Survey of Holiness in the OT

I just finished, last night, a journey through every OT text that has any of the cognate Hebrew terms for holiness. There are 823 instances of the following cognates: the verb q-d-sh, the noun qodesh, and the adjectives qadosh and qadesh. I’ve been on the journey off and on for about a month.

Three things prompted my study. First, my SS class asked for a study on holiness and its related topics. Second, Dad and I have been discussing the nature of God’s holiness for a couple months. Third, in his book Portraits of God, Allan Coppedge asserts, “A survey of the data indicates that the meaning of holiness has six major components. They [are] the concepts of separation, brilliance, righteousness, love, power and goodness” (p. 51).

My previous studies of the concept of holiness had lead me to conclude that holiness at its essence is separateness. When applied to human persons, it is separation unto God from the common and ordinary as well as the sinful and defiling. When applied to God … well, I wasn’t exactly sure. I’d been taught it was his transcendence and moral purity or perhaps his moral excellence. But Coppedge’s statement challenged my previous understanding. Hence the current study.

I’m still sifting through the data, but several things stand out to me.
  1. Having surveyed the data, I have not found any data that supports Coppedge’s assertion that the meaning of holiness includes the concepts of brilliance, love, power, or goodness. The data overwhelmingly points toward separateness as core to the meaning of holiness. I’ll say more about holiness and righteousness later.
  2. I was reminded that the term “saint” or “holy one” is not coined by Paul in the NT, but used by Paul in the same way it is used in the OT (Psalm 16:3; 34:9).
  3. Several texts jumped out at me as establishing the conceptual basis for Peter’s admonition to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” in 1 Peter 3:15.
  4. The first petition of the Lord’s prayer has roots in Leviticus, Isaiah, and especially Ezekiel that I’ve never heard articulated in the pulpit.
  5. Jesus’ sanctification of himself (John 17:19) has a parallel in Yahweh’s sanctification of himself (Ezek. 38:23).

In subsequent posts, I plan, Lord willing, to develop these concepts.


Randy said…
Looking forward to it.
Russ Veldman said…
I want to hear more about Coppedge and his understanding of brilliance related to God's holiness. I had Coppedge for three courses at Asbury (I was there '94-'98) and he was working out the roles of God issue then. In fact, he had been working on it for a long time before that.

Coppedge is perhaps the last of the classic holiness people at Asbury Theo. Sem.
Philip Brown said…
For Coppedge's view see his Portraits of God: A Biblical Theology of Holiness. He has a number of good things to say, but my understanding is different than his. See my Aldersgate Forum paper "Divine Holiness & Sanctifying God: A Proposal" for my current understanding. (
Sylvester Bolum said…
sir you said that "in subsequent posts, I plan, Lord willing, to develop these concepts". am really looking forward to see your more developed thought on this subject

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