Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Holitscher, Philip
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

Unapproachableness; the state of separation from, and elevation above, things common, profane, or sensual, first in a physical and external, and later in a spiritual, sense; moral purity and perfection incapable of sin and wrong.

Holiness of God and Angels.

—Biblical Data:

To Moses and afterward to Israel, Yhwh on Sinai manifested Himself in fire as an unapproachable deity, and therefore as a holy being (Exodus 3:2-5, 19:18-22, 24:9-17: "like devouring fire"; comp. Exodus 34:29-35, the radiant face of Moses being the effect of his intercourse with Yhwh).

In his first vision Isaiah sees the Lord surrounded by "fiery beings," seraphim, their faces covered with wings so that they can not gaze upon the Lord; and he hears the seraphim cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy [that is, "unapproachable"] is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." Isaiah is in fear for his life because his eyes have seen the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-5). Henceforth the burden of his message to Israel is God's holiness ( 1:4; 5:19,24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19,23; 30:11 et seq.; 37:23), and the Isaian expression, "the Holy One of Israel," reappears in the exilic chapters (Isaiah 41:14 et seq.; 43:3 et seq.; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 55:5; 60:9,14). It was owing to this conception that the fiery nature of God, which made Him unapproachable, and His nearness awful in its effects upon frail human beings (Leviticus 16:1; Numbers 4:20; 2 Samuel 6:7), was so sublimated and spiritualized that it became a power for righteousness, a fire devouring wrong-doing and injustice, and purifying the doers of evil. Compare Deuteronomy 4:22-23 ("Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord . . . and make you a graven image. . ., for the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God"); or Joshua 24:19-20 ("Ye can not serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; . . . if ye forsake the Lord . . . he will . . . consume you" (comp. 1 Samuel 6:20).

There is still something of that elemental holiness or fiery nature implied when it is said in Job that before Him man and stars, the heavens, and His angels (literally, "His holy ones") are not clean (Job 15:14-15, 25:5; comp. 4:18). On account of their fiery nature the angels, though not pure when compared with God, are called "the holy ones," that is "unapproachable" or "majestic" (Job 5:1, 6:10, 15:15; Psalms 89:6; Zechariah 14:5; Proverbs 9:10, 30:3; Daniel 4:14 [A. V. 17]). But God alone is the Holy and Incomparable One (Habakkuk 3:3; 1 Samuel 2:2; Exodus 15:11: "None is wrapt [A. V. "glorious"] in holiness like him").

Jewish Ideal of Holiness.

God's holiness is manifested chiefly in His punitive justice and righteousness (Isaiah 5:16; Psalms 99:3-5; Leviticus 10:3; Numbers 20:12-13; Ezekiel 28:22, 38:23). Therefore sinners must stand in awe of His "devouring fire," and only those free from blemish shall behold the King in His beauty (Isa.33:14-17; comp. 4:3, 6:7). It is owing to His holiness that He is too pure to permit His eyes to "behold evil and look on iniquity" without punishing them (Habakkuk 1:13); "the eyes of His glory are provoked" at the sight of wrong (Isaiah 3:8). At times it is the unapproachable loftiness of God that is expressed in the term "holiness" (Psalms 77:14 [A. V. 13]: "Thy way is in holiness"; Psalms 68:25 [A. V. 24]: "The goings of my God and King in holiness" [A. V., in both cases inaccurately, "in the sanctuary"]; Isaiah 60:15: "I dwell in the high and holy place"; comp. Jeremiah 17:12; Psalms 102:20). It is by this "holiness," in the sense of "majesty" or "exaltedness," that God swears (Amos 55:2; comp. 6:8; Psalms 89:35 [A. V. 34]; comp. Isaiah 62:8); and it is the arm of His holiness (A. V. "his holy arm") that does all His wondrous deeds (Isa. lii 10, Psalms 98:1). His holiness invests His "words" with power (Jeremiah 23:9; Psalms 105:42) and His "name" with awe (Amos 2:7; Ezekiel 20:39; Leviticus 20:3). Finally, God, as the Holy Being, high above all things profane and sensual, became the highest ideal and pattern of purity and perfection: "Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord am holy" (Leviticus 19:2; 20:7,26).

