From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Saints —The word ‘saints’ (οἱ ἅγιοι) occurs in the Gospels in  Matthew 27:52 only. Elsewhere in the NT it is never used of any but Christians ( e.g.  Acts 9:13,  Romans 12:13,  Revelation 11:18). In the LXX Septuagint ( Daniel 7:22;  Daniel 7:25;  Daniel 7:27;  Daniel 8:24) ἅγιοι is the equivalent of קְּרשׁים ‘the holy ones’ ( i.e. angels). The root idea seems to be that of ‘separation,’ so that a ‘saint’ is one who is separated, consecrated, one who belongs to God. Its occurrence in  Matthew 27:52 opens up the entire question of the meaning of the section. The incident is peculiar to the First Gospel, and occurs in the course of the narrative of our Lord’s crucifixion and death. It is stated that at the moment of His death there was a supernatural earthquake which caused the tombs to be opened, and that immediately following His resurrection on the first day of the week many bodies (σώματα) of dead saints arose from their graves, and the persons (ἐξελθόντες, masc.) thus raised from the dead appeared in the city of Jerusalem to many. Several theories have been put forward to account for this remarkable statement.

1. It is said to be an interpolation. In reply, it is argued that the textual evidence of Manuscripts and Versions is exactly the same for this passage as for the rest of the First Gospel. It is also urged that the incident seems plainly referred to as early as Ignatius ( Ep. ad Magn . 9).

2. It is said to be a legendary addition. It is thought that the graves were rent by an earthquake which actually occurred, and that then this statement was subsequently added as a spiritual explanation of the natural phenomenon. Bruce ( EGT [Note: GT Expositor’s Greek Testanent.] , in loc. ) says: ‘We seem here to be in the region of Christian legend.’ Meyer takes the same general view. Those who oppose this view argue that textual considerations give no indication of a later addition, and that the writer of the First Gospel evidently believed in the incident, and wished his readers to do the same.

3. It is accounted for as a wrong explanation of incidents which were in themselves true. Farrar ( Life of Christ ) suggests that these ghostly visitants were the product of the imagination of those who were impressed by the events then taking place. To this it is replied that there is no trace of it in the narrative which now is, and apparently has been from the first, an integral part of this Gospel.

4. It is explained by saying that we have in the incident a striking testimony to the supernatural character and far-reaching power of our Lord’s death; that not only did it affect nature (earthquake), the Jewish economy (the rent veil), and human life (centurion), but that its influence penetrated even to the unseen world. The narrative as it stands says that it was at the moment of His death that the tombs were opened, but that the actual rising of the saints did not take place until after the Lord’s resurrection. He was ‘the first-fruits of them that slept.’ The fact that the incident is found in one Gospel only is, it is urged, no necessary argument against its credibility. On this view, the question as to who were the saints would seem to be answered by the narrative itself. The tombs were near Jerusalem, and the fact of recognition implied in the appearance of the risen ones in the city suggests that the saints were some of those who, during their earthly life, had been led to faith in Jesus as the Messiah: godly people of the type of Anna, Simeon, Zacharias, and Elisabeth. Those who accept its genuineness fully recognize that the incident is mysterious, but they point out that the narrative as it stands is a calm, quiet statement, marked by reserve and by the absence of all legendary details. The upholders of the authenticity consider it full of spiritual meaning as to the supernatural character of our Lord’s death in relation to the holy dead, holding that it was a manifestation of His power over death and the grave (1) by the resurrection of some from Hades, (2) by the clothing of them with a resurrection body, and (3) by permission to appear to those who knew them. On this theory the narrative is to be accepted as it is, and the exegesis of the passage strictly adhered to without endeavouring to draw conclusions which go beyond the brief record.

Literature.—(1) in favour of historicity: Alford, Com. in loc.  ; Westcott, Introd. to Gospels 4 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 329 f.; Thinker , vol. v. (2) in favour of legendary character: Bruce, Meyer, etc.

W. H. Griffith Thomas.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

The word "saint" is derived from a Greek verb ( hagiazo [Ἀνασῴζω Ἁγιάζω]) whose basic meaning is "to set apart, " "sanctify, " or "make holy." In the history of the Old Testament religion, the idea of holiness or separateness was inherent in the concept of God. God was unapproachable in the tabernacle or temple by the ordinary individual, being accessible only to the priests and only under carefully specified conditions. His presence (the Shekinah) dwelled in the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place, the most remote and inaccessible place in the wilderness tabernacle and later in the Jerusalem temple. Only the high priest was allowed to stand in God's presence in this area, and then only once a year at Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

This sacred place was further separated from the ordinary Jewish worshiper by another room called "the Holy Place, " which could be entered only by priests. The intent was to impress upon the people the utter holiness and sacredness of the God they worshiped, as well as the necessity of their being set apart or sanctified as saints in his service. This sense of Jehovah's separateness from the sins of the people and from the pagan idols of the lands in which they dwelled was the heart of Jewish monotheism. Its eventual disregard led to the destruction of the temple and the exile of Israel.

