness. To mankind, indeed, the simple will of God is at once law in all things; but with regard to God himself, his will is holy because he wills only according to his immanent holiness, i.e. his own nature. As the absolute Being, (God is necessarily in no wise dependent on any outward law; but as a morally perfect spirit God cannot but be true to himself, and thus manifest in all his agency his inherent moral perfection as his immanent law.

The earlier dogmatists of the Reformed Church largely discussed the question whether right is right because God wills it, or whether God wills right because it is right. Some (e.g. Polanus) maintained the former view as the only one consistent with the absolute nature of God. The later writers maintain the opposite view, e.g. Voetius: "God is subject to no moral duty from without, because he is no man's debtor, and there is no cause outside of God that can bind or determine him. But from within he may be bound (so to speak), not, indeed, in the sense of subjection, because he is his own debtor, and cannot deny himself. Thus, in divine things, the Father is bound to love the Son, for he cannot but love him; while the Son, by the very necessity of his divine nature, is bound to work by the Father; nor can he do otherwise whenever a work outside of God is to be performed. So, also, in external acts, the creature having been once produced, God is bound to maintain it by his perpetual power and continual influence (as long as he wishes it to exist), to move directly upon it as its first mover, and guide it to his glory ( Proverbs 16:4;  Romans 11:34-36). That is immutably good and just whose opposite he cannot wish." So also Heidegger (Corp. Theol. 3, 89, 90): "Whatever is the holiness, justice, and goodness of the creature, nevertheless its rule and first norm in the sight of God is Not His Free Will And Command, But His Own Essential Justice, Holiness, And Goodness."

On this subject Watson remarks as follows: "Without conducting the reader into the profitless question whether there is a fixed and unalterable nature and fitness of things, independent of the divine will on the one hand; or, on the other, whether good and evil have their foundation, not in the nature of things, but only in the divine will, which makes them such, there is a method, less direct it may be, but more satisfactory, of assisting our thoughts on this subject. It is certain that various affections and actions have been enjoined upon all rational creatures under the general name of righteousness, and that their contraries have been prohibited. It is a matter also of constant experience and observation that the good of society is promoted only by the one, and injured by the other; and also that every individual derives, by the very constitution of his nature, benefit and happiness from rectitude, injury and misery from vice. This constitution of human nature is therefore an indication that the Maker and Ruler of men formed them with the intent that they should avoid vice and practice virtue; and that the former is the object of his aversion, the latter of his regard. On this principle, all the laws, which in his legislative character almighty. God has enacted for the government of mankind, have been constructed.

The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good.' In the administration of the world, where God is so often seen in his judicial capacity, the punishments which are inflicted, indirectly or immediately upon man, clearly tend to discourage and prevent the practice of evil. Above all, the Gospel, that last and most perfect revelation of the divine will, instead of giving the professors of it any allowance to sin, because grace has abounded (which is an injurious imputation cast upon it by ignorant and impious minds), its chief design is to establish that great principle, God's moral purity, and to manifest his abhorrence of sin, and inviolable regard to purity and virtue in his reasonable creatures. It was for this he sent his Son into the world to turn men from their iniquities, and bring them back to the paths of righteousness. For this the blessed Jesus submitted to the deepest humiliations and most grievous sufferings. He gave himself (as St. Paul speaks) for his Church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it; that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, but that it should be holy and without blemish; or, as it is elsewhere expressed, he gave himself for us, to redeem us from our iniquities, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works' (Abernethy, Sermons). Since, then, it is so manifest that the Lord loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity,' it must be necessarily concluded that this preference of the one, and hatred of the other, flow from some principle in his very nature-' that he is the righteous Lord; of purer eyes than to behold evil; one who cannot look upon iniquity.'