Here must be noted the striking contrast between the specifically Jewish and the general Semitic conception of holiness. The term "ḳadosh" (also "ḥerem"; = "holy"),—perhaps originally "ḳadesh" ("brightness," e.g., of the well as the fountain of life ["'En Ḳadesh"]; see Brugsch, "Gesch. Aegyptens," 1877, p. 200; Movers, "Phoenizier," 1:188)—is applied to Astarte, the goddess of fertility, known for abominable orgies, and her lascivious priests and priestesses are called "ḳedeshim" and "ḳedeshot" (the holy ones; Genesis 38:21; Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Kings 14:24, 22:47; 2 Kings 23:7; also Hosea 11:9, 12:1, where the Masoretic text betrays later emendation). It was the imitation by Israel of this abominable Astarte cult that roused the prophet's indignation (Amos 2:7), and caused the Israelitish lawgiver to draw the distinction between the holy God of Israel and the gods of the surrounding nations (Leviticus 18:24-30, 20:22-26; Deuteronomy 23:18-19), and to insist on the avoidance of every impure act in the camp of Israel, in the midst of which God as the Holy One was present (Deuteronomy 23:15 [A. V. 14]; Numbers 15:39-40).

It is in congruity with this view that God as the Holy One also sanctifies persons and things. In the ancient conception holiness was a transmissible quality; wherefore they that offered incense before the Lord were "hallowed" (Numbers 17:2-3), and whatsoever touched the altar was thereby made holy (Exodus 29:37, comp. 30:29; Leviticus 6:11,20; 1 Samuel 21:6; Haggai 2:12); even he who touched the officiating priest (Ezekiel 44:19, 46:20; Isaiah 65:5) was rendered holy. In the Mosaic system the holiness of consecrated persons and things emanated from God, but men must at the same time declare them holy (comp. Exodus 29:44 with 28:41, 29:1,21,33; Leviticus 8:11; Numbers 7:1; 1 Samuel 16:5; 2 Samuel 8:11; 1 Kings 8:64). It is the Lord who sanctifies the priestly house of Aaron (Leviticus 21:15,23; 22:9,16; Ezekiel 20:16); the Levites (Numbers 8:17); the first-born (Numbers 3:13; comp. Exodus 13:2; Deuteronomy 15:19); Israel (Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 20:8, 21:8; Ezekiel 20:12, 36:28); the Sabbath (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11); and the prophet (Jeremiah 1:5).

The Holiness of Persons and Things.

All things become "holy" that are excluded from common or profane use ("ḥol"; 1 Samuel 21:5) by being connected with the worship of God: (1) The places in which God is supposed to dwell or where He appeared (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15; Deuteronomy 23:15; 2 Chronicles 8:11); hence, every sanctuary ("miḳdash," Exodus 25:8, or "ḳodesh," Exodus 28:29; Ezekiel 42:20), and every part of the sanctuary, and every vessel used therein (Exodus 26:33; 1 Samuel 21:6; Ezekiel 42:13; Numbers 3:31). Such a place with its site was marked off as holy (Exodus 19:23; Ezekiel 45:1). The hill of the Temple (Isaiah 11:9 and elsewhere) became "the holy hill"; Jerusalem, "the holy city" (Psalms 46:5; Zephaniah 3:11; Isaiah 48:2); and Palestine, "the holy land" (Zechariah 2:16; comp. Hosea 9:3-4). God's heavenly habitation, "the seat of His holiness," is holy, because of His unapproachable (fiery) majesty (Micah 1:2; Habakkuk 2:20; and elsewhere); so, likewise, is "the throne of His holiness" (Psalms 47:9; comp. Ezekiel 28:14: "the fiery mountain of the [heathen] gods").

(2) All the things consecrated or brought as sacrifices to God (Exodus 28:38, 30:35, 36:6; 1 Samuel 21:5; Numbers 18:17,32; Leviticus 10:10; Zechariah 14:20), and whatever is used in worshiping in the sanctuary (Exodus 28:2 et seq.; 30:25,35). These things are not holy in themselves, but "holy unto the Lord" (Exodus 28:36, 30:37; Leviticus 19:8, 23:20; and elsewhere); that is, their relation to the divinity renders them holy; and in accordance with their more or less close external or internal relationship to God and His dwelling-place they are differentiated in their degree of holiness, as "holy," or "holy of holies" (Exodus 26:33; 30:10,29,36; Leviticus 16:33; and elsewhere).

