Peter Gentry’s Faculty Address at SBTS

Peter Gentry delivered a wonderful faculty address, “No One Holy, Like the Lord”, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the audio file is here.

It seems to me, Gentry had three objectives: 1) to summarize biblical scholarship on Hebrew qds (holy, consecrated, belonging to)(Baudissin to Costecalde) and to place the results of these technical studies in the context of systematic theology (e.g. H. Bavinck et al.). According to Gentry, through the past 100+ years systematic theology has understood qds through the lexical analysis of Baudissin, which suffered from an etymological analysis, which concluded that the original meaning of qd meant “to cut”. Costecalde’s study of 1985, almost 100 years later, was exhaustive and more linguistically thorough and he concluded that the evidence from the ANE and the Bible indicates that qds means “consecration” or “devotion” or “belonging to” not “separate” or “otherness”. The former study emphasized distance between God and man, while the latter emphasized “devoted to” or “belonging to”.  Unfortunately, this study was published in French and many systematic theologians have not utilized it. 2) To exegete the key texts where qds is used: Exodus 3 (“holy ground”), Exodus 19 (“holy nation”), and Isaiah 5-6 (Holy Lord, Holy, Holy, Holy, indicating that YHWH is devoted to social justice in the context). 3) Gentry closes his lecture with an exhortation to systematic theologians to continue the work of exegesis and not to continue accepting the viewpoints of the status quo.

The lecture is about an hour and it is definitely worth listening to.


7 thoughts on “Peter Gentry’s Faculty Address at SBTS

  1. Jim,

    Ken Mathews asked the same question in a Pentateuch seminar in which I presented some of Costecalde’s research and applied it to Lev. 19:1.

    I think the logical entailment of devoting something/someone to is that something/someone is separated from all that is not devoted, but is that the main and clearest point in the texts that Gentry raised? I don’t think so. It seems to me that the primary meaning in those texts is that YHWH is devoting the mountain/people/himself to his purposes and that the focus is on something/someone that belongs to YHWH. So rather than focusing on God as totally other and distant or transcendent, the word means the opposite. Lev. 19:1 indicates that holiness is something Israel can be also. In a chapter which focuses on social justice, it seems to me that the call is to be devoted to justice as YHWH is devoted to justice.

    So in a round about way, one could talk about being separate, but this concept is too ambiguous compared to the idea of devotion in context. Why would we hang on to the ambiguous idea, when sound linguistic analysis contradicts it and the view itself is based on an etymological fallacy? Would the etymological fallacy, applied to this word in the past, be acceptable in your exegesis classes? Or do you not yet see that there is an etymological fallacy in play?

    Thanks for the question. I was hoping to get something started.

    1. “Separateness is often thought to be the basic meaning of holiness, but it is more its necessary consequence. Consecration is a separation to God rather than a separation from the world (Snaith 1944:30), and holiness has a positive content (Costecalde 1985: 1392-93). The theory that the original etymology was separation (cf. Costecalde 1985:1356-61) is now abandoned (e.g. Bunzel 1914; 22-26; Gilbert 1978: 257; Müller 1978: 590).”

      Jenson, Philip Peter. Graded Holiness: A Key to the Priestly Conception of the World. JSOT Supplement Series 106 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992) 48 n 4.

  2. Reblogged this on Cataclysmic and commented:
    This is an oldie but a goodie: Peter Gentry on the Hebrew qds (which is often translated as ‘holy’) in light of Claude-Bernard Costecalde’s work. I was looking for this lecture the other day because we were discussing holiness in the book of Leviticus in the OT class I’m taking this semester. I wanted to stir the pot and throw out Costecalde’s work while we were talking about this idea of holiness and how we understand it. My husband Jimmy and I have been discussing the implications of Costecalde’s work and what it might mean for understanding ‘holiness’ in the NT (does it carry over? we suspect so). I’m eager to go back and listen to Gentry’s lecture and thought I’d share John Meade’s ( link and short summary for others who might be interested. Enjoy!

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