This principle is holiness, an attribute which, in the most emphatic manner, is assumed by himself, and attributed to him, both by adoring angels in their choirs, and by inspired saints in their worship. He is, by his own designation, the Holy One of Israel;' the seraphs in the vision of the prophet cry continually Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory;' thus summing up all his glories in this sole moral perfection. The language of the sanctuary on earth is borrowed from that of heaven: Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name, for thou only art HOLY.' If, then, there is this principle in the divine mind which leads him to prescribe, love, and reward truth, justice, benevolence, and every other virtuous affection and habit in his creatures which we sum up in the term holiness, and to forbid, restrain, and punish their opposites-that principle, being essential in him, a part of his very nature and Godhead, must be the spring and guide of his own conduct; and thus we conceive without difficulty of the essential rectitude or holiness of the divine nature, and the absolutely pure and righteous character of his administration. This attribute of holiness exhibits itself in two great branches, justice and truth, which are sometimes also treated of as separate attributes." See Watson, Theolog. Institutes, 1, 436; Knapp, Theology, § 29; Leland, Sermons, 1, 199; Abernethy, Sermons, 2, 180; Heppe, Dogmatik der evangeform. Kirche, p. 73 sq.; Pye Smith, Theol. p. 173 sq.; Pearson, Exposition of the Creed, 1, 10, 531, 541; Smith's Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, 1, 110 sq.; Domeer, in Jahrb. f. deutsche Theol. 1, 2; 2, 3; 3:3; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. G É neral É , 19, 618; Herzog, Real-Encyklop., 133; 3:321; 19:618-624; Biblioth. Sac. 12, 377; 13, 840; Meth. Quart. Rev. 11, 505; Thomasius, Dogmatik, 1, 141; Staudenmeier, Dogmatik, 2, 590-610; Dwight, Theol. 1 (see Index); Martensen, Dogmatik, p. 99; Clark, Otl. of Theol. 2, 9 sq.; Calvin, Institutes, 1, 377; Wesley, Works 2, 430. (See God).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

hō´li - nes ( קדושׁ , ḳādhōsh , "holy," קדשׁ , ḳōdhesh , "holiness"; ἅγιος , hágios , "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 ḲDSH , 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  Daniel 4:8 ,  Daniel 4:9 ,  Daniel 4:18;  Daniel 5:11 ). Yahweh's "holy arm" ( Isaiah 52:10;  Psalm 98:1 ) is His Divine arm, and His "holy name" ( Leviticus 20:3 , etc.) is His Divine name. When Hannah sings "There is none holy as Yahweh" ( 1 Samuel 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" ( Leviticus 11:44;  Leviticus 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 ( Isaiah 6:3 ,  Isaiah 6:1 ) and demanding of those who would stand in His presence clean hands and a pure heart ( Psalm 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 ( Exodus 3:5 ). The tabernacle or temple in which His glory is revealed is a holy building ( Exodus 28:29;  2 Chronicles 35:5 ); and all its sacrifices ( Exodus 29:33 ), ceremonial materials ( Exodus 30:25;  Numbers 5:17 ) and utensils ( 1 Kings 8:4 ) are also holy. The Sabbath is holy because it is the Sabbath of the Lord ( Exodus 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 ( Exodus 29:1;  Leviticus 8:12 ,  Leviticus 8:30 ). The Nazirite is holy because he has separated himself unto the Lord ( Numbers 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 ( Exodus 19:6 , etc.; compare  Leviticus 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 ( Leviticus 19:2 ). In the so-called "Law of Holiness" (Lev 17 through 26), God's demand for moral holiness is made clear; and yet the moral contents of the Law are still intermingled with ceremonial elements ( Leviticus 17:10;  Leviticus 19:19;  Leviticus 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 ( Psalm 15:1 f) and the possession of a contrite and humble spirit (  Isaiah 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 ( Hosea 6:6;  Micah 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 ḲDSH 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 (  Mark 7:1-13;  Luke 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 (  Matthew 15:17-20 ), and God is to be worshipped neither in Samaria nor Jerusalem, but wherever men seek Him in spirit and in truth ( John 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 ( Luke 1:49;  1 Peter 1:15 f), only in the Johannine writings (  John 17:11;  Revelation 4:8;  Revelation 6:10 ). But it is constantly used of the Spirit of God ( Matthew 1:18;  Acts 1:2;  Romans 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 ( Mark 1:24;  Acts 3:14;  Acts 4:30 , etc.), as being the very type of ethical perfection (compare  Hebrews 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 ( Matthew 4:5 ), the Old Testament covenant ( Luke 1:72 ), the Scriptures ( Romans 1:2 ), the Law ( Romans 7:12 ), the Mount of Transfiguration ( 2 Peter 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 ( 1 Peter 2:9 ), and the Christian individual, as one of the elect people, becomes a holy man or woman ( Colossians 3:12 ). In Paul's usage all baptized persons are "saints," however far they may still be from the saintly character (compare  1 Corinthians 1:2 ,  1 Corinthians 1:14 with   1 Corinthians 5:1 ).

(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. See Sanctification .


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