(3) All persons "separated" from the rest of mankind to serve God or serve in the sanctuary of God. The priest is "holy unto God" (Leviticus 21:6,7), and Aaron, being separated from the rest of the Levites, is called "holy of holies" (1 Chronicles 23:13 [A. V. incorrect]); so also are the Nazarite (Numbers 6:5) and the prophet (2 Kings 4:9).

Israel a Holy People.

Especially is Israel "holy unto the Lord" (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2,21; 26:19; 28:9; Jeremiah 2:3); Israel is "His holy kingdom" (Psalms 114:1), "His holy people" (Isaiah 62:2, 63:18; Daniel 12:7), "His holy seed" (Isaiah 6:13; Ezra 9:2); Israel is "the people of holy ones" (Daniel 7:21,27; 8:24). It is "a holy nation" because it has been separated as "a kingdom of priests" from amidst the nations of the earth (Exodus 19:6); and as "holy men" the people of Israel are to abstain from unclean meat (Exodus 22:30; Deuteronomy 14:21; Leviticus 21:25-26; comp. Ezekiel 44:31), from intermarriage with the idolatrous nations (Deuteronomy 7:2-6; Malachi 2:11; Ezra 6:21, 9:11), from heathen modes of disfigurement (Deuteronomy 14:2); and they are to wear a mark of distinction on their body (Daniel 11:28,30) and on their dress (Numbers 15:20).

Here, too, is noticeable a difference between the ancient view of holiness maintained in the priestly legislation, and the higher prophetic view which lends it a loftier ethical meaning. The place where God dwells or the sacrifice is offered wherewith He is especially approached is physically holy, and to draw near or to look upon it brings death (Exodus 28:43, 30:20; Leviticus 10:2,9; Numbers 3:10, 4:20; comp. Exodus 19:24). The holiness of Israel, also, is at times regarded as inherent in the nation (Numbers 16:3), or in the land as the seat of Israel's God (Amos 7:17); but it developed more and more into an ethical obligation (Deuteronomy 26:19, 28:9; Leviticus 19:2, 20:7), a state of moral perfection to be attained by abstinence from evil and by self control. The title "the holy ones" is given later on to the class of pious ones (Psalms 16:3; 34:110; 89:6,8 [A. V. 5, 7]). Possibly it was given to those believed to be imbued with the divine spirit of holiness (see see HOLY SPIRIT).

—In Rabbinical Literature:

While the Levitical legislation—the so-called "Law of Holiness," which, according to the critical view of the Bible, is the precipitate of the writings of the priest-prophet Ezekiel—made holiness the central idea of the Mosaic law (Leviticus 19:2, 20:26), post-exilic Judaism developed the system in two different directions, the Sadducean priesthood laying all the stress on external sanctity in its various gradations and ramifications, whereas the ancient Ḥasidim, and their successors, the Pharisees and Essenes, made inner holiness more and more the aim of life. It is the priestly system which, following the example of Ezekiel (-), counted ten degrees of holiness (beginning with the land of Palestine as the Holy Land and with the Holy City, and ending with the holy of holies of the Temple) and the corresponding ten degrees of impurity (Kelim 1:6-9; Tosef., Kelim,; for the holiness of Jerusalem see Tosef., Neg. 6:2). Similarly, the different sacrifices were classified according to their degrees of holiness (Zeb. -: Me' -; Niddah 7:1). In fact, the entire Temple ritual in all its detail as given in the Mishnah is based upon the sacerdotal view of holiness. The quaint notion that the Holy Scriptures contaminate ("taboo") the hands (Yad. 2:2-5) is derived from priestly practise (see Geiger, "Urschrift," pp. 170-174; comp. Assumptio Mosis, 7:10). So does the claim to superior rank made by the Aaronite over the Levite, by the Levite over the common people (Giṭ. 59b), and by the high priest over the Nazarite (Naz. 7:1) emanate from the Temple, and not from the school-house (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, xiii).

