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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Holy One

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HOLY ONE.—The expression ‘the Holy One,’ or ‘the Holy One of God,’ is used several times in the NT to describe our Lord. It is in itself so remarkable, and used in a manner so calculated to arrest attention, that it has been surmised that we have here a characteristic designation of the Messiah (Meyer on Mark 1:24). While it may be doubted if so positive an assertion can be justified, the expression is sufficiently striking to require a careful examination into its origin and its significance.

A scrutiny of the passages in which the Authorized Version has rendered the Greek expression by ‘the Holy One,’ will show that for the word ‘holy’ we have two Greek words, ὅσιος and ἅγιος. Now, since the two passages in which ὅσιος occurs are in a quotation from the LXX Septuagint, and the signification of the term is most likely to be derived from a Hebrew original, it will be necessary to ask if these two words are uniformly used to represent corresponding Hebrew ones, or used indiscriminately to translation different Heb. Words in different places.

In the OT there are two distinct words used for ‘holy,’ הִמִיד and קֽדו̇שׁ, and it is to be carefully noted that in the LXX Septuagint, although ὁσιοςtranslation הִמִיד about 30 times, and ἁγιος translation קֳֵֽ̇שׁ, 100 times, in no single instance is ὁσιος used for קֽדו̇שׁ, or ἁγιος for הִמִיד. (See Trench, NT Synonyms).

It is reasonable, then, to look for the signification of ὁσιος in הִמִיד, and ἁγιο; in קֽדו̇שׁ. See art. Holiness.

A. Passages in which our Lord is described as ‘Holy One,’ ὅσιος being used. As a substantive expression it occurs only in Acts 2:27; Acts 13:35—in both cases a quotation from Psalms 16:10—used first by St. Peter and afterwards by St. Paul,—οὐδὲ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἱδεῖν διαφθοράν. Without a reference to the Hebrew, it might appear that such an expression, taken from the OT and applied by Apostles to Christ, would carry with it peculiar significance; but beyond the fact that the Apostles so used the expression, there is nothing in the words themselves to justify any unique position in which our Lord was described as ‘holy.’

B. Passages in which our Lord is described as ‘Holy One,’ ἅγιος being used. If the examination of the foregoing passages prevents us giving to the word ὅσιος any peculiar significance which would make it describe our Lord as a being of peculiar holiness, the case is quite otherwise when we come to the expression ὁ ἅγιος.

1. Use of the title.—We find it first on the lips of the demoniac (Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34), who, in declaring his knowledge of Christ, describes Him as ‘the Holy One of God’ (οἷδά σε τίς εἷ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ). The words probably made a deep impression on the disciples. We know how vague and uncertain were their views about their Master, and it would seem as if they seized on the demoniac’s confession as a revelation of His claims; for, the next time the title is ascribed to Him, it is by St. Peter himself, when striving to find words to answer our Lord’s question if they too intended to abandon Him: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God’ (ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ Θεοῦ [so correct reading], John 6:69).

St. Peter, in his speech to the people in Solomon’s porch (Acts 3:14), charges them with denying ‘the Holy and Righteous One’ (τὸν ἄγιον καὶ δίκαιον). St. John (1 John 2:20) tells his readers that they have ‘an anointing from the Holy One’ (ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀγίου). In Revelation 3:7 our Lord so describes Himself in the address to the Church of Philadelphia: ‘These things saith he that is holy’ (τάδε λέγει ὁ ἄγιος).

2. Derivation of the title.—We have seen that the significance of ἅγιος is naturally to be looked for in the Heb. קָדו̇שׁ, which, like חָסיד, is freely employed of places, things, and persons. Yet, while חָסִיד is used of God only in Jeremiah 3:12 (LXX Septuagint ἐλεήμων) and Psalms 145:17 (LXX Septuagint ὄσιος), where it is joined with a reference to His works (‘holy in all thy works’), קָדו̇שׁ is used very frequently to describe God Himself. It is so found in the Books of Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Hosea, and Habakkuk, קָדו̇שׁ ‘the Holy One,’ LXX Septuagint ὁ ἄγιος. Besides the simple title ‘the Holy One,’ God is 24 times called by Isaiah ‘the Holy One of Israel’; elsewhere only in Psalms 71:22; Psalms 78:41; Psalms 89:18, Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:5, [2 Kings 19:22 = Isaiah 37:23] קִדו̇שׁ יִשְׂדָאִל.

3. Its significance as applied to our Lord.—To men familiar with the OT expressions ‘the Holy One’ and ‘the Holy One of Israel,’ as describing God Himself, it would seem almost impossible that the expression could have been used of Christ without a distinct desire to connect His title with that of Jehovah. Every male firstborn was indeed ‘holy to the Lord’ (Luke 2:23). But on the lips of St. Peter and the demoniac it must he felt to have that special and distinct significance such as Jesus Himself implies in John 10:36, when speaking of Himself as one ‘whom the Father sanctified (ἡγίασε) and sent into the world.’ Spoken by our Saviour of His Father (John 17:11), it signifies that which He is absolutely; spoken of Christ Himself, it means both this and also His special dedication to the work of man’s salvation (e.g. in Romans 12:1 it is used with the force of a sacrificial metaphor, the victim consecrated to God). Christ was indeed the Holy One of God above all others, but that which He was He came in a measure to make His people, so that, in the language of the NT, those who through Him were consecrated and set apart were also οἱ ἄγιοι. See, further, art. Holiness.

Literature.—Trench, NT Synonyms, § lxxxviii.; Westcott on Hebrews 7:26; Lightfoot on 1 Th 11:10; Jennings and Lowe, Psalms; Jewish Encyc. vol. vi. s.vv. ‘God’ and ‘Holiness’; Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 202.

J. B. Bristow.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Holy One'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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