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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Saints'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/s/saints.html. 1915.