Biblical Concepts of Holiness

How can we unify the sacred with the profane?

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The Gulf Between the Sacred & Profane

Despite many differences between Israelite monotheism and the other religions of the ancient Near East, the processes through which holiness was attributed to persons, places, objects, and special times did not differ fundamentally. Through ritual, prayer, and formal declaration sanctification took effect. In biblical Hebrew, these processes are usually expressed by forms of the verb k-d-sb, especially the Piel stem kiddesh, "to devote, sanctify, declare holy."

The gulf between the sacred and the profane was not meant to be permanent. The command to achieve holiness, to become holy, envisions a time when life would be consecrated in its fullness and when all nations would worship God in holiness. What began as a process of separating the sacred from the profane was to end as the unification of human experience, the harmonizing of man with his universe, and of man with God.

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Baruch A. Levine

Baruch A. Levine is Skirball Professor Emeritus of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University.? He is the author of many books on biblical topics, including The Anchor Bible Commentary: Numbers 1-20.