This idea of the separateness of God and his people is carried forward in the New Testament, which was written by Jews (except possibly Luke-Acts) who interpreted God's covenant with Israel through the teachings of Christ. Those who were dedicated to the teachings of Christ were frequently called saints by these writers (e.g.,  Matthew 27:52;  Acts 9:13;  26:10;  Revelation 14:12 ). Six of Paul's letters to churches are addressed to saints (Romans, 1-2Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians).

Saints, in the New Testament, are never deceased individuals who have been canonized by the church and given sainthood. They are living individuals who have dedicated themselves to the worship and service of the one true God as revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ. Even the children of such parents are called "sanctified" ( 1 Corinthians 7:14-15 ). That is, they are considered undefiled by paganism if at least one of their parents is a Christian. All saved are sanctified, but not all sanctified are saved.

On occasion, when discussing the atonement, Paul carefully differentiates between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, calling the former saints and the latter believers. It was the saints, the holy people of God in the Old Testament, who brought the Messiah and redemption into the world, eventually extending the blessings to the Gentiles.

This usage may be seen in  1 Corinthians 1:2 , which is addressed to "those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy [saints—Jewish Christians], together with all those [Gentiles] everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus ChristLord and ours." The same distinction is made in  Ephesians 1:1 : "to the saints [Jewish Christians] in Ephesus and the faithful [Gentiles] in Christ Jesus." Colossians is also addressed to "the holy and faithful brothers" in Christ.

Paul addresses the letter to all the Christians in Rome as saints ( Romans 1:7 , because Gentiles who, as wild olive branches have been grafted into the stem of Judaism, now share in the full relationship to that plant and are also saints ), but the Jewish Christians in Rome, who are to be recipients of a special contribution Paul collected among Gentile churches, are called "the saints" in distinction ( Romans 15:25-33 ).

It is informative in this regard that Paul refers to this same collection in  2 Corinthians 8:1-4 as a sharing by the Macedonian churches with "the saints, " not with the "other" saints. Paul's apprehension over whether the Jerusalem saints would accept such a contribution was based on the fact that Jewish Christians were being asked to accept the offering from Gentile Christians. The entire discussion of the issue in   Acts 21 when Paul arrived in Jerusalem makes this clear.

Thus, although Gentile Christians are saints, too, because they were given access to the faith of Abraham and the people of the Old Testament, when redemptive history is discussed the Jews are specially designated the "saints" while the Gentiles are considered believers who were later admitted into this "holy" Jewish nucleus.

John McRay

See also Names Of Christians; The Church; Holiness Holy

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Old Testament Two words are used for saints: qaddish and chasid . Qaddish comes from the qadosh and means holy. To be holy is to separate oneself from evil and dedicate oneself to God. This separation and union is seen both with things and people. All the items of worship are separated for the Lord's use: altar (  Exodus 29:37 ), oil ( Exodus 30:25 ), garments ( Exodus 31:10 ), and even the people are to be holy ( Exodus 22:31 ). This separation reflects God's very character, for He is holy ( Leviticus 19:2 ). See  Isaiah 6:1 ). So holiness is more than a one-time separating and uniting activity. It is a way of life. “Ye shall be holy: for I am holy” ( Leviticus 19:2 ). Saints are people who try to live holy lives ( Daniel 7:18-28 ).

Chasid means “to be kind or merciful.” These are qualities of God. Thus, chasid people are godly people because they reflect His character. Saints praise the Lord for His lifelong favor (  Psalm 30:4 ), rejoice in goodness ( 2 Chronicles 6:41 ), and know that God keeps their paths ( 1 Samuel 2:9 ). God's encounter with His people through the covenant enables them to walk as His saints.

New Testament One word, hagios , is used for saints in the New Testament. This word, like qadosh , means holy. Consequently, saints are the holy ones. There is only one reference to saints in the Gospels ( Matthew 27:52 ). In this verse, dead saints are resurrected at the Lord's crucifixion. The death of the Holy One provides life for those who believe in God. In Acts, three of the four references occur in  Acts 9:1 (  Acts 9:13 ,Acts 9:13, 9:32 ,Acts 9:32, 9:41 ). First Ananias and then Peter talks of the saints as simply believers in Christ. Paul continues this use in his Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and Philemon. In each case, saints seem simply to be people who name Jesus as Lord. In the Book of Revelation, however, where the word saints, occurs more times than in any other single book (13 times), the meaning is further defined. Saints not only name Jesus as Lord, but they are faithful and true witnesses for Jesus.

Little wonder then that the early church considered witnesses who were martyred for their testimonies to be saints. In fact, soon these saints were accorded special honor and then even worship. Unfortunately, the term saints came to be applied only to such special people.

