Holiness: Moral Purity Between The Persons Of The Trinity -- By: Michael A. Harbin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 175:697 (Jan 2018)
Article: Holiness: Moral Purity Between The Persons Of The Trinity
Author: Michael A. Harbin

Holiness: Moral Purity Between The Persons Of The Trinity

Michael A. Harbin

Michael A. Harbin is Chair of the Biblical Studies, Christian Ministries, and Philosophy Department, Taylor University, Upland, Indiana.


The Hebrew root קדשׁ, “holy,” is commonly thought to carry the idea of separation. This is an attractive concept, but problematic. This study proposes that the word primarily denotes the morally pure relationship of the three Persons of the Trinity. While physical items such as a location or a building may be set aside or dedicated to God and thus termed holy, that would be a derivative meaning.

Throughout the Bible, holiness is presented as the standard toward which God’s people should aspire.1 For Israel, this was made clear on the day God gave that motley collection of refugees from Egypt a statement of purpose, declaring that they were to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6).2 God reinforced the idea continually over the next forty years as he gave the Israelites their foundational national document, today called the Torah or Pentateuch. The books of Exodus through Deuteronomy hammer this purpose home using the term “holy” some two hundred times. After the conquest, the theme of holiness appears regularly throughout the records of the nation’s existence, even when it went into exile.3

The New Testament picks up the theme. Toward the end of the New Testament period, several decades after the resurrection, Peter told believers that the standard for God’s people remained the same—they who at one point were not a people or nation were now the people of God’s possession. Echoing the admonitions presented in Exodus, Peter declared that the followers of Jesus are now a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9–10).

The theme of holiness is so pervasive in the Bible that it is difficult to provide an exact number of uses, although it is clearly in the hundreds.4 This massive quantity alone would suggest that holiness is an important topic; that it is set forth as the standard of living for God’s people (Lev 19:2) sets it off as an imperative.5 The present study focuses on one impo...

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