The Ḥasidim, in their battle against Syrian idolatry and the Jewish apostates among the Hellenistic party of the Sadducean priesthood, extended the rules of Levitical holiness to the extent of declaring the very soil of the heathen impure (Shab. 15a). The leading idea is expressed in the Book of Jubilees, 22:16-17: "Separate thyself from the nations and eat not with them, and do not according to their works, . . . for their works are unclean and all their ways a pollution, an abomination, and uncleanness. They offer their sacrifices to the dead and worship evil spirits" (see notes in Charles, "The Book of Jubilees," 1902, pp. 140 et seq.). Accordingly, the Ḥasidim understood the very command "Be holy" to signify "Separate yourselves from the rest of men" (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ), their maxim being, "Wherever the Torah speaks of holiness, it has in view abstinence from idolatry and from its concomitant moral depravity and licentiousness" (ib. 9:11; Lev. R. ). Holiness "like that of the priests," holiness in body "like that of the angels," became the Ḥasidean ideal (Targ. Yer. to Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 20:7; Numbers 15:40); hence, most probably, the name "Perisha" (the one separated from persons and things that may contaminate; PHARISEES).

Part of that system of holiness were regular ablutions before morning prayer and before every meal (Ber. 53b), and nazir-like abstinence from things permitted which may lead to things forbidden (Yeb. 20a; Ta'an. 11a), and especially from impure sights and thoughts (Shab. 86a, 118b; Shebu. 18b). The Israelites in general are called "holy men" (Sibyllines, 2:168), especially the martyred Ḥasidim (ib. 2:263); Israel of the future will be "a holy generation" (ib. 14:359; Psalms of Solomon, 17:28,36); "Israel's character of holiness has been given him by God to last forever" (Lev. R. ).

In rabbinical ethics, too, holiness is the highest ideal (Soṭah 9:15). Only the few elect ones were called "saints" (Wisdom 5:5; Pes. 104a; Shab. 118b; Ket. 103b). "Holy Congregation," or "Congregation of the Saints," was the name given to a brotherhood bound together for a life of prayer, study, and labor, in expectation of the Holy Spirit and in preparation for the Messianic time (see 'Edah Ḳedoshah; see ESSENES); hence also the saints of the New Testament. All the more significant is the teaching of rabbinical Judaism: "None can be called saint before death" (Midr. Teh. to Psalms 16:3), which is interpreted to mean: "The saints are to be trusted only when they are in the earth," because God Himself "putteth no trust in His saints" (Job 15:15).

Holiness is an ideal state of perfection attained only by God (Yer. Ber. 9:13a). "Man grows in holiness the more he aspires to the divine while rising above the sensual" (Yoma 39a). The entire system of the Jewish law has the hallowing of life as its aim, to be reached through good works, through observance of the Sabbath and holy days (ḲIDDUSH), and through the sanctification of God's name ("Ḳid-dush ha-Shem"; see Midr. Teh. to Psalms 20:5). It is holiness which elevates and permeates the thoughts and motives of life, and hence it is the highest possible principle of ethics.

"Holiness" became for rabbinical Judaism synonymous with purity of life, purity of action, and purity of thought; it lent its peculiar sanctification to the Sabbath, to the name of God—nay, to the whole motive of moral conduct (ḲIDDUSH HA-SHEM)—to portions of the prayers (see Ḳad dish), and to the relations of man and wife (see MARRIAGE); and under its influence personal purity in Judaism became the highest standard and maxim of ethics found in any religious system. Hence Maimonides gave the name "Ḳedushah" (= "Holiness") to the fifth book of his Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah, which treats of the sexual relations, and Naḥmanides laid down rules of conduct for conjugal life ina book entitled "Iggeret ha-Ḳedushah" (= "Letter on Holiness").

  • Hastings, Dict. Bible;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T., and Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc., s. Heiligkeit;
  • Elijah de Vidas, Reshit Ḥokmah, Sha'ar Ḳedushah;
  • M. Lazarus, Ethics of Judaism, ch. 4 and 7.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Holiness'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​h/holiness.html. 1901.
Ads FreeProfile