Biblically, though, the term saint is correctly applied to anyone who believes Jesus Christ is Lord. To believe in Jesus demands obedience and conformity to His will. A saint bears true and faithful witness to Christ in speech and life-style. To be a saint is a present reality when a believer seeks to let the Spirit form Christ within (  Romans 8:29;  Galatians 4:19;  Ephesians 4:13 ). See Spirit; Witness.

William Vermillion

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [4]

Saint, Saints

If I apprehend right, those titles are used in Scripture with different meanings. Thus when spoken of angels, or beings of higher intellect than man, there is a peculiar degree of holiness annexed to the word saint in those instances. Thus Moses, describing the descent of the Lord upon mount Sinai, saith, "He came with ten thousands of saints." ( Deuteronomy 33:2) But when the same word is made use of in application to men, whether the apostles and first servants in the church, or ordinary believers, I apprehend it means no more than sinners regenerated, and made saints in Christ Jesus. Thus Paul the apostle, addressing his first Epistle to the Corinthians, useth these remarkable words—"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called robe saints." ( 1 Corinthians 1:2) I do not presume to point out the difference,—I only state it as it is. Probably there is no real difference in sanctity, because all holiness in every creature can be but a derived holiness. The high and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity, strictly and properly speaking, is the only Holy One. Every thing, therefore, of holiness is just so far so, and no more, as hath been received from him. And with respect to the holiness of men or angels it is possible, yea more than possible, even highly probable, that when a sinner is washed from all his sins in Christ's blood, he is holier than an angel which never sinned; and eminently on this account—the holiness of the sinner in his renewed nature is the holiness of God our Saviour, from a life received from Jesus and union with Jesus: whereas the holiness of the angel is but the holiness of the creature, a created holiness, and not derived from any life-union with Christ. If this be true, let the reader contemplate, if he can, the personal glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in this holiness of his nature, and his redeemed in him, Such honour have all his saints! And when he hath duly pondered this most blessed of all subjects, let him add this to it, namely, that it is an holiness that never can be lost, sullied, or lessened."Such an High Priest (saith Paul) became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens? ( Hebrews 7:26) As the holiness of Christ in his human nature, deriving every thing of sanctity as it must from the union with the Godhead gives a completeness both of durableness and excellency to that sanctity, so must it ensure the same in all his members. The holy angels are said by Jehovah ( Job 4:18) to have no trust put in them, yea,"he chargeth them with folly, or weakness—that is, with a possibility of falling. For though they are free from sin, yet not secure from the possibility of sinning. Angels have fallen, and therefore angels may fall. But believers united to Jesus are everlastingly secure in him. He saith himself, "Because I live ye shall live also." ( John 14:19) What an unspeakable felicity this to the church of God in Christ Jesus called to be saints!

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

SAINTS . See Holiness, II. 2 , and Sanctification.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [6]

sānts  : In the King James Version 3 words are thus rendered: (1) קדושׁ , ḳādhōsh (in Dan the same root occurs several times in its Aramaic form, קדּישׁ , ḳaddı̄sh ); (2) חסיד , ḥāṣı̄dh , and (3) ἄγιοι , hágioi . Of these words (2) has in general the meaning of righteousness or goodness, while (1) and (3) have the meaning of consecration and divine claim and ownership. They are not primarily words of character, like ḥāṣı̄dh , but express a relation to God as being set apart for His own. Wherever ḳādhōsh refers to angels, the rendering "holy one" or "holy ones" has been substituted in the Revised Version (British and American) for the King James Version "saint" or "saints," which is the case also in   Psalm 106:16 margin (compare   Psalm 34:9 ), and in  1 Samuel 2:9 , as the translation of ḥāṣı̄dh .

While hagioi occurs more frequently in the New Testament than does ḳādhōsh in the Old Testament, yet both are applied with practical uniformity to the company of God's people rather than to any individual. Perhaps the rendering "saints" cannot be improved, but it is necessary for the ordinary reader constantly to guard against the idea that New Testament saintship was in any way a result of personal character, and consequently that it implied approval of moral attainment already made. Such a rendering as "consecrate ones," for example, would bring out more clearly the relation to God which is involved, but, besides the fact that it is not a happy translation, it might lead to other errors, for it is not easy to remember that consecration - the setting apart of the individual as one of the company whom God has in a peculiar way as His own - springs not from man, but from God Himself, and that consequently it is in no way something optional, and admits of no degrees of progress, but, on the contrary, is from the beginning absolute duty. It should also be noted that while, as has been said, to be a saint is not directly and primarily to be good but to be set apart by God as His own, yet the godly and holy character ought inevitably and immediately to result. When God consecrates and claims moral beings for Himself and His service, He demands that they should go on to be fit for and worthy of the relation in which He has placed them, and so we read of certain actions as performed "worthily of the saints" (  Romans 16:2 ) and as such "as becometh saints" ( Ephesians 5:3 ). The thought of the holy character of the "saints," which is now so common as almost completely to obscure the real thought of the New Testament writers, already lay in their thinking very close to their conception of saintship as consecration by God to be His own.