Sanctification: Definition (Scriptural Verbiage) – Pt. 2

Part One:

In light of the glorious truth that New Testament concepts are frequently built upon Old Testament concepts, one must firstly analyze the Old Testament’s verbiage regarding sanctification. The Hebrew words translated ‘to sanctify’ are קדוש (qadosh) and קדש ׁ (qadesh, qodesh, qaddish). One may rightly assume that these were words stemmed from the words קדד (quadad) translated ‘bow’ or ‘bow down’ and קדם (quadam) translated ‘to come before’. Herein a student finds reverence and worship, which is the irrepressible response to the foundational principle of sanctification: holiness.

The tenet continues in its Greek translation for sanctification, as ‘holiness’ and ‘to sanctify’ are often interchangeably translated. Translation is determined by “context alone” and “even in individual passages translators do not always agree.”[1] However, holiness must be treated as the chief concern. Therefore, several Greek words must be observed and analyzed. ἅγιος (hagios) is used about 233 times in the New Testament and is mostly translated ‘Holies’ and ‘holy’, but is also translated ‘saint’ or ‘saints’ about sixty-one times, ‘sanctuary’ twice in the book of Hebrews, and ‘most holy’ once in Jude 20.[2] ἁγιάζω (hagiazo) is mainly translated ‘sanctified’, ‘sanctifies’, or ‘sanctify’; it is translated as such in twenty-five of its twenty-eight uses. Its other three applications, it is translated ‘hallowed’ – both times referencing the Lord’s prayer spoken by Jesus – in Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2, and ‘keep… holy’ in Revelation 22:11. ἁγιασμός (hagiasmos) is used a total of ten times in the New Testament, and accounts for the translation of ‘sanctification’ in some of Paul’s epistles (Romans 6:19, 22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; c.f. Hebrews 12:14). Its two other uses render it ‘sanctity’ as in 1 Timothy 2:5, or ‘sanctifying’ as in 1 Peter 1:2. ἁγιωσύνη (hagiosune) is only translated ‘holiness’ and is used in Romans 1:4, 2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:13. ἁγιότης (hagiotes) is used only once in Hebrews 12:10, and is translated ‘holiness’. ἁγνεία (hagneia) is only used in 1 Timothy 4:12 and 5:2, and is translated ‘purity’. ἁγνισμός (hagnismos) is exclusively translated ‘purification’ in its one use in Acts 21:26. ἁγνίζω (hagnizo), is translated ‘purified’, ‘purified’, and ‘purifies’, and is interestingly never used by Paul (John 11:15; Acts 21:24, 26; 24:18; James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22; and 1 John 3:3). ἁγνός (hagnos) is used eight times, being mainly translated ‘pure’ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 4:8; Titus 2:5; James 3:17; 1 John 3:3), but also ‘innocent’ (2 Corinthians 7:11), ‘free from sin’ (1 Timothy 5:22), and ‘chaste’ (1 Peter 3:2).

Aspects of sanctification’s verbiage are divided into firstly, the actual process and secondly, the sanctified place, object or person.  The differentiation is found in that one is a verb, the other a noun. Through the analysis of the Scriptural verbiage, it is evident that ‘sanctification’, and words of resemblance, were used to describe holy people, holy objects, holy places, or the process by which these items came to be holy. The Christian’s relevance and theological implications are weighted more on the latter: the process of becoming holy and set apart. The most basic concept that can be noted of the act of sanctifying would be characterized as a ‘setting apart’. A sanctified object or person is distinguished and ‘separated’ from the masses. In summation, sanctification has been traditionally defined with reference to Scripture as “the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”[3] This definition will suit the study, and may be refined and built upon, but not nullified.


[1] K. E. Brower, “Sanctification,” in New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1057.


[2] All data is cohesive with the New American Standard Bible (1995), and was collected by means of Young’s Analytical Concordance and Logos Bible Software’s ‘Bible Word Study’ feature.


[3] Brower, New Bible Dictionary, 